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Shooting Kills Olympic Superstar's Girlfriend; Dorner Hostages Speak Out; American and U.S. Airways Near Super Merger; "Cruise from Hell" Due in Alabama Today; Bloomberg to Push Styrofoam Ban

Aired February 14, 2013 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. We're getting word of a deadly shooting involving international sports icon Oscar Pistorius and his model girlfriend.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hiding in plain sight. New details on fugitive accused killer Christopher Dorner's last days, including one couple's harrowing hostage ordeal.

SAMBOLIN: And desperation below decks. Arguments over food break out as a crippled cruise ship slowly limbs towards shore.

BERMAN: All right. Taking a dive. Look at this. A boxer is in trouble for hitting the mat after the video clearly shows his opponent swung and missed.


BERMAN: You can't do that.


BERMAN: Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: Nothing like a little video action, right, to prove what really happened.

Good morning to you. Thanks for being with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Thursday, February 14th. Happy Valentine's Day.

BERMAN: Happy Valentine's Day to you.

SAMBOLIN: It is -- 5:00 a.m. in the East. I don't want to get people nervous here.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SAMBOLIN: We are starting with breaking news this morning. A sports world shocker: a shooting at the home of the blade runner, Olympic and Paralympic track superstar, Oscar Pistorius. His girlfriend identified by the South African press agency as former FHM model, Reeva Steenkamp is dead.

Police saying a 26-year-old man is in custody and that is the same age of Pistorius, who became an inspiration to millions of people.

Robyn Curnow is following the developments in the story from Johannesburg, South Africa. And, Robyn, what do we know right now?

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's all very confused. Everybody is trying to put together pieces of this puzzle. The police are being very tight-lipped about naming the shooter, although local media is widely reporting that Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend in the early hours of this morning, although police say they cannot confirm him by name.

We do know that they have this 26-year -old in custody, that a pistol was confiscated from his home and that this man will appear in court in the next few hours here in South Africa.

The reasons for this still unclear, although it is being reported that Oscar Pistorius might have shot dead his girlfriend because he believed her to be an intruder into his house.

Remember, South Africa has a very high crime rate, and many people barricade themselves, live in gated communities like Oscar did. There's a lot of sense of edginess, jitteriness about the crime rate. So, that is one plausible explanation.

Another plausible explanation is perhaps she tried to sneak into the house to surprise him for Valentine's Day. That's another rumor out there.

Also, an explanation perhaps that this is a domestic violence incident.

So, still a lot of speculation. No real concrete assessment of what went wrong and what exactly happened.

SAMBOLIN: I know you're trying to get us the actual details here. What do we know about his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp?

CURNOW: Well, I was just on her Twitter page and it's quite sad to read the Twitter page of somebody who died just a few hours ago. On it, it says, that she describes herself as a model, a law graduate and a child of God.

What we do see through her Twitter feed is that it appears she went to a promotional party last night for a car launch and a lot of people were excited. There's a picture of her up there. She's a very beautiful blond woman and she was also just recently in the celebrity pages of one of the Sunday newspapers.

The couple were a bit of a celebrity couple here in South Africa. We do know that. In terms of what happened, what transpired, it's tragic either way. You know, one family has lost a sister, a daughter.

Of course, Oscar Pistorius, the big question now is the implications for his career. We know he was supposed to race in March. It's highly unlikely he'll be taking to the track by then.

SAMBOLIN: Do we know if Steenkamp and Pistorius lived together?

CURNOW: You know, I can't confirm that. I'm not sure of that information. And I think those kind of details are going to be coming out, you know, what kind of relationship they had, where she was, where he had been, you know? And I think the nature of this is all going to come out in court.

We believe -- it's believed that Oscar will appear in a magistrate's court within the next few hours. So, hopefully, more details will come out of that.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Robyn Curnow, thank you very much, live in Johannesburg for us.

BERMAN: What a tragedy either way.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable details.

BERMAN: Four minutes after the hour right now.

And new developments to tell you about this morning in the manhunt for Christopher Dorner, the rouge ex-cop who apparently died in a burning cabin in Big Bear after that nine-day reign of terror. It turns out Dorner may have been hiding in plain sight in nearby resort condo for days, just a few steps from a police command post.

The unit belonged to Jim and Karen Reynolds. They say it was them, not their housekeepers, who were taken hostage and tied up. You have to listen to them describe what it was like when they walked in and encountered Dorner.


JIM REYNOLDS, TAKEN HOSTAGE BY DORNER: When he jumped out and hollered, stay calm, Karen screamed and turned and started running and he ran after her. He caught her about the door.


J. REYNOLDS: On the staircase. He brought her back.

K. REYNOLDS: He had the gun drawn the whole time.

J. REYNOLDS: He had the gun drawn showing the whole time.

REPORTER: Did you know it was him?



K. REYNOLDS: He talked to us, trying to calm us down, saying frequently he would not kill us.

J. REYNOLDS: He had plastic ties, great big tie wraps or something. He made us put you are our hands behind our back, tied our hands and made us walk back to the back bedroom back there. First, he had us lay on the bed and cross our feet, and then he changed his mind and had me lay on the floor, lay flat and cross my feet, and he bound us those with a --

K. REYNOLDS: The plastic.

J. REYNOLDS: The plastic ties and he pulled the hands real tight so I couldn't move. Cut my circulation off, started going numb immediately. Did he her, had her lay down, did the same thing.

REPORTER: Did you think he was going to kill you then?


J. REYNOLDS: Well, when he had me laying on the ground, I really did. I thought he's changed his mind, he was trying to calm us down and get us in here and he's going to do it.


BERMAN: Unbelievable to see their smiles after everything they've been through.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: There must be so much relief that they survived and it's over.

There are so many questions that remain this morning about the manhunt for Dorner, why it took so long for authorities to track him down, how well secure the area was where he was hiding and whether the cabin he apparently died in was intentionally set on fire.

Nick Valencia is live from Big Bear Lake in California this morning. And, Nick, you're right outside the command post used by the San Bernardino Police Department. Give us a sense of how close Dorner was to this place.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Uncomfortably close, John, eerily close, especially when you consider the manpower being used to find him.

We're in the site of the first command post for the San Bernardino sheriff's office. I want to give you a sense of how this command post was. It's not this cabin, John, that you're looking at in front of us with the two balconies. But it's the one that's right behind that. That's less than 100 yards away.

At the height of the manhunt here, there was 125 officers from throughout southern California canvassing this area, looking specifically for Chris Dorner. He could have been hiding under their noses.

BERMAN: Is it possible Dorner specifically chose that cabin on purpose? VALENCIA: You know, John, that's a good question and interesting point. If you go back over and pore over that manifesto, he mentioned command posts. He mentions them being target rich environments. So, it could be no mistake that he chose this condo complex and this cabin to set up shop.

Earlier in a press conference last night, the couple made some very eerie comments, unsettling comments as well, saying that Dorner may have been watching them. Take a listen.


K. REYNOLDS: Talked about how he could see Jim working on the snow every day.

J. REYNOLDS: He had been watching us, saw me shoveling the snow. That was Friday.

K. REYNOLDS: We never saw any indication that he was in there.


VALENCIA: And Dorner tried to re-assure the couple that he was not going to kill them. He was not going to harm them. And he kept repeating over and over, John, that he just wanted to clear his name. He just wanted to clear his name.

BERMAN: So, the deputies, officials had been searching this area for days. Have they given any explanation for how they missed him?

VALENCIA: No. And I think that they need to. There's a lot of reporters wondering exactly how they missed him. They were very cagey about that when asked by reporters yesterday in that very same press conference, San Bernardino sheriff's office still leaving many questions unanswered.

Take a listen to what they had to say.


DEP. CHIEF STEVE KOVENSKY, SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: I can tell you that the cabin in question had not been rented out since February 6th and as I said, there was an extensive search in that area of the cabins.


VALENCIA: So, for now the manhunt is seemingly over. But still a lot of questions to be answered -- John.

BERMAN: Indeed. Nick Valencia, thanks for being with us this morning from Big Bear Lake in California.

And at 7:15 Eastern on "STARTING POINT", a CNN exclusive, Ariana Williams will join us. She is the former girlfriend of Christopher Dorner. SAMBOLIN: All right. So this next story has everyone wondering whether this will mean more hidden fees, higher fares and just maybe more lousy treatment?

This is new this morning, a mega merger between American Airlines and U.S. Airways could be formally announced today. The boards of both companies met yesterday and reportedly finalized this deal. Federal approval is still needed however. The new airline would be the largest in the world, with a market value of about $10 billion. Talk about a monopoly.

Many analysts predict the merger will result in higher fares because of reduced competition.

BERMAN: It is a huge business story but it will have an effect on the consumer.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it will.

BERMAN: As this business gets smaller and smaller.

All right. So did you feel that breeze? A boxer has been suspended for allegedly taking a dive 13 seconds -- 13 seconds -- into a fight against former NFL defensive end Ray Edwards. You have to check this out.

The phantom upper cut misses his much smaller opponent Nick nicknamed "Turbo Tax" Capes. Misses him by like a foot.


BERMAN: But, you know, the guys sells it, literally knocking himself off his own feet. Look at him. I mean, it wasn't even close.

Reports say "Turbo Tax" was a last-minute replacement for a couple no- show boxers. North Dakota's fight governing body -- yes, they are now reviewing the bout. That's probably a good idea.

SAMBOLIN: Doesn't take very long to review that, right? It's pretty obvious.

BERMAN: Let's review that.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ten minutes past the hour.

The end may be near for what some are calling the cruise from hell.

BERMAN: Oh, man! But will weather cooperate in getting these passengers back to a hot shower, more sanitary conditions and just safety? We will have a live report from Mobile, Alabama, coming up.


BERMAN: So, the so-called Carnival "cruise from hell" is finally expected to arrive at an Alabama port later today. And that moment can't come too soon for the 4,000-plus people who have been on board stuck in those hideous conditions since Sunday, when an engine fire left the cruise adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. Overflowing toilets, urine-soaked carpets.


BERMAN: It's disgusting.

And a dwindling food supply has passengers just desperate to reach the shore. You know, it's taken a long time. The question is, how much longer will they have to suffer now? They're at the mercy of a few different factors now, including weather.

Indra Petersons is at the CNN weather center in Atlanta with a look at the current conditions in the Gulf of Mexico, and our David Mattingly is live in Mobile, Alabama, where family members are anxiously awaiting their loved ones arrival.

We're going to start with David in Mobile.

How far away do we think the Triumph is right now?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to U.S. Coast Guard, they're just 53 miles offshore from the city of Mobile here. That doesn't sound like very far but it's going to take them all day to get from there to here -- this dock behind me, where they're going to finally disembark and get off that boat and get back on dry land. For the people on board this ship, it's going to be the first time this morning that they've been able to see dry land, actually see land from that ship since they left port over a week ago.

And when they arrive here, think about this, they are going to be five days overdue, over 500 miles off-course and you can bet these people are going to be ready to get off of that boat.

BERMAN: I think that's a safe bet. I can't believe it's taken so long. You know, the conditions on that ship must be unbearable.

How are passengers faring?

MATTINGLY: Well, we were hearing from stories.

First of all, we were hearing about the phone calls from passengers to their family members. That happened early in the week, around Monday, after this happened. They were talking about the concerns they had after the fire erupted in the engine room, how scared they were. The ship started tilting to one side. They were worried about that.

And then they started complaining about the lack of food, the lack of electricity, the plumbing backing up.

Well, on Tuesday, then we heard from the officials at Carnival cruise lines. They said the conditions were improving. They had been able to establish electricity to part of the ship, restore some of the plumbing. Also, they were actually arranging for hot food. They had supplies delivered to the ship. So, there were signs that the conditions were improving but we haven't heard from any of the passengers for a couple of days. So, we're going to wait to see what they have to say when they arrive here and what sort of mood they might be in when they finally get on dry land.

BERMAN: I predict happy but grumpy.

David Mattingly in Mobile, Alabama, thank you so much.

It is good news they are getting back.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes, needing a warm meal and a shower, perhaps.


SAMBOLIN: So, let's go to Indra Petersons with a look at the weather in the Gulf of Mexico.

Is it cooperating? Because I know they were a little worried about the winds.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Today is a much better story. Currently, actually, I want to show you on the Google Map here. They're about 53 miles, as we said, south of Mobile, Alabama. The next thing they're going to have to navigate through this 30-mile long narrow canal. So, that's going to be the story for today.

We're going to talk about the wind because that's the biggest factor. Yesterday, they were dealing with heavy rains and wind as this cold front was in the way. As you can tell now, they're behind the cold front now. That's the good news today and some of those 25-mile-per- hour winds they were facing, trying to push forward with very little horsepower.

Today, they're going to be dealing with calm winds, currently only about eight-mile-per-hour winds out there. And the forecast today, clear skies. They're not going to be dealing with the rain. So, they can enjoy the fresh air on top of the deck instead of getting rained on, as you can tell. Conditions remained calm all the way to about 4:00 p.m. is when they are expected to going to dock and that's the good news. Winds are only about 4 miles per hour at that time.

So, a much better conditions today.

SAMBOLIN: At least you are delivering a little bit of good news for them. Indra Petersons, thank you very much.

And later on EARLY START, we'll be talking to Brent Nutt. His wife and his sister-in-law are onboard that nightmare cruise. He'll tell us exactly how they are describing their horrific ordeal. That's at 6:30 Eastern, right here on EARLY START.

As if the details haven't been bad enough.

BERMAN: Oh, man, those poor, poor people. All right. There's a lot going on right now. We want to bring you up-to-speed on all the top stories. Christine Romans is here with that.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to both of you. The breaking news this morning: a shocking story involving the blade runner, Olympic and Paralympic track superstar, Oscar Pistorius. The South African news agency says his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was shot and killed in his home in South Africa. Reportedly, she was mistaken for an intruder. Police are declining to name a 26-year-old man they have under arrest. Police only saying he will appear in court today.

It's important to know, Pistorius is 26 years old. He's a double amputee, reached the 400 meter semifinals in the London Games last year. He races with carbon blades because of a birth defect.

First calorie counts on menus, then Trans fats, then those mega soft drinks. Now, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is out to ban Styrofoam food packaging in stores and restaurants. Bloomberg will unveil his plan today in his final state of the city speech. He's also set to announce a major expansion in recycling, an area where New York has lagged other big cities.

Now, how do you top winning best in show? Apparently by hitting Broadway. Banana Joe, the adorable Affenpinscher, won the top honors Tuesday, joined to the cast of (INAUDIBLE) last night. (INAUDIBLE) Banana Joe filled for returns tonight. We'll get a good luck of Banana Joe later today.

And "STARTING POINT" will speak with the co-host of the Westminster dog show with Banana Joe.

SAMBOLIN: Look at the opportunities you get.

ROMANS: I know, Banana Joe will be here.You know, it's interesting, he's a top dog at Westminster. Newly minted Broadway star is going to join Soledad at 7:00.

Can I just tell you? I just did a story about how much -- do you know they train all year long on treadmills. They pay more for dog vitamins than human vitamins. I mean, the amount of money is unbelievable.

BERMAN: You got to go backstage at the dog show. It is insane. It's like a constant spa, blow dryers and primping and powders. It is nuts.

ROMANS: The top 1/10 of 1 percent.

BERMAN: That's right.

SAMBOLIN: His coat is beautiful and shiny.

BERMAN: So, coming up, word of a major airline merger. The dog will be flying first class in that merger. What the union of American and U.S. airways will mean for you? Christine Romans coming back with more after the break.


BERMAN: We're minding your business this morning. 2013 has been a good year for stocks like until now, though, because lately, the rally seems to be slowing. This morning's stocks are set for a mixed open. Wall Street waiting for the latest report on new jobless claims.

SAMBOLIN: But in the meantime, we have word of a major merger. U.S. Airways and American Airlines are joining forces.

Christine Romans has the details on what sounds like a monopoly.

ROMANS: Sources close to the boards of both of these companies saying that it is a deal and we're going to be learning officially about this today. It is American Airlines and U.S. Airways. American Airlines is in bankruptcy and there's been talk for some time that these two airlines are trying to pair up in the bankruptcy process and come out as one big airline on the other side.

This is what the hubs would look like for America and U.S. Airways. There's going to be some overlap ion Phoenix and Chicago. But basically, this merged airline would get a bunch of new area, new zone on the East Coast.

What does it mean for flyers? Better connections, possibly short-term reservation glitches like maybe more lost luggage, maybe more like reservation problems. We saw that happen with Continental/United.

Experts are saying, believe it or not, they do not think this will mean higher fares at the very beginning here.


ROMANS: So, look for more -- you know, trying to merge the frequent flyer plans and sort of paperwork thing like that. But I don't think it's going to mean higher fares.

Let me show you the big four carriers that would now carry 83 percent of all the passengers. This new American would be the largest of them in terms of passenger miles. We had 10 carriers in 2001. There are four today. They have to get bigger.

And Mark Murphy, a travel expert, he told us why American needs to do this. Listen.


MARK MURPHY, TRAVEL EXPERT: Airlines can't keep operating at a loss. I mean, American Airlines has lost billions of dollars. That's not a sustainable business model. So, unless they get together, find some back offer sufficiencies, tap into other roots and other profitable markets, I think you're going to find it a challenge to make money in the airline industry.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: And let's be clear, American Airlines was losing -- American Airlines was in bankruptcy. So, this is something that is going to -- has to be approved by the bankruptcy judge, has to be approved by regulators, of course, who have to say, look, it's not going to be a monopolistic. It's not going to be something that's going to hurt consumers.

I want to show you, quickly -- airline ticket prices since the 1980s, adjusted for inflation, your fares have been --


ROMANS: Adjusted for inflation, fares have been going down. Remember business travelers in the '70s and '80s, the biggest expense on their expense report was their plane ticket. Today, it's their a hotel room or something else. You know, plane tickets adjusted for inflation have been coming down.

If the economy isn't going gang busters this year, experts are telling us they don't think the fares can rise much more than here.

SAMBOLIN: I'm surprised to see that. Thank you for sharing.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: I would have thought it was going way up. Thanks.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-seven minutes past the hour.

Coming up, the latest on the deadly shooting at the home of South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius.

BERMAN: Also, finally, some light at the end of the tunnel for those passengers on that Carnival cruise ship, limping back to an Alabama port. We will have an update on the ship's progress, coming up next.