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Investigation Launched Into Cruise Ship Fire; Lawsuit Filed Over "Floating Hell" Cruise; Obama: "A Newtown Every Four Months"; Congressman Comes Clean

Aired February 15, 2013 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: "OUTFRONT" next, one day after the Carnival "Triumph" reaches dry land, we're learning more about the fire that stranded more than 4,000 people at sea for five days. What caused it? Could it have been prevented?

Plus, a congressman caught tweeting to a 24-year-old bikini model during the "State of the Union address." Who is she? We have the congressman's confession.

One thousand people injured when a meteor entered the earth's atmosphere. Absolutely shocking story and we have the video tonight. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good Friday evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, investigating the cruise ship nightmare. What actually caused the crippling fire that left more than 4,200 people stranded at sea for five days and could it have been prevented?

Now Carnival "Triumph" was towed to a ship yard in Mobile, Alabama today. I woke up looking right out on that ship as it was starting to be towed to that final dock. All of the passengers were unloaded earlier in the morning.

Now investigators are trying to find out how the engine room fire started and why it knocked out the ship's entire power because here's the thing. When we first heard about the incident, Carnival reported that, and I'll quote them, "the fire extinguishing system kicked in and soon contained the flames."

President and CEO Jerry Cahill said he didn't think it had anything to do with the delay the cruise ship experienced earlier this month thanks to a faulty propulsion system. But several passengers that I spoke to last night told me stories that were similar to this.


JOSEPH ALVAREZ, WAS ON THE TRIUMPH CRUISE: The smell. And we were on the first floor, like I said. So next thing you know, I went -- laid back down. Next thing you know, you hear running, running through the hallways. I open the door to see what was going on. It was the firefighters. I looked and saw smoke. I was like, my God.


BURNETT: A lot of people saw a lot of smoke throughout the ship. Now for five days the ship's passengers and crew were stuck in horrific conditions. You know about that. They didn't have running water. They didn't have much food. They had few operating toilets.

The "Triumph" is expected to be out of commission until April. Obviously they need to do repairs and extensive cleaning. We've asked Carnival Cruise Lines to come OUTFRONT multiples times, so far they've declined. We're hopeful though that they will eventually talk to us.

CNN's Sandra Endo has been following the ship and the investigation and has the latest tonight.


SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The crippled Carnival "Triumph" received one more tow to undergo repairs and a cleanup in Mobile. Hours after the final passengers got off the ship headed anywhere, but back to the stinking vessel where they were trapped for days. Investigators are trying to figure out how the engine fire started.

PATRICK CUTY, COAST GUARD SENIOR MARINE INVESTIGATOR: I wouldn't say it was a big fire. The fire was hard to classify. All you need is one fire in the wrong location and it could be as bad as a huge fire.

ENDO: Carnival says the fire broke out last Sunday in an engine room towards the rear of the ship containing several of the vessel's six engines.

ALVAREZ: I looked and saw smoke and I was like, my God.

KENDALL LOVE, PASSENGER ON CARNIVAL "TRIUMPH": The only time I was really afraid, I guess, is when all the alarms started going off Sunday morning about the fire.

ENDO: Bahamian Maritime officials are the lead investigators since the ship is registered in Nassau. U.S. Coast Guard and NTSB officials are also working to figure out what went wrong.

Specifically, investigators are looking into the cause of the fire, crew response, engine maintenance, and safety procedures on board the ship. We spoke to a Maritime expert who has participated in these types of investigations, which could result in minor safety changes to more drastic measures.

DR. RICHARD BURKE, STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK MARITIME COLLEGE: There could be sanctions against members of the crew and against the officers. And in the most extreme case, there could be sanctions against the owners of the ship.

ENDO: An engine fire on Carnival "Splendour" in 2010 also left thousands of passengers adrift for days in the Pacific with no power and limited food. The Coast Guard and the NTSB have not yet released its findings of that incident.


BURNETT: All right, I know, Sandra, let me ask you. I know the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board as you report are involved in this. How long do you think this is going to take? There are a lot of different parties involved.

ENDO: Absolutely. And the Bahamian Maritime Authority is actually the lead investigator on this because the ship is flagged in Bahamas. But Erin, it's going to be a lengthy process.

When you think about it, 2010 was the "Splendour" incident and they still have not released the findings of that investigation. We know investigators got on board the ship yesterday. They surveyed the damage from the fire.

Today they interviewed the very tired captain of that ship, as well as some passengers. They really want to piece together a full account of what exactly happened on board that vessel.

They're also looking through the information they retrieved from the so-called ship's black box, the voyage data recorder. So they've retrieved that information and they're hoping that will tell a better, broader story of what exactly happened and how that fire started.

BURNETT: All right, Sandra, thank you very much. Some serious questions as we've been saying, not just for the people who are on board that ship, but for anybody who is considering taking a cruise.

We spoke to Carnival Cruise Lines tonight and we're told that it's too soon for them to say how long the investigation will take. The results matter for the nearly 10 million people who take cruises a year. That's the number, 10 million cruises a year.

Of course, there were more than 4,000 people on board the "Triumph" who may be considering legal action. In fact, less than 24 hours after arriving back on shore, the first lawsuit was filed against the cruise line today.

I want to bring in Andrew Waks, he is a cruise injury and maritime lawyer. Andrew, appreciate your taking the time. Carnival Cruise Lines, by the way, tells us that they haven't yet seen this lawsuit so they aren't able to comment on it.

But let me ask you this question, by law, do passengers have a certain amount of time? If you're on a cruise and something goes wrong, is there sort of a statute of limitations you have to file within a certain timeframe?

ANDREW WAKS, CRUISE INJURY AND MARITIME LAWYER: The answer to that is yes. It's not exactly a statute of limitations, but there's a federal statute, which allows the cruise lines to put provisions in there, the ticket that you get.

Such that the Carnival passengers in their ticket probably have up to six months to put carnival on notice of a claim and one year in which to file a lawsuit. Those provisions have been continuously upheld by the courts.

BURNETT: And we went online to book a Carnival cruise because as you indicate the ticket comes with a lot of provisions. And our read on it was that you pretty much cans sue them for anything. I'm exaggerating. I'm not a lawyer, but it really seemed they pretty much indemnify themselves.

WAKS: Well, there are a lot of provisions in the ticket, but there's also a body of law called the General Maritime Law of the United States. And that law does provide that the cruise lines can be liable for various things associated with these types of actions, including personal injuries, physical injuries, and in some cases, psychological injuries as well.

BURNETT: And let me ask you something, though. I'm curious about the safety of ships. Obviously, in this case, it was started -- the whole situation was started by a fire. And I want to look at the history of the Carnival "Triumph."

It had an issue with its propulsion system at the end of January. That actually caused the voyage prior to this one to be delayed. They were supposed to leave in the morning. They left in the afternoon because of that problem.

But the president and CEO of Carnival, Gerry Cahill, said something about that this week, said it wasn't related. Here he is.


GERRY CAHILL, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: We had a issue on this particular ship on the February 2nd cruise, it was a very different problem. We had an alternator, electrical problem with an alternator on this particular ship. It was repaired.

We had the technicians came in from the manufacturer of the alternator, they repaired it. They certified it as fixed and operational and the class society certified it fixed and operational. I don't think that had anything to do with this.


BURNETT: What's your take of that? If this fire ends up actually being eventually linked to that problem with the propulsion system, is that an issue of negligence or not?

WAKS: Well, it could be. It depends, you know, what the findings actually turn out to be. And as your broadcast pointed out, there are a number of investigative agencies that are involved in that.

And I think at this point it's very premature. I don't think anyone has a lot of facts yet. I think we're just going to have to wait and see what those investigations turn up as to what the cause of this fire was. BURNETT: What about the overall issue of safety? You know, the fire appears to have taken out all the generators except the backup one. These generators are enormous. A former "Triumph" employee told us they're about the size of a bus.

So either the fire is a lot bigger than anybody thought, and a lot of passengers we spoke to, by the way, did think it was bigger because they saw smoke around the ship.

Or it was really not very big and the generators are horribly located and very vulnerable. It does raise an overall question about how safe these ships really are.

WAKS: Well, you know, it's been -- it's unfortunate that within the last year, you know, Carnival and one of its subsidiaries, Costa, has had these two incidents. But -- and I don't know the statistics in terms of measuring safety.

I know that there are a lot of cruise ships out there and an awful lot of people go on them without incident. It's unfortunate that these things arise and Carnival has had two engine room fires I think in the last couple of years.


WAKS: I don't know that that's indicative in general though of the safety of the cruise industry.

BURNETT: Well, thank you very much, Andrew. Of course, Andrew is referring to the "Splendour," which was a Carnival ship about two years ago, which had an engine fire. U.S. taxpayers helped pay for that, the Coast Guard towing in about $2 million.

Still to come, after being criticized for staying silent on gun violence in Chicago, the president shows up with an idea. Is it too little, too late?

Plus the Olympic athlete facing murder charges breaks down in court. What we now know about the woman who was killed?

A meteor came into the atmosphere last night, early in the morning actually, over Russia blew out windows and injured 1,000 people. See it from every angle, we have the video when OUTFRONT continues.


BURNETT: Out second story OUTFRONT, the president heads home to talk gun control. Today, President Obama took his push for tougher gun laws to his hometown of Chicago, a city that has been struggling to get a grip on escalating gun and gang violence.

The president has been criticized for staying silent on Chicago's violence. Just recently New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said it's, quote, "The president's hometown but barely a peep out of him." That is, until today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Last year, there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city and 65 of those victims were 18 and under. So that's the equivalent of a Newtown every four months.


BURNETT: That murder rate is higher than New York City's, which has three times the population of Chicago. The president went on to say this is why his gun proposals in his words deserve a vote.

OUTFRONT tonight, our contributor, Reihan Salam. He is also a writer for "The National Review," and the former White House deputy press secretary, Bill Burton and co-founder of "Priorities USA," a pro-Obama super pac.

All right, Bill, let me start with you. Community activists in Chicago have been pleading for years for the president to come home and directly address gun violence. He's gotten a lot of criticism from a lot of corners about his lack of talking on this issue. Why has it taken him so long?

BILL BURTON, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think the president has talked about these issues for a long time and sometimes the president addresses issues and it's not in a big speech like he did today.

But the president has been there on these issues and right now is a particular moment in American history where we can address gun violence, take commonsense measures that 90 percent of Americans support, like universal background checks, and make a big difference on this issue.

There's a lot of guns on the streets right in and out, but there are some things government can do and the president is trying to push that as fast as he can to make sure that we're getting some of those guns off the street and out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them.

BURNETT: And Reihan, is it better late than never? I mean, to Bill's point, he has talked about it, but he hasn't been in Chicago since November and when he mentioned Chicago it was in the context of Newtown.

He did an interview with MTV. They asked him about gun violence so he responded. But those are the only references to Chicago gun violence we could find from the president since October.

REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: President Obama has a lot of moral authority particularly in a place like Chicago where he has an incredibly popular figure. Here's the thing. I grew up in Brooklyn at the height of the crack epidemic when the murder rate was incredibly high. There was one thing that helped address the urban crime problem in New York City and that's hiring more police officers. The problem is that Chicago is a city that is going broke. Last year when the city had a $1 billion deficit, the teachers union fought for substantial wage increases.

Illinois has $100 billion of pension debt. This state is struggling and has a 67 percent tax increase. If Barack Obama had said during that teachers strike, wait a second, we respect and honor our teachers, but these cities need to use those resources for cops as well as for teachers.

And everyone is going to have to make sacrifices to keep our streets safe. Barack Obama is the one person in this country with the moral authority to be able to give that kind of a message. I think his failure to do that is a huge problem.

BURNETT: Bill, what do you think about that? Because when you look at Chicago, it has some of the toughest gun laws in this country yet you have this horrific epidemic of violence. Are more cops the answer? Is this something the president should stand up for?

BURTON: Well, first of all, I find it to be an incredible stretch to say the fact that the president didn't stand up during the teachers union and make a statement has some sort of impact on gun violence right now. I think that is at its -- on its face ridiculous.

But if you look at a place like New York City, where gun violence is actually lower, they actually do have very stringent gun laws and it has had an impact on crime there. The problem in Chicago and in a lot of other places around the country is the people who are trafficking these guns over state lines.

Keep in mind that a lot of the gun violence in this country doesn't happen in urban areas. A lot of it does, but Tucson, Newtown, Aurora, those are not intensely urban areas. Those are suburban or rural areas. This is a problem that affects our entire country and we need a comprehensive solution.

SALAM: I'm so glad Bill brought that up. It's true that only 70 percent of homicides committed by firearms are committed by handguns. But, I mean, that's a pretty big problem. Chicago is actually, I believe ranked 79th in American places in terms of the level of gun violence.

You know, Chicago has had a huge crime wave. It's a bigger crime problem than New York City. But there are many other American cities that have worse crime problems than Chicago. And again, I don't think it's nonsense or ridiculous to say cities face tradeoffs.

There are many cities in did country that face straitened budgetary difficulties, pension obligations that squeeze ability to offer basic services like securing citizens. We know President Clinton promoted an expansion of police officers in the '90s and that's what we need right now. But cities can't do that if they actually have to face huge wage demands. And again, Barack Obama is one person who had the moral authority to be able to say, look, everyone is going to need to compromise.

BURNETT: What do you think? Obviously he's going to go for universal background checks and he's going to try to use his moral authority as Reihan says to try to get Republicans to do what the American public want, which is things like universal background checks, up and down votes on that.

But do you think that he should push for more police? I'm just thinking now of even San Bernardino. We've been talking so much about those police who just did a heroic job and that police department is bankrupt. That city is bankrupt. They were thinking of outsourcing their police. I mean, this is a problem around the country.

BURTON: Well, there's a range of solutions to this problem. I think we ought to take a comprehensive view. There's putting more police on the streets. There are the universal background checks. What are you going to do about assault weapons? There's the mental health piece of this.

I think that you have to take the broadest view possible and say, what are we going to do to stop the slaughter of 33 people who are dying every single day because of gun violence? And that's what the president and the task force are doing right now to make sure that we are doing everything possible to ensure that we're going to slow the building violence that comes from guns on the streets.

SALAM: I'll say that actually killing pension reform in Illinois, which is what legislators in that state did with the packing of public employee unions, is the reason why Illinois cities are very unsafe because they're --

BURTON: OK, I just -- it's too much to say that. I mean, the problem is that, yes --

SALAM: There are tradeoffs.

BURTON: The budgets are stretched, there's no doubt about it. And the federal government as a result of Republicans in Congress have made it much tough over cities and states and localities. But we need a comprehensive solution to this and it's not pension reform.

SALAM: Tradeoffs.

BURNETT: I got to leave it there. All I have to say this, if we just change the accounting laws so the politicians could not make promises to people in the future without accounting for them now we wouldn't have all these problems with deficits and all these states and the federal level. It's easy to make promises without paying for them and it needs to stop.

Ahead, three days after Christopher Dorner was killed, there are still questions surrounding his death. But tonight we're getting answers about the final moments inside that cabin and how he actually died.

A congressman is caught tweeting to a 24-year-old girl -- woman -- during the state of the union address. I think she qualifies as a woman. We'll tell you what the Twitter exchange reveals next.


BURNETT: Our third story, OUTFRONT, social media secrets. Another congressman has found himself in a rather awkward position because of Twitter. During this year's "State of the Union" address, Representative Steve Cohen was spotted tweeting. You might say it's a little disrespectful to be tweeting while the president's speaking, but see there he was busily tweeting away especially if you're sitting right in front of the president.

That is not what raised eyebrows. What was more shocking to people was who was on the other end of that tweet, a 24-year-old bikini model. The messages to the woman included, "Happy Valentine's Day, beautiful girl" and ILU, translation, "I love you." That prompted a member of Cohen staff to quickly explain that the woman was a daughter of a long-time friend, and they're pretty much like family.

Something didn't smell right there. As you can imagine most people did not buy that explanation, and many people assumed it was an older congressman in a secret relationship with a younger woman. Then the truth came out. She is his daughter.


REPRESENTATIVE STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: Knew her mother a long time ago, I'd been to an event where I thought about her mother. I liked her mother. I Googled her one night and saw that she had given birth to a beautiful young lady. And I kind of went back to nine months before and that was a time when we were involved.

And so it kind of made me think. There were some other factors that were thrown in and then I Googled her and I Facebooked Victoria. And she friended me, which was news to me, but she friended me. I didn't know much about Facebook.

I know not much about Twitter either, I guess, but I'm learning. And my staff people looked at her pictures and they said, I think she's your daughter. They were making it out as something perverted. It was disgusting to her, I'm sure, hurtful to her, and I didn't like it either.


BURNETT: That was an endearing explanation. But the problem is, have our elected officials learned nothing from Anthony Weiner? Steve Cohen has a daughter that he chose to keep secret, and there's nothing scandalous about that, it's wonderful if they have a great relationship, he should not have to explain it.

The problem is, he tweeted about it. He could have texted her, he could have e-mailed her, nobody would have known. Twitter is for public consumption. If you need to keep something secret and I'm sure some members of Congress actually do, we recommend staying off Twitter.

Still to come, an Olympic athlete charged with murder breaks down in court. What we now know about the woman he's accused of shooting.

Later in the show, this -- imagine seeing that at work, looking out the window, incredible video of a meteor entering our atmosphere.


BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting from the front lines.

Well, former Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors. As part of the deal, Jackson admits to a felony count of misusing campaign funds. Prosecutors say Jackson and his wife spent $750,000 in campaign money to pay for personal luxuries, that included a $4,600 Michael Jackson fedora and other memorabilia. Jackson will have to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars. And as for jail time, that will be up to a judge. Jackson's wife Sandra has been charged with filing false tax returns.

Well, Wal-Mart shares fell 2 percent after a report claimed executives were concerned about sales. According to a Bloomberg story, Wal-Mart executives in internal e-mails expressed concerns that February sales have been hurt by the expiration of the payroll tax cut.

Wal-Mart tells OUTFRONT that like any organization, they have internal communications that are not entirely accurate, that lack proper context and represent individual opinions.

But you know what? There could be truth in it, because beyond Wal-Mart, economists we spoke to are concerned about the expiration of the payroll tax cut. They say that consumers are starting to feel the impact of a smaller paycheck and that will cause a drop in consumer spending over the coming months. Consumer spending is the single biggest part of the American economy.

It has been 561 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back. Well, stocks are still within reach of record highs but they've been trying and trying and trying and haven't gotten there.

Despite closing flat today the S&P 500 has posted seven weekly gains in a row.

And now, our fourth story OUTFRONT: not one but two close encounters of a special kind.

First, an asteroid half the size of a football field shot past the planet today. Now, that would have wreaked unbelievable damage -- I mean, the dinosaurs kind of damage, perhaps. Hours before a meteor broke apart over Russia. There are incredible pictures. I mean, no wonder people thought this was a UFO. Can you imagine seeing that? Streaking across the sky above the Ural Region in Russia? There was chaos, and there was panic caught on camera.


BURNETT: Unbelievable. The powerful blast was enough to shatter windows and doors. About 1,000 people were reportedly injured. Some 3,000 buildings were damaged and windows completely blown out.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.

Tom, what happened this morning in Russia? I didn't believe when it I first saw it. I have to say. We were still on air covering the Triumph, and we said, UFO? Could this be true?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, what happened is the Russians got a very rude awakening. This meteor came in and exploded about 30 miles up in the atmosphere, above one of their more northern cities here, and the impact was really huge considering this thing wasn't that big in terms of things flying through space.

Let's talk about the size of it. It was about 10 tons, which sounds like a lot, but that's not a lot in space, about 10 feet long. But here's the key -- it was traveling 33,000 miles per hour. That matters, because when these pieces of space rock come flying into our atmosphere, they become super-heated by the friction of the atmosphere. They have gases inside of them and ultimately, like a piece of cosmic popcorn, they just blow up.

And that shock wave is what caused all that damage you were talking about. Yes, more than 1,000 people injured. More than 270 buildings with real damage to them.

This was a big, big shock to folks there, Erin.

BURNETT: I mean, certainly. Now, the meteor and the asteroid -- the asteroid, of course, huge, right? Both happened within a few hours of each other. So, is this random? I mean, I know there are things flying through space all the time and it's amazing we don't get hit by more of it. But, are they related?

FOREMAN: No, they're not, and that really is what shocked everybody who's excited about the space community because you have this event, then you have this other one, the trajectories were completely different, though.

Let me give you some points of reference here. When we talk about the earth, we often like to say the moon is close to the earth. But the moon is not really close at all. The moon is about a quarter million miles out there, Erin.

What is close? Satellites. We've been launching them for a long time. The highest ones we have are 22,000 miles in the space. And this asteroid came streaking through the southern hemisphere and cut right through the outer rim of our satellites out there.

Here's the earth. This is about 17,000 miles from that path to where it is. You can see it's just within the range of our satellites. There's no real chance of it hitting satellites, because even though we have a lot of them, there aren't really that many. They're kind of small.

And this thing wasn't enormous. Not in space terms. It was officially called 2012 DA14. It was about 50 yards long, like you said, half the size of a football field. It was traveling close to 17,000, 18,000 miles an hour. If it had hit the Earth, it would have exploded with a force greater than 2 million tons of dynamite, Erin.

BURNETT: That is just unbelievable.

Now, I know you say it's called DA14, the asteroid. What kind of damage? When you say 200 tons of dynamite, if it hit the Earth, if hit New York City what would it have done?

FOREMAN: Yes, here's what it would have done. It would have been quite a change, what it would have done.

And look at this, if it had fallen, think about the one this morning. This is the size of the meteorite this morning that went over Russia and exploded there. That's the size it was in reality, if I were standing next to it. It blew up 30 miles of space and you saw the damage that this did.

If the asteroid were next to this one, look at the comparative size of this thing. The asteroid that passed today would actually be more like this -- massive, massive difference. If this thing exploded in our atmosphere, or if this hit our earth, the impact would have been very, very different.

We know that in part because we've had an asteroid about that size come in as a meteorite and crash into earth many, many thousands of years ago in Arizona. If you're out near Flagstaff, you can visit the Arizona meteor crater. It's about three-quarters of a mile all the way around the top there. And that was from the impact of one about the size of the one that flew by today. But one that weighed about twice as much. That's the best guess.

So, yes, real concern.

Here's the other part that you have to bear in mind. This would be a big impact. It would do damage for hundreds of miles in all directions. But this, this big thing we just showed you, is a relatively small asteroid, Erin. That's why scientists were interested in what happened today.

BURNETT: It makes you realize how vulnerable we all are. I was reading a book about this recently. We'll see, yes.

All right. Thanks very much to you, Tom.

And I want to go Ed Lu now. He's former astronaut. He has logged more than 200 days in space. He now spends part of his time hunting asteroids.

And you just heard our own Tom Foreman talked about a direct hit in Arizona. You know, what are the odds of something like this happening? I mean, it seems with all the stuff we hear about shrapnel flying through space, that bigger things would hit the earth more often.

ED LU, FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, these things do hit. In fact, the odds in the next century, basically you or your kids' lifetime, of a multi-mega ton blast like we just heard about, is about 30 percent. It's about one in three.


LU: So, those odds aren't that small. And my feeling, my personal feeling is that even though most of the Earth is unpopulated, we should not let a random one to two-megaton explosion happen somewhere on the surface of the Earth. I think that's unacceptable.

BURNETT: You know, we've seen movies about, you know, this is happening and they send people in space and try to explode the asteroids so it doesn't hit. I mean, all these, you know, sort of sci-fi sort type of things. But it does beg the question of, what the heck could we do about it if one was coming, number one? And number two, do we really know everything that's coming, or are there things coming that we actually might not know about?

LU: Well, actually, the first part of your question, yes, we can do something about it if we have 10 or 20 or 30 years of notice. OK?


BURNETT: Then you don't need to change the trajectory very much to make it miss. Here's the problem. 2012 DA14, we found it a year ago. There's nothing we could have done. Ninety-nine percent of all asteroids larger than that, we simply haven't tracked yet.

So, the next one, the one that's going to hit us, you know, whenever that next one happens to be we don't know where it is right now. And that's what the B615 Foundation is doing. We're building a space telescope to go find them and give us that early warning we need to deflect them.

BURNETT: Wow. That's pretty sobering.

Ed Lu, thank you very much for taking the time.

And, everyone, let us know what you think about what Ed had to say. Some pretty stunning things there. And you learn more about Ed's organization which he believes could save the world on "THE NEXT LIST," which airs this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. I want to watch that.

And still to come, an Olympic athlete charged with murder. We have just learned more information tonight about the woman he's accused of murdering. And three days after Christopher Dorner was killed, we are now getting answers about what actually happened that afternoon.


BURNETT: We're back with tonight's "Outer Circle" where we reach out to our sources around the world.

And, tonight, we go to South Africa, where Olympic track star and double amputee Oscar Pistorius wept in court, as he was formally charged with murder. Police found his girlfriend shot and lying in a pool of blood in his home on Valentine's Day.

Local media has reported Pistorius thought his girlfriend was intruder. A scenario police said did not come from them.

Errol Barnett is covering the story. I asked him what we know about the Blade Runner's bikini model girlfriend.


ERROL BARNETT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Reeva Steenkamp is described by friends as engaging and warm. They say she was the type of mini celebrity here who would take pictures with all of her friends and respond to all of her Twitter followers. In fact, this is an ominous tweet she sent before Valentine's Day. She writes, get excited and asked her follow what they have planned. Within 24 hours, she was dead.

Steenkamp's management company confirmed to CNN she died after a shooting incident at the Pretoria, South Africa, home of Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius. The two are believed to have started dating recently, appearing together in front of the media back in November. A potential South African power couple. He the Olympic superstar, a double amputee nicknamed "Blade Runner", she the cover model.

HAGEN ENGLER, FMR. FHM EDITOR: She was a bikini model, beautiful, gorgeous girl. She had sort of like a wicked, guy's type of sense of humor, you know? So, she got it and she kind of understood the industry which she was in. Like, really intelligent. So, always fun to work with.

BARNETT: Her smarts earned her a law degree at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Her beauty caught the attention of Avon, which employed her in Johannesburg. It appears she used those assets to speak out on the plight of women, sending this message last week to her thousands of Twitter followers.

"I woke up in a happy, safe home this morning. Not everyone did," she writes. "Speak out against rape."

At 29 years old, her career was just beginning to flourish. Last year, Steenkamp filmed an exotic reality show in Jamaica which is set to premiere Saturday -- a promising future snuffed out after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds on Valentine's Day.

On the show's Web site, there's a message of condolence from the production team and outpouring of support from fans.

Her family, of course, will continue to grieve as everybody wonders how the so-called "Blade Runner" could do such a thing.

Erin, back to you.


BURNETT: All right. Thanks so much to Errol.

And now, our fifth story OUTFRONT, new details on the ongoing investigation into Christopher Dorner's shooting rampage.

Just moments ago, the San Bernardino sheriff's office held a news conference addressing many of the questions that still remain following the manhunt which ended with Dorner dead inside a burned-out cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Our Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT in Los Angeles.

And, Kyung, did authorities say how Dorner died? The big question.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it's a question that they believe they have answered. At this point, what the detectives are saying is that they have completed the autopsy and at this point, they are saying Dorner died of a single gunshot wound to the head. Something that they're not 100 percent sure of, but all signs are pointing to Dorner did kill himself, shooting himself in the head. They do saying there is still a little more investigation to do before they can say that 100 percent.

The sheriff's detectives saying, though, they did hear a single gunshot wound from inside the cabin before it was fully engulfed in flames. Something else that did catch our ear in this news conference that happened just a short time ago is, how did Dorner hide out in that condo so close to the command post for several days undetected?

Well, the door of that condo, according to the sheriff, was left unlocked. The people who own the condo left it unlocked so the maintenance man could come in. Well, Dorner, finding an unlocked door, allowed himself in, locked the door behind him. When detectives went to check, he didn't answer, so that's how he went undetected.

Despite that the sheriff's department saying that officers acted, quote, "flawlessly." Here's what the sheriff said.


SHERIFF JOHN MCMAHON, SAN BERNARDINO SHERIFF'S DEPT.: We have nothing to hide and we stand confident in our actions on that fateful day of February 12th. The bottom line is the deputy sheriffs of this department and the law enforcement officers from the surrounding area did an outstanding job and they ran into the line of fire, they were being shot at and didn't turn around and retreat.


LAH: And something else the sheriff did want to reiterate is that fire that did engulf the cabin, it was not intentionally set. It's something that is a risk when you use pyrotechnic chemicals, Erin, but he said it wasn't intentional.

BURNETT: Now, Kyung, at the press conference, I know that authorities started to show off the weapons, the arsenal of Christopher Dorner. What did they say and what did you see?

LAH: You know, it was really striking, because we'd heard all these reports about Christopher Dorner being heavily armed, that he's armed and dangerous. But looking at it, it really sort of underscores that this man was prepared for war. He was engaged in an all-out war.

Look at this weapon. This is a sniper semiautomatic rifle with a scope, several high-magazine clips, several semiautomatic handguns. He had smoke bombs, he was wearing a vest, a military helmet. This man certainly knew what he was doing and he wanted to wage war, Erin.


All right. Kyung Lah, thank you very much.

Well, one factor the authorities did not address in the press conference is, who is going to get the $1 million reward for tips that led to the capture and conviction of Dorner?

The Los Angeles Police Department has just issued a statement and it says the following, "Due to the large number of inquiries into the reward, the mayor's office and Los Angeles Police Department remind media outlets that reward monies cannot be distributed until the investigation is complete which takes time. Final decisions on the dissemination of the reward on this case, as in all reward cases, will be made upon the completion of the investigation."

One potentially candidate is Rick Heltebrake. He says Dorner pulled a gun on him, then took his truck, leaving him and his dog unharmed.

And Rick joins me now OUTFRONT.

Rick, when I first read about your story, it was so moving. I know you had your dog. He let you keep your dog.

What went through your mind when you were stopped by Dorner at gunpoint? Did you recognize him?

RICK HELTEBRAKE, DORNER CARJACKING VICTIM: I recognized him right away. And, you know, it happened pretty quick. I saw the gun, and pretty much at the same time, he said, I don't want to hurt you. Just get out and start walking up the road and take your dog. That's what we did.

BURNETT: Now, I know you notified authority right away. You said you recognized him, so you called. Let me play again what the Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said last week when he announced the $1 million reward. Here he is.


MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, LOS ANGELES, CA: Collectively, this group that by my office is posting an award of $1 million for information that will lead to Mr. Dorner's capture.


BURNETT: Now, do you believe that it's fair for you to get that, or do you think that well, technically, he wasn't captured, he was killed, so it doesn't count?

HELTEBRAKE: Look, I believe that nobody ever believed this guy was going to be captured. I know there's some controversy about the language in that reward statement, but the bottom line is my phone call put an end -- directly put an end to the biggest manhunt in southern California history.

Now, I feel they need to stand by their word, pay out that reward. I need to get some money and I want to do some good things with it.

BURNETT: And I want to ask you about what you want to do with it in a minute, but first, there was another couple that called 911 to report that Dorner had tied them up. Would you be okay to split the reward money with them?

HELTEBRAKE: First of all, only one person in the couple called 911, and yes, I would be fine splitting the reward two ways with the person that made that call.

BURNETT: I understand what you're saying. So, $500,000/$500,000. Not -- I understand the math you're referring to.

All right. What would you do with the money when you got it? You say you want to do something good with it. What would you do with it?

HELTEBRAKE: Well, I put this out a little earlier. My lawyer has told me not to get so specific in that, but there are some families out there that have kids that need to go to college and those kinds of things, and they don't have daddies anymore, and you know, I'm looking at things like that.

BURNETT: So, you're looking --

HELTEBRAKE: And I run a Boy Scout camp that, you know, needs some work on it, and those kinds of things. There's a lot of good to do.

BURNETT: Do you think it's -- I understand the perspective of the police. Obviously, they're not saying they're not going to give it to you. They're saying they're going through the investigation. So, I don't want to jump to any conclusions.

But do you understand their point of view? That they put these rewards out to get people to act, but it always seems like it's never quite black and white on who you give it to and when and what really leads to capture or not.

HELTEBRAKE: I get that they have to wait until the investigation is over. I know it's a time-consuming process. But, you know, like I said, I don't believe anybody ever thought this guy was going to be captured. You know, this money is coming from the private sector. You know, basically, corporate donors are putting this money up.


HELTEBRAKE: And whether it's in an escrow fund or whatever it is, you know, they need to come through with it.

BURNETT: You're standing in front of where the cabin was. What's it like now?

HELTEBRAKE: It's pretty -- this is more surreal down here, actually, than what happened to me. It's burned out. I finally found out where my truck was, in the ditch right behind me here, behind this cabin. I thought it was up the road somewhere. But, apparently, he came down here and turned into the driveway of this little resort here and ended up in the ditch down by the river. So it's pretty surreal around here, actually.

BURNETT: We just saw -- while you were speaking, our photojournalist was zooming in, showing us what's back there, behind you. I mean, nothing, essentially. No walls, nothing, just the chimney there and the fireplace, all I can see.

HELTEBRAKE: Yes. Pretty much, yes.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much for taking the time. We appreciate it. And we'll look forward to hearing how that story ends for you, Rick.

Last night, we were in Mobile, Alabama, to cover the return of the cruise. I'll give you a behind the scenes look at something I saw, next.


BURNETT: Last night, we were in Mobile, Alabama, to cover the crippled Carnival Triumph's return. We had an opportunity to speak with a lot of the passengers. They had been stranded at sea for five days.

And, you know, during the day, they were so frustrated and upset, many of them, and so justifiably so. They had no power and limited access to toilets, but as they came off the ship, so many were relieved, they were euphoric, and actually they ended up being grateful for the time they had with their family and friends. I met a lot of interesting and really amazing people with a lot of fortitude. But in addition to meeting interesting people, as a journalist, you also get a chance to experience places you might not otherwise see. That's why I love my job.

And yesterday, I learned what a great city Mobile, Alabama, is. It's Alabama's major port. It's very pretty when you fly into it by air. It looks like a mini Empire State Building when you fly in. It's a major ship building hub, and now, it's an airplane manufacturing hub.

Airbus, its first U.S.-based production facility is being built in Mobile, and beginning in 2015, it's going to produce 40 to 50 airplanes a year. That is a big deal.

Now, Airbus referred to Mobile's rich Southern tradition, beauty and charm in the release, describing why it picks the city for such a major investment. And Airbus is right. You have seen some of the pictures. It is a really pretty town. America's first Mardi Gras, by the way, ever, was held in Mobile, back in 1784.

And the drive from the airport, about 10 miles from the airport to the port, even past the strip malls that every town in America has, was truly pretty. Huge trees with giant trunks arching over the roads, Spanish moss draped across the bows, and there were beautiful Southern-style old buildings, mansions, and even stores.

America is so full of great cities, and we are lucky to get to see them. Here is to beautiful Mobile, on a wonderful weekend.

Thanks so much for watching.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360." begins right now.