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On Board the Nightmare Cruise

Aired February 15, 2013 - 21:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Tonight, Triumph and tragedy onboard the nightmare cruise. Harrowing stories from inside the crippled ship.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have been kept in the dark a lot.

BANFIELD: From the first signs of trouble to the fears they'd never come home, and our exclusive with the sick passenger who was rescued at sea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was hard. It was scary. It was -- oh, my God.

BANFIELD: Plus, the other big news this week, fallen hero -- the shocking story of Oscar Pistorius. Did the Paralympic superstar murder his cover girl girlfriend? The latest details on the "Blade Runner" accused of murder, and his rare up close and personal interview with Piers that may surprise you.

OSCAR PISTORIUS, PARALYMPIC SUPERSTAR: There are kids who look up to you. It's definitely something you have to keep in the back of your mind.



BANFIELD: Good evening.

Tonight, two stories of Triumph, tragedy, strength, and character. I'm Ashleigh Banfield in for Piers Morgan.

Celebrated athlete Oscar Pistorius is in police custody tonight. The double amputee track-star-turned-national hero stands accused of a horrible crime, the cold-blooded murder of his girlfriend. Weeping in court as the charges are read against him, we're going to get to that case that the world is talking about, coming up.

But we begin with the remarkable story of the more than 4,000 people aboard the cruise ship Triumph, stranded for days, adrift at sea.

CNN's Martin Savidge takes us through the ultimate holiday nightmare.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fun in the sun, that's the promise of the Carnival Triumph, and with lots to offer, a casino, disco, live entertainment, spa, swimming pools, all you can eat. Passengers expected plenty when departing Galveston last Thursday. On Sunday morning, the moment of crisis.

In a flash, a fire breaks out in one of the ship's two engine rooms. A passenger shoots this cell phone video. At first, the thousands aboard don't know the ship is crippled, adrift in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. But by day's end, it's obvious this virtual floating city is almost completely powerless.

With nothing but back-up generators. Passengers find themselves without hot water or working toilets, and eventually, without enough to eat. You can hear the desperation in the calls from the ship.

ANN BARLOW, PASSENGER ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH (via telephone): It takes three and a half hours to get food. The smells -- I can't even describe them. There's sewage, raw sewage, pretty bad. You walk in the hallway, you have to cover your face. We don't have any masks for breathing.

SAVIDGE: Dead in the water, all anyone at sea or on land can do is wait.

JULIE MORGAN, PASSENGER ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH (via telephone): Actually, the first day I was able to get through to Tim, I cried. And one of my friends who was with me got through to her husband, and we cried, too. Just -- partly out of fear and frustration because at that point, we still didn't know exactly what had happened and if it would happen again. I mean, we still were very in the dark.

So, that was very scary times, and yes, people are starting to lose it a little bit. Tempers are flaring. People are being very snippy.

SAVIDGE: With no air conditioning, decks turned to tent camps. Inside, mattresses line hallways. Everywhere, the smell of sewage.


SAVIDGE: Mary Poret's 12-year-old daughter is on that ship with her father.

MARY PORET, 12-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: I cannot imagine that the horror that they have had to deal with, with no food, lines to go to the bathroom, seeing urine and feces in the hall, sleeping on the floor, nothing to eat, people fighting over food.

SAVIDGE: By Tuesday, with food supplies dwindling, cell phones dying, and conditions worsening, Carnival's president and CEO apologizes.

GERRY CAHILL, PRESIDENT & CEO, CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: Let me assure you that no one here from Carnival is happy about the conditions onboard the ship. And we obviously are very, very sorry about what is taking place. There is no question that conditions onboard the ship are very challenging.

SAVIDGE: By Thursday, passengers say the 1,100 crew members onboard are the only thing that staves off mutiny, but as tugboats tug the 100,000 ton boat to land and helicopters however above, Mary Poret connects with her daughter.

REBEKAH PORET, DAUGHTER (via telephone): I want to tell my mom I love her so much and I can't wait to see her.

M. PORET: I love you too, baby.

SAVIDGE: But the journey still has one more miserable surprise. As captured in this video, a tow line snaps.


SAVIDGE: After another delay, finally, the last mile into Mobile.

For the passengers, the Carnival Triumph nightmare is over.

MELISSA MCDAVID, PASSENGER ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: We were all together, and that was what was the most important, and just glad to be alive.

JOE PERKIN, PASSENGER ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: Sorry, Carnival, for taking your bathrobe. I did not pay for this, but I figure they owed me.


BANFIELD: With me now is Rachel Alderete, who because of a medical emergency, was evacuated from the ship days before it reached the shore. Rachel, what happened that you need to be rescued?

RACHEL ALDERETE, EVACUATED FROM TRIUMPH: Well, I need a kidney, so I need to do dialysis. And I do it like three times a week. And I had already missed one day on a Saturday. And the doctor had said it was OK, but I was supposed to be here on Monday. And then Tuesday go to a dialysis, when I was supposed to go.

But that's when, you know, the boat got caught on fire on Sunday.

BANFIELD: So, how did you --

ALDERETE: So, they had to get the Coast Guard --

BANFIELD: Yes, how did you get off the main ship and to medical attention? What did they do? ALDERETE: They got the Coast Guards and transferred me to another boat, another ship. Sent me to Cozumel to do dialysis on Tuesday.

BANFIELD: How was it actually getting onto the tiny vessels? Look, from the view, from the deck of the ship, those are teeny tiny boats. I know they're not when you're in them, but it can't be an easy transfer to get onto those boats.

ALDERETE: It was hard. It was scary. It was -- oh, my God. You know, it was scary the way they put me down. They put me in a stair rope, and the Coast Guard said, don't worry about it, they would catch me. And you know, they were going to hold me back -- and they did. Then they transferred me to the bigger boat. And, you know, it was good. It was easy to get off on the other boats.

BANFIELD: Your sister Sophie was supposed to go with you, but as I understand it, that wasn't possible. Why?

ALDERETE: Yes, she was supposed to come also, but the current -- the water was too choppy. And it was too dangerous for her to cross over, that they barely had enough time to take me across the ocean.

BANFIELD: So now I'm seeing the two of you, both in your life preservers. Look, you're smiling in the picture, but I can't imagine you were smiling during this ordeal?

ALDERETE: We -- at that time, you know, we were just playing around or whatever. But we didn't know what we were getting into until we got to the door. But we were both supposed to -- we both had our life jackets on and everything so we could get on that boat. We didn't even know -- we thought it was going to be like a chartered bus, a chartered boat. We didn't know it was going to be one of those small ones.

And, you know, it was scary, you know, but they tried to take her over and they couldn't.

BANFIELD: When you got to the sister ship of the Triumph, and I believe it's called the Legend, you were able to once again get from the itty-bitty boat to the larger ship and then progress to shore and get treatment. How long did it take before you got your dialysis?

ALDERETE: I think they had said eight hours. They said eight hours, then I got to Cozumel. They took me to go do my dialysis, then after that, they took me to the airport. And I arrived at 9:00 that evening.

BANFIELD: The compensation, while it may seem like a lot to some, others are complaining. Given what you have been through, $500, a free flight home, a refund for your trip, and a credit for another cruise, does that cut it for you, or is that something that's just not going to really assuage the concerns you have for what you have been through?

ALDERETE: To me, I'm fine with that. I'm fine with that. I'm not greedy or anything. I'm fine with that.

The crew was good to us. You know, what happened to the ship wasn't the crew's fault or anything or whatever. But you know, I'll take what they give me.

BANFIELD: So what do you think about one of your fellow passengers suing Carnival and saying that she suffered all sorts of damages, from emotional to physical?

ALDERETE: Well, you know, honestly, you know, in spite of what I went through, they were worse than I was. They -- they were the ones, because mine was just the beginning. You know, it happened on Sunday morning. And yes, you know, I was suffering a little bit on Monday, and then when I got to my dialysis and was home on Tuesday, but they were the ones who were more, you know, in pain and suffering, you know?

BANFIELD: Well, you are an amazing lady. Let me just say having gone through what you went through, being rescued from a ship, being put onto choppy waters by the Coast Guard and taking to emergency dialysis, only to suggest your passengers had it worse than you, you're awesome. Rachel, thanks for being with us.

ALDERETE: Thank you. Thank you.

BANFIELD: They say bad things come in threes. Imagine this, stranded on a cruise ship for five days and then taken on a bus that breaks down. Only to board a flight that's delayed by yet another power problem. Unbelievable.

Joining me now for an exclusive interview is Jacob Combs who might be one of the unluckiest travelers you'll ever meet.

Jacob, you have had what we like to call in the news business, a hell of a day.

JACOB COMBS, CARNIVAL TRIUMPH PASSENGER: Yes, you know, it started out nice, sun shiny, thought it was going to work out well, but you know, with all of the problems that come with the ship, to add the plane problems and the bus problems with it, too, seems pretty par for the course this week.

BANFIELD: What happened to the bus? You were supposed to go to New Orleans. It doesn't seem like it was that far away.

COMBS: You know, it really wasn't that far away. You would think it probably would have worked out, but basically, we were driving down the road. We're thinking we're going to get in this warm bed. We're going to have a hot shower. We're going to have a good meal.

And he starts pulling over to the side of the road, rattling in the back. He gets out, and a belt's come loose. So we're there for about an hour before we can take off. And we don't get in until 5:00 a.m.


COMBS: But you have to sometime, you've got to laugh about it when those things come up.

BANFIELD: Well, good for you for having that attitude. I think the majority of the problem licked right there.

So, you get back on the bus, you're back in New Orleans. The belt's back on, engine's running. You're on a plane now. And what?

COMBS: Well, actually, they gave us a different bus, so we were on a whole other one, and we had to wait for it.


COMBS: But we get on a flight that's supposed to leave at 8:30, and I'm on my phone and not paying attention, and I look down at my watch and it's 9:30, it's 9:45. It's one hour and 15 minutes passed and we were supposed to leave. I couldn't find a stewardess, I didn't know what was going on.

We finally took off and I didn't know what happened. But when I landed, Shelly (ph), one of my friends onboard said I can't believe it happened to us again. She was on the bus. She said it was an electrical problem and it caused the delay. It just -- you know, it's a domino effect, ship wrecked, the bus breaks, and then the plane goes down. So --

BANFIELD: And we've been looking at some of the pictures that you've been taking and the last we just saw of you outside the plane looking like you're having a whole bunch of fun with it -- were there some people who weren't quite as positive as you and were really angry after all this?

COMBS: You know, I think each person on the ship had a different experience, and that caused certain reactions. I mean, some people had more flooding. Some people had more smoke. Some people had a really hard time. Maybe they were elderly and couldn't get up the stairs. So, that justified some of their response.

But as I've said a couple times, you've got to find a way to be positive in that situation and look on the bright side or it's just going to become even more miserable for yourself and miserable for everyone around. So, I think that's the kind of policy I decided I was going to live with despite the horrible conditions.

And there was lots of positives. The crew was amazing. They helped out hand and foot, all the time. There was nothing to complain about on that side. It's just there was too much to handle.

BANFIELD: So let me ask you this, one of your fellow cruisers named Cassie Terry, maybe doesn't feel as positive as you do, and she's launched a federal suit against Carnival, and she's said that the conditions were horrifying. She was forced to wade through human waste, and she's now suing for physical and emotional harm, including anxiety, nervousness -- and this part, the loss of enjoyment of life. Do you back her?

COMBS: Well, I would say I don't know her personally, and if she really went through all that, that sounds like a horrible experience. I understand from just an empathetic standpoint, if I had to go through that, I would be in maybe some of the states that she's in.

I personally wouldn't file a lawsuit, but that's my decision. And I don't know her experience. I feel awful for her. I'm sure the crew feels awful for her. So hopefully it can get taken care of in a positive way and things can move on from there.

BANFIELD: So you're in Galveston now, and I know you live in Irving, and that's not close. So, somehow you're going to have to get between point A and point B. Are you going to use a vehicle of some sort?

COMBS: Well, I think I'm going to enjoy the sun a little bit right now. You can see it's beautiful out here. I'm going to kick back at the beach, take a deep breath, enjoy the land, and then I probably will have to get in my car and head north. I think my boss will probably want me to come back to work at some point.

So, I will have to endure another vehicle. Hopefully, it just doesn't break down.

BANFIELD: There's always that buzz kill at the end of a vacation, even a bad vacation, that's going back to work. Say hello to the people of Dallas and Irving for us.


BANFIELD: Jacob Combs, great to see you.

COMBS: Great to see you. Thanks for having me on.

BANFIELD: When we come back, a birthday surprise goes bust. Our exclusive with a group of women who thought they would be celebrating rather than struggling at sea.


BANFIELD: Under the heading of it seemed like a good idea at the time, two husbands surprise their wives with cruise tickets to celebrate the 40th birthday, which now none of them is ever going to forget.

I'm Ashleigh Banfield in for Piers Morgan.

And joining me for an exclusive interview, birthday girl Kerry Padilla, her mother Connie Lewis, her close friend Julie Morgan, and Kerry's sister Julie Pringle -- all were onboard the Carnival Triumph.

We can all laugh about this now and we can all say, you know, it was the "cruise from hell", et cetera, but I just want to take you back to the moment where this began with a fire onboard and smoke in the hallways and the ship listing to the side. Was there ever a moment when you truly did believe this was an extraordinary danger?

KERRY PADILLA, CARNIVAL TRIUMPH PASSENGER: We have said this before. In the beginning, we thought it was very scary. Then I would say within, I don't know, a half hour, an hour, we realized that our lives weren't in immediate danger anymore, and it was just going to be a matter of figuring out what we were going to do next.

BANFIELD: And I think that's what a lot of people have said, is that they worried and then they didn't. I'm trying to figure out, how did it come to pass that you went from being terrified to being extremely frustrated for a number of days?

JULIE MORGAN, CARNIVAL TRIUMPH PASSENGER: Well, I think the lack of information initially, they just kept saying it's a little fire. We don't know. We don't know. So after a point, you just relax because you don't know anything. And what can you do?

You're essentially trapped, and you can't change your mind and get off. So you just had to go with the flow.

BANFIELD: I'm looking at some of the pictures and video that have come in to us since everybody has gotten back on dry land and been able to actually establish, you know, a cell phone power and cell phone service. And you know, it did look kind of scary for a while there.

You guys, this was a 40th birthday, big surprise, and all four of you got together. Two of your husbands doing this for you, but there were other passengers with little kids. You must have seen some of that and the way some of those little kids weren't certain they were OK. Tell me what was it like?

MORGAN: The kids had fun. They were running around on the ship. The crew did a lot to play with the kids and have events for them. I don't think -- I think the parents of the children are probably more stressed than the children themselves.

JULIE PRINGLE, CARNIVAL TRIUMPH PASSENGER: I was thankful we didn't have our kids with us.

BANFIELD: I'll bet.

PADILLA: But I had mine.

BANFIELD: This was a 40th birthday for you. I have a little experience in the celebrations of 40th birthdays, and normally, it involves an open bar. But this ship was not really serving a lot of booze. At one point, they did, though, right?

So, characterize for me why some people were upset that the booze started to flow, and other people thought there should have been more?

MORGAN: I don't think that there should have been more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. MORGAN: Again, we know how to handle ourselves, but there's always that group of people that don't, much like the food situation, that take too much. They drink too much and were acting the fool. And you know, we each had one and were done.

I mean, I think they being the crew intended it to be a nice gesture, and for those of us with sense, it was taken that way.

BANFIELD: And some of those pictures I saw of you before all of the disaster started looked like you were having a really good time. Hey, two of your husbands posed for a photograph with Carnival's vice president, one of their vice presidents, Terry Thornton.

What was that like? What did he say to you? It's great you had personal contact with him, but what was said?

PADILLA: I don't know. I think they were just talking to him, saying hello. They weren't mean to him, they weren't upset. My husband said they told him they knew Carnival was doing everything they can for us and they weren't concerned. They wanted us to come back as soon as possible, and everything was OK.

We weren't one of the ones going to come off the ship screaming, and our husbands knew that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's' what I think they were trying to tell them we were saying good things. The crew was phenomenal, they were. No fault of theirs at all.

BANFIELD: Speaking of the people who run the show, the crew continues to be a theme that each and every passenger has lauded. All I hear is that these were the most incredible people to handle an emergency, and do you think that's why there are fewer people who are really angry getting off that ship?

MORGAN: Absolutely, because you knew you could always find someone. Our steward on our floor, even though we didn't stay down there, we went down a few times every day, he was always there, helpful. We could look for him and find him at all times, which made it seem like he was never sleeping, even though we knew he got short breaks.

But even like our waiter in the dining room, we were supposed to be at during the fun part of the cruise, we found him during the day. So they were always there, helpful, and they answered what questions they could.

I know some people got frustrated they couldn't give information, but it wasn't that they were withholding it, they just didn't know.

BANFIELD: Well, I don't know if you had a chance to see some of the coverage, but there were helicopters hovering over your ship as it was coming into port, looking at all of the banners hanging over the balcony, saying "help us". Some were funny and some were serious.

Did you have any idea how many people were watching as you were coming to the end of this ordeal?

MORGAN: As we got service, we started to hear bits of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our phones started blowing up.

MORGAN: I don't think anyone expected it to be this much.

BANFIELD: Are you surprised at the attention?


PADILLA: Yes, a little bit.

MORGAN: To us, it's still surreal.

PADILLA: Imagine it must be a feel-good story, because although there were injuries onboard afterwards, it's good news that we all got home safe. That's nice to hear every now and again. I imagine that's why it's getting the coverage it is.

BANFIELD: Well, happy birthday, Kerry Padilla, and thank you to Julie and Connie and Julie, and safe travels as you guys make it to your ultimate destination today.

Coming up, self had proclaimed divas whose dream cruise turned into a nightmare.

And another story of triumph to tragedy. "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius and his remarkable fall from grace.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to a special PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

Triumph and tragedy onboard the nightmare cruise.

I'm Ashleigh Banfield, in for Piers.

Joining me now for an exclusive interview, family members who boarded the Triumph for what they called the 2013 divas cruise.

Let's bring in Maria Morales and Jenny Frias (ph).

Ladies, it's great to see you. All in one piece and looking very much like the divas I believe you believe you are. Welcome back to dry land.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, ma'am. Thank you, thank you.

BANFIELD: Maria, let me start with you. While so many people have said the conditions were so terrible onboard, and the photographs have proven it, you still seemed to get through this cruise with smiles on your faces and the party atmosphere really didn't go away much, did it? MARIA MORALES, CARNIVAL TRIUMPH PASSENGER: Well, you know, we decided that's what we were going to do. You know, we were going to stay focused on what we got on the ship to do, is, you know, have fun. Yes, there was quite a scare there, but we just had to do the best. We just had to, you know, get the best out of it.

There was a lot of stuff, you know, we just didn't see it, I guess. As much as other people experienced it, but we really didn't experience that part of it, you know? So in our case, you know, I mean, we were just there, trying to have a good time, trying to stay positive, and tried to not get contaminated by the negative that was surrounding us.

And most of all, to try to stay, you know, upbeat for the others that were around us. Because I think that's where we kind of -- kind of got our strength from, each other, but also from the people around us because when we were aloud, when we were having a good time, you know, they were having a good time. You know, they appreciated it. They would come back and tell us, you know, that they thanked us for being that way, because that was making them not feel the stress of the situation.

BANFIELD: Speaking of what you said before, being contaminated, you know, with the conditions the way they were, people were speculating that passengers would just leave all of their baggage and all of their belongings back on the ship. But it looks like you escaped with your diva hats and even the rhinestone diva t-shirts. So you must have felt that at least you were OK in that regard and your belongings made it through this ordeal.

MORALES: I mean, like I said, we didn't have any problems in our room. The only bad thing was that the bathroom wasn't working. You know, but other than that, we didn't experience any other kind of problems. We didn't have no leakage. We didn't have no water, you know. We didn't -- on the floor or anything.

So everything for us was OK in our room. And I'm pretty sure in most of our floor. Of course, you know, we had to sleep upstairs, so we really didn't get to spend much time on our floor.

BANFIELD: Hey, Janney -- Janney, the crew has been lauded by so many of your fellow passengers as just being terrific. And I heard a little rumor that they threw a Mardi Gras party for all of you, even after the emergency was under way. What was that like?

FRIAS: You know what, that was very interesting. Jen, the cruise director, always tried to keep things going, alive, trying to keep up everyone's spirits. So when they announced the Mardi Gras Party that they were having on deck, we had the perfect view. We were actually on the DJ stand there, so we had a whole view of the whole deck. And everybody was enjoying it.

BANFIELD: Hey, ladies, I know this was your 2013 first annual divas cruise. Will there be a second annual divas cruise?

MORALES: I think there will be. Maybe not anytime soon, but once we kind of process all of this. And the main thing that we kind of brought out of it is that, you know, staying positive and having each other is -- you know, was what kept us going. And it really did create that bond that we were looking -- we achieved the purpose of our trip.

And most of all is our faith. We are all women of faith. And I think that was the main thing that kept us, you know, going, is that faith that we knew that somebody higher was taking care of us.

BANFIELD: Thank you, divas. Glad to see you back on dry land, and good luck wherever you choose to have your next divas celebration. You all deserve it.

Next, from triumph to tragedy for Oscar Pistorius. The now tragic story of the Blade Runner and his candid interview with Piers coming up.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to this special PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT. I'm Ashleigh Banfield in for Piers. While the Triumph cruise ship inched back to shore, another story just as riveting makes news around the world. It is that of Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympic star accused in the Valentine's Day murder of his girlfriend.

Pistorius sat down with Piers last year for a candid and surprising one-on-one interview. We're going to bring it to you in just a moment. But first, the case against a man who became known as the Blade Runner.


BANFIELD (voce-over): Oscar Pistorius stands in the packed courtroom openly weeping as he faces the shocking charge. A national hero in South Africa, the Olympic athlete known as the Blade Runner is accused of murdering his girlfriend on Valentine's Day. Prosecutors call it a case of premeditated murder.

The allegations are chilling. Authorities say Pistorius shot to death model Reeva Steenkamp inside his estate. Her last Tweet on the 13th of February said, "what do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?"

Police say Steenkamp was shot four times. The killing took place behind the walls of this gated community in Pretoria, South Africa, inside Pistorius' home. Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee, invited CNN's Robyn Curnow into the house a few years ago and showed her his prosthetic legs.

OSCAR PISTORIUS, OLYMPIC RUNNER: I was missing the fibula, which is the back bone in your leg.

BANFIELD: Later, pictures of when he was a child, always adventurous, daring. These snap shots show him water skiing, scuba diving, and riding quad bikes with his prosthetics. It was somewhere in this home that Pistorius allegedly fired a pistol, killing Steenkamp.

Local media saying bullets hit Reeva in her head and arm. Her family is grief stricken.

MIKE STEENKAMP, VICTIM'S UNCLE: She loved people. She loved everybody. It was such a devastating shock that her whole life, what she could achieve, never came to fulfillment. And I just say she's with the angels, and that's about all I can say to you folks.

BANFIELD: Police say there were previous allegations of trouble in the home. His agent tells CNN Pistorius rejects the murder accusations in the strongest terms.


BANFIELD: Oscar Pistorius isn't talking tonight. But last year, he did sit down with Piers. And the conversation was revealing. As you'll see, very surprising. Here's Piers' interview with the athlete now accused of murder.


MORGAN: Oscar Pistorius is the one and only blade runner. The world champion sprinter, the (inaudible) double amputee is a Paralympian and an Olympian. He continues to shatter records, as we saw in London this summer.

And he joins me now.

Oscar, welcome.

PISTORIUS: Thank you very much.

MORGAN: How does it feel to be an inspiration for literally people who are disabled the entire world over, as you are now, thanks to the Olympics?

PISTORIUS: Yes, I think it's a massive blessing. You know, I've been very privileged to be given a talent and -- and over the last seven or eight years, I've worked very hard at working on it and -- and making sure that I can be the best athlete that it can be. And, obviously, being an international sportsman, there's a lot of responsibility that comes with that, so having to toggle that and -- and remembering, you know, that there are kids out there, especially, that look up to you it's definitely something that you need to keep at the back of your mind.

MORGAN: What somebody said to me was that the amazing thing that you've done, Oscar, is that for all those kids who have lost a leg or lost two legs or whatever it may be that their -- their amputation in particular that they've -- they've suffered, in the old days, it was so stigmatized, they would be picked on at school. They would feel different.

What you've done is make it cool to be an amputee, which may not have been your intention... PISTORIUS: Yes.

MORGAN: -- but they just all what to be like Oscar now.

PISTORIUS: Thanks. I mean I've always, you know, I grew up in a family where a disability was never an issue. We didn't really speak about my disability, not because it was a topic that was taboo or -- or that we thought there was a stereotype in our family, but it was just never an issue. And that's the mentality that I've had. So if I've got a, you know, a (INAUDIBLE) after or training in the afternoon, I see a child and he's staring at my prosthetic legs, often the parent turns the kid away. And with us, the pretense of a child who thinks, OK, this is something we don't talk about. And a -- you know, they develop a -- a mentality of kind of shying away from disability and not being educated about it.

And I think that's what creates the difficulty in society. So I'll go after the kid and I'll say, look, you know, my name is Oscar and I've got these cool prosthetic legs, and, you know, I'll tell them an interesting story, like shark bit them off, or if the mother is good- looking...


PISTORIUS: -- if the mother is good-looking, I'll tell them that it's because I wasn't eating my vegetables and get some brownie points there.


PISTORIUS: But ultimately, you know, I told him that I don't have legs and -- and I can live a very normal life. So I think that gives them the -- the kind of base that they need that the next time they see somebody, either in a wheelchair or with a disability, they're not bewildered, they don't, they're not -- you know, they're educated about that person's position and it's -- it's not as different then as -- as I think many of the older generations grew up with, it was something you wouldn't talk about.

MORGAN: You were born without the fibula bone in either leg. And so just be -- around your first anniversary, your first year, you had a double amputation. As you say, your family just basically ignored it. You -- you started playing sport and everything from a very early age, which is obviously crucial to the development, and I guess, the confidence that you would have when you were young. But what is that moment when a man with no legs decides, I know what I'm going to do, I'm going to be a sprinter?

And the reason I ask you, I interviewed the armless archer from the American...

PISTORIUS: I watched...

MORGAN: -- Paralympian team...

PISTORIUS: -- I watched it. MORGAN: -- who was incredible, as well. And watching him do his stuff in here was like watching you run. It's like of all the things to choose, why that?

PISTORIUS: Oh, actually, I met him at the Paralympics, and I watched that -- your interview with him and -- and I had a long chat with him. And, you know, sport has always been a big part of my life. We grew up in South Africa, where most kids really enjoy the outdoors. I was never much of an academic at school, so I kind of had to shine and -- and find something where, where -- which -- which I enjoyed.

And -- and I started sports and -- and from a very young age, my mother said to us, you know, sport is not about being the best, but it's about giving your best, and, you know, you might make the second or third team, but losing isn't the person that -- that doesn't get involved -- losing, you know, isn't -- losing isn't the one that gets involved and comes last, it's the person that doesn't get involved in the first place.

So for us, that was very important. And, you know, there are a lot of athletes at the Paralympics that have a certain amount of disabilities. And at your initial, you know, approach on them, you'd think that, you know, that they wouldn't be able to do a lot of the things they -- they -- they can.

But after watching their sports, you often forget about their disability and you are just blown away by their shared determination and -- and the hard core element of the sport. It's not just inspiration, it's some of the most phenomenal sports that I've ever witnessed.

MORGAN: We know you predominantly as a Paralympian. And you've been a hero in that for a long time. But the great moment, I would imagine, for you -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- would have been the first time you appeared at the Olympics this summer, as the first guy ever with prosthetic legs to take part.

PISTORIUS: I mean, that was a blessing for me. I really enjoyed the, you know, the Olympic experience. And since I started running in 2004, most of my races have been, you know, races against able-bodied athletes. We just have a lot more races every season. And in 2007, I started running internationally in the able-bodied circuit, the ISS circuit, In '08, I missed the Olympics by less than a quarter of a second. And that was the year that I really looked at things and said, you know, if I get this opportunity again, I definitely don't want to miss it.

So I worked really hard since '08 and -- and managed to qualify last year, already, for this year's games. And...

MORGAN: And when you -- when you walked out at the Olympic Stadium in London, describe that moment, the first time.

PISTORIUS: I think, you know, that was -- that was definitely, for me, one of the most special moments of the summer. You know, the Olympics, I had four races. In the Paralympics, I had seven races. But the first time being out there in the stadium was just really special. It wasn't the race, necessarily. I came out and I saw my grandmother -- she was 89 years old. And she'd flown all the way from South Africa with her pacemaker and all. And she was sitting there with my family and I hadn't seen them in months. We'd been running on the circuit, so...

MORGAN: What did she say to you?

PISTORIUS: She was just crying. She had a little flag and...


PISTORIUS: She was just super chucked and just to see them, you know, I knew everything was going to be amazing and that I'd give my best.

And I ran my second fastest race ever that day, in the 400 meter, so that was very special, and just knowing all that hard work, not only for myself, but, you know, I've got a great team behind me, to my good credit, great coaches and -- and professional staff.

So all our work over the last four or five years has paid off. And seeing my -- my grandmother and my family there really made it worthwhile.


BANFIELD: Up next, more of Piers' revealing interview with Oscar Pistorius and his ambitious plans for the Olympics in Rio, which are now of course on hold.


BANFIELD: Oscar Pistorius is facing a possible life sentence if convicted of murdering his girlfriend. But the Blade Runner insists that he is innocent. He talked to Piers last year about his life, from his childhood to the future.

Here's more of Piers' interview.


MORGAN: I interviewed Michael Johnson in London. And he wasn't overly impressed with you...



MORGAN: -- to put it mildly.

Let's watch a clip of this interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHNSON: In order to be totally objective about the situation, which is all about at the end of the day, see, it's not about Oscar, it's about fair competition. And when you're talking about fair competition, you have to take personalities and people out of it and just look at the rules. And if an athlete gets an advantage over another athlete, it's unfair.


MORGAN: Now, I did go on to point out to Michael Johnson, look mate, the guy has no legs. How can you be so churlish? But when you see a great like him -- and he's a -- he's a great guy. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting him. It was a great privilege and he's obviously a tremendous athlete -- does he have a point? And do you understand that argument?

PISTORIUS: I'm actually really good friends with Michael. And I've -- I've said many times and we've had many long discussions. He's a -- he's definitely one of the guys I look up to, and I understand his point. You know, I've sent him the case study that I was involved in. It's -- I understand his -- his point exactly. You know, he's saying that there needs to be fairness in sports. And -- and I agree with that. I've always been a very big kind of advocate for -- for fair play.

When it comes to the prosthetic legs that I use, they've been made since 1996. And they've made over 30,000 pairs. And just from a -- from a practical point of view, there have never been any amputee athletes that have ran remotely close to the times I'm running on the 400, you know, competitive able-bodied times.

We -- me -- I made myself available for testing through some of the scientists at MIT back in 2008. And we took it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. And the Court of Arbitration for Sport's ruling process is what Michael is talking about.

So I understand where he's coming from. You know, they ruled in my favor, and we proved that the tests, that the tests the IFF had done weren't sufficient and that the outcome was -- was -- was -- was (INAUDIBLE) the tests they didn't equate to the outcome of the tests.

MORGAN: So, basically, you're in the right and he's in the wrong.


MORGAN: That's -- that's the long point, right?


MORGAN: Now, here's what's interesting about you, because you seem such a lovely guy. You're polite. You're charming. You're the poster boy now for running around the world.

And yet there was a little moment, a little flash, Oscar, in the Paralympics when you lost, in the 400, I think it was, to this Brazilian... PISTORIUS: Yes.

MORGAN: -- wonder guy.

PISTORIUS: Two hundred--

MORGAN: And he had -- 200, was it? And he had longer blades then you did. And afterward, in the track side interview, you went absolutely tonto (ph), basically saying the same stuff about him that Michael Johnson says about you.

PISTORIUS: No, it's very different. I mean--


PISTORIUS: -- I -- I agree, you know, I did -- it wasn't maybe the right time. I think -- I think I'm still learning and I'm certainly going to learn a lot more lessons throughout my life.

MORGAN: I had to give you a bit of stick on Twitter for that outburst.


PISTORIUS: I saw that. That's OK.


PISTORIUS: It's all right. We all make mistakes. And...

MORGAN: What do you think now about that debate, because...

PISTORIUS: Well, I mean I'm...

MORGAN: -- clearly, it's not going to go away. So as you -- now you've had time to calm down and reflect on it. What do you think?

PISTORIUS: No, it is definitely a debate that needed to be brought up. And, you know, I had done so. And it's -- it's being taken up now by my national Paralympic committee. They're dealing with it with the RPC. You know, there was a regulation that allowed the double amputees to make their legs exceptionally long. I didn't do it. And it wasn't the right time to take it up. And I should have actually even -- you know, even now, I mean, I've given it off to my national Paralympic committee to deal with.

So, you know, well done to Alan. And I think he is a -- a tremendous athlete. And I think it was the most - it was the first race I'd ever lost in -- in the Paralympics ...


MORGAN: Be honest.

PISTORIUS: Yes, one of those days.


PISTORIUS: I think -- hopefully -- hopefully -- hopefully I won't have another one of those. But ultimately, I think we all have them in life.

MORGAN: My sons are on your side.

PISTORIUS: Thank you.

MORGAN: They -- they love -- they love the fashions (ph). And they -- they -- you're their hero. You know, as you are to so many young people...

PISTORIUS: Thank you.

MORGAN: -- around the world.

It's been a great pleasure to meet you, Oscar. Best of luck to you.

Are you going to run in Rio?

PISTORIUS: Yes, we're going to -- that's the plan. Work hard every year, improve, you know, even on the non-championship and Paralympic -- Olympic years, improve. And I've got a phenomenal team behind me.


BANFIELD: We'll be right back.



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BANFIELD: Piers is back on Monday Keeping America Great with a President's Day schedule. He is taking on politics with Reagan, a Hoover and a Taft. Presidential descendents on the state of the union. That's on Monday.

I'm Ashley Banfield. Thanks for watching, everyone. "AC 360" is next.