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Dirt Wall Collapse Buries Two Kids; Gun Control Battle

Aired April 8, 2013 - 05:30   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: At one point, we heard that they had gone down more than 20 feet with no sign of the children. Where does this stand right now?

VOICE OF DION BURLESON, LINCOLN COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Right now, with this -- just like you said, this is a very systematic and slow, tedious process to try to get to these children. We have to go down layer by layer through the dirt to try to get down to the children. The efforts have been ongoing overnight, and they will continue until we can bring closure to this family from this tragic accident that has --

SAMBOLIN: Let's backtrack a little bit, because we're watching pictures there of the effort, the recovery effort that's underway. And we do see a big black hole. Can you explain how the children got there if you have any details on that?

BURLESON: Right now, the -- its infancy from the standpoint of an investigative stance. The local sheriff's department will be conducting the investigation, so they will be the ones that will be able to answer the circumstances surrounding how this incident occurred. Right now, we are concentrating on recovering these two innocent children's bodies from this situation that they're in to get them back to their parents so they can have a proper burial.

SAMBOLIN: We can only imagine how difficult this must be for everyone involved in this search. What kind of manpower is being devoted to try to find these two little kids?

BURLESON: Right now, we're looking at approximately 75 rescuers actively working on the scene. And those are rescuers from all around the surrounding areas and from the surrounding counties that are coming in and helping the crews here from Lincoln County. And you're exactly right. It's tough on the family members, but it's also tough on the rescuers, because whenever they go out to an incident, they're used to going and they're making a bad situation better.

This is one of those situations where it's out of our control, and we can't fix it. So, it's taken its toll on the rescuers as well. A lot of these guys have children of their own that are very young, it hits home.

SAMBOLIN: Well, we certainly wish you well. We really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us this morning. And good luck with that. Dion Burleson, public information officer with Lincoln County Emergency Management, thank you. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thirty-two minutes after the hour right now. New developments in the Korean crisis this morning. North Korea announcing within the last hour that it is pulling all of its workers out of the Kaesong Industrial Complex that it shares with the south. Pyongyang says it may permanently shut down the plant that is really the last symbol of cooperation between the two countries. Last week, it banned workers from the south from entering the plant (INAUDIBLE) just inside the border.

The body of a slain American diplomat is expected to arrive home from Afghanistan today. Twenty-year-old Anne Smedinghoff of Chicago was killed along with four other Americans on Saturday when a suspected Taliban suicide bomber slammed into her convoy with a car. Smedinghoff was delivering books to school children when she was killed. Secretary of state, John Kerry, just met her during a recent visit to Kabul.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: She was someone who worked hard and put her life on the line so that others could live a better life. Anne and those with her were attacked by Taliban terrorists who woke up that day not with a mission to educate or to help, but with a mission to destroy.


BERMAN: Later on "Starting Point" at about eight o'clock eastern time, we will be joined live by the parents of Anne Smedinghoff, Thomas and Mary Beth Smedinghoff.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-three minutes past the hour. With the Senate showdown nearing over guns, the president is starting an all-out push to put pressure on Congress now. Later today, he will be in Connecticut where lawmakers have just passed tough new laws calling for stricter background checks. More now from CNNs Brianna Keilar.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The president is heading to Connecticut where the governor just signed some of the nation's toughest gun laws, requiring universal background checks and imposing limits on the number of bullets in a magazine. Speaking not far from the scene of the Newtown shootings, he'll again say lawmakers in Washington have an obligation to the 20 children killed there.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every senator will get to vote on whether or not we should require background checks for anyone who wants to purchase a gun.

KEILAR: But despite polls showing 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks, even getting that vote is increasingly uncertain. Republican senator, Rand Paul, is leading a growing group of Republicans threatening to block any vote. A total of 13 now signing on to this letter to Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, saying any new gun restrictions would violate the second amendment. OBAMA: They deserve a simple vote.


OBAMA: They deserve -- they deserve a simple vote.

KEILAR: White House officials respond by saying every member of Congress applauded the president's call for a vote at the "State of the Union," with Newtown families looking on. But officials won't say whether the president would sign a watered-down bill without background checks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to make any predictions here, but we're going to try to get strongest bill (ph) we can.

OBAMA: It is always --

KEILAR: The looming question remains, can President Obama win the gun control battle? He kicks off a week-long White House campaign joined by Vice President Joe Biden and even first lady, Michelle Obama.

Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Brianna. And Connecticut senator, Richard Blumenthal, will be among those listening to the president's speech at the University of Hartford. He will join us later on "Starting Point" at 7:30 eastern.

BERMAN: Rick Warren's church grieving with the pastor over the suicide of his younger son. Twenty-seven-year-old Matthew Warren (ph), apparently, shot himself Friday morning after a life-ling struggle with depression. An autopsy is planned for this week. The sermon on Sunday at Warren saddleback church in Southern California was called "surviving tough times." It was planned, apparently, before Matthew's death.

SAMBOLIN: And boaters from Key West to Pensacola are being asked to look out for sailboat that might have two kidnapped boys on board. There their pictures right there. Cole and Chase Hakin (ph) had been missing since last Wednesday. Authorities say their father was armed when he broke into their grandmother's home near Tampa, tied her up, and took off toward a pier where the family had a sailboat. The boys' parents had lost custody because of drug charges.

BERMAN: It could be a tough search --

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh.

BERMAN: Thirty-six minutes after the hour. You know, it sounds kind of like science fiction, but NASA now has plans to capture an asteroid and place it in orbit around the moon. This is better than Armageddon.

SAMBOLIN: I know. BERMAN: Florida senator, Bill Nelson, as astronaut himself, says the mission is part of President Obama's new budget plan. NASA would first catch the asteroid with a robotic spacecraft, and then tow it back towards earth. This is real. Then, it would be placed in a stable orbit around the moon.

Nelson says the asteroid could be used for research, mining, and developing technology for future deep space missions. That would be cool, I guess.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Quite an accomplishment.

All right. Millions are in the path of a spring blizzard that is on the way. Jennifer Delgado has the who, when, where and the why from the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta. Good morning.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Why is right. You know, everybody wants the warm weather, but right now, it's all going to be in the east and the south and the west. They are suffering. Yes, you're right, Zoraida. A lot of areas are going to be looking at snow. We have winter warnings and advisories in place for 16 states. We have one area. They will watch (ph) for blizzard condition because winter is going to be picking up, especially later into the evening.

But, some of these locations, you can see, not even far away from Denver, could see a foot of snowfall. Now, it's really not going to start until later this evening, once we get more of that cold air wrapped in. Right now, we're mainly looking at some rain out there. You can see a line trying to make its way through St. Louis, some rain moving out of Minneapolis, and that wintry mix you can see for areas including Wisconsin.

But what we're going to be dealing with today is the potential for severe storms develop, and this is going to be a multiple-day event. We're talking today, tomorrow, and Wednesday. Late Tuesday into Wednesday, it looks like things are really going to get active. So, there is the area for the severe storm.

And then, we have a fire threat, because what we're going to be looking at some of these wind gusts up to 50 to 60 miles per hour, and this is going to be effecting a wide area. You can see from Los Angeles, Phoenix, and some very big cities all the way over towards Mexico, even into Texas. So, anywhere in this area, no burning out there and expect some delays with these winds gusting so much.

So, you're probably asking yourself what is causing all this madness in the west and the beautiful conditions in the east. Well, it's the jet stream to blame. It always is. And I want to point out to you how temperatures are going to be dropping down. For Kansas City, Monday, you see a high of 71 degrees, by Wednesday, 43.

New York, I think I hear bells and chimes, 74 today, nearly 80 tomorrow, and for today in Atlanta, 79 degrees. That's good news for a lot of people in town for the final four. Those who aren't crying over their teams losing over the weekend. But I can tell you, we're not losing in the weather here. We're winning. We're winning. SAMBOLIN: Love it. Thank you.

DELGADO: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Thank you, jet stream.

Thirty-nine minutes after the hour. Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan were among the big winners last night at the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. Luke Bryan took home the coveted Entertainer of the Year award. He also shared the Vocal Event of the Year award with Jason Aldean and Eric Church for their song, "The Only Way I Know."

For the fourth year in a row, Miranda Lambert was named "Female Vocalist of the Year," her song "Over You" earned awards for Single Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Jason Aldean won the Male Vocalist of the Year award Little Big Town was named Best Vocal Group. Congratulations to all of them.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Talk about high adventure. Coming up, meet some thrill-seeking skiers. This is insane. They're going where no one has gone before.


SAMBOLIN: Forty-three minutes past the hour. For some people, it would be enough just to get to the top of some of the world's tallest mountains, right? But that won't do for a brand new group of extreme athletes called heli-skiers. They prefer the ride down. They use high-altitude helicopters to get to places where no skiers or snowboarders have ever gone before, including mountains in the Himalayas. CNNs Saima Mohsin explains.


SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the world's highest mountain range, but that hasn't stopped a team of extreme free ride heli-skiers from taking it on. Brice Lequertier is leading the team. In 2003, he climbed Everest and skied back down. Now, he's set for his biggest challenge yet.

BRICE LEQUERTIER, HELL-SKI TEAM LEADER: Well, the Everest is the biggest, highest mountain range in the world. You have a unique terrain. It's so big, so high, and so completely undiscovered. The place we flew today to, nobody has ever been there. Nobody ever stepped foot there. So, it's exciting. It's just an adventure to start.

MOHSIN: Some of the world's best skiers and snowboarders have flown in from Russia, Canada, France, Serbia, and Switzerland for the pioneering project. There are no resorts or commercial heli-teams here, so the team is working with the Pakistan military to get them to the top of the mountains.

(on-camera) We're just trying to scout out a location where the helicopter can land where it's safe to go heli-skiing. (voice-over) And when they found a spot, Samyra Rashid is the only woman and Pakistani on the team.

SAMYRA RASHID, FIRST WOMAN & PAKISTANI TO HELI-SKI KARAKORAM: It's absolutely incredible. I can't tell you what a thrill it is to have the opportunity to come here in this area of outstanding natural beauty to bring people from abroad all over the world who've skied everywhere and myself. I mean, we're all blown away. There's been nothing like it ever anywhere.

MOHSIN: Were you nervous?

RASHID: Extremely nervous. Absolutely petrified getting up there in the really high regions was terrifying but incredible.

MOHSIN (on-camera): The Karakoram Mountain range in Northern Pakistan is home to the highest concentration of peaks, over 8,000 meters to be found anywhere in the world. The team that's come here has 500 kilometers of mountain peaks to discover.

LEQUERTIER: Returning here would be a dream because what we discovered here flying around the last two days is basically that you could spend a full life or even ten lives discovering terrain here.

MOHSIN (voice-over): With untouched slopes where nobody has ever skid before, this international team has plenty of adventures ahead. While locals are hoping this will be the kick start they need to boost Pakistan's winter sports and tourism industry.

Saima Mohsin, CNN, in the Karakoram Mountain Range, Pakistan.


SAMBOLIN: Not in a million years. And you say bring it on.

BERMAN: But only because I know there's no possibility of never doing it, I'd say, sure, in a second.


SAMBOLIN: Oh my God.

BERMAN: But it was awesome. My goodness. How beautiful is that.

SAMBOLIN: And scary.

BERMAN: Forty-six minutes after the hour right now. And Bill Clinton pouring a little fuel on the 2016 fire this weekend. The former president in St. Louis for the Annual Clinton Global Initiative when he was asked if he'd rather be president for eight more years or continue with his charitable work.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would rather keep doing what I'm doing because -- (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: Because I think America will have some very good choices for president.


BERMAN: What was he saying? Some very good choices for president? Could he possibly mean his wife will be one of those choices --

SAMBOLIN: That's what everybody read into it, right?

BERMAN: The speculation continues. Stay tuned.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Jay-Z and Beyonce's island vacation drawing a lot of criticism this morning. That's because the island was Cuba. That's coming up.

BERMAN: If you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us anytime on your desktop or mobile phone, just go to


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Fifty minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): We have breaking news from North Carolina. Firefighters in Lincoln County are now trying to recover the bodies of two young children who were trapped after a dirt wall collapsed around them. After hours of digging, authorities say there is just no way the children, a six-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy, who are cousins, could have survived that.

The children were playing in the basement of a house that is now under construction when that dirt wall gave out.

BERMAN (voice-over): The body of Anne Smedinghoff is coming home from Afghanistan today. The young American diplomat from Chicago was killed Saturday along with four other Americans by a suspected Taliban car bomber. Smedinghoff was bringing books to Afghan school children when she was killed.

SAMBOLIN: And search crews on the Mississippi River near St. Louis in recovery not to rescue mode now. They are looking for two men whose fishing boat campsite Saturday in really windy weather. A 10-year-old boy who was on board was pulled from the water. Authorities say he was wearing a life vest, but the boy didn't know if the missing men were.

BERMAN: A wall of mud and debris pushing an Amtrak train right off the tracks. This happened on a southbound train to Seattle. The dining car and two coach cars derailed. No one was hurt. Train service in that area is canceled today so workers can fix that track. SAMBOLIN: And hot times in Havana for music power's couple, Beyonce and Jay-Z. They were celebrating their fifth anniversary with a Cuban holiday, but not everyone is raising a glass.

Two Florida Republicans wrote a joint letter to the treasury department demanding to know who approved to the couple's trip and why since travel to the country (ph) for Americans has been banned since the 1960. You can go on some special visas, though. Cultural visas are called. So, perhaps, that's how --


BERMAN (on-camera): Maybe they have some connections. Maybe they know somebody since Beyonce, you know, sang the "Star Spangled Banner" --

Fifty-two minutes after the hour. And I just have to say it's my favorite story in a long, long time. A seven-year-old runs for a touchdown and scores in the hearts of sports fans everywhere. I cannot watch it without getting a little misty in here. We're going to have that story coming up.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START. A look at what is trending online this morning. So, former porn star, Jenna Jameson, arrested on suspicion of battery. This is her second arrest in less than a year. Police say Jameson was doing some early celebrating for her 39th birthday over the weekend when she attacked someone at a private home in Orange County, California. The alleged victim then made, I guess, a citizen's arrest holding --


BERMAN: Jameson given a court day and then released. Last MAY, she was arrested for a DUI.

SAMBOLIN: So, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more heart-warming story than this one.

BERMAN: I love this.

SAMBOLIN: So, seven-year-old Jack Hoffman (ph), he has brain cancer. He's wearing number 22 there. And he's running to daylight during the University of Nebraska's annual spring football game. This was this weekend. Take a look at this. Little Jack is a die-hard cornhusker fan. He ran 69 yards for the touchdown in front of 60,000 fans.

BERMAN: And they were all going just nuts when he was doing it.

SAMBOLIN: So, when it was all over, the entire Nebraska team celebrated with him in the end zone. What an amazing moment.

BERMAN: Lovely. Simply, simply wonderful.

SAMBOLIN: We wish him well. So, to check out our other top CNN trends, head to

BERMAN: So, "Bridesmaid's" Melissa McCarthy hosted "Saturday Night Live" for the second this weekend taking on the controversial Rutgers coach and his abuse scandal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, we investigate Coach Kelly's (ph) reign of terror on outside the lines.

Sheila Kelly has long had a fiery reputation among her peers, but this week, outside the lines came practice video showing exactly how far she's gone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cursing at them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shooting T-shirt guns.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throwing bricks at them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Threatening them with a baseball bat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You take that ball, and you put it through that hole, and I won't hit you with the bat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While on roller skates.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even forcing her players to serve her meals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where's the bread? Where's the bread? (EXPLETIVE DELETED)




BERMAN: You eat that. You eat that. That was awesome.


BERMAN (voice-over): Breaking news overnight, a frantic search for two children buried at construction site. We have some grim news from the scene this morning.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): She died trying to make a difference. She made a difference, Americans mourn a young diplomat killed in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I told her it's pitch black, and I told her if we don't get out of here, then we're going to die.

BERMAN: Two lost teens with an incredible will to live. A hiker's firsthand account of surviving a three-day ordeal in the woods.

SAMBOLIN: And two teams battling it out for the championship tonight. Louisville versus Michigan, who is going to come out on top? Michigan fans, start rejoicing.



BERMAN (on-camera): Wow. A dramatic call there at top of the six o'clock hour --

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Let's see what happens. Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Monday, April 8th. It is 6:00 a.m. in the east, and we're going to begin this hour with some breaking news. A recovery effort is underway in North Carolina where authorities now believe two young children were killed when a dirt wall collapsed on top of them.

It started late Sunday afternoon in rural Lincoln County that's about 20 miles northwest of Charlotte. A six-year-old girl and a seven- year-old boy, cousins apparently, were playing on a hole that was being dug out for the basement of a new home. The dirt wall there gave way. A short time ago, we heard from Dion Burleson. He's with the Lincoln County Department of Emergency Management.

BURLESON: This is a very systematic and slow, tedious process to try to get to these children. We have to go down layer by layer through the dirt to try to get down to the children. The efforts have been ongoing overnight, and they will continue until we can bring closure to this family from this tragic accident that has (INAUDIBLE).