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Boston Marathon Bombing Coverage

Aired April 15, 2013 - 15:30   ET


MATT FRUCCI, CNN EXECUTIVE PRODUCER (via telephone): And it was like manholes exploding because it looked like it was coming from the sidewalk itself as opposed to anything on top of it.

But again, I didn't have a great look at it. That's just my first gut instinct on what it was.

I did hear some people say, watch out for the trash cans, they heard it was the trash cans, but again, that just may be sort of mob mentality, just trying to figure out what the heck it is.

So I'm not sure. I didn't see fire. I only saw smoke. And even on the explosion that was right across the street from me, I never saw anything that looked like fire of an explosion. It looked like more smoke just exploding up.

BLITZER: How close were these explosions -- and we think there were at least two -- to the actual finish line?

FRUCCI (via telephone): That, I don't know. I would say about a mile or so.

BLITZER: So it wasn't at the finish line. It was at least a mile or so away which could be indicative of what -- you're near the finish line? How close were you to the explosion?

FRUCCI (via telephone): I was about 20 yards from the second explosion, probably about 100 yards from first explosion, and my Boston geography isn't as good as it should be, so I'm not entirely sure about the mile off the finish line or closer or further.

BLITZER: And as far as injuries are concerned, you saw, what, at least half a dozen people injured?

FRUCCI (via telephone): Well, I'll tell you, the first thing I saw when the second explosion went off, and after we sort of got out of the way of that and tried to figure out where to go next, I did see what looked like about six or seven people, maybe even more, piled around where that explosion was.

And then I looked, separate of that, after we were able to get a good angle on the scene later where I couldn't see the exact explosion point, but then I could see about six or seven people, I don't know if they were the same people or different people, but they were being treated on stretchers by EMTs.

BLITZER: And I assume that the bomb squad and other law enforcement, they have basically cordoned off this whole area.

We're seeing -- showing our viewers these dramatic pictures of police and other law enforcement coming in,

In the middle of all of this, w see some runners, apparently trying to get away.

FRUCCI (via telephone): Yeah, I'll tell you. The first instinct of everyone, we didn't know if there was a third explosion or fourth explosion, I know after that second explosion, a bunch of us sort of got forced into a building. And there were some young women there who weren't sure if maybe the building was a danger and the building could explode.

So people didn't know where to go in those terrifying moments after those explosions.

We didn't know what it was, we didn't know where they were coming from and we didn't know if there were more.

BLITZER: Did it look like there was a significant damage to some of the buildings nearby? Because I'm trying to look at some of the storefronts there and it looks like some windows were blown out.

FRUCCI (via telephone): I only saw blown out windows. It doesn't look like there was extensive damage on the second explosion, which I had a better viewpoint on, which seemed to me the smaller explosion.

Looking up, down, at that first explosion when it went off, it did look bigger. It looked like a more sizable plume of smoke than the second one.

BLITZER: And I just want to repeat for our viewers. We don't know the cause of these at least twin explosions. We don't know what happened. Could be anything as far as we know right now.

But we do see the destruction and we do see some pretty serious after effects from these twin explosions at the -- about a mile or so from the finish line of the Boston marathon where, literally. thousands and thousands of runners have been participating on this day.

Matt Frucci is one of our executive producers who happens to be in the area. Matt, were you running or you just happened to be watching?

FRUCCI (via telephone): My brother is running the Boston marathon and he was about 45 minutes away from finishing. We were there to encourage on my brother.

BLITZER: So -- and you did a good job, hopefully, encouraging him.

Mike Brooks is still watching. You're looking at these pictures as all of us are, Mike.

Give us your sense of what it looks like to you. And I just want to caution our viewers. We don't know what the cause of these explosions was. MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, you know, Wolf, I'm walking up and I'm looking at the large picture here in the studio. And it is hard to tell whether or not that is smoke, whether or not that is steam.

You talk about a possible infrastructure -- yeah, that's always a possibility because in older cities like New York, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, they have now and then electrical volts that will explode.

But usually with that, you'll have a good amount of fire. So if I'm there and I'm an investigator and I'm talking to witnesses, I'm going to ask them, what did you see? What did you hear? What did you smell?

All of these kind of things and, you know, so, I mean, that's all important in the early stages of an investigation like this, especially, you know, when you're trying to find out what the source of these explosions were.

BLITZER: We have an eyewitness, another eyewitness, joining us on the phone right now, Josh Matthews.

Josh, where were you and what did you see?

JOSH MATTHEWS, HEARD EXPLOSION (via telephone): I'm sorry. I can't really hear you. Can you speak a little louder, please?

BLITZER: I was saying, where were you, Josh, and what did you see?

MATTHEWS (via telephone): So we were of Mass Ave. and Comm Ave. We heard two explosions and we didn't think much of it to begin with.

But as soon as we saw the cops running to the scene, we just got out of there.

BLITZER: And basically that's all you saw.

As soon as you heard the explosions, saw the explosions, you ran away, so you don't really have a good sense of what's going on right now?

MATTHEWS (via telephone): Yeah, I'm actually in a dorm right now, in Northeastern, but, yeah, we just saw the runners stop running. They were blocked off.

And we just heard a lot of sirens and just people were kind of frantic, so we knew that it was a bad situation, so we had to get out of there.

BLITZER: Well, we'll stay in touch with you, Josh, and we'll get more information obviously as it is coming in.

And just to let our viewers know, these are pictures that we're getting in. These are pictures taken just a few moments ago. You see the ambulances, the first responders, the fire engines. They are on the scene now near the end of the Boston marathon.

Two explosions, at least two explosions, possibly near the Mandarin Hotel in Boston, maybe other locations in there.

We saw that explosion going off right behind those flags and you see the runners, at least some of the runners, falling down after that explosion.

We don't know what the cause of the explosion was. We are awaiting official word from law enforcement to get some indication of what caused these explosions.

We are told that at least four people are now in the emergency room over at Massachusetts General Hospital, that according to a spokeswoman for the hospital. No word of their conditions right now.

We heard from one of our producers, an eyewitness to the second explosion, thinking, suggesting that at least half a dozen or so people were injured, perhaps many more.

You're looking at these dramatic pictures. That street normally would be filled with runners coming close to the conclusion of this Boston marathon, but right now it is -- the law enforcement has removed all these people from the area as a result of these explosions that occurred.

Very dramatic developments. We don't know if there is a connection to the Boston marathon, which is a major sporting event in the United States, or if it was something less sinister, a pipe explosion, a gas explosion, a generator explosion, something underground at Boston.

We're trying to determine what exactly happened. But you can see -- you can see the smoke coming in from that explosion right now.

Matt Frucci, are you still us with there?

FRUCCI (via telephone): I am, yes.

BLITZER: All right, Matt, so let's walk through this Boston marathon.

Your brother, you say, was running. There are literally thousands and thousands of people who participate.

Is there any special security in advance of a Boston marathon? In other words, did you and others have to go through magnetometers or be screened or anything along those lines?

FRUCCI (via telephone): No. There is absolutely no security like that.

I mean, the bulk of the security was really just road closures, making sure people didn't go down roads they weren't supposed to.

But there was no frisking. There's no checking of bags, nothing like that.

BLITZER: So -- and this Mandarin Hotel, are you anywhere near the Mandarin in Boston? FRUCCI (via telephone): I'm not sure. I am inside a corridor in the Copley Place Hotel where I can look down on looks to be about 20 or 30 ambulances on the scene right now.

BLITZER: And you see more people being removed?

FRUCCI (via telephone): I don't. I think we're sort of far off from the site, so this may be a staging area where the ambulances are before they go into the site.

But I count at least 20 or so here lined up right now.

BLITZER: Normally in a situation like this, if it is something sinister like a terrorist event, law enforcement as a precaution -- and Mike Brooks is still with us -- they would go ahead and take measures, assuming if there were two explosions there could be more timed here and perhaps even elsewhere.

Is that right, Mike?

BROOKS: Absolutely, Wolf. And that's one of the things -- I know the FBI's joint terrorism task force is down there on the scene right now and you see all the ambulances staging.

Once you have an incident like this, I know most cities, Boston included, they will have a mass casualty incident plan in effect where they will bring in a number of medic units, fire department personnel, additional law enforcement to shut this area down and to find out exactly what happened or is there anything else.

Again, we don't know the source of the explosion right now. But we're not -- when I see and we hear now from our producer up there that they are staging a large number of ambulances there, that says to me that, you know, this -that they were expecting maybe some more, possibly injured people there.

Could they be expecting something else? That's always a possibility.

BLITZER: So, that's simply as a matter of precaution, if you will, just worst-case scenario, if this is a coordinated type of terrorist attack, they would undertake those kinds of sort of preemptive or preventive measures.

BROOKS: Absolutely. And I know there are a number of cameras in and around the streets in that area of Boston, so they will try to be reviewing those.

But when you have an area like this, Wolf, where you have 26.2 miles of spectators who can come and go, it is very, very difficult to, you know, to totally secure an area like this.

I know when they have incidents in Washington, the Marine Corps marathon, those kind of things, they will bring dogs in and sweep the finish line and they'll sweep the beginning.

But unless you have anybody calling up and making a threat, it is really hard to protect that whole 26.2 miles of the marathon.

BLITZER: One intriguing notion, one intriguing thought here, and I'm curious, Mike, and I'll ask Matt to weigh in as well, it is a state holiday, in addition to the Boston marathon.

It is a state holiday in Massachusetts today called Patriots Day. And who knows if that has anything at all to deal -- to do with these twin explosions.

BROOKS: That's always a possibility especially with it deemed Patriots Day there in Boston, Wolf. You never know.

I've learned to say -- never to say never when it comes to incidents like this happening on any anniversaries, on any days like this, Patriots Day, but, again, we still do not know the source of these explosions, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, we don't know the source and we want to be caution. We don't want to overly speculate on what happened at the -- near the end of the Boston marathon.

Earlier, the Boston Red Sox, they had a game in Boston. Today, they beat Tampa Bay elsewhere in Boston over at Fenway Park.

This is happening at the end of the Boston marathon. At least two explosions have injured at least six people and these are very, very early reports coming in.

Lots of sirens, lots of emergency personnel have been called to the scene and you can see people being put on stretchers and taken away by these first responders who are there right now.

Matt Frucci is our CNN executive producer who happened to have been watching his brother run in the Boston marathon. He's helping us better appreciate what's going on as well of part of Boston's -- Massachusetts, I should say -- Patriots Day.

Did you notice earlier in the day, Matt, any special Patriots Day events going on, anything pointing to a special day in Massachusetts?

FRUCCI (via telephone): Well, it's always a special day, Patriots day. Everyone gets the day off from work for the most part, and it's two huge events in Boston.

It's not only the Boston marathon, where 25,000-plus people run, but I believe it's always opening day at Fenway, so they also have that going on.

So it's a traffic nightmare in a ways, but it's probably one of the busiest days in downtown Boston.

BLITZER: So it is a holiday, and people -- a lot of people don't go to work and there's no -- is there no school today either?

FRUCCI (via telephone): Correct. There is no school on Patriots Day in Massachusetts. BLITZER: So the kids are home. They're watching either the marathon or they're watching the Boston Red Sox play over at Fenway Park. That game is now over and, as a result, a lot of these people are probably home right now watching television, watching the horrific pictures coming in.

And when I say horrific, I mean it, the smoke, the devastation coming in. We don't know the full extent of the casualties. We don't know what caused these explosions.

But a lot of people already beginning to draw some conclusions, Patriots Day, Boston marathon, a special day in Massachusetts, and who knows what is going on right now?

We're watching what is going on. Mike Brooks, our law enforcement analyst, is helping us now. Matt Frucci, our CNN executive producer, who happened to have been in Boston watching what was going on, he's there as well.

As we look at these pictures, you've got to be worried, Mike, that if it is some sort of -- and hopefully it isn't. If it is some sort of terrorist incident, that there isn't going to be follow-up elsewhere.

BROOKS: No, you're absolutely right, Wolf.

And, you know, in other cities, if this does wind up being a terrorist event, an improvised explosive device here in Boston, other cities are also going to be placed on high alert, New York, Washington, most major cities, because you don't know the extent of this.

But, again, right now, it's pure speculation because we don't know the source of the explosion. But you just don't know.

And, you know, in an abundance of caution, I'm sure there are other places in Boston right now, if anyone sees anything, please pick up the phone and call 911.

If you see something, say something. This is not the time right now, in this day and age, anytime, Wolf, that if someone sees something in their gut they think it is suspicious, to pick up the phone and call 911.

See something, say something, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good advice.

We are being told by "The Boston Globe" -- it is now reporting that the Lenox Hotel in Boston, out of an abundance of precaution, we're told, is being evacuated right now.

And also out of an abundance of caution, there are activities going on in New York City. Alina Cho is watching what's going on in New York.

What are you learning, Alina?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're just getting a report in that counterterrorism crews are being deployed around landmarks in New York City.

A Boston police source on the scene has actually confirmed to CNN that there were, quote, multiple explosions resulting in serious injuries.

If you know the Boston area, the Green Line subway line is called the T. It is quite popular. It has been shut down between Kenmore and the Park Street station.

And as you've been reporting, Wolf, at least four people are in the emergency room at Massachusetts General Hospital.

As you know, I went to college in the Boston area. 'm an alum of Boston College, and I remember watching the Boston marathon each and every year.

As Matt Frucci has been pointing out, it is a holiday, Patriots Day, the third Monday in April, and it is a very festive day. Kids are off from school, Many, many thousands of people out in the streets.

Just this year we can report that 26,839 people ran this year's Boston marathon. And from what we understand, Wolf, about half of those runners had finished, but half had still not finished the race, so it was fully in progress.

Meanwhile, some other reports that I've been seeing from other outlets is that some of the spectators were so bloodied that they were taken to a medical tent that was actually set up for fatigued runners.

So thank goodness that was in place there, but you see the scene there. You see the chaos, the people running, the smoke. Witnesses described it as sounding like claps of thunder, and that the smoke had risen 50 feet in the air.

But, again, at least half a dozen people injured. But you've been pointing this out, Wolf, very, very early reports of -- with thousands upon thousands of people in the streets of downtown Boston near a very crowded area of Copley Square, you can imagine that that number will surely go higher.


BLITZER: We're told that the 2013 Boston marathon, which was taking place today, 26,839 people were participating. That includes registered runners and people in wheelchairs.

Of those, 15,33 men, 11,606 women representing the United States and U.S. territories, 56 countries and territories represented, countries all over the world participating as well.

So you have a huge, huge event, this Boston marathon, clearly marred by what we're seeing right now, these pictures that are coming in, showing the results of at least two, maybe more, explosions in Boston.

And at least half a dozen people, we're told, who have been injured. And that is a very, very early preliminary number. I just want to warn all of our viewers here in the United States and around the world, initial reports after these kinds of incidents are often either overly exaggerated or under exaggerated, but they could be inaccurate, so we're just sharing with you what we know.

We do not know -- I want to repeat this -- we do not know what caused these explosions at the Boston marathon, but we do see a lot of runners there -- these were pictures taken a little while ago -- who are clearly in a very, very serious worrisome state as a result of what has happened on this day. It's the Patriots Day holiday in the state of Massachusetts as well.

So steps are being taken throughout the Boston area out of an abundance of caution. For example, the Kennedy Library has just notified everyone it will be closed for the day. Tonight's forum has been closed as well.

We're getting tweets in from all sorts of individuals Tad Romney, for example, the son of Mitt Romney, he says, "We're OK, Left Fenway in a cab a few minutes before the explosion. Thanks for everyone's concern. Our prayers are with the victims."

Lots of information coming in right now, a lot of it very, very preliminary, so we're just watching it and trying to get a better sense.

We're expecting law enforcement at some point to have a briefing and tell us what is going on, what they know. You can see the shattered -- you can see some of the shattered glass in those areas right now.

Mike Brooks is still with us, our law enforcement analyst. What else should we be looking for, Mike?

BROOKS: You know, Wolf, I'm looking at this scene, it's not -- it could be disturbing to some people, a lot of blood there on the scene, Wolf.

So, again, we know that there have been at least dozens injured. I'm hearing from my sources up there now, don't know how many critical.

But if anyone who was watching is listening to us and they see anything at all, I don't care if you're in Boston, I don't care if you're in Washington, D.C., any city, if you see something that looks out of place, let somebody know.

You know, sometimes people, we become a little bit complacent. You know, something like this is a vigilance alert to us. Every though we still don't know the source of this, I'm looking around there, Wolf, and you and I were talking about possible infrastructure being involved in the explosion.

You know, right there, if it was a steam explosion, something like that, from an that from an underground vault, I don't know if you would have these kind of injuries.

But I'm looking around also, having worked many, many bombings myself here in the United States and overseas, and it just doesn't look good. Let me just put it that way. BLTIZER: It doesn't look good indeed.

The president, we're told, has been notified by his aides of what's going on in Boston, preliminary information.

There you see what just occurred a little while ago in Boston, that explosion, one of the explosions going off and runners -- some of the runners actually falling from the impact of that explosion.

We have some eyewitnesses who spoke out just a little while ago to what they saw. Let's play the tape.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just on the other side of the finish line.

The explosion looked like it was right outside the Marathon Sports, right by the finish line, or the building next to it.

I was over there like literally two minutes before, walked down a little bit, and heard two big explosions, large plumes of dust, smoke, glass. Obviously everybody was going crazy.

At first it almost sound like a cannon blast, but it was so strong it almost blew my hat off.

And everybody started running the other way. A few people were running over towards them the injured to help out.

And there were some really, really bad injuries. Some people were very, very badly hurt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there you're hearing from a witness. It sounded like an explosion ...


BLITZER: We're also told that the Massachusetts national guard had already been deployed on the scene because of the Boston marathon. They were already there. We'll see what they come up with.

We are getting a statement in from the New York City police department, the deputy commissioner, Paul Brown, issuing this statement just a few moments ago.

Quote, "We're stepping up security at hotels and other prominent locations in the city through deployment of the NYPD's critical response vehicles until more about the explosion is learned."

So out of an abundance of caution, they're taking some preliminary steps, stepping up security in New York City as well.

Elizabeth Cohen is our senior medical correspondent. What are you seeing, what are you hearing about triage efforts under way right now dealing with the injured?


BLITZER: Yeah, Elizabeth, I don't know if you can hear me. Are you there?

COHEN (via telephone): Yes, I am, Wolf. I am here.

BLITZER: Because we see injured. We know some of them have been taken to hospitals in the area.

But there are other triage efforts, I understand, under way right now as well.

COHEN (via telephone): Right. As we understand it, this is a huge event. I grew up in Boston. I've been to this event countless times.

The presence of medical staff is very obvious and very apparent. You can go to the mayor's blog and a week ago he spoke about the number -- or someone wrote about the number of staff, 50 extra EMTs and paramedics, four physicians, ambulances, medical tents, bikes.

So this is a place where there is already a big presence of emergency medical staff.

Now, obviously you want to get people who are really injured to a hospital as soon as possible, and there are many great hospitals right there in that area, but it is good to know how well staffed that area right there is.

BLITZER: So there's a lot of doctors, nurses on the scene just to deal with some of the runners who could collapse as a result of running 26 miles-plus.

And there is some of the dramatic video we're showing our viewers of that one explosion that occurred right near the finish line at this marathon.

And we're getting word from some of the hospitals that individuals, Elizabeth, have already been brought into the emergency rooms and there have been -- they're being treated.

COHEN (via telephone): Right. So we're getting word that that is happening.

And, of course, in a place like Boston that has such a well-organized medical system, these emergency rooms are already on alert because this is a huge event. And so they know -- they knew even before this -- that they needed to be ready to receive people.

Now, they weren't thinking about an explosion. They were thinking about other, heatstroke or orthopedic injuries.

But at least they were there and they were staffed and ready to handle large numbers of people.

And, so, again, this is very close to several different hospitals, for example, Mass General Hospital, which is one of the nation's most prestigious hospitals, is quite close to the scene.

BLITZER: It's an amazing event, you know.

And, Mike Brooks, it could just be an infrastructure explosion, as I've been saying. It could be just something from a gas pipeline. It could just be something from some sort of steam or generator or whatever.

But the coincidence happening on Patriots Day in Massachusetts, a major event -- the Boston marathon, another major event -- opening day of the Boston Red Sox over at Fenway Park, it sounds suspicious to me.

BROOKS: You know, Wolf, if we could go back to that picture we just had up there just a second ago from our CBS affiliate right there on the scene where you see a thermal event and you see what looks like a large amount of smoke, that picture right there.

If you look at that, that says to me it looks like some kind of explosion. Again, it's hard to say whether it's a steam explosion, but you look at the smoke, you look at that white/grayish smoke and you look at that thermal event. That's something of size.

Now, if it was going to be an electrical vault or something like that, you would more -- most likely have more fire than this. It would continue on. As we've seen, it would blow other caps off of the sewer system, off the steam system.

So -- but looking at this picture, I'm sure that bomb experts and the FBI explosives lab down at Quantico, everybody is going to be looking at this to try to figure out exactly what happened.

And there on the scene, also, you have teams from the FBI JTTF, Wolf, that are out for special events like this, and they're able to go and do a diagnostic test.

They can probably already know with fairly good certainty what kind of -- what the source of this explosion was, because you can go around, take a preliminary swab to see whether there's any explosive residue, those kind of things right there in the immediate area to say whether or not this was an incendiary devise or it was an explosion dealing with infrastructure.

BLITZER: And we don't know the answer to those critically important answers.

We do suspect, we do believe that law enforcement at some point, probably sooner rather than later, will be making a statement in Boston, updating us on what we -what exactly happened.

We are getting in a statement, though, from the vice president, Joe Biden. He just spoke out a few minutes ago.

He said, "I'm speaking here. They just turned on the television in my office and apparently there has been a bombing. I don't know any of the details of what caused it, who did it. "I don't think it exists yet, but our prayers are with those people in Boston who have suffered injuries. I don't know how many of them there are. I'm looking at it on television right now."

It's interesting, though, Mike, he uses the word "bombing," which could be different obviously than an explosion.

That's -- I don't know if he's just hearing -- assuming the explosion is a bomb or whatever, but if it was a bomb, obviously, that escalates what we're seeing.

BROOKS: Well, you know, it's the vice president who's putting this out there, Wolf, and so you would think that the vice president would have some kind of briefing.

You know, keep in mind also, when you have something like this, you have opening day there at Fenway last week, but you had a ballgame, Patriots Day, they already had a joint operation center set up for police, fire, EMS, all of the counterterrorism assets that you will for this particular event.

They set that up every time you have the Boston marathon. As Elizabeth Cohen was saying, you already had all these assets already in place, so it's just a matter of possibly bringing in more assets.

But when you hear the vice president send out a message talking about a bombing and not an explosion and then you see the efforts of New York City sending their emergency services out there to some of the icons in the city, to me, it kind of -- I would lean more, as a former investigator and working these kind of things, towards the bombing side of things, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're just getting word that D.C. metropolitan police now also, like New York, has gone to a heightened state of security out of an abundance of precaution, that perhaps this is not just some sort of gas leak or some sort of infrastructure explosion in Boston, a generator or whatever.

So D.C. police, like New York police, going to a heightened state of alert right now to make sure that they are prepared if, in fact, it is something more sinister, meaning it's some sort of coordinated terrorist attack in Boston.

So we're watching what's going on in New York, we're watching what's going on in Washington, D.C. but first and foremost right now in Boston where at least, we believe, half a dozen people have been injured and at least two explosions. We don't know the result.

We're going to stay on top of this story. I'll be back in one hour to continue our coverage in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Jake Tapper picks up our coverage right now on "THE LEAD."