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CNN NEWSROOM

Bombing Investigation Continues

Aired April 16, 2013 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. Welcome. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and watching around the world now at the top of the hour. This is our continuing coverage of the Boston Marathon tragedy. I'm Anderson Cooper live near the scene of the bombings, just a couple of blocks away.

We are following two big stories right now. First, American Airlines has grounded all of its flights. They say this is due to troubles with its reservation system. There is no reported link between this mass grounding and the Boston bombings investigation. We're trying to get more information. American Airlines handles an average of 3,400 flights per day with a quarter of a million passengers.

Obviously, this is a huge story that will affect people traveling around the country. The airline says the systemwide ground delay will be in effect until 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

We also want to get you updated on the latest developments in the bombing here in Boston.

Here is what we know at this hour. A federal law enforcement official tells CNN that a timer was likely used to activate the bombs and they were not detonated remotely. That's likely used. We also know that both the deadly bombs were apparently placed inside metal pressure cookers and hidden inside backpacks.

Doctors believe that pellets, nails, carpenter nails and other sharp objects were packed inside the bombs and used as projectiles and to inflict maximum damage on people when the bombs exploded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. GEORGE VELMAHOS, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: There are a variety of sharp objects that we found in their bodies. Probably this bomb had multiple metallic fragments in them and we removed pellets and nails.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We are expecting another press conference at Mass General shortly. We will bring that to you live. President Obama earlier today called the attacks an act of terror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was a heinous and cowardly act. And given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The president also added of course that this is still unclear who carried out the attack and exactly why, unclear whether it was a foreign individual or group, a domestic individual or group.

Eleven-year-old Aaron Hern was one of the people wounded in the attack yesterday. He is currently in the hospital being treated for his injuries. His father, Alan, joins us now by phone.

Alan, thank you so much for being with us.

I'm so sorry for your son, his injury. How is he doing?

ALAN HERN, FATHER OF VICTIM: He's doing OK right now. He's in ICU at Children's Hospital. He sustained a pretty large shrapnel wound to his left leg. It's kind of like a war wound, but he was hit kind of on the outside part of his leg, so fortunately it didn't hit an artery, it didn't break a bone, and it didn't damage a vein that returns blood to the heart.

So, right now, they're just going to let him sleep today. Tomorrow, they're going to look at the wound again, clean it, see if there is any fragments they missed, see how much skin they can salvage. If not, he may have to have a skin graft somewhere down the road.

But, otherwise, he's stable, and it could have been a lot worse. He has had a lot of abrasions and scrapes on his body, but the majority of the blast hit him on his left side of his body, and I guess obliquely hit other parts of his body, but those are just superficial and they should heal with no real problem.

COOPER: Has he talked to you or asked you about what happened? I'm just wondering as a parent, what do you say? This is something that a lot of parents are facing right now.

HERN: Not yet. He's mostly been sedated just to keep him comfortable.

When they moved him in his bed today, he did kind of wake up for a few minutes. He knew we were in the room. He opened his eyes, kind of fluttered his eyes, raised his arm and squeezed our hand. And he knows we're there. But we don't want to get him too excited because you can see on the monitors his heart rate would go up a little bit.

And then a few minutes later, he would kind of drift back off into sleep. So, they're just trying to keep him comfortable today, and then maybe tomorrow some time we will start to bring him out where he can talk to us, but right now we don't really know what he saw, what he remembers, what kind of help he's going to need later. COOPER: Listen, I don't want to intrude on your privacy and I know you're probably inundated right now. So, I just want to thank you for talking with us. Please, our thoughts and prayers are with your son and your family and obviously all those who have been affected by this tragedy. Thank you so much for being with us.

HERN: Thank you.

COOPER: We do have that press conference in Mass General that is just occurring now. Let's take a listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DR. GEORGE VELMAHOS, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Some of them are awake right now.

So they are much better than they were in the morning. But still have suffered severe injuries. They have suffered the effects of severe blood loss and of extensive surgical procedures, and therefore they would be considered still in critical condition, nevertheless, much better than this morning.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

VELMAHOS: My prognosis, improved.

I think that the patients are still critical, but I think that they're better than they were a few hours ago.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

VELMAHOS: Yes, they have. And, as a matter of fact, I have been moved and as a matter of fact really amazed by the resolve of our patients.

I talked to some of them. I talked to some of the families. They're really amazing people. Some of them woke up today with no leg, and they told me that they're happy to be alive. They thought -- as these things happened, that they told me that they thought they would die as they saw the blood spilling out. They thought that they would lose their life right there and then. And as they woke up today from surgery, and they saw that they're not dead, they feel extremely thankful and some of them told me they feel lucky.

And it is almost a paradox to see these patients without an extremity to wake up and feel lucky, but that talks about our patients.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

VELMAHOS: No. I haven't -- I stayed away from the discussion at this point.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

VELMAHOS: Yes, there are four. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

VELMAHOS: So, a lot of us have experiences from overseas, some of us in battlefields, and some of us in other countries.

But we all have experience with these blast injuries. And we all have, of course, excessive experience with traumatic injuries in general. I remind you that this is a team that is dedicated to trauma and takes care of trauma predominantly as the main scope of their surgical practice.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Where was your experience from? (OFF-MIKE)

VELMAHOS: I have been in South Africa for a long period of time.

And another member of our team is actually a military surgeon and he's been both in Afghanistan and Iraq.

QUESTION: Can you talk more about (OFF-MIKE) about the bombs and how they were made and what they contained? (OFF-MIKE)

VELMAHOS: I don't think that I have any more information than I gave you this morning.

As I said previously, these bombs contained small metallic fragments, more consistent with pellets, but also other small pieces of metal, and also spike points that resembled nails without heads, so, obviously a mixture of things in there.

QUESTION: Broadly, what are the biggest hurdles your staff (OFF- MIKE) in treating these critical patients?

VELMAHOS: I think it is a function of this hospital that it can avail endless resources in the care of the trauma patients. Trauma in general is extremely challenging because so many specialties need to be pulled over, trauma surgeons, and plastic surgeons and thoracic surgeons and emergency medicine physicians and rehabilitation and trauma psychiatrists and pathologists, you name it.

And really this hospital has the ability to pull all the resources to the bedside of the trauma patient. So the greatest challenge that exists, which is to have all the specialists available, is really no challenge here.

QUESTION: Doctor, since your last update, have federal investigators been able to speak with more of your patients?

VELMAHOS: Believe it or not, if I'm not giving a report like now, I am with a patient, so I had no time to speak with federal investigators yet.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

VELMAHOS: Exactly.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) VELMAHOS: Yes.

QUESTION: And the other two (OFF-MIKE)

VELMAHOS: They have extensive wounds and burns.

So, most of these patients suffered burns too from the explosive power of the bomb. And they also have extensive wounds from the shrapnel and the metallic objects that tore their skin.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) what type of treatment, what types of injuries are you seeing?

VELMAHOS: Mostly, this was for ruptured tympanic membranes. The blast of the injury ruptures the ear and that's the main reason -- Alasdair, was there any other reason?

DR. ALASDAIR CONN, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: That was the reason we sent them across (INAUDIBLE) but we haven't heard any feedback from them in terms of how many had sustained eardrum ruptures.

QUESTION: And with regard to your critical patients, can you walk us through the next 24 hours or so? What are the sort of medical milestones and how will you know they're out of the woods?

VELMAHOS: The most important thing, of course, is hemodynamic stability.

And we will be looking forward within the next few hours to have all the patients with stable blood pressures and heartbeats, to not lose any blood any further, and then obviously for those that are still intubated, that are still under support by the mechanical ventilator, to now be extubated and be able to breathe by themselves.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) they didn't need more blood donors. Is that so and can you comment on that?

VELMAHOS: It is amazing how many people came to the hospital today to donate blood. I don't have exact numbers, but quite frankly as I was walking on the corridor, I was stopped by volunteers who were asking me where is the blood bank and where can they come to donate blood? Amazing response.

CONN: Let me just add to that, I have just been speaking to Dr. Zeek (ph), who is director of the blood bank here, and he indicates that we have enough blood for the moment.

As you may know, blood has a shelf life, and so thank you very much, we're OK for today, but what you can do, though, is put your name on a list, because these patients will need transfusions over the next few days and weeks. And your contribution to the blood bank will be welcome.

We don't want to be in the position of having to throw out blood because we have so much today that we can't use it all. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Days, weeks, months?

VELMAHOS: I expect that the majority of the remaining patients, the remaining critically ill patients, will be able to be extubated and hopefully come out of the ICU in a few days. And maybe there is one or two that are more injured than the others, and whom prognosis is still uncertain at this point about the length of the ICU stay. But it is still too early to make predictions like that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Do you expect to discharge any of the patients today?

VELMAHOS: None of the patients that we have right now will be discharged today.

QUESTION: You talked about the experience of your staff. (OFF- MIKE) go through something like this, is this just another day at the job, is it challenging or is there a toll that it takes on you and (OFF-MIKE)

VELMAHOS: I don't think there is a single person in Boston that hasn't suffered an emotional toll.

And I don't think that the doctors and the nurses and every single person in this hospital are -- is an exception. We're all extremely moved and I think shattered by the event. Having said that, our mission is to provide care, to not be stalled or hampered by our emotional reactions.

We're all trauma surgeons and emergency medicine physicians and we're sad to say used to this devastating events. So we set our emotions aside and we take care of the patients.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Or do you anticipate more today and tomorrow?

VELMAHOS: Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

VELMAHOS: There will be more surgeries today and maybe tomorrow.

QUESTION: Can you walk us through the grisly task of having to amputate and exactly what did you amputate and why (OFF-MIKE)

VELMAHOS: It was exclusively lower extremities.

I believe that most of the amputations, I actually think all of the amputations were above the knee.

QUESTION: Above the knee.

VELMAHOS: Yes, because essentially the leg was completely destroyed below the knee.

As I said in the morning, it wasn't a hard decision to make because we just -- we just completed the ugly job that the bomb did, and these patients came to us with completely mangled, destroyed extremities, hanging by shreds of muscle and skin. And we had...

COOPER: We lost the signal of the press conference, just hearing from the doctor at Mass General about the kind of injuries they have been seeing and that they have been dealing with.

Our Gary Tuchman is standing by with some new information about one of the victims who has been identified, that 8-year-old little boy, Martin Richard.

Gary, what have you learned?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, what we found out is this, is that the Richard family together, five of them, husband, wife, two sons and a daughter, all went yesterday to the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

The father, Bill Richard, didn't run the marathon. He just wanted to take his family for a wonderful, memorable day to go to the finish line at Boylston Street and watch it as a family. And that's when the bombs went off. And their little son, 8-year-old Martin Richard, was killed, and Bill's wife is in the hospital right now, Jane, serious injury, and also his daughter.

Actually, his wife's name is Denise. Let me get this straight. His daughter's name is Jane. Jane is only 6 years old. Jane lost a leg in the blast and she's also lost part of the second leg. And little Jane is a dancer. So she is in the hospital recovering.

So everyone's prayers should be with both of them. They have one more son, Henry. He wasn't hurt, and he's with his father. Now, the family has released a picture of little Martin. It's a picture of him wearing his Boston Bruins shirt, big Bruins fan, like so many children here in New England. They won the Stanley Cup two years ago in the 2011 season.

Also, a statement has been released from Bill Richard, the father. And here's what it says: "My dear son Martin has died from injuries sustained in the attack on Boston. My wife and daughter are both recovering from serious injuries. We thank our family and friends, those we know and those we have never met, for their thoughts and prayers. I ask that you continue to pray for my family as we remember Martin. We also ask for your patience and for privacy as we work to simultaneously grieve and recover. Thank you."

We also have one more picture that is also quite poignant. And this is little Martin last year. He was participating in his second grade class in a peace walk in Boston to talk about having peace in the inner city. And he's holding a sign that had the very sad irony, "No more hurting people. Peace."

And it had two hearts and a peace sign on it, and that's little Martin Richard.

We should tell you the reason I'm on the phone now, Anderson, is we're transitioning from the neighborhood here at Dorchester, which is a section of Boston, to the St. Ann Parish. That's the Catholic Church the family attended. A candlelight vigil will be held at 7:30 Eastern time in honor of this little boy and the other people who died here in this tragedy in Boston -- Anderson.

COOPER: A lot of people will be lighting candles here in Boston and all around the country and all around the world for Martin and the other victims and those still who are in jeopardy tonight.

Gary, appreciate that reporting.

A short time ago, we told you about one of the other victims who lost her life in this attack. And we are just learning her identity. Her name is Krystle Campbell. She was a graduate of Medford High School. She graduated back in 2001. Her employer sent out a Facebook message.

And it reads in part -- and I just want to read you this -- it says, "No words can describe how much she meant to all of us. She was an incredible woman, always full of energy and hard at work, but never too tired to share her love and a smile with everyone." Krystle Campbell lost her life.

We're going to talk to a doctor who was on the scene, running in the race, and then turned right around to try to help those in need.

But I want to bring you up to date with the latest on the investigation.

For that, let's quickly go to Brooke -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Anderson, in terms of the investigation, U.S. officials are saying that there is no reporting any connection with -- foreign connection, reaction from al Qaeda thus far.

Here is what we do know, because different sources are telling CNN these bombs appear to have been placed in these metal pressure cookers that were then hidden in backpacks. In terms of that Saudi man we heard about, whose apartment has been searched, apparently sources telling CNN that that has no connection to the blast, but Joe Johns has been doing some digging and he reported that a timer and not a cell phone is what detonated those explosions yesterday around the finish line of the marathon.

And, Joe Johns, let me talk to you, in terms of what you know, what have you learned in the past hour or so?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, let me say, Brooke, that there is a caution on that, and it is likely, but not certain, that a timer was involved.

The question of course has always been whether it might have been triggered by a cell phone. And a law enforcement source telling me it is likely, but not certain it was actually a timer.

We also have been trying to get a better feel for the actual timeline of when these devices might have been planted there on the marathon route. And the Boston police commissioner talked about two security sweeps that occurred there on the scene in the hours before and during the race. Can we pull that up and listen?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED DAVIS, BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: There is an EOD sweep that was done. There were two of them done that morning. One was done early in the morning. And a second one was done an hour before the first runners came across.

Those two EOD sweeps did not turn up any evidence. But because there is unrestricted access to the racecourse, simply because it is 28 miles long, people can come and go and bring items in and out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: So this answers one question and that question is whether the authorities did their due diligence on security on the race.

But it also raises a question. The timeline is important, because authorities would like to pin down the time that is most likely when the devices may have been planted on the route. If the commissioner is accurate, the second sweep, the second security sweep occurred during the race, about an hour into the race, and no threat was discovered at the time, he said.

Multiple former law enforcement officials we have been speaking with have told us that it is their professional opinion that if that's true, the most likely time for these devices to have been placed along the route is some time well into the race, well after the second security sweep.

So this would have been a time when there are a lot of people around and also a time for authorities to really zero in on when they want to see video and pictures from around the area where the bombs went off -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: And at a time when young people and families were standing right there, right around the finish line, just sort of blending there into the crowd. It is interesting and significant as you point out the timeline here and finding out how this could have happened. Joe Johns, thank you very much -- and, Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Yes, Brooke, when we come back, I will speak live with a doctor who treated victims at the finish line after he himself was running in the race. We will be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The turn, it was like the first pop, boom, and then another one, boom, and then another one, boom. it's like one right after the other. It was like it was just one big cloud of smoke, white smoke, and then the other one, one right after the other, after the other. It was just crazy. (END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the Boston bombings.

The casualty rate could have been worse had there not been triage tents already set up because this was the end of the race, had there not been doctors and nurses already standing by to care for runners at the end of the race who quickly turned into a triage area.

Dr. Vivek Shah who was actually running in the marathon stopped to help the injured. He joins me.

How far away from the blast were you?

DR. VIVEK SHAH, HELPED VICTIMS OF BOMBINGS: I was about 25 yards in front of the blast.

COOPER: Twenty -- so did you know instantly what was happening?

SHAH: When first blast went off, myself and the other runners I was with weren't sure if it was something that was supposed to happen or -- but when the second one went off, we knew something was wrong, because all the runners and all the spectators started running towards us.

COOPER: Your family was also there.

SHAH: So, that's part of the reason why I actually started running toward the blast.

I feel like, as a physician, we're always obligated to help when we can. And we don't get the opportunity that often, so I ran towards where the first blast was, partly looking to see if any of my family had been hurt and partly looking to help.

COOPER: So in looking through the crowd and seeing the wounded people, you were also afraid that you were going to see your family members?

SHAH: It's probably the hardest thing I have ever done, looking at the faces of the victims, wondering if any of them was going to be my mother, father, wife, sister.

COOPER: You have no doubt, though, that the presence of doctors like yourself and triage tents at the end of this race helped save lives?

SHAH: Yes. I don't think I have ever seen a response as large and as quick as the one that I saw. I was running and I -- it was only 30 seconds away from me and there were already first-responders there, helping people, volunteer physicians, volunteer nurses.

COOPER: No one knows how they're going to respond when a bomb goes off. It's obviously something you have seen in movies and things like that. To actually be there, what did you find yourself doing?

SHAH: I think with all the training that we get, it is almost routine for us to go through the motions of helping trauma victims. I think the processing of all that doesn't set in until days after.

But in the moment, I think all the training that we get trains us for moments like these to be able to act without even needing to think.

COOPER: Your family is OK?

SHAH: Everybody was OK, yes.

COOPER: And at this point, does it seem real to you?

SHAH: I think we're all sort of struggling with how to really process this information, and like I said, you know, we see a lot of trauma through our training, but not this massive.

So I'm not sure what we can do to sort of come to grips with this other than to continue talking to our family and friends. And I know the BAA and a lot of the hospitals are offering grief counseling and things like that, which I think would probably help as well.

COOPER: Well, I have said it a lot over the last 24 hours, but the role of first-responders and citizens and doctors and nurses was extraordinary. And so thank you for what you did and thanks for talking to us. Appreciate it, Vivek Shah.

SHAH: Thank you for having me.

COOPER: Up next, we're going to more on the other breaking news, American Airlines grounding all flights for the next hour-and-a-half, apparently because of a computer glitch. We're trying to find out more information about that.

We will be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)