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Terror Attack at Boston Marathon; Combined Effort to Find Culprits; President Promises "Full Weight of Justice"; Doctors Say Injuries Reminiscent of War Wounds

Aired April 16, 2013 - 05:30   ET






JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Celebrations turned to chaos as two bomb blast the final line of the Boston Marathon, leave a city reeling and really a nation recoiling from another terror attack on American soil.

BOB O'DONNEL, BOSTON MARATHON SPECTATOR: It was an awful thing. It was right at the finish line. It was right at the point where a lot of people were, you know, the average Joes were just coming in.

BERMAN: The FBI heading up the search for whoever pulled off this act of terror. And this morning, these questions: how this person or these people, how did they exploit a gap in the security at this race?


BERMAN (on-camera): Welcome back to a special edition of EARLY S TART, everyone. I'm John Berman in Boston this morning. You know, the city of Boston, it really feels more like a ghost town this morning. A taxi cab driver I was with said the streets are simply empty. You would never see this the day after a marathon, the night after a marathon. People would simply be in the streets partying all night, but, no, not after the terror attack at the finish line of this race. The normally bustling downtown area is closed off along section of Boylston Street is empty and shut down. It is a crime scene as police investigate.

At least three people were killed in the attacks, including an eight- year-old boy identified by "The Boston Globe" as Martin Richard. His family members among the 144 wounded. Seventeen of those are hospitalized in critical condition this morning. Twenty-five are in serious condition. The FBI is taking charge of the criminal investigation. Right now, they say no motives, no suspects at this point.

But law enforcement sources do say there are a number of active leads. Overnight, authorities searched an apartment in Revere, Massachusetts. That's about five miles north of Boston, but they are not saying if any arrests were made there. The explosive (ph) devices used were said to be packed with nails, zippers, blades. Doctors report removing ball bearings from patients.

There've been at least ten amputations, so far. Doctors say they've never seen the scale of an attack like this in normal city hospitals. President Obama says the U.S. will find and bring to justice whoever is behind the bombings at the marathon. Those bombings, again, killed three people, injured more than 140.

Investigators, they're combing through the evidence this morning. The FBI and Boston police asking anyone who may have seen anything, heard anything suspicious, contact authorities. I'm here with CNN's Pamela Brown who (INAUDIBLE) this morning. Good morning, Pam.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John. People are still on high alert this morning. There is heavy law enforcement presence here in Boston's back bay area. It is all hands on deck as authorities investigate who's behind yesterday's attack, how they were able to carry it off and why.


BROWN (voice-over): Just before 3:00 p.m., more than four hours, nine minutes into the race, a thunderous boom.


BROWN: Celebratory cheers turned into screams of horror. Seconds later, at least 50 yards away, another.


BROWN: Runners and spectators at the finish line stunned as shock rippled through the crowd, many running from the scene, others towards it.

VOICE OF JOSH COX, WITNESSED EXPLOSIONS: We heard one just massive explosion. Huge boom. And, obviously, we didn't know what it was. Then, when the second one went off, we said that's a bomb. And it was, of course, we could smell the smoke. We saw people lying on the ground. Runners were crying and the police were on it.

BROWN: Blood everywhere, people without limbs, the wounded crying, confused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the most serious thing I dealt with being a firefighter for 26 years. It was terrible scene.

BROWN: Rescuers, many already there for the race, rushed to victims carrying away debris, using stretchers and wheelchairs. Ambulances lined up near the finish line. Others treated in tents meant for tired runners. Police told runners and spectators that the area wasn't safe and sent them on their way. They ran and walked in a daze. VOICE OF MATT FRUCCI, CNN EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Everyone is sort of scrambling to get out of the way, scrambling into buildings, scrambling off the Boylston on the side streets and was able to get another vantage point. I saw it was like a separate six or seven people were strewn about on Boylston Avenue itself being treated by EMTs and police officers.

BROWN: Soon, the reports came in from hospitals, fatalities and scores of injuries, including children. One of the dead, an eight- year-old boy. As a shocked nation watched, the president spoke about the attack.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this and we will find out who did this. We'll find out why they did this. Any response -- any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.

BROWN: The bombings classified as a terror event by federal law enforcement, a level one mobilization with all hands on deck. The FBI is in charge of the investigation working with Boston and Massachusetts police agencies. A federal source told CNN the two bombs were small packages and not believed to have included plastic explosives, but they were deadly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something just blew up!



BROWN: And the hours after the blast, there were reports that there were other devices not detonated. In the wake of the attack, sports and cultural events in Boston were canceled or postponed. The airport went on high alert. Police departments across the country went on alert as well. As the nation focused on Boston, at 5:09 p.m., the U.S. House of Representatives paused for a moment of silence.

Overnight, the finish line of the Boston marathon, usually a busy area filled with bars and restaurants, shut down. It's now a crime scene bustling with investigators looking for clues as to who was responsible for the terror.


BROWN (on-camera): This morning the death toll stands at three that includes an eight-year-old boy, 144 people still in the hospital this morning, 17 in critical condition, we're told. As authorities investigate, Boston police are asking any witnesses of yesterday's attack to send them their pictures, tip line, 1-800-494-TIPS.

And, John, we're just a couple blocks away from where the explosions happened yesterday. It is like a ghost town, as you mentioned earlier. And the governor of Massachusetts asking for residents here to stay vigilant today. BERMAN: They shut down this section of Boylston Street which is a very busy part of the city. You have comedy place there. You have the Boston Public Library there and there are shopping, there are offices. That is, as you said, a crime scene this morning.

BROWN: Not business as usual, that's for sure.

BERMAN: All right. Pamela Brown, thanks to you. Really appreciate it.

You know, Boston likes to consider itself in many ways the medical capital of the world. Some of the best hospitals on Earth are here in this city. And more than 144 people are now being treated inside these hospitals following yesterday's terror attack in Boston. CNN's Poppy Harlow is at one of the best. She joins us right now from Brigham & Women's Hospital. Good morning, Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Good morning, John and Pamela. Just said, the number we have at this hour, the highest it's been since the deadly attack, 144 injured, three fatalities, 17 critical condition at this hour. We know that 25 of the people injured are in serious condition. And among the most troubling news, eight of those injured, at least eight, are children. Also, ten people have had to have at least one of their limbs amputated.

And when you talk about the kinds of injuries, many of them are lower body, lower extremity injuries because of the type of device, IED-like devices that exploded. The ages, we're talking about victims injured from age two to age 71. Those are the ages that we're looking at.

And in terms of the descriptions that we're getting from inside these hospitals, from the trauma surgeons in here, they're giving us some light, shedding some light into the kind of debris, what wounded these people, some of them so severely. So, I want you to take a listen to one of the head trauma surgeons from Massachusetts General Hospital. Here's how he described it late last night.


DR. PETER FAGENHOLZ, TRAUMA SURGEON MASS GENERAL: There's a lot of small metal debris. Some people have asked already about whether these were BBs or they were parts of bombs. And I just don't think we're able to say whether these are small bits of metal that were place there intentionally or whether they were just part of the environment that were involved in the blast.


HARLOW: That same trauma surgeon saying that some of the patients are going to have to come back again and again for repeat operations. Also saying that he has never seen anything, John, like the volume, the quantity of people that were rushed into his ER immediately following this attack.

BERMAN: That's what we keep hearing, Poppy. The numbers were just staggering. So, how prepared were they really for this flood of victims?

HARLOW: You can say, fortunately, they were prepared. Fortunately, for a situation as they wished would never happen because they told us they prepare for things like this, Massachusetts General, saying that within minutes after they got their first patient and after the attack, they instituted what they call an incident command system within five to ten minutes. They had enough surgeons.

They even told us they had people flying back in, coming within hours back to the hospital from trips to try to help and do everything that they could. But they were prepared and they do have the hands needed at this point in time, John.

BERMAN: You know, Poppy, I did. I heard from doctors last night who've been calling up hospitals seeing if they can help, if they can do anything to help everyone heal through this process. Poppy Harlow at Brigham & Women's, you know, our thanks to you this morning.

In addition to the medical treatment right now and the recovery effort going on, the investigation is full under way. The FBI in control working with state and local law enforcement agencies. Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, is following that part of the story for us. Good morning, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Sure, the investigation hasn't stopped since after the blasts occurred yesterday. Of course, among other things, they're looking at surveillance videos. You could imagine how many there would be in that area from businesses, from hotels, also from people who may have taken videos on their cell phones, especially any that might have been taken just before that attack, looking for any kind of suspicious activity.

And, of course, we've got to talk to all kinds of witnesses. That process already under way, including some witnesses who are hospitalized at local hospitals who were injured in the bomb blasts including one described to us by a law enforcement official as a Saudi national who's leg -- one of his legs wounded who is under guard who allegedly ran away after the explosion.

No one is saying, however, that this person is being treated as a suspect nor are any other suspects believed to be in custody. Also, of course, they are spending a lot of time picking apart the devices that they now have. Not only remnants from the bombs that blew up right there, those two blasts that occurred within seconds of each other at the finish line but also looking at unexploded devices.

We know of at least two of them. And we're getting information that some of these devices contain ball bearings, others that contain nails, zippers, and blades. But not only that, we are also told that some of the other devices did not contain shrapnel but are being described as crude and relatively small in size. As you indicated earlier, the FBI is leading this investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK DESLAURIERS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: This will be a combined federal state and local effort. It will be an ongoing investigation. It is a criminal investigation that is -- has the potential -- is a potential terrorist investigation.


CANDIOTTI: And another indication of them leaving no stone unturned. They even spent hours in an apartment building in Revere, Massachusetts. That's just about five miles north of Boston where they were checking out an apartment in this building. As far as we know, they did not leave with any suspects in hand, but they spent hours there, as we said, looking that place over, obviously, following up a lead in that case. John, back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Susan Candiotti, our thanks to you on this investigation all morning for us.

With us now is CNN contributor, Paul Cruickshank. He's a terrorism expert and research fellow with the Center of Law Online Security at the New York University School of Law. Thanks for being with us this morning. Paul, you know, you study al Qaeda for years, their tactics, how they operate. Do you see anything here that maybe gives you a sense of the hallmarks of al Qaeda?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, it was a coordinated attack. But at this hour, we just do not have enough information to make any sort of determination whether it was al Qaeda, al Qaeda inspired, or a group completely unrelated to Islamist terrorist. Now, al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni affiliates of al Qaeda, about a year ago, encouraged American followers to launch an attack on a sports venue, a crowded place in the United States, but that doesn't mean that al Qaeda was responsible here, John.

BERMAN: Two bombs went off. We think there are two others that didn't. Maybe more. The fact that there are so many devices, how much coordination does that require? Is that something that one lone wolf could have pulled off?

CRUICKSHANK: It's certainly possible that one lone wolf could have pulled this off. Remember, about a couple years ago, there was the attack in Norway. There was a bombing in Oslo, then a shooting a few hours later with a lot of teenagers. And just one individual, Anders Breivik, carried all that out.

So, it's certainly possible that a lone wolf could have been responsible. But again, it could have been a group of individuals as well, and there'll be a lot of concern right now that the suspect or suspects are still at large and there could be following attacks.

BERMAN: And that is a good point. There are still suspects at large who could still be very dangerous this morning. As we said, exploded devices, there was unexploded (inaudible) as well. Let's talk about the unexploded devices. How important are those right now to investigators? CRUICKSHANK: Well, I think at this hour, it's still a little bit unclear about that information. But if there are, indeed, unexploded devices, that will be a treasure-trove for the forensic investigators, much easier to do the forensics on unexploded devices than exploded devices.

They'll be looking at the bomb signature, the materials inside the bomb. Do they bare the hallmarks of attacks like groups like al Qaeda, things like hydrogen peroxide inside the bombs that groups like al Qaeda has used before. So, they'll be examining these things very, very closely, John.

BERMAN: What do you make of the timing of the blast? It happened about four hours and nine minutes into the race. That's when, you know, slow people like me cross the finish line. But the winners cross in two hours and 10 minutes or so. That's when the media focus is there. That's when you probably see the bigger crowds. So, what do you make of the fact that it actually happened much later in the race when the crowd might have been more spars?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, it did happen later in the race, but still, there was still a low media attention there that works, still a very significant crowd over there. Whoever carried this out would have realized that the world's eyes would still have been on this event. The cameras would likely be recording what would happen. So, I think we shouldn't, perhaps, read too much into that, John.

BERMAN: All right. Paul Cruickshank, a terrorism expert, a CNN analyst contributor, thank you so much for being with us this morning. I really appreciate it.

Coming up, we're going to talk about where the investigation stands right now. We'll have more breaking details on these Boston marathon bombings. Here all morning. Please, stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were banged up bad. Severe lacerations, amputees. A lot of shrapnel. They were pretty big explosions. A lot of blood everywhere.


BERMAN: Welcome back to this special edition of EARLY START, everyone. We are live in Boston this morning, just a couple blocks from where those blasts took place yesterday. And everyone from the police commissioner here to President Obama promise to find out who is behind these bombings, and they all say they will be brought to justice.

Two bomb blasts less than 15 seconds apart near the finish line of the Boston marathon. Three people dead, 144, at least 144 others wounded, 17 of those are in critical condition this morning. And Boston's normally bustling downtown area is now a crime scene. About a mile of Boylston Street, one of the busiest streets in the city with the Copley Place, the Boston Public Library, other famous locations, that is shut down this morning. It is a crime scene. National Guard patrolling the streets right there. You can see police out right now walking on the sidewalks.

President Obama is promising the full weight of justice for whoever is responsible for the bombing at this race. The president didn't use the word terror when he addressed the media last night at the White House, but you know, he made it clear that the U.S. will hunt down the culprit. He also reached out to Congressional leaders saying this is a time for unity among Americans.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is standing by at the White House for us this morning. Good morning, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. President Obama was notified of the bombings yesterday a little after 3:00 p.m. Eastern. And then, he came to the Brady briefing room to address reporters shortly after 6:00 p.m., promising that the U.S. will respond.


OBAMA: We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn't jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But, make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this. We'll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.


KEILAR: Now, the White House also released a photo of President Obama on the phone with FBI director Robert Mueller. You can see in the photo he's flanked there by his homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, as well as his chief of staff, Denis McDonough -- John.

BERMAN: So much being said, Brianna, about what words the president chose to use or chose not to use yesterday. The president did not say the word terror out loud at least.

KEILAR: No, he didn't. It was conspicuously absent in his comments yesterday in the briefing room. But what's interesting is if you talk to aides and say hey, was this an act of terror because he didn't say it, they'll basically tell you, absolutely, this is an act of terror. Clearly, when you have multiple explosive devices, that's what they consider it to be and they say it's going to be treated that way.

But I think it really just highlights how important it is for President Obama to be exact. You'll remember following the attack in Benghazi which killed obviously the U.S. ambassador there, he did say the word terror. It became a bit of a political football about how much did the White House really know? Could they label it as such?

And so, I think that's why there's a difference between the president saying it, John, and his aides saying it. And I think that's why he sort of took a step back and didn't go that far yesterday.

BERMAN: All right. It was conspicuous in its absence yesterday at the White House. At least as a group being clear, they do believe it is an act of terror. Brianna Keilar at the White House for us this morning, thank you so much.

Just ahead, so many people injured here yesterday, 144 injuries, some of them quite bad. We'll tell you how to treat traumas like the ones we see from yesterday's blast. Stay with us.


BERMAN: Welcome back to Boston, everyone. Just a few blocks away right now from that horrible scene where now we know that three people were killed, more than 150 people hurt in the bombing that really ended the Boston marathon and put those 144 people in the hospital. Many of them with the kind of injuries that you might find in a mass unit (ph) overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In fact, many of the doctors that I spoke to said that's exactly what these blasts remind them of and the injuries remind them of. So, what kind of treatment are we talking about here? Elizabeth Cohen joins us now to talk about that. Good morning, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. John, last night, CNN spoke to two nurses who were at the tent at the finish line. And when they heard the explosion, they ran out and what they saw was, as you said, a scene reminiscent of a battlefield, blood everywhere, glass everywhere. Let's hear from one of those nurses. His name is Stephen Segatore.


STEPHEN SEGATORE, FIRST RESPONDER: I treated both a double amputee. I treated a young child and I also treated a young woman and a cardiac arrest. I think the best scenario was that everyone turned from a, you know, this is a marathon. We're going to treat cramps, dehydration from that to, all of a sudden, everyone who had trauma experience came to the front.

Everyone who didn't went to the back. And let us do our, you know, do our experience and trauma care and we got everyone who we could to the centers.


COHEN: Now, the man you saw standing next to Steve, his name is Jim Osianti (ph). He actually was a trauma nurse in Iraq for 18 months. And he said all of those skills that he learned in Iraq he used yesterday in Boston -- John.

BERMAN: They treated scores of people. They saved, no doubt, scores of people. But they also, Elizabeth, watched people die.

COHEN: They did. They did watch people die. And so, Steve, who we just heard from, he told me the story one of the first patients he worked on, John, was this young woman. He remembers her, blonde hair, blue eyes, maybe about 20 years old, and she came in and, you know, her leg was broken. Her abdomen was open due to the explosion. She wasn't breathing. They gave her CPR. They tried over and over again, but they just didn't have a pulse.

He said when they were treating her after she passed away, they looked around for some kind of identification in her pockets, but he said as far as he knew, they just didn't know -- still couldn't figure out who she was.

BERMAN: So sad. As we said, there are a number of people still in the hospital this morning, 17 in critical condition, more than 20 in serious condition. You know, what do we know about how these patients are being treated right now?

COHEN: You know, these patients are being treated at some of the best trauma centers in the country. So, you know, they really are in the right place which is a wonderful thing, but we're told that some of them are going to need multiple surgeries. I mean, this is not going to be an easy road. These were very serious injuries. Many of them lots of shrapnel. We've heard already about the ball bearings.

I mean, when I was speaking with the two nurses who were out there in the field, they stabilized these patients, got IVs into them, made sure there was no bleeding, but they said, they could tell that these injuries would take a long time to recover from.

BERMAN: And the doctors that I spoke to overnight, they were simply exhausted. The numbers of people they were treating, you know, higher than anything that they've ever seen. Elizabeth Cohen, our thanks to you this morning.

COHEN: Thanks.

BERMAN: You're going to want to stay with us this morning. Our live coverage of these deadly bombings in Boston continues right here on CNN. Stay with us.