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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Boston Bombing Investigation Continues; Letter to President Obama Tests Positive for Ricin; Recovering from Injuries; Explosion at Texas Fertilizer Plant

Aired April 17, 2013 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.

It's 10:00 here in Boston and there's breaking news here and back in Washington.

We have now learned that investigators have photos and are trying to identify two people in those photos. Also, some other new images that may shed light on who did this, again, may, that plus the question of why the FBI has suddenly stopped talking, stopped talking to the public tonight, postponing and then later canceling a press briefing.

In Washington, breaking news as well on the ricin poison letter case. Authorities now have a man in custody. We will tell you who have they got and how they have focused on this person. There's that and President Obama's fiery verbal attack on senators who voted to block gun control legislation.

A lot going on in this hour, but first we focus on the bombing investigation.

Our Susan Candiotti joins me with the breaking news.

What have we learned, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have learned from a federal law enforcement official who's regularly briefed on the investigation that images of two men -- there are two photographs we're tacking about here -- are being circulated among law enforcement agencies around the country.

And those agents and law enforcement officers are being asked to be on the lookout for these people, because they are possible suspects -- possible, we emphasize -- and of high interest. The reason we're being told that there's a high interest in these people is because of the timing of where they were right near the finish line before the blast went off, and also because of what they have with them, what they are carrying.

In this case, at least one of them is carrying what appears to be a dark-colored backpack. And they have also circulated a memo, so to speak, among the agencies and describes it this way. It says: "The attached photos are being circulated in an attempt to identify the individuals, highlighted therein. Feel free to pass this around to any of your fellow agents elsewhere." We know also that authorities do not yet know the names of these people. So they truly are trying to find them and are calling them possible suspects.

COOPER: Let's be very clear of what we know and what we don't know. You have actually seen one of these photos, and one of these photos is in the possession of -- I believe -- or both of these photos.

CANDIOTTI: I have seen them both.

COOPER: You have seen them both. They're in the possession of CNN, but we are not releasing them. We are not showing them on our air, because we don't want to do anything that would affect the investigation in any way.

CANDIOTTI: Exactly, because if we show them, they don't know who these are. We certainly don't want to be a part of tipping these people off.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: We're also, just for the record, not going into any descriptive information about the individuals in these photos and we're doing that on purpose.

CANDIOTTI: Exactly, that's right.

Don't want to give too much away.

COOPER: OK.

So, again, the bottom line, there are two photos of two individuals, it's fair to call them persons of interest, not even suspects, just persons of interest, people that -- law enforcement wants to talk to these people, wants to learn more about these people.

(CROSSTALK)

CANDIOTTI: That's right.

COOPER: Would like to be able to identify them by name, and find them. That's the latest.

CANDIOTTI: Exactly. Exactly.

They're very hopeful they will be able to find these people. That's why they're spreading them around to so many people to tell others, do you recognize them?

COOPER: Right. Great reporting. Susan Candiotti, appreciate the update.

I want to bring in Tom Fuentes, CNN analyst, former FBI assistant director with extensive experience investigating attacks like this one.

Tom, what do you make of this development?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, Anderson.

I think Susan's exactly right. I think they're trying to circulate among law enforcement as the first chance to try to identify one of these individuals, not to have individuals at this time put out over the media where they realize they are suspects and maybe leave the country or make it harder to locate them.

I think it's a strategy choice they have made to try to do it this way, the idea being that maybe if they can apprehend one of them or both, but specifically one, that person may cooperate and give up the identity of others that may have been involved if there's more than one person involved. And again, the other people would not be alerted to flee, if, in fact, it's not public yet who they are.

Now, that's a hard decision to make. They're balancing the fact that if they put the public -- the pictures out in the public, they're going to have a much easier chance. But at the same time, they're going to be flooded with leads from thousands of extra leads and they're already covering thousands of leads.

It's a difficult strategy decision to make on the part of the commanders. And I think that's probably what they have been wrestling with all day today. But they have great photos of a couple of people, but how they want to go about apprehending them.

COOPER: Yes, I want to bring in also John King and Juliette Kayyem. She's with me, and she's the former Massachusetts homeland security director, obviously has a lot of experience here in Boston. Susan Candiotti is with me as well.

John, the significance of these developments, obviously, we have been hearing a lot throughout the day, a lot of different kind of information. But this is obviously very good news for investigators.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Last night they thought they had made a lot of progress in the what and the how. Tonight they believe they have a lot of progress in the who.

Now, as Susan just discussed, they're in investigative tactics, distributing this to law enforcement. Made a conscious decision not to release the photographs to the public. I was told first by a source earlier today and then confirmed by the mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, that the big breakthrough came first, the video breakthrough was video that came through from a survivor camera at the Lord & Taylor store, which is right across the street from the explosion, the second explosion, the site of the second bombing.

And I'm told that overnight the video analysis of that showed them what they believe to be someone making the drop, coming in with a suspicious package and putting it down right around the timing.

And from that, once they had a better idea of the exact timing of that drop, they have gone through analyzing that video some more, I'm told some Boston TV video and then they are getting so much video sent in. And once you have the timing, you can also go back and look at the other things.

From that, they have made further progress in identifying, but they do believe they have at least the second explosion site video of the actual placement of the device.

COOPER: And, Juliette, once you have a person of interest or two persons of interest in this case, you -- it then allows you to even narrow your focus all the more.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN ANALYST: That's right.

You would just follow where those leads might take you. If you have pictures of those people or persons, you would link them to a name and then possibly start the investigation. I'm not too concerned with the FBI not having these press conferences. I think that actually -- we all have a common goal, which is to find out who did it.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And who cares about the press conference?

(CROSSTALK)

KAYYEM: You care about the press conference.

COOPER: No, I don't. I care about the investigation.

(CROSSTALK)

KAYYEM: Exactly. And I think that that's what we have to remember.

There's a purposeful reason for not disclosing either the picture or the pictures around it at this stage. And that is they might have a hot trail and they don't want to disrupt it. Or they have a cold trail and they want to just keep looking around. And so that's probably been what's happening over the day, why we have kept pushing where the FBI is right now.

There's no question that something progressive and productive has gone on today. And then it's just a matter of sort of figuring out what it is.

COOPER: It could very well be at some point in this investigation, they could decide to release these images in order to get the public's help. But, clearly, at this point they're not there yet.

KING: I think Tom and Juliette know more about the inside conversations like that go.

But you have seen in past investigations, sometimes they say, here, public, help us. And they appealed publicly for tips the first day. You remember the FBI special agent in charge said if you saw anybody or knew of anybody talking about the marathon, please help us.

But now that they have what they believe to be the video images, they have made a conscious decision obviously to keep it among law enforcement for now. You see different tactics in different investigations. Clearly they believe this is the best course now and we will learn more as we talk to them. There are specific reasons for it.

As Susan noted, they have made a decision that they think this is the way to go about it, not to ask for the public's help. But perhaps that is because they know more than they're telling us about who they are.

CANDIOTTI: And there is certainly something else that is regularly done in investigations like this, and that is, whenever something like this might occur, one of the first things that is normally done is to get cell phone records checking the towers of who was making phone calls at a particular time around Copley plaza.

And then they would be able to trace those phone records to who was making them down to the person. Whether that has been done in this case, I don't know. But that's certainly a normal thing that they would do.

COOPER: If in fact there are two people and if they are in fact working together, it would be very possible that there would be cell phone communication or some form of communications between them. Again, there's a lot we don't know at this hour.

But great reporting, Susan Candiotti.

(CROSSTALK)

FUENTES: Anderson, could I add one more point?

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Yes, Tom, go ahead. Yes.

FUENTES: I was just going to say, another aspect of this, now that you have good photos of the subjects placing a bag, now they're going to go back and not only be looking at videos from the rest of the crowd, but they're going to be looking at public transportation, the videos in subway stations throughout Boston.

Can they get them going on or off of trains that maybe places them in a neighborhood where they have got a safe house or apartment where the bombs were constructed? There's other videos in town besides just the ones taken at the scene that day.

COOPER: Right.

And just for our viewers, we showed you just two still images there, those are not the images we are talking about. We're consciously not showing these images. We do not want to do anything that's going to interfere in any way with the investigation. The images you just saw are not being the images that are being circulated by law enforcement right now.

Those are other images which show two people, two persons of interests, people that authorities would like to find and to speak with.

We will have more with John King and Juliette Kayyem, Tom Fuentes as well, Susan Candiotti as well.

Over the last few days, we have learned much more about some of the survivors of all this, not just who they are, but also why they were there at the finish line, who they were cheering on or where they were running in the race, and who helped them make it through those critical blood-soaked minutes after the blast, the bystanders, the first-responders who rushed to do whatever they could, taking off their shirts, making makeshift tourniquets without regard for their own safety.

So many people acts heroically. Eighteen-year-old Sydney Corcoran and her mom, Celeste Corcoran, are alive tonight because of the quick first aid they got. They have lost a lot, a lot, but they're alive.

Gary Tuchman has their story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The picture on the front page of "The Boston Globe" and "New York Times" is at the same time gut-wrenching and unforgettable.

A young woman wounded in the Boston Marathon bombing being treated by two good samaritans. And this is the story behind that picture. It begins with Rich Acabbo and his wife, Carmen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's Carmen.

TUCHMAN: Carmen was running her first Boston Marathon. Not only was Rich there, but their three children were there too to cheer on their mom. Her sister Celeste and niece Sydney were also there. Carmen is on the left, her sister Celeste in the middle and Celeste's daughter, 18-year-old Sydney, on the right.

Rich took pictures of his wife along the course in the first few miles and then drove to the finish line where he and his children waited across the street from where the bombs exploded. They were there for 10 minutes. And then:

RICH ACABBO, EYEWITNESS: It was surreal how loud the noise was. I can almost still hear it. It was deafening. And my younger son started to cry. My oldest son, 11-year-old, his first words were, dad, is it the North Koreans?

TUCHMAN: He and his kids were OK. But he knew his wife's sister Celeste, her husband, Kevin, and Sydney were on the other side of the street. And this is what happened to them.

This image shows Celeste critically wounded, being cared for by her husband who escaped major injury. Celeste, who is a hairdresser who spends most of her time on her feet, had to have her legs amputated below the knee. This is that front-page picture again, Celeste and Kevin's 18-year-old daughter, Sydney, who is getting ready for college next year, also critically wounded.

ACABBO: Major injury to her femoral artery, which is a major artery. And you see in the picture two gentlemen applying pressure to that wound and really saved her life. The surgeon said that she potentially could have bled out in a matter of minutes.

TUCHMAN: The heartbreak and torment this family is going through is only magnified by what happened when Sydney was 15. She was in a serious car accident.

ACABBO: Suffered some head trauma. And we almost lost her then. To see her back in the hospital a couple years later is just disheartening.

(CROSSTALK)

TUCHMAN (on camera): It's tragic.

ACABBO: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Rich and his wife, Carmen, are devastated. They were planning to have a celebratory party after Carmen finished the marathon. Now this entire family's life is changed profoundly and forever. Rich tells us what Celeste, her legs gone, told her sister Carmen at the hospital.

ACABBO: The first thing her sister said was, damn, I wanted to see you finish that thing. And I think my wife's words were, I did my marathon. I did my marathon. We're going to run your marathon next together.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I mean, the family is so strong, and really defiant in the face of this.

TUCHMAN: They really are.

They're such kind people. We have heard so many stories like that. I mean, but this family's life has changed forever. We're talking about Celeste. Celeste works at a beauty salon just two blocks away from here. The reason she and her family were in that spot is because her beauty salon was nearby and she got a lucky parking pass to be in that spot.

You were talking in the 8:00 Eastern time hour about the financial situation for so many of these families. Hundreds of families don't know how to pay for the medical care. Insurance doesn't cover all of it. A lot of them have set up funds. This family has also set up a fund.

And if our viewers are interested in contributing, they can go on our Web site, AC360.COM, and they will see the information for their phone number.

COOPER: It's important to point out -- I was talking to a prosthetic expert earlier today -- these prosthetic devices, which many of these people will need, cost tens of thousands of dollars. And some can cost as much as $100,000 and often need to be replaced two times a year. Especially for Celeste, who will be on her feet as a hairdresser if she's able to continue to work, that's obviously going to be very important.

TUCHMAN: The sad thing is most of these families are not aware of these costs just yet. They're just starting to learn about them as we speak. And that is what so sad and tragic about everything.

COOPER: Yes. We have that information on our Web site. We will continue to update in the days ahead that as more people get funds set up. Gary, appreciate it. Amazing story.

Up next, breaking news in the ricin case, tainted letters mailed to the president and a U.S. senator. We will tell you about an arrest that's been made and how the suspect first drew suspicion.

Also ahead tonight, President Obama spent part of the afternoon consoling Newtown families after the Senate blocked tougher gun laws -- why he calls it a shameful day for Washington. That's ahead tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Want to update you on our breaking news, an arrest in the ricin case.

Now recapping, two letters, one sent to U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, the other to President Obama, each containing the same writing, the same cryptic phrase, each apparently tainted with the deadly toxin known as ricin, both now being tested in the army's biowarfare research lab at Fort Detrick in Maryland.

Let's get more now from Joe Johns, who has got late details from Washington.

Joe, what are you hearing?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Justice Department confirming this evening that authorities have arrested an individual named Paul Kevin Curtis in this investigation. So far, no charges filed to our knowledge.

The Justice Department has listed no charges as yet pending testing of the substance in the envelopes. The Justice Department says Curtis is believed responsible for mailing three letters that preliminarily tested positive for ricin. The letters were addressed to U.S. Senator Roger Wicker as well as the White House and a Mississippi justice official. That Mississippi official has been identified by a family member and "The Clarion Ledger" newspaper as a judge in Lee County, Mississippi.

It's not clear why that judge may have been targeted. All three letters to public officials apparently contained threatening messages. The message to the White House and to Senator Wicker were apparently identical.

They said -- quote -- "To see a wrong and not expose it is to become a silent partner to its continuance." It's signed, "I am K.C. and I approve this message."

The other message apparently contained in the letter to the judge contained the language time for somebody to die or words to that effect. We were not able to contact the judge on the phone this evening. We are all waiting for conclusive testing on these substances that have been sent to labs -- Anderson.

COOPER: Joe, Dana Bash earlier had reported from Capitol Hill that this person had sent letters to the senator before, and that's really how they were able to zero in on him.

Is that what you're hearing as well?

JOHNS: Yes, that is what we're hearing, that this individual was known to law enforcement authorities at the Capitol complex.

And they already had a name. In fact, right after we heard about these alleged ricin letters, we also heard that authorities had a person in mind or a person of interest. It took 24 hours or so for them actually to make an arrest. Still, we're told no charges have been filed as yet pending identification conclusively of what the substance is -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Joe, I appreciate the update and I appreciate the reporting.

COOPER: Another important story took a major turn today. Senate Republicans joined by four Democrats in pro-gun states defeated a bipartisan proposal to expand background checks on gun sales.

The vote was 54-46. Shortly after the vote, President Obama blasted the senators who torpedoed the bill and the gun lobbyists who fought it. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington. The fact is, most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn't want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun. There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn't do this.

It came down to politics. The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords obviously standing next to President Obama.

She responded to the Senate vote in a "New York Times" op-ed writing, "Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot beside me, six of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents, who polls show overwhelmingly favor expanding the background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them," she wrote.

Chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins me again, also, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Dana, the president not only lost most Republicans on this vote. He also lost a number of Democrats, even though this was supposed to be a compromise piece of legislation. What happened?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right.

Four Democrats, that's the number that he lost, which, if you look at it, isn't very much, but it is absolutely crucial and it made the difference between winning this with 60 votes and losing. If you look at those Democrats, Anderson, all but one are up for reelection next year in very red states, in very pro-gun states.

That was something that was very hard for the president to take, but his -- there's no question that he and the people around him understood the politics of it. I think what surprised them the most was that there was a very conservative Republican, Pat Toomey, on this piece of legislation, and he was able to get virtually nobody, no Republicans that they weren't -- that they didn't sort of think they had in the bag before.

What happened? Look, I think the president -- I don't think anybody would argue with the fact that the president made a very cogent argument today of what happened. It is politics, it is genuine fear of the gun lobby. And I talked to several people who were in the room with these senators who they thought were on the fence, and it was clear to them, they thought, that these senators were looking for ways to get out of it, as opposed to ways to say yes.

COOPER: Gloria, President Obama obviously visibly angry and emotional today, which is not something we really see all that often from him.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I thought he was more passionate today than I hardly ever have seen him in the past.

This wasn't an issue that the president really wanted to take on. But it was an issue after Newtown that he decided to take on, because it's clearly something that he felt very strongly about. He lobbied for this measure as we haven't seen him lobby in the past. And what you heard today was a president saying to his supporters, you need to bring the same passion and commitment to gun control that our opponents in the NRA do, that we ought to learn a lesson from them.

It was clearly a president I believe trying to frame the 2014 election and saying, you know what, we have to vote the same way the vocal minority votes in this country. And I think this is coming down to 2014 and the midterms. And if you look at all of the Republicans running for reelection in the Senate, only one of them, Susan Collins of Maine, voted for this expansion of background checks today, Anderson.

COOPER: Dana, the president indicated there would be more votes on this in the future. But with the 2014 midterm elections looming, do you really see the outcome changing?

BASH: No. The short answer is no.

In fact, we expect there to be some more votes tomorrow with regard to the larger piece of legislation, gun legislation. But I would not be surprised at all if the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, decided based on what happened today to kind of put the legislation aside and move on, because another answer to your question, of course, the complicated answer to why this happened is because there are other very important issues that are tough social issues for some of these conservatives, conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans to try to take votes on. Immigration reform is the next one.

And so, there are a lot of people here who think that it's time to at least, if they're going to have this defeat, move on to that, because that's also going to be a very, very hard lift. And it's also something that I was told, Anderson, that some of these senators on the fence were telling maybe the White House and other advocates that that's the reason they didn't want to bite the bullet, so to speak, on guns, because they knew they were going to have to take tough votes they already committed to on immigration and other things.

COOPER: Yes.

Dana, I appreciate the reporting, Gloria as well.

We have got more breaking news to tell you about tonight, a lot going on tonight, an apparently massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas. This is happening about 18 miles north of Waco. We have got very few details so far.

We do know a field triage station has been set up at the plant. The chief of a local hospital says that doctors have been told to expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 people hurt. But, again, these are early reports. I want to caution these are very early reports. We are going to trying to gather more information and we will bring that to you shortly.

Back to the story here, though, so many people sustained serious and life-changing injuries in the bombing. I'm going to speak with a woman whose two brothers each lost a leg and a man who just left the hospital last night with shrapnel wounds. A number of his friends have lost their limbs. He considers himself very lucky to be alive.

And we will have the latest details on the investigation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING) COOPER: That's new video, another perspective, another angle of the destruction at the finish line.

The attack in Boston has not broken the spirit of this city, not by a long shot. But there's no denying that for so many people, their lives have been changed forever. The kind of injuries that many are now trying to recover from. Hard to imagine Catlin Norden's two brothers each lost a leg in the bombing. She joins me now here along with Steve Byrne who was also injured and just left the hospital last night.

Caitlin and Steve, thank you so much for being with us. First of all, how are your brothers doing?

CAITLIN NORDEN, TWO BROTHERS EACH LOST A LEG IN ATTACK: They're hanging in there.

COOPER: They're hanging in there. You weren't there, you come down obviously to --

(CROSSTALK)

NORDEN: I was -- yes, I -- no, I was watching in Boston, in Fenway.

COOPER: Where were they in relation to the blast?

NORDEN: They were at the second bomb.

COOPER: The second bomb.

NORDEN: Like right on top of it.

COOPER: Goodness.

And Steve, how are you doing, you just left the hospital last night?

STEVE BYRNE, INJURED IN ATTACK: We're getting there, you know, glad to be out and just compared to how my friends are and stuff, you know, it's -- as bad as it is, I can't complain. Just -- I was six inches away from -- being the same way as them, losing limbs and stuff like that. I just was fortunate enough to have the mailbox take most of the impact from the lower half of my body. The rest of the shrapnel, you know, anything above the height of the mailbox is what caught in the face, neck.

COOPER: So where were you standing? Just so in relationship to the first explosion?

BYRNE: We were at the second --

COOPER: You were at the second?

BYRNE: Yes.

COOPER: Wow.

BYRNE: And there was right where you see the picture where they show the backpack and the mailbox, that's exactly where we were.

COOPER: So you are -- if you were facing the mailbox you were to the right of it?

BYRNE: Just to the left of it. They were to the right of it.

COOPER: OK.

BYRNE: So that's why they suffered, you know.

COOPER: So the shrapnel that hit you is shrapnel that came over the mailbox?

BYRNE: Came all those BB's, nails. So, you know, my friend had 70 nails in his leg.

COOPER: Seventy nails.

BYRNE: Seventy nails. And you know, I had BBs, there's still one in my neck that the doctors couldn't take out because it's too close to my nerves that control my vision. Most of my face came out, you know, due to the surgery and stuff like that. And just burns. I mean, it burned the clothes right off of us, it was --

COOPER: Really? Your clothes were actually burned off you?

BYRNE: Right off of us. Just undescribable.

COOPER: Do you remember the blast?

BYRNE: I remember everything about it.

COOPER: Really?

BYRNE: Yes.

COOPER: Can you walk me through? I mean, what stands --

BYRNE: The first explosion went off just down the block from us. And --

COOPER: Did you know something was wrong then?

BYRNE: We knew it wasn't something to do with the marathon, and, you know, we were ready to get going and get out of there, and our friend, you know, Jared said, let's get the girls over the fence. And just as he said that, is when the explosion hit. It blew me over the fence into the streets and stuff some of --

COOPER: It actually carried you over?

BYRNE: It carried me over, and just the force, and the heat, and the burn from it, the chemicals in the bomb, just had me on fire and everyone else -- as I came through, just in the days of, you know, what was going on, just looking for my friends and stuff like that. It was just absolute chaos. You know, I saw things that, you know, I wish I didn't see. You know, people losing limbs and just stuff -- it was bad.

COOPER: Could you hear anything after the -- I talked to some people who said they couldn't hear anything. They could see people's lips moving but --

BYRNE: It was like in the movie, "The Town", when the flash grenade went off, and all you can hear is that high pitch noise. That's all that it was, and it's like it was in slow motion just seeing what was going on. But, you know, half the people ran away and then the other half of the people ran to help. So it was -- it was amazing to see the amount of people that stood by us to help us out. And just -- it was catastrophic, just the way -- I mean, just to know what was going on, and not knowing where anyone I came with, you know, four out of my five friends lost their limbs and literally just --

COOPER: Four out of your five friends?

BYRNE: Yes. Just -- and we're all very close friends. I mean, her two brothers, I know the family well. And they're like brothers to me, I love them to death. And I just -- I wish the best to everybody, our friend Mark, you know, he lost both of his legs most likely.

NORDEN: No.

BYRNE: And Noah.

NORDEN: No, one. One leg.

BYRNE: He's borderline with that. And just pray to God that he, you know, pulls through. And just -- we were having a great day and waiting to see our friend cross the finish line, and then all of a sudden, just it turned in a flash.

COOPER: Do you know how long your brother is going to have to be in the hospital for?

NORDEN: One of my brothers is like coherent now and talking, he's off the ventilator. The other one is not so.

COOPER: He's still on the ventilator?

NORDEN: Yes. So he's actually in surgery right now.

COOPER: And they're in separate hospitals?

NORDEN: One's at Beth Israel and one's at Brigham and Women.

COOPER: I understand that your brother keeps asking about each other.

NORDEN: My brother is asking.

COOPER: Yes. How is your family doing? I mean, how's --

NORDEN: Surprisingly, my mom is holding up. And she's a trooper, because I don't know, I couldn't do it.

COOPER: Yes.

NORDEN: So going back and forth and she wants to be at one and wants to be at the other. And she's doing it, though, so.

COOPER: Yes. Caitlin, I'm so sorry for what your family is going through. Please give them our best best wishes.

I'm glad you're doing OK.

BYRNE: Thank you very much.

COOPER: And sorry to hear about all your friends.

BYRNE: I'm just hoping that everyone sticks by everybody for the bills. No matter. You know, we're all self-employed and no one, you know, there's just -- everyone is concerned with the medical bills and that's, you know, phenomenal, just people willing to step up and help us with that. But people forget, too, that, you know, our friend Jared is a carpenter, both his hands are incinerated. He can't go to work. You know, the bills keep coming in and stuff. And people don't realize that. It's just the hospitals. It's everyday life that doesn't stop.

COOPER: So -- I mean, how is that working? Are you paying your own hospital bills or is there -- how does that work right now?

BYRNE: We've heard numerous things from people that, you know, so and so will help pay or this will help pay, and there's foundations for this, fund-raisers that have been set up for us. For everybody affected, not just us, but to help with the medical bills and stuff like that. But --

COOPER: Especially with those who have lost limbs. I mean, I was talking to a guy about prosthetic devices today. Those are -- those can cost $50,000. And you've got to renew --

NORDEN: People have everything else.

COOPER: They are?

NORDEN: Yes.

BYRNE: People are definitely trying --

NORDEN: We will have any -- yes. It's -- the support was like tremendous.

COOPER: Yes. Well --

BYRNE: We're just hoping that, you know, the mayor, the governor, President Obama, that they don't let us citizens down in the United States of America. You know, we're hardworking people and that in the time of need with a terrorist act on American soil, we're just really hoping that our country steps up for us and that they're there, and not one person affected by this catastrophic events has to deal with the burdens of financial problems afterwards. COOPER: Sure. Yes.

BYRNE: Not to mention with the physical things they have to live their life with now.

COOPER: Sure. We're going to put all the information on our Web site for how people can help out. And obviously that's going to -- also get more sorted out in the days ahead. And so we're going to continue on that, keeping updating that Web site. So again --

BYRNE: That'd be excellent. Thank you very much.

COOPER: Appreciate -- yes.

BYRNE: Appreciate it. Thank you.

COOPER: All right. Be careful.

NORDEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks so much.

BYRNE: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Stay strong.

Incredible. Caitlin Norden and Steve Byrne.

Authorities say they have made significant progress in the Boston terror investigation. There's a lot they are not sharing, obviously. The question is, how much closer are they tonight to cracking the case or where are they on the case?

Coming up, we'll give you the latest information that we have.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COOPER: We've got more breaking news to report. We now have images from that massive fertilizer plant explosion. The plant is 18 miles north of Waco in Texas. We've got chopper video from the local affiliate. What appears to be a triage area nearby. With us now on the phone is Glenn Robinson, CEO of Hillcrest Hospital in Waco.

Mr. Robinson, what can you tell us?

GLENN ROBINSON, CEO, HILLCREST HOSPITAL (via phone): Hi, Anderson. As can you imagine it's a very unfortunate situation here in central Texas tonight. Here at Hillcrest, we're the regional trauma center, we've already received more than a dozen patients via ambulance. An additional 20 by private vehicle.

We're being told by officials on the scene that we can anticipate many more before the night is over. Very serious situation. Fortunately, we're backed up by other area hospitals. Our sister hospitals, Scott & White Memorial in Temple and also Provident Hospital here in Waco, are assisting us as well.

COOPER: What sort of injuries are you seeing?

ROBINSON: As you can imagine, with a massive explosion that has taken out the size that you're seeing on your screen, you can only imagine the type of injuries everything from orthopedic injuries, to patients that are experiencing serious blood loss. We are encouraging residents who want to help to please don't come to the hospital this evening.

We are setting up a blood donor center in the morning at 9:00 here in Waco with Carter Blood Center. So if they could wait. They'll be taking donations all day. We do need their blood, we want them to help. But coming to the hospital would not be a good thing tonight.

Also I -- we have just established a special phone number for loved ones and friends who are worried about their loved ones, and they can call area code 254-202-1100. That's 254-202-1100. That's a special hotline here at Hillcrest Scott & White. They can call and we will try to provide them as much information about their loved ones as possible. And that would be a good way to hopefully get additional information.

COOPER: How long has this been going on? When did you start to receive your first patients?

ROBINSON: We received the call right in the 8:00 hour Central Time. We were receiving our first injury by 8:15 here at our trauma center. And we have had a steady flow of patients coming in by ambulance. And also by private vehicle. We are well equipped in this region tonight with helicopters. Unfortunately, we have high winds in the area. And we're not able to use our chopper aircraft as much as we would have liked to, but our ground team is doing a great job as I heard.

As you came out of the break, you noted the special triage center that's been set up there by the Heart of Texas RAC and that's part of our system. And we're trying to set up that triage center on site --

COOPER: We're looking at that right now.

ROBINSON: -- to make sure that we're getting the patients who need more treatment sent there.

COOPER: I just want to give our viewers a sense of what -- what you're describing is what we're looking at right now. It looks like -- is it a football field, a stadium that the triage area is on, Glenn?

ROBINSON: Yes, your information is very good. That is the football field at west Texas, the community that was the home of the West Fertilizer Plant that exploded. It is at the hometown football field and we're setting that triage center up there. So if anyone is listening to this, and they're looking for the nearest medical resources, that would be the best place for them to initially go.

COOPER: And we do have one photo, Glenn, of what -- I'm going to be seeing it for the first time. So I just want to bring that up on our screen. It looks like a massive fireball. Have you been told anything about the cause of this? Is the fire -- is the fire still burning?

ROBINSON: We have very little information on this end. As can you imagine our focus has been truly on the patients that we're receiving, and we've had very little information from any of the local authorities there about any, you know, origin of the explosion. But we were told that it was near a residential area, near an apartment complex. And that many of the injuries are coming from the residential areas as well as the folks who worked in the plant.

COOPER: So, Glenn, your advice to anyone listening, or anyone who's in touch with somebody who is injured is to get to that triage area as opposed to trying to make it to Hillcrest Hospital or one of -- one of the other hospitals?

ROBINSON: Yes. Well, if they have a private vehicle and they have someone to drive them, then yes, come by private vehicle. Both of our large facilities here in Waco were set up to take them by private car. And we're conveniently located fortunately on Interstate 35. And so we are easy to get to and folks know where we are. So they're welcome to come here, they're welcome to see help at the triage center, whatever may be most convenient for them.

COOPER: And Glenn, I can tell you, we just got video taken about a minute ago, I'm told, of the fire still burning. We're going to put that up for our viewers. So it appears that the fire clearly still burning. We saw what seemed to be a massive explosion, and obviously, Glenn, so you said you've received about a dozen people by ambulance and how many by private vehicle?

ROBINSON: Yes, we've received more than 20 -- that number is continuing to climb by private vehicle. And, Anderson, I've just been told by a leader of our special ops team here that's helping us in our command center that the weather is clearing for us and choppers are mobile and we have at least six choppers that are now able to serve the scene and be able to bring them here and also (INAUDIBLE). And we've got another 15 coming by ground, I've just been told.

COOPER: Goodness. Glenn, I'm going to let you go because I know you're going to be incredibly busy. I don't want to do anything to interfere. So I appreciate you talking to us, Glenn Robinson, CEO of Hillcrest Hospital in Waco.

Again, let's -- want to recap, what appears to be a massive explosion said to be at a fertilizer plant 18 miles or so outside of Waco, Texas. No clear indication on the number of injuries, but a triage area has been set up at a -- on a nearby football field. And we just talked to Glenn Robinson of Hillcrest Hospital. They've received I believe he said more than 20 injuries, wounded people by ambulance. Dozens more by private vehicle. Also choppers in the air and more people coming in as he was speaking.

It is obviously a very fluid situation. This is still early on in this incident in the aftermath of this incident. The fire is still burning, we're looking at live pictures right there. We are getting these images as we are showing them to you. And we're going to take a short break. Try to find out some more information. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. We've got just continuing information on what appears to be a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant outside Waco, Texas. We have a freelance photographer who's on his way to the scene. His name is Bage Anderson. He joins us now by phone.

What can you tell us about what you are seeing and where are you precisely?

BAGE ANDERSON, PHOTOGRAPHER (via phone): Anderson, I'm at a roadblock just northwest of the scene. And (INAUDIBLE) just short of I-35. The Maribel Street Exit where I was stopped by state troopers and not allowed to go any further. Said trooper wears a gradient aspirator and I'm seeing that only emergency personnel get beyond where (INAUDIBLE) where he was. And that folks were being evacuated to the community center in west.

I see a -- driving north on I-35, I saw a number of ambulances and official cars with the lights on traveling towards Waco, and I'm only assuming they were taking injured to the local hospitals. As I approached west, I saw that the exits were blocked off I-35. The main west exit and (INAUDIBLE). Just north of that on the Maribel Street Exit where I got off is where the state trooper met me.

Right before I got to the exit I flipped over to the left and saw a number of homes in flames. And lots of smoke. That seemed to be drifting to the northwest. And I have three helicopters above me. They seem to be monitoring the situation. And that's where I'm at right now. I was told that folks are being evacuated to the community center. That's where I plan to go next.

COOPER: Right. I just talked to the CEO of a local hospital who has received more than 20 patients wounded by ambulance. Dozens more by private vehicle so it seems both ambulances and private vehicles are being used simply because the sheer number of people who seemed to have been injured in this.

How many houses did you see on fire?

ANDERSON: I could not identify the structures. I don't know if they were homes but I thought at least three in flames. And --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: OK. We're also told a number of choppers, Life Flight helicopters, are in the air. Not clear if they are en route to the scene or they are bringing wounded from the triage area to the hospital. But we're told that there are at least six in that -- in that area.

Have you heard anything about what may have caused this -- caused this explosion?

ANDERSON: The only thing -- I heard early reports from acquaintances I have in Waco that it was a fertilizer plant that exploded. And it's a fertilizer plant that's situated close to a local nursing home. I also report that a daughter of a friend of mine who lives five miles away from it, the location, had her front door blown in. So these are -- these are the reports that I'm hearing.

COOPER: Wow. Amazing.

Hey, I want to bring in Tommy Alford, who says he actually saw the explosion. He's joining us now on the phone.

Tommy, thanks for joining us. What did you see?

TOMMY ALFORD, EYEWITNESS (via phone): Well, I mean, I was here at my -- our store right in the center of town. And they had got a call, some of the guys, the volunteer fire department. They come in here all the time. And they were in here just hanging out, and they got a call and they said the West Fertilizer Plant was on fire. And they were like, all right. So they took off, and a few minutes later, a guy pulled up here, yes, I can see the flames from here, so we walk out in the middle of the street, and we can see them. And not a minute later, it exploded. It was -- it was pretty massive, it was intense. Windows across the street blew out --

COOPER: Do you have any idea how many people work --

(CROSSTALK)

ALFORD: Store here fell off the walls. I mean, all down the center of the town like a lot of the windows in a lot of stores and a lot of buildings were blown out. It was pretty -- it was pretty breathtaking.

COOPER: Do you have any sense, Tommy, of how many people work at this fertilizer plan at this hour?

ALFORD: Not many. I mean, I know -- I know they closed down at about 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon. There's not usually a lot of people there but I know there was people on site. And -- including all the volunteer fire department headed that way. And I mean, I couldn't tell you how many people got hurt, but I know all the volunteer fire department that was in here was over there on site when it happened.

COOPER: And are you still able to see flames at this point?

ALFORD: No, not right now, no. I just closed down the store. I'm still here, and they're saying a possible secondary explosion is possible. I mean, they're -- I don't know, I'm not sure about the whole evacuation thing that's going on. I just closed down the store. But, I mean, they say there is a possibility, because there are live gas lines over there.

COOPER: And we're looking at live pictures right now from our affiliate WFAA on the left hand side of your screen, also on the right hand side of your screen, is the triage area that has been set up on the nearby football field where -- Tommy, how far are you from that football field?

ALFORD: I'm going to say maybe two and a half miles. I'm right down the road. I'm in the center of town.

COOPER: And how -- how far is the football field from the fertilizer plant?

ALFORD: Not even -- I'd say maybe a mile, not even. Maybe a few -- I'd say probably --

COOPER: OK. So it's very close.

ALFORD: Nine hundred, 700 yards.

COOPER: All right. Listen, Tommy, I appreciate it. I'm sorry for all that your town is going through. Hold on for a second. The spokesman for the Texas Department -- excuse me, I'm just getting some more information right now. Go ahead. We're just getting information -- I'm sorry, what's the source of that information? I'm sorry I'm talking to a producer in my ear.

The spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Department of Public Safety has told Reuters that a nearby nursing home has collapsed and a number of people who are in that nursing home are trapped, believed to be, believed to be trapped inside.

Again, this comes from Reuters quoting a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety saying that a nearby nursing home seems to have collapsed and people may be trapped inside. This is obviously a very fluid situation. We're trying to be very accurate and cautious in what we're reporting.

We're just talking to Tommy Alford who saw the initial explosion. Felt the impact of it, we're going to take a short break. Our coverage continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper live in Boston. We are following a breaking situation, a massive explosion at a -- what appears to be a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant outside Waco, Texas, you're looking at the pictures that we are -- video that we are showing you on the left-hand side of the screen. On the right-hand side that's a helicopter shot, I can't quite make it out. But we have been seeing images of a triage field that has been set up on a nearby football field.

The football field which is about a mile or so away from the -- from the site of the explosion. That is a still photo you're just seeing. That's now the video of the triage field that has been set up. We do not have an accurate sense of how many injuries there may be. We did just talk to the CEO of a nearby hospital -- and again, we're showing you live pictures right now of that triage field -- who is recommending anybody in the nearby area, that needs treatment to go to that triage field.

Already at the nearby hospital they have seen more than 20 people coming in by ambulance, they have had dozens more coming in through private vehicles. Choppers are in the air bringing even more patients. And as we were speaking to him just a few moments ago, even more patients were arriving by private vehicles and by ambulances.

You're seeing -- we are getting some new video now of the explosion -- excuse me, a new still photo we're going to show you in just a moment. A huge plume of smoke. That's a still photo of the explosion, not clear how long after the initial explosion that was taken, but it does show obviously the power of the blast and the height that it reached into the sky.

We have a photographer en route to the area. The entire area has been cordoned off. He has seen state law enforcement personnel wearing respirators. Obviously, it's a fertilizer plant it's not clear what kind of things may be burning.

Local residents said the plant would have been closed down at the hour of the explosion. A few personnel out there. But not a huge number but it clearly seems they are setting up for and already hospitals have seen a large number of wounded people.

And my colleague Erin Burnett is here. She's going to be taking over our coverage of this blast. Obviously this is a major story that we're following.