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Press Conference from Waco, Texas; People Gathering for Boston Memorial; "Like a Nuclear Bomb Went Off"; Investigators Pinpoint "Possible Suspects"

Aired April 18, 2013 - 09:30   ET


SGT. WILLIAM PATRICK SWANTON, WACO POLICE DEPT.: Those specific questions about what goes on, the intimate questions about whether there have been problems there before, potential fires there before, will have to come from somebody that would know that inside the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Estimate how many people from your department and various agencies are working that scene and working the surrounding area at this point?

SWANTON: I can tell you from my first response last night, about 9:30 last night when I pulled up on scene just north of West, there was a contingent of law enforcement, firefighters, from Waco, law enforcement from Waco, the Clinton County sheriff's department. Emergency management team. There were scores of volunteers, and I don't mean to leave anybody out, but I'm telling you I saw a bare minimum of 300 to 400 people there in an official capacity. I know that law enforcement, firefighters from the Dallas /Ft. Worth area are here assisting us as well and there folks from all over as far as the state (ph) at this point.

Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have investigators made contact with the owners of the plant?

SWANTON: I am not aware of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) do you know of any persons that (INAUDIBLE)

SWANTON: Okay, you're going to have to accept my apologies. I think I understood you to say if there were any Turkish nationalities --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turkish or any international employees.

SWANTON: Not that I'm aware of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has the identity of the law enforcement officer in the hospital been released?

SWANTON: It is known, but it has not been released.

Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long to do envision the search and recovery mission to take (INAUDIBLE)?

SWANTON: There is not an estimate on that from what I'm hearing. They will go until they figure they have done everything they need to do. Again, there is no -- no rush to hurry up and move from search and rescue to recovery. I assure you, we would much rather do search and rescue instead of move into recovery mode. Unfortunate side of that is at some point, yes, we will move into that recovery mode, but we're not there yet.

Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you made any positive IDs on the casualties that you know of?

SWANTON: I don't know. I have not heard names of casualties.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mentioned 5 to 15 casualties in an earlier press conference. Do you have a breakdown of the first responders, the general public (INAUDIBLE)?

SWANTON: No. (AUDIO BREAK) I know, that's what the numbers I'm hearing are from 5 to 15. I can tell you that the numbers I've heard on the firefighters have been 3 to 5. But, again, none of that is verified. It's just very limited intel that I'm getting from people that are hearing secondhand from folks on the scene.


SWANTON: Absolutely. There are a lots of help here. Red Cross is here. The community has come out in force. I told you earlier this is a very tight-knit, very family-packed, family-oriented community. They are -- man, you talk about leaning on each other's shoulders, they are absolutely doing that at this point.

Somebody asked me earlier what will this do this to the people that don't have anywhere to go and the weather moves in and rain. I can promise you the city of West citizens will not let a person stand out in the rain. Whether they know you, know you or not, they will bring you into their home, and you will be comfortable. That's where we are, the that's the good thing about that community. They're a good, strong, solid community.

Red Cross is here, there are other agencies here, assisting. Mental health agencies are here, there are counselors, grief counselors that are there. That's what's going on at the high school from my understanding. That all of those pieces of the puzzle are in place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are many people that wonder if they can (INAUDIBLE) they want to help. What should they do?

SWANTON: Stand by for the help stuff. I will tell you that I know there has been an outpouring of food, water, blankets, certainly prayers at this point for this community. I have not been told of any immediate needs. The city of West is very self-sufficient. If there is anything they need, I can promise you, the West people will get that taken care of. I will tell you there have been businesses that I know of in Waco that stayed open all night, that have been shipping supplies to us, there are restaurants that have been shipping supplies up here to the responders, to the community, to the people that have been evacuated from their homes and neighborhoods, those folks are not hurting for material needs right now, obviously, emotional issues for them, without a doubt at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you including the three to four missing firefighters in the 5-15 count?

SWANTON: I don't know. I don't know if the number co-relates (ph) to each other.

Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant, do you have more detail on the looting of items that you are aware of?

SWANTON: I don't. That's what I said earlier. I have heard that has occurred. I don't know that they have made arrests. It may be someone they saw in a home that ran, I don't have the specifics on exactly what occurred.

UNIDENTIFIED MAKE: How do you know it's looting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any attempt to being the National Guard in?

SWANTON: Not at this point. Plenty of law enforcement, they have certainly offered help. There has not been anybody that has not called and said we are offering you help if you need it from the governor's office to the federal folks, there has been a massive outpouring of help. At this point, the town is secure, there are plenty of law enforcement officials stationed around the town. There will have to be some relief at some point, because people can't stay here forever. There will be some relief at some point. DPS is here, DPS is state wide. They brought in troops from all over the state as well.


SWANTON: One more time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Firefighters (INAUDIBLE) do they need water?

SWANTON: I don't know. Somebody asked me firefighters methods, I have no clue, other than to tell you that they were here, they knew it was a chemical issue, I'm still fairly confident to tell you those folks knew what they were doing, I don't know what apparatus they had or what they were using.


SWANTON: I think that that threat level has dropped significantly since it started. I know last night about 10:30, that was a real threat, especially for officers in the area being very flammable, very explosive. The fire was under those tanks, and it's my understanding now, that fire is under control, and I think hence the safety of the threat level has dropped somewhat. Somebody else I haven't got?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any details on damage?

SWANTON: Still what I'm hearing is 50 to 75 homes, numerous businesses, an apartment complex, 50-unit apartment complex, lots of cars, vehicle damage, traditional concussion type damage. Some homes leveled, some have windows broken out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you narrate how the (INAUDIBLE)?

SWANTON: These are our neighbors, we're coming to help. You will find that in Texas. You will find that across the United States. We have seen that in all of these national tragedies that have occurred. We put everything aside when it comes to these types of situations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your reaction (INAUDIBLE) did you guys feel (ph) it? Is that how you responded (ph) or (INAUDIBLE)?

SWANTON: No, they called. It is my understanding that the seismic graph in Amarillo registered 2.5. That a pretty big explosion. As far as where all of the stuff, I'm not sure.

Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there an unexploded tank in the plant (INAUDIBLE)?

SWANTON: There are anhydrous ammonia tanks. If you don't know what that is, it's a type of fertilizer that farmers put in their crops. There are probably numerous anhydrous tanks. Some of them big, some pull behind a truck. Initial reports told us there may have been a tanker truck, meaning a railroad type car, one of the big railroad cars that was filled with anhydrous ammonia.


SWANTON: Somebody that I haven't --


SWANTON: Rain is just something they are dealing with. Not been a significant issue one way or the other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What, if any, surviving members of the plant or plant management are present or would have been present through the night working with law enforcement? Do you have any knowledge of--

SWANTON: I don't know that, but I can tell you, if they were here and we were aware, initial reports I heard that the owner or manager of the West Fertilizer Plant was en route. I don't know where he is, but my belief is that they will be here, they are available to assist, and I have not heard that we have put any type of lookout trying to find them. Obviously, they would have key information, what's there. What's in certain parts of the building. What type of chemicals are there. I have not heard of us looking for folks to give us those answers, so I'm assuming they're there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know where he was coming from?

SWANTON: I'm guessing he lives somewhere in the West community.

Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Spell your last name.

SWANTON: Swanton, S-W-A-N-T-O-N.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any ideas about the blast radio (ph) were (ph) on (ph) (INAUDIBLE)

SWANTON: I don't have miles, but I have heard as far as five blocks homes were leveled.



SWANTON: Is there still? Certainly there is still a concern. I don't think it's a significant issue at this point. Not a significant concern. Obviously something they are aware about. We know what's there. We know that the potential for things to re-ignite or for things to become explosive again, but from my understanding at that point, we're okay. All right.

Thanks again. I will tell you I'll be back again with you at the next briefing whenever. Hopefully that will be at some point I can say here's the new folks you're going to talk to. And if there's anything significant between now and then, I will get back with you.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: William Patrick. Thank you.



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Okay, we just finished a presser down in West, Texas. West is the name of the town where the situation is going on. Still pressing a desperate situation. We heard from Sergeant Swanton of the Waco police. Waco is a neighboring town. It's got more facilities, helping out greatly in this situation. Here are headlines, the fire is basically under control it is not out. They do not believe right now there is a risk of further explosions. It is still search and rescue, which means they are finding people that they can help and assist, it's not just about going through to recover those who didn't make it through the fire. So that's good news.

That said, the sergeant couldn't give new numbers of injured, they could not update numbers of those who have lost their lives, because it is a developing situation. The urgency is just finding as many as you can and not counting at this point.

Firefighters, volunteer firefighters from their community. First responders on the fire. Several are still missing and that search and rescue is also to cover them, try and find them as well and the sergeant made a point of saying that there's no word of the cause, it's being treated as a crime scene preliminarily, and the chemical component of this, anhydrous ammonia, he's aware of it, they're dealing with it as best they know how. They say there's nothing important about it right now. There's no continuing risk, so that was good to hear also. And that

And the community is leaning on each other very hard and helping each other, and that's what's getting them through right now. Those are the headlines from what's going on down in West, Texas.

We'll keep monitoring the situation as we stand by in Boston. Waiting for the interfaith profession (ph) they will have today with clergy and the president. Back after a break.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Taking a look at live pictures coming in from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, around that time this service will begin. Technically they are calling it "Healing our city, interfaith service". Representatives of the major religions will participate at the service.

The President will be there. He will speak as well. The First Lady will be there. She is not scheduled to speak. We'll hear from the Mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino. We'll also hear from the Governor, Deval Patrick. Yo-Yo Ma will have a musical selection. And Cardinal Sean O'Malley will reflect as well.

This will be an emotional moment probably an hour, hour and a half service that we're all anticipating, starting at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Chris Cuomo is already over at the Cathedral standing by for the service. This is one of those moments, Chris, where we expect the President to emerge in an effort to comfort, not only the city and the state, but the entire country.

CUOMO: I think that's right, Wolf. I think that he definitely has the nation's ear today and certainly clergy and dignitaries, politicians, felt that this was important to do. They invited him. He had, of course, accepted. And they're going to want to hear the message today about what this means and what it doesn't mean in terms of how you let the situations affect us. How we learn and move forward.

I know the community is going to hear that message in a very serious way today and it's going to resonate throughout the country. I think your point is exactly right.

And while we're waiting for this to begin, we're also monitoring a very serious situation in West, Texas. They have been fighting a massive fire overnight. There was a huge explosion that was so powerful it literally registered as an earthquake. We just came off a presser now, it's still a developing situation there. But we want to go to Martin Savidge.

Martin, if you're with us, what is the best sense of how under control the fire is and how much they have been able to do to make their way through the houses and see how much of the city is intact?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes well, daylight is going to help as far as doing some sort of cursory look at the damage, but as far as things being under control, it's quite clear that authorities feel more comfortable this morning than they certainly did say at 10:00 last night.

They say that the fires are pretty much down to just embers, and as long as they burn, there is still a concern, but much less of a concern than they had. They don't believe that there is the threat of explosion and they say that there is no indication that there is a leak coming from the other tank of anhydrous ammonia, which of course would be devastating if that were the fact. So that sounds like they've got the situation under control.

Other good news, the weather seems to be improving. Temperatures dropped dramatically, but at least the rain, the heavy wind that is pushing out of the area. That's going help. And then on top of that are the other factors, daylight, this allows the search and rescue teams to really focus on what has to be done. They've done the cursory look. They've gone through the entire area that's been impacted by the blast according to authorities, but that's the initial get anybody who is still alive, get them and get them out -- the obvious.

Now they're going to go back, do it methodically, do it slowly, do it carefully still with the idea that this is search and rescue. It is not turned to recovery. Search and rescue is still looking for survivors and to that end there are some concerns. Firefighters -- they are missing. But there was at least one bit of good news. An officer who was found alive.

Listen to the update we got.


SGT. PATRICK SWANTON, WACO POLICE DEPARTMENT: I know that we've had 160-plus that have been treated at our local hospitals. We know that we have several firefighters that are still missing. We have accounted for the law enforcement official. He is in the hospital in critical condition. But we're still looking for those firefighters.


SAVIDGE: And Chris, you've got to worry, though, about those missing firefighters because their training would, of course, tell them to report in. If they had any way to do that they would do that. It's possible they may be trapped and that they could be found alive and well. But I think as the passing hours go people are going to be more and more concerned that these missing firefighters could be added to the number of casualties which right now authorities say ranges between five and 15 -- Chris.

CUOMO: Obviously we're going to hold out hope there, Martin. Thank you for the latest from the ground. Still a developing situation and hopefully those fires stay down without any benefit of wind and the situation starts to improve. We'll be checking back in with you on the other side of the break.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Chris, thanks very much. As we get new developments on what's going on in Texas, as we await the start of the interfaith service where the President will speak.

Now let's get the latest right now on the investigation, the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. Joining us now is Juliette Kayyem. She's CNN's homeland security analyst; a columnist for the "Boston Globe". Also Jake Tapper has been watching what's going on. They seem to be making pretty significant progress. There are all these reports out there Juliette that there are two individuals -- I don't know if we can call them suspects.


BLITZER: But they're narrowing in on these two individuals who were seen on this videotape.

KAYYEM: That's exactly right. So the information is trickling in. And we haven't had a formal statement from the government or any in the investigators for quite a while. That would mean that they are not prepared to tell the public where they are. Either because the trail is very hot and why -- why sort of stop that -- that investigation or it means that the trail is cold and they're trying to figure out how best to engage the public.

So right now we are in a holding pattern. The information that has come out has been the results of the investigation tactics that were used on Monday and Tuesday which was anyone who has a camera, anyone who has an iPhone, any store that has a -- has a film, give it to us. And then putting the pieces together.

So that's where we are right now. Every person here has said this may be a long investigation. They cannot make it clear that the most important thing is solid evidence, the right person and a guilty verdict. And that's all that matters to them. In that sense they're in no hurry. BLITZER: And the FBI and local law enforcement, they have not released the images of these two -- these two people.

KAYYEM: No and they're --

BLITZER: Who were near the finishing line carrying these bags.

KAYYEM: That's exactly. They're being careful in that sense.

BLITZER: Why wouldn't they release those pictures?

KAYYEM: Because they're not, I think either they're not sure -- once you call someone a suspect in this it has a lot of implications for them and then for others who might be apt to act on it. So you don't do that casually.

BLITZER: You don't want to spear someone needlessly.

KAYYEM: Right. And you also -- look, if they came out with pictures and it's not them our sense of the competency of this investigation would be undermined. And so that's the -- the slowness of getting it out. I mean just there really -- the focus now is on the investigation because unfortunately the -- the attack has already happened. You're not going to go back to April 14th. And in that sense they're just being methodical in terms of what they're going to release at this stage.

BLITZER: Jake, I know you've been spending a lot of time talking to people here in Boston. They clearly have been shaken by what happened on Monday.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes it's definitely a city that's still on edge. People wanting to go about their day and return to some sort of sense of normalcy. But as one Bostonian with whom we spoke put it, however much there is a desire to heal, there are still too many people in the intensive care unit. There's a crime scene in the middle of Back Bay. And whoever is responsible is still out there.

So very much the individuals, the Bostonians with whom we've spoken are on edge. And very, very unsettled.

BLITZER: It's sort of like, you know, people are trying to get back to normal as you point out, but in the back of their minds they're wondering, could this happen again?

TAPPER: Well and the other thing is, this is the first nice week of weather that Boston's had all year. And normally the parks would be packed. But they're not because a lot of people are very worried about going to places where crowds would congregate.

So you can see the direct result of what happened Monday on the events going on here today.

BLITZER: You live here. What's it like?

KAYYEM: It's strange. I mean, this -- this is really normally the sort of center of Boston.


BLITZER: This area behind us right here.

KAYYEN: This intersection and where that tent is. And so you know it's essentially just sort of closing off the center of it. But people are getting back to normal. It was a school vacation week this week. And so we'll see what next week is like in terms of people coming back to work and -- and school.

But I do have to say I think the -- the sort of calm tone that the leadership and we even had Menino coming out of the hospital --

BLITZER: The mayor.

KAYYEM: Yes, excuse me, the Mayor coming out of the hospital has probably been very good for Bostonians in terms of regrouping and sort of learning from what happened. And so we'll see, you know, as the investigation unfolds if there's a capture. I think there'll be a real big sense of relief.

BLITZER: Yes because there is a killer or killers on the loose right now. And that obviously could upset a lot of folks, especially in this area.

Jake, talk about the President a little bit. You spent a lot of time covering him. We're getting ready to hear his words at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. This is a moment the whole country will be watching and listening.

TAPPER: That's right. We all remember President Clinton after the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. That was a big moment in his presidency where he was calling upon the nation to heal.

BLITZER: A lot of people think it was the turning point in that first term and helped him get re-elected.

TAPPER: This a moment for that kind of soaring oratory and President Obama no doubt has been working with his speech writers on what exactly is the right message to convey.

We heard from Jessica Yellin, our senior White House correspondent earlier today, that he'll be talking not only about the three victims killed in these attacks but also the heroics. As we've been covering all week, Wolf, there were some incredible stories of bravery. People running from this medical tent into the attack, into the smoke to help people.

And Juliette and I were just talking about this. If it weren't for the quick actions of all these first responders the casualty count would have been much, much worse.

KAYYEM: Much higher.

BLITZER: We're seeing similar heroic actions in Texas right now. People just rushing to the scene wanting to help.

KAYYEM: I wish I could say it's the same. The challenge in Texas, although you do see that -- that sense of wanting to help in Texas right now, is when an event happens in the middle of the night, you don't have the resources sort of available. The marathon we had the benefit of having the doctors and the police officers and everyone sort of surging to the event.

You just don't have what we call the surge capacity in a more sort of isolated area like what we're seeing in Texas. S that is going to be a challenge on the response side as we see what's unfolding.

BLITZER: We're getting ready to hear from the President. We're getting ready to hear from religious leaders in Boston, this interfaith service will begin at 11:00 a.m. Eastern or so. We're also watching the after-effects of the explosion that occurred at that fertilizer plant in West, Texas. Much more of our special coverage coming up.


BLITZER: Good morning. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Boston. We're following several, several breaking news stories. It's a remarkable morning of news. We'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We have two major stories we're following right now. First, a truly disastrous, almost jaw-dropping explosion in Texas. The second story, President Obama is in Boston this morning as we get ready for an interfaith service honoring the victims.

Investigators may, repeat, may be closing in on those behind the terror attack at the Boston Marathon on Monday.