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Anatomy of a Terror Attack; Memorial Service for Victims in West, Texas

Aired April 25, 2013 - 05:30   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Breaking news overnight. Explosions and fire now raging out of control on two gas barges in a bay off the Gulf of Mexico.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Were there more missed warning signs? We're learning the FBI may not be the only intelligence agency that had a chance to act on the Boston bombing suspects before the marathon attack.

Plus, the key bomb component that could tell investigators where the suspects learned to build their deadly weapons.


BERMAN (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman live in Boston this morning. We'll have more from here with the latest on the marathon investigation just ahead.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (on-camera): Thanks, John. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York. It is Thursday, April 25th. And we are following breaking news overnight.

Two fuel barges burning at this hour. They're docked in Mobile Bay, Alabama. The flames so dangerous it will be left to burn themselves out now. The barges loaded with gasoline exploded last night. At least six explosions were reported. They were heard up to 20 miles away. The shipping channel is closed right now. Take a look at that fire. At least three people have been hospitalized.

We now know that they are in critical condition. Fire officials believe everyone there has been accounted for. The barges are burning not far from where the crippled Carnival "Triumph" is docked. It was towed back into port back in February after an engine fire left it adrift at sea with more than 4,000 people onboard. We'll continue to monitor that for you -- John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Zoraida. New developments here in the Boston bombings. It turns out that the Russians were so concerned about the radicalization of suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, they not only warned the FBI, they also asked the CIA to check him out. But neither agency felt there was enough detail, enough hard evidence to take any kind of further action. We're also learning more about how the Tsarnaev Brothers allegedly pulled off their act of terror. They apparently used a toy remote control to detonate the explosives. That revelation could be critical for investigators. So, these investigators are now focusing on how those bombs were made and if the Tsarnaev Brothers had any help from foreign militants. CNNs Miguel Marquez joins us now with more on that. Good morning, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning there, John. All of those details are starting to come to light, but I want to take you back to the beginning. It's always shocking to me how close the finish line of the Boston marathon is here to where the first bomb actually went off just right down the way here at marathon sports.

These guys at marathon sports, by the way, aren't sure exactly when they're going to get back into business. This now hallowed ground, people across Boston visiting, walking up and down Boylston Street now that it's open again, but at this particular spot, they come here, it is literally hallowed ground. They stop, they reflect. It is a place of great emotion.

We even have some people who were injured in the blast now starting to return. One woman in a wheelchair yesterday came to this site. There's also a great picture of the man who lost both his legs in this (INAUDIBLE) who is visiting another person in the hospital. Really, people starting to get back together.

On the investigation side of things, it is -- investigators now tell CNN that a remote control device was used to set off those bombs and very important clue, important because it will tell investigators, perhaps, giving them a bit of a road map as to who inspired the bombs, whether it was the al Qaeda magazine "Inspire," the English magazine for al Qaeda, or perhaps, a Dagestani militant.

Important to know because they need to know how these guys developed these bombs, planned their plot, and knowing exactly the construction of those bombs will help do that -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Miguel Marquez on Boylston Street, right at the finish line of the Boston marathon. And Miguel, we saw some joggers run past behind you which is a lovely sight to see in Boston these days. Thanks so much, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Lots of them here.

BERMAN: Boston strong. Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has already called the Boston terror attacks a disgusting crime. And during a televised question and answer session with the Russian people just this morning, he told them the bombings should reinforce the need for more U.S.-Russia counterterrorism cooperation.

But a Chechen opposition leader called the Boston bombings a potential gift to Putin if he tries to enlist the U.S. as an ally in his fight against the Chechen people. The Tsarnaev Brothers, of course, are of Chechen origin and they lived in the neighboring Dagestan region before moving to the United States. We're starting to see how the marathon bombings might affect other big sporting events like the Kentucky Derby, for instance. This year, backpacks, duffle bags, even large purses, they will be banned. And more security staff at Churchill Downs will be screening people before they go through the gate. The derby which is the first leg of horse racing, Triple Crown, is a week from Saturday.

Hopefully, they'll still let people wear those big hats which are really the key to the Kentucky Derby -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I suppose that is really the key to the Kentucky Derby, Mr. Berman. Thank you.

And happening right now --


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): People are picking up the pieces. Residents in this New Orleans suburb, they are assessing the damage this morning after not one but a pair of tornadoes ripped through the area on Wednesday. They were part of a series of really intense storms that battered the region, flooding streets, and leaving some 30,000 customers in Southeast Louisiana in the dark.

And some relief for parts of the soggy Midwest this morning. Floodwaters, north of St. Louis have peaked. And those areas should see the water slowly receding over the next day, perhaps, next two days. Other rivers are still closed to the public because of debris and really fast currents. The National Weather Service says parts of the Mississippi River will peak at more than 11 feet above flood stage. That's incredible.

All right. And this morning, Rhode Island is one step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage. The state Senate approving a bill that extends marriage rights to same-sex couples. Supporters are elated.


JENN STEINFELD, SAME-SEX MARRIAGE ADVOCATE: We did it together in solidarity with such phenomenal people. So, you never know what something is going to feel like, and it feels amazing.


SAMBOLIN: And one finalized by the state House, Rhode Island would become the tenth state to legalize same-sex marriage along with the District of Columbia.

Fleet week, one of New York's most famous spring events sunk by the forced budget cuts in Washington. The beneficials (ph) hope that this will be back next year. The annual docking of military ships pumps about $20 million into the city. That will be sorely missed.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And just ahead, as President Obama heads to Texas to attend a memorial service for the victims of the blast at the fertilizer plant, investigators meticulously comb through the destruction searching for clues on what happened there. One compared it to a giant jigsaw puzzle. We are live in Texas. That's coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Breaking news. While you were sleeping, two fuel barges burning at this hour. They're docked in Mobile Bay, Alabama. We are told the flames are too dangerous for firefighters to battle there. The barges loaded with gasoline exploded last night. In fact, at least six explosions were reported, and they were heard up to 20 miles away. At least three people are hospitalized. They are listed in critical condition.

And on the heels of that, new this morning, President Obama will attend a memorial service in Texas today in honor of the 14 people killed in the blast at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas. The service to be held at Baylor University in nearby Waco. And that's where CNN's Ed Lavandera is live right now. And, ed, will the president be speaking at that memorial service?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's our understanding that will be happening, but what's more impressive that will happen here at this scene here today is the massive contingency, a show of force of firefighters from around the region who will be showing up here to honor the victims that died in that fire.

All of this happening as the investigation at the scene continues. And yesterday, we got our first up close look at the blast scene.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bomb just went off inside here. It's pretty bad. We have a lot of firemen down.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Captured from firefighter radio transmissions, those were the frantic moments just after the West, Texas explosion sent a deadly shockwave through the Central Texas town. This is the first up-close look at the blast site.

(on-camera) This is the blast site here. You can see the crater which is 93 feet wide, ten feet deep. And that was part of one of the buildings that was on the ground here.

(voice-over) Investigators say they still don't know what caused the fire or what triggered the explosion about 20 minutes after firefighters were called to the scene.

ROBERT CHAMPION, ATF SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: It's like putting puzzle pieces together. Reenacting that fire to see what transpired to cause the explosion.

LAVANDERA: The damage is so extensive that state and federal investigators are using shovels to sift through the debris, looking for clues to what ignited the fire that led to the explosion. KELLY KISTNER, ASST. TEXAS FIRE MARSHAL: It could be remains of the buildings. It could be electrical components. It could be fertilizer remains, if that's what we're looking at, chemical remains. It could be the way that the material was stored. They may be able to find containers, pieces of containers. There's a whole list of things that they'll be looking for.

LAVANDERA: This is an aerial picture of the fertilizer facility before the explosion. This part of the building is where the explosion erupted. This is the sight after the blast. The twisted and charred remnants of two fire trucks are still at the scene.

(on-camera) You can see the charred remains of the second building that was on this site. And between these two buildings, we're told, is where many of the firefighters and EMS teams that were killed in this explosion were working at the time of the explosion.

LOUISE MILLS, VICTIM'S SISTER: Killing me. Killing me bad inside. I just want some answers.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Louis Mills is still waiting for investigators to identify her brother's remains. Forty-one-year-old Morris Bridges (ph) was the father of three children. He joined the West volunteer fire department three years ago. He was one of the first people on the scene.

LAVANDERA: You just pray he didn't suffer?

MILLS: Yes. I do. Every day. I know he didn't suffer. I know he didn't. We're suffering. We want him back.

LAVANDERA: Louis Mills says her brother loved wearing his bright red firefighter shirt and showing off his volunteer firefighter badge. For Morris Bridges (ph), jumping into harm's way is how you earn the firefighter's badge of honor.


LAVANDERA (on-camera): And Zoraida, the work continues on getting those residents within a close radius of where that explosion happened back into their homes. The immediate neighborhood surrounding the fertilizer facility still has not been reopened, but many of the streets here in the coming days should be open and people can begin the process of moving back in and cleaning up -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And that is a long, long process. Ed Lavandera live for us, thank you.

And coming up, a high school freshman arrested after a nasty fight and the fight was with her Math teacher. Look at it. What lead to this throw down, coming up.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Berman live in Boston this morning. We have some new information in the Boston marathon bombing investigation. Investigators now believe they know how the Tsarnaev Brothers allegedly detonated the two bombs at the finish line. According to a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, there was a remote control device similar to those used to operate a toy car, those toy remotes.

That set them off. And that is a potentially critical piece of evidence as investigators look for a possible link to al Qaeda or another terror group. We've also learned that the father of the bombing suspects, Anzar Tsarnaev, is cooperating with the FBI and plans to fly to the United States for more questioning. He could do that as early as tomorrow -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, John.

Later this morning on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, five living former or current presidents will be on hand for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. The exhibits include a look back on the terror tacks of 9/11, a memory that came rushing back for America's 43rd president following the events last week in Boston.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the man who was commander in chief on 9/11, what went through your mind when you heard explosions at the finish line of the Boston marathon?

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. I was reminded that evil exists. And that there are people in the world who are willing to kill innocent people to advance a cause. I don't know what this cause is. But we'll find out. During the same week in a town close to us in Crawford, a plant exploded.

And, both incidents remind me of how fragile life can be for some. And both incidents, you know, made us weep knowing that somebody was hurting a lot.


SAMBOLIN: And you can keep it here for a special live coverage of the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. It is hosted by Wolf Blitzer starts at 11:00 a.m. eastern right here on CNN.

And apparently, the end is near. The judge in the Jodi Arias murder trial expects the case will finally go to the jury a week from Friday. The trial has dragged on for four very long months. The 32-year-old Arias is charged with shooting and stabbing her lover, Travis Alexander, in 2008. She faces a potential death sentence.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): This is incredible video. Come on over and take a look at this. It's a clash in a California classroom. A high school freshman and her Math teacher pushing then pummeling each other. The fight apparently started when the teacher took away the girl's makeup, took away her cell phone. The student was arrested for assault. She could be expelled. The teacher is on paid leave and has not been charged. Incredible.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): When i saw that brawl, I thought no way that is a teacher.

All right. Three years after the federal reserve shut off Benjamin's face lift, the new $100 bill is ready. The fed says the bill has new security features that should make things tougher for counterfeiters. There are some cosmetic changes as well. The bill goes into circulation in October.

And later tonight, a huge moment for pro football fans. The 2013 NFL draft begins at 8:00 eastern at Radio City Music Hall right in New York City. The Kansas City chiefs have first dibs. They are expected to take offensive tackle, Luke Joeckel, from Texas A&M University.

And still ahead, first, Veronica Mars, now a follow up to Garden State? Actor, Zach Braff, new kick start a plea to help him make his new movie. How is he doing? We're going to check in.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Fifty-five minutes past the hour. Trending this morning, well, it worked for Veronica Mars. Now, actor, Zach Braff has launched his own kick starter campaign with the goal of racing $2 million for his movie, "Wish I Was Here." It's a follow-up to his critically-acclaimed first feature "Garden State" that was back in 2004. And here's part of Braff's appeal to fans.


ZACH BRAFF, ACTOR: I have no idea of raising money on here is going to work. But I think it's worth a try. I want to bring you, my fans, the truest representation of what I have in my brain. That means I'll have the final cut of what ends up in the movie and I get to only cast the actors I think are perfect for the roles. Please help me make another movie for you like "Garden State" with no compromises.


SAMBOLIN: Well, Zach gets working, fans are responding. He's already more than half way towards his goal, raising more than $1,395,000. And guess what? That was just in one day.

And a preemptive strike from the president to the first lady. Moms and dads, listen up to this. It's against White House rebellion. And it's enough to make daughters, Sasha and Malia, cringe. The president says that he's told the girls if you ever decide to get a tattoo, then mom and dad will get the exact same tattoo in the exact same place.

And if that wasn't enough, the president added, then we will go on YouTube and show it off as a family tattoo. Imagine that. Mr. President, what if they take you up on that? All right. Reese Witherspoon behaving badly, a grandpa selling his grandson on Facebook and some lazy Pizza Hut delivery options. Let's have some late night laughs.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Reese Witherspoon, over the weekend, she and her husband were running around in Hollywood like the stars do on weekends. And they were acting up some horse play, and the cops pulled them over, cuffed her, and send her to prison. And she said to the cop, she said, "Do you know who I am?"



LETTERMAN: Do you know who I am? The cop said, Katherine Heigl?


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Here's a horrible store. A man in India has been arrested for allegedly trying to sell his grandson on Facebook. How awful is that? Isn't that shocking? Huh? A grandpa who knows how to use Facebook. i Never heard of that.


LENO: How many of those, seven?

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": Pizza Hut is releasing an Xbox app that lets you order pizza right from your Xbox.


FALLON: We're getting lazier and lazier. It's insane. You don't have to put down your Xbox controller. This is what the pizza design page looks right there. You get to put all your toppings and whatever you want on there. They also have some cool delivery options. Take a look at this. There's an option called "come right into my mom's basement and find me on the couch."


FALLON: Then, they have "prop me up between two pillows and gently tilt my head back."


FALLON: The last one is called "chew up a piece of pizza and baby bird it into my mouth."



SAMBOLIN: All right. That last one a little disgusting. EARLY START continues right now.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Take a look at that. Breaking news. Explosions and flames simply too tough to fight. A fire burning on a pair of fuel barges dangerously close to a cruise ship. New information live from the scene just ahead.

BERMAN (voice-over): New clues in the investigation into the Boston marathon bombings. We now know what may have been used to trigger the deadly blasts.

Also, tracking down the Russian connection. CNN with a first-hand look at the place where the suspects may have learned to make their bombs.


BERMAN (on-camera): Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman live in Boston this morning. Live coverage with the latest developments in the Boston bombing case coming up in just a moment.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And I'm Zoraida Sambolin back here in New York. It is Thursday, April 25th. It is 6:00 a.m. in the east.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

SAMBOLIN: And we begin with breaking news. Two fuel barges burning at this hour with three people now critically injured. The barges are docked in Mobile Bay, Alabama. And we are told the fires are too dangerous for the firefighters to battle. The barges loaded with gasoline exploded last night. Take a look at that.

At least six explosions reported. They were heard up to 20 miles away. Firefighters say everyone now has been accounted for, at least to this point. They're letting the flames burn themselves out. The shipping channel is closed right now.

The barges are burning not far from where the crippled Carnival "Triumph" is docked. That was towed back into port in February after an engine fire left it adrift at sea with more than 4,000 people on board. You remember that? So, coming up, we're going to go live to Mobile Bay for an update on this breaking news story -- John.

BERMAN: All right. We have several new critical developments unfolding here in Boston in the Boston marathon bombing investigation.