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Fuel Barges Explode in Mobile, Alabama; Anatomy of a Terror Attack; Memorial Service for Victims of Blast; Decision Points Theater

Aired April 25, 2013 - 06:30   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight. Explosions and a raging fire on two gas barges in the bay off the Gulf of Mexico.

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

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

BERMAN: 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 bombing investigation just ahead.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York. It is Thursday, April 25th.

And we're following breaking news this morning. In Mobile Bay, Alabama, two fuel barges on fire. They were loaded with gasoline and they exploded last night. Take a look at those flames.

Firefighters stayed away because the flames were too dangerous for them to fight. And now there's word the flames appear to have died down. However, fire officials will wait until daylight to get a better handle of this situation. We know that at least three people are hospitalized with burns. They are in critical condition.

Fire officials believe everyone has been accounted for.


BERMAN: All right, thanks, Zoraida. A lot more information there.

Plus, new information this morning in the Boston bombing investigation. It turns out that the FBI was not the only U.S. agency tipped off by the Russians about the possible radicalization of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. We're learning this morning that also asked the CIA to check them out well over a year ago but neither agency felt there was enough detail, enough hard evidence to take further action against the suspected Boston marathon bomber.

We're also finding out how the Tsarnaevs allegedly pulled off the terror t attack on marathon Monday. They apparently used a remote control like the ones you find to operate a toy car. They used that remote control to detonate the explosives. That revelation could be a critical piece of the puzzle for investigators.

These investigators are now focusing on how those bombs were made and if the Tsarnaev brothers got any help from foreign militants.

CNN's Miguel Marquez joins us now with more on that. Miguel is here in Boston.

Good morning, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is where it all began, John. This massive worldwide investigation. This is the finish line to the Boston marathon. It is absolutely incredible to see just how close it is to the first bombing site which is now hallowed ground here on Boylston Street.

Another nice thing about being here on Boylston this morning is that you see a lot of runners up and down the street. It's nice to see life coming back here. On the investigation front, investigators looking at those detonators and whether or not they were inspired by or designed with the help of either a militant in Chechnya or by al Qaeda's English language magazine "Inspire."

Important to know for investigators because it will give them a blueprint or give them a sense of the blueprint for the plot themselves and how these two were able to bring it off on their own and how long it took them to develop as well.

Also, investigators going through a landfill not too far from the brothers' dorm room and looking for clues there. Hoping to find any indication of what they bought, where they bought it and how they brought this all together, also going through several different locations here in town looking for clues to put this all together.

It seems as though a lot of this investigation is focusing now in the Boston area and where they purchased fireworks, for instance, which will be in critical clues.

One of the things I want to point out to you, though, was that the picture tweeted overnight by Jeff Bauman. This is the guy who we will all remember, gives me shivers to think about it -- the guy who lost both his leg just 10 days ago. He delivered an 18th birthday gift to Sydney Corcoran, who also injured in the bombing. Just fantastic to see just 10 days later, a guy who the entire world focused on and worried about and wondered how he was ever going to bet get back going and now he is.

One of the things, come back live here, I want to point out joggers and down Boylston Street. It is great to see -- John.

BERMAN: They are out in force today. The runners are back in Boston. It is a truly wonderful site. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much for being there on the streets for us this morning.

New this morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin, he is speaking. He had a Q&A a short time ago with reporters there and he spoke about the Boston terror attack. During this televised session with the Russian people, he said that the bombings should re-enforce the need for more U.S./Russia counterterrorism cooperation.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This tragedy should motivate us to work together in addressing the common challenges and threats. And terrorism is one of the main threats today.


BERMAN: 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 are of Chechen heritage. They lived in the Dagestan region before moving to the United States.

Just one more piece of the puzzle there -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: So many details coming out. Thank you, John.

Thirty-five minutes past the hour.

New this morning, President Obama attends a memorial service in Texas today, in honor of the 14 people killed in a blast of a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas. The service will be in Baylor University and nearby Waco.

That's where we find CNN's Ed Lavandera right now.

Good morning to you.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Zoraida. Well, the president will be here later on this afternoon after he attends the dedication of the Bush library in Dallas. It will be a show of force as thousands and thousands of firefighters are expected to come here today to pay honor and their respects to the firefighters killed in that explosion.

And yesterday, we got our first very up close look at that blast site.


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, jumping into harm's way is how you earn the firefighter's badge of honor.


LAVANDERA: In a poignant sign of solidarity here in the central Texas area, the city employees in the town of West have been given Thursday and Friday off so they can attend memorial services and funerals for all of their friends who were killed in this explosion. It's city of Waco employees who will help cover and help out with the city government there in the town of West over these next couple of days so those workers can attend those funerals -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: That's wonderful to hear and to see, you know, when people come together like that. Ed Lavandera live for us. Thank you for that.

SAMBOLIN: And happening right now, dangerous weather has people picking up the pieces this morning. Look at this. Residents in this New Orleans suburbs assessing a damage after a pair of tornadoes ripped through that area on Wednesday. They were part of a series of really intense storms that battered the entire region, flooding streets, leaving some 30,000 customers in southeast Louisiana in the dark.

And later this morning, unusual gathering. Five living U.S. presidents all standing together for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. We're going to go live to Dallas, straight ahead.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

Christine Romans joins us now with what is ahead on "STARTING POINT".

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning again. Well, ahead on "STARTING POINT," we're going to talk to the father of the suspected Boston bomber. He is expected to travel to the U.S. tomorrow. Investigators hope he's got important information about the marathon attack.

Plus, we're learning more about how the Tsarnaev brothers pulled this thing off allegedly and what their plans may have been for New York City.

Then, explosions overnight on barges in Alabama's Mobile River and blast were near the beleaguered Carnival Triumph. We've got details on that. That's fire is still raging at this hour.

Plus, we're getting inside scoop about the drama behind the scenes at the network morning shows, author and journalist Brian Stelter joins me live with a look at this new book "Top of the Morning."

We'll talk about morning shows, cable news, the whole bit.

SAMBOLIN: I've been reading excerpts online, really interesting.

Looking forward to it. Thank you, Christine.

All right. Forty-four minutes past the hour.

The end apparently is near. The judge in the Jodi Arias murder trial expects the case will finally go to do to the jury a week from Friday. That trial has dragged on for four months.

The 32-year-od Arias is charged with shooting and stabbing her lover Travis Alexander. That was back in 2008. She faces a potential death sentence there.

And in just over four hours, five living presidents will stand side by side on the campus of Southern Methodist University for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. America's 43rd says the new facility is all about showing people what it's like to be commander in chief. Brianna Keilar is going to join us for a live report shortly here.

We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back.


SAMBOLIN: We're having some problems there with the audio of this morning. So, we're going to get to John Berman in Boston in a moment. But now, we're going to go back to today's dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. So, just over four hours from now, five living presidents will stand side by side at Southern Methodist University.

Brianna Keilar got a sneak peek at the museum, and she is live in Dallas for us this morning. Good morning.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Zoraida. Yes, I got a sneak peek yesterday going into this library which will be dedicated today in which the public will be able to go into at the beginning of next month. And it's really striking because as you walk in, you do see a statue that a lot of folks have talked about of George W. Bush alongside his father, George H.W. Bush.

But as you go into the exhibit, it really shows you the legacy that President Bush clearly wanted for himself. A domestic agenda that included no child left behind, tax cuts, as well as faith-based community initiatives, but very quickly, the exhibit changes to the event that, ultimately, defined his presidency, 9/11.

You see the twisted beam from part of the south tower of the World Trade Center, and we're told by employees at the museum that the twisted beams you see are actually the point of impact of that tower which was the second one that was hit by a hijacked jetliner but the first one to fall. And everything really just kind of follows from there.

The bullhorn that President Bush used when he spoke at ground zero on September 14th. One of the other features of the museum is an interactive exhibit called the Decision Point Theater. Obviously, President Bush made a number of controversial decisions and the ones that he considers his toughest on invading Iraq, the surge in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, whether to dedicate federal assistance and how to dedicate federal resources, the financial crisis.

How did he respond to that? Folks get to go in. They get advice from his actual advisers. They get to hear questions from the press. They get to sort of talk to military commanders. And they get to make their decision. This is something that President Bush talked to John King about.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The museum is -- it does give people the opportunity to hear the different points of view that I got on these particular issues. The purpose of which is not to try to defend a policy. The purpose of which is to try to show people what it's like to be the president and how you make decisions.

History will ultimately judge the decisions that were made for Iraq. And I'm just not going to be around to see the final verdict.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: You're not going to be around, interesting way to put it.

BUSH: In other words, I'll be dead.



KEILAR: Now, I will tell you there are also a number of more light- hearted points to this exhibit. You'll see a number of former first lady, Laura Bush's, ball gowns that she wore to state dinners, including one that she wore for Queen Elizabeth when she came to Washington toward the end of President Bush's time in the White House.

She actually spoke to reporters yesterday, Zoraida, and she was asked about giving up all of those gowns. She said, you know what, it wasn't really that hard because George, she said, quote, "isn't -- I think she said, "isn't big on black tie."

SAMBOLIN: Oh. So, she won't have much need from them moving forward. Who's expected to attend today, Brianna?

KEILAR: Exactly. There are a number of dignitaries, but obviously, what most people are talking about are the fact that you're going to have all of the living former presidents as well as President Obama here. And that's going to present, as you can imagine, quite an interesting scenario. Think of all the motorcades, think of all the security, at an event which already is quite the undertaking here at Southern Methodist University, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: It looks really spectacular behind you. Brianna Keilar reporting live for us. Thank you very much. And of course, you can keep it here for special live coverage of the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. It's hosted by Wolf Blitzer at 11:00 a.m. eastern. Again, right here on CNN.



SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Take a look at your TV. A high school freshman and her Math teacher pushing, then pummeling each other in class. This happened in Stockton, California. The fight apparently started when the teacher took away the girl's makeup and took away her cellphone. The student was arrested for assault. She's facing expulsion. The teacher is on paid leave and has not been charged.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): That sin credible. I thought it was two kids fighting.

So, later tonight, as the first run of the NFL draft, it's like Christmas for all 32 teams. And this year's class likes major star power, but it does not lack talent. Joe Carter is here with the "Bleacher Report." Good morning.

JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Hi. Good morning, Zoraida. Yes. It's on odd year for the NFL draft, not a lot of hype, not a lot of sexiness surrounding the first few picks. We're not going to see a wide receiver, a running back, or quarterback go in the top five. Most likely you can see an offensive, defensive lineman, perhaps, a cornerback, but the most interesting player in tonight's draft has to be Ziggy Ansah.

Now, he's expected to be drafted top 15. And that's incredible considering this guy has only played football for three years. Now, originally, he's from Ghana. He got into BYU back in 2008, tried out for the basketball team twice but was cut, then he decided to walk on the track team. He was so fast at track he got the attention of the football team and that's where he played for three seasons.

Really excelling in his senior season. Now, he's this year's ultimate risk reward selection, so it's going to be really interesting tonight to see which team selects him.

Now, speaking of picks, over 40 million votes were tallied and the winner is, Barry Sanders. Yes, the hall of fame running back beat out Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, for the cover of the NFL video game "Madden 25." Now, this year's version is an anniversary edition so it makes sense to have Barry Sanders, a football legend, a once in a lifetime player on the game's cover.

Well, Luis Suarez, or as I like to call him, Luis "The Vampire," he's been suspended for ten games for biting. Yes, biting another player during an English premier league soccer game. Now, Suarez is the guy in the red shirt. He bit his opponent's arm. You might be thinking why in the world would he do such a thing? Basically, it's because that's what he does. Back in 2010, he also bit another player. Fans describe him as an animal both in a good way and in a bad way. Suarez, of course, has apologized for his actions, and he was also heavily fined by his team, Liverpool.

Last night, it was a back and forth game between Oklahoma City and Houston. They squeaked out to win, Oklahoma City, 105-102. The Thunder are now up two games to none in the series. We got Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, they each scored 29 points. But, most of the attention, at least this morning, has shifted to what Russell Westbrook wore to the post-game presser last night.

Check him out. The man is dressed in leather. Yes, leather. And it's not just his shirt, it's also his pants. Somebody call Tim Gunn, please, I mean, really.


SAMBOLIN: It's all the rage.

CARTER: You know, these guys are like trying to outdo each other. It's like there's competition on the court and then there's competition afterwards when they show up in he's outrageous outfits.

I mean, Zoraida, I don't know if you remember or not, but on Monday, I believe it was, Lebron James showed up in that tacky Christmas sweater looking thing after the Heat won. Maybe it was Sunday or Monday. But I mean, it's just they're trying to outdo each other. It's kind of fun, but you know --

SAMBOLIN: Brings back the days with Michael Jordan when they used to wear really sharp suits. I love that era. Yes. Joe Carter, thank you.

CARTER: You bet.

SAMBOLIN: Fifty-five minutes past the hour. If you're just waking up, evacuations overnight near the scene of explosions on the water off the Gulf of Mexico. "Starting Point" with breaking news coverage coming up.


SAMBOLIN: That's it for EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. John Berman continues our coverage live in Boston with "Starting Point" right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman. Breaking news this morning, a massive explosion on the Mobile River. Fuel barges burning out of control. At least three critically injured and all of this happening just a few feet from the Carnival cruise ship, "Triumph." We will have the breaking details on a live report coming up.

Also, breaking news on the marathon bombing case as we continue our special coverage live from Boston. The parents of the bombing suspect speaking out at this moment saying that the U.S. is accusing them of being terrorists and saying they will not be able to see their surviving son when they come to the United States. That, as we learn more about how the Tsarnaev Brothers may have pulled off this attack.

CNN with a firsthand look at a place where the suspects may have learned to make their bomb. And an exclusive interview with their mother about the mysterious man who may have influenced their son.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just opened our eyes, you know? Really wide about our son.


BERMAN: Live team coverage of the Boston marathon bombings from Boston to Russia, doing it like only CNN can.

Plus, five U.S. presidents will be in one place today for the opening of President George W. Bush's Presidential Library, giving Mr. Bush a chance to reflect on his legacy.