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: Heartland Gets Hammered; Emergency Landing Nightmare; Obama's Approval Rate Holds Steady; Taylor Swift's Billboard Haul; Redskins Nation Showers RGIII with Registry Gifts

Aired May 20, 2013 - 06:30   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Take a look at this crazy video. A deadly tornado sends residents running away. You will hear from two people who ran toward the deadly twisters.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Talk about terrifying.

An experience aboard a U.S. Airways flight, the pilot announces crash, crash, crash. What happened to this aircraft that cause crashed landing and what was it like to be inside the cabin. You'll hear a chilling account exclusively from one of the passengers, coming up.

SAMBOLIN: And for some, it was a night of victory. For others, a night of disappointment. For one woman in the crowd at the Billboard Music Awards, it was just plain painful. We will explain, coming up.

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thirty minutes past the hour.

And we're going to begin this morning with another round of deadly tornadoes. Dozens of them reported overnight. The latest one where a tornado touched down in western Missouri in Golden City. So, at this moment emergency crews are assessing all of the damage. They're looking for potential injuries there as well.

And meanwhile look at this. This is central Oklahoma. It is a massive tornado bearing down on the city of Shawnee. One man who lived in a trailer park in that area died. About a dozen other people have been injured. And the National Weather Service says tornado reports stretched through the country's mid-section, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois all hit.

Nick Valencia is in very hard hit Shawnee, Oklahoma. Nick, what's the latest there?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, I just spoke to the American Red Cross and they tell me new information. At least 200 homes damaged or destroyed in Pottawatomie County, the hardest hit county in the state of Oklahoma.

The initial assessment by the Red Cross is at least 300 homes damaged or destroyed. They also tell CNN, 28 people spent the night in two shelters. It's just a terrible situation for the people here this very hard hit community.

Behind me we're on the fringes of the trailer park. You see the images. That area devastated by the tornado.

And sometimes it's hard to get a sense of the damage. It's really hard to understand the magnitude of just how powerful a tornado can be. This is a tree that's about 20 feet tall, 10-foot wide and its roots completely uprooted, lifted, put on its side. Gives you a sense of how strong that tornado was that moved through here.

Overnight some good signs, a sigh of relief two people were reported missing initially unaccounted for in this trailer park behind me. The local sheriff here tells me those people were not here at the time the tornado hit. They were actually staying with friends, so that's a sigh of relief and welcome news for this area that's still recovering from a very devastating tornado -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I know, Nick, and as you show us all that damage, we're surprised there weren't more injuries or more people dead there. So, we're really happy about them and the fact they found those two people.

Nick Valencia, thank you very much.

BERMAN: And this was a big storm system, while people across Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri were seeking cover from the estimated 26 tornadoes that touched down last night, there were storm chaser out including, Brandon Sullivan and Brett Wright. They were chasing these storms. They captured just this terrifying footage of the tornadoes in central Oklahoma. Look at that vivid of that twister right there behind those silos.

SAMBOLIN: When you actually hear them and they were talking on the video, you can hear them saying, you know, hurry up because we got to get out of here.

BERMAN: Well, Brandon and Brett are joining me now from Shawnee, Oklahoma.

And, guys, we're looking at this picture right now. I know you can't see it. But describe to me what it was like to be in the middle of this all as it was happening?

BRANDON SULLIVAN, STORM CHASER: Well, it's actually pretty horrifying experience. We were less than a quarter of a mile from where we are now filming the tornado at one point. We could see significant amounts of debris in the air. We knew damage was being done. All we could do was watch and do our best to document it.

BERMAN: At one point in the video, I want to play this for you right now. At point in this, you say this is the best tornado of my life. Let's listen.


SULLIVAN: This is the best tornado video of my life. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Kind of an amazing thing to say and have a presence of mind to say that as you're watching something like this. What made this string of storms different from the ones you've been in before?

SULLIVAN: The atmosphere yesterday was very volatile. It looked really good for strong tornadoes. It's always different when it hits so close to home, you know?

We watched tornadoes all the time but when they actually hit so close to home, it makes kind of a surreal experience. I have friends in this area. But the tornado was very powerful. We were in a very close range. And, you know, it's really an awe striking experience to see what happened.

BERMAN: It's awe striking and flat out dangerous too.

I want to listen again to part of this video right now because it seems like you guys get awfully close to big trouble. Let's listen.


SULLIVAN: Brett, get back here, we got to go soon!


SULLIVAN: If this shifts, we're done.


BERMAN: So, Brandon, that was you saying if this shifts we're done. How did you know that the situation was getting untenable?

SULLIVAN: Well, when you get so close to the tornado, like you hear all the time, it does sound like a train or a waterfall. We had very strong winds coming from behind us, rushing into the tornado. When you're so close to the tornado you can oftentimes tell when it's about to shift direction, which way it's headed. We could tell that if it stayed on its current path, we're going to be OK, but it's clear it was a violent tornado and we know if it turned towards us we had to bail immediately.

BERMAN: Brett, did you know it was time to get out?

BRETT WRIGHT, STORM CHASER: Well I was watching carefully at the motion of the tornado and it seemed like we were OK. There was one point where it seemed like you want might have been coming at us but it became apparent it would miss us. So, we got the footage of the career.

BERMAN: It really is amazing, amazing footage right now. How do things appear to you right now as people are picking through the pieces?

WRIGHT: Well it's very chaotic here. There's a lot of people and a lot of emergency crews here and everything is just happening so fast. And it seems like hopefully that it all gets taken care of and everybody is OK.

BERMAN: Well, I'm glad you guys are OK.

Brett Wright and Brandon Sullivan, with those amazing pictures of that very dangerous string of storms -- thanks guys for being with us this morning. Appreciate it, guys.

SULLIVAN: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-six minutes past the hour.

From one close to another, passengers and crew aboard a U.S. Airways flight are counting their blessings. They survived a spectacular crash landing. Sparks flew as plane touched down on Saturday with no landing gear. This was Newark Liberty Airport. Amazingly, no one was injured.

CNN's Pamela Brown joins us with her exclusive interview with a passenger who survived that harrowing flight.

Just amazing.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amazing, horrifying experience, to say the least, Zoraida and John, for U.S. Airways passenger Linda Demarest. What started off as a simple kink in travel plans turned into a fateful night that she says she will never forget.


BROWN (voice-over): Thirty-four people sat aboard this U.S. Airways flight as it made this dramatic emergency belly-landing at Newark airport due to trouble with a landing gear.

Linda Demarest was one of them and never thought this could happen to her.

LINDA DEMAREST, U.S. AIRWAYS PASSENGER: Thought it was hit. We were going down. Basically, it was a controlled crash but it was a plane crash. You see it on the news all the time. Not many people survive plane crashes. That was my thought.

BROWN: The mother of two said she was exhausted as she was making her way back home to New Jersey after training for her new nursing job in Dallas.

The flight was going smoothly until --

DEMAREST: The captain comes out of the cockpit with a flashlight and starts looking at the wing. At this point, everyone on the plane knew something was going to happen.

BROWN: Moments later, the crew confirmed her worst fears.

DEMAREST: The flight attendant told us that there's a mechanical problem. You can see the flaps opening for the landing gear on the right side but on the left side the flaps would not open.

BROWN: Demarest first thought, contact her family.

DEMAREST: I wrote to my husband we can't land. One landing gear went down. They are trying to fix it before we make an emergency landing.

Then, I wrote to him, no announcement from the pilot yet. I love you. Then, I wrote, we're crashing. And that's when I turned off the phone.

I kept thinking of my kids and husband.

That they were going to lose me. Then I thought back about 9/11, how families left messages for their loved ones, so I texted each one of them that I loved them and I turned the phones off not knowing.

BROWN: What she heard next she says she'll never forget.

DEMAREST: So, about 200 feet before we hit, the captain comes on the speaker yelling crash, crash, crash, crash. While she's yelling, stay in position, head down, keep positions, head down. So, we're like this on the back of our seats.

BROWN: With sparks flying, the cabin of the turboprop filled with smoke. Emergency chutes deployed. Passengers evacuated. The plane was quickly foamed.

Demarest said those minutes felt like a lifetime.

DEMAREST: I kept saying to myself stop, stop, stop, please stop. And when you finally stop, ahh, elation. You made it.

BROWN: U.S. Airways says nobody on the plane was injured but Demarest says for her and her family, the gravity of what happened still hasn't sunk in.

DEMAREST: I was joking with somebody I should have played the megamillions but then I thought you know what? I already won. So, I don't need to play. I have my family.


BERMAN: She hit the jackpot.

BROWN: Absolutely.

Well, Demarest says she wants to give a big thanks to the pilot and crew even saying that the pilot is the, quote, "Captain Sully of land." And overnight, U.S. Airways spokesperson Anderson told CNN the incident is, quote, "a testament to how our crews are trained to respond and act with the utmost professionalism."

And, by the way, Demarest added that she doesn't plan on flying any time soon. No surprise there, right?

SAMBOLIN: I guess you can understand that. BERMAN: To hear her walk through those moments when she thought it was all over.

BROWN: And texting her family saying, I love you we're crashing. Unbelievable.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Talk about a brush with a rush this morning. Colgate Palmolive filing a patent application for a toothbrush that can release chemicals into the user's mouth with each brushing. A patch containing caffeine, when attached to the head of the brush, it would last for three months. Even if this patent is approved, the company is likely to face a steep challenge from the Food and Drug Administration. Apparently, they've been cracking down lately on products with caffeine additives. Like a coffee toothbrush.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I'll just have my coffee in the morning.

BERMAN: And then brush your teeth with the coffee tooth brush. Like a double whammy. Doubly effective.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Forty-one minutes past the hour.

Not all goes according to plan at last night's Billboard Music Award as artist Miguel gets too close comfort to a fan during his performance. You know, normally, they don't complain. We will have the video of the painful blunder for you.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. The U.S. heartland gets hammered. Dozens of tornadoes touching down throughout the night and the threat of severe weather is not over in many spots. Initial estimates shows some 300 homes were damaged or destroyed in Oklahoma.

Check this one out. This massive tornado poured down on Central Oklahoma, the city of Shawnee. One man who lived in a trailer park in the area died. There were some missing people, two others from the same park, I believe, Nick Valencia has been reporting those people have been located.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, they weren't even at the trailer park. They found them afterwards, which is really great news there.

President Obama's approval rate is holding steady despite three serious scandals now burdening the White House. According to the latest CNN/ORC poll, 53 percent of Americans approve of the president's job performance while 45 percent disapprove. That's virtually unchanged since the last poll, which was in April.

BERMAN: Rough commute in the northeast this morning. A long stretch of track remains shut down following Friday's collision between two Metro North trains in Connecticut. The track closure affects Metro North and Amtrak service from New York to Boston. That is a really busy stretch of track. NTSB investigators have ruled out foul play in the accident. They now believe a broken rail may have caused this collision.

SAMBOLIN: Forty-six minutes past the hour. Taylor Swift was red hot winning a staggering eight statues at the Billboard Music Awards. But the award show took a bit of a painful turn for at least one fan.


SAMBOLIN: R&B singer Miguel accidentally kicked that woman in the face. Wow. Nischelle Turner is in L.A. following all of the Billboard Buzz for us this morning.


SAMBOLIN: Messy, messy.

TURNER: Man, but the greatest thing is kind of like the aftermath of it. He kept on singing and then grabbed the wrong girl. He grabbed another girl that he didn't land on her head, and started singing to her. It was pretty funny.

I'm out here on the West Coast, right, so we don't see this show until three hours later. But during Miguel's performance, my Twitter exploded. I didn't know why at the time. But, yes, I soon found out the Sunday night Billboard Music Awards turned into Monday night WWE Raw.

Now we got to show this again. I want to see it again. Here we go, slow motion. The leg drop right to the head of that fan.

SAMBOLIN: You see that she's bent over. Oh, poor girl.

TURNER: Right. He landed on the brunette's head but then grabbed the girl, the blonde girl, and started singing to her thinking he landed on her. Of course he did not. It was pretty interesting. Now apparently the girl is OK. That's the good news in all this; that's why we can have a little bit of fun with this. Miguel invited her backstage and then apparently she went back out to the moshpit for the rest of the show. Although I don't know why.

Someone did tweet that they saw her backstage though with an ice pack on her head. Miguel tweeted later and he said, "I just got caught up in the moment." You think?

SAMBOLIN: So did everybody else, Nischelle, because if you look at all that video, there's a guy who keeps on dancing while he's hanging on to the girl. It was a pretty incredible moment there.

So what else are folks talking about this morning?

TURNER: Well, they're talking about Taylor Swift like you alluded to at the lead in to me. If you see a U-Haul heading down I-70 right now, it's probably her hauling all those trophies back to Nashville. She walked away with eight awards last night including Top Artist, Top Female Artist and Top Billboard 200 Artist. Now, I don't know how many other top artist awards there were; but it didn't matter. Taylor Swift won all of them. Madonna also received a special honor last night as Top Touring Artist for her MDNA tour. Yes. Hello. And as much money that tour made, you think she could buy a skirt. And yes, that's me, hating that 54- year-old woman looks like that. It puts me to shame. So, yes, that's my little commentary this morning.

Also, Prince, oh, Prince, rocking an impressive afro. He channeled Jimi Hendrix after picking up Billboard's Icon Award last night. Yes, he looks fantastic. He showed those young whippersnappers how it's done, didn't he? He did this version of "Let's Go Crazy" and it was fantastic. I think it was one of my favorite moments of the night.

BERMAN: He's not jumping on people either. Which is good.

SAMBOLIN: He's a bit smarter than that. I wish we could just listen there. Nischelle Turner, thank you for sharing it all with us this morning. Appreciate it.

TURNER: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Forty-nine minutes after the hour right now. And coming up on our Bleacher Report, hell hath no fury like a woman who gets covered with beer. One husband's misfortune at the hand of his wife after he tried to protect her from a home-run ball. This poor, poor man. We'll explain. Coming up.


SAMBOLIN: The city of Newtown, Connecticut, continues to try to heal from the school shooting six months ago. And the New England Patriots are doing everything that they can do to help.

Andy Scholes joins us now with more in the Bleacher Report. Good morning, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Good morning, guys. Well, the kids of Newtown, Connecticut, have definitely been through a lot over the last six months but this weekend they got the chance to be kids again and play a little football. Rob Gronkowski along with over 30 members from the Patriots franchise were on hand Saturday at Newtown High School stadium, the whole day football and cheerleading camp. Now, the field was packed from sideline to sideline as youngsters got the chance to learn from the pros and play some fun games as well. Over 500 kids attended the one-day camp and Patriots owner Robert Kraft said that he was happy they could bring smile to their faces.


ROBERT KRAFT, PATRIOTS OWNER: If it could happen in the town of Newtown, it can happen in any city or town in America, but that's not what our country is about. I guess out of bad things good things can happen.

ALEX STREET, NEWTOWN AREA STUDENT: It was really fun. It was a great experience to get instructions from professional players.


SCHOLES: All right. What do you get a star NFL quarterback for his wedding? Well, if it's for Robert Griffin III, apparently you can just go to Bed, Bath and Beyond. RGIII and his fiancee, Rebecca, are set to tie the knot on July 6 and Redskins fans have been hitting up their online registry fulfilling all sorts of orders. RGIII tweeted thank you to the fans with a pic of him laying on top of all those empty boxes. Now, Griffin says he didn't tell Redskins Nation about the registry; they found it on their own. Lucky him.

Well, this may be the best non-home run catch by a fan all season. At the Cubs/Mets game yesterday, a home run heads to the bleachers. This guy goes for the ball while trying to protect his wife. And, guys, not only does he not get the ball, his wife pours her beer on his head.

BERMAN: Oh, that's cold.

SAMBOLIN: I wonder why she did that. What's the backstory there?

SCHOLES: Well, in an interview after the game, she said she got mad he bumped her, causing her to spill the beer on her. And just instantly her reaction was just pour it right on his head.

BERMAN: You know, he's trying to protect her and that's what he gets in return.

SAMBOLIN: Well, she's thinking that he's bumping me in order to be able to catch the ball.

BERMAN: No, no, no.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, that's the backstory, gentlemen.

BERMAN: Ingratitude.

SCHOLES: We've seen people bail on their wives and girlfriends before. And I think that's a situation where they might need a beer on the head.

BERMAN: She's lucky to be alive this morning right now. She owes him a beer, at least, one to drink, not to get spilled on.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Andy Scholes, thank you for that story this morning.

BERMAN: Coming up next on STARTING POINT, daybreak in the heartland. Residents are trying to assess the damage and figure out how to prepare as fears grow that more extreme weather is coming their way. We're going to go live to the region, coming up.

And as residents ran for their lives from the violent storms, some ran toward them and they got this incredible footage of the tornado. Look at that. We'll speak to the man in the middle of this when we come back.