Return to Transcripts main page


Bridge Collapse in Washington State; Mistrial in Jodi Arias Penalty Case; Survivors Begin Healing Process

Aired May 24, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, everyone. Bridge collapse in Washington state, sending cars and people plunging into the icy water.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Deadlock. Jodi Arias' sentencing declared a mistrial. And now, a new jury takes over.

BERMAN: Recovering and rebuilding. This morning, signs of hope in the devastating rubble of Moore, Oklahoma.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. Nice to have you with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It's great to see you. It's 5:00 in the East.

SAMBOLIN: Welcome home, by the way.

BERMAN: Thank you very much.

We begin right back home here with breaking news this morning. A bridge collapse in Washington state, sending cars and people plunging into the frigid Skagit River 40 feet below.

CNN has learned that the bridge had been classified as functionally obsolete by state transportation officials before the collapse. Functionally obsolete, we'll tell what you that means.

All this unfolding last night in rural Mount Vernon, Washington, some 60 miles north of Seattle.

Katharine Barrett is there live.

Katherine, what can you tell us about this? What's the latest?

KATHARINE BARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you can see behind me, there are two vehicles still in the water in the wreckage of this bridge collapse. Remarkably though for a bridge that seize some 70,000 cars pass each day, just two vehicles fell into water. Three victims in those vehicles were rescued by divers, taken to area hospitals, and are all reported to be in stable condition with nonlife threatening injuries.

But still, a heart-stopping moment when that roadway gave way.


DAN SLIGH, INJURED IN BRIDGE COLLAPSE: When the dust hit, I saw the bridge start to fall at that point. Momentum carried us right over. As you saw the water approaching, there's just one of those, you hold on as tight as you can and just a white flash and cold water. It was definitely cold this time of the year.


BARRETT: And again, that survivor feeling -- saying earlier this evening that he feels blessed and fortunate to be alive at this hour. Certainly, the situation could have been much worse.

BERMAN: Much worse based on the pictures that we're seeing right now.

Katharine, any sense of how this happened?

BARRETT: Well, multiple witnesses described an oversized vehicle that passed over this bridge just instance before it collapsed. Washington state's patrol have confirmed that this what they are looking into. And Washington's governor admits at the same time that the state's bridges are aging and in many cases in need of repairs.


CHIEF JOHN BATISTE, WASHINGTON STATE PATROL: We have a semi-truck that was southbound on Interstate 5 in what we call lane one, the right lane. The size of the load that he was carrying appeared to create a problem, striking him -- causing him to strike the bridge.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON: We have some work to do on our bridges whether or not this accident happened. We have some discussions in Olympia about making sure that we make investments in bridges to prevent this kind of thing from happening.


BARRETT: But, of course, Washington, like so many states, has a very, very tight budget situation. And something has got to give. Investments that need to be made perhaps were not.

Back to you.

BERMAN: We mention that this bridge was rated functionally obsolete. That is a very specific term that means something specific. Can you explain it to us?

BARRETT: That's right, John. It sounds bad, functioning obsolete. But what it does mean that the bridge is structurally deficient, merely that the design is outdated. Perhaps it's narrower than it might be if it were more modern, perhaps a lower clearance that it might have if it were more modern.

This bridge is very old. It was built in 1955. Still uncertain at this hour, whether it will be able to be repaired or, in fact, have to be replaced completely. That's the latest from here in Mt. Vernon. BERMAN: All right. Thank you so much, Katharine. Appreciate it. Katherine Barrett, right by that bridge in Mount Vernon, Washington.

We want to bring in Richard Dessin right now, who witnessed the bridge collapse. He and a friend were heading back to Seattle when traffic came to a stop. He soon found out his car was only some 500 feet away from driving on that bridge when it collapsed.

Richard, tell me what you saw.

RICHARD DESSIN, WITNESS (via telephone): Well, we were heading southbound from Bellingham back down to Seattle. The freeway came to a quick abrupt stop. You know, no slow down, just stop. It stood that way for a few minutes.

Then, we started seeing people get out. So, we got out of our vehicle and saw that there was no traffic ahead of the bridge. We started moving forward. They were taking us off an over-ramp and then we could immediately see the section of bridge was gone.

So then my friend and I went down and parked into the Home Depot parking lot next to this bridge and walked up on the levee. When we got, there they were just taking somebody out of the truck as you see there, they were loading him on to that boat right there underneath the bridge.

BERMAN: These picture are terrifying. It's amazing that everyone appears OK. When you first saw it, it must have just seemed awful.

DESSIN: Just two hours earlier, we came up northbound on that bridge. We had gone up to Bellingham to see friends and to take some photographs. And then when we started heading south, like I said, just a minute difference of taking a few more photos and then getting back on the freeway and we could have unfortunately been in with that group. So, yes, it's amazing that that little time.

BERMAN: You saw this right after it happened as it sort of happening before your very eyes. Was it a chaotic scene or were people being rescued? It looked things were under control.

DESSIN: No, very short time that the sheriff department folks were in the water, like I said, it took us a few minutes to get off the freeway. By the time we watched the crowds grow on the levee, the first picture we took as we were getting off the freeway, there was nobody on the levee.

And by the time, we got over the overpass, there were a number of people standing on the levee. By the time I got there, maybe 10, 15 minutes after it gone in, you could see the boats responding.

And they were very, very quick. I mean the sheriff department, the fire departments, EMS, some of the photos I have with how many fire engines in there that responded was -- they responded very quickly.

BERMAN: Richard Dessin, we're so glad you're OK. Thank you for joining us right now. Richard Dessin, a man who was on the scene just minutes -- seconds after this bridge collapse in Washington state.

SAMBOLIN: That's really incredible. Had he not stopped to take some pictures, he could have been in the water. Unbelievable.

Six minutes past the hour here.

And will Jodi Arias live or die?

Stay tuned for phase two in the penalty phase of her murder trial. The judge declaring a mistrial after jurors could not agree on life in prison or the death penalty. A retrial on the sentencing issue for Arias who was convicted of murdering her ex-boyfriend is now set for July.

Casey Wian is following all of the developments for us. He is live in Phoenix.

So, what happens now, Casey?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORREPONDENT: Well, what happens now is a new trial is scheduled to take place in July. That's because after five months of the first trial, jurors deadlocked 8-4 in favor of the death penalty.


JUDGE SHERRY STEPHENS, MARICOPA COUNTY, AZ: Ladies and gentlemen, I understand you have reached a verdict.

WIAN (voice-over): There was confusion and surprise, even in the voice of the clerk who announced the jury in the Jodi Arias case was hopelessly deadlocked on the death penalty for the murder of former boyfriend Travis Alexander.

CHRISTINA MCCAIN, COURT CLERK: We the jury duly impaneled and sworn in above entitled action upon our oath unanimously find having considered all the facts and circumstances that the defendant should be sentenced -- no unanimous agreement.

WIAN: Arias sighed as members of Alexander's family began to sob. Jurors who declined to speak with a throng of reporters covering the trial were emotional, and so was Judge Sherry Stephens.

STEPHENS: Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the participants in this trial, I wish to thank you for your extraordinary service to this community. This was not your typical trial.

WIAN: That it wasn't. It lasted nearly five months during which Arias took the stand for 18 days and later made one last plea for her life. Under Arizona law, jurors were allowed to ask more than 200 questions. Throughout, there were sexually graphic images and recordings.

And most difficult to forget, gruesome photographs of Alexander's body with dozens of stab wounds, a bullet hole and his neck slashed nearly ear to ear.

STEPHENS: Thank you. Please be seated.

WIAN: Judge Stephens set a new trial date for July 18th, only on the question of the death penalty.

Prosecutors could be allowed to bring up Arias' recent string of television interviews according to lawyers with knowledge of death penalty prosecutions in Arizona. For example, this statement to a KSAZ reporter minutes after her conviction.

JODI ARIAS, CONVICTED MURDERER: Well, the worst outcome for me would be natural life. I would much rather die sooner than later. I said years ago that I'd rather get death than life and that still is true today.

WIAN: Nearly two weeks later, she told the jury a different story.

ARIAS: To me, life in prison is the most unappealing outcome I could think of. I thought I'd rather die. But as I stand here now, I can't in good conscience ask you to sentence me to death because of them.

WIAN: As Arias gestured to her family, the family of her victim has clearly struggled with the jury's inability to agree.

They won't be granting interviews until there is a sentence and according to the county sheriff, neither will Jodi Arias.


WIAN: Now one way out of this mess could be a negotiated settlement where prosecutors could agree to take the death penalty off the table in exchange for Jodi Arias accepting a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release and perhaps dropping her appeals.

But, Zoraida, no one knows if Jodi Arias will accept that kind of a deal -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And also, how do you find a jury that really is not all caught up in this trial to begin with that doesn't know anything about it? It's such a bizarre -- just one more bizarre aspect of this trial.

Casey Wian, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

BERMAN: It goes on and on and on and on.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, it's unbelievable.

All right. Ten minutes past the hour. Coming up, oh, Amanda. Amanda Bynes' erratic behavior landed her in handcuffs.


SAMBOLIN: Really is that it? Oy.


SAMBOLIN: This just in. Heathrow Airport reopened. One of the runways closed this morning. They were closed over an emergency landing of a British Airway's flight.

The outbound flight turned back shortly after takeoff due to technical fault. All crew and passengers were evacuated safely. Three people were treated for minor injuries.

BERMAN: Now to the latest in Oklahoma. Funerals for the 24 victims have begun and one of the first, honoring the brief life of 9-year-old Antonio Candelaria, who died at Plaza Towers Elementary School. There is so much sadness.

But in the middle of that all, there is signs of hope -- signs that a wounded and dazed community is beginning to pick up the pieces and now look to the future.

CNN's Pamela Brown live in Moore, Oklahoma, this morning.

Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John.

Reality is really starting to sink in here. Just a few days after the tornado, survivors are beginning the healing process. They're starting to get back to their daily routines and trying to rebuild.


BROWN (voice-over): Kenyatta Richard considers herself one of the lucky ones. Her house in Moore is still standing, barely.

KENYETTA RICHARD, TORNADO SURVIVOR: It was the rain that caused most of the damage. The ceiling is caving in. The kids' clothes are getting wet. The beds are getting wet.

BROWN: Still, she's not letting that put a damper on her Memorial Day plans.

RICHARD: It's supposed to be sunny on Monday. All my friends are going to come and I'm going to convince my husband to barbecue in the midst of all the rubbish. That's the plan.

BROWN: Slowly, the rebuilding is beginning and insurance adjustors are making the rounds. The cost of repairs is estimated at more than $2 billion with 4,000 claim filed as of Wednesday.

Residents are returning to their demolished homes to salvage belongings with volunteers helping them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just found important documents.

BROWN: Neighbors comforted each other. Matt Hill once had a home. What's left of it, now fits into this black bag. MATT HILL, TORNADO SURVIVOR: This Xbox I bought the day before the storm. I walked it home. I was afraid I was going to lose it, because I didn't buy for myself. I bought it for my little brothers.

BROWN: The heavy toll is being felt in other ways, with funerals already under way. Including for Antonio Candelaria, one of the seven children killed at Plaza Towers Elementary. Surviving classmates and the teachers who protected them said emotional good-byes before summer break.

HOLLY HERBERT, PLAZA TOWERS STUDENT: We just didn't really talk about nothing. We just gave each other hugs.

BROWN: Third grader Holly Herbert hugged this stuffed lion who named after her friends she lost.

HERBERT: Sydney, Antonio, Kyle, Nicolas, Ja'Nae.

REPORTER: Those are all your friends that died?

HERBERT: Yes. That's all I know.

REPORTER: I bet you're going to hold on to that little guy forever.



BROWN: And this Sunday, President Obama will be here in Moore, Oklahoma. He'll be touring the damage and meeting with some of the survivors and also some of the first responders -- John, Zoraida.

BERMAN: It will be a very emotional weekend there in Moore, Oklahoma.

Graduations also coming up tomorrow for a lot of the schools there.

Pamela Brown in Moore, Oklahoma -- thanks so much.

A key figure in the Benghazi talking points flap is now President Obama's nominee for a new post at the State Department. Victoria Nuland is the president's choice to become the next assistant for European and Eurasian affairs. Nuland was State Department's spokesperson last September and took part in an e-mail chain between various agencies to iron out the unclassified talking points in the days immediately following the Benghazi attack.

Nuland is also a very seasoned diplomat with a long career in the State Department.

SAMBOLIN: Seventeen minutes past the hour.

A police officer in New Jersey is facing attempted murder and other charges this morning for allegedly torching the home of a fellow officer. Investigators say an incendiary device was used to start the fire at the home of an Edison police captain. The captain, his wife, two young children, and the 92-year-old mother were all at home at the time. They did make it out safely.

Police arrested Michael Dotro at his home. There's no word yet on the motive there.

BERMAN: Swift reaction this morning to the Boy Scouts' decision to allow openly gay boys to become scouts. The organization's national council voted Thursday to make that change. Gay rights groups praised the move, although they say it did not go far enough because it does not allow gay adults to be scout leaders. Some conservative groups immediately denounced the decision saying that even gay boys should not be allowed in the scouts.

SAMBOLIN: And former Congressman Anthony Weiner's bid to become mayor of New York off to a little bit of a stumble. Take a look at his new Web site. When it first launched on Wednesday, it featured a skyline of Pittsburgh behind a Weiner for mayor logo. That was a big oops.

Take a look at the site 24 hours later. Lots of Chamber of Commerce shots of the Big Apple brightening things up a lot. The marketing firm that handled the Web site is apologizing for the error. They are also taking full responsibility.

BERMAN: It is already an interesting campaign kickoff, you would say, and only getting more so.

SAMBOLIN: It's going to continue.

BERMAN: Eighteen minutes after the hour right now.

And actress Amanda Bynes is under arrest this morning. She is facing a felony charge of tampering with evidence after allegedly throwing a bong out of the window of her 36 floor apartment here in New York City.

Police say Bynes tossed the bong after officers were called to her apartment last night by the building manager who claims that finds was smoking an illegal substance in the lobby. Bynes is also charged with criminal possession of marijuana and reckless endangerment, imagine, with the bong. Both of those are misdemeanors.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, good. We're going to see the pictures again.

BERMAN: That's a wig, we think.

SAMBOLIN: I was trying to figure out, does she have a new do?

BERMAN: There's not actually, technically illegal about the wig. It's just interesting.

SAMBOLIN: It is. She just happened to grab that as headed out the door? I don't know. Most people grab, I don't know --

BERMAN: Who knows what goes on in her apartment?

SAMBOLIN: The blanket, that's interesting.

Anyway, 19 minutes past the hour.

The deadly tornado that ravaged Moore, Oklahoma, brought out the best in so many people. A baby brought into the world amongst all the chaos. There's a lot of love, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: We are minding your business this morning.

A new polling showing most Americans actually 67 percent say the economy is in poor shape.

BERMAN: But is that really the case? We have Christine Romans to tell us the truth.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And the real interesting thing here is looking at the other side of that poll -- the number of people, the percentage of people who say that things are actually getting better. That number has been rising. This is new, brand new CNN/ORC polling showing that people are getting more confident.

Thirty-three percent of Americans say economic conditions are good. That has been rising since December, largely because the data has been getting better. I mean, look at the stock market. The S&P 500 up nearly 16 percent this year.

If you haven't checked your 401(k), please do. You can. It is safe. That's better than the 13 percent increase we saw all of last year.

The housing numbers, especially the numbers coming in this week, very strong. New home sales are averaging out to about 446,000 homes so far this year. That's the best since 2008. We're still far below the peak, of course, hit in 2005.

But it's shaping up to be the second full year that new home sales rise. And that has a ripple effect in the economy, because building a new house puts contractors and electricians to work. People buy appliances. They buy furniture. They buy carpeting.

So, there is a ripple effect of his, I don't know, this cascading effect, when you build a new house, how many people get put to work. Previously home sales are also at multiyear highs. That's because of, you know, the demand. New home prices at record highs. Mortgage rates have been very, very low. But they are also now starting to rise.

And then there's the job market. New jobless claims are at a five- year low. No doubt the economy isn't going gang-busters, especially in terms of jobs, but those are the economic signs that are turning in the right direction. So, you're starting to see in the polling that people are starting to feel a little bit better.

I watch it in car sales. I watch in all kinds of, you know, appliances and things like that. People are starting to move forward again. BERMAN: The depth of this gloom was so deep, it will take a long time before anyone feels totally whole.

ROMANS: That's right. That's absolutely true.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Christine Romans, thanks so much.

British soldier savagely slaughtered in the street and this morning. We're hearing from the accused killer. That's straight ahead.