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Frightening Bridge Collapse in Washington; Memorial Day Weekend: Busiest Travel Weekend; NOAA Predicts Busier Than Average Hurricane Season; IRS Official Placed On Leave

Aired May 24, 2013 - 05:30   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. A frightening scene this morning. Take a look at this. A bridge in Washington state collapses, sending cars plunging into the icy water.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Place on leave. The woman in charge of the IRS unit that targeted conservative groups, she's out.

SAMBOLIN: And a touching reunion. A man pulled from the rubble of the tornado in Oklahoma is reunited with his rescuers. You do not want to miss this. Such a special moment there.

BERMAN: Lovely story.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Great to see you. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Twenty-nine minutes past the hour.

We begin with breaking news. A bridge collapses 60 miles north of Seattle sending cars and people plunging into the frigid river below. Three people are in the hospital this morning. But remarkably, no one was killed.

The bridge gave way last night along Interstate 5 in the rural town of Mt. Vernon, Washington.

Let's go live to Katharine Barrett. She is at the scene this morning.

So, what are we learning this morning?

KATHARINE BARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, this is a major arterial between the Canadian border and all of Washington State and even points south and major commercial artery. What we're learning now is that transportation officials and witnesses believe an oversized semi-truck may have hit the top of the steel super structure of this bridge and knocked it off Kelter and the whole section plunged into the river.

This bridge was rated functionally obsolete which though we are told does not mean it was unsound. Simply that it was out of date. It might have had too low clearance or too narrow shoulders, perhaps. But, it was an old bridge, 1955, it was constructed. Many of the state's bridges are old. A state that transportation officials do not dispute. And in fact, they say the situation is near critical.


LYNN PETERSON, WASHINGTON STATE: We definitely are in need of maintenance all across the great state of Washington, whether it be a local bridge or a state bridge. But, you know, we are at this point where we need to make a decision about how to move forward with revenue to be able to keep up and maintain our bridges and our roads.


BARRETT: Of course, there've been no easy choices in Washington State's budget process. They've cut funding for education, and obviously, infrastructure as well. So, it's a tough situation financially, but certainly, you see what happens when things are not, perhaps, kept up to date.

SAMBOLIN: No kidding. That's remarkable to think that perhaps it could have been a truck that caused this, you know, by hitting the bridge in the wrong location. So, what's the status on the folks that actually fell into the frigid water there?

BARRETT: Well, they were rescued by divers fairly promptly. All three were taken to local hospitals. And reported now to be in stable condition with nonlife threatening injuries. One man even is stable enough to be granting interviews and describing what it felt like to go from cruising along at 60 miles an hour to suddenly finding yourself underwater. Let's listen.


DAN SLIGH, INJURED IN BRIDGE COLLAPSE: Shoulder dislocated at that point. My truck top was caved in. I couldn't see my wife in the passenger seat. I asked her if she was OK. She wasn't responding. I popped my shoulder back in so I could unbuckle everything and get over to her. Unbuckled her, pulled her on to my side which had less water because it was filling up about belly deep inside the truck.

And, managed to get the driver side door somewhat open to where I could step out on to the side rails of the truck and keep her out of the water in the driver's seat.


BARRETT: Cuts, bumps, bruises, and certainly, a good scare, but given that this bridge accommodates some 70,000 cars and trucks a day, it could have been much, much worse. And people are feeling fortunate to have survived -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And Katharine, it seems like the response there was very fast.

BARRETT: Very fast. This is a generally a rural area, but there are several moderate sized towns close by. And, the State of Washington is familiar with swift water rescues. These rivers are cold and fast and dangerous at this time of year. And it's something that people are prepared for whether it's boaters, fishermen, or even recreational people getting in trouble in the river.

So, they have the capacity to respond, certainly, and they did in this case.

SAMBOLIN: That's great. Katharine Barrett reporting live for us, thank you very much.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Not much scares you. You're really freaked out by --

SAMBOLIN: I really am. I was listening very carefully to him when he was talking -- the gentleman that was just talking about how he got, you know, his wife out and into safety, because I do. I worry every time I go over a bridge. And now look at this, right?

BERMAN: Terrifying to see bridges like that.


BERMAN: All right. Thirty-three minutes after the hour. And it is get away day for one of the busiest travel weekends of the year according to AAA. Nearly 35 million people will be on the move for this Memorial Day holiday or not moving if the case may be, driving or flying at least 50 miles from home. Alina Machado live in Atlanta with more on the busy start to the summer season. How is it looking so far?

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far so good. We're seeing some heavy volume here near downtown Atlanta, but nothing out of the ordinary. I'm sure the situation here is going to be very different as well as in other major cities across the country. Now, this weekend marks the start of the busy summer travel season. According to AAA, they're expecting a slight dip in the number of travelers this year when you compare it to last year.

They're also expecting fewer people to fly to their destinations. That means most people, about 89 percent or 32.1 million people will be -- 31.2, rather, million people will be driving to their destination. They'll be hitting the roads today or this weekend for this holiday. That also means that most people will be going to spend time with their families this weekend. We also know that there are some areas that are having special events for this weekend.

We know that Disney, for example, in Florida and in California will be opening its theme parks for 24-hour period starting at 6:00 a.m. So, a lot of people will be heading out and traveling for Memorial Day. If you haven't had headed out yet but you plan to, the only thing I can say is, be prepared to wait. We are expecting some heavy traffic especially in certain parts of the country -- John.

BERMAN: It's never easy. And the weather in a lot of places is going to make things much more complicated. Alina Machado, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

SAMBOLIN: As you said on the tarmac last night, how long after you had already landed?

BERMAN: 90 minutes.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh. Yes.


SAMBOLIN: I'd like to say pack your patience. People get upset when I say that, but --

BERMAN: Yes Or a six-pack, one or the other.


SAMBOLIN: All right. Thirty-five minutes past the hour. A miracle delivery. An Oklahoma mother gave birth as that tornado tore apart her Oklahoma Town. We have the touching tale of survival right after the break.


BERMAN: We're like this close, this close to Memorial Day weekend. We are almost there, and Indra Petersons is here for the forecast.



PETERSONS: Only for us, though, right in the northeast. You saw the rain yesterday? SAMBOLIN: Right, right.

PETERSONS: Well, We're going to take temperatures down like good 15, 20 degrees cooler. I mean, yes. Take a look outside. We're talking about that jet stream diving all that cold air right down into the northeast. So cold, rainy, yes, look at these temperatures. Look at that. Now, here's the good news. If you're going to be in the southern states, that's where it gets gorgeous.

In fact, it's actually going to be so cold here. I want to look at this. As we go forward in time, you're going to see in the highest elevations in through New York, anywhere in New England, we actually have the threat for snow. Now, that's just the high peeks. Not somebody want to really playing the snow, OK? Let's get realistic here.

But regardless, that's how you know temperatures are not where they should be Memorial Day weekend and all our barbecues we all want to have out there. So, we're trying to go to the Hamptons, rain, rain, rain, except for Monday. So, you get a little gift on Monday. They're going to be beautiful weather there on Monday. But, you know, if you're in the outer banks of the Carolinas, you're looking good.

SAMBOLIN: That's awful. We invited you over to the set --



SAMBOLIN: Well, thank you, Indra. We'll check back in with you.

BERMAN: Maybe. Maybe.

All right. The Atlantic hurricane season kicks off June 1st. The NOAA is predicting plenty of storm activity over the next six months. Forecasters say there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms this season. That's well above the season average. That's not good news. Out of those storms, they say there could be as many as six major hurricanes with winds in excess of 111 miles per hour.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, just ignore all that bad news. I got good news for you. Four-day-old Braden Taylor (ph) will have quite a story to tell his grandchildren someday. The newborn's mom went into labor earlier this week at the same time that deadly tornado was baring down on the hospital in Moore, Oklahoma. Look at that doll. There was no way to run. That's when four real-life angels intervened. Here's CNNs Brian Todd.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. Look at how handsome your boy is.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A reunion that came seconds and inches away from never happening. Four nurses from Moore Medical Center congratulate Shayla Taylor on her newborn son, Braden. Six people with the bond that will last for the rest of their lives. As the tornado approached town, Shayla Taylor was in labor on the second floor of the medical center. She was dilated, going through contractions, and --

ALYSON HEEKE, NURSE SUPERVISOR: She couldn't move. She had an epidural - which meant that it numbed her enough that she couldn't walk.

TODD: As the tornado board down, the staff moved her to the hallway, then to the more solid windowless operating room. The power was knocked out. It was too dangerous to move her anywhere else.

CINDY POPEJOY, CHARGE NURSE: Her baby was not doing the best. So, I really needed a way to monitor her baby to see how the baby was tolerating the labor process especially since she was so far dilated. So, the only place to do that would be the OR.

TODD: But within minutes, the hospital was hit with massive force.

Now, what are you thinking?

SHAYLA TAYLOR, RODE OUT STORM IN DAMAGED HOSPITAL: Once I felt the floor start shaking, it felt like the earthquake and I knew we were getting hit directly. TODD: Did you think at that moment that you and Braden could survive this?

SHAYLA TAYLOR: I didn't know if we would. I was just praying that we would.

TODD: The walls were ripped off the operating room. Shayla's husband and nurses shared these pictures from where they were hunkered down, a gaping hole to the outside, the tornado still raging.

SHAYLA TAYLOR: I opened my eyes, I could see I-35 and I could see the movie theater.

TODD: With Sheila still in labor, nurses Cindy Popejoy, Barbara Brand (ph), Bonnie Stevens (ph), and Alyson Heeke draped blankets and their bodies over her and hang on.

HEEKE: We actually were on the floor. Bonnie, the scrub tech, was kind of leaned over her a little more. We've had blankets and pillows all around her. We were holding on to each other into bed.

TODD: It worked. The tornado passed without any of them being hurt. But Shayla's husband, Jerome, who've taken cover with their four-year- old son Shaden on a lower floor hadn't been allowed to go to his wife and says he didn't know how to get to her.

JEROME TAYLOR, SHAYLA'S HUSBAND: and they were like, no, everybody is out of the building. And I was like, no, my wife, my wife is upstairs.

TODD (on-camera): And there was still danger. Even though the tornado had passed, floors and ceilings were unstable and there were gas leaks. But Jerome Taylor and the nurses were able to get Shayla on to a flat board down, get her down a stairwell, and out.

(voice-over) Shayla was taken to the Healthplex Hospital in Norman. Within hours, Braden Emmanuel Taylor was born at a healthy eight pounds, three ounces.

What do you think of those nurses and what they did?

SHAYLA TAYLOR: They're -- those nurses are amazing. You know, they -- they're definitely doing the job that they were called to do. You know, to put my life before theirs. I know that's what you're supposed to do, you know, as a nurse. I went to nursing school, so I know that's what you're supposed to do.

But to actually see them do it and to be more concerned about me than them, I know that's -- they're definitely doing the job they're called to do.

TODD: As for this tiny trouble maker --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He'll probably sleep through anything now.

(LAUGHTER) TODD: One final piece of symmetry here, Shayla Taylor just finished nursing school. She says she's always wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse and this experience only reinforces that.

Brian Todd, CNN, Moore, Oklahoma.


BERMAN: All right. So, Zoraida had two things to say during this piece, which is simply lovely. Such a great story.

SAMBOLIN: I'm never going to complain about 18 hours in labor, because that was just remarkable.

BERMAN: And the second thing is if you were this mother, what you would tell the kid?

SAMBOLIN: What I would do is I would have the story -- I would repeat the story over and over again, because look at what I did in order to deliver you. Right? Look at what I went through to deliver you. What a fabulous story. That is just incredible. Just incredible. (INAUDIBLE) more stories out of that.

BERMAN: So many stories of hope in that city amidst all the tragedy. There are still a lot of sadness there.


BERMAN: -- 24 funerals for the storm victims, honoring (INAUDIBLE) life of nine-year-old Antonia Candelaria.

SAMBOLIN: Sweet girl.

BERMAN: She died at the Plaza Towers Elementary School. The parents think that she was holding her best friend's hand at the time. Amid the grief, a heartwarming moment. Alex Barnett (ph) nearly died in the rubble of his home until two passerbies heard his screams and dug him out. Alex got to meet the men who saved him last night on CNNs "Piers Morgan Live."



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

ALEX BARNETT, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Thank you very much. God bless you all.


BARNETT: God bless you.


(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Barnett says he plans to take the two men who saved him to lunch to properly thank them. So many heroes.

SAMBOLIN: That is such a beautiful moment, too.

All right. New information about the man police say slaughtered a British soldier right on the street in broad daylight. A friend of that suspect takes us inside the mind of the accused killer. That's next.


SAMBOLIN: The woman who oversaw the IRS unit that targeted conservative groups is now on leave. Lois Lerner acknowledged knowing about the practice two weeks ago and touched off a political firestorm in the process. But at a hearing earlier this week, she declined to answer any questions. Here's CNN's Dana Bash with the very latest.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was no surprise that Lois Lerner, a central figure in the IRS scandal, invoked her Fifth Amendment rights.

LOIS LERNER, IRS EXEMPT ORGANIZATION DIRECTOR: Not testify or answer any of the questions today.

BASH: What did surprise committee Republicans is before saying she would not talk, she did just that, making a lengthy statement and then professing her innocence.

LERNER: I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations.

BASH: Republicans pounced saying Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

REP. TREY GOWDY, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: You don't get to tell your side of the story and then not be subjected to cross-examination.

BASH: GOP chairman, Darrell Issa, eventually dismissed Lerner. Now, a day later, Issa concluded Lerner did waive her right to not answer questions and he's calling her back. But many experts do not think Issa is on firm legal footing.

STAN BRAND, FORMER COUNSEL TO HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE: No, I don't, because I think that a brief prefatory statement of innocence that doesn't devolve into a factual representation is not a waiver. And it's been done before.

BASH: For example, former Enron CEO, Ken Lay, during the height of scandal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the fifth amendment's basic functions is to protect innocent men.

BASH: The committee's top Democrat argues calling Lerner back is a waste of time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's a 99.99 chance that when she comes back in, she's going to say the same thing.

BASH (on-camera): If Lois Lerner still refuses to answer Congress' questions, House Republicans could vote to hold her in contempt and refer that to the justice department to prosecute her. But that could take years and is unlikely since the FBI is conducting its own criminal investigation into IRS wrongdoing.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.


BERMAN: And our thanks to Dana for that report.

The British soldier murdered on a London street has been identified. He's 25-year-old Lee Rigby. He was struck by a car and then hacked to death by two men Wednesday afternoon. Two men accused of killing Rigby claimed he was targeted because British troops have attacked Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. A man who knows suspect, Michael Adebolajo, had this to say.


ABU BARRA, FRIEND OF SUSPECT: I mean, he's always been very vocal and very concerned about the affairs of Muslims and people being oppressed. He could never tolerate anybody to be oppressed without to say anything.


BERMAN: Two other people were arrested yesterday in connection with Rigby's murder.

SAMBOLIN: A seven-year-old girl who lost part of her leg in the Boston marathon bombing is out of the hospital this morning. Jane Richard has been moved to a rehabilitation facility after spending 39 days in the intensive care unit at Boston's children hospital. She is the sister of eight-year-old Martin Richard. Remember him?

He was killed by the second explosion near the finish line. That little girl has endured 12 surgeries, and they say she is in incredibly good spirits.

BERMAN: And that family has shown incredible strength.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes.

All right. A hairy (ph) situation sending Florida Tiger under the knife. Surgeons require to remove a monster sized hairball.

BERMAN: Oh, wow! Is this even possible?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it is possible. We're going to show you more of this gory video. Gruesome, really. When you're having breakfast in the morning, a hairball, really? We'll be right back.


SAMBOLIN: All right. So, nothing unusual about a cat getting a hairball, right?

BERMAN: Yes. A cat, but when it's a 400-pound tiger trying to hack one up, that's something we noticed. And Jeanne Moos now on the tail of the Olympic size hairball.



JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It wasn't just that patient was a 400-pound tiger that made this a hairy operation. We mean really hairy as in gigantic hairball. And that was just the first clump removed from Ty the tiger's stomach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's sort of like my biggest baby. This is my kid.

MOOS: Vernon Yates (ph) raised Ty at his Florida wildlife refuge. But lately, the 17-year-old tiger hadn't been acting like himself.

(on-camera) Over a three-week period, Ty ate less and less. His weight dropped 100 pounds.

(voice-over) A vet put a scope down his throat, diagnosis, hairball. It turns out a tiger gets a hairball the same way a house cat does, by licking and grooming himself. Only most cats like puss & boots managed to hack up the obstruction. But Ty's hairball was way too big to cough up. Doctors at Blue Pearl Vets offered to operate without charge. The press pressed up against the window.


MOOS: Mesmerized as doctors removed clump after clump from Ty's stomach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another one of those!

MOOS: Finally, the doctor dropped the whole mess into the arms of Ty's owner.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want it.

MOOS: Weighed in at four pounds. The teeth compared to the 1670pound human hairball, a Missouri barber collected from years of clipping clients. But then the barber didn't swallow that hairball. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where we separate men and boys.

MOOS: Separated from his hairball, Ty's prognosis was good, and the doctors praised their patient.

DR. DON WOODMAN, REMOVED HAIRBALL FROM TIGER: This tiger specifically is a very, very nice, very, very sweet tiger.

MOOS: So, what do you do with a four-pound hairball? Ty's owner says they thought about selling it on eBay, but apparently, selling something from an endangered species gets tricky so the plan is to just throw it away. It was as if Ty gave birth to his own little bundle of fur.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like a rodent.

MOOS: -- New york.


BERMAN: So, we need to level with you here. In the TV business, Zoraida and I have what we call creative differences.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, this is a big one.

BERMAN: About stories like this. I find stories like hairballs out of tigers and like bear mouths, you know, clamping down on cameras, these stories I find to be awesome.

SAMBOLIN: But not morning television, because people are in the middle of having breakfast. And this is what -- yes -- here's the bear for your viewing pleasure. Again, how disgusting is that, while you were trying to sit there and have your oatmeal or your egg?

BERMAN: I just want to tell all of you people awaken this morning having your oatmeal and eggs, that I respect your desire to see amazing, crazy cool things in the morning.

SAMBOLIN: This is a guy thing.


BERMAN: I do. I am on your side.


SAMBOLIN: All the guys out there.

EARLY START continues right now.