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Wildfire in Arizona Kills 19 Firemen; Heat wave Hits U.S. West Coast; Former President Bush Interviewed in Africa; Zimmerman Murder Trial Continues

Aired July 1, 2013 - 07:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Devastating. We just lost 19 of some of the finest people you'll ever meet.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Killer wildfire. Overnight, 19 firefighters gone, trapped while battling a fast moving wildfire in Arizona. The worst loss of life for firefighters since 9/11. We're live with the latest.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Shocking scene. An acrobat with Cirque de Soleil plunges from 50 feet in the air to her death all in front of a horrified audience. What went wrong?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: His own words. The videotaped statement from George Zimmerman describing what he says happened that night. Will it be admitted as evidence? The verdict may hinge on it.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: What you need to know

What you just have to see.

This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.


BOLDUAN (on-camera): Good morning and welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. It is Monday, July 1st. I'm Kate Bolduan.

CUOMO: And I'm Chris Cuomo. We're joined as always by our news anchor, Michaela Pereira. It is 7:00 in the East, and we are in the middle of 30 minutes of commercial free news.

This morning we're covering breaking news out of Arizona, 19 firefighters killed in the line of duty battling an enormous wildfire north of Phoenix. The fire burning through 6,000 acres since just Sunday. It's all in this area around Yarnell that you see there on the map. The disaster the worst loss of firefighter life since 9/11. Senator John McCain said their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

We're learning more about those fallen heroes. They were members of an elite hot shot crew making their loss of experience and knowledge incredibly detrimental to this firefighting community. They are the best of the best this crew. These hot shots were digging a fire line around the Yarnell Hill wildfire. They were trying to starve the fuel for the fire, very dangerous. That's when they were overcome by flames. CNN's Kyung Lah is live in Prescott, Arizona. Kyung, good morning.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. The winds here are the key. They have been extremely erratic, in the words of one firefighter, like a monsoon. Low humidity, extremely hot here. And what it's all added up to is it's a deadly combination for this elite team of firefighters.


LAH: The Yarnell Hill fire began moving at a ferocious pace on Sunday, suddenly changing direction claiming the most firefighter lives since 9/11, trapping 19 firefighters with no way out.

CHIEF DAN FRAIJO, PRESCOTT FIRE DEPARTMENT: We're devastated. We just lost 19 of some of finest people you'll ever meet. Right now we're in crisis.

LAH: The firefighters were part of the Prescott fire department hot shot crew getting their name because they worked in the hottest most dangerous parts of the world fire, confronting wildfires up close and setting up barriers to stop the spread, fire, confronting wildfires up close and setting up barriers to stop the spread.

FRAIJO: These the guys that will go out there with 40, 50 pounds of equipment, walk five miles, sleep out there. These are quality people.

LAH: The crew was tasked with digging a fire line and creating an escape route. Like many other fire departments across the state, the Prescott team jumped into help fight the blaze. The fire has burned at least 6,000 acres and 100 structures destroyed. Forced to evacuate, some residents had only minutes to grab their belongings. Others witnessed their homes burn as they fled the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went up to get the wife because the fire was getting close. And I woke her up and got the evacuation notice, and we had no time. We got the dogs. We got the wife. And it's gone.

LAH: Officials believe lightning may have sparked the fire. The area has been experiencing severe drought conditions.


LAH: We have learned that the firefighters did deploy the fire shelters. That is a move of last resort. This elite team knew the fire was coming straight at them. Firefighters here in Prescott are grieving, but, Chris, they have a job to do. This is still an out of control wildfire. They have to get back on that line.

CUOMO: Kyung, thank you very much. It's understood it's a life or death job for these guys. BOLDUAN: These guys take a lot of risks, but they do so much for their communities. Those 19 were members of an elite squad, as we talked about, the Granite Mountain Hot Shots they were called. Their website says "Our common bond is our love of hard work and arrest chew us adventure." Their hard work indeed made them heroes this morning.

For more perspective on what these men and women do, let's go straight to Robert Rowe, a former deputy fire marshal who spent 26 years in the California Fire Service. Robert is joining us from Los Angeles. Robert, I've got a lot of questions for you about the work that these men and women do, but first just tell us really quickly about the hot shots. What exactly sets them apart from other firefighters?

ROBERT ROWE, FIRE INVESTIGATOR, CALIFORNIA FIRE SERVICE: All firefighters across the nation have a very difficult job. The hot shots of all the jobs that the firefighters may have, that is the most dangerous job that one could have as stated in previous interview, they hike up to seven miles right directly into the fire with 50 to 70 pounds of equipment on their back. They're in extreme condition. They exercise an hour and a half every day as they get prepared for these types of fires. So they're definitely the elite group and they are assigned specifically to face the fire directly.

BOLDUAN: The risks that they take, it's almost impossible to understand how they do their jobs and how they do it so well. As you heard from Kyung in the piece previously, she said that they had deployed their fire shelters. It's almost like a silver sheet that they try pull over themselves. What does that tell you, and what is that fire shelter supposed to do?

ROWE: Well, the fire shelter is made of aluminum and silica, which is basically a retardant. It separates us as firefighters from the fire itself. That is the last ditch effort that firefighters use in order to survive a fire should they be overrun by the fire.

BOLDUAN: And what does that tell you? Obviously it means something unexpected must have happened. They're pointing to the possibility of winds really turning in dramatic fashion. Is that what you would expect to happen in the situation?

ROWE: Yes, that's most likely what had occurred is that the wind did change direction and the fire turned on them as they were preparing to continue to fight the fire. And it was unexpected and so they deployed the shelters in order to survive the fire.

BOLDUAN: When they get into a circumstance that they are forced to deploy the shelters, what are the chances that they were going to make it out? Are these shelters deployed on a regular basis?

ROWE: They're not deployed on a regular basis. It's the last ditch effort in order to try to survive a fire. It's the only thing left that a firefighter will have in this condition in order to try to survive this. And it does not happen frequently because of the planning, but, again, the winds are so unpredictable. And when you're in those situations and you're right on the fire line like these heroes were, it just makes it very difficult to face the fire and expect to survive without the shelters.

BOLDUAN: Robert Rowe, thank you so much for taking the time this morning to talk more about these heroes and what they do and the risks they take to help neighbors in their communities. Thank you so much.

They are right there on the front lines.

CUOMO: Yes, we've been with the hot shot. They're like special forces. But they have everything working against them right now. One of the big factors that's keeping the wildfires burning is the dry intense temperatures with the wind. It's like a turbo charger for the fire, very unpredictable. And the blistering heat expected to continue through Tuesday. In Death Valley, the temperature hit 128 on Saturday and Sunday. That's just six degrees short of the hottest temperature ever recorded.

CNN's Tory Dunnan is braving the heat for us in Death Valley. I'm talking about how dangerous the temperatures are and now how I put you there. But tell me about what people are doing on the ground so that they don't get exposed to this heat any longer than they have to, Tori.

TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, it is dark out, but it is also extremely hot out at this hour. Right now it's 4:00 in the morning here. It's 104 degrees and the day hasn't even begun.


DUNNAN: A deadly heat wave broils from Texas to the western seaboard.


DUNNAN: Scorching through southern California where a hiker died, the sweltering temps may also be to blame for the death of an elderly Las Vegas man. It's even affected flights in Arizona and California where dozens of small planes were grounded.

DAVID SHAPIRO, DESERT WEST AVIATOR: The air is thinner. The thinner the air, the less lift on the airplane.

DUNNAN: Animals are also feeling the burn. At the Houston zoo, monkeys turned to on cup size popsicles. In Death Valley, the wind is more like a hair dryer than a cool breeze.

The high today be Sunday was --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hot, but very beautiful.

DUNNAN: Tourists are flocking at the chance to witness record breaking temps.

Describe how you're feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very hot. DUNNAN: But down here, it's not all too hot to handle. These two put the phrase "hot enough to fry an egg" to the test.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't taste bad.

DUNNAN: Did you really just eat that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really did. It's not bad.

DUNNAN: The west coast has turned into a lifelike oven.


DUNNAN: And Death Valley is home to the world record for the hottest temperature ever recorded. That was back in 1913 at 134 degrees. They're expecting temperatures today near 130 degrees. So Chris and Kate, I have to tell you while it may sound crazy, people are actually staying here in the area in hopes of reaching that record.

CUOMO: You can't control them sometimes. But do your best on stay cool.

BOLDUAN: That's one record that I think I can pass on ever experiencing.

CUOMO: I don't get it. The problem is that temperature right now is playing a role in really devastating effects out there. Let's get to Indra to help up make some sense of this.

The bottom line, it's always nice to have a record, but not this one, not now.

BOLDUAN: Is there any relief in sight?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: There's not really. One of the things we talked about is relief in the overnight hours. I actually want to show you the current temperatures right now. You're still talking about temperatures near 100 degrees even in these overnight hours. That's what makes the situation as to tough. You can actually see where the dome of high pressure is because you can notice Los Angeles currently 67 degrees. That's what they should be feeling in these overnight hours, that cool air.

Unfortunately, though, we have the domes of high pressure and they literally stay in place, like battling out the low pressure which would bring in the cooler air. As long as they're there, it will be sinking air that continues to bring stagnant warm dry conditions to the area, and that's what will be remaining here for the next several days.

Is there relief? Unfortunately not. Averages are in the hundreds, but nothing like this. We're talking close to 115 degrees, a good 15 degrees above normal in many locations. We are actually breaking records and we'll continue to break records out there today. We're talking about the temperatures a good, again, 15 degrees above normal. The only thing we're seeing changing is the monsoonal moisture. It means the threat of lightning. We just talked about the fire that struck over the weekend. You could have the dry lightning, so it's a mixed bag. You have the fire danger from just the lightning itself.

BOLDUAN: And in the early stages they think that a lightning strike is what sparked the fire.


CUOMO: You guys on the ground will say, when it comes to mixed weather, wet winds, anything that brings in moisture we'll take.

PETERSONS: Absolutely, yes.

BOLDUAN: Indra, thanks so much.

President Obama is arriving in Tanzania about 30 minutes from now, the third stop on his African tour. But he's not the only U.S. president in Africa right now actually. Former president George W. Bush is in Zambia working on women's health issues there. And in an "Erin Burnett Out Front" exclusive, CNN's Robyn Curnow sat down with Mr. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush. Robyn is joining us live from Pretoria, South Africa. You hit on quite a range of topics, Robyn.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hi. Today we're in Pretoria of course monitoring Nelson Mandela's health. Yesterday in Zambia with the former president and Mrs. Bush at that clinic for cervical cancer. But as the former commander in chief, I just had to ask him about his reaction to those Edward Snowden leaks.


CURNOW: Do you think he's a traitor?

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I know he damaged the country. The Obama administration will deal with it.

CURNOW: Do you think it's possible for one man to really damage the security of the nation?

BUSH: I think he damaged the security of the country.

CURNOW: And when it comes to surveillance, there can be understanding of what --

BUSH: I put the program in place to protect the country. And one of the certainties is civil liberties were guaranteed.

CURNOW: So you don't think there is a compromise between security and privacy?

BUSH: I think there needs to be a balance. And I think, as the president explained, there's a proper balance.

CURNOW: You don't want to criticize the Obama administration. Is that something that you've made a decision --

BUSH: I don't think it does any good. It's a hard job. He's got plenty on his agenda. And it's difficult. And a former president doesn't need to make it harder.

CURNOW: In the polls you are now sort of --

BUSH: I could care less.

CURNOW: Whether people think you're favorable or unfavorable?

BUSH: The only time I really cared was on Election Day. You know, I guess it's nice. Let me rephrase that. Thank you for bringing it up.


CURNOW: You like the idea that people perhaps are looking at you differently?

BUSH: Ultimately history will judge the decisions that I made. And I won't be around because it will take a while for the objective historians to show up. And so I'm pretty comfortable with it. I did what I did. I know the spirit in which I did it.


CURNOW: OK, in retirement President Bush says he will still focus on Africa. That clinic opens today. On Tuesday, he and Mrs. Bush whether meet with African first ladies and Michelle Obama. Back to you.

BOLDUAN: Robyn Curnow, great interview, thank you so much. And you can hear Robyn's full interview with former president George W. Bush coming up on "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer later today. President Bush will tell us more about the work he's doing to improve women's health in Africa. Very celebrated for the aid programs and all the aid that he sent to Africa during his time as president.

CUOMO: Absolutely. It's very interesting that he decided to talk about the NSA leak situation when that is making news this morning. So let's go over to Michaela.

PEREIRA: Yes, let's get to those headlines. Good morning to you, good morning to you at home.

Making news, Edward Snowden's latest NSA leak is making European Union leaders furious. A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel saying today U.S. spying on European countries would be, quote, "unacceptable." She was referring to a report from the website for "Der Spiegel" magazine that cited documents provided by Snowden that claimed the U.S. bugged EU offices at the U.N., Washington, and Brussels and that the agency hacked into the EU's computer network.

New this morning, at least 16 people killed in Egypt where deadly clashes have marked President Mohammed Morsi's first anniversary in power. Staggering 781 others have been injured across that nation. Protesters taking to the streets demanding Morsi's resignation. Meanwhile Morsi's supporters also rallying this weekend in mostly peaceful demonstration. The State Department and officials in the UK are now citizens to cancel travel plans to or within Egypt.

In San Francisco, a B.A.R.T. strike this morning is expected to cause quite a bit go commuter chaos. Contract talks with the subway system's two largest unions broke down. Transportation officials say there could also be an extra 60,000 cars on Bay area roads this morning as a result of the first train shutdown since 1997. The two sides are haggling over pay raises and benefits.

A terrifying skid during a car show in Poland. That speeding luxury vehicle losing control, sliding into a crowd of people lined up to watch. You see no barrier between them. Seventeen people were hurt. Four of them seriously. Two of them children. We're told none of the injuries are said to be life threatening. That accident now under investigation.

To Texas now where an unusual pet makes a break for it. Yes, that is a bouncing wallaby, a bit like a small kangaroo, escaped from his yard. Animal control was called in. They were eventually able to wrangle the runaway, who I think was probably looking for Australia. After taking lots of photos, Wally the Wallaby, his name is indeed Wally the Wallaby, was returned to his ownder. No word on whether he ran away because they made him wear the red T-shirt.


PERIERA: He's into blue.

CUOMO: Kangaroos are one of those animals that actually get an artificially good reputation.


CUOMO: You know how some animals are like those dogs are all mean. And you're like well, that's not true. Kangaroos?

PERIERA: Everybody thinks they're cute and friendly. But they will kick you.


BOLDUAN: I'm fascinated by them.


CUOMO: You can be into them, but I don't think they're into you.

PERIERA: And we're getting the word wallabies don't want to be compared to kangaroos.


BOLDUAN: We have just started a war with wallabies.

CUOMO: They there size issues. That's why they're so nasty. Think twice.

Coming up on NEW DAY, could George Zimmerman's own words come back to haunt him? How this videotape could play a critical role in his murder trial.

BOLFUAN: And find out why Jennifer Lopez is apologizing today, just for singing happy birthday to a world leader.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Today could be crucial for prosecutors in the George Zimmerman trial. The judge will decide whether to allow statements made by Zimmerman in the hours just after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. That evidence could convince the jury that it's really a case of second degree murder. It could be key in that decision. CNN's George Howell is live in Sanford, Florida. What are we expecting this morning, George?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning. So we've all heard George Zimmerman on those 911 audio tapes. Now we could get a chance to see him. The jury could see him in a video reenactment showing them every move he made step by step with attorneys analyzing every word he says.


GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, DEFENDANT: All I could think about was when he was hitting my head, it felt like it was going to explode.

HOWELL: It's George Zimmerman in his own words, walking investigators through the incident less than 24 hours after shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. And it's this video along with two audio statements and a written statement he gave police that could become critical new evidence in the case. If Judge Debra Nelson allows it in court, the jury could examine Zimmerman's demeanor and possible inconsistencies in his statements.

Prosecutors are also expected to call on more pivotal witnesses this week including the lead investigators from the Sanford Police Department. Chris Serino and Doris Singleton who found that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense. Jurors ended the week on day five, hearing from the only eyewitness to the struggle between Zimmerman and Martin. John Good told police he saw two people on the ground, the person on top was wearing darker clothes, and the man underneath he says seemed to have a lighter complexion, like George Zimmerman.

MARK O'MARA, PROSECUTOR: What you saw was the person in top in an MMA style straddle position?


HOWELL: Good's testimony is important to the defense because it contradicts the testimony of two key witnesses for the state. Selma Mora told the jury she heard yelling, stepped out of her home and saw a man who appeared to be George Zimmerman on top.

O'MARA: The person on top did not respond to the first two times that you called to him, correct?


O'MARA: The third time he said just call the police.

MORA: Correct.

HOWELL: Another important witness for prosecutor, Rachel Jeantel who was on the phone with Martin moments before he was killed. Through more than four hours of questioning, she maintained that it was George Zimmerman who was the aggressor.

DON WEST, PROSECUTOR: I thought in fact that you said that it could have been for all you know Trayvon Martin smashing George Zimmerman in the face is what you actually heard.


WEST: Just earlier today.

JEANTEL: By who?

WEST: By you.

JEANTEL: You're ain't getting that from me.


HOWELL: We're expecting court to start just a little earlier today, 8:30 a.m. eastern time. That is when we expect attorneys to talk about these comments and Judge Debra Nelson to decide whether they can be admitted as evidence.

CUOMO: All right, George, thank you very much. Very big decision for the judge. We're going to be watching that here, take you to the early (INAUDIBLE). It's pivotal to what happens.

Let's start on Friday day five. Very big deal. Why? Good for which side? Jonathan Good, witness for the prosecution, as you heard George saying. He was the set of eyes on the fight. But good to which side? Because he says he described a man that seemed to be that Zimmerman was on the bottom. Again, the key distention is who was on top. This guy Jonathan Good says that Trayvon Martin was on top. What does that mean? It gives credence to the idea that George Zimmerman felt he had to defend his life.

But remember, there was a witness last week who contradicted that. So the question becomes when did Jonathan Good see the fight? Because the fight, very understandably, could have been changing. One guy rolling on top and on the bottom. Another witness said she saw that after the gunshot, the man on top got up. The man on the bottom stayed meaning that would have been Trayvon Martin. So, a little contradictory, but it seemed that Good was actually a little better for the defense.

Now, the big decision that leads us to today. For the prosecution, it comes down it what to do with the interview assuming Judge Nelson allows in the videotaped interview with George Zimmerman the day after. Very rare. The day after the crime, before he has a lawyer, he does a full interview with police taking them through the entire crime scene. Very unusual. Do they use it? If they use it, then they will try to impeach George Zimmerman, use his own words against him. If they don't, key thing that we'll talk about with Sunny Hostin and Vinnie Cevallos in just a second, they may force George Zimmerman to interview if they don't use it. Why? Because to make self defense he may have to use his own testimony.

For the defense, do we even make a case? If they use the interview and they feel the prosecution hasn't met its burden of a reasonable doubt, so that's where we'll be in term of the analysis. Do they even need to make their own case. And of course who has an advantage in the trial. I can't answer that.

But luckily we do have two people who are more than smart enough to get it to us. We have Sunny Hostin, our legal analyst. She's been a former federal prosecutor, she's been outside the court in Sanford. And criminal defense attorney Danny Cevallos. It's great to have you both here. Thank you for being with us this morning. Let's start with this determination. These statements and most importantly this video, Sunny, do you see anyway that Judge Nelson says I'm not letting the video interview in of George Zimmerman?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, no way. The rules of evidence allow for the statement to come in. We do see statements like this come in all the time. Police interviews. We saw it in the Casey Anthony case. I think we especially saw it in the Conrad Murray case. He never testified, but wow didn'tn we hear what he had to say. So I don't think there is any question that it's coming in. I think the only question is should the prosecution put the statements in?

CUOMO: All right, so let's jump to that. I was going to get to that a little later, but let's go right after. You're the prosecutor --

HOSTIN: Sorry Chris.

CUOMO: No, no, no, you're too smart. You're ahead of me. So, you're a former prosecutor, you understand this very well. If you're the prosecution, do you use this interview?

HOSTIN: You know, this is a strategy decision that needs to be made by the prosecution. And the prosecutors on this case know their case better than I know their case. But I would think in a self-defense claim you force Zimmerman to get on the witness stand. You force him to get on the witness stand, tell his version of events and then impeach him with all the different statements. I mean, he not only gave the police interview reenactment, he gave another police interview, and then we remember all the media interviews he gave. He sat with several people and also told versions of events. So I think you put him on the hot seat so you have him live and in Technicolor, and you have the ability to cross-examine him. Now, who knows what the prosecution will do, but -- If it were me, Chris, I think I'd force him on the witness stand. CUOMO: But of course, it's dicey, though because it's so rare you have something like this, Sunny. You know, before he gets lawyered up, he goes through the whole thing. So I come to you, Danny, you're sitting there, if you're defense counsel, if they use this taped interview, what does that do with your strategy with what you do with George Zimmerman?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is a very unusual case and the prosecution is in a tough place. Why? Because this video is overall pretty helpful to Zimmerman. It is the rare police interview that is helpful to a defendant. But in this case, this story is corroborated by witness Good who we heard from on Friday. It's overall a pretty good tape for the defense.

So the prosecution can either, A, introduce it and introduce this evidence that is helpful to Zimmerman, or, B, if they choose not to admit it or not to introduce it, then the defense can make reference to it in cross-examination, they can ask the police officers, well, you took a video interview and leave that question for the jury. If there was a video interview, why did we never see it?

This is an unusual case because the interview again in this case, most interviews if you'd seen on TV, it's a defendant thumpering (ph) around, giving lies, getting caught in lies. I don't know that you see that quite so much with this video and I've watched it. Especially because there are certain points that corroborate almost exactly to what we heard from witnesses as early as Friday.

CUOMO: So sunny, the big calculation today. You're bringing in Christopher Serino and Doris Singleton. They're the investigators. Now, interesting after the initial investigation here, the police felt there was nothing to charge George Zimmerman with, right? It was only later that he got charged. However, Christopher Serino, one investigator, did believe a manslaughter charge would be in order. So what does the prosecution have to get done with the investigators today?

HOSTIN: They certainly have to put it them on the witness stand and if they do put them on the witness stand, and if they do put them on the witness stand, I do think the interview has to come in because that's the foundation of their testimony.

So, I think you get out what Zimmerman told them, and you don't necessarily have to get out the fact that one thought it was a manslaughter, because it's the government, it's the prosecutor's office that brings charges. Police recommend charges all the time, but we know prosecutors are lawyers and so prosecutors are the ones that look at the law and determine whether or not the facts support certain charges. So I'm not so sure that the fact that Serino thought it was manslaughter instead of second degree murder is appropriate. I'm not sure that that would come in, but I certainly think if you put them on the witness stand, you almost have to get into this videotape statement.