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Homes Destroyed In Tornado's Path; Mine Blast Kills Two; Government's Obamacare Goal; Jessica Ridgeway's Killer Sentenced; Nelson Mandela Still Ill; Lost At Sea?; Woman Speeds Off From Cops

Aired November 18, 2013 - 07:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back to NEW DAY. You are looking at what happens when a twister hits a town. That's from Indiana. The Midwest just bruised and battered by dozens of tornadoes, the most late seasoned tornadoes in 20 years. This is one that hit Washington, Illinois right where we are right now. This is a tight community of some 15,000 people about 150 miles from Chicago.

CNN I-Reporter, Eric Halt, took cell phone video of this huge funnel cloud that was just sitting on top of this city. Eighty one tornadoes just think about that. And again, 20 years, no one had ever seen something like this and you know what happened in just minutes. The storms killed six people, dozens more injured.

The numbers will change, but remember, hundreds of thousands left without electricity across Michigan, Missouri, Indiana and Ohio. One man said it was like the wind had hands that it just took things and ripped them and destroyed them. Just a few minutes and what you are seeing behind us this morning isn't even the worst of it.

Luckily many here have basements and safe rooms and they use them and survived including the Bucher family. They walked out of their basement to see their home practically gone, but they were intact and that's what matters most.

That is what Steve Bucher who joins me now says. Steve, I'm sorry to have to meet you under these circumstances, but I am glad are you OK. Thank God. So tell me what happens, your home, what do you hear? What do you feel?

STEVE BUCHER, SURVIVED TORNADO ON SUNDAY: We returned from Indianapolis and within 45 minutes the sirens had gone off, the sky was just rumbling for 20 minutes and I told my wife I just never seen anything like this in my life.

CUOMO: You have been through storms, this was different?

BUCHER: This was different, very different and the sirens went off. So we thought it was actually clearing to the south, thought probably the danger had passed. She stepped out in front of our home and said that this sounds terrible out there. She said we ought to go down to the basement and I was eating some lunch and we ended up, she begged me to come down the basement immediately. I went down an L-shaped stairs. We ducked around behind the stairwell wall and within 30 seconds, the house was literally vibrating from the direct hit of this funnel cloud and the next thing we know, things are cracking and glass breaking and furniture came around the corner missed us, came into the hall way where we were.

CUOMO: Shook you down to the core of the foundation?

BUCHER: Yes. It took everything. Everything that was not behind a concrete wall underneath the deck is completely gone.

CUOMO: What were you telling yourselves down there?

BUCHER: I think my attitude was, in the next minute-and-a-half, we are either going to be in the hospital or we're going to walk out of here and completely in the Lord's hands, which of those three things --

CUOMO: You and your wife?

BUCHER: My wife and I.

CUOMO: Who was keeping who more calm?

BUCHER: You know, I don't think either of us were shook up at the time. The debris started around the corner, so.

CUOMO: In the basement.

BUCHER: In the basement. Yes, we had a walkout basement on that end of the house. They took everything off there. So I stood up to provide more protection from my wife, the debris coming around, but she was very calm and even afterwards when you walk out and look around you, you think I'm alive.

CUOMO: And it's something you become acutely aware of when you see how close it could have been to a very different outcome.


CUOMO: What did you see as you come out of the basement? What was left?

BUCHER: Well, you know, as we come around the corner where the furnace is, there is a built-in bar. Not one thing was disturbed on that bar. There were wine glasses on a glass rack behind the bar. Every one of them was still sitting on the -- that shelf.

CUOMO: So that was all intact, but the house, itself, was gone?

BUCHER: It was stripped, everything from the decking on the first floor to a story-and-a-half house, four bedrooms up. That's all going to the foundation.

CUOMO: How much of your possessions were you -- BUCHER: Everything. There wasn't a stick of furniture in the front yard. Some people who were out helping us kind of sort through some things last night said that most of our furniture is sitting in a tree line over here about a quarter mile away from the house. It took everything. I mean, it's like you are building a house and you got your decking down over the top of your basement. That's what's left.

CUOMO: How quickly have people come to your aid?

BUCHER: When I walked out around the back of the house, one of our neighbors was already outside, just trying to check and see, they were starting people coming along real quickly to check and see if everybody was OK and I think just immediately there were a string of traffic that started through. So I mean, people had actually trouble getting in there, but within, half hour, 45 minutes, people starting to show up, asking if they could help and people work just unbelievably gracious.

CUOMO: You are still in shock, how are you holding?

BUCHER: I suspect a little bit. I haven't been by the house this morning. I suspect it will be a lot more difficult this morning than it was last night maybe, but it makes you realize how temporary life is. You know, my wife said something this morning. It reminded me of a song and said the things that I have and hold dear to my heart are just borrowed. Jesus only lets me use them to brighten my life. So remind me, Lord.

CUOMO: And today, maybe more than ever, you know what matters most and you have your wife, you have your health.

BUCHER: That's the only thing important to me this morning. Everything else is rebuildable. I couldn't replace her and, you know, that's why you have insurance I guess, it's why our social structure works the way it does.

CUOMO: And you got a community here that will come together.

BUCHER: That cares and will rebuild. This is a great community and they'll, this too, shall pass. And we'll move on to a new day.

CUOMO: Well, it's a great perspective. It's great to have you on NEW DAY with us. Thank you for telling us your story. At least you got your shoes. Everything else Mr. Bucher says he borrowed, but he still got his shoes and if a man has his shoes and his wife, he is going to be all right.

BUCHER: One of the two things I realize, I found out God has a sense of humor.

CUOMO: Because of the glasses on the bar?

BUCHER: My wallet was up in the bathroom, everything was gone. A gentleman came by. We were sorting through some stuff. He said anything in particular? I said if I could find my wallet that would be great. He flipped some stuff over, he said, here's your wallet. I had several hundred dollars in my wallet. I opened it up, God left me $1.

CUOMO: There was $1 left.

BUCHER: One dollar left.

CUOMO: That is funny. I counted like 350 before we started. You got what you need and I wish you well going forward. A lot of people will come forward to make sure this gets back as fast as possible.

BUCHER: Amazing.

CUOMO: Thank you for joining us, Mr. Bucher. Just an amazing story of resilience, there are so many like this, Michaela. We are going to tell them to you this morning.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Chris, that was fantastic. Mr. Bucher still has a sense of humor and able smile during all of that. He has his priorities straight. Let's take a look at our headlines now. Here are some of the stories making news. Officials now say an accident with explosives appears to be the cause of a blast that killed two miners and injured 19 at a mine in Colorado. It happened yesterday morning at a silver mine about 270 miles from Denver. Miners typically use explosives to blast through rocks.

Some new developments on Obamacare, the Obama administration reportedly setting a target considering the federal insurance marketplace a success if 80 percent of users manage to buy health care plans online, that's a figure government and industry officials provided to the "Washington Post." The goal puts pressure on government workers to fix the web site and fix those technical issues at call centers or even with insurers themselves.

The morning, relatives will testify at the sentencing hearing of Austin Sieg, he is the confessed killer of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway. The 18-year-old Sieg pleaded guilty to the gruesome murder that rocked a Colorado suburb in October, 2012. Some of Jessica Ridgeways remains were found in a park five days after she disappeared. Sieg faces up to life in prison.

Nelson Mandela remains under the watchful eye of doctors and caretakers and is said to be in stable but critical condition. His former wife, Winnie, told a local South African newspaper that the 95- year-old remains quote, "quite ill." Tubes have been placed in his lungs to prevent infection and prohibit Mandela from speaking. He was hospitalized, as you will recall, in June for a lung infection.

Just a reminder that no task is too big or small for firefighters, this one in Florida, crews called a racoon after his head got stuck in a glass jar. The curious critter was discovered on top of a trash bin, obviously, became quite exhausted, struggling to set itself free. A small crowd gathered and watched the firefighter pop the jar off the raccoon's head, but he didn't stick around to say thank you. He bolted past firefighters and left the scene immediately.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Didn't even stick around to say thank you.

PEREIRA: No, thank you.

BOLDUAN: No task too big or small.

PEREIRA: You never know what call you will get.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, a dream vacation turns into a nightmare for an Arizona couple after they say they were abandoned in the ocean off Thailand. They talk to us about that terrifying experience.

And a routine traffic stop takes a dangerous turn, the mother behind the wheel accused of endangering her five children who were in that van. Find out why she is facing charges this morning.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. What started out as a trip to paradise turned into a nightmare, an Arizona couple say they found themselves abandoned at sea on their first official scuba diving trip. We are going to talk with the Mendenhalls live in just a second. But first, here's a little more of their story.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): Jake and Lexa Mendenhall love adventure and wanted to celebrate their first wedding anniversary in Thailand taking along a go-pro camera to document the trip. They mingled with exotic wild life, even fearlessly posing next to a tiger. Yet they say the most harrowing moment of their trip came unexpectedly while they were scuba diving.

After enjoying two carefree dives, they came to the surface only to discover their boat was gone. They were abandoned in the middle of the ocean they say. The couple and five other divers spent the next 40 minutes stranded at sea as if straight out of the film "Open Water." The couple began to panic. It was getting late, cold and dark. Lexa had seen sharks swimming nearby.

Another diver waved an inflatable tube they say as an SOS signal. The last moment Jake captured before his camera battery die. Then in a stroke of luck, a snorkel boat passed by and rescued them. As Lexa was helped aboard, she injured her chin. Jake suffered sea sickness, both were taken to a local hospital.

Later they learned their dive boat had electrical problems and went back to shore. They say the captain was supposed to change boats and come back for them but never did.


BOLDUAN: All right, here to talk more about this is Jake and Lexa Mendenhall. Great to see you both. What a harrowing story on what's supposed to be so much fun. What did you think when you came to the surface and you didn't see the boat?

LEXA MENDENHALL, SAYS SHE WAS ABANDONED ON SCUBA TRIP: I think there were a few different things going through my mind at that point. The fact that I expected to see the boat right when we came up and that it was getting darker and that nothing was on the horizon, our boat no other boat. So it was a little moment of panic and my loving hubby here, he was good at calming me down, he was constantly, it's OK. We'll physical this out. It will be OK.

BOLDUAN: What are the two instructors with you, what are they telling you when you are on the surface waiting for someone to come get you?

JAKE MENDENHALL, SAYS HE WAS ABANDONED ON SCUBA TRIP: When we finally obviously got to the surface, they were trying to reassure us that the boat would be back, if there was any sort of a problem, they would tow them. The concern that I have is, you know, where were they? Why didn't they pick us up first? What actually happened? They definitely were trying to calm us and tell us that someone would be on their way.

BOLDUAN: Was there any? They say there was an electrical problem with the boat essentially, did you sense any trouble before you got in the water the first time throughout that period of time you were on it?

JAKE MENDENHALL: I noticed that the captain was fiddling with the engine quite a bit and had to stop and start it a couple times as we were going through getting actually to the dive site. So I could tell maybe there was something going on.

BOLDUAN: And the dive company that they sent us a statement saying, that the captain, saying the captain didn't leave, he couldn't reach you, when you all came to the surface, they could see you, the instructors could see the boat. They wrote to be clear at no point were the divers in any danger, exact protocol was followed. Does that change anything for you? Did they convey this to you when you finally got back to land that protocol was followed, that they were sending another boat, that this all went, you know, they followed protocol?

LEXA MENDENHALL: I think that their idea of a perfectly safe situation, they're expert divers, they've been down many times. It was our first dive. We'd never been scuba diving before. She tried to say it's fine, our driver will be back shortly I'm sure he's around the cove, maybe he got confused, maybe there's something wrong with the boat, he'll be back I'm sure, but for us, as far as we could see, were cliffs.

I'm sure there's a beach on the island near us, but we couldn't see a beach for as long as we were looking around and the fact we had just dove with sharks, whatever kind of species they may have been I am terrified of sharks, so it was just maybe different ideas of what is safe and what might not be.

BOLDUAN: What were you thinking the worst when you're there, you're treading water. You have instructors trying to calm you down, Jake. What's going through your mind? Are you thinking --

JAKE MENDENHALL: Initially I'm trying to be the tough husband, you know, everything's going to be OK, but inside, you know, I was going directly towards where do we go? What do we do in case someone doesn't come back and to follow up on that question, what if something did happen right before we got to the surface, what if I got the bends, what if I passed out, what if she hit the reef and was bleeding? There are so many scenarios that could have happened. We're in the ocean, so I definitely was nervous.

BOLDUAN: Regardless of who's at fault or not, it's a scary experience, especially for any scuba diver but on your first dive. Will you ever go diving again or is this the extent of your foray into that sport?

LEXA MENDENHALL: I think we'd definitely go again. Every moment we spent underwater was beautiful, the coral, the fish, everything, it was awesome, just a rough experience after that. So I think we would go again under perhaps different circumstances.

BOLDUAN: You now have a very amazing story to tell and a lot of pictures and video to go with it, not probably you wanted to have coming back on your anniversary trip. Great to meet you both. Glad you're back on land safely. Nice to meet you. Thanks so much for coming in. Michaela, over to you.

PEREIRA: What a story, Kate. What a story?

Next up on NEW DAY, shocking dash cam video captures a routine traffic stop horribly gone wrong. Why this family's road trip nearly turned deadly.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. A woman with five children in her car pulled over by police then she speeds away. The police catch up and what happened next was not pretty. It was all caught on video. Miguel Marquez has more.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How in the world does a routine traffic stop turn into this? In that minivan, Oriana Farrell and her five kids, one as young as 6 years old, from Memphis, Tennessee, on vacation in Northern New Mexico, pulled over for doing 71 in a 55 zone. Farrell and the state police officer argue over a ticket, Farrell pleading with the officer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn the vehicle off for me.

MARQUEZ: What happens next shocking, Farrell takes off, police chasing her down, she gets out of the van, they argue again. When the officer tries to arrest her, she heads for the door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn around and face your vehicle. Ma'am, listen to me.

MARQUEZ: That's when Farrell's 14-year-old son jumps out of the van. He struggles with and distracts the police as his mother jumps back into the van then he does, too. Backup arrives, tension escalating quickly and violently. Police take a baton to the window trying to extract the family members. Farrell takes off again, then this.

Three shots fired into the minivan, packed with kids. Farrell in full-on flee mode, breaking seemingly every rule in the traffic book. Finally, she stops at a hotel in Taos, New Mexico, both she and her son arrested, among other things, booked for fleeing, child abuse and battery. Farrell and her 14-year-old son now out on bond, her remaining four kids in state custody. Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles.


PEREIRA: It's shocking to see that.

BOLDUAN: All over a traffic ticket. I mean, let's be honest it never ends well when you get out of the car.

PEREIRA: But arguably neither side handled the encounter well at all. It's a miracle nobody was hurt.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, he's being urged out of office by his city's government, but Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is not budging, surprised? He sits down with CNN in his first face-to-face interview, more in the next hour.

CUOMO: All right, Kate, we're here in Washington, Illinois, the sun's coming up but the beauty of this sunrise is totally canceled out for what it is revealing. The damage is terrible. We'll be here in one of the hardest hit areas with team coverage showing you what the tornadoes did, and what is now to do.