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Frightening Plane Crash; Congressman Faces Drug Charges; A "Good Deal" for the U.S.?

Aired November 20, 2013 - 05:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It flew out over the water, really, really low. Really low. Just flying across.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A desperate search for survivors this morning after an airplane on a medical mission crashes into the ocean just off a Florida beach. We're live.

SAMBOLIN: A congressman caught with cocaine. What the Florida lawmaker had to say about his arrest and his addiction.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't have a major tornado in my hometown and just sit back in Texas and not do anything.


BERMAN: A soldier heads home to help the people in his community salvage their homes. After tornadoes simply destroy his town.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to check the weather in that area. Remember yesterday, Indra was saying that it was supposed to rain and everybody was going through the rubble to salvage what they could? So, we'll check it on that.

Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Nice to see you this morning. It is Wednesday, November 20th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

SAMBOLIN: So, we're going to begin this morning with that frantic search on Florida coast for two people. They are missing after a frightening airplane crash. A Learjet plunging into the ocean near Fort Lauderdale just minutes after takeoff. There were four people on board, at least two are confirmed dead.

John Zarrella is live in Fort Lauderdale. He is following the story for us.

What can you tell us, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, just a horrific scene, about a mile offshore and just to the south of us here, by Fort Lauderdale International Airport.

Debris field strewn across the water. And throughout the night, helicopters and coast guard cutters and local and state law enforcement searching the water for those two people still missing. Now, what happened? Last night, about 8:15, after this air medical evac plane had just dropped off a patient from Mexico, it was leaving Fort Lauderdale International Arport on its way back to Mexico. And just after takeoff, the pilot issued a distress call.


AIR-TRAFFIC CONTROL: You going back to Ft. Lauderdale.

PILOT: We have an engine failure.

AIR-TRAFFIC CONTROL: Maintain 4,000 and turn left heading 330.

PILOT: It's not possible. We're going to do a 180. Mayday. Mayday. Mayday.

LT. COMMANDER GABE SOMMA, UNITED STATES COAST GUARD: At approximately 45 minutes into the search, so 8:45 p.m., on-scene searchers and responders located debris. Shortly thereafter located two bodies. At this time, there's still ongoing search and rescue efforts by all agencies, both local, state and federal looking for possible survivors in the water.


ZARRELLA: Now, we still don't know the identities of people on board the plane. We are told that the bodies were of a man and a woman. Of course, the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate this accident, and we are expecting a news conference from authorities any minute now where they may update the status of the search -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. John, so when that happens, we'll get more details from you. Thanks for joining us this morning.

John Zarrella live in Florida for us.

BERMAN: In the meantime, cocaine and politics together again. Some new legal trouble facing a U.S. congressman. Florida's Trey Radel is due in court today facing charges that he was carrying cocaine. This, folks, is a dramatic turn for the freshman who was just elected a little over a year ago.

Our Athena Jones has more.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Representative Trey Radel says he came to Washington because he wants to be able to help. REP. TREY RADEL (R), FLORIDA: Our nation is facing incredible crisis on so many different fronts. We have a debt that is crushing this country.

JONES: But now, the freshman congressman will be in a Washington, D.C. superior courtroom today, facing charges of misdemeanor cocaine possession after his arrest last month.

The 37-year-old legislator released a state saying he's profoundly sorry to let down his family and the people of southwest Florida.

Radel says he struggles with the disease of alcoholism and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice. He says he knows he has a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it.

The former journalist and TV news anchor was elected last year. The Tea Party favorite represents Florida's 19th district.

RADEL: I want to be a conservative voice that stands up for what's right and does the right thing. But I want to be able to have the ability to in fact reach across not just the aisle, but to all Americans and convey my message, our message.

JONES: Radel, who calls himself a hip-hop conservative, also tries to get his message to reach younger constituents. In a recent interview, he breaks down what he says is the conservative message behind Public Enemy's "Fight the Power".

RADEL: If you really get down to it, in many ways reflects a conservative message of having a heavy-handed federal government.

If convicted, Representative Radel faces up to 180 days behind bars, and/or $1,000 fine.

Athena Jones, CNN, Washington.


BERMAN: You know, it was heartfelt statement that he issued. And by all accounts, he's a very good man. A lot of people in this business know him and worked with him in the past say that they like him genuinely.

SAMBOLIN: And he seems to be really hyper-focused on the fact that he needs to be a better man for his wife and for his child. It was impressive, right?

BERMAN: And that's exactly important. Hope he gets the help he needs.


Five minutes past the hour.

The NSA's top deputy is defending the agency's controversial surveillance operations. Deputy Director John English is insisting secret domestic spy programs are being scrutinized by a wide range of officials. And despite a series of embarrassing leaks, he says the NSA is very concerned about civil liberties, despite what critics have suggested.

BERMAN: A top official said the U.S. is not on the verge of apologizing to Afghanistan. There are have been reports that Afghanistan is asking for this apology as part of a key military deal.

But on CNN's "SITUATION ROOM", national security advisor Susan Rise says the U.S. has sacrificed for Afghanistan's future and there's no need to for an apology.

The Obama administration has been negotiating with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over a long term security agreement. Officials say Secretary of State John Kerry has offered a letter promising that past mistakes would not be repeated.

SAMBOLIN: And now to Iran, its nuclear program and the chances for an international agreement that could end more than three decades of icy relations with the West.

Negotiators return to Geneva today in hopes of reaching a deal, (INAUDIBLE) just weeks ago. But as Jim Sciutto reports today's consultations could be a second chance to find a solution everyone can agree on.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today in Geneva, talks begin on what could be a breakthrough agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.

National security adviser Susan Rice told CNN's Wolf Blitzer the deal is a good one for the U.S.

SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The international community would have unprecedented access to Iran's nuclear facilities and full transparency into what they're doing. So, they wouldn't have the ability to sneak out or break out.

SCIUTTO: But the administration is having trouble convincing its closest ally in the region Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling Iran untrustworthy --

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Iran's dream deal is the world's nightmare.

SCIUTTO: And the Obama administration naive.

NETANYAHU: Rather than surrendering to their charm offensive, it's important that they surrender to the pressure that can be brought to them.

SCIUTTO: While U.S. officials say their differences are purely technical, they go to the core of whether any diplomatic agreement on Iran's nuclear program is possible. AARON DAVID MILLER, FOREIGN POLICY: You have probably the most significant breach in terms of perceptions and realities between an American president and Israeli prime minister in quite some time.

SCIUTTO: Facing similar skepticism from U.S. lawmakers at home, President Obama met with Senate leaders Tuesday to make his case. Several still left the White House unconvinced.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Well, I think all of us are concerned. We know who we're dealing with. You know, we watch this same type of activity occur in North Korea where you began to alleviate sanctions. And I think what the concern is, whatever you do in an interim basis becomes the new norm.

SCIUTTO: Negotiators will meet in Geneva from today at least through Friday, with hopes of making a deal.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Jim for that.

We are fighting more about the huge record-setting $13 billion settlement between JPMorgan Chase and the government over the mortgage meltdown, including one way that the bank will be held accountable -- an independent monitor will supervise how JPMorgan spends some $4 billion, which has been earmarked to help homeowners. And if it doesn't do what it has promised, by 2016, the bank will have to fate federal government or give a sizable amount of money to a nonprofit.

We're going to have more on this coming in "Money Time".

SAMBOLIN: Kathleen Sebelius said hitting the road in defense of Obamacare. The embattled health and human services secretary visiting Miami for the second time in three months, highlighting the store of one Miami Beach man who was able to buy insurance through the Web site. Sebelius is vowing to finish the job, while avoiding questions about calls for her to step down.

BERMAN: President Obama was not at the official ceremony yesterday marking the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg address. The White House said there were scheduling conflicts, but the president did put out a rather extraordinary handwritten note which reflects the speech to him. The president writes that sometimes he looks at a copy of the address which is in the White House and thinks about how Lincoln's words give him and the nation confidence that freedom will prevail.

It was really interesting to see this written in the president's own hand, a rather long, long notes and thoughts.

SAMBOLIN: All right. President Obama will mark another on anniversary today, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The president and the first lady, along with former President Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Kennedy's gravesite at Arlington National Security where they will a wreath. Kennedy was shot in Dallas 50 years ago this Friday.

BERMAN: Across the Midwest, more painful cleanup this morning after those deadly destructive tornadoes slice through the region. Many people returning home from far away to see the destruction themselves, including Mike Rodcay. He's an army sergeant stationed in Texas. After hearing about the storms he raised back to Washington, Illinois, and his mother's fortunately undamaged house.

He drove almost 18 hours so he could help out.


MIKE RODCAY, ARMY SERGEANT 1ST CLASS: As much devastation as there was, I told my boss and Army, and I told her that I've got to come home. I have to. This is where I'm from. I can't have a major tornado hit my hometown and just sit back in Texas and not do anything.


SAMBOLIN: Indra Petersons, who just returned from the tornado zone, is joining this morning.

So, a couple of questions, yesterday, when you were there, you were talking about the fact they were expecting some rain and going to have some difficulty looking through the rubble that pan out, that's true?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, unfortunately, that is what we're looking forward today, a storm kind of really kind of kicking up.

A little short wave today, so, some lighter rain expected in the forecast today. But then especially as you go through Thursday and Friday, some heavier rain is in the forecast for them. Not to mention still very cold, temperatures in the 40s and getting colder as we go through the weekend.

Now, as far as the rest of the country, let's talk about this dome of high pressure that's going to be in place for us today. We're going to be talking about temperatures on the mild side. Maybe five to ten degrees below normal, but the big story is what's going on out west. There you see temperatures, say, Charleston, about 65, D.C., about 48. So, yes, chilly, but that story again, remains out west.

Look at this moisture. This is Hawaii. There's California. Every time you see this, you know we're going to start getting heavy rain and good amounts of snow out west. And this is the storm that's eventually going to make its way throughout the country.

So, cold air, that is key. It's going to be plunging and diving down really bringing all of our temperatures down by the end of the week, but also very bringing them some heavy snow. So, in the sierras looking at a foot of snow, also around Wyoming and Colorado today.

Again, as I mentioned, that is the system. Anytime you see a system that makes its way across into the Midwest. That's going to be bringing Illinois the rain, eventually us for the weekend.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you. You did a great job for us out there. Thank you.

BERMAN: Thanks, Indra.

All right. Twelve minutes after the hour.

Brittany Murphy's father on the record with CNN on the new evidence that he says shows his daughter might have been murdered.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw her three months before she died. He was in great spirits, but she wasn't herself.


BERMAN: What law enforcement plans to do with these new test results straight ahead.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, George Zimmerman out of jail but not without some pretty big provisions. His punishment so far for allegedly abusing his girlfriend.

BERMAN: Trouble.

Plus, it's time for your morning rhyme. Tweet us your own original verse. It can be about anything. Hash tags are #morningrhyme and #earlystart. We'll read the best ones on the air in the next half hour.


BERMAN: All right. Welcome back. There is breaking news. Let's go right to Ft. Lauderdale where the Coast Guard is giving an update in the search for two people missing after a plane crash.

SOMMA: And again, we are stressing this is still an ongoing search and rescue case. Rescuers have been on scene overnight and continuing to search for survivors in the water.

This time, I'd like to introduce the commanding officer at Station Ft. Lauderdale, Paul Turner.

LT. PAUL TURNER, U.S. COAST GUARD: Good morning. I'll take any questions you may have about the case.

REPORTER: Paul, real quick, you were first on scene. When you first got out there, what did you see?

TURNER: Shortly after 8:00, received a report of a downed aircraft three nautical miles off Port Everglades. Upon arriving on the scene minutes after that call, us, Coast Guard aviation assets, as well as your state and local assets, we saw a debris field. I would say pretty small at that point. Some of the fuselage we were able to see. So, we confirmed it was a debris field we were looking for, as long as we have a large fuel shin and that's what we saw.

REPORTER: Were you one of the buns who found one two of the bodies inside the water?

TURNER: That's correct.

REPORTER: Where did you find the bodies?

TURNER: They were about 500 yards from the original debris field to the north.

REPORTER: You can confirm they were male and female?

TURNER: I cannot confirm that at this time. Next of kin notifications have yet to be made.

REPORTER: Paul, kind of walk us through this morning -- where are you guys at? What are you doing at this hour?

TURNER: Right now, we're continuing our search efforts with surface assets, navy assets, we'll continue those until midmorning, we'll switch out crews and we'll definitely go throughout the day and reassess the evening.

REPORTER: How big of an area are you covering with your search right now?

TURNER: The initial debris field, all the way up to Hillsborough, to approximately eight to ten nautical miles to the east.

REPORTER: Can you describe the damage of the plane involved?

TURNER: To the debris field, like I said, it was just pieces of the plane. There were -- I couldn't say there was anything larger than six by six. That's just my estimate.

REPORTER: Bodies you did find, any idea of whether it was the pilot?

TURNER: No ideas at this time on the two bodies recovered.

REPORTER: We also understand his was a medical plane. Can you tell us about that?

TURNER: I cannot confirm that at this time.

SOMMA: One more question.

REPORTER: Real quick, despite is being nine hours now, you're still searching for two possible survivors?

TURNER: That's correct. This is an active search and rescue case primarily.

REPORTER: How are the conditions throughout, calm or -- TURNER: Optimal search conditions other than darkness. So, we would hope to see optimal conditions this morning.

REPORTER: How big is the team though --

TURNER: I'm sorry, ma'am?

REPORTER: How many members of the (INAUDIBLE)?

TURNER: We had over 12 assets and 50 people involved in this case, presently.

REPORTER: What's the hope that these missing can survivor through the night?

TURNER: We'll continue as a search and rescue case.

SOMMA: OK. Guys, we'll keep you updated with press releases. I would say that --

BERMAN: All right. You're hearing from the coast guard in Ft. Lauderdale on the plane crash that happened there overnight. A Learjet, a medical jet went down there. They found two bodies in the water. They're calling it an active search right now for two survivors. There were four people on the plane.

What happened, this plane came from Mexico, dropped off a patient, and was returning home when it crashed in the water. There's a debris field in the water. The plane was pretty badly smashed up, no pieces above six feet wide.

SAMBOLIN: There was a little bit of good news that he shared. He said optimal conditions for the search and rescue which is underway right now. There are about 50 people involved in that. The only problem is it's dark out. So, that makes it difficult.

So, as soon as they have some light, they'll hopefully, you know, you just never know, miracles sometimes happen, right.

BERMAN: Within the next hour or so, they should get that light and get a better sense of what's going on the water there, again searching for two people in Ft. Lauderdale.

SAMBOLIN: We'll continue to follow this story.

In today's "Road Warriors", you know those discount airlines that promise to save you money in exchange for giving up certain perks. Well, two of them are now considering changes that could wind up costing you even more when you fly. I don't know why they always give me these stories, right?

So, Southwest Airlines has advertised for years that bags fly free. But now the CEO said that Southwest might be open to charging in the future. Southwest currently allows two free checked bags. Don't worry yet, the airline says it doesn't have any concrete plans to tack on those charges to you. Spirit Airlines also considering charging more for checked bags during peak travel times, they say. That means you could pay more right around the holidays. And the flip side, you could also pay less when business is typically slow. Spirit Airlines says the new pricing if it happens wouldn't take in effect until next year. So, you have sometime to get angrier.

JetBlue is the only major carrier that lets passengers check a bag at absolutely no charge.

BERMAN: They know you don't pack light. They know you carry a lot of baggage when you travel, so maybe that's why you get these treats.

SAMBOLIN: Perhaps.

BERMAN: All right. Twenty minutes after the hour. A high school coach out, accused of biting a player's face.


BERMAN: That's what they tell me. Biting a player's face. Andy Scholes joins us with this strange story. We need some answers here, Andy, coming up right after the break.


BERMAN: All right. From the "this really happened" file, a high school girls basketball coach in Mississippi has resigned after allegations that he bit one of his players in the face after she made a bad play.

SAMBOLIN: Andy Scholes, what happened?

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Whew, this is bizarre, guys.

You know, the coach's name is Doyle Wolverton. He's the nation's second winningest high school girls basketball coach. He's been coaching at Leake Academy in Mississippi for 38 years. But this week, he stepped down amid shock allegations.

According to a police report which is filed by a parent, Wolverton allegedly grabbed one of his players by the shirt and then bit her on the right side of her face after she made a bad play on the court. The player was taken to the emergency room where deputies observed a bruised bite mark on her face.

Despite what happened, the father of the girl does not want to pursue charges. Other than resigning, Wolverton has not addressed the allegations.

Trending on today, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn crashed during a practice run in Colorado yesterday. Right now, it's unclear if she suffered another significant injury. Vonn is still working her way back from a horrific leg injury she suffered back in February. United States ski team confirmed that Vonn will be undergoing an MRI to determine the extent of injuries. The Sochi Games are just 71 games away.

Check out this new Footlocker commercial guys. Kyrie Irving talking about the week of greatness at Footlocker and how everything feels right in the world.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, Evander. It's your ear.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great. A man has got know when to walk away.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's never coming back!



SCHOLES: Guys, this is just examples of how everything is just right in the sports world. I think my favorite part of that is Brett Favre saying he knew when to stop eating the pie.

BERMAN: I got to say, everything comes to the price. Those guys got paid a whole lot of money to do that. Evander Holyfield thing is the strangest. The guy got his ear bit off and he's still hugging Mike Tyson.

SCHOLES: There's a price for everything.

BERMAN: A lot of biting news on the "Bleacher Report" today.

SAMBOLIN: That was crazy.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes, appreciate it.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Twenty-seven minutes past the hour.

A Learjet falls from the sky off the Florida coast. Continuing coverage of frantic searches for survivors this morning when we come back.