Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Bill Gates; Train Derailment Kills Four; Train Was Going 82 MPH in 30 MPH Curve; Interview with Bill Gates

Aired December 2, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our guest today is Bill Gates, which means our entire studio audience gets the new Xbox One. Just kidding. We have no studio audience.

I'm John Berman. And this is THE LEAD.

The national lead. What caused it? Four people dead after a train flies off the tracks in the Bronx. Just moments from now, investigators will give us answers.

The money lead. These days, he makes more headlines for how much he gives away than how much he makes, our guest Bill Gates on his legacy and his battle against the epidemic that has killed millions.

And the pop lead. Fast cars made him a star, but then robbed him of his life. Paul Walker was in the middle of shooting another "Fast and Furious" movie, and not to be indelicate, but fans want to know, what will the series do without him?

Welcome to the lead, everyone. I'm John Berman, filling in today for Jake Tapper.

And we do begin with the national lead. Any moment from now, we are expecting new information on the deadly crash in the Bronx that killed four people. The National Transportation Safety Board holding a news conference, again, any minute, and we will bring it to you live. The whole subject is something none of us wants to think about when we board a train.

There are commuters who have taken the Metro-North Hudson line literally hundreds, maybe even thousands of times, and yet yesterday, it all went awry when a train suddenly derailed on a sharp curve, all seven of the cars flying off the tracks. You can see the pictures right there.

Four people are dead. Dozens more are injured. Today, crews began righting the cars. They used enormous cranes to do this. Investigators recovered two recorders from the wreckage so they can hopefully begin answering the many questions left in the aftermath.

Our own Nic Robertson is at the crash site in the Bronx.

Nic, we are expecting this news conference any minute now, but, still, some details have come out over the course of the day about what investigators have been finding out. What's the latest? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that the second of the event recorders has now arrived in D.C., that the data has been downloaded.

Of course, they will be important to determine the speed of the train and whether or not any braking was applied before it entered that curve. But if you take a look over my shoulder now, you can see that all of those cars have now been pulled out of the dirt, not only pulled out of the dirt, but put back on the track and moved away from the scene of the derailment.

And that in itself is something that the engineers from the NTSB will be able to look at and analyze to see how these carriages, if any of these cars, rather, were damaged prior to the accident. There will be information there they will be able to glean as the cars are moved away from the scene.

We understand from Metro-North that the train operators have had routine tests for drugs and alcohol. There were no cameras on board this train. There were no cameras at the front -- in the front car or monitoring what the operators were doing, and other information as well that will be important for the investigators.

At least of the four people killed in the accident, three of them actually thrown from the car that they were in. Again, all this information important for the investigators and no doubt more details on that in just a few minutes when that press conference begins -- John.

BERMAN: From the beginning, Nic, everyone said how lucky in a sense everyone was that this happened early on a Sunday morning of a holiday weekend, when there weren't the hundreds, even thousands of commuters who could have been riding that train. Still, there were dozens and dozens of people injured. Can you give us an update on the victims?

ROBERTSON: We know there were 67 people taken away to be treated Sunday; 16 at least remain in hospital. Of those, three are in critical condition.

At one hospital, St. Barnabas in the Bronx, they have nine of those injured passengers, one of them in critical there, seven still in ICU, but the doctor we talked to there, Dr. David Listman, telling us it's not just the physical injuries, there is going to be a lot of emotional trauma going forward as well.


DR. DAVID LISTMAN, ST. BARNABAS HOSPITAL: For a lot of these people, the Metro-North train from Upstate to New York City was their way of commuting to work, and I think a lot of these people are going to have to contend with, you know, getting back to normal life at some point and having to get back on the Metro-North train that goes right through, you know, that same area at some point.

And, you know, I think that's going to be very difficult for them, honestly. I don't know how they're going to deal with that, i assume with the support of their family and whatever mental health providers, you know. I'm sure there will be some degree of post-traumatic stress for a number of the people.


ROBERTSON: One of those injured passengers, a 14-year-old boy, rides the train to work every day. Dr. Listman had to tell his mother not just about his injuries and how he had treated him, but about the boy's father, who's got a broken spinal cord injury.

That very traumatic for the family, and that boy, as Dr. Listman told us, his mother told him that boy is going to have to ride the train every day and go through the trauma of getting back on the train -- John.

BERMAN: That has to be so difficult. As you look, Nic, at the pictures of these train cars on their side, you get a sense of how fast they must be going and the force of this accident, what it must have been like.

Nic Robertson for us at the crash scene right now, just north of the Henry Hudson Bridge.

I want to get an expert's opinion on what may have caused this deadly derailment, what the factors have been.

John Goglia is a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

John, thank you so much for joining us.

Apparently, the train operator says that he hit the brakes, but the train would not slow down. This is according to law enforcement who was at the scene. What could have caused that?


When did he hit the brakes? Was he too far into the turn before he hit the brakes? So the recorders are going to tell us when and how much of an application he applied the brakes to. I assume he tried the emergency stop. So the recorders are going to tell us when that happened and just what that means to the accident.

But there's a lot more to it than just the speed that this person was going or this train was going. The condition of the rails, don't lose sight of the fact there was a previous derailment just months before this one at this location, so was the rails repaired properly, was there a problem with the underlying structure of the rails?

All of those will be investigated thoroughly.

BERMAN: The fact that there was an accident close to this location, does that set off warning bells to you?

GOGLIA: Oh, yes. Yes. The NTSB will focus in on that, definitely, for track condition and geometry.

BERMAN: In the curve, this went from 70 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour along this curve. It is one of the sharpest curves in the system. Is it possible that it's just asking too much? Do they have to perhaps look at the rules and regulations managing how trains go around a curve like this?

GOGLIA: Well, there is a formula that's used and that's why the speed drops to 30, which is a major reduction, so that we're going to have to look at that and look at what the signal said and look at when he applied the brakes. Did he apply them too late?

He said that they were ineffective, but they may have been ineffective because he was going too fast at the time.


GOGLIA: We need a little more time.

BERMAN: A lot of analysts suggest that something called positive train control could be something that helps prevent accidents like this. Explain to our viewers and me, frankly, what positive train control means.

GOGLIA: It means that there's an outside influence on how the train is operated.

So if you have a computer-driven system, the system is going to tell the train to slow down, regardless of what the operator's telling it to do. Let's not forget that we have a lot of trains in this country operating with no operators whatsoever.

Right there at JFK, we have the air train that leaves JFK Airport every day multiple times going to Jamaica station. There's no operator on it. It's all computer-controlled. So we need to take advantage of the automation that's available to us and apply it to our rail system in this country.

BERMAN: It is something I think that will be implemented over the next few years across the country, at least in part. I'm not sure replacing the conductors and the engineers on a system like Metro- North is what people have in mind, but they do have in mind some kind of stopgap for this positive system.

Talk to me about what kind of monitoring systems are now in place for the engineers, for the people who run these railroads. There's the black box, the so-called black boxes, the recorders, there were two of them on this train. What about video cameras? Is anyone taking pictures of what's going on inside these trains?

GOGLIA: Not that I know of. I don't believe anybody has got a video system on board.

They do review the operation of the train and there are people that ride the train, safety inspectors, if you will, to make sure that they are abiding by the rules, but it's not as robust as I think it should be.

BERMAN: John Goglia, thank you so much. Let's go right to the news conference right now, NTSB telling us about the Metro-North crash.


EARL WEENER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD MEMBER: -- were transported to Washington, D.C., and a preliminary readout was accomplished.

The preliminary information -- and let me emphasize this is preliminary information -- from the event recorders shows that the train was traveling at approximately 82 miles per hour as it went into a 30-mile-an-hour curve. That speed again was 82 miles an hour at the entrance to a 30-mile-an-hour curve.

Approximately, six seconds before the rear engine of the train came to a stop, the throttle was reduced to idle. Approximately five seconds before the rear engine came to a stop, the brake pressure dropped from 120 PSI to zero, resulting in full application of the brakes.

At this point in the investigation, we don't know what the initiating event was for either the throttle going to idle or the brake pressure dropping to zero. Our investigators will be carefully reviewing all the data to determine the functioning of the brakes throughout the trip and to determine why the throttle went to zero, brake pressure went to zero.

As you may know, this train made nine stops prior to derailing. We need to understand how the brake system was working throughout that part of the trip. At this point, we are not aware of any problems or anomalies with the brakes.

Also today, we began interviewing the engineer. That interview will be continued over the next couple of days. We have interviews in process with the other two -- three -- the other three crew members. Investigators from the track group have completed the assessment of the track, have conducted a detailed engineering survey of the site.

Earlier this afternoon, we released the track back to Metro, Metro- North. Investigators completed some of the signals testing. The rest of the signals testing will have to be accomplished tonight, late at night, when the traffic is minimal on the tracks.

Earlier this afternoon, MTA provided us with a copy of a surveillance video from a nearby bridge. That surveillance video was of low quality. We have sent it back to Washington, D.C., to our laboratories to see if it can be enhanced.

The engineer's cell phone has been recovered, as is part of our routine process, and the forensic evaluation of that cell phone will be provided to the NTSB. Finally, all seven cars and the locomotive have been re-railed and our team has conducted the preliminary assessment of five of those cars and the locomotive.

The two remaining cars are in the process of being inspected at this point. As soon as that's completed, all of the cars and the locomotive will be moved to a secure facility for further examination and evaluation in the next few days.

Our investigators will continue their on-scene work tomorrow, including interviews, inspections and documentation gathering.

With that, I would be willing to take a few questions.

QUESTION: Just to be clear, was this human error or was this faulty braking system that led to this derailment?

WEENER: So the question is, was this human error or faulty equipment?

The answer is, at this point in time, we can't tell. At this point in time, the data is preliminary, but we can say, here's what happened. We know speeds and positions and power settings and brake application. We don't know whether the brakes went to zero pressure because of a valve change or because of the train breakup. That will be determined, of course, as the investigation continues.

QUESTION: What does it tell you so far? When you tell us that the throttle was released to idle at six seconds, at five seconds, the brake pressure dropped to zero, in layman's terms, what does that tell us? What does that tell you?

WEENER: That says six seconds before the engine came to a stop, but when it came to a stop, it had derailed. You know, it laid over partly on its side.

Six seconds to come into a stop, the throttle had been at some power setting. So it was only six seconds before everything came to a stop that the throttle went to idle.

QUESTION: This was late in the game?

WEENER: Very late in the game.

QUESTION: And at 82 miles an hour, that train was going too fast even for the zone leading up to that curve.

WEENER: The zone leading up to the curve was a 70-mile-an-hour zone, and, yes, it was in excess of that speed.

QUESTION: I guess the question is why, then, was the train going so fast?

WEENER: That's the question we need to answer. At this point, as I said, this is preliminary data. This is raw data off of the event recorders, so it tells us what happened. Doesn't tell us why it happened.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what the locomotive engineer has told you so far?

WEENER: I can't do that. The interviews have started, but we don't release any of the interview records until all of the interviews have been conducted.

QUESTION: How many seconds going into that curve should the throttle have been pulled? Does the black box reveal the timeline before, the seconds before?

WEENER: The black box provides quite a bit of data. We will be looking at that data to understand how the train was being managed, how it was accelerating coming up into that curve, but at this point in time, again, this is very early data. Basically, raw data right off the recorders.

QUESTION: Six seconds before that train stops, the engine stops, do you know approximately where that location of that train is six seconds before it stops? Where is the locomotive?

WEENER: The locomotive, and you have probably seen the pictures as much as I have, was basically just nearly inside the turn. So, it was not very far through the turn.

QUESTION: How far would it have traveled in six seconds at that speed?

QUESTION: I guess what I'm asking is, does the throttle come off at that place where it comes off the rails? The locomotive?

WEENER: That would be close together.

QUESTION: Excuse me?

WEENER: That would be close together. But I don't -- without analyzing it, it's hard to say exactly what that sequence was.

QUESTION: We'll take one more question. Any toxicology tests done on the driver?

WEENER: There was drug and alcohol testing that has been completed but the results have not been made available to us. Yes.

QUESTION: What has he said?


QUESTION: What has he said?

Can you just explain about the brake pressure going to zero means for the average reader?

WEENER: Brake pressure --

QUESTION: And the time of that again, please.

WEENER: The brake pressure went to zero five seconds prior to the stop -- to the complete stop of the locomotive. The brakes are held off by pressure so at 120 PSI, the brakes are held off. When the pressure diminishes, particularly when it goes to zero, full braking application happens. QUESTION: You think the application occurred before the train derailed or after the train derailed?

WEENER: Don't know that at this point.

QUESTION: The mechanics of this, can you explain to us how it works, the engine's at the back and the engineer might be I guess at the front of the train, how does he operate the train?

WEENER: OK. Last question. How does he operate the train in a pusher configuration. The engineer is in the cab car up front.

QUESTION: OK. What, is there -- are there lines that run back?

WEENER: There are controls that run back to the locomotive because all the power is at the locomotive. Thank you.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: OK. Let me just say a couple words here and then Senator Blumenthal. First, it is very good that the NTSB is in full charge. They are smart, they are competent and they are independent, and I have worked with them on unfortunately numerous tragedies here in New York, both on the ground and in the air, and they come up with thorough data, they give it to you as quickly as they can but they don't rush. They want to make sure everything is completely squared so when they tell you it's going at 82 miles an hour, it's a pretty safe bet that that's exactly what happened.

They are -- the NTSB was set up by Congress to be independent and to come in, sort of come in on top, if you will, or swoop in and give a complete independent investigation, so no one who has biases will be involved.

And I have complete, and I know Senator Blumenthal does, complete faith in this investigation. When they -- oftentimes when they finish their investigation, Congress takes their findings and puts them into law. That's what happened with the crash in the Buffalo airplane. We now have laws that are -- because the NTSB found there was so much pilot fatigue.

We were briefed and I have been on the phone with not only the folks here, but Ms. Hersman and let me just say a couple of things first. When I heard about the speed, I gulped. It sort of takes my breath away.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You have been listening to a news conference by the NTSB. That's Senator Chuck Schumer. But the NTSB giving key new information about the crash of the Metro Rail train line just north of the Henry Hudson Bridge in the Bronx. The headline is absolutely the fact that the train was traveling 82 miles an hour just before it went into a curve where the speed limit was 30 miles an hour. The zone it was traveling 82 was a 70 mile an hour zone, but this train, any way you look at it, was going above the posted speed limit.

I want to bring back in Nic Robertson, who is out at the crash site right now. Also, John Goglia, former member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Nic, one of the things people have been talking about all day indicating Governor Andrew Cuomo this morning said he believes speed will end up being the major factor in this accident. We now know that this train was without a doubt, according to the recorders, the black boxes, going faster than the posted speed limit, 82 miles per hour.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That certainly appears to be the case. And that's certainly what we're hearing here. The other detail that we heard there was that what was considered the brakes coming on and the throttle coming off, quote, "late in the game". That was the analysis there, six seconds before the locomotive came to a standstill. That's when the throttle came off, five seconds before the locomotive came to a standstill, that's where the brakes were applied. He described how the pressure went to zero when the pressure is zero, that's what brings the brake pads on to the mechanism to slow the cars down there.

So, that very interesting and he was asked about that specifically. He said when those timing, six seconds to the throttle coming off, five seconds for the brakes to come on, that was pretty much when the train itself and all those cars were leaving the track late in the game, he said. That seems to be a big headline out of this in reference to the speed here, John.

BERMAN: Absolutely. John Goglia, Nic brings up another key phrase here, late in the game to reduce the throttle, to put on the brakes. And again, this is all happening around a very sharp curve. Remember the crash in Spain some time ago, that was also a train going very fast around a curve.

If you are taking your foot off the throttle, so to speak, and applying the brakes very late in the game, that seems to be a recipe for danger.

JOHN GOGLIA, FORMER BOARD MEMBER, NTSB: No question about it. You know, trains don't stop very quickly. You put the brakes on now and you stop quite a distance down the track. So, putting the brakes on that late brake application coming six seconds or five seconds prior to the locomotive coming to a stop, that's way too late.

So, now, the focus is going to be on what the operator was doing, was he on his cell phone, which we find often to be a factor in these types of accidents, or if there was other mechanical failure where he called for the application of brakes and the signal didn't get back to the locomotive.

That's why there's two event recorders and I'm sure that the NTSB is going to focus very, very closely on that piece of it. Was it operator error or was it a fact that driving the train from the opposite end of the locomotive played a factor in this because of the communications link between the driver in the front and the power in the back?

BERMAN: Right now, they don't know the whys. They only know the what. The "what" is that train was going 82 miles an hour above the posted speed limit of 70, going into a sharp curve. Remember, again, this summer in Spain a train was going nearly twice the posted speed limit and had an accident there as well. This will be a focus, I am sure, in the coming days.

Nic Robertson at the crash site, John Goglia, a former official with the NTSB -- thank you very much for joining us and helping explain these findings that we're getting in just now here. Appreciate it.

Coming up next for us on THE LEAD: a drone delivering a package to your door in less than an hour? That's what's next for Amazon, according to CEO Jeff Bezos, but does Bill Gates buy it? I'm going to ask him when he joins us, next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm John Berman in for Jake Tapper, today.

In our money lead: $29.7 billion. That's how much President Obama has allocated for HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment in fiscal 2014 budget. That's up nearly $2 billion from 2012. More than 30 million people around the world are now living with HIV.

President Obama marked World AIDS Day at the White House just a short while ago, announcing some new research initiatives and giving credit to those who have fought for progress against the disease.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's the result of countless people, including so many of you, working together.


BERMAN: One of the people in the room sitting in a plum seat in the front row was Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, now the co-chairman and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Their organization has committed billions, that is with the B, to HIV research and grants. He and his wife were just listed number one on the Forbes list of America's top givers, nearly $2 billion in 2012 alone.

Bill Gates was kind enough to leave the White House to join us now.

I really appreciate it. We have better hors d'oeuvres anyway. Thank you for being here.


BERMAN: I want to start with your friend Bono, who has worked with you on the AIDS issue. He had some comments which raised some eyebrows over the weekend. This is what he said about the fight against AIDS. Let's listen.


BONO, U2: There's a chance of having the first AIDS-free generation by 2015-2016. We can see it. We could lose that if we lose the political will.


BERMAN: An AIDS-free generation in just a few years. Do you think that's realistic?

GATES: We're making great progress on AIDS, but we have over 30 million people who are living with the disease. We don't have a cure and so we have to keep them on drugs to keep them alive and that requires not only generosity, but getting very innovative about how we reach that kind of a number. We need a vaccine or a tool to prevent people from getting infection.

So there is still a lot to be done even though we have made progress. We are going to -- we are going to be living with some level of AIDS for decades to come.

BERMAN: An aggressively rosy scenario then from your friend Bono, perhaps.


GATES: People talk about the beginning of the end, and the generosity from the U.S. and others is why we have made this progress.

BERMAN: President Obama gave a great deal of praise at this White House event you were just at to President Bush, George W. Bush, and his efforts to fight AIDS, particularly in Africa. Has President Obama done as much as his predecessor?

GATES: It's very phenomenal that there was bipartisan support for this PEPFAR which is the U.S. AIDS initiative and for Global Fund, which the U.S. participates with many other countries in giving. And Bush took the leadership, but he had Democrats really supporting him. Now, you've got President Obama taking the lead, taking this to a new level and he's got strong Republican support.

So, even though it's kind of exceptional, it's really made a huge difference that everyone's come together to have the U.S. lead the way.

BERMAN: You are incredibly focused on the issue of giving. You have pledged along with Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg to give a majority of your wealth to philanthropy. Forbes lists you, of course, as the richest person in America at $72 billion.

A lot of people ask this question. Have you decided how much you are going to leave to your children?

GATES: Well, certainly Melinda and I think that kids starting off with $1 billion or some huge -- any huge amount of wealth is not necessarily in their interest as well as in the interest of society, and so the vast majority of our money will go to the foundation and we are putting all our energies into making sure that money is well spent and has a big impact, including giving to things like the Global Fund.

BERMAN: Is there a number in your head, though, when it comes to your kids?

GATES: It won't be a huge percentage of the wealth. They will have a chance to make their own mark, earn their own salary, exactly how you strike that balance, I guess you think about it, you wait until you grow up and see how they develop, but it's clear and they are very aware that most of this money is to go back to society and save lives.