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Seven Cars Jumped Track; Biden Heads to Asia; "We're Not Safer Today"; Did Obamacare Web Fixes Work?

Aired December 2, 2013 - 08:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got thrown across back and forth and it came to like a halt and there was just people screaming.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Off the tracks. New information this morning on what caused that deadly train crash. We hear from passengers inside and investigators trying to determine what went wrong.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Growing threat. Two of the country's intelligence leaders tell CNN the threat of terrorism is now greater than before. So how real is it?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Caught on tape. The amazing rescue story, a ship submerged, the cook trapped live underwater for three days. We have the moment divers find him and bring him to safety.

CUOMO: Your "NEW DAY" continues right now.

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

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome back to "NEW DAY". It is Monday, December 2nd. Eight o'clock in the East.

New this hour: crews in the Bronx are putting the commuter train cars that jumped the tracks Sunday back on the tracks as federal officials begin their investigation into why this happened. We're also learning more about the human toll of this disaster. Four people killed. 67 people hurt, 11 of them critically.

We have Alexandra Field in the field, in the Bronx with the very latest. What do we know?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Chris, the work out here started just before day break. Cranes were brought in to do some heavy lifting and you can see what they're doing behind me right now.

After they picked up the locomotive and put it on the track, they started moving each of the seven passenger cars that derailed. They will pick up each and put them on the track in an effort to reconstruct the accident scene. From there, they'll try to figure out what caused the train to crash.


FIELD (voice-over): Overnight the names of all four passengers killed by the Metro North commuter train crash Sunday were released. MTA Police identified 54-year-old Donna Smith.

KATHY GEROME, NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR: Donna was a wonderful person. She was kind, neighborly, and friendly.

FIELD: The 35-year-old Ahn Kisook, 59-year-old James Ferrari and this man, 58-year-old father of four, James Lovell.

JONATHAN KRUK, NEIGHBOR: I'll remember him as having dignity and determination and being a wonderful father.

FIELD: Three of them ejected from the train, its cars strewn along the tracks in the Bronx.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got thrown across back and forth and it came to like a halt and there was just people screaming.

FIELD: Early Sunday, a throng of rescue worker scoured the grizzly scene, one railcar nearly plunging into the river where divers check for bodies underwater.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can see some people flying from my left side to the right side, people from the back. It's just crazy.

FIELD: At 7:20 a.m., the commuter train carrying 150 passengers on its way to Grand Central Station from Poughkeepsie approached an extremely sharp curve that required a speed limit of 30 miles per hour along the Harlem River, compared to the straight away prior requiring a speed limit of 70 miles per hour.

ANDREW CUOMO, GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: The curve has been here for many, many years, right, and trains take the curve. But it just can't be the curve.

FIELD: The train conductor said he tried to apply the brakes, but says they didn't work as all seven cars derailed barreling off the tracks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By the time I looked up, it was completely going off the tracks. There was just like the rubble from under the tracks like flying by my face.

FIELD: Only 1,700 feet away from a previous July derailment. That's where ten garbage freight cars flipped on their sides.

EARL WEENER, NTSB: We don't know what the train speed was. We will learn that from the vehicle event recorders.

FIELD: This is the second passenger train derailment in six months from Metro North. In May, an east bound train derailed in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It was hit by a westbound train, 76 people were injured. Sunday's crash eerily similar to the train that derailed in Northwestern Spain killing 79 passengers.

In that crash the train was approaching a sharp turn. Security video showed the shocking moment the train going more than twice the speed limit hurdled off the tracks. Officials are looking into what role if any speed rate in the Bronx accident.


FIELD: Seventeen million commuters use Metro North's Hudson line every year. This stretch of track will remain closed for as long as investigators need. After that, crews will have to come in to make repairs to the tracks before service can be restored -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Alexandra, thanks so much for that update.

The NTSB's Go Team arrived in the Bronx Sunday and has already retrieved the train's data recorder. Joining us to talk about what this could mean, what could be the source of this crash, Mary Schiavo. She's the former inspector general of the United States Department of Transportation.

Mary, it's great to see you. Thanks so much for coming in.


BOLDUAN: Of course. So what's the first thing that sticks out to you with the limited details that we have so far?

SCHIAVO: Well, the first thing is that you've had repeat problems at this section of the track. Now, there is the easy answer, the train was going too fast for a curve, but then there's a secondary inquiry which, of course, the NTSB will cover, which is why we have had repeat accidents here and was applying the brakes just before the curve, the right action, should the train have been slowed before.

You know, this is a pretty sharp curve. It has been there forever. But the fact that we've had other accidents there means we have to look beyond just the fact that the train engineer said that brakes were not working. We have to see if there's additional issues concerning that track.

BOLDUAN: What's the range of possibility, likely possibilities here? What does past experience tell you, Mary?

SCHIAVO: Well, past experience says that, you know, on more than one occasion, people -- trains have been unable to slow down in time for the track. It can be equipment malfunction but also the issue of the track is an abnormally sharp curve and that it presents a problem to trains.

In our country, we have very old track, old infrastructure and in other nations, we like to compare ourselves to Japan and we all want Shinkansen bullet trains, but the fact is their tracks are very, very different. They were constructed specifically for high-speed trains and there the trains are 200 miles an hour.

Seventy miles an hour may be just entirely too fast for this section of track, but our problems aren't easily solved. The tracks -- we just can't build new track in this country as easily as in other countries where you have more eminent domain and the ability to take land.

BOLDUAN: And the governor told us just last hour that they retrieved two data recorders from the train, front and from the back. What kind of information will they be able to gather from that, Mary?

SCHIAVO: It's going to depend on the age of the data recorders, but data recorders aren't just going to give them the speed, it's going to tell them when the brakes were applied. It tells everything like when whistles were sounded. The data recorders record a lot more documents and information than just speed. It records, you know, many events on the train and hopefully this is a more advanced black box. It will tell when the brakes were applied, various speeds of the train, all along the track. We will have that, and additional cues as to what was going on on the train.

And they probably will have, as soon as they download the data, the NTSB will know that, when the brakes were applied, if they were applied soon enough, if the train had slowed to the point where the brakes were going to work when they were going to apply -- be applied and the NTSB will have all that from the black box. They probably have it now.

BOLDUAN: When you take a look at it from the 30,000 foot view of the commuter rail system at large, has technology advanced to a point where there are better safety systems that could be in place for commuter rail?

SCHIAVO: Yes. Technology has advanced literally places around the world, we have far more advanced trains but having an advanced train on an old track system is not going to work. What we have to do is have the systems work with each other. The track has to be able to accommodate the train.

For example, in China, I've been on the maglev trains. You know, we've tried to invest here but we don't have the population and density to do that. In Japan, you know, I had the occasion to work with Japan rail in the past and ride the Shinkansen, the bullet trains, many times.

But those very advanced trains are on very advanced track. And that's what we're going to have to look at. They're all computer coordinated so you cannot have quite as many problems as we experience here because they have computer controlled track from, you know, the very end to end on the island of Japan.

BOLDUAN: Mary, Chris actually asked me an interesting question, that I don't know the answer to. Who -- did the same agency maintain the track as the trains? Or are we talking this could be a problem that of the left hand is not talking to the right?

SCHIAVO: Exactly, very good question. Because in many cases, the track is owned by one entity and there are situations where the track is owned by one, maintained by another, and then traveled on by a different trains and that's very common.

That's also common in other countries. For example, in Japan the train people run the trains and then the track in many cases has to be paid to be maintained by the government. So, you can have a lot of entities involved in the track itself and the track was probably fine, but the curve may be the problem.

So you have one issue of was the actually functioning and lined up and in good repair. But then you have the design problem. So, many entities will come into play here in sorting this out and the NTSB does have jurisdiction over them all, fortunately.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Mary, always great to have your perspective. Thank you so much.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: See you later.

All right. Michaela?

PEREIRA: All right. Let's take a look at the headlines at this hour.

Vice President Joe Biden trying to ease tensions in the Far East. He'll arrive in Japan this morning. It is part of a three country trip. He's taking his -- making his way to China and South Korea. This comes as China and Japan battle over rights to territory in the East China Sea. Officials say the trip is to emphasize America's presence in the Pacific.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai now accusing the U.S. of cutting police and military supplies in order to try to pressure the country into signing a security deal. The U.S. embassy in Kabul denies those claims. Tensions between Karzai and the U.S. have been rising lately. Just last week, Karzai said he would not sign a new security deal until certain requirements are met even though both sides had already agreed on a deal.

One after the other -- cars and trucks slamming into one another on an icy road in Massachusetts. In the end, it was a 65-car pileup. State police say at least two people were seriously injured Sunday, 35 others were taken to local hospitals in Worcester. The highway was closed for several hours after freezing rain turned that roadway into a sheet of ice. Even a state trooper responding to the crash was rear ended.

Talk about a joy ride, this one around the sound. Authorities in Seattle arresting a man they claim stole a ferry and took it around Puget Sound for about seven hours. Here's the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) REPORTER: Why did you do it?

PEREIRA: A wild and bizarre stunt shocks police. Armed SWAT teams stormed Elliott Bay after a wanted sex offender allegedly steals s a ferry, and takes on a very dangerous journey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A number of people said they thought it was a joke when they first initiated some calls. And no joke. It's just bad experience.

PEREIRA: The crazy ride started on Sunday morning. Police say this man 33-year-old Samuel McDonough broke through a security fence at the dock of the Victoria Clipper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are two boats approaching the clipper.

PEREIRA: Dozens of stunned witnesses watched the caper on public telescopes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went for a little walk downtown and I thought the most exciting thing I was going to see today was the marathon and apparently there was a ship hijacking.

PEREIRA: At one point the ferry looked like it was about to ram into another boat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw the Clipper dangerously close to the grain ship at the grain terminal. It was windy, a lot of waves.

PEREIRA: Seattle police teamed up with the coast guard and SWAT teams to take back that ferry and take down the suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we were able to come together and deal with the situation that I think in the end turned out to be a little bit more odd than anything else.

PEREIRA: McDonough described by police as a danger to the community, allegedly told cops he just wanted to travel to west Seattle.


PEREIRA: You know, I'm from that area that is serviced from Seattle to Vancouver.

BOLDUAN: Sorry --

PEREIRA: These two, I tell you.

CUOMO: Parking.

PEREIRA: Tying to remember the word. I was trying to make a point. I'm derailed. It's OK. I do know what I was going to say -- it's so unusual. The guy tried to steal a ferry, that's what I was trying to say.

BOLDUAN: Trying to get to west Seattle. Other ways. PEREIRA: I've seen at love things in my time taking that ferry, not that.

CUOMO: I was thinking, the first responders, they're having to deal with those tough seas, trying to remember the word about those cold and rough conditions.

BOLDUAN: Richard Quest taught us the other day.

PEREIRA: It was parky.

BOLDUAN: It's parky.


CUOMO: That's what it was, right? And then we asked him to define it and he said it again and went like with this his coat.

It's parky.

PEREIRA: We got it together.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You guys, different wave lengths. Regardless, it is not parky today.

We're talking about mild conditions out there. D.C. right now about 42, New York 44. Mild everywhere but that is going to be changing quickly as a couple systems are out there. Big one, hard to miss, Pacific Northwest. We'll get to that.

First let's talk about the little wave of energy into the Southeast today. It does mean maybe some light showers but overall temperatures pretty mild. In fact, above normal. I mean, check this out. We're talking about ten degrees above normal by the middle of the week, 70s in New Orleans. I know you're not complaining Atlanta, going about 67 on Wednesday as well.

That same system is going to make its way kind of cruising up the coastline here on the east coast. We are not expecting rain because it's too far offshore. So, all we will be doing is seeing nice seasonal like temperatures, hit above normal over the next several days.

So that's the upside to all of this. Now, let's talk about the big change that will be heading our way, first, of course, everything goes west to east. Let's take you out West. We are talking about a good foot or two of snow. We're talking Idaho, Montana, even Wyoming. Look at all that heavy snow and an arctic blast is going to go right with this, guys. So, the temperatures are really going to drop. Just keep in mind, of course, the system will spread to the east. So, by the second half of our week, we will start to talk about some showers out there and especially the temperatures.

This is what everyone is really going to be talking about. Notice Denver, 36 through tomorrow. Check out Dallas, 78. Feel pretty good, right? Not too bad. Now, check out Dallas, OK, Wednesday, OK. Now, we take you into Thursday. Look at that. Down to 42 degrees. Big changes this week.

See, we actually need to be here. People need to listen to this and need to know what's coming. Seventy-eight, you don't know what's coming, down to 42. I'm going to say ouch. Thirty-six, 40 degrees, below normal.


BOLDUAN: Prepare yourself. Of course, the best part is, as you point out, Dallas is going to be 42. Bismarck is negative one, but --

PETERSONS: But they're used to it, right?

PEREIRA: And they have -- everybody doing their news.

CUOMO: That's right.

PEREIRA: So everything is warmer.

PETERSONS: Totally fine.

BOLDUAN: Everything's normal.


BOLDUAN: Brought San Diego to them. Thanks, Indra.

Coming up next on "NEW DAY", two leaders in Congress say terrorists are gaining strength and that Americans aren't any safer than we were two years ago. Why they say we should be concerned?

CUOMO: And actor, Paul Walker, we're learning new details about the car crash that killed him and about the man police say was behind the wheel.


CUOMO: Welcome back to "NEW DAY". When it comes to terrorism, we are less safe today than a year ago. That's not some online ranting that I'm reporting. That is the word from the heads of the House and Senate intelligence committees. They tell CNN we are not safer, despite the deaths of several high profile terror target. So, the question is, how could terrorists actually be gaining ground?

CNN's terrorism analyst, Mr. Paul Cruickshank, joins us from Washington. Paul, this is very scary. What is the truth behind this and why is it true, if it is?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think that this is accurate and it's certainly reflective of the view of United States intelligence agencies. And I think the threat trajectory is actually even more worrying than that. I think it can now be argued that al Qaeda and its affiliates in terms of the number of fighters in their ranks in terms of their weaponry, in terms of the territory, that they control, that they're in the strongest position anytime in the last five years, and perhaps, even since 9/11. Sure, this is a network which has suffered setbacks in the last few years, particularly, in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region, because of drone strikes, because of the death of Bin Laden, but what they've been able to do in the last couple years is shift their center of gravity away from that region towards the Arab world.

And in the Arab world, they've been able to build up a significant presence by taking advantage of the political turmoil caused by the Arab spring notably in Syria where they've taken advantage of the civil war there. There are now two al Qaeda affiliates operating in Syria with several thousand fighters.

And when you look across the region from West Africa, East Africa, North Africa, the Arab world, Yemen, all these places al Qaeda now has a really significant presence and that's very, very concerning to U.S. counterterrorism officials. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the threat to the U.S. homeland is higher than it was say five years ago, because the big priority for these groups in the Arab world right now is creating Islamic states in the region, not so much about attacking the United States right now.

But the concern is that could shift in the future and the groups like the al Qaeda affiliates in Syria could take advantage of the large numbers of westerners traveling to go and fight in Syria to launch attacks back in the west, to launch attacks back in the United States, Chris.

CUOMO: And threat to us here. What is motivating these frightening statements from the Congressional leaders?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, it's -- this is, I think, based on what United States intelligence agencies are seeing and the fact that now the threat to the United States comes from more directions than ever before and that type of attacks which have been plotted are different. You have this sort of lone wolf threat, this sort of Boston-type of attack which people are very worried about.

But then you also have the sort of more traditional al Qaeda threats of western operatives being trained in camps overseas and then coming back to launch attacks.

CUOMO: But what about the assumption that we are also, at the same time, increasing our capabilities and the message that we're given that they're thwarting so many attacks that we never even hear about it. How do you reconcile these two conditions?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, that's right. You know, the United States has become much better at thwarting terrorist attacks and that's one of the main reasons that I think the threat is not as high now as it was on 9/11. The United States has much bigger capabilities of thwarting these terrorist plots, whether it's the NSA or other agencies such as the CIA, they have much better understanding of the al Qaeda threat.

But the worry still is that some terrorist plots could get through, especially if al Qaeda start diverting more resources into launching terrorist attacks against the United States and the west. Bin Laden, when he was leader of al Qaeda, he really prioritized hitting the United States, Chris, but Ayman al-Zawahiri has sort of taken a different strategy. He's concentrated al Qaeda's efforts on the Arab and Muslim world.

But the concern is that in the future al Qaeda may reprioritize launching attacks in the west, especially if they start losing ground in places like Syria, they'll be looking for people to blame, countries to blame, and they may lash out.

CUOMO: Because these aren't intelligence people per se and they're not generals, they're politicians, let's try and read a little politics into this. Is there sort of gamesmanship to them putting this message out right now? Is there a funding battle upcoming? You know, is there some kind of debate that this will hopefully motivate?

CRUICKSHANK: I think that this purely reflects the view of United States intelligence agencies, also European intelligence agencies, who are alarmed at some of the trajectory right now, the fact that you have well over a thousand Europeans now fighting in Syria, many of them with jihadist groups.

Now, these are people who have passports that can eventually, perhaps, even get them into the United States without needing a visa. So, I think that across the west intelligence services are more and more concerned about the threat trajectory, Chris.

CUOMO: And Paul, that obviously squares with why we're hearing concerns from other members of Congress about our disposition in Egypt and Syria and beyond in that region in terms of what diplomacy can actually achieve, what other efforts may be needed. I guess, this is part of that discussions. We're going to have to keep following it. Paul, thank you for filling us in on the perspective.


CUOMO: Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on "NEW DAY", night and day, that's how the man the White House Tasked to fix a is describing the difference between the website now compared to two months ago. But what does that really mean for people trying to sign up? We're going to test it.

And also ahead, new details about the investigation into the car crash that took the life of actor, Paul Walker. We're learning more about the person who was behind the wheel.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to "NEW DAY", everyone. It's Monday, December 2nd. Hopefully, you're having a good morning so far.

The man tasked as the Obamacare website fixer says people should see a night and day difference and that the website should work much more smoothly for the vast majority of users. So, does his assessment hold up? Senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, put his words to the test. She's joining us from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Elizabeth, we've been basically tracking it from the very beginning trying to get on this website. How's it going now?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Kate. I want to tell you, I was very curious to see how the website was doing now, given my, well, less than fabulous experience with it this fall.


COHEN (voice-over): Error messages, spinning wheels, system down, was riddled with problems from day one. It wouldn't log me in. It took me more than two weeks after the launch just to create a user name and sign in. And the problems didn't end there. To fix the troubled site, the Obama administration enlisted the help of private sector tech talent and the president put management consultant, Jeff Zients, in charge of the overhaul.

Two months and more than 400 individual repairs later, the administration announced it met their self-imposed deadline saying the website's error rate has fallen to well under one percent.

VOICE OF JEFFREY ZIENTS, SPECIAL ADVISOR, HEALTHCARE.GOV: The bottom line, on December 1st is night and day from where it was on October 1st.

COHEN: And what a difference two months have made. The administration's progress report says the site can now handle up to 800,000 visits a day.