Return to Transcripts main page


Investigation Continues into Causes of Train Crash in the Bronx; Secretary of State Visits China; President Obama Sells Obamacare; New Video of Paul Walker's Crash; Photo of Earth From 8,000 Feet

Aired December 4, 2013 - 07:00   ET


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The train's engineer, William Billy Rockefeller, his union representative saying he was nodding off and caught himself too late.

ANTHONY BOTTALICO, GENERAL CHAIRMAN, ACRE: He's extremely distraught over it and he feels for the families.

ROBERTSON: In the minutes after the derailment, according to a senior law enforcement source, Rockefeller told first responders, "going along and I'm in a daze. I don't know what happened." NTSB investigators say that 10-year veteran driver was on the second day of a five-day shift.

EARL WEENER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: The day was a typical nine-hour day. These days were routine days. There's every indication he would have had time to get full restorative sleep.

ROBERTSON: His lawyer says he went to bed at 8:30 p.m. the night before and got up at 3:30 a.m., that his client had a good night's sleep and is cooperating in every way.

BOTTALICO: I think it takes a strong man to come down and be honest. And that's what Billy's doing.

ROBERTSON: On the question of the brakes, Rockefeller had initially claimed, according to a source, that they didn't work.

WEENER: We determined that the Metro North Mechanical Department performed a proper brake test prior to the accident train leaving the station. And there were no anomalies noted.

ROBERTSON: But now the Federal Rail Administration is expressing serious concerns about Metro North's recent series of accidents. In a letter to the head of the MTA saying "Four serious accidents in less than seven months is simply unacceptable."


ROBERTSON: The engineer's lawyer is also telling us, as well as his union representative, saying that it's been very emotional, Rockefeller has been very emotional, realizing exactly what has happened and the full weight of responsibility. But his lawyer does stress that this is purely, purely an accident. Chris? CUOMO: All right, Nic, thanks for the reporting. Let's bring in Peter Goelz, former managing director of the NTSB. He's now senior vice president of O'Neill and Associates. Thanks for joining us this morning. I want to start first with what ended that piece, this letter about there being four accidents in seven months and that's too many. Is there a bigger issue here that this accident may be a window into, Mr. Goelz?

PETER GOELZ, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, O'NEILL AND ASSOCIATES: I think that's what the FRA is pointing to. If you go back a month ago, the NTSB held a hearing on one of Metro North's earlier accidents, and frankly, there was disturbing testimony from a Metro North executive talking about how they had fallen behind, in this case on track maintenance and on other key safety standards. So I think the letter was well-intentioned and it was dead on. Four accidents in seven months is unacceptable.

CUOMO: I want to get to what the driver, we believe, is saying about having basically nodded off before this. But following up on that point, when you look at this accident and why it happened, is this an example of things that need to change, putting the driver aside?

GOELZ: Well, we have an aging rail system in most cases. And if we're going to have rail service for passengers, we better start making investments in it so that passengers are safe. And this is, I think, an example of part of the problem.

CUOMO: All right, now I know there are things you believe can be done that should be done. We're going to get to them in a second. Let's get to what the driver says. He says he nodded off. What is the reality of what you've seen with people operating trains and nodding off and whether it's played a role in accidents before? What's your take?

GOELZ: Of course it's played a role in accidents before. Fatigue is an insidious issue because it's not easily documented. It tends not to have a high priority on the part of either management or on the part of the operators, the unions, because you get -- sometimes you get paid extra for working later or working longer. So it is a tough issue.

I think management has started to focus on it, but it really is a personal responsibility of the operator to make sure that they understand the detrimental effects of fatigue and are able to call themselves off a shift if they're not ready to do it completely.

CUOMO: So now as difficult as it may be for this driver to come forward and admit something like this, putting it on his shoulders that that's what this situation was about, there are things put in place that we're not sure if they were used here. Tell me about the dead man's pedal, tell me been an alerter and what they mean and why they weren't used in this situation.

GOELZ: There are a number of devices that can be used inside the cab. There's a dead man's hand, which is if you release pressure on the throttle, the train slows and stops. There are alerters that can monitor your eye movement, your head movement, that can indicate if you're starting to doze off. There are in-cab facing cameras that can indicate, that give an added incentive to operators to pay attention and to do their work. And there are other, you know, really kind of low-tech solutions to this problem. But the real issue is a broader policy on fatigue itself.

CUOMO: So that's something they need to address, obviously, because you're saying you've seen this before. To be clear, the dead man's pedal, was there one in there and was it not used in this accident?

GOELZ: My understanding that there was a dead man's stick in, but I have no idea whether it was used or whether it was, you know, perhaps disabled. I have no information on that.

CUOMO: Is it relevant in the investigation of why this happened?

GOELZ: I think you have to look at all aspects of it, so it is relevant.

CUOMO: OK, and when you look at it, what are the major things we should take away from this situation? Because all we want is to make sure it's safer the next time, what do you think has to be done?

GOELZ: One of the steps we have to take is to look seriously at positive train control. That is the automated systems that can help prevent these kinds of accidents. Congress passed a law telling the railroads to implement it by 2015. That's easier said than done. The U.S. has a very complex system in which you have multiple operators with different equipment running on the same rails. If we're going to have positive train control, the government has to be serious about it. And there's got to be resources applied so that this kind of system can be put in place where it's needed quickly. It's not really -- it's not something that can happen overnight.

CUOMO: But if you need it, you couldn't have better motivation than this, Mr. Goelz, right, four families that lost everything, all these victims, can't put a price on that. This is change that needs to happen. Fair statement?

GOELZ: It absolutely is.

CUOMO: Mr. Goelz, thank you for your perspective.

GOELZ: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Let's turn to the weather now. Heavy snow is falling in the Midwest and the Rockies, and the storm is making its way east. The temperatures are sinking drastically in some areas. Ana Cabrera is following the deep freeze from Boulder, Colorado, for us this morning. Ana?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. A bit of a shock to the system to the folks here in Colorado when you consider we saw 60 degree temperatures on Monday here. Now we have three inches or so of snow on the ground in Boulder already this morning. It's that light, fluffy stuff because of the extreme cold temperatures. We're talking 14 degrees in Boulder right now, and it's not expected to get above freezing until sometime next week.

The National Weather Service calling this possibly the longest stretch of extreme cold weather Colorado has seen or will see since 2009. Of course, Colorado is not alone. This arctic air mass spreading across more than a dozen states as it makes its way south from Canada across the Rockies, over the plains and up into the Midwest. So I guess if you're going to have to deal with the extreme cold and the snowy conditions, the old saying misery loves company, at least we're all not alone and we can be in this together. After all, it is wintertime, and in many places, the moisture and snow is a welcome sight, especially the ski resorts, Chris and Kate.

CUOMO: It means one thing in Colorado, opportunity. Let's go to Indra Petersons, because as this snow moves into areas that aren't ski resorts, this could be a problem.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Exactly. We have the positive side, and we definitely have the negative side of this. The wind is kicking up, bringing visibility in many places below a quarter mile. More snow on the way in Colorado today, also the Dakotas and in through Minnesota as well.

The real story is going to be as the system continues to make its way to the south and east, especially tomorrow, will be the threat of that wintry mix. That is where the pink is. The reason that's a big deal, you're talking about the threat of freezing rain. There you go, you can see that in southern portions of Missouri all the way back in through Texas. As I take you farther into Thursday and Thursday evening, notice how the wintry mix spreads into the Ohio valley.

Farther to the North, most likely sleet but back down to the south end of this is where we're concerned here. Keep in mind as we go through Friday, this system will be progressing farther to the east. As far as how much freezing rain, this is the key, whether or not it will be an ice storm. If you get half an inch of that freezing rain on the power lines with be they will weigh 500 pounds. And that's the concern as we go in through this weekend. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Indra, thanks for your look at the forecast for the nation.

Let's take a look at your headlines now. Vice President Biden is working to smooth over relations in the far east. He is in China for talks with leaders amid tensions that are rising with Japan over disputed islands. Let's go to David McKenzie. He's in Beijing with the very latest.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There was a warm welcome for the vice president here in Beijing, but a frosty reception potentially from China's leaders. Obviously this is all coming as China announces its air defense identification zone around two weeks ago which it says allows them to monitor the region, monitor military planes. It's over a disputed area with Japan. Biden was just in Japan where he criticized China for the zone saying it could be dangerous. It could lead to an uptick in tension and even an accidental start of a conflict. Now Biden is here, he's met with the vice president and the president. But there's diplomacy going on now here in Beijing where he'll try to ease this tension. But he really is walking a tight rope during this trip. Michaela?

PEREIRA: Many eyes on those meetings. Thank you very much, David.

Meanwhile, the White House says it is prepared to negotiate a limited nuclear enrichment program for Iran, but Iran is to hold its end of an international bargain. It has to cut back its nuclear capabilities and accept rigorous monitoring along with certain limits. The White House cautioned that the program applies only to the nation's peaceful energy needs.

New this morning, authorities in Mexico say a truck containing dangerous radioactive material has been stolen. That truck was transporting the source, which is used in medical treatment, from a hospital in Tijuana to a radioactive waste storage center before it was stolen near Mexico City. Officials alerted the International Atomic Energy Agency and an investigation is under way.

The 911 tapes from the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, will be released later today, this just 10 days before the first year anniversary of that shooting when 20 first graders and six school staffers were killed. A judge ruled last week to make those tapes public, affirming a Freedom of Information request.

I want to show you this amazing rescue of three deer stranded in the middle of a frozen lake in Minnesota. A couple of employees from a local hovercraft company tried to coax the animals to leave, but it was just too slippery for the deer to walk on. In fact the men themselves slipped. So, smartly, they tied a rope around them and slowly dragged them to safety back to the edge of the lake one at a time. You can't really maintain your dignity.

BOLDUAN: How did they get out there?

PEREIRA: Really far. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

BOLDUAN: They just watched "Bambi."

PEREIRA: Exactly.

CUOMO: Very cool of these guys to take the time and at the same time show the capability of their hovercraft.

BOLDUAN: A genius idea there. That's the concern, right? If you go out there with a snowmobile --

CUOMO: Where's the hover? Then it's just a craft.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, President Obama looking to turn the tide for his health care law. Will it be enough to restore faith in Obamacare? CUOMO: Brand new video surfaces of the crash that killed actor Paul Walker and his friend, and it is raising new questions for authorities about why Walker wasn't able to make it out alive.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. The White House in the middle of a full-court press over Obamacare. The president is pushing the benefits of the law every day for the next few weeks, now that the Obamacare website appears to be working better. Meanwhile, former president Clinton is clarifying comments that seem to put him at odds with Obama over the law. Brianna Keilar has that story for us from Washington.

Good morning, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning to you.

President Obama focusing today on getting young people covered under the Affordable Care Act as his administration tries to turn the page from that troubled website.


KEILAR (voice-over): One road block down, partially anyway. But the path ahead is still uphill.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Every day I check to make sure that it's working better.


And, you know, we've learned not to make wild promises about how perfectly smooth it's going to be at all times.

KEILAR: President Obama kicking off another push to sell his signature health care law to a skeptical public.

OBAMA: I need you to spread the word about the law, about its benefits, about its protections, about how folks can sign up. Tell your friends. Tell your family.

KEILAR: As the White House spends the next three weeks trying to convince Americans there's more to Obamacare than the fumbled rollout, a powerful ally talked to CNN Espanol.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES: I don't think you can find anybody in America who's worked harder for his re- election or supported this bill or went out of his way to explain the bill to the American people more than I did.

KEILAR: Former President Clinton smoothing over lingering tension from this.

CLINTON: The president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they've got. KEILAR: When he publicly urged Obama last month to keep his promise about his health care law. For Clinton, the issue hits close to home.

CLINTON: I've got a lot at stake here personally in the work I have done for health care and the work I've tried to support, the support I tried to give the president, and Hillary does, too. We've been working on this health care thing for 20 years.


KEILAR (on-camera): Now today, President Obama will be focusing on young people. As I said, he'll deliver remarks at a youth summit on the Affordable Care Act. And Chris and Kate, young people are just very key to this whole program working. They are healthier, so they're less expensive to care for. And it's key to have them in there so they can offset older, less healthy, more expensive folks.

BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right, Brianna, coming to us live from the White House lawn this morning. Thank you.

A new video shedding more light this morning on the death of actor Paul Walker and the very first minute after that car crash. The "Fast and Furious" star and a friend were killed in that fiery wreck, you'll remember, this weekend.

CNN's Casey Wian joins us now with much more into the investigation on just what went wrong.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kate, new video showing that it took a full minute for the speeding car that actor Paul Walker and his friend were in to explode after it crashed, raising new questions about how they died.


WIAN (voice-over): Chilling new video showing the crash that killed actor Paul Walker and his friend, Roger Rodas. At the moment of impact you can see a light pole and tree fall. Smoke is faintly visible at first then begins to billow heavily. But it took 60 seconds between the time of the crash and the first signs of smoke when the Porsche burst into flames.

ALAN DUKE, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): We've heard of heroic efforts to try to pull the men out, but it was too late. But it's that lonely 60 seconds of no smoke, no fire in that Porsche Carrera GT when those men were inside that vehicle, obviously unable to get out.

WIAN: The autopsy results on the remains of the victims are complete but not being released because of a security hold. Investigators continue to search for answers about what caused the accident. They say they have not found any evidence of a fluid leak from the car at the scene, which could have indicated that the car became difficult to control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A stealth mission, we'll be in and out before they even know we were there.

WIAN: Production on "Fast and Furious 7", which Walker had been working on at the time of his death remains on hold. Shooting on the film had been scheduled to resume this week but was canceled Monday and Tuesday. The studio declined to say when shooting would resume.

Devoted fans continued to grieve at the makeshift memorial, lining the street with mementos of the star.

PAUL WALKER SR., PAUL WALKER'S FATHER: I'm just glad every time I saw him I told him I loved him. He said the same thing to me.

WIAN: The Walker family has not made plans for a memorial service. They issued a statement expressing thanks for the outpouring of love and goodwill from his many fans and friends. They've asked fans to show their support by donating to his charity, Reach Out Worldwide.

Paul founded the organization with the genuine desire to help others, and it's important to his family to keep his memory alive.


WIAN (on-camera): Universal Pictures announcing Tuesday that a portion of the proceeds of the upcoming home release of "Fast and Furious 6" will be donated to Walker's nonprofit. Michaela?

PEREIRA: Yeah, it's always important to remember two families lost their loved ones. All right, Casey, thank you.

I want to show you something really cool. Take a look at this. It's the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted into space Tuesday after two previous attempts were scrapped because of some technical glitches. This launch is actually being hailed a game changer why? The price tag. This is a commercial venture. It's tens of millions of dollars cheaper than previous government-funded launches.

So here's the goal to get this SES-8 communications commercial satellite into orbit, and they're gonna settle it into a stable point about 22,000 miles above the earth in the coming weeks, which is pretty interesting.

Elon Musk, SpaceX's CEO and chief designer tweeted out this pretty spectacular photo of planet Earth taken from the rear of Falcon 9 from about 8,000 feet up. This matters because, of course, this fixed location where they're gonna have the satellite will allow users on the ground to link up to that satellite with cheaper, you know, inexpensive antennas instead of those big, gigantic expensive ones that have to try and track the satellite across the sky. So these are kind of cool developments I like to share here on "NEW DAY".

Chris, Kate?

BOLDUAN: Love that. View from earth, 8,000 miles.

PERERIA: Not bad. Just 8,000.

BOLDUAN: You know.

PEREIRA: No biggie.

BOLDUAN: Yes, tomorrow we're going 10!

CUOMO: Yes, I love to use the word 'science,' but it really matters.

PEREIRA: It does!

CUOMO: Because SpaceX represents the future. You know, as the government gets out of the space game, who will pick up the slack in all that innovation and research that comes with it?

BOLDUAN: Elon Musk is trying to. Thanks, Michaela.

CUOMO: Great name, too. Almost as good as science. Elon Musk -- not so much.

Coming up on "NEW DAY", the startling admission from that train engineer, nodding off at the controls. How often does that happen? What can be done to stop it? Why hasn't that the been done?

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, actor Ryan O'Neal is fighting in court for a famous portrait of the late actress Farrah Fawcett. He says he's the rightful owner. But another group says that's not so. Details coming up. Someone else says that's not so. Details, coming up.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching "NEW DAY" with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to "NEW DAY". It's December 4th. Hope you're having a good morning to far. Coming up in the show, one man's complaints against an airline have made it all the way to the Supreme Court. But will his case make your service better? We'll get his take. We're gonna talk to him live.

CUOMO: Plus, another courtroom battle, this over an Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett, the one you're looking at. Her long-time love, Ryan O'Neal, says it belongs to him, but Fawcett's alma mater says not so fast. We'll hear both sides coming up.

PEREIRA: But first let's give you the stories that are making news.


PERERIA (voice-over): The engineer on Sunday's deadly train crash apparently started to drift off before the accident. William Rockfeller told officials he nodded off and caught himself too late. In the meantime, officials have found nothing wrong with the train's brakes. The engineers union has been taken off the investigation for leaking Rockefeller's testimony.

Temperatures are in a freefall. We're talking 40 to 70-degree drops in 24 hours across much of the central and western U.S. By tomorrow, temperatures across parts of Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, expected to hit between 10 and 20 degrees below zero. Brrr.

The mother of a murdered Ohio toddler known as baby Elaina and her ex- boyfriend have been sentenced to life in prison. Angela Steinfurth entered the equivalent of a no-contest plea to murder charges in Elaina's death. Her ex-boyfriend pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, describing to a packed courtroom how he smothered that little girl to death.

Prince (ph) scientists have ruled out the possibility that one-time Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died of poisoning. An investigation began after a report last year that said traces of radioactive polonium were found on Arafat's clothing. The results contradict earlier findings by a Swiss lab. Palestinians have suspected Israel of poisoning him, which Israel, for its part, denies.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney weighing in now on the conflict between his daughters over same-sex marriage.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We, you know, are -- were surprised when there was an attack launched against Liz on Facebook and wished it hadn't happened. It's always been dealt with within the context of the family, and frankly that's our preferences.

PERERIA: You might recall that conflict began a few weeks ago when Liz who was running for Senate in Wyoming said she supported traditional marriage, despite long contending she supported her sister Mary's same-sex relationship.

The capital Christmas tree is shining bright in Washington. Look at that. The tree was lit for the first time last night. It is decorated with 5,000 handmade ornaments.