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NEW DAY

Deck Collapse Caught on Tape; 20 Years Since the Brady Law; Actor Salutes U.S. Veterans; Put a Spell on You

Aired February 25, 2014 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

We are getting a look at some incredible and frightening video. A deck collapsed in Indiana. Look at this. It sent 24 people plummeting to the ground. The family - the people hurt making this video public because they say this could have been prevented.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PEREIRA (voice-over): A terrifying collapse caught on tape. As a family gathers for a group photo, the deck they're on crashes to the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just gave way.

PEREIRA: Lisa Wilt was celebrating Christmas with her extended family when holiday cheer turned to terror. The sudden collapse sent all 24 people plummeting 15 feet onto the cement below.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just surprised no one died.

PEREIRA: Among those who fell, a 13-month-old baby. Luckily, she was unharmed thanks to her father, seen here clutching her in his arms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody was in shock. I mean I said, how could this happen?

PEREIRA: Lisa's father slammed into a support beam as he plunged to the ground. He was one of seven family members taken to the hospital. Three of the injured are still not walking, the family says.

Lisa's husband, a nurse, was at work when the deck collapsed, but later joined the team of emergency responders.

JEREMY WILT, HUSBAND OF COLLAPSE SURVIVOR: The people in the back all fell straight down and the deck fell away from them, so they did not get the - they did not get the benefit of landing on the deck first or the benefit of landing on someone behind them.

PEREIRA: The family is now suing the people who made and maintain the deck saying the collapse was preventable.

WILT: Some people called this a freak accident. You know, a meteorite hitting your house would be a freak accident. This was going to fall one day.

PEREIRA: A spokesman for the company that built the deck says the law protects them from liability because the deck is more than 10 years old.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PEREIRA: The North American Deck and Railing Association says the number of aging and failing decks has been increasing at an alarming rate. So they say it's crucial for homeowners to check their decks for proper support and the warning signs of a potential collapse. The family that this happened to, they want to make sure that other people know that these decks have to be properly maintained. That you have to check them.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Uh-huh. Might not be something you think about.

PEREIRA: It's not something you think about.

BOLDUAN: Right.

PEREIRA: But - and, again, this wasn't a home. This was a clubhouse. So a terribly frightening ordeal for all of them. We wish them well.

BOLDUAN: That's right.

PEREIRA: All right, you ready for the five things you need to know for your new day?

BOLDUAN: Yes, please.

PEREIRA: Let's go.

Number one, breaking news from Ukraine. Still no sign of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. CNN has confirmed, though, a former presidential aide has been shot in the leg today in Kiev. He is in the hospital.

Later this morning, a judge in Mexico is expected to authorize a trial for drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. That would delay attempts to extradite him to the United States.

Doctors in California are investigating a medical mystery. Up you to two dozen children paralyzed in one or more limbs by a disease that seems similar to polio. All the victims at first showed symptoms of a common cold.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is defending proposed military cuts, saying the end of two wars allows for reductions. Moments ago on NEW DAY, Senator John McCain disagreed saying it's a mistake to cut defense with growing threats around the world.

First Lady Michelle Obama at number five. She's set to unveil new rules today that ban marketing junk food and sodas in schools, phasing out signs and billboards for some products deemed unhealthy but letter others say.

As you know, we update those five things to know, so be sure to go to newdaycnn.com for the very freshest and latest.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Fresh. I like it. (INAUDIBLE).

Coming up on NEW DAY, 20 years after the Brady Bill, wow, amazing how time has flown.

BOLDUAN: I know.

CUOMO: Where are we on gun control after all this time? And are we where we need to be? We're going to go behind the campaign for expanded background checks with the people on the front lines.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, how do you spell marathon or epic spelling bee? Two children's epic battle for spelling - spelling bee supremacy went on for five hours and we've been egging them on and they're now fighting. The bee - the spelling bee even ran out of words. It's OK, guys, take it easy. Easy (ph) on the furniture. They're now here to have a battle royale on NEW DAY.

CUOMO: How do you spell "ham"?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Gun control, a contentious issue few have been able to sway Congress to act on, especially recently. That is except for Sarah Brady, wife of Jim Brady, former White House press secretary, who was shot and left disable after an assassination attempt on President Reagan. I'm sure we all remember that day. She helped win passage of a background check law through the Brady campaign back in the 90s and now her and her husband's organization is calling on Congress to finish the job, pushing for even stricter background check laws.

Let's bring in Sarah Brady, joining us from Washington, D.C., this morning. And also joining us here in the studio live is Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Dan, it's great to see you.

DAN GROSS, PRESIDENT, BRADY CAMPAIGN: Great to see you.

BOLDUAN: Sarah, let me start with you, of course, on this 20th anniversary. I want to get your take on what you think it means. Because you say on this anniversary that the job is not finished. What realistically do you think can be done when you look at where politics are at this moment?

SARAH BRADY, CHAIR., BRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: Well, admittedly, politics are not very good right now. But I think we're in pretty good shape in that we have so many followers. Over 90 percent of the people are for extended background checks and realize the need for them. This Congress is difficult. It hasn't done anything. It's -- and certainly our issue is not one that is an easy one to get brought up to the floor.

But I think we've got the momentum behind us. I doubt it's going to be this year. But, you know, it took us seven years to pass the original Brady Law. And I want all of the folks who are with us to realize that it's not an easy thing to do. It takes time and a lot of effort.

BOLDUAN: Momentum is a key thing here, Dan, as you well know. I'm not telling you anything you don't know. But if you look at the polling, help for stricter gun control laws, stricter background checks, that surged after Newtown, after the massacre in Newtown. Since then, if you look at our latest CNN polling, that support has waned if you take a look at the numbers. If you couldn't pull it off after Newtown, when are you going to?

GROSS: Well, first, I just want to clarify around those polls. So those polling numbers were for support for this general concept of stricter gun control laws. But when you look at support for background check, that was extraordinarily high after Newtown, nine out of 10 Americans support it, and it's remained extraordinarily high. One of my favorite little facts is that Americans support background checks more than they support kittens and baseball. If you look at the approval ratings for background checks.

BOLDUAN: Man, if that's the case - if that's the case, then why are we talking about the fact that it hasn't been done?

GROSS: Because there's an extraordinary disconnect between what the American public wants and what our elected officials are doing about it. That's why the Brady Campaign exists, to bring that voice to bear, to hold our elected leaders accountable. Only can we - when we can do that, can we expect the create the kind of change that we can create.

And Sarah and my predecessors at the Brady Campaign prove that that's possible. That's why we were able to pass this life saving law that we passed 20 years ago with the original Brady bill that we're trying to expect today. You know, Sarah helped to bring to bear that voice of the American public, and that's what we have to do now. If you support sensible background checks, you have to make your voice heard and we're here to help you do that.

BOLDUAN: You know, Sarah, when you say you will continue this fight, you will continue to push, I do want to ask you what you think the role of mental health or mental illness plays in this. If you look at the most recent massacres, the gunmen, the shooters, they either obtained the guns legally or a background check would not have prevented them from pulling off - pulling off their heinous crimes. What rule do you think mental health should play in this in what the Brady Campaign stands for?

GROSS: Well, I think very certainly we have to have up to date records on those who have been adjudicated mentally ill and the record keeping is very important. But I think it's even more important to keep in mind that no one law or nothing is going to stop all gun violence. But certainly the very most important thing we can do is to make background checks mandatory for every gun sale. That is the very first thing. And it will stop those who are adjudicated mentally ill. So I think there are kind of two separate topics there. And I think it's much more important to look at expanding the background checks.

BOLDUAN: On this 20th anniversary worth pointing out that the Brady Campaign, you say that the law that you have passed stopped 2 million guns from falling into the wrong hands. You can applaud yourselves on that. But there is a long fight and a mean fight ahead to get any further restrictions passed. Sarah Brady, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it. Sarah has also written an op-ed, an opinion piece, on cnn.com. You should go there and take a look at that. Dan, thank you very much. It's great to see you as well.

GROSS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

BRADY: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Chris.

CUOMO: All right Kate, now to the story of someone impacting the lives of our veterans. His name -- Gary Sinise and he's using his fame to help others. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY SINISE, ACTOR, "FORREST GUMP": Thought I'd try out my sea legs.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR, "FORREST GUMP": But you ain't got no legs, Lieutenant Dan.

CUOMO (voice-over): Long before Gary Sinise played Vietnam Veteran Lieutenant Dan in "Forrest Gump", he was a passionate supporter of the military.

SINISE: Well, I have a long history with working with veterans starting with the relationships that I have in my own personal family. My dad was -- served in the Navy. My two uncles were in World War II. My grandfather served in World War I.

CUOMO: With the success of "Forrest Gump," wounded veterans began to identify with Sinise.

SINISE: How many veterans we got here tonight?

CUOMO: He formed the Lieutenant Dan Band and has entertained troops around the world with the USO. The actor says his call to action became very clear after 9/11.

SINISE: When our men and women started deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan, they started getting hurt and killed. Having Vietnam veterans in my family, it was very troubling to think that our men and women would come home to a nation that didn't appreciate them.

CUOMO: So he started his own charity dedicated to veterans. The Gary Sinise Foundation helps build customized homes for the severely wounded and helps vets find civilian careers. SINISE: I have met hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of wounded veterans who continue to not let their circumstance get them down -- countless Lieutenant Dans out there that inspire me every day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Always and saying it one more time -- CNN.com/impact. Those are some of the good stories that we can bring to you.

CUOMO: And that you can involve yourself in make a difference.

BOLDUAN: Even more importantly.

Still ahead on NEW DAY, these two -- not these two -- these two sure know how to spell. Facing off for hours until the poor judges ran out of words. They're here live. Can they spell deadlock? Or death stare?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. I am intimidated by the guests that we're about to interview.

BOLDUAN: You? Never.

CUOMO: We're going to talk to some amazing spellers right now. And to do that, we must go to --

BOLDUAN: The couch.

CUOMO: -- the couch.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: They're already there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: There are simply no words for our next story -- literally.

CUOMO: That's good.

PEREIRA: Spelling Bee with a pair of geniuses going word for word for word for word for word for word for five hours -- 66 rounds. The organizers had no words left and they had to declare a temporary tie. Their rematch is set for March 8th. The winner will get a coveted slot in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, one of my favorite events.

Can you spell anticipation? Let's ask our guests, those two spelling experts are here with us -- Sophia Hoffman and Kush Sharma. What a delight to see you. And two toe to toe competitors sitting next to each other -- you're having some fun this morning. Do you see yourself as competitors or are you friends now?

SOPHIA HOFFMAN, SPELLING BEE FINALIST: Friends.

KUSH SHARMA, SPELLING BEE FINALIST: Friends. PEREIRA: You're friends.

All right. Take us back to the moment. Five hours. Did you guys really believe that it was going to go that long?

SHARMA: No.

PEREIRA: It was going well, right? Words back and forth. Did you start getting tired a little bit?

SHARMA: Well -- I'm sorry. Well for me I just basically felt tired once it was done. I don't know why for some reason. But anyway -- because once it was done, I've never felt so mentally drained.

PEREIRA: I can imagine.

BOLDUAN: Did they give you a lunch break?

HOFFMAN: Yes.

PEREIRA: Five hours --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: How often did you get a break?

HOFFMAN: Like maybe every ten rounds.

SHARMA: Yes, every 10 rounds.

CUOMO: What grade are you guys in?

HOFFMAN: I'm in fifth.

SHARMA: I'm in seventh.

PEREIRA: That's interesting. There's a bit of age difference between the two of you.

SHARMA: Yes.

PEREIRA: But you have the same words. They had to go for the -- folks out home, they ran out of words and had to go to the dictionary and find some more words. Did that make you a little bit nervous Sophia that they were digging into the dictionary to get new words?

HOFFMAN: A little because you didn't know what word was coming next but it was also exciting.

BOLDUAN: And isn't that what's going to happen? I keep wanting to call it a death match -- I think that might not be appropriate.

PEREIRA: No, no.

BOLDUAN: This elimination match that's coming up on March 8th, it's not going to be the words that you've already gone through. These are going to be words from the dictionary right? How are you preparing now?

SHARMA: Well, I think the main plan is just try to learn the etymology of the words and so, you know, for people at home--

CUOMO: Explain what that means.

PEREIRA: Don't spell it. Explain it.

SHARMA: It basically means try to learn how a word is made. And so I think if I learn that, then it will basically help me know how to spell the word. For example, if it was a French word, like boudoir, for example, if it's an ou sound then it's usually spelled with O-U, you know, something like that.

PEREIRA: Sophia do you think the same way -- like I imagine everybody has their own process. You think about etymology, do you see the words in your head before you spell them? Do you think about how you would use them?

HOFFMAN: I see the words and think about how the definition might help.

CUOMO: Like what?

BOLDUAN: So that's not just a stalling tactic? I always thought that it was to give you time to think it through. The definition actually helps.

CUOMO: You always say what's the definition? Why? It helps why?

SHARMA: It can help -- sorry.

CUOMO: Let her talk, big guy.

SHARMA: Why does it help when you know what the word means?

HOFFMAN: There are a lot of words that are alike in their definition, but sometimes like at the beginning of the word there's like a certain meaning.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARMA: Anyway, so also definition can help because when you learn like roots and prefixes of a certain word, and if you ask the definition, you'll know what the root or prefix is and you can just be able to spell it.

PEREIRA: Well, maybe the two people at our center part of the couch here can use some of the tips you've given them. Do you think we should we give them a spelling bee? What do you think Sophia? What do you think?

OK. Sophia you've got a word for Miss Bolduan. Would you please tell her the word that you have for her to spell?

BOLDUAN: What's the word? HOFFMAN: Tchotchke.

BOLDUAN: Tchotchke?

CUOMO: Do not say the word. Next.

SHARMA: That's a Dutch word.

PEREIRA: Are you allowed to write it down on a piece of paper?

SHARMA: I mean you can write it on your hand.

CUOMO: I think it starts with a t.

BOLDUAN: We're on the same team.

CUOMO: I know. I think it starts with a t.

HOFFMAN: There's no t.

BOLDUAN: Tchotchke.

PEREIRA: The clock's ticking. We don't have five hours.

They don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: CH -- am I already wrong?

CUOMO: What does it start with?

SHARMA: Tchotchke.

CUOMO: That's exactly what I thought.

PEREIRA: What is your word for Chris?

BOLDUAN: That makes me so upset. You see, I liked you until then.

SHARMA: OK. Your word is pfeffernuss.

CUOMO: What did you call me? I'll smack you. What's that? Say it again.

SHARMA: Pfeffernuss.

CUOMO: What's the definition?

SHARMA: OK, definition is a highly -- it's a cookie that is usually made at Christmas and it's like a highly spiced cookie and it's a small (inaudible).

CUOMO: Is there any kind of derivation.

BOLDUAN: Oh my gosh. This is stalling. CUOMO: Yes, it is.

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: There might be an f in there. Pfeffernuss.

CUOMO: Also not a word.

PEREIRA: OK. All right. March -- you both failed. You're not going to the National Spelling Bee. But one of these two champs will be going. Your rematch is March 8th. We can't wait to hear who wins. No matter what you're both winners in our books. So proud of you.

BOLDUAN: Definitely.

CUOMO: Good luck to you. Nice to meet you young lady. Nice to meet you, young man.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Thanks for bringing them in.

CUOMO: Who out there knows how to spell pfeffernuss. That's not a real word.

BOLDUAN: Tchotchke -- you know what it is but you don't know how to spell it. Let's be honest.

We'll be right back.

CUOMO: We'll do that in the break. It's a controversy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: We can't stall but we can talk. Time now for "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello. Hi Carol.