Return to Transcripts main page


Search Expands for Missing Plane; Crisis in Ukraine; Defense Grills Former Lead Investigator

Aired March 14, 2014 - 08:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Then, a journalist from the Andaman Islands told NEW DAY there is no chance the plane is there. This all comes after an official told CNN there is a, quote, "significant likelihood that the plane is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. They say signals transmitted to satellites hours after the last contact from the came over the ocean, possibly as far as 2,800 miles off course and no land mass in that area.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: So, with the search expanding to the east, to the west, the U.S. is trying to help sending the Navy destroyer, the USS Kidd from our Pacific Fleet, to the Indian Ocean, and also using satellites to search for the plane. Also this morning, there are reports out of China about activity, seismic activity on the sea floor hours, about an hour and a half, in fact, after the plane went missing, but no where near those Andaman Islands.

So, does it add up to a mechanical failure or does it add up to sabotage? We're to piece it altogether. It's quite like a puzzle.

Let's start our coverage with Jim Clancy in Kuala Lumpur -- Jim.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK. Well, let's wind things back, rewind, if you will, to Sunday. And that's the first time that Malaysian officials talked about the original change in course.

After heading to Beijing, Flight 370 suddenly and abruptly shut off the transponder and then the pilot, it would appear, or someone changed the direction, the heading of the aircraft. The officials on Sunday said that they thought the pilot might have been attempting after an emergency to make a return to Kuala Lumpur airport, right where we are right now.

In any event, a course, a new course was set and it remained on that course, as it flew out. Now, that took it over the Andaman Islands. "The Reuters" report talks about different way points, zigzagging back and forth, but that's not how the plane would be doing it.

Right now, we don't have an answer of why he would do that or what happened there. Also on the news conference, there's been a lot of speculation spawn by all of this that somehow the pilots could have been involved in this, the transport and defense minister said that they had not yet searched the pilots' homes. Some U.S. aviation experts think that odd if, for no other reason, than to rule out the pilots for involvement in any kind of a foul plot.

In the meantime, though, let's take a look at some of the reports that we've had.


CLANCY (voice-over): Breaking this morning, "Reuters" citing unnamed sources reports the radar data suggests missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was deliberately flown towards the Andaman Islands. The focus in the search shifting west, into the vast waters of the Indian Ocean.

COMMANDER WILLIAM MARKS, USS KIDD: We went from a chessboard to the football field. Now we have to come up with new strategies, new tactics.

CLANCY: And that's just what the Malaysian government is doing. Using radar to follow the likely course of the plane.

A senior U.S. official told CNN that Malaysian authorities believe they have several pings from the airline service data system transmitted to satellites in the four to five hours after the last transponder signal, suggesting the plane flew towards the Indian Ocean. Both India and the U.S. dispatching ship to aide in searching the radius.

This after Chinese satellite images of floating debris off the coast of Vietnam emerged, giving families of the missing false hope that pieces of the aircraft had been found.

Today, new intel from Chinese researchers recording a sea floor event between Malaysia and Vietnam, roughly 72 miles from the plane's last known location and a little more than an hour and a half after the plane dropped off radar.

Researchers from the University of Science and Technology in China adding that the event could have possibly been caused by a plane impacting the South China Sea, notably in an area that has already been searched in previous days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's still not a shred of evidence that that plane impacted the water or crash landed anywhere in that search area.

CLANCY: One week after vanishing and the multi-national pursuit for answers continues.


CUOMO: Jim, what do we know about what was in the belly of the ship? What information has come out about what was onboard, the cargo?

CLANCY: There's been no information about the cargo onboard the aircraft that I have heard here in Kuala Lumpur. It just simply hasn't been discussed. It's a good question because, of course, that can always pose a problem. But, you know, if there had been an explosion or had it had any kind of risk there, the question would have to be asked -- after the pilot or someone changed course like that because of a significant problem aboard the aircraft, how is it possible that the aircraft was still able to continue for so many hundreds and thousands of miles.

Michaela, back to you.

PEREIRA: Jim Clancy there in Kuala Lumpur.

Just one of the questions the questions only grow as officials from many nations try to map out this search area. The U.S. now is also increasing its role in the search.

So, let's bring in Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr to talk about that and so much more -- Barbara.


A lot of theories and speculation about what has happened here but for the United States assisting the Malaysians, they are sticking to the facts. Which is they do not know what happened to this airplane, they don't know where it is and what brought it down, but they do believe the likelihood is they believe it is on the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

So, let's go to the search. Well, earlier, today a U.S. Navy P-3 aircraft, a surveillance aircraft, conducted its first sweep about 1,000 miles out into the Indian Ocean, east of the Malay peninsula in this new area that they are searching and it reported that they found nothing. The USSA Kidd now at the northern end of the Strait of Malacca, at the entrance to the Indian Ocean, its helicopters will also conduct sweeps in this area.

This is now the area focus for the United States assisting the Malaysians that Indian Navy also getting involved on their side further to the west. All of this taking place to the west of the Malay Peninsula. They also are looking.

U.S. officials are saying that they don't know. What they do know is that these pings from the aircraft were then analyzed and it matched the profile and the engine type of the plane that was flying and there was no correlating transponder information.

Of course, they believe the transponder was off at that point. That is the puzzle. The clues that they have put together that lead them to the conclusion that they need to search in the Indian Ocean -- Chris.

PEREIRA: I'll take -- we'll take it here. Barbara Starr, thank you so much. We know certainly, there are so many complicating factors in this mystery.

I want to talk about it with Mary Schiavo. As we hear this U.S. Navy officer, Mary, that it's going from it -- the investigation and search being a chessboard to a football field. I want to ask you about that. This far into the investigation, generally, you would expect the search field to be narrowing to zero in on a specific area, the exact opposite is happening now.

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DOT: Well, that's right. And that's because the data has come so late. Ordinarily, that's the first thing that you do while after dispatching the go team to the accident site which, of course, was a mystery. But you got the data. You should have had this data the first day. You get the maintenance records, the data records, anything from the plane, the engine logs and those data points and those large, voluminous amounts of data often help as the USA is now helping them analyze and tell them what they mean.

This is the kinds of things what helps solves the mystery in air crashes. Often, you find the mystery on the work bench. What last happened to the plane and then you find it on the field.

But the most important thing are these black boxes but I see the new information as helpful, actually narrowing the search because we have four -- it's not much -- but we have four pings, four data points. It was following a track, a known navigational track.

I think that's very helpful in the investigation and I see it the other way around. I see it as narrowing it.


CUOMO: Fair criticism, however, if they had their hands around all the data earlier, there wouldn't have been this dribbling out of inconsistent theories because they would have known what is the best earlier, yes?

SCHIAVO: Exactly. And not only are the black boxes so very important, but the wreckage itself because there's so much evidence that is contained on the pieces of the plane and the longer they drift in the ocean, the longer key evidence is going to deteriorate or be lost to the bottom of the sea.

So, the time has worked a toll on the investigation. But it is hopeful that they have at least a direction to proceed.

PEREIRA: Talk more about these pings. Do they speak to you about intent?

SCHIAVO: No. Actually, the pings to me speak to me about the airplane. And we saw the same thing in Air France, the Air France crash investigation, because the plane is trying to relay its help. What these are sort of like health checks on the plane and the plane is relaying back to its base, you know, this is OK, this is OK.

In the case of Air France, it was saying, this is not OK, this is not OK, things are going wrong. Here, since apparently the Malaysian Air company did not subscribe to the information, all you have is pings. You know, directional points.

But if they had, it would have just given a wealth of information and I think Richard Quest provided to you the printout that we had from Air France really detailed information and it certainly should be a lesson to airlines going forward, you know, getting that information away from your plane and back to home base could be very helpful, so would changing the functioning of the black boxes so they are periodically downloaded from the plane in flight.

But, this information from the plane tells me that the plane was still trying to do what the plane is supposed to do, which is fly and provide data.

CUOMO: Now, it's interesting, Mary, how you put it. The plane was still trying to do what it is supposed to do. Here's a lot of pressure on saying someone, someone, someone did this. Someone turned off the transponder, someone was flying it, it was deliberate. Was it terrorist, was it trauma? We don't know.

Is it as likely that something did this as someone?

I think it is just past on past investigations and past accidents. You know, when I learned to fly, it was a stick and the rudder and the seat of your pants, but planes aren't like that. Planes are engineered to do so much more and we had several accidents where, you know, it was blamed they said pilot suicide, it was a rudder deflection or they said it was an intentional action or a bomb and it wasn't, it was an exploding fuel tank.

So, I'm really reluctant to say and to assume that somebody did this just based on past accident investigation. There can be so much can go on on these wonderful, modern planes but when it goes wrong, it can go wrong without any pilot input.

PEREIRA: But I think there are going to be people at home that say, OK, because we have all this technology on board and because there are these redundancies and extraneous systems that communicate, how come we heard nothing beyond a ping and beyond that last radar communication?

SCHIAVO: Well, because -- in my opinion, it's because the plane was severely disabled. We also have the question of why didn't we get any cell phone either attempts in or attempts out.

Remember the four planes on 9/11, every plane, God bless those souls, on every plane they got something out or they tried and the cell phone records later show that people were trying both ways. Trying to reach them, trying not to. But we knew that was going on and, really, we broke the case. The passengers themselves broke the case by getting information from those hijacked planes on the phones.

It was, you know, it was really a tribute to them, but we don't have any of that here. So, I don't want to attribute it to humans just yet. We need to look at the data.

CUOMO: Is there a chance, Mary, Jim Clancy, the idea that if there were a major decompressive event, the plane would have never been able to fly for any distance after that? Is that something that is so easy to say?

SCHIAVO: Oh, no, not at all because there have been major events. The biggest problem on a depressive event unless you lose the total structure of the plane, is that you have just a few seconds. The pilots would have had 30 seconds or less to get on their oxygen. And it doesn't last forever, for example, the passengers just have little canisters and that will run out. Most likely if a major decompression occurred, you'd lose consciousness.

PEREIRA: Mary Schiavo --

CUOMO: But the plane could keep flying, in other words.

SCHIAVO: The plane could keep flying.

CUOMO: Thank you, Mary.

PEREIRA: All right, Mary Schiavo, we appreciate it.

CUOMO: We'll get back to the search for 370, testing the ideas that are out there, figuring what's information versus fact. But a lot of other news this morning.

For instance, thousands of Russian troops are gathering along Ukraine's eastern border at this hour. What does it mean? Has Ukraine's interim president now wound up in fear of a large-scale invasion?

The troops are engaging in military exercises as Secretary of state John Kerry engages in a diplomatic exercise. He's meeting with Russia's foreign minister trying to convince Moscow to pull its troops out of Crimea. Now, this comes two days before they are expected to split and join the Russian Federation, a vote that many believe will be invalid. So, it's very confusing there as well.

Let's bring in Nick Paton Walsh live from Crimea -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, I think what people are hoping today in London is a meeting between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov might be the last chance for diplomacy here. It looks unlikely that is going to necessarily yield positive results because the focus has now switched from Crimea, that meeting initially being about trying to slow Russian intervention here and maybe forestall the referendum on Sunday, the focus is now switching, as you said, to the east of Ukraine, the border with Russia, 8,500 Russian troops engaged in drills, which the Russian ministry of defense say is to familiarize themselves with that area.

And along with that, violence in those key eastern cities. In the east, one person killed and 17 injured, we're told, when a pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian rally clashed. So, concerns that we may see some Russian escalation here, the Russian foreign ministry saying quite openly after the violence, it reserves the right to intervene and protect its compatriots or those who it considers to be loyal to Moscow.

So, tension certainly rising here rather than lessening, with that vital meeting happening in London.

Back to you.

PEREIRA: All right, Nick Paton Walsh in Crimea, thank you so much for that.

Ahead, we're going to have more on the missing flight, 370, but let's turn to John Berman who's here with us today for more of your headline.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Michaela. This morning, at the White House --


BERMAN (voice-over): President Obama meets with activists pushing for immigration reform which has stalled in Congress. The president has ordered an administration review of the deportation process with an eye towards finding more humane ways to enforce the law.

And this move was unexpected, considering as late last week. As late as last week, Mr. Obama said when it comes to deportations, he'd already stretched his presidential powers to the max.

Some US Airways passengers now describing the panic they felt when the tire popped during takeoff. They say the Philadelphia to Ft. Lauderdale flight came down hard and smoke started coming out of an engine as they evacuated Thursday. The plane's nose gear also collapsed during this incident; 149 passengers and five crew members evacuated. No serious injuries reported.

Search teams this morning picking through the ruins of two collapse building in New York City looking for survivors following that powerful explosion. The blast killed eight people in East Harlem and as many as five are still unaccounted for. Authorities say a natural gas leak may have triggered the explosion, but the exact cause is still under investigation.

Investors are hoping for a market rebound this morning. Asian shares plunged to one-month lows overnight on concerns about Ukraine in China's declining economy. At this hour, the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 futures are all lower after a sharp sell-off on Thursday. The Dow plunged 231 points for the NASDAQ and S&P also suffering sharp declines of over one percent -- Michaela.


PEREIRA: All right. John, good to have you with us this morning.

We're going to get you back to our top story about the disappearance of flight 370, but obviously, you're trying to get out the door and want to know, do I wear a rain jacket, a winter coat? Indra Petersons is here. Yes, maybe both. INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Especially after the last few days. (INAUDIBLE) temperatures way down, and unfortunately, again this morning, we're talking about some record low temperatures into the northeast and even extending all the way down to the southeast where we have some freeze warnings this morning. The good news, these temperatures are going to rebound and just in time for the weekend.

And then, finally, we're flip-flopping the pattern of how big of a gap we're talking about. It looks like D.C. yesterday 36. Today, 58 degrees. It's going to feel a lot better out there in New York City. You're going to go from just freezing as your high yesterday, 32. Today rebounding to 40s, and by Saturday, we'll continue to see that trend of the temperatures going up. However, still clipper kind of making its way through.

So, chance for some light rain overnight tonight into tomorrow. Not really the big story here. So, what's going on out through Texas, want to watch that system really kind of making its way through. What does that mean? We have a chance for severe weather tomorrow out towards Dallas, Houston, look for thunderstorms and even a chance for an isolated tornado could be out there.

And then we have to continue to watch the storm kind of track and look at all that moisture there. Looks like right by Sunday night in through Monday right as we go towards St. Paddy's a chance for another storm -- Michaela and Chris.

PEREIRA: All right, Indra. Thank you so much for that.

CUOMO: Let's take a quick break on NEW DAY. When we come back, pings, data points, transponders. I mean, with all the speculation about what messages that Boeing 777 sent and when. We're all having education here. So, let's get a closer look at how these high-tech marvels actually communicate. What does it sound? To whom, why? We're going to give you an in-depth look so you can see for yourself.

PEREIRA: And to South Africa, the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. A former police official telling the court about a ballistic expert who may have mishandled evidence at the crime scene. We're going to take you live to the courthouse with the latest.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

We're closely following breaking developments in the search for flight 370, but first, we do have another top story this morning, as well, Oscar Pistorius' murder trial. Today's focus, evidence and how it was handled, specifically that ever-present door. The question, did the police commander in charge at the time handle it properly? I say at the time because the commander later resigned on accusations he mishandled evidence.

Blade Runner's defense team is having a field day with that. Is it relevant? Is this more tactical? Is it significant? Let's debate. Danny Cevallos, CNN analyst, criminal defense attorney, and Mr. Vinnie Politan, the host of HLN "Now on the Case," former prosecutor. Gentlemen, happy Friday. Thank you for being here.

Danny Cevallos, I play you as proxy for the defense. What are you doing? Is this just a lot of attorney bibble-bubble or are you making a real point here? What's your tactic?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm not familiar with bibble- babble, Chris.

CUOMO: Now you are, continue.

CEVALLOS: The defense has to explore how this crime scene was processed, and they're correct. They need to explore why were people moving things around? Why were watches going missing? Why were splinters of a door falling out of a body bag? And why were you using a body bag to transport a door instead of, really, should have just been taking photographs?

The defense needs to explore this because they need to develop the idea. Remember, also, the prosecution is trying to avoid calling its original case agent, Hilton Botha. If they do, they -- look, I mean, it has to raise the question, is the prosecution about winning or are they about justice because Botha is going to know more than almost any other witness, but they do not want to call him.

CUOMO: Because?

CEVALLOS: Well, because, number one, they prosecuted him. And number two, he may get on the stand and just start loving Molotov cocktails at the prosecution's case, because how favorable will he testify to the prosecution if he's being prosecuted himself?

CUOMO: So, Vinnie, the basic argument from the defense is this, you suck. You messed up the crime scene. You brought the door to your office. You didn't collect the splinters right. Things are going this thing. You didn't catalog it well. We can't trust anything that comes from this door and the door seems to be the best thing you have, other than all these people who want to call the defendant reckless and a gun lover.

VINNIE POLITAN, HOST, "HLN NOW ON THE CASE": Here's the thing, you've got a judge who's hearing the case. And I'm sure the judge, like me, has been in criminal courtrooms before. When I was a prosecutor for the last 15 years covering criminal cases around the country, every single trial, it's the same thing. Every police investigation is botched and you can never trust what they do.

The problem that the defense has here, OK, don't trust the police, don't trust their experts, don't trust the investigators, don't trust any of the ear witnesses, don't trust any of the eyewitnesses and don't trust Oscar Pistorius' friend or his ex-girlfriend. The only one you can trust in this case is the man who put four bullets through a closed door and shot and killed a smart, wonderful woman.

CUOMO: Danny Cevallos, I am going to continue Vinnie Politan's outrage. You are all heat and no light. What have you shown with all of your harsh questions for investigators and their witnesses that is compelling at all of proposing any theory that there is a good explanation for what happened here?

CEVALLOS: Well, I'd ask you to look past Vinnie Politan's fire and brimstone (ph). We already know that Oscar Pistorius is the one who shot Reeva Steenkamp. We already know that he shot her through a door. This entire trial is not about that. It's about what was in his mind? What did he reasonably believe at the time he fired the gun? We already know that he caused the death of another human being and that is a tragedy.

However, the entire trial is about what did he reasonably think when he pulled the trigger? And the defense has an obligation, whether you're in South Africa or the United States, the defense has obligation to test the prosecution's evidence. And if they don't, they're not doing their job. And when you process a crime scene in such a deadly, serious case, then you have to do so properly.

And, look, the judge will be the final arbiter. Did the police correctly process this crime scene or, on the other hand, were missing watches, missing pieces of the door, the way the evidence was handled, will that demonstrate that maybe the evidence they're putting forward is not as reliable as they hope.

CUOMO: Vinnie Politan, we end on you. What Danny Cevallos talks about is interesting. What he does not talk about may also be interesting. The key that you brought up. We still haven't heard about it at trial. That for all the knocking with the cricket bat and all the drama, Oscar Pistorius wind up opening the door that's locked to his toilet room with a key. What do you think that's going to mean here?

POLITAN: I think it means, number one, if you look at the door, what's really interesting is it has to be locked with a key, as well. So, why in the middle of the night if she's just getting up to go relieve herself is she sneaking into the bathroom and then locking the door with a key behind her to get in there. That's -- and I'm glad Danny used the word reasonable, because we've got to look at Pistorius' story and say is it really reasonable?

And yes, the killing was a tragedy, but it's more than a tragedy, it's also a crime and that's why we're inside this courtroom.

CUOMO: A huge question that looms over this trial for everybody who's observing it and those fact assessors and that judge, is it reasonable for Oscar Pistorius to believe there was an intruder in the home when the door needed to be locked on both sides? How would an intruder have done that? It's a very intriguing question. We'll see how it impacts the trial. Danny Cevallos, Vinnie Politan, thank you very much.

Vinnie, we're, of course, looking forward to your coverage on HLN of this case as it continues. Thank you, fellas -- Mich.

POLITAN: Thanks.

PEREIRA: All right. Chris, thanks so much for that. Next up on NEW DAY, the search for flight 370 expands further east and further west into the Indian Ocean. Coming up, the last message from that flight. And how flights like it communicate with the outside world?