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"Reuters" Report: Flight 370 Deliberately Flown Towards Andaman Islands; Chinese Searchers Say Tremor on Sea Floor Could Be Plane Plunging in Sea; Diplomats Scrambling for Last-Ditch Solution to Ukraine Crisis; Tribute Springs Up for Flight 370 Passengers, Crew Members.

Aired March 14, 2014 - 13:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Malaysia Airline flight 370 is going on day eight. The military and India now expanding its search in the Andaman Sea toward the Bay of Bengal. Two India navy ships and two Coast Guard vessels have been deployed. A "Reuters" report suggests the plane was deliberately flown hundreds of mile off course toward the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, part of India. That's added to suspicions about foul play. Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official says there's a, quote, "significant likelihood the plane is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean." But no one seems to know for sure about any of this. So there are plenty of clues out there, but no concrete answers.

Our Richard Quest is joining us from New York. Also joining us, Keith Wolzinger, in Los Angles, a veteran pilot who currently flies a Boeing 777 jet, the same type of plane as flight 370. Also joining us in Miami is John Goglia, a former NTSB board member and an aviation safety expert.

Keith, what's your opinion of all these pings that have now been documented showing that this plane was continuing for four, maybe five hours after this transponder sending communication to air traffic controllers?

KEITH WOLZINGER, VETERAN BOEING 777 PILOT: Well, continuous pinging suggests that the plane is still in flight and still operating somewhat normally. So that would sort of rule out the idea of an in- flight breakup or a crash into the sea.

BLITZER: So if it was going for four or five hours, so it was flying -- would it have been flying -- John, I'll bring you into this conversation. Would it have been flying because pilots were flying it or was there an automatic flying operation under way?

JOHN GOGLIA, FORMER NTSB BOARD MEMBER & AVIATION SAFETY EXPERT: Well, certainly, the autopilot could still be operating. Just because they operate and opt to turn off the transponder, it doesn't have any effect on the autopilot. A knowledgeable crew or knowledgeable person could certainly continue to use the autopilot. In some ways, we should be able to tell that by the tracking of the airplane. Because it is rather difficult to maintain a straight and level track with the autopilot off.

BLITZER: Richard, Malaysian officials now confirm that two key communications systems were shut down separately 14 minutes apart. What does that tell us?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: It tells us that the two systems were either shut off or they failed. This is a crucial distinction here because -- and everybody's jumped to the conclusion that the transponders must have been switched off, but there's also a perfectly logical explanation that the transponders could have failed. And that the nature of the way in which the plane degenerated could also have led to that.

Look, Wolf, on this question, we are in a very, very clear area here. On the one hand, you have the eastern side of this investigation still avowing the last known area of the aircraft still down towards the South China Sea. Then you have this western front, which is where the "USS Kidd" is, it's where they believe that these pings have led to a plotted chart, which suggests way points and, if you like, a managed flight path out towards the west. But to be frank, they're not saying -- nobody has actually come out and said definitively, yes, it is to the west and the Indian Ocean. And they're quite properly -- and this is crucial -- they're quite properly, the Malaysians, investigating both. Because until there is a hard fact one way or the other, they really have to deploy assets both in the South China Sea and in the Indian Ocean and elsewhere.

BLITZER: We've got to look all over the place. It a huge, huge operation.

Keith, this "Reuters" report, which cites unidentified sources familiar with the investigation, suggests the plane was purposefully, deliberately flying toward the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean hundreds of miles away. If this report is true -- we haven't confirmed it. Let's assume the "Reuters" report is true. What would the significance of that be and how could they tell that it was deliberately going toward that location, the Andaman Islands?

WOLZINGER: Well, the Andaman Islands might be located along a route to a further destination. There's no way to tell that the Andaman Islands is the intended new destination.

I did read the "Reuters" report. One interesting thing was it said the radar plots of that target were going from way point to way point, which leads me to believe that an airway was reloaded in the flight management computer so that the airplane would track one of the published airways, rather than if a destination only had been put in and direct to that destination had been entered, the aircraft would have crossed across the airways and not over any particular of the way points. So it leads me to believe that it was programmed intentionally that way.

BLITZER: Do you agree, John, with that?

GOGLIA: Yes, I do.

BLITZER: So what I hear both of you saying -- I want Richard to get involved in this as well.

Keith, let me go back to you. The more I hear from you, it sounds like foul play as opposed to some catastrophic mechanical failure caused this disaster.

Is that right, John? First, to you.

GOGLIA: Yes, I believe that, based on what we have available to us at this moment, that it appears human intervention has taken over this airplane.

BLITZER: And, Keith?

WOLZINGER: Yes, human intervention, whether we want to label it foul play or, you know, something certainly occurred in the cockpit to reprogram the route.

BLITZER: And what's the latest you're hearing from experts, Richard?

QUEST: That the route that it took over those way points, one expert -- in the last hour, one person said, on Ashleigh Banfield's program, there's enough way points out there that you could plot any particular route and it would seem to look at if it's going over a way point. I take on board what everybody's saying. I think we come back to this core point of the reliability of these pings. Because what they've done here, they've taken these interrogation pings that have appeared on the radar scopes or at least on the map, they've then plotted on top of it the route which it shows the way points, and that's how they've come up with this particular scenario. And so we do come back again, yes, it's certainly looking like these gentlemen have said, looking at the facts as presented here, there is a deliberate nature to its course if those pings are actually the plane.

BLITZER: Good point.

Richard, thanks very much.

John Goglia, Keith Wolzinger, thanks for your expertise.

Then there's this. A seismic event has been reported not far from where flight 370 vanished. Does that offer any clues to the jet's baffling disappearance? That story and more when we come back.


BLITZER: It's been exactly a week since Malaysia Airline flight 370 vanished. Today, investigators are sorting through new information that could possibly, possibly help find the plan one of the possible leads happened the day the jet disappeared. Chinese researchers recorded a slight seismic event in the waters around Malaysia and Vietnam about an hour and a half after the flight's last known contact. The event happened about 72 miles from the plane's last confirmed location.

Joining us now from Denver is Harley Benz, a geophysicist and seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Harley, thanks very much for joining us.

What do you make of these Chinese searchers who call the location of this slight tremor on the sea floor a non-seismic area and say it possibly could have been caused by the plane plunging into the sea?

HARLEY BENZ, GEOPHYSICIST & SEISMOLOGIST, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: Well, based on the report this morning, we, at the National Earthquake Information Center, looked at the data in the area, and using two stations on northern Sumatra and two stations in Malaysia, we're able to find at about the same origin time a seismic event, which was located off the west coast of Sumatra, with a magnitude of 2.7. This is an area that has earthquakes of this size daily. It's one of most seismically active areas of the world. And the signals they looked at and the signals we looked at were very consistent with it likely being an earthquake.

BLITZER: So the likelihood of this being the plane is unlikely. If a plane were to plunge into the waters in those areas around that time with high velocity, what kind of seismic event, if any, would we expect to see?

BENZ: Well, in that part of the world, off the coast of Vietnam, we don't have that many stations, and I'm not sure whether we'd be able to record signals seismically. We might, but it might be on one or two stations. We're more likely to see the impact of an airplane into the sea on hydro-acoustic arrays, basically cables that run on the ocean bottom and can measure pressure waves in the ocean or on infrasound. When you have an explosion, it produces a wave in the atmosphere that can be recorded. We don't have that data available to us. But from looking at just the seismic data from Malaysia and in northern Sumatra, what we locate is very consistent with where we expect earthquakes. And it looks like a natural-occurring earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra.

BLITZER: So it looks like another false lead, the Chinese experts have provided to us.

I really appreciate your expertise, Harley. Thanks very much.

Harley Benz joining us from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Holding out hope at the last place the missing Malaysian passenger plane was seen. We'll show you a tribute that's been springing up for the missing passengers and the crew members.

Also, a last-ditch attempt to ease the crisis in Ukraine as diplomats meet Russian troops. They are taking up new positions inside Crimea.


BLITZER: We'll get back to the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Malaysian airliner in a moment.

But there's other important news we're watching right now. As Russian troops patrol the Crimean peninsula, diplomats are scrambling for a last-ditch resolution to the crisis in Ukraine. Sunday, voters in Crimea will decide whether to decide to remain part of Ukraine or to go to Russia.

John Kerry met with his Russian counterpart in London for six hour, and then had tough words. Listen.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE; If Russia does establish facts on the ground that increase tensions or that threaten the Ukraine people, then obviously, that will beg an even greater response, and there will be costs.


BLITZER: Let's go straight to Nick Paton Walsh, who is joining us from Simferopol in Crimea right now.

The Russian foreign minister also spoke out. And Putin is now speaking in a phone conversation he had, Vladimir Putin, with the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon. Putin said, "The referendum in Crimea on Sunday is in line with the provisions of international law and with the U.N. charter." But most of the rest of the world, apparently, doesn't agree.

What's the latest situation on the ground, Nick, where you are?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No sign that we're not moving full speed ahead towards Sunday's vote, and most likely, given what everyone agree, they expect it to become part of Russia. The other choice simply being independence from Ukraine. Few, I think, will go for that particular option. It's dependent on who -- you read the read out of that call between Ban Ki-moon and Vladimir Putin. Ban Ki- moon spokesman saying that he warned of the dangerous potential for a spiral here, where, as you mentioned yourself, Vladimir Putin referring to how they agreed to stay in contact but reiterating the Russian position for that this referendum will be legal and they intent to recognize it.

But, really, it is bizarre how diplomacy at this point has failed, it's fair to say, ahead of the vote. Yet, I think John Kerry wants to try to hold some sort of hope out. It seems he's giving the timing over to Vladimir Putin, really, because while saying there could be some sort of sanctions or response from the international community on Monday after the referendum is held -- and it looks like that's going to happen -- he did seem to want to wait for Vladimir Putin's decision as to whether or not he will accept Crimea into Russia before this larger response happens. That leaves it to the Russian president to make that call. We don't know when he will do it. It's pretty clear that what is happening in Crimea is happening at his behest. But whether he will seize that last diplomatic opportunity to actually not welcome Crimea into the Russian Federation, we will have to see -- Wolf?

BLITZER: How worried are people where you are that the Russian troops won't simply stop in Crimea, which is part of Ukraine, but will move easterly and take over other parts of Ukraine?

PATON WALSH: Interestingly enough, here, people are most of the time fairly relaxed. The pro Ukrainians are here and they are worried about the idea of a foreign army moving through their country. Although, we point out, we're still living in a slightly surreal world in which both the Kremlin and the local government here don't admit to the presence of the Russian troops on their soil. But the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

But, yes, as you point out, the key focus now is on the east of Ukraine. There's 8,500 Russian troops conducting exercises on the Ukrainian-Russian border. The violence in the area that killed one person yesterday, another strong eastern city, whether there are pro Russian emotions, and the fear, as we heard, John Kerry expounded upon, that potentially Russia is eying up eastern Ukraine. A lot of observers concerned about these troop movements. And, I think, also how we are hearing similar assurances that we heard before the intervention in Crimea from Sergei Lavrov they have no intention of moving into eastern Ukraine. That is not coming, obviously, because it wasn't honored when it came to the case of Crimea -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh on the scene for us. We will continue to check back with you. Clearly, we will see what happens on Sunday with the so-called referendum that takes place and what follows.

Nick Paton Walsh on the ground for us.

When we come back, waiting and wondering in Malaysia's capitol. As families express frustration over the lost Malaysian passenger plane, many are building a tribute to their missing loved ones.


BLITZER: As the search widens for those 239 people on board the missing Malaysian airliner, it's been agonizing for family members and friends. Now at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where the plane was last seen, a tribute has sprung up.

Our Saima Mohsin reports that, while there may not be a lot of answers for many, there is still hope.


SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hundreds of people are coming here to leave messages on this wall of hope set up inside.

"You can't feel it, but you know it's there." That is the message that, until they find this plane, they are going to hold on to the hope. There is a message from the family member of the daughter of one of the passengers. It says, "Dad, I miss you, please come back." Many, many messages it seems from family members and simply from passengers passing through about to board their own planes, saying, "Please come back." Mandarin and Cantonese, Arabic and Japanese. This message here, "With love from the secretaries from the company that runs this airport. You are in our thoughts every minute." Of course, they will hear news of what happened to the flight. They endured long days and long agonizing waits to hear from them. "Please come back. We believe. Dear God, you are our savior. God is great. Allah is great." This is a Muslim country. So many messages full of hope, waiting to hear what will happen.

And this final message here, "Dear God, don't take them away from us. Don't say they are missing unless you are going to return them to us."

Saima Mohsin, CNN, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


BLITZER: What a heart-breaking story. These people are hoping, hoping their loved ones may be alive.

We leave you with this iconic image, a picture capturing of joy following the end of World War II. An unforgettable kiss between a sailor and a nurse taken on Times Square in New York City on August 14th, 1945. Now we are getting word the sailor in this photo, Glenn Edward McDuffie has died in Texas. He joined the Navy at the age of 15 in 1942. His friend forged his mother's signature on the recruiting papers. His famous photo on V-J Day was so beloved, it was recreated decades later. Glenn Edward McDuffie died Sunday at the age of 86. What a picture that was.

I will be back 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room." We'll have a special two-hour edition. Coming up at 5:00 p.m. eastern, we are taking a very, very close look at all of the theories and all of the latest information coming in on the mystery of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Once again, a special two-hour edition later today, 5:00 p.m. eastern. We will have all the latest information.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

NEWSROOM with Don Lemon starts right now.