Return to Transcripts main page


Is it Debris From Flight 370?; ACCESS Offers Emotional Support to Families

Aired March 20, 2014 - 06:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. I'm joining you once again from Kuala Lumpur.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all of you joining us from around the world this morning.

It is day 13 of the search for Malaysia Flight 370.

Let's get you up-to-date this morning's big breaking news. A lot happening overnight. Searchers hoping debris in the water off the coast of Australia could help them find the missing jetliner. Australian satellites captured these two images, four search planes are scouring the area trying to get confirmation. But one of those already had to turn back and rain and cloud cover are complicating efforts already for the other planes.

To give you an idea of where this is, the search is now focused in the Indian Ocean, almost 1,500 miles off the coast of Perth. That's about the distance from New York to Denver. So, if this is where the plane went, that's about 3,000 miles south of Kuala Lumpur, and more than halfway through Antarctica. It just shows you how difficult this search still is.

Let's get Andrew Stevens, who's live in Perth, Australia.

And, Andrew, the weather is becoming a real problem there.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. The weather is a major determinant in this case.

The first plane -- the first plane that went out today, Kate, got back to the air force base where I'm standing. Go back about an hour and a half ago. Since then, we had a tweet from the Royal Australian Air Force saying that the search did not identify any of the objects they were looking for, rain and low cloud really hampering visibility.

We're still waiting for another three of the aircraft to return. As I understand it, one is still on target in the location where those objects were seen. They can only go two hours on location because it's such a long flight out there. It's a four hour flight. These things can fly from about 10 to 12 hours. But they still only get two hours on site.

If the weather does continue to deteriorate, it is going to make it so much more difficult given this is such a vast, empty part of the planet. So they need all the fortune they can get at the moment and certainly they need the weather to act kindly for them.

I can see that the debris, whatever it is, has been moving and will continue to shift. They need eyeballs on that, Kate. They need to actually get a firm visual identification.

We've seen the satellite images. They're grainy. They're very hard to actually work out what they are. There is going to be high-res images from commercial satellites. We don't know when, because they're going to pick out this debris as well.

But they really need eyeballs. The first boat that's expected to get there is an Australian navy boat won't be there for another perhaps day, day and a half, two days. So it's still a long way out before we get any real clarification, Kate.

PEREIRA: All right. Andrew Stevens, thank you so much for.

When you talk about some of the efforts -- some of the challenges with Mother Nature and the currents and weather. We want to talk about all of that when we look at this satellite image that we're receiving from Australian military. What exactly is floating in the water off the coast of Australia? Could it be the debris from the missing flight?

We know that naval ships and planes heading to the region. We also know it's going to take them time to get there. Chris was telling you about some of the challenges with the maritime forecast.

Let's take a closer look at the satellite images. We've got Captain Timothy Taylor back with us. We know he's an ocean search expert.

Good to see you. So glad you could be here with us.

These are the images. People are waking up this morning and seeing the images.

I want to ask you about this. If you look at it from your expertise, what is does that say to you? Do you say this is a possible bit of debris from the wreckage?

CAPTAIN TIMOTHY TAYLOR, PRESIDENT, TIBURON SUBSEA SERVICES: There is always a possibility that it's debris from the wreckage. Its size is telling. It's a big piece of a plane to be floating.

PEREIRA: They're saying about 24 meters long.

TAYLOR: Yes. Which is 72 feet or something like that.

PEREIRA: And related to a plane, the Boeing, would that fit with Boeing wreckage?

TAYLOR: Obviously it can't. But floating, you know, could be a wing. That's highly suspect as well.

But in the ocean, a lot of things can float. A lot of things can aggregate and group together.

PEREIRA: OK. Well, speaking of that, let's move on to the second image. This is the second -- because we know there are two bits of debris, they're sizable bits of debris. This is about 14 miles away from the larger piece of debris. What does that say to you?

TAYLOR: Well, generally, wind and currents will form long lines of debris. So debris doesn't form just one big lump. It gets spread out by current and the wind. It will track like a line.

So this could be part of the line, depending on the way the seas are running and what not. It could be part of the same debris field, where a large section accumulates more debris in areas. So there are thin little weeds and trash and then just bigger lumps of it which tends to pull itself together.

PEREIRA: These images are three days old. Australians have been analyzing them for this amount of time. We're about two weeks into the search. Does that time line in terms of currents and how fast they move, does that line up to you?

TAYLOR: They have more data on what is happening in the currents down there. But these things do not stay in one place.

PEREIRA: OK. Let's talk about the search efforts. This is Tuesday, Wednesday, and then the search for today. We know that they've been focusing on this southern corridor.

TAYLOR: I mean this is -- if they found debris by satellite and they started to search, that obviously is the debris is moving. If they're looking down here now, obviously there is a current that is pushing it or wind-driven current or ocean-driven current moving the items. It's a moving target.

PEREIRA: OK. Look at the distance. This is Perth, Australia. We're trying to give you the idea the location. Perth, Australia, about 1,500 miles off the coast.

A lot of people thought we would find this in the southern Indian Ocean, not as far south.

TAYLOR: Again, they are looking for clues. This is a clue.

PEREIRA: This is a credible lead.

TAYLOR: They have to run it down.

If the Australians came out and said this is a credible lead, then assets have to be deployed. Otherwise, they're looking for nothing right now. This is a good lead.

PEREIRA: This is a credible lead. And, now, last, I want to talk about the currents, because this is something that is really significant. We know they're calling this a gyre. We're learning new terms today.

A gyre -- explain what that is and how it would affect how if debris or any other sort of what Chris was talking about flotsam and jetsam in the area could move or not move.

TAYLOR: Gyre is a circular current.


TAYLOR: And you've heard about them, the gyres hold all the trash in the Pacific. Every ocean has one. They do accumulate trash and they do large amounts of trash. Eventually that trash gets organism going on and then it starts to sink.

But usually there are large patches of this. This could be a patch of trash.

PEREIRA: To that end, it could very well be that.


TAYLOR: They have to eliminate that. So, they have to go look and they have to find out if it is or isn't. And then move from there.

PEREIRA: Go look, they will. Timothy Taylor, thank you so much.

TAYLOR: You're welcome.

PEREIRA: We appreciate you walking through that us with.


Actually, I'll take it right now. We're going to take a short break here on NEW DAY. We're going to take you live to Australia. We're going to have more on those waters and talk about just how Australia found this debris that the satellite images picked up.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Of course, we're following this breaking news. It a breakthrough in the search for Flight 370? Two objects spotted by satellite could be or couldn't be debris from the Malaysian Airlines Flight that's been missing now for 13 days.

Australian officials describe them as indistinct and of reasonable size. Those objects were spotted in the heart of the Indian Ocean gyre. Exactly what is that?

Our Indra Petersons is here to fill us in and also to talk about this narrowed in search area. INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We had a lot of speculation yesterday. How did we go from this large search area and connect it to this small area, in comparison to what we've been looking at the last several days? So that's in the weather office, a little bit of speculation.

But we took the information we had. We had the last known satellite contact with the plane, which was this huge ring. And then what we knew is the last radar image that we saw the plane was this last wave at 2:15 in the morning. So what we did is we took the amount of flying time they would have left at that point of time, which would bee six hours. Assuming you have the plane at the same altitude until it ran out of gas, for every hour, it would actually match that last intersection of that last satellite contact, and that's where you get that last point.

And unfortunately that's exactly where they are now currently seeing debris. So that's what we need to look at.

Everyone keeps talking about the gyres. What are gyres? We have five huge circulations on earth. Now, this point here happens to be in one of these. So let's take a little bit of a closer look at one of the gyres. And what do we see here? We see very strong westerly winds out there. And a lot of people keep talking about the speculation that this could be a place you typically see a lot of debris. The bulk of debris in a gyre, keep in mind, if it comes from the beach, a plastic bottle, can take 50 years before it kind of makes its way into the circulation. The bulk of it is very small and particle-sized.

That's not to say that something didn't recently fall off a ship like a container and could be sitting out there, but the likelihood of something being as large in size as it is, is not very likely that it couldn't be something that kind of came up through that area.

Now keep in mind the depth here, two to three miles. So there is still a lot to be looking at and a lot of us are also talking about the currents there. Still looking at circular motion, about eight feet. You're still talking about very high wave lengths and very strong winds, even as high as 50, even 70 miles per hour. Because that's what the trade winds are.

So good news. We were talking about this cold front, that cold front is moving out of the way so by the time the bulk of the ships go in there to inspect, we're looking at conditions really improving as that cold front is exiting the region.

CUOMO: Right, and as you've been pointing out, it's also storm season down there, as Indra's been telling us. So they're dealing with white caps, bigger waves, tough to see things, ships move more slowly. So there's a lot of conflicting factors.

PETERSONS: And that all should be clearing out here in the next couple days.

PEREIRA: That will help. CUOMO: All right. So we'll be following this as information comes up that is relevant throughout the morning. A lot of other news as well. JB has it.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, thanks so much.

Ukraine making a major concession in Crimea, now preparing to withdraw all of its troops from the region. Russia in clear control. Pro- Russian forces have freed the Ukrainian Navy chief a day after he was taken prisoner on a raid on a naval base. The mass withdrawal involves as many 25,000 Ukrainian troops and their family members.

Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair could learn his fate today. The Army general has pleaded guilty to adultery charges for carrying on a three year extramarital affair. That is a crime in the military. In exchange for the plea, sexual assault charges were dropped. On Wednesday, prosecutors say Sinclair should be thrown out of the military and lose his benefits. But they stopped short of asking for jail time.

Stock markets still rattled this morning by the latest comments from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, Yellen telling reporters that the central bank could raise interest rates - could -- six months after it wraps up its bond buying program. And that has many traders worried and selling as a result.

We have a remarkable story we want to tell you about. Professional dancer who lost part of her leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, you may remember her --well, she's back on stage. The 33-year-old Adrianne Haslet Davis vowed to dance again and dance again she did. Wednesday she performed a short rumba at a TED conference in Vancouver. Incredible. It's just about a year -- less than a year after the bombing. As you can see, you know, she wore a dress that shows off her brand new MIT-designed prosthetic limb.

CUOMO: Good for her.

PEREIRA: That is fantastic.

CUOMO: Right. As you often say, people are not their limitations. And when they're challenged, they show that sometimes.

PEREIRA: Tremendous amount of work. I remember we saw video from her and she spoke about how agonizing the recovery was but she was determined.

BERMAN: Wonderful to see.

CUOMO: And as you very -- sophistication in it, you used dance parlance, a short rumba.

BERMAN: It was a rumba.

PEREIRA: Things we learn about John Berman.

CUOMO: I know. He has been a ballroom dancer for, what, 15 years. BERMAN: 15 going on 16 now.

PEREIRA: It's an anniversary for you. All right, short break here. Next up on NEW DAY, family heartbreak as they await news about this latest breakthrough. We're going to speak with a grief counselor who herself lost a loved one in a plane disaster. She knows this grief all too well.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. We are following breaking news this morning. Two objects spotted by satellite in the waters off Australia about 1500 nautical miles from Perth. Search crews are trying to get a better look. The obvious question -- are these objects part of Flight 370?

Nobody wants this answer more than the families of the 239 souls onboard this flight. They are desperate and understandably so. Our next guest knows their agony all too well. She lost her fiance on TWA Flight 800. Her name is Heidi Snow and she joins us this morning from San Francisco. She is the founder of ACCESS, AirCraft Casualty Emotional Support Services. She's also the author of "Surviving Sudden Loss: Stories From Those Who Have Lived It."

Thank you for get up early, heed. I know how close this is to your heart and obviously your work. You've been following this situation. If you can, put us inside the hearts and the heads of these family members who are waiting.

HEIDI SNOW, FOUNDER, ACCESS: At this time I remember, early on in the first week or so, I would alternate between hope and reality. And we had said good-bye and I could have never imagined that would be the last opportunity to talk to him. And we'd expected a separation of just days at that point, and then suddenly the reality started to come into play that it could be forever. And that's when it began to become very difficult for me.

But I really did hold on to hope until his remains were found. So even when the wreckage was found, I still really didn't believe he was gone until they actually found his remains. So there's a very difficult process kind of going back and forth and clinging on to hope and thinking maybe he didn't board that plane. Maybe somehow he swam to safety. I used to think he's strong. They sent rescue boats out there early on in the first day and I thought for sure he'd be on one of them. And then as time went on, I thought that somehow he swam to shore. Somehow he survived this. And I really held on to that to get through this.

And now finding we're finding at ACCESS we're getting a lot of calls for help from other people who have been through this type of loss and they're all reliving the losses. And we empathize with these families., and it's really brought us all back to day one.

We've had even people from 9/11 who still today their husbands went to work and they don't have their remains, and they're reliving it. And they've gathered the strength over time to become grief mentors and be there for other people if our organization, so they're really remarkable people who somehow have survived this and really are amazing role models for others having to go through this.

CUOMO: It's important perspective that this incident matters so much to these families but also people like you and people who have lost people from different types of disasters, whether they were related to aircraft or not. Now, you and I met back during this process as you were living it with Flight 800. How important for these families is information that's accurate, not dealing with these politics of what countries are revealing what versus hiding what? How much more difficult does that make this process?

SNOW: It definitely makes it a lot more difficult. I remember waiting for answers and trying to get confirmation. But, at the end of the day, you really have to start to accept that that person may be gone and that's what's really difficult. And all these other pieces will come into play over time.

And I believe all the information is being relayed as quickly as it possibly can. But sometimes when you're actually in the position of looking for the information, it feels like somehow it may not be coming to you quick enough. But I really believe the efforts are being made to let the families know what's happening.

CUOMO: I remember --

SNOW: But obviously, when you're on the other side, it's very difficult.

CUOMO: I can only imagine. And I remember you were such an advocate for urgency. Stay on it. People need to keep reporting about this. Don't let it fade when the next story comes up. And that becomes an interesting point because the media is in a tricky position here, right? How much do you push and press for answers? How much do you do that? How much of that is helpful to the families? And what do you believe the lines are, if there are any, about what winds up starting to hurt the families?

SNOW: I think just having them believe that they're being given information in a timely manner is very important. And then as time goes on, they're going to grieve in their own ways. Every person goes through it in their own way.

But one of the things I found most important, as you remember, too, because I talked to you about it, is well, is really, you know, just being able to talk about them, talk about the incident. And the hardest thing I think -- most of our calls for help after large air disasters is really when the press steps away. The family assistance center shuts down. There is really no one out there acknowledging their loss anymore.

And that's when our help line heats up. And that's when people really start calling because they have no -- the acknowledgment begins to go away. They stop getting letters of people acknowledging that this happened to them. And so we've made sure that ACCESS is there for the long term, so when you're assigned a mentor, that person walks you through. It could be a few months, it could be a few years that that person is your go-to person. So you're never alone in this process.

CUOMO: The possibility --

SNOW: It can be very isolating. And a lot of people don't understand it.

CUOMO: The possible -- it's so hard to understand. We just try to empathize and give these families what they need, what they ask for. And, you know, as you remember so painfully well with your situation here, the scenario of possibility that may be it landed somewhere, maybe they're alive. It's been such a part of the speculation that any type of discovery, while it gives closure, is also going to be painful to these families. That's why organizations like yours are so important.

Heidi, you lived it personally and now trying to help others. It's beautiful work. Let us know how we can help going forward if you get involved with these families. Heidi Snow, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

SNOW: Thank you. Thank you, guys.