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More Debris Picked Up By Satellites; As Many As 24 Dead In Washington Mudslide; Secret Service Agents Sent Home For Drinking in Amsterdam

Aired March 26, 2014 - 06:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It was described, different objects were spotted by satellites on Sunday in the same area, at least as far as we know, that's been the focus of the search effort here so far. That's west of Perth where I'm coming to you live from. They describe them as different sizes. Some of them bright meaning they could be solid, maybe possibly metal. Meantime, so that's one big development that we are watching. We are going to continue to track throughout the show. That came in just moments ago.

Meantime, we also have a dozen planes and some maybe possibly five, six ships using the latest intelligence to try and locate the plane. All of this equipment -- all of the equipment that the U.S. is seconding to help has also arrived here in Perth including technology to help find the data recorder.

And investigators are looking into a newly discovered partial ping as the experts described it sent by the plane. This new information about more debris, possibly debris, we should be careful and still call them objects being spotted on satellite images is raising new hope that maybe that can be narrowing in on where the fate of Flight 370 came to an end.


HISHAMMUDDIN BIN HUSSEIN, MINISTER OF TRANSPORTATION: We were able to identify 122 potential objects. We have now had four separate satellite leads from Australia, from China and France showing possible debris. It is now imperative that we link the debris to MH-370.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): As special equipment from the U.S. like this unmanned underwater robot arrives in Perth, Australia. The country's prime minister voicing optimism that something will turn up.

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: A considerable amount of debris has been sighted in the area where the flight was last recorded. Bad weather has so far prevented any of it being recovered, but we are confident that some will be.

BOLDUAN: The special equipment includes a Blue Fin underwater vehicle to search for wreckage at depths of more than 14,000 feet. Also a tow pinger locator described as a giant listening device used to detect signals from the data recorder at depths of up to 20,000 feet. Dedicated to today's search 12 aircrafts and at least five ships from six countries. This multinational effort though still faces huge challenges as they scour more than 600,000 square miles of ocean and have yet to locate any of the suspected debris spotted by search planes Monday. This as new information emerges about Flight 370's timeline.

Experts say new satellite data indicates the plane may have sent out a final partial signal around 8:19 the morning it disappeared. Possibly a sign the plane was still flying or even indicating the moment it went down.


BOLDUAN: Now let's bring in Andrew Stevens, my colleague here for the latest on the search and also what officials have been saying this morning about the search. But first, Andrew, you and I are just getting the same thing and as we were just looking at a piece. We are looking at our Blackberries.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority just tweeted out that while these search planes finally got back up in the air today after a delay, they've had two sightings. Three objects were spotted in a search. One spotted by a commercial aircraft. They said it looked like rope.

And then in New Zealand, P3 Orion also spotted a blue object clearly with the ramping back of this search, they are going full speed ahead to try to find it. We don't know what these objects are of course, but we know they are looking.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are absolutely looking. This is the biggest day of searching. So far, Kate, we have 12 aircraft up there and five ships in the zone. It's interesting. These latest satellite images, we've just been hearing that from the Malaysians too. That is the fourth set of images we've heard about. What Malaysians are saying, they can narrow it down more and more just by calibrating where they're getting --

BOLDUAN: Which is so key.

STEVENS: Absolutely. They're still going to get the eyes on. This is what we've been talking about getting eyes on and this is why those ships how are so crucial.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And there's a big difference between a satellite image and getting the eyes on it from the air and then from the sea as the boats have moved back in. The weather was a big problem yesterday, 24 hours lost. They are back in the air today, but it might be again a problem tomorrow.

STEVENS: That's right. It's interesting listening to the defense minister yesterday. You were talking to him. Horrendous weather conditions. We have this 24 hours, that conditions haven't been ideal by a long way and it's closing back in again. This part of the world is known for storms kicking up very quickly. It can change very quickly down there. They are saying it's going to get ugly in 24 to 48 hours. It's just how time critical this is. If the beacons start working, you lose a big, big lead into where the main part of the wreckage is going to be.

BOLDUAN: We can see, as I send it back to you guys in New York. We can see though, they're trying as hard as they can in the narrow window that they have here to get as many planes and ships in the air. We have more sightings, more satellite images coming in, but a healthy dose of caution. Nothing yet confirmed and the defense minister said to me very clearly and said to us in the press conference very clearly, until they have identified and confirmed it's from MH-370, they cannot give anybody false hope. But they are going to keep searching until then. I send it back to you guys in New York.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: All right, thank you so much, Kate. Caution, yes, but potential important developments. Let's stay on the breaking news of these new possible debris sightings. Let's bring in our panel of aviation analysts here, in New York, former FAA inspector and the author of "Why Planes Crash," David Soucie, contributor to Slate and the author of "Extreme Fear," and Jeff Wise, and in Washington, security consultant and former American Airlines pilot, Mark Weiss.

David Soucie, let me start with you here this news we just got in moments ago. A French satellite taking pictures a few days ago now, but in a 400-squre kilometer area, this spotted 122 possible pieces of debris ranging in size all the way up to about 70 feet. This to me sounds like not pieces of debris, but something to a debris field.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: It does seem like that. The thing I like about that report, they said 70 feet. Remember this kind of theme here, 70 to 78 feet, to me, that sounds like a wing still. It's logical to me that that wing would still be afloat at this time because it was empty of fuel if you remember. And there is a seal at that bulk head so I do believe -- I'm encouraged by the news.

BERMAN: Mark Weiss, this big pieces ranging up to 70 feet, but again, surrounded by dozens and dozens of other pieces, maybe 122. Some of them bright-colored. We don't know exactly what color that is, but we had heard before they had seen orange things from the air perhaps indicative of a life vest or a life raft, we just don't know. What does this indicate to you?

MARK WEISS, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Like David was saying, it certainly seems to be that this may be a potential debris field. I agree that that larger piece of metal that might be floating could very possibly be the wing. It had been out of fuel. It has air tanks in it that would allow it to float. The orange pieces definitely could be pieces of life jackets and other debris from the aircraft. So this is a good sign.

BERMAN: A good sign. All right, Jeff, this picture was taken on March 23rd which was Sunday. Today is Tuesday. So there is a bit of a lag time here. There is another a little bit of new information we just got in moments ago that the search planes flying today did spot some things from the sky. Three pieces of potential debris. Could be rope. Not sure. To me it's surprising, Jeff, that they spot by satellite 122 pieces on Sunday, some as big as 70 feet, but they can't seem to find that area again today by plane or by boat. Explain that to me.

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: This has been an ongoing theme of this investigation. Investigators are able to find debris in a satellite image and then by the time that's processed and turned over to the investigators on the ground and in the air, time has lapsed. Now it takes time to get back out to that area. There's drift, there's current. It's a tough not to crack.

We're going to continue to have this problem. You can scan so much area in a satellite compared to being in a plane where you have to physically be there. We've had a very poor success ratio of being able to go back out into the area and identify those -- those promising leads that we've found from satellite imagery.

BERMAN: Mark, it is the biggest search effort to date, 12 planes in the air, five ships scouring the area on the surface. Is that enough? Can they reasonably expect to get to these pieces before they move on in these currents and in these waves?

WEISS: I guess, you know, if you ask the families of those involved, they'll say nothing is going to satisfy them until they get some declaration that this really is the debris field and find out. So is enough, enough? Depends on who you ask. The weather as we've heard has been so dramatic. The debris field has been moving or the fields of what we've been spotting from the satellites have been moving constantly that this is so critical to be able to put not just the eyes from the satellites and the aircraft, but to be able to pick up those pieces and identify that as part of the flight.

BERMAN: All right, David Soucie, I want to back up now and talk about another critical area right now. The satellite handshakes, the data that they re-analyzed that allowed them to reach the conclusion in the minds of Malaysian officials that this flight ended as they say in the Southern Indian Ocean, there was one piece of information that came out. We had just heard it and trying to understand it. This news of a partial handshake. The satellites had been making them at regular intervals with the flight for hours and hours, but at the very end, there was a partial handshake. What does that indicate to you?

SOUCIE: To me, it's the most exciting piece of information we've had in a long time towards finding this aircraft because that last ping, as you mentioned before, they had been regular intervals. Then for some like for 9 minutes after, it pings again. That tells me is that (SATCOM) antenna, which is back in the back of the aircraft, top part of the aircraft, it's sending out this signal. It talks with the satellite. What I think happened with the ACARS, it had been separated from that somehow.

Whether it was a break in a wire or the SATCOM system takes information from other things as well. The idea there if there's any kind of emergency on board that aircraft, it cannot only go through the ACARS system, but it can go directly to the SATCOM and say, I have an issue here. We need to start connecting to this indicates to me something happened. Electrical change, the engines had come offline. Some electrical event had occurred.

BERMAN: Jeff Wise, this make sense to you, something at the end there. That it was trying to communicate with the satellite?

WISE: We're really waiting for some more information from Inmarsat. I agree this is exciting news, not only for that partial ping, but we were given a lot more data about what transpired between the aircraft and the satellite and we also learned how Inmarsat was able to use that information to deduce it has to be the southern route not the northern route. That was the basis for the stunning revelation from the Malaysian prime minister that all these passengers must therefore be dead.

BERMAN: Fascinating. All right, Mark Weiss, I want to leave you with the last word here. Again, the breaking news just in now, sightings from a satellite of a possible debris field. Some 122 objects of varying size, off the coast of Perth, Australia. Talk to me about the importance of this and how it could lead to that black box. You think it is crucial to find this black and frankly keep on looking until they do?

WEISS: It certainly is. It would help to facilitate and get this done so that we can perhaps put to rest what may have happened to that airplane. Finding that black box is critical. Determining whether this is a debris field.

And again, we have to manage expectations. We've been down this road before. With the hope that this could be the real field that we're looking for, then through the -- the math that they've been doing with currents, we could perhaps backtrack and get a more exact area of where that aircraft debris would be and through the satellite imaging -- we were just talking about that last ping. I agree this is an exciting development. Hopefully, it will establish a tighter area where we can put the search and put the assets that will benefit getting this done quickly.

BERMAN: More assets being brought to bear today than ever before. Mark Weiss, David Soucie, Jeff Wise, thanks for being with us. We're going to talk much more about this because there are key developments happening all morning -- Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: There's certainly are. We will get back to our coverage of Flight 370 in just a moment.

First, to a story in Washington State that needs our attention. The death toll keeps rising from a massive mudslide in Washington State. Authorities says as many as 24 people have died. More than 170 others remain unaccounted for. Rescuers are working in conditions described as like wet quick sand. They have not given up hope though of finding survivors.

CNN's Ana Cabrera is live in Arlington, Washington with that. Hi, Ana.

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Michaela. We now know searchers are calling this not only a rescue operation but also moving into a recovery effort. They say now four days later, it's unlikely to find survivors, they are still believing in miracles. While this search continues for both the ground and the air, you definitely get a sense that there's a cloud of grief now blanketing this community.


RAE SMITH, SEARCHING FOR DAUGHTER: It's horrible because I know she is down there in the mud, in the dark.

CABRERA (voice-over): It has been the darkest four days of Rae Smith's life.

SMITH: My heart is broken. It's broken. She was my best friend.

CABRERA: Smith's daughter, Summer Rafo, is among the missing. The 36-year-old was driving to work when the massive landslide broke loose, flattening homes and crushing cars.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: There is a house on 530 and a big slide and it is covering the road.

CABRERA: Newly released 911 calls capture the shock and panic that overtook this tight knit community.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLE: My neighbors house has been taken out and they're trapped.

CABRERA: Four days into the search, people are still trapped.

SMITH: My family has been down there digging for her since Saturday afternoon.

CABRERA: Aaron Bright (ph), focused and determined, charged into the disaster zone against officials' orders.

AARON BRIGHT (ph), SEARCHED FOR SURVIVORS: I wanted to rescue people. I wanted to find people that were still alive.

CABRERA: Instead, the horror he witnessed now haunts him.

BRIGHT: It's no fun finding bodies. It's no fun doing any kind of work like that.

CABRERA: Smith has lost hope that her daughter somehow survived, but says closure can come only if Rafo is found.

SMITH: It just hurts so bad. It hurts so bad. I have 12 other children, but not one of them can replace one that you lose, not one.


CABRERA (on-camera): Your heart just breaks for these people. Your heart really heavy for all these families who are missing their loved ones, who many are still missing. We do know that officials have recovered 16 bodies. They believe they've identified another eight victims in the debris and hope to recover those bodies today. So that brings the death toll, again, to 24.

PEREIRA: And we know that's been the challenge is getting to those bodies and to give those families some measure of closure.

Ana Cabrera, heart breaking when you look at out close-knit this small community is. Thank you for that.

To another story we're watching developing this morning. Three Secret Service agents have been sent home from the Netherlands for excessive drinking. One of them allegedly was found passed out. The agents were in Amsterdam Sunday in advance of the president's trip to the Hague.

White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski is live in Brussels, Belgium with the latest. A bit of an embarrassment for the agency?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Michaela. It's something of a scandal and hardly the image the Secret Service needs to project to the world in its job of protecting the president on such a high-profile trip abroad.

But it seems that three of these agents might have been involved in a night of partying, one of them apparently ending up asleep on the floor of the hallway in his hotel.

The Secret Service isn't giving a lot of detail at this point, but did confirm that the three agents have been sent home to the U.S. for disciplinary reasons.

Unfortunately, this just reminds the world of that terrible scandal in 2012 Cartagena when a number of Secret Service agents were involved in drinking, dancing, and prostitution. Several agents in that case were fired. Some resigned. Even the director of the Secret Service resigned not long after that.

But because of that case in 2012, the rules for Secret Service agents traveling abroad also changed. But clearly, something may have gone wrong in Amsterdam. John?

BERMAN: All right, thanks. Michelle Kosinski following the president in Europe right now.

I want to talk about something going on right here in the United States that is shocking.

PEREIRA: Shocking.

BERMAN: Snow! Meteorologist Jennifer Gray in for Indra Petersons with a look at this shocking forecast.

JENNIFER GRAY, METEOROLOGIST: It is shocking. But good news, we're all worried about New York. It looks like we are going to stay very dry. We had a few flurries, but nothing major. It looks like it is all past.

And now the bad news is if you are on the Cape because you are experiencing blizzard-like conditions there, a lot of snow, and more importantly, a lot of wind. Now, as this thing moved up the east coast, Atlantic City, four inches; D.C., 38, and numbers could be double that around the Cape. Still a blizzard warning in effect for that area.

As we track this, it is going to move on out of the Cape by 3:30, 4:00 this afternoon. But the winds are going to stick around. And what we're looking at for snow totals, could see eight inches around the Cape; four inches in Boston.

And look at these winds, 50 mile-per-hour gusts in Boston. New York City today, 34 mile-per-hour gusts, could gust up to 40 at times. So it is going to be very windy for today and tomorrow.

Temperatures are going to be cold as well; 36 in New York today, 34 in Boston, 25 in Syracuse. Those temperatures do start to move up a little bit. We warm up by the end of the week. Unfortunately, we are going to see a little bit of a rainmaker as we head into the weekend.

The south even warms up. Temperatures close to 70 degrees in Atlanta on Friday. So we do warm up by the weekend, guys, but it looks like we could see a little of rain.

PEREIRA: Don't you head back to Atlanta this weekend?

GRAY: Yeah. You see, I timed it on purpose.


PEREIRA: Interesting timing there, dear. We appreciate it.

Next up on NEW DAY, new leads in the search for flight 370 announced just moments ago. Potentially a large new debris field spotted by satellite, could it lead to the wreckage and the plane's much needed black box recorders?


BERMAN: We are following the breaking news. And this is what it is. In just the last few minutes, Malaysian officials have revealed that a French satellite showed images of about 122 possible pieces of debris in the Southern Indian Ocean.

We're joined again by CNN's safety analyst David Soucie. We're standing on the big map here to get a sense of just how important this development is.

Now, the Malaysian officials say this debris was spotted about 150 miles off the coast of Perth, Australia. We do not know for a fact that it's within this search area they've been looking at, but that's about 1,500 miles off the coast, too, so that's a fair supposition.

But David, when I hear the news 122 pieces of possible debris, to me, that sounds like a debris field. Is that a correct description? Is that a lot of debris in one place?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: It is a lot of debris, but it could be that this is all related to the aircraft still. I'm not discounting that. Although right in this area you do have eddies and currents that are going around above that -- above that 40th parallel down there. So it is possible, and that is pretty common in this area to see debris gather into a certain location because of those eddies and those currents underneath.

BERMAN: OK, 122 pieces, the size ranging up to about 70 feet. The importance of that?

SOUCIE: Yeah, that's really exciting to me, because that number just keeps popping up, 78, 70 feet, somewhere in that area. And to me, that makes sense that that's a portion of the wing.

But then the width keeps changing. And everybody says, how could it be 45 because the wing -- width -- or the length of the cord (ph) of the wing is only about 30 feet or so. So how could it be 48? Well, that makes sense to me because if that engine, during a ditching or a landing of the aircraft, no matter how it goes, the engine would have come off the bottom. And when it does, right behind that is the mounting brackets for the back flap, which kind of defeats the air flow when you're coming down to land. So that back flap could potentially be going in and out, which would account for that extra 10 feet.

BERMAN: Explain some of the discrepancy in size. I should also say that some of the pieces that have been spotted by this French satellite are different colors, bright colors, possibly the orange that we were talking about.

SOUCIE: Yeah, and earlier, if you remember, yesterday we were reporting round, orange objects, which would be consistent with the fact that it could be a life raft that had deployed. Now, they saw no evidence if the fact people were in that raft, but typically, if the aircraft is broken, if the two slodgets (ph) is taken apart, then those rafts could be potentially be deployed inside.

BERMAN: This was found in a 400 square mile area, which isn't small, but it's also not as vast as the areas they've been searching.

SOUCIE: No, we're talking about 20 kilometers. If they can definitively say that it was 20 kilometers, then we might be able to get that tow fish out there and start looking for signals.

BERMAN: All right, another key point: again, this image was taken on Sunday by the French satellite. Today it's what? It's Wednesday now. So a few days to process this, get out ahead of it. Today, those flights that were taking off from Perth, flying out over this search area here, they come back and say, "We've only spotted three objects, nondescript objects, possibly rope, doesn't seem to correlate to this image taken by the satellite."

Why can't these seem to match up? Why are satellites taking pictures of things that seem like potential leads, but the planes just can't find them?

SOUCIE: Well, these conditions out here are changing constantly, the waves, everything's changing constantly. So as the satellite's taking the picture, they're taking several sequential pictures. So they have the option of selecting which one of those is the most clear where there's no clouds over it, where there's nothing going on in that area.

Now, when you're out there in an airplane and you're looking at this 20 miles -- think about looking 20 miles through fog in any direction. It's hard. It's really hard to try to figure out what it is that you're seeing even, let alone you've got six, seven kilometer waves -- or seven meter waves going up and down. It's very hard to see once you're there. It sounds simple, but you don't have that option like the satellite does of saying where's the most calm time to be looking.

BERMAN: I want to go back to the first question they ask you, David. We know how difficult of a task this is, but the number of pieces possibly spotted by this French satellite, 122. Now, it could turn out to be nothing. It could turn out to be stuff that floats in the ocean. But 122 pieces, would that be a lot if connected to an airplane? Would you expect to see fewer, or would you expect to see vastly more?

SOUCIE: I wouldn't say it's a lot. What surprises me is that after all this time, if that were specifically just aircraft debris, it would have been much more disbursed than that right now. So regardless of whether it's all or partially aircraft debris, there's something holding it together. That's what I would think, is something is keeping it in that 20-kilometer area. Because as I said, if it's going out, it could be in any direction after that after that wind starts blowing and everything hits that -- hits that debris.

BERMAN: Well, you bet they'll get those planes out there and those boats out there trying to find that area where that French satellite captured that image as soon as possible.

David Soucie, thank you so much. Michaela?

PEREIRA: David, John, thank you so much for that.

Next up on NEW DAY, we head back to Perth, Australia for the very latest on the ongoing search. New details are really coming in by the minute this morning as planes begin to return to the search area. Stay with us.