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NEW DAY

Large New Debris Field Spotted; Currents Complicate Search for Missing Plane; Lawsuit Filed in Missing Plane Case

Aired March 26, 2014 - 06:30   ET

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


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY everyone. I'm coming to you live from Perth, Australia, at the Pearce Air Force Base, the heart of the search effort for Flight 370.

We have breaking developments in the search for Malaysia Flight 370. In the last hour, we learned that 122 pieces, they say, of possible debris were spotted by satellites on Sunday, in the same vicinity where crews have focused the search. Listen to what the transport minister said. This was just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIA'S ACTING TRANSPORTATION MINISTER: In one area of the ocean measuring some 400 square kilometers, we're able to identify 122 potential objects. Some objects were a meter in length. Others were as much as 23 meters in length. Some of the objects appear to be bright, possibly indicating solid material. The objects were located approximately 2,557 kilometers from Perth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand by.

BOLDUAN: He said 23 meters. That's about 75 feet. So that is an object that you would assume you would be able to see in the water.

Planes and ships from half a dozen countries are still out searching at this very hour. Three objects have been spotted today, Australian authorities announced. Australian officials say two of those objects look like rope. Another one was blue. We're going to keep you updated if anything more is found, of course.

Another plane is about to be landing, and Andrew Stevens is going to be heading in there to see if the pilots come out and speak to him coming out of that flight.

Let's bring in Jim Clancy for the very latest on the investigation. Jim, are we learning anything more, Jim, about the new satellite images?

JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR/REPORTER: We are learning that they are a tantalizing lead, Kate, and you know that the important thing is to try to link those satellite images to the surface search that's being done by aircraft and ships there in the area they've been trying to concentrate. Until and unless they can do that, we cannot confirm that these have a direct link to Flight 370. So that's all important.

But it's something that's encouraging for people, that they're finding more of this. This is the fourth satellite sighting that we have to work on right now. That's going to be up to the Australian-led effort down there off of Perth, where Kate is located right now, along with Andrew Stevens. They're watching all of that, while here in Kuala Lumpur, we are looking toward the investigation into any possible people, any possible motives. No progress announced -- announced -- on that front.

But we know the Chinese were here today in Kuala Lumpur. They were meeting with the prime minister, with the transport minister. They were talking about the Inmarsat data that the Chinese have requested.

The families, as everyone knows, are very upset that this was declared that their family members were lost and that there was no hope. They want a reexamination of the data. That's what the Chinese said that they would pursue. They have been here in Kuala Lumpur to do exactly that.

I'm going to turn it back over now to Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right, Jim. Thanks so much there in Kuala Lumpur. We've really appreciated your reporting.

There's certainly other headlines that are making the news today. Let's turn to Christine Romans here in New York with us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, both of you.

We start with the death toll from a square-mile-long mud slide in Oso, Washington. That death toll now as high as 24. More than 170 people are listed as missing. Sixteen bodies have been recovered in this grim search. Authorities say they've located eight other victims, but they're unable to reach them. Searchers are working in conditions described as wet quicksand. They're still holding out hope of finding survivors.

Some people might have a little more time to sign up for Obama care. The deadline is Monday to get coverage this year or face penalties. Government officials say there's already a surge in demand that could slow the process down. People who already started to sign up before the deadline will have to prove that they ran into technical problems to qualify for an extension.

And despite the tensions between the U.S. and Russia, a new American and Russian crew blasted off for the International Space Station. They were originally expected to dock six hours after launching from Kazakhstan Tuesday, but their rocket wasn't able to complete its third thruster burn. I hate when that happens. So now they're scheduled to reach the space station tomorrow.

Some amazing video to show you this morning from Houston, where a construction worker -- this guy is lucky to be alive, thanks to a firefighter's daring rescue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that a construction guy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A heart-stopping rescue. Watch as this construction worker trapped on a ledge as the building he was working in is engulfed in flames.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: You can see the five-alarm fire ravage through this apartment complex in Houston, forcing the worker to cling to a ledge, trying to escape the massive blaze.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Watch as the intense heat forces him to hang and drop to a ledge below, slipping and then regaining his balance. Witnesses captured the tense moment on video, watching as firefighters finally reach the man and pull him onto the ladder trick just in time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, thank Jesus! Thank you, God!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Seconds later, the building begins to collapse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh no. Oh my God!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Watch again, as he jumps. And then, mere moments later, after escaping the flames, the collapse. It's just heart-stopping.

According to local media reports, it took more than 200 firefighters to battle that blaze. Incredibly, they say no one was injured, including that construction worker. To see him dangle down and make that tiny little ledge of the next balcony...

PEREIRA: It's his only hope, he's thinking at this point: "My only hope is to get to that ledge."

ROMANS: It was so hot where he -- he couldn't even wait for that ladder. It was so hot where he was, and you can see it was so hot because that building was literally burning up.

BERMAN: I have never seen anything like that. That is unbelievable.

PEREIRA: Unbelievable.

BERMAN: All right. Next up for us on NEW DAY, we are following the breaking news from Australia, learning just a few minutes ago of a possible debris field from Flight 370. Possible objects spotted off the coast. The clues that were there today, however, they could be gone tomorrow. We will talk about this with an expert about how ocean currents are affecting, really setting back this search.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: I do have breaking news this morning in the search for Flight 370.

A French satellite spotting what could be a debris field in the southern Indian Ocean. The objects are being described as varying in color and size, 122 pieces of them.

Now, search planes and ships are in the area, looking to find this debris field. And the Australia Maritime Safety Authority reporting minutes ago that searchers have spotted three objects in the water, but it's not known if they are connected in any way to Flight 370.

Now, the concern is now drift, because these satellite images we're talking about today were taken three days ago. So here to walk us through what searchers are up against is Ryer Abernath -- Ryan Abernathey. He's an assistant professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University.

Ryan, we are lucky to have you here today with this breaking news.

These satellite images from France were taken on Sunday, spotting 122 possible pieces of possible debris, we believe in that general area over there where that box is. That's the area they've been searching. That was Sunday. Today is Wednesday.

So based on your knowledge of the currents and what's going on in that ocean, where could they be now?

RYAN ABERNATHEY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: So the currents in this area are moving roughly 1 mile per hour or 20, 25 miles per day. So if those were taken four days ago, it could be 100 -- they could have easily drifted a hundred miles by now. BERMAN: So it can go very, very far. I think we have an image here of where the currents are in relation to the search area right now. And you can see down below the search area, that brighter line, that brighter area. What is that?

ABERNATHEY: Yes. So that is the largest and most powerful ocean current system in the world. It's called the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. If you haven't heard of it, it's just because nobody goes down to this part of the ocean usually, except for researchers like myself.

BERMAN: So it is a strong current, which means that any debris that could be in that area, what would happen to it?

ABERNATHEY: It's going to get swept into that current, and it's going to get carried very rapidly to the east. On top of that, it's going to get spread out by all the swirls and eddies that you can very clearly see on that map.

BERMAN: So two pieces together today, or for instance 122 pieces together on Sunday, would could happen to them in relation to each other over three days?

ABERNATHEY: So over three days, they're going to basically spread apart exponentially in time. So the longer we wait, the more this debris is going to get spread apart from its initial clump, and it's going to be harder and harder to reconstruct the path it took and trace that back to the crash site, which is the name of the game here.

BERMAN: That sounds so difficult. And we're talking about what's going on on the surface. What's going on beneath the water?

ABERNATHEY: Well, I think beneath the water, the heavy parts of the plane probably just sunk to the bottom. So that's presumably where the black box is. And I don't think that heavy part of the plane would have moved very much from the crash location. So they now have to try and work backwards from the debris they can find and work backwards in time and reconstruct where that black box might be.

BERMAN: Still looking at multiple possible locations here. Something could sink where the area of impact was. Then you have debris floating, potentially in starkly opposite directions from each other. This sounds very, very complicated. How optimistic are you, then, that they'll ultimately be able to find what they're looking for? And I suppose the black box is really the key here.

ABERNATHEY: That seems to be what everyone wants, because that will give them information about the crash.

I was not very optimistic last night when I talked to your producer. This news this morning of finding a bunch of objects all clumped together to me is very good news.

BERMAN: Because?

ABERNATHEY: Because that means that that spreading process hasn't actually been as strong as it could be. That search area, the original, you know, 40,000 square miles or something that they quoted, is a reasonable estimate for how far it could have spread apart. The debris they found, these 120 objects, are much more tightly clumped together than that. So that suggests that perhaps a lot of the debris has stayed coherent, and that means there's a better chance of reconstructing the path it took.

BERMAN: Perhaps they ran into some luck with those currents, where the currents actually pushed it together. Again, reason for hope, as you say, but caution, as well. Because we simply do not know if this debris, this new field, 122 pieces, we do not know if it's connected in any way to Flight 370. That's what investigators hope to learn.

Thank you, Ryan Abernathey, so much for helping us understand what's going on here on top of the ocean -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: Really interesting information about the currents there, John, at play.

Next up on NEW DAY, much more on this breaking news.

Also, the first lawsuit has now been filed against Malaysia Airlines, and it may just be the beginning of a flood of litigation. We're going to talk with an aviation attorney about this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: You hear the sound of change there. That means it's "Money Time." Chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with us to look at our money for us.

ROMANS: The dollars don't sound so cool.

PEREIRA: Change makes a better noise.

ROMANS: Look, if a slew of problems, including bankrupt exchanges didn't scare you off of Bitcoin, hey, the tax man might. The IRS announced yesterday, the digital currency is taxable. And you know what? Uncle Sam views Bitcoins as property, not as currency.

Facebook snapping up another company. Mark Zuckerberg announced a $2 billion deal to buy Oculus. It makes virtual reality gear, announcing that deal late yesterday. Facebook on a bit of a buying spree lately, buying a drone maker, messaging service WhatsApp. Don't forget Instagram last year.

The maker of Candy Crush kicks off trading on the big board today at a price of $22.50; value of the company at more than $7.5 billion. If you read the fine print, the company had 24 pages of risk warnings for investors. Twenty-four pages. I like to say the "I" in "IPO" stands for "iffy." But there will be an awful lot of interest in Candy Crush.

PEREIRA: Absolutely. All right, Christine. Thank you so much.

Back to our breaking news. In just the past hour, Malaysian officials revealed that French satellite images showed some 122 possible pieces of debris, objects spotted. But again, they caution that it's not clear yet if they might be from Flight 370.

As for the search for the wreckage of Flight 370 continues, some of the families are now taking legal action, initiating a multi-million- dollar lawsuit against Boeing and Malaysia Airlines.

Here to explain this legal process is Justin Green. He's an aviation attorney and a pilot. In the absence of Chris Cuomo, I'll do my best to work through this with you.

I want to get to that litigation that has been filed in a moment. But I think one of the questions remains for a lot of people, given the fact that they have not actually physically got their hands on the wreckage or debris, what kind of -- what can the families pursue in terms of litigation without that debris?

JUSTIN GREEN, AVIATION ATTORNEY/PILOT: Well, right now, the only thing the families can really pursue would be claims against Malaysia Airlines. What they need to have first is a declaration that their loved one is dead. That have to open an estate, and they have to bring what is known as a wrongful death lawsuit against the airline.

And that lawsuit is going to be governed by an international treaty called the Montreal Convention.

PEREIRA: OK.

GREEN: The Montreal Convention says, No. 1, where can you file a lawsuit? Very few of the families are going to be able to file lawsuits in the United States.

PEREIRA: The bulk of them are from China, several are from Malaysia.

GREEN: That's right. Unless you're from the United States, unless you bought your ticket in the United States, or unless you were -- the United States was your destination...

PEREIRA: OK.

GREEN: ... all those lawsuits against Malaysia Airlines are going to have to be filed either in China, Malaysia or somewhere else overseas.

PEREIRA: So there's where it takes an attorney to comb through some of that fine print.

GREEN: That's right.

PEREIRA: Talk about the death certificate. How easy would that be for a family member to do that now? We're about three weeks into the search for the plane. Is this too early in the game for a family to pursue that?

GREEN: No, it's not. If someone goes missing, every state has different laws on how to declare someone dead in the absence of a body. But here, the Malaysian government has come out and basically declared everyone dead. It should be relatively easy for the families to get death certificates.

PEREIRA: And that declaration is important in that -- in this part of the investigation, correct?

GREEN: That's right. It is very important.

PEREIRA: OK. So in terms of the litigation the family can pursue, if they don't know the cause of why that plane came down, they can't necessarily sue the airplane maker, Boeing, for mechanical error, right?

GREEN: That's right. The plaintiffs -- I'm a plaintiff's lawyer. The plaintiffs have the burden of proof.

PEREIRA: Right.

GREEN: In order to pursue a claim against Boeing, you'd have to prove that the airplane was defective and that a defect in the airplane caused the crash. Now there's been a lawsuit filed -- well, it's not really a lawsuit.

PEREIRA: Explain what happened. There was something filed.

GREEN: Some -- a law firm from Chicago filed what is known as pre- lawsuit discovery petition.

PEREIRA: Right.

GREEN: It's premature. As a plaintiff's lawyer, as a lawyer, I think it's embarrassing.

PEREIRA: Oh, you do?

GREEN: I do. I think it's -- I don't think it's a legitimate lawsuit. I don't think it's going to go anywhere.

PEREIRA: Is it not in an effort to get Malaysia Airlines to reveal some of this data that they have?

GREEN: Well, first of all, I don't believe Malaysian Airlines is going to be subject to the jurisdiction of the Cook County, Illinois, court in this circumstance.

PEREIRA: OK.

GREEN: Secondly, the same law firm filed the same type of petition after the Asiana crash. And the court in Illinois dismissed that petition sua sponte, meaning the court didn't even wait for a motion.

So I have to tell you, this whole process, you have the entire world together looking for this accident.

PEREIRA: Yes.

GREEN: You have people in every -- you know, in churches, in synagogues, in mosques praying for these people, and you have a legal profession who is responding very responsibly for the most part.

PEREIRA: And you think this was irresponsible?

GREEN: This was irresponsible.

PEREIRA: Let me ask you about the Malaysian government. There's been a great deal of criticism from the families, from -- especially China has been particularly critical of the Malaysian government's handling of this. Do you potentially view any sort of lawsuit involving the Malaysian government?

GREEN: No. And this goes back to the king is immune from lawsuits. It's sovereign immunity. Governments are basically not subject to being held accountable for their actions unless they waive their sovereign immunity. The United States -- the United States has waived its sovereign immunity for certain things under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

But in this circumstance, I don't believe Malaysia is going to be held liable to the families. Now politically, that's -- it's out of my area, but politically, that's a whole different story.

PEREIRA: That's a whole other conversation.

GREEN: Right.

PEREIRA: Justin Green, thank you so much for answering some of these questions we have about litigation. Obviously, I think we will be seeing more suits being filed in the coming weeks and months.

GREEN: That's right.

PEREIRA: Thanks so much for joining us.

GREEN: Thank you, Michaela.

PEREIRA: John.

BERMAN: Lots of breaking developments this morning, Michaela. Let's get to our top story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUSSEIN: New satellite images were able to identify 122 potential objects.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chinese relatives of those on board Flight 370 demanding answers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An irresponsible conclusion with no direct evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newly-released 911 calls capture the shock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there any injuries?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes! There are people yelling for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's collapsed on several of them, and they're trapped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has spoken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do they see him? Oh my God. Oh my God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREIRA: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It is Wednesday the 26th of March. It is 7 a.m. in the east, almost 7 in the East.

I'm Michaela Pereira along with John Berman, who's in for Chris Cuomo.

And we begin with breaking news this morning. Malaysian officials have announced that 122 objects have been spotted by satellites.

BERMAN: Now, it is unclear if this debris has anything to do with missing Flight 370, but officials say it's a big part of moving forward in this search, which really intensified today.

Let's get back to Kate Bolduan, live in Perth, Australia, with the very latest -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Good morning once again, guys.

As you mentioned, the breaking news, 122 objects, we'll call them. But these could be leads. This could be possible debris picked up by satellite in the southern Indian Ocean, west of where we are in Perth. These objects are in the same area that's been the focus of the search since late last week. There are different sizes and colors. They're being described, some bright, meaning -- I guess people are thinking that they could be metal.

Here's what the Malaysian transport minister said just last hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUSSEIN: In one area of the ocean, measuring some 400 square kilometers, we're able to identify 122 potential objects. Some objects were a meter in length. Others were as much as 23 meters in length. Some of the objects appear to be bright, possibly indicating solid material. The objects were located approximately 2,557 kilometers from Perth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: He describes them as some 23 meters in size. That could be 75 feet.

Meantime, let's talk about the search. A dozen planes and at least five ships went out today to try to locate debris. Three pieces were spotted. It's unclear if they're from the jetliner. More investigation needs to happen of those pieces, and they need to be relocated. Also, investigators are looking into a newly-discovered partial ping, as they call it, sent by the plane.

But this new information about more debris being spotted on a satellite image is coming from a French company is raising some new hope that they may be -- it maybe could be from Flight 370.

But of course, you have to offer a healthy dose of caution, because we're not there yet.

Let's bring in Jim Clancy, who is in Kuala Lumpur, for the very latest on these developments.

Jim, I know you've been following the investigation. I want to get your take on what we heard out of this press conference today.

CLANCY: Once again, those tantalizing details. But as you rightly note, what we have to do is not only get an aerial locator on that, but you have to get a ship in there to go up close to investigate any or all of these pieces that they can locate in order to determine whether or not they have a direct link to flight 370.