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The Mystery of Flight 370; Navy's Pinger Locator in Use; Anguished Families and Lawyers; Searching in the World's Garbage Patches

Aired April 3, 2014 - 23:59   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, this is a CNN SPECIAL REPORT. The mystery of flight 370. I'm Don Lemon. We have breaking news on the hunt for the missing plane. In a news conference just a short time ago the head of the Joint Agency Coordination Center, Angus Houston, said this about the search.


ANGUS HOUSTON, HEAD, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTER: -- looked at how the aircraft might have performed, the likely flight path, the speed at which it might have been flown, the altitude at which it might have been flown and all of that has been used to try to determine where the aircraft might have entered the water.


LEMON: He also said they're looking underwater, using towed pinger locators and acoustic year. The search area is being adjusted on what he called a semi-regular basis. He vowed it would keep going as long as there is hope in finding the missing plane.

Want to go straight to CNN reporters, who are live in the region, Nic Robertson and Kuala Lumpur, Will Ripley, out on a boat in Fremantle, Australia. Will first to you, teams will be searching. Tell us about the conditions right now.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You heard Angus Houston mention whitecaps that can pose problems when you're doing a visual search, but if you take a look at the ocean behind me, these conditions are similar to what is being described right now in the search zone. You are not seeing white caps, that is the good news. The not so good news is that the clouds are a bit lower right now. They're about 1,000 feet above sea level. These planes are well equipped to fly as low as 300 feet above the water doing the visual search. The less cloud cover, the better when you talk about visibility. Visibility right now, Don, around six miles. The conditions are fair for the search today.

LEMON: All right, I want to get to Nic Robertson. Nic, you know, you have been with the families, you reacted with them, telling their stories. How do family members react and how do you think they will react from hearing Angus Houston? Will this news conference on the sub sea search beginning in the smaller search area, will that give them hope? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It will. What they have been looking for is professional effort on all of this. They are encouraged there is a strong international effort in Australia off the coast of Australia. To hear a briefing like this it will encourage them. They want one very fundamental, very simple thing, they want to know what happened to the aircraft. They want to have the first piece of wreckage identified. That is the information they're not getting right now, incredibly frustrated. The head of Civil Aviation had a briefing to families last night, wasn't able to tell them even if the plane had crashed. Very painful for them. And this sort of press conference will give them hope. They have heard this sort of thing many times before. It may get their hopes up briefly. We will see in the coming days for them, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. I want to bring and Jeffrey Thomas, the editor in chief of, also a safety analyst, David Soucie. Jeffrey, you know Angus Houston said they had some data that arrived only recently. Did it sound to you they has new information and new data and new analysis on this old data?

JEFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: It does. Like the other experts on the panel, we had great confidence in the address that we had. It was very measured, it was upbeat and from what I am hearing, they are getting new data, being refined. And there seems to be an air of confidence that, sure, it's a big ocean but we're getting closer and closer to where the airplane might be.

LEMON: I'm interested, David Soucie, you keep saying it is a real milestone in the investigation. Specifically what Angus Houston said to make you be so optimistic?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: You talk about the planning and everything going into this and we have been suffering through that. Families suffering through that. I want people to know when you are in an investigation it's the planning that is painful. Now we've got everything in place, it's a breath of fresh air at this point. Everything is in place, all the tools and equipment. Could there be more there? Sure, there could be more there, but the fact that everything is there and he was saying -- what encouraged me is the teams are working closely together. We have heard this as rhetoric before. This wasn't rhetoric, you could see it in his eyes -- he is believing this is happening. You can never underestimate the power of synchronicity. When this is all put together and people are doing their jobs, they can focus on that. I feel like we are there and this is now moving to a place where the possibilities are there and I am very hopeful about it.

LEMON: He talked about a lot of apparatus out there. There is a Malaysian frigate, also an apparatus from the Chinese with helicopter docks. The ship and the pinger locator will be searching two tracks converging on each other. It appears to be a more targeted search and as David Soucie said, more refined and perhaps we will give the families and the searchers and everyone around the world watching more optimism about this.

THOMAS: Yes, indeed. They should be getting -- far more optimistic about this. It does really appear as though all the best resources in the world, if you like, are now focused on this search. The assets are out there, the location is closer to the coast and far more time to be spent out there by the increasing number of airplanes. The time over the search area is dramatically increased and this is all positive for a good outcome, hopefully sooner than later.

LEMON: All right, guys, stick around. I want to bring in my other experts here, Jeff Wise, the author of "Extreme Fear, the Science of Your Mind in Danger." Mary Schiavo is a former inspector general of the Department of Transportation, and she is now an aviation attorney - an attorney I should say for victims of transportation accidents. Les Abend, is a 777 captain, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Kay, a former advisor to the UK ministry of defense. Jim Tillman a retired American Airlines pilot and aviation attorney Steven Marks representing families of the Air France flight 447. I can recite that in my sleep now you guys have such lengthy resumes and that's why you're here.

So, Jeff Wise, I want to start with you. It is clear that Angus Houston wants to stop people from saying they're not being transparent in this investigation.

JEFF WISE, AUTHOR: I feel like I was seeing a completely different presentation from some of the other panelists here tonight.


LEMON: Keep going.

WISE: Okay, sorry, so I feel like there was no news, nothing new was said. The thing he made clear was I will come at you regularly, I am going to download this information on you and an ongoing basis and you'll never again be able to complain you are not getting information from us.

LEMON: But Jeff, I would have to disagree with you. There was some new information there because he did clarify that there are different apparatuses going in the water and what was out there, he clarified that. Also said we have concerns, maybe they don't know what they are doing because they keep shifting the search area. He said that is what happens, you refine the information and the data you get and you refine the search area. I thought that was new information.

WISE: Yeah, but refining information - I think what you can also interpret him to say we have squeezed the lemon, we've got all the information we can out of this very tiny data set and now we're moving the search box around. But there's no new information you can get out of it and you can have all of these assets and you can have the best analysts in the world working on this data set, but if the data set has nothing left in it, you are searching blindly and I didn't get a great feeling of optimism about the fact that they're towing these pingers around because to me it smacks of desperation. They don't have a search - debris field on the surface and they don't know what they're looking for under the water. They're just searching.

LEMON: Les Abend, your reaction to this press conference? LES ABEND, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, FLYING MAGAZINE: My reaction is like David Soucie's. I'm one of these rose colored glasses guys. I was energized by this from the standpoint of an organizational standpoint. It looks as though they are organizing it as though it is an NTSB investigation with a party system, with getting all of the experts from power plants from everywhere they can putting them together. That is a great thing to happen. I don't know how many people listened to the process but it is wonderful to see. I was encouraged by the fact they're utilizing every aspect of the data making their assumptions. They are going out lower and higher altitudes. They are looking at every aspect and I was very encouraged by it.

LEMON: And I am sure this makes Mikey Kay very happy that they talked to much about data and information that they're getting because he likes to crunch numbers. Just really quickly Mikey because I've got a question from Jim Tillman, were you optimistic about him talking about the data in this press conference?

LT. COL. MICHAEL KAY, RETIRED HELICOPTER PILOT: Optimistic but guarded. This is the first time we have talked about two converging 240-kilometer tracks. No one's mentioned that before. This means the locators have a 240 box to go to with a line in it when they are going to tow the ping locator down.

Now guarded because again, coming from the air is the most likely scenario where you will pick up anything that will link its MH370. 240 kilometers is new data.

LEMON: Yeah, so Jim Tillman, you have been pessimistic and you said you have been leery, not sure if they're searching in the right place or the right track. Did that help you all come to some consensus they are searching in the right area?

JIM TILLMAN, RETIRED AMERICAN AIRLINES PILOT: The thing I got was the impressive array of talent that has been lined up to work on this. This is a world-class approach and the team I am getting more confidence in every single time I hear about it. I am really impressed with that, however I'm with Jeff. I really didn't get the feeling -- this has been teased all day as a big announcement. Well, we knew that they were going to do under water searching and we knew they would do this and they would move this. It was not brand new, fascinating information so far as I am concerned. I am hoping it means more than it appears to be.

LEMON: Mary Schiavo, will it be fair to say this is the new beginning to the investigation? This is phase two where the coordination actually kicks in here said people should start paying more attention?

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Not just even coordination. I guess the feeling I got out of it was comfort. Comfort with this gentleman leading the investigation, comfort that we would be given a full picture of what was going on. Comfort they're throwing everything they know with the data points they have and when this is said and done, they find the answers, they find the black boxes, they find everything. I have comfort knowing when the day is done and they find it or not, this joint task force will have done everything they can. If that is a new beginning, I guess it is. It is feeling I have not had before, and for that it gives me some reassurance that we won't have as many regrets as we would have had had the investigation been run like it was in the beginning.

LEMON: Let's hope it gives families comfort as well. When we come back the deep sea search for flight 370. I'll ask an expert just how challenging can this be.


LEMON: Breaking news tonight the sub-surface search for flight 370 has begun and to explain what is involved is Erik Van Sebille, he is an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales and he joins us now via Skype. Along with David Soucie, who is a CNN safety analyst. Thank you, gentlemen. Erik, this is your area of expertise. What does it mean to you that they have been able to narrow an undersea search area to 240 kilometers, that's 150 miles.

ERIK VAN SEBILLE, OCEANOGRAPHER: Well, we know for sure it is a good thing if they think that the plane is really down there, but even 240 kilometers or 150 miles is a vast area of ocean to cover. And the thing about working in the ocean and I have been out on ships doing experiments for almost 10 years is it is painstakingly slow. It is very difficult to work in the ocean. Ships don't go that fast, all the waves and the wind. Not easy to work down there. Even at 240 kilometers, it is an undertaking.

LEMON: David, listen, he said it is difficult especially in that environment, but I mean really this is a race against time to find those black boxes, and we don't know if the pings are even still going. What happens if the pings stop? What search tools are left to use?

SOUCIE: At that point there is a lot that can be done visually. As pain staking as this part is, as he was mentioning, it's incredibly, exponentially more pain staking to find the black boxes. We are not just looking for two black boxes. We are looking for any debris from this aircraft, which could be spread for miles. If you think about the visual aspect of that or the sonar I am optimistic about that because these are large debris fields. We will have time now because we are working 24/7. These machines that are under water and towed ping locaters. We did see tonight that the seas aren't too bad tonight. Hopefully they get good progress tonight. I think they will be able to tow it three or four knots. Not fantastic. What would you have them do? Sit and wait until something else happens? No.

I am encouraged that the wheels are on the ground and moving forward for the first time I felt they are moving forward and working together. This converging track is important to note. It means they have pretty good information about where they are going to focus this investigation. Could they be wrong? sure. But they have wheels on the ground. They're looking for something.

LEMON: What would you have them do? Sit around and do nothing? I think that's a very good point. I have a question, this is a tweet from Patricia. This is for Erik, and Patricia says, "Why hasn't any debris washed up anywhere if it crashed? It has been a month." And so the question is, the currents, the deep water currents work differently than the surface currents. Might the fuselage and other things be pushed under in such a way that they will not surface?

VAN SEBILLE: No, no. So, probably if the fuselage is somewhere down on the bottom of the ocean, It will stay there and the current won't be strong enough deep down to actually move everything. It is a completely different story at the surface of the ocean because if there were a debris field on the surface of the ocean just from the plane crashing in then by now almost four weeks in that debris field would have increased in size enormously. That's because the ocean is very turbulent. The currents in the ocean are not a highway that move from A to B. Instead they mix everything up. There are these eddies. There are miny versions of hurricanes mixing everything up. If you start with something relatively confined it spreads over and over. And I think that if the plane crashed somewhere where they are searching now within a few weeks to months we will start seeing debris turn up on beaches but it will be very limited. It might only be a few hundred pieces or so and will be hard to identify them as being part of the plane among all the other debris that washes on the beach every day.

LEMON: I want to get to my panel of experts. Can you answer this one thing for me, Erik, and maybe David as well. The southern Indian ocean, the weather is going to get worse. Winter is setting in. How long can the ships operate?

VAN SEBILLE: Where they are searching now actually not any more of what we call the southern ocean. It's the subtropical gyre and in essence, the climate there is very similar to the climate of the Bahamas or of Bermuda, so it does get colder in winter but not that bad. I don't think that is really a problem. Where they are searching now is actually a relatively easy place to search.

LEMON: All right, good. Thank you both, gentlemen. My panel of experts are back with me now. Steven Marks, you heard what he said, Erik said this is a fairly easier place to search than the southern Indian ocean. On flight 447 the data recorders took two years to find. If we don't find it soon are we in for a year's long haul here?

STEVEN MARKS, AVIATION ATTORNEY: Certainly we could be. There is no guarantee it will be found quickly. It is encouraging. I agree that we have better assets, more assets and seem to have a team in place. That is all encouraging. The difference here between 447 and this particular crash or accident is the fact that we don't have some of the information we had with 447. The messages were sent to France in real time during the flight. We knew the general location. We knew what was happening and the emergency the pilots were placing and the inconsistent information they were getting. There was a great deal of information readily available at that time. Unfortunately here, we don't know whether the information was unavailable because it was disabled or turned off or was due to electrical failure or some other cause, but we just don't have that kind of information. That's going to make it also more difficult.

LEMON: Michael Kay, let's talk about the apparatus or assets out there. Right now there is incredible state-of-the-art technology being used search for flight 370. The British ship Echo is searching for sonic transmissions from the flight data recorder, and the Australian ship The Ocean Shield has a giant under water microphone that will listen for the pings and an under water robot will scour the ocean bed. Obviously it is a lot of equipment. You said they could use more but still there is -- it is a glass half full I would imagine.

KAY: You are absolutely right. This is the most equipment that we have actually seen employed at one time throughout the search. A nuclear submarine, its engine is nuclear based and carries normally missiles and used for reconnaissance to gather all sorts of information through signal intelligence. The great thing about it is it can loiter in the area for as long as it needs and the constraint is food supplies for the crew. But potentially it can loiter for 100 days.

Let's rewind and look at the constraints on the search. The first thing is everything relies on the GPS battery working. As soon as they turn off, which could be as close as two to three days, or out to up to 10 days, then we have to go back to the air search. That's a big constraint. The other constraint is the weather. We need impeccable weather over the next five days. The weather isn't looking great on those two 240 kilometer tracks. There are potential hurdles that will impinge the search over the next couple of days, weather being one and GPS batteries being the other.

LEMON: When we come right back, we have learned the Navy's pinger locater is searching now for the black boxes, but what happens if and when they are found?


LEMON: Breaking news. We have learned the Navy's pinger locater is in use now searching for emissions from the missing plane's black boxes. What happens if and when they are located? CNN's Zain Asher found out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crash protected and shock mounted.

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is what investigators will see once the black boxes for flight MH370 are found and data from the memory downloaded for analysis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We pull the data up on the screen we will see the data in a tabular format and graphical.

ASHER: Black boxes contain hundreds of data points, or parameters, about the flight's movement, pilot's maneuvers, speed and altitude all displayed with a series of graphs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every flight data recorder records the data in binary values. It's a series of ones and zeroes. In order for humans to understand it we need to convert it to engineering units meaning feet for altitude, air speed is recorded in knots.

ASHER: It's through graphs like these that we'll learn if someone on board deliberately nosedived the aircraft, if there was a pilot error, or a mechanical problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In an engine or mechanical error, there would all kinds of indications. They would be able to tell which engine turned off first, if it was because of fuel starvation. They would know that versus if it had been intentionally cut off.

ASHER: This line represents the plane's altitude. If flight MH370 suddenly fell to a lower altitude mid-flight here is where we would see a change. If someone deliberately altered the path we would see the line dip or rise depending on the direction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think one of the important things that people will be looking at is who is in control of the aircraft. When we look at the data from the flight data recorder you can see if inputs were coming from auto pilot or left seat or right seat. In other words, the pilot or the co-pilot.

ASHER: Technicians can also use latitude or longitude positions here to pinpoint where the plane was located at any point during flight. Although memory chips on flight data recorders are rarely ever damaged airlines still need to perform regular flight data recorder maintenance and pre-flight testing to ensure the black boxes are up to par. The biggest challenge is to locate them before the batteries die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pingers could already be dead. To find the pingers after they stop is going to be extremely difficult.


LEMON: All right, I want to thank Zain Asher there. My experts are here to weigh in on all of this now. And first I'm going to start with Mary Schiavo.

Mary, we are assuming a lot about those black boxes. If and when they find the black boxes, will the data be able to be extracted as we saw in that piece? We're still assuming that everything is intact.

SCHIAVO: The data will be able to be extracted. There are very few crashes, very few cases that I worked on where it hasn't been. And most notably were the two planes that went into the World Trade Center on September 11. Those black boxes were destroyed. There was no data, there were no black boxes to be had, because of the intense heat.

And in the water, it is very different, and I know of virtually no aircraft accident in the water where they haven't been able to get the data off. And even once the pinger stops, if the debris field is small, for example, like Silk Air, once they find it, they will be able to readily find the black boxes. So if they get them, they will have data.

LEMON: They will have data. OK, we can be assured of that. Jeff Wise, why aren't black boxes, Jeff Wise, modernized more like -- it's probably cannot be the same, or maybe it can be, like a Find My iPhone app?

WISE: Why -- so you should be able to remotely trigger it like an iPhone? I think that there are lots of ways you could can conceivably improve the technology of a black box, but it becomes sort of a risk/benefit calculation. For the vast majority of aircraft accidents they serve just fine. Only in very, very rare cases like this one and Air France 447 -- we don't know that this plane is in the water, bear in mind. So that the pinger might not be a relevant piece anyway.

LEMON: Yes, but the black boxes are always relevant anyway. If it's in water or if it's not, the black boxes will tell us what is going on. Correct? Jim Tillman?

TILLMAN: Yes, that's correct. I'm very, very impressed with the attitude that people are taking tonight. Listening just to our panel and all, it's very encouraging to hear that the assembly that they have come up with now is impressing people that much. And I'm going to have to get on that side of the issue. Right now, that's sort of an uncomfortable thing for me because I haven't gotten excited about this.

LEMON: Can you be won over or are you just being sarcastic there?

TILLMAN: No, I'm not be sarcastic and I can be won over. And I don't want to be that way. I don't want you to feel like I have to satisfied, but I just have to be honest with myself and with you. You ask me a question, I got to tell you the truth about how I feel.

LEMON: OK. Les Abend, we have a tweet question from George. And George says at what point will the search be terminated? All the searches are eventually terminated without having found their goal?

ABEND: Listen, it sounded to me like they'll increase this indefinitely until the money runs out but that's not my expertise. I think one of the things that was mentioned, was referenced to -- the video clip that we say about the data that was on the cockpit floor, the digital flight data recorder. We forget that that goes into a whole program so you can visually actually see what the airplane was doing. It's pretty exciting technology. I think Mary will attest to that, also in addition to David and Susie (ph), that this is a great process. So you can actually visualize exactly what was going on with that airplane, not just a line that was drawn in that clip.

LEMON: We have a tweet question, this is from Dale and it's for Steven Marks. Does criminal act change airline liability?

MARKS: No it would not change the airline liability at all. In fact, in this case, Montreal Treaty governs most of the passenger claims, at least as to the carrier. So if in fact there was intentional misconduct by a flight crew member, or even if it wasn't a flight crew member, somebody got into the cockpit -- like Lockerbie, we were able to establish liability beyond the limitations of the treaty. I think the same thing would occur here.

In other words, regardless of whether intentional or not, the treaty is going to provide a mechanism for the family to get compensation. At this stage, I think they want answers and they are entitled to answers more than compensation.

LEMON: When we come right back, the anguished families of Flight 370. Let's talk about that. Can lawsuits help them?

And so far every bit of debris we thought was from Flight 370 has turned out to be trash. Who knew the ocean was so full of garbage? How much will that complicate the search?


LEMON: The first legal filings on Flight 370 have already been thrown out by a Chicago judge. But that's not stopping other lawyers from trying to convince anguished family members to sue. CNN's Jean Casarez has more now.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The images are heart wrenching.


CASAREZ: Families of the missing slowly coming to terms with what is beginning to seem inevitable.

MD NOR YUSOF, CHAIRMAN, MALAYSIA AIRLINES: We must now accept the painful reality that the aircraft is not lost.

CASAREZ: There is also another group waiting anxiously, the lawyers ready to scoop up clients and begin the long battle for financial compensation.

JUSTIN GREEN, AVIATION ATTORNEY: Right now, in Malaysia, in China, the families being misled by some very unethical U.S. lawyers.

CASAREZ: Attorney Justin Green has tried aviation cases for 17 years. Green says he is aware of multiple U.S. law firms who are in Asia right now soliciting families from flight MH370 earlier than United States law and ethical rules would permit.

GREEN: These lawyers launched without days, maybe even hours of the crash. Ambulance chasers in that sense, but they're ambulance chasers on a global scale.

CASAREZ: How high are the stakes? A possibly limitless millions, perhaps even billions of dollars in cases that could potentially be brought against Malaysia Airlines and Boeing among others. But a legal victory is by no means guaranteed.

(on-camera): And there are many legal challenges grieving family members may not understand. They can recover some moneys, 100,000 to 160,000, with a death certificate. But to really be compensated they've got to show airline responsibility for the disaster. Where is that evidence? And for the manufacturer, Boeing, the same thing. What evidence shows their wrong doing?

(voice-over): In fact, one firm already initiated a suit in Illinois. The judge threw it out as improper and warned attorneys not to do it again.

GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: These families don't have closure.

CASAREZ: Psychiatrist Gail Saltz says the lack of answers make grieving relatives especially vulnerable.

SALTZ: When someone comes in and says, well, we have somebody to hold accountable. We are going to hold the airline accountable or this country accountable and we're going to sue them and punish them. That, unfortunately, is very appealing to anyone who is struggling with I want someone to be responsible for this. I want to blame them and I want them to pay.

CASZAREZ: Jean Casarez, CNN.


LEMON: Back now with my team of experts. To Steven Marks first. Steven, these families are confused, they're heartbroken, they're overwhelmed. Should they be worrying about finding an attorney right now?

MARKS: Well, they may need an attorney to guide them through this. I wouldn't encourage anyone to hire an attorney without doing research because, as Justin Green mentioned, the people who are there pushing these families at this point aren't the people who handle these cases on a routine basis, who know what they are doing. And it's a shame because they shouldn't have been filing those lawsuits in Chicago; there was no reason for it, there was no justification. And of course it was dismissed. That's not the first time that has happened. And unfortunately, unless something is done, it may happen again.

I think that is a tragedy for the families. Now, some families may have some practical considerations where they need counsel. What they really want are answers. And if the answers aren't forthcoming from authorities, very often, as in other cases like Silk Air and others I've been involved, we've had to bring lawsuits in order to get information and to get answers. Now you don't do that right away, and hopefully you do so responsibly after the information -- there is enough information to suggest what happened. But I think the attorneys pushing these families at this stage really shouldn't be doing so and certainly they couldn't do it in the United States.

LEMON: Mary, he brings up a very good point, and both of you have mentioned Silk Air, by the way. Does having a lawyer, though, Mary, give families leverage to deal with the authorities now and possibly demand the information that they are so desperate for?

SCHIAVO: Well, eventually they will and -- but they'll do it through the legal system. And what the families need to be told and what they have to realize is the average aviation litigation, and I crunched the numbers once for my book, takes about 3.5 years. The 9/11 litigation, which our firm led with some others, took 11 years. And so you will get your answers, but it will come through the reasonable court system, it will come through interrogatories, depositions, discovery, and good old gumshoing work by the law firm. It won't come in the first 45 days from somebody filing a lawsuit, a frivolous lawsuit in Chicago. It will come through the long, long, slogging work in the courtroom, which big reputable firms do.

LEMON: And you don't want your mind cloudy, not that your mind won't be clouded in the future but you might have more wits behind you after you have time behind you from this tragedy.

Michael Kay, we heard in Jean Casarez's story that there are already lawyers lining up to take advantage of those families, preying on their vulnerability. Aside from the disgust that we all feel for that, what can be done in this particular situation?

KAY: Yes, Don, it is, it's absolutely disgusting. I would like to draw attention that there are three key phases that this investigation will embrace. The first one that we are looking at at the moment is the location of the actual aircraft, the where bit. I think that is absolutely priority No. 1; it's key. It's key to give closure to the families. But that is just phase one. Phase two will be what? I.e., when we find the black boxes, and hopefully we will find the black boxes, what happened to the aeroplane? And going back to the previous report, looking through all that myriad of data.

But I think the really hard bit is going to be phase three, which is the why. Why what happened to the aeroplane? Why did that happen? And then that opens up all of other theories such as sabotage, hijack, mechanical failure. So I think we're just at the very beginning of this investigation in terms of locating the debris at the moment.

LEMON: Yes, so before anyone can file any type of lawsuit, upset any family, they're going to need to know all of these things.

KAY: Exactly.

LEMON: And have all of the evidence there. Les Abend, what about the families of the pilots and crew? Who would support their legal needs there? Would it be the airlines or do they need to hire private lawyers?

ABEND: That's a great question. I go back, I support the good colonel on this whole thing, is that this whole investigation process has to be completed. We can't go anywhere, whether it's the crew members, the passengers, until we get a probable cause or at least get toward a probable cause. We don't even have an airplane yet.

LEMON: This is for you, Steven Marks, and this is very quickly. What about -- remember Dale, I asked you about Dale, who was online, and he said, "Does a criminal act change airline liability?" Steven Marks.

MARKS: Well, I answered that to the extent that I don't think it really will change much in this case. Because if it was criminal liability that was able to interfere with the cockpit or the flight crew, allow them into the cockpit, assuming we get the cockpit voice recordings which would indicate what actually transpired. I still have a hard time believing that this was a criminal act. I know everybody is working on that theory and has assumed it almost as a fact at this point, but there really hasn't been any public support to justify jumping to that conclusion. But from the treaty standpoint, the legal standpoint, it shouldn't interfere with our ability.

And I did want to make -- I don't know if we have time -- I want to make a comment about whether or not we have to wait for probable cause. I have handled a lot of air crash litigation; you do not need to wait that long, because probable cause findings by foreign governments can take forever.

LEMON: All right, I have to run. So when we come right back, is the search for Flight 370 like looking for a needle in a garbage patch?


LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. Our breaking news tonight, the search for Flight 370 being narrowed to the area of highest probability, about 150 miles. But how much garbage will they find in that area? And how much will it complicate the search? Joining me now is Anna Cummins and Marcus Erikson of the 5 Gyres Institute. They are experts on plastic pollution in the world's oceans, and there appears to be a lot of it.

They are searching underwater now. Before we talked about all of the trash, on this program, that finds its way to the surface. But what about searching under water? Do they face challenges with trash and garbage there, as well?

MARCUS ERIKSEN, EXEC. DIRECTOR & CO-FOUNDER, 5 GYRES INSTITUTE: Well, lots of the debris -- what happens in the water column, you might find some things. For example, if the plane had crashed intact, you might have some things coming to the surface as it breaks up and goes to the bottom. And those things might be found as they are going from the bottom to the surface. But I would estimate most of the debris is on the surface moving away from the original crash site.

LEMON: Why would you estimate that?

ERIKSEN: Well, because the currents are moving, in the sub-tropical gyre, in a counterclockwise rotation between two and four knots. So it's moving away and dispersing as time progresses.

LEMON: We hear about these false alarms or false pings, Anna. The British ship "Echo" conducting a specific search area today. They have sonar equipment, apparently heard a false ping or a false alarm. What might that be? Could that be trash or some sort of debris other than the plane?

ANNA CUMMINS, CO-FOUNDER, 5 GYRES INSTITUTE: It could be. But as for how deep the trash might be, that is the big unknown. Most of plastic actually floats. Roughly 50 percent of plastics floats and the other 50 percent will sink. So it's possible that some of those items might be throughout the water column; that's the huge unknown.

LEMON: How much trash, guys, how much trash is out there? I understand that you brought some things there that we can expect to find. Can you show us?

ERIKSEN: So we brought a few things to show you what we have found around the world in all five of the sub-tropical gyres. Things like derelict fishing gear, fishing nets. We found -- actually we traveled through the site where they're searching now. We sailed from Perth, Australia, to Mauritius about four years ago and found derelict fishing gear. We found -- any kind of object you might see in department store in plastics is out there. That is the debris that is confusing the search for debris from the aircraft.

CUMMINS: And we searched at the exact same time of year. We actually went through a cyclone at that time. So that further complicates the search.

LEMON: So what do you have there? Explain to me what you guys have there.

CUMMINS: We have common household items, shampoo bottles, containers, detergent bottles. We also have a series of lighters here. So much of what we find are everyday consumer items, single use disposables. But we also find a fair amount of derelict fishing gear.

LEMON: And people think that these objects -- I saw there was one comment the other night saying what happens when you flush the toilet? Actually, that goes to a waste facility first before it goes into the ocean. These are items that end up either offshore, on boats. Are these people just dumping these in the ocean on purpose?

CUMMINS: Well, roughly 80 percent of the trash that we found out in these gyres comes from land-based sources. It's litter in our streets. It's debris that you see inland. Another 20 percent or so comes from the maritime industry; it's from fishing boats, from cruise ships.

LEMON: Interesting.

CUMMINS: But, really, the ultimate source here is that it's a design flaw, that the plastic pollution that we find in the oceans was designed without a recovery in mind. The good news there is that there are solutions. There are design solutions, there are solutions with more public awareness and policy change.

LEMON: Design solutions you mean for the actual material itself? So that it decomposes?

CUMMINS: Exactly. Designing objects that are fully recycleable and recoverable.

LEMON: Got you, all right.

ERIKSEN: So for example, I'll show you, we found -- we found these.

LEMON: Go ahead, what are they?

ERIKSEN: These are umbrella handles from disposable umbrellas in Japan. We find disposable lighters. We pull these out of the carcasses of birds. It's this disposable culture that's creating these garbage patches in the world's oceans.

LEMON: All right, thank you, guys. And Marcus and Anna, we appreciate you joining us here on CNN.

Up next, I'm going to bring back my experts for one final thought.


LEMON: My experts are back with me now. We've got time for your final thoughts before we go. I always love talking to you guys about this and then we try to answer the next day if you have questions about it.

So this got Mary's attention. It's got mine, as well. When Angus Houston said, "The data we've got is the data we've got." Mary, final thoughts on that?

SCHIAVO: Final thoughts are I'm glad the Australians are heading it. They're adding transparency and hope for answers. But we have really have the glass box where we continuously download, not a black boxes.

LEMON: Steven Marks?

MARKS: I'd like to see the data. I, like other experts, independent experts, not just Boeing and Inmarsat and Malaysian governments -- I would like the raw data available to everyone.

LEMON: Jim Tillman.

TILLMAN: We've got a world class team. We've got incredible tools for them to use. I'm hoping for the best but I'm not betting, not yet.

LEMON: Not just yet. Jeff Wise?

WISE: I'll second that call. We need to see the data. It doesn't matter how many great experts you've got to analyze it. Until it's open and it's free, then the world can judge whether it's good analysis or not.

LEMON: Mikey Kay.

KAY: Indonesian radar.

LEMON: I knew you were going to say that. I knew you were going to say that.

KAY: We've still not got that information from the authorities for the night that 370 disappeared. And Indonesia are the only country that haven't provided what the radar traces were. Why?

LEMON: Les Abend?

ABEND: I knew Mikey was going to say that, too. But the bottom line is this is an accident investigation. We're not going to get all the data.

LEMON: I've got to go.

ABEND: I think we were encouraged by this press briefing.

LEMON: Thank you, guys. I appreciate it. See you back here Friday night at 10:00. Make you stay with us, CNN, for the very latest on this plane. Good night.