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Mystery of Flight 370: Search Narrowed; Fort Hood Massacre; Severe Storms Head East; March Jobs Report

Aired April 4, 2014 - 04:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning: in what could be a pivotal point in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Overnight, Australia announcing it has now taken over the search for the vanished jetliner. New technology helping Australia dramatically narrow the search and finally send black box detectors into the water. Live team coverage, ahead.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Inside the mind of a killer. New information this morning on the gunman who murdered three soldiers and injured 16 more. The latest information on that deadly rampage that has left Fort Hood just reeling. We take you live to Killeen, Texas.

ROMANS: Breaking news this morning -- tornadoes, hail, floods, blizzards destroying everything in their path. Millions of people throughout the country feeling these storms' wrath.

Indra Petersons tracking the areas hardest hit for us and where the storms are heading, next.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. It is Friday, April 4th, 4:00 a.m. here on the East.

Let's begin with breaking news in the hunt for Flight 370 and a potential turning point as the search moves under water. Australian officials who have now taken really the lead in this say the subsurface search is under way with the U.S. Navy's pinger locator and other acoustic gear, honing in on about a 150-mile stretch of the Indian Ocean. They are trying, of course, to detect any transmission from the plane's black box.

The pinger may only have a day or two of battery life left. Meantime, nearly two dozen ships and aircraft again combing the surface, looking for any sign of debris. Overnight officials said all of the leads garnered from satellite images, all of those turned out to be, quote, "other things."

Our Matthew Chance is live in Perth, Australia, for us this morning.

Matthew, I know that they have a submarine, and then they also have two ships that are equipped with this high-tech gear out on the search now. What is the latest? MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. The latest is that this subsurface phase of the search operation has really gotten under way with the presence of that British nuclear submarine, the HMS Tireless, which is obviously equipped with very sensitive underwater detection technology, but also with two surface vessels as well.

Again, one from Britain, the HMS Echo, but another one called the Ocean Shield, which is an Australian vessel. That's equipped with some American technology. In fact, it's a towed pinger locator, a TPL, which as the name suggests, is towed at the back of the ship at some depth, and the sensitive listening device tries to detect where the pinger from the black box flight recorder from that missing aircraft might be. It's something that starts, as I say, a new phase in this operation.

But the authorities here in Australia, which as you mentioned, have taken the lead somewhat because of the geographical proximity of the search area to Australia, say that they're also counting on trying to, you know, get some kind of tip-off from the air. They've got, you know, several planes in the air, at least 10 military aircraft, four civilian aircraft as well, with people looking out the windows and trying to spot any kind of debris from the missing airliner.

So far, they haven't found any. Part of the problem, of course, is the size of the search area. They're looking in, absolutely extraordinary size, almost 85,000 square miles of area that they're looking at. There was a press conference earlier today by the head of the search mission, Angus Houston, former air chief marshal here in Australia. Take a listen to what he had to say.


ANGUS HOUSTON, FORMER AUSTRALIAN AIR CHIEF MARSHAL: We're moving into an area we've never been before, and may I say, I think there's groundbreaking analytical work has been simply extraordinary, and it gives us, I think, some hope that we will eventually find the aircraft in the area that we're searching.


CHANCE: Well, they're saying that this search area is the area of highest probability based on the limited data that they've got. They're not absolutely certain it's there, but all the evidence that they have, which is minimal, from various satellite pings that they've picked up over the course of the last minutes of the flight is their best guess.

HARLOW: Right. I think all of us want to know, what is that data, because Angus Houston, who is heading those Australian operations, did say on the basis of the data that has arrived only recently, this is the best data that's available, and they're sort of narrowing that area a little bit right now.

All right. Thank you for the update, Matthew. Appreciate it. We'll get back to you later in the show. ROMANS: So, there is guarded optimism as the search area for Flight 370 is refined. What kind of weather conditions are crews going to face on day 28 of the search?

CNN's Will Ripley joins us live. He's on a boat off the coast of Western Australia.

Will, what's it looking like out there?


Yes, you know, the weather conditions both here, close to the western Australian coast, and also at the search area, about 1,000 miles from where we are, are described as fair today. And the weather is very important, whether we're talking about an underwater search or an above-the-water search, the weather conditions have a big effect because of the technology that's being used -- the side-scan sonar that's looking for debris, if you have too many waves, then obviously, that's going to affect the ability to detect what's floating on the surface of the water. Also, if you have too many waves and you have white caps and what not, then a visual search from the air or ship is very difficult because the white caps can be mistaken for objects floating in the water.

The actual weather conditions, if you look here, we're told that this is probably a bit nicer, a bit more clear than what you're seeing in the search zone, but the key factor is, again, the waves. You can't see them. This is markedly different even from how it was when we were out here earlier this week when we were getting tossed around in this exact spot on the ocean.

So, not very many waves, no white caps, which is the good news.

The cloud bank is a bit lower than we'd like it to be. It's about 1,000 feet above the ocean, so search planes have to get down pretty low. They can actually get as low as 300 feet above the water to search. But, you know, obviously, if the clouds were non-existent, you'd have more visibility. We're told the visibility is about six miles in each direction right now.

So, fair weather for the search, certainly better than some of the weather we've seen in that area.

ROMANS: All right, and time running out to find those devices before the battery life runs out.

Thanks so much, Will Ripley.

HARLOW: Meantime, sources are telling CNN that the head of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation has just rejected a request from the families of those on Flight 370 to release audio transmission between the cockpit and the control tower.

Our Jim Clancy is tracking all of this for us in Kuala Lumpur. He has been there all through for all 28 days of this exhaustive search.

You know, Jim, it was with you live last week that we got the full transcript of the transmission, but the families want to hear it.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly. They want to be a little bit closer to the investigation. They want to feel hands on.

And so, they're making requests, hoping that, somehow, they will understand perhaps what the investigators have not, by listening to those voices, even in a different language. They want to grasp at anything substantive that they can. But they were told by the Department of Civil Aviation that that's not going to be possible, that those are part of the ongoing investigation. Even, we are told, the pilots' families have not been allowed to listen to those.

Now, they do have a recording, YouTube video recordings that were posted by Captain Zaharie Shah online. He posted some self-help things, a home repair and talking about his simulator online. As a result of that, they do have some data they could use to compare the voices. It really depends how clear were those cockpit voice recordings that were made by air traffic control, what might they be able to reveal.

Now, they have told us that the results are that they cannot determine which pilot it might have been that made the comments from the cockpit, including goodnight from Malaysia 370 -- Poppy.

HARLOW: You know, Jim, I'm wondering, for weeks and weeks there was sort of this routine 5:30 a.m. here in the East Coast of the United States press conference, in the afternoon where you are, where we would get updates. And we haven't gotten that for a while.

Do you have any indication why that is? Is that really just a sign that they have nothing new?

CLANCY: You've hit it on the head. And I was told that by someone close to all of this who said that, you know, there's no point in having a briefing for the media if we have nothing new to tell you. They could repeat what was said by the Australians, which they have done in past briefings. They could go back over the information they've already told us, which they have done. But everyone becomes frustrated.

And so, now, they have decided that they will only limit the media briefings to times when they actually have something new to tell us, and they haven't had anything new to tell us in days. From the start, there's been a real sense here that those regular briefings are not going to be the source of any breaking news. It is only when we get the surprise notification that we are going to hear something truly new, something significant -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Right, yes. We can only wait and hope for just some more information.

All right, appreciate the reporting this morning, Jim. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, new information this morning on the soldier who went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood. We are live with what could have been going through this gunman's mind that tragic day. HARLOW: And millions this morning waking up to devastation, tornadoes, floods, even snowstorms just paralyzing communities. Indra Petersons is tracking it all live for us right here, next.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START.

Investigators still trying to determine why Army Specialist Ivan Lopez went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, killing three people, wounding 16 before taking his own life. This is the second mass killing at the military base in five years.

We're learning more now about this shooter -- the picture emerging: a troubled, mentally unstable soldier.

CNN's George Howell live for us at Fort Hood, Texas, just trying to find out more about who this man was and what led him to this moment. What can you tell us?


We are getting more insight into Lopez's background. We know that he was basically undergoing a variety of treatments, taking antidepressants like the drug Ambien, and he was also being evaluated for PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, though he was not officially diagnosed with PTSD. Soldiers who knew him, they describe him as a person with a lot of values, as an extraordinary individual.

But yesterday, we did get some insight into a possible confrontation on post that could have played a factor. Take a listen.


LT. GEN. MARK MILLEY, COMMANDER, FORT HOOD: We're looking into that, trying to figure out what the trigger event was. It was mentioned yesterday there may have been a verbal altercation with another soldier or soldiers, and there's a strong possibility that that, in fact, immediately preceded the shooting. But we do not have that definitively at this point, but we do have strong indications of that.


HOWELL: At this point, again, we know three people were killed in this shooting, 16 were injured. And of the 16, three remain in critical condition. We also learned something about the weapon yesterday.

I want to talk about this, because again, it's a weapon that was unregistered here on base, a weapon that we know that Lopez legally purchased. We know that he basically passed all of the standard background checks he required in the state of Texas to own that weapon, and he did not have any sort of criminal history that would disqualify him from having the weapon.

Ironically, though, it is the same place, the same store here in Killeen, a place called Guns Galore, where he bought his weapon, the same place where Major Nidal Hasan bought his weapon, the weapon that he used five years ago to shoot and kill 13 people here on post.

ROMANS: Sad coincidence, but still just very, very sad.

George Howell -- thanks, George.

HARLOW: All right, well, we're getting a different look this morning at Army Specialist Ivan Lopez from some of the photos on his Facebook page. They show him on the beach with his family in Puerto Rico, and the death of his mother apparently hit him very hard. He was reportedly upset at getting less than two days leave to attend his mother's funeral, but people who knew him, especially those who worked very closely with him, say there was really no indication of what was to come.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was one of my best soldiers in the organization, and he has the leadership. Specialist Lopez was an outstanding soldier with great initiative. He showed a great, great leadership and a very, very great military discipline.

JOHN MCHUGH, ARMY SECRETARY: He was seen just last month by a psychiatrist. He was fully examined. And as of this morning, we had no indication on the record of that examination that there was any sign of likely violence, either to himself or to others, no suicidal ideation.

REPORTER: You've said hello to him, you talked to him?


REPORTER: What did he seem like?

BRADLEY: He seemed pretty fine, happy. He didn't seem like, you know, the type that would do what he did.


ROMANS: One of those killed in the Fort Hood rampage has been identified as Army Sergeant Timothy Owens. Owens' family in Illinois talked about him to CNN's affiliate WICS.


MARY MUNTEAN, MOTHER OF SGT. TIMOTHY OWENS: He didn't answer the phone, so I left a message, son, call me so I know if you're OK or not. Well, never got no call from him. I thought, oh, God, please don't let it be.

WALLACE GERHARDT, UNCLE OF SGT. TIMOTHY OWENS: He was just a very honorable, you know, individual. And like I say, I don't think he knew any strangers. Everybody that he met I believe that Tim got along with them.


HARLOW: Heart breaks for them.

This morning, three of the 16 people wounded in the Fort Hood shooting are still in the hospital, and doctors, of course, say it is far too soon to determine what the long-term impact of their injuries will be.

One trauma surgeon tells CNN their initial response to the deadly rampage was this --


DR. MATTHEW DAVIS, DIR. OF TRAUMA, WHITE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: I think that the first feeling whenever I found out about the potential of this, you know, when the news began to trickle in, was a little bit of disbelief, you know, how can this possibly happen again type feeling. You know, very quickly, you move to resolve and determination to make sure that you've got all your systems in places to care for these patients appropriately. And we moved to that pretty quickly. Set up our command center and got going.


HARLOW: Stay with us throughout the morning for continuing coverage of that deadly shooting at Fort Hood here on EARLY START, and of course, later on NEW DAY.

ROMANS: All right, millions of Americans in the path of severe storms hitting the Midwest, the South -- tornadoes, heavy rain, damaging hail. The National Weather Service reporting a number of twisters touching down across several states, certainly a wild afternoon.

HARLOW: Absolutely. The storm system drenching parts of Indiana, some three inches of rain falling there in Hamilton County on Thursday. It left roads flooded. A number of people in their vehicles kind of trapped, in need of water rescue.

ROMANS: Tornadoes reported in several Missouri communities. The St. Louis suburb of University City cleaning up from a twister that struck about 24 hours ago. Big trees were no match for strong winds. A number of homes had their roofs simply ripped off, the storm knocking out power to thousands of residents.

HARLOW: Missouri's governor declaring a state of emergency there as this band of severe weather moved right across that state. You could see funnel clouds forming in the sky over Kansas City.

ROMANS: Oh, wow.

HARLOW: Torrential rain caused some very significant flooding along the Missouri/Kansas border.

ROMANS: And parts of Texas clobbered by severe weather, including reports of tornadoes and baseball-sized hail. Call your insurance adjustor.

The town of Denton, about 40 miles from Dallas-Ft. Worth, saw two rounds of monster hail just about two hours apart.

Our Indra Petersons tracking the storm system. She joins us now.

What can we expect today? Is this same kind of system rumbling through?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, fortunately, right now, we're still watching that exact system and we have a lot of concerns this morning.

First, let's talk about, we've already seen about eight tornadoes just from this last system, most of them being around Texas, Missouri and Illinois. But notice, even all the wind damage and hail as that line or that squall line continues to progress off to the east. So, that's what we've already seen.

Now, look at the severe weather threat again today still is out there. The system has pushed a little farther to the east.

What are we looking at? We actually still have tornado watches out there this morning. That is the concern.

This is the time frame I'm most concerned with. Most people have tucked themselves into bed. They are not looking or paying attention to their surroundings, and unfortunately, that severe weather is still out there this morning, especially in places like really Tennessee, through eastern portions of Texas. That's the danger zone this morning.

The other side of it is the heavy rain. Look at these amounts about five, four inches towards Missouri, even towards Indiana. So, that's the second side of this threat. Still looking at a system pushing farther to the east today, kind of making its way even into the Northeast. The bulk of the snow staying farther north than the Great Lakes there, but really, the bulk of you looking for light rain.

Heavy at times but really kind of diminishing as it pushes off to the northeast, kind of wrapping out of here by tomorrow morning. That's get news for the Northeast, looking for a nice weekend. Just want to keep in mind, by the time we get towards Sunday, Southeast already talking about some rain. The next system for Monday already moving in towards the Northeast and the threat for severe weather again.

So, seasons have definitely shifted. A lot of concern definitely throughout the night tonight in through tomorrow as well still.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Indra Petersons.

HARLOW: Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right, first Friday of the month, that means --

HARLOW: You're busy.

ROMANS: Jobs report, that's coming out in a few hours. What will it reveal about our economy? Is the economy finally having the spring thaw? Will we see significant jobs growth? I think you're going to like what economists think is going to happen here today.


ROMANS: Probably the most important gauge of the economy, the jobs report, due out this morning in about four hours. With the spring thaw, the job market is likely to have improved.

Economists surveyed by CNNMoney forecast some 213,000 new jobs. That's up from 175,000 in February. The jobless rate likely ticked down from 6.7 percent to 6.6 percent. We get those official numbers at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

HARLOW: Meantime, the Senate Intelligence Committee will make part of a long-awaited and highly contested report on CIA interrogations public, which, according to the findings, have not turned up valuable intelligence. The 15-member panel voted to release the inquiry on Thursday with three Republicans opposing.

The panel also said the CIA repeatedly misled federal officials about both the brutality and effectiveness of the program. It could be months, though, before we get a more complete summary of that report.

ROMANS: A prayer vigil tonight for the Washington state communities devastated by that massive landslide, but this morning, the grim death toll is reaching a new peak, 30 people, 30 people now confirmed dead, 15 still missing or unaccounted for, as a new report suggests county officials considered buying up homes to protect residents a decade ago. Instead, a log retaining wall was built in 2006.

HARLOW: More subpoenas expected in the Governor Chris Christie bridgegate investigation. New Jersey state legislators will meet next week on the alleged political payback scheme that closed down parts of the George Washington Bridge last fall. Christie denies any knowledge or involvement. An investigation by his attorneys cleared him of wrongdoing. The committee, though, expected to subpoena transcripts and other documents compiled by his team.

ROMANS: And David Letterman had a surprise for his audience at the taping of last night's "Late Show." David Letterman said he's retiring! The announcement was met with, well, laughter, disbelief. Eventually, he got a standing ovation.

No exact date, but Letterman is about to turn 67, Poppy. He says his final show will be some time next year.

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: He has the longest tenure of any late-night host, 32 years.


ROMANS: And immediately on Twitter, people were like, hey, I know, how about "Late Night with Jay Leno"?

HARLOW: Who do you think could replace him? I've seen some rumblings about Ellen. ROMANS: Oh, maybe.

HARLOW: She'd be good.

ROMANS: She's so good where she is right now. I don't know if I were Ellen, if I'd try to mix up the secret sauce.

HARLOW: Double duty. We'll see. But he's been great to watch all the way through.

ROMANS: So, best of luck. We'll keep watching for the next year.

All right. Breaking news on the search for missing Flight 370. The search is narrowed. There's new technology in the water this morning. We're live with all the developments for you, next.