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EARLY START

Turning Point in Flight 370 Search; Fort Hood Massacre; Massive Storms Move East

Aired April 4, 2014 - 04:30   ET

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


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POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning: the dramatic change in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Australia now taking the lead, using new technology in and out of the water to narrow the search field and find, try to find the vanished jetliner's flight data recorder. We have live team coverage, everything you missed overnight, straight ahead.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: New information this morning on the soldier behind a deadly massacre at Fort Hood. What could have provoked this attack, and how soldiers injured in the shooting, how are they doing this morning? We have those live details.

HARLOW: Also this morning, a huge storm system tearing through the Midwest heads east. Tornadoes, floods, even snow. That's right, snow in April. Indra Petersons is tracking everything that happened overnight for us.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

ROMANS: Indra Petersons is the hardest working woman in meteorology.

HARLOW: Absolutely.

ROMANS: In TV, right?

I'm Christine Romans. It's about 32 minutes past the hour. Let's talk first about this potentially significant shift in the search for Flight 370. Two naval ships have now been searching under water using the U.S. Navy's pinger locator and other acoustic gear to try to detect transmissions from the missing plane's black box, and they've markedly narrowed that search to a 150-mile track of the Indian Ocean.

Australian officials who have now taken the lead say it's the area where the plane is most likely to have gone into the water. Nearly two dozen ships and aircraft are also searching today.

Let's bring in Matthew Chance right now. He is watching all of this for us this morning, all of these developments.

The fact now that we actually have underwater search going on, even as they've further refined this search zone -- still, still a very big job. Matthew, what's the latest?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I don't think we're in a situation where they've narrowed down the search area to a sort of pinpoint location. I mean, they've got these assets in the area. They've got a British nuclear submarine, which is equipped with highly advanced underwater detection technology. They've got these two surface ships as well, one Australian, one British.

The Australian one equipped with some high-tech American equipment that was especially brought in to detect the pinger on the black box flight recorder from the missing aircraft. There are assets already in the search zone now.

And so, they've decided to put them to use. So, they've put them along a 150, 160-mile stretch of water, a corridor where they can get started and try and find some trace of this pinger on the black box.

And one of the main reasons for that is because time is running out. The pinger battery life is expected to be around 30 days.

It could last a little longer than that, but the search has already gone on for 28 days. And so, there's a growing concern that time is running out, which is why they've deployed these assets as soon as they can and got them to work as soon as they could.

Earlier there were comments from the head of the Australian search team, Angus Houston. Take a listen to what he had to say.

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ANGUS HOUSTON, FORMER AUSTRALIAN AIR CHIEF MARSHAL: We have not searched everywhere where the aircraft might have gone. I mean, we are concentrating in an area that has been developed as a consequence of the analysis.

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CHANCE: So, it's what they're calling the area of highest probability. It's a huge area still, more than 80,000 square miles. It's vast and it's very remote. And of course, after 28 days, despite their efforts, they still found absolutely no trace whatsoever of this missing airliner.

ROMANS: No trace. Just, you know, ocean garbage, basically. All of these things we've been watching and tracking. It must be so frustrating for the pilots when they're coming in.

CHANCE: Yes, incredibly frustrating.

In fact, over the course of the last few hours, an Australian -- sorry, a Japanese search team here in Australia has been briefing journalists on what they've seen. They say that since the beginning of their search efforts, they've spotted a number of objects and then reported them to the relevant authorities here in Australia, but it's not clear most of the time, or rather, it is clear that most of the debris that has been spotted has got no relationship whatsoever to the missing airliner.

It's an area of the ocean where it seems that the flotsam and jetsam of the world appears to congregate because of the winds and currents. So, you see fishing boats, all sorts of refuse, but there's not sort of connection to the aircraft, so it's making the job of finding that aircraft much, much more difficult.

ROMANS: Yes, unpleasant distractions when they want to be zeroed in on some evidence of 370. Matthew Chance in Perth, thank you.

HARLOW: Well, you know, the subsurface search on day 28 -- it has been 28 days looking, searching for MH Flight 370.

But the window to locate the plane's black box or that critical data recorder is closing very quickly, with perhaps only a day or two of battery life left to send out those critical pings.

Let's go to Will Ripley. He is on a boat off the coast of Western Australia.

I know you're going to show us some of the technology, that even boats like the one you're on have to help try to locate what is so critical here.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, and you mentioned how the clock really is ticking on this search. The one good news is that this towed pinger locator that Matthew Chance was talking about, it's going to be operating 24/7. So they're actually going to have this thing out for the next 10 to 12 days, until they're absolutely sure that there's no chance of a ping being emitted any longer and they can continue during the night, during the day, because at least when you're talking about using this sound technology to conduct a search, it doesn't matter if you have sunlight, because it's relying on sound.

And, yes, we brought you into the wheelhouse of the fishing boat we've chartered to show you how lots of ships are using sound technology every single day. This right here is called the echo sound, and if we take a close look at the screen here, this is telling us how deep the water is beneath our boat. This is a live image. You can see it's about 18 meters deep.

You can see the contours on the ocean surface. Captain Ray Ruby is here. You rely on this just to detect schools of fish when you're out on a fishing charter.

CAPT. RAY RUBY: Yes. Unless we find a decent school of fish, it's not worth putting a line in or nets in on the gear.

RIPLEY: Yes, yes. But the same technology that you're using, they're also using out in the search zone because they can detect debris, if they do the side scan sonar, which is different than this technology, but they can detect debris and they can also scan the bottom of the ocean.

RUBY: Yes, scan the bottom of the ocean. Basically, it's like an echo sound on its side, so it picks everything up in front of us, where we're relying on everything straight underneath us, but they can look around them, to each side and in front of them.

RIPLEY: So, obviously, some of the most sophisticated sonar technology in the world being used in the search zone right now, about 1,000 miles from where we are, Poppy. But nonetheless, you get a sense of the type of screens that these technicians, these skilled operators are going to be looking at as they do this 24/7 operation.

HARLOW: And we know that they have a submarine and then they have two big ships that are pulling that equipment, that locator equipment, you know, deep, deep in the ocean.

You know, it's interesting. I was listening to Erik Van Sebille, who is an oceanographer we've had on the show over the past few weeks, and he was saying, you know, these currents are so huge and they're nothing like a highway that would drive debris in one direction. They are churning constantly, throwing, you know, throwing anything that may be out there all around, making it that much more challenging.

And then when you complicate it with bad weather, well, that makes it even harder. The weather there now for the search, it looks pretty decent.

RIPLEY: Yes, it really does. You know, fair is how it's being described. And the reason why we're calling it fair is because the clouds are a bit lower than we'd like. The clouds are about 1,000 feet above the ocean, so the planes have to get down pretty low to be able to scan effectively for debris. Planes can fly 300 feet above the ocean, so that's no big deal for them.

But yes, the waves, you're not seeing the white caps out in the search zone today. The white caps can be very confusing for somebody who's looking, trying to spot an object and you see a white cap on a wave. It could play tricks on your eyes. So, yes, fair weather out here today, which is definitely good news for the search effort. As our daylight hours are starting to go away, we know the planes have a few more hours in the sky, but that sub, that underwater operation is continuing as we speak.

HARLOW: All right. We appreciate it, Will. Thank you.

ROMANS: As for the investigation, we're being told Malaysian government officials are denying a request by the Flight 370 families to release audio recordings between the cockpit and the control tower.

CNN's Jim Clancy live for us this morning in Kuala Lumpur.

The families want to hear these recordings. Malaysian authorities are saying no. What's behind that story?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the families, of course, want to hear the last recording of a human voice from that aircraft, an aircraft that held all of their families. These are more than 150 -- the relatives of more than 150 Chinese families that were on board there.

And I think they want to feel closer to them. They feel so distant right now. They feel that people have disappeared from their lives in an instant, and in four weeks' time, they haven't been able to hear a thing from them, and now they're losing hope that they ever will.

But the investigators with the Office of Civil Aviation here in Kuala Lumpur telling them it's not possible for you to do that. That's still part of the investigation. Even the pilots' families haven't been able to listen to these.

So, they continue to study these tapes. They have told us in the past once that they identified the co-pilot as being the last voice that was heard from the cockpit. Now they say they aren't sure. And in reality, they're not really sure of anything at this hour.

Back to you, Christine.

ROMANS: That's right, Jim two facts -- the plane is missing and Inmarsat shows it off course heading southward. Those are really the only two facts in this case still.

Jim Clancy in Kuala Lumpur -- thank you.

HARLOW: And we, of course, are going to continue to follow the latest on missing flight MH370.

But also, breaking news overnight: trees ripped from the ground, homes destroyed, communities left under water. Millions feeling the wrath of just a huge storm system, and it's not over yet. Indra Petersons tracking it all, straight ahead.

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HARLOW: Welcome back to EARLY START.

A line of really severe storms beating a path across a wide section of the Midwest and the south. Heavy rain, powerful winds, damaging hail.

ROMANS: Whoa.

HARLOW: Just look at that. The National Weather Service reporting a number of tornadoes touching down across several states.

ROMANS: The storm left parts of Indiana under water. Some three inches of rain falling in Hamilton County on Thursday. Roads were flooded. A number of people and their vehicles, that's right, in need of water rescue.

HARLOW: And several Missouri communities experienced tornadoes. The St. Louis suburb of University City is cleaning up this morning from a twister that struck nearly 24 hours ago. Big trees were no match for these really strong winds. A number of homes had their roofs ripped off. The storm knocking out power for thousands of residents there.

ROMANS: Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declaring a state of emergency as the band of -- look at those pictures -- the band of severe weather moving across his state. Funnel clouds formed menacingly in the skies over Kansas City. Torrential rain caused some significant flooding along the Missouri/Kansas border.

HARLOW: Also, this weather hitting Texas, parts of Texas taking a big hit. That included reports of tornadoes and baseball-sized hail. The town of Denton, which is about 40 miles from Dallas-Ft. Worth, saw two rounds of monster hail just about two hours apart.

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

I don't even know where to begin! Is this over?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEROLOGIST: I wish I could say the danger was over, but currently right now, I can actually show you where you have the severe thunderstorm watches and even tornado watches. So, a heads up, especially right now.

If you're around Tennessee, if you're on Alabama, Mississippi, also looking at places back towards Texas. We can see the red boxes, those are tornado watch boxes. The yellows are severe thunderstorm watches.

So still, even in the overnight hours, that threat is there. And of course, many people are asleep and unaware. That is the concern.

And it's not over with once people wake up today. We're still talking about the system spreading farther to the east. So, really, anywhere from Charleston back through Naches, we're still talking about the threat for severe weather. Not as heightened as we had yesterday, but still, look what the system did yesterday -- eight tornadoes, guys. I know it feels like it was just winter a few days ago, but that threat was out there, eight tornadoes.

Look at all the wind damage and the hail. This system is still making its way across, a lot of severe weather expected and even flooding, heavy flooding. Look at this rainfall in a short period of time. Five inches Missouri, St. Louis, also about four inches, Indianapolis saw about two inches, and it seems like it's not much, two inches, but in a short period of time, the flooding is devastating.

Here's the system making its way East. We talked about the severe weather threat, but in the northeast, showers in that region. The back side seeing a little bit of snow, not as heavy as the rain we saw yesterday, diminishing to half an inch or so.

Good news by the weekend, we see that start to taper off. Beautiful weekend in the Northeast, but by Monday, the potential for severe weather is back in the forecast.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Indra. Thanks so much.

New information on the tragedy at Fort Hood, what could have provoked a soldier to go on a shooting rampage. We are live with that, next.

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HARLOW: Now to the aftermath of the tragic shooting rampage at Fort Hood. Survivors getting a visit today from Texas Governor Rick Perry. Meantime, investigators still just trying to determine what drove Army Specialist Ivan Lopez to open fire on his fellow soldiers, killing 3 and wounding 16 others before taking his own life.

It appears that his mental condition may have played a critical role.

Our George Howell is live in Fort Hood, Texas.

George, you have been here since the hours after this happened. What more do we know this morning?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, fellow soldiers, Poppy, they describe Lopez as an extraordinary individual, a person with a lot of values, but you know, people are really shocked and surprised by what happened the other day.

We now know that investigators are looking into Lopez's background, his treatment for mental illness, for instance. We know that he was taking the drug Ambien and antidepressants. He suffered from anxiety and depression.

We also know that he was being evaluated for PTSD, though he was not officially diagnosed with that. He was going through the process of being evaluated.

Now, when we talk with people, obviously, they are surprised by this, but investigators say they are looking into all angles. Take a listen.

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LT. GEN. MARK MILLEY, COMMANDER, FORT HOOD: At this point, we have not yet ruled out anything whatsoever, and we committed to letting the investigation run its course, but we have, again, no indications at this time of any links to terrorist organizations of any type, either national or international.

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HOWELL: Three people were killed in this shooting, 16 injured. And of the 16, the latest information that we have is that three remain in critical condition this morning.

HARLOW: And I know, George, that the gun was not registered on the base, but it was obtained legally, correct?

HOWELL: It was obtained legally. From information that we've gathered, it was bought at a store called Guns Galore here in Killeen, Texas. We know that Lopez basically passed all of the standard background checks to get the weapon, also that there was no criminal history, he had no criminal history that would have prevented him from having the weapon.

Ironically, though, that is the same store where Major Nidal Hasan bought his weapon, the weapon that he used five years ago to shoot and kill 13 people on post. HARLOW: Tragic coincidence. Appreciate the reporting, George. Thank you.

ROMANS: We're getting sort of a different look at Army Specialist Ivan Lopez from the photos on his Facebook page. These pictures show someone on the beach with his family in Puerto Rico, smiling.

The death of Lopez's mother, apparently, though, hit him hard, and 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 closely with him, say there was no hint of what was to come.

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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?

IESHA BRADLEY, NEIGHBOR: Yesterday.

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.

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ROMANS: Well, one of the people killed in the Fort Hood rampage has been identified as Army Sergeant Timothy Owens. His family in Illinois talked about him with CNN affiliate WICS.

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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.

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HARLOW: Got along with everyone he met.

Stay with us all morning for continuing coverage of that tragedy at Fort Hood. More here on EARLY START and later on "NEW DAY."

We'll be right back.

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