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EARLY START

Search for Flight 370: New Signals Detected; Pistorius on Trial; Toyota Recalls 6.39 Million Cars

Aired April 9, 2014 - 05:00   ET

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


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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking news this morning, new signals detected in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

Overnight, investigators revealing two new transmissions heard from manmade devices that they believe could be the vanished jetliner's black boxes. Now, the batteries on those black boxes could go dead any day, really any minute now.

So this morning, the search is intensifying as crews scour the ocean hoping to pick up more clues on where the plane's wreckage could be.

We have a team of reporters covering every angle of this story this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now. An example hero accused of murder on the witness stand for a third emotional day. Can Oscar Pistorius convince this judge he didn't mean to kill his model girlfriend?

We're live with the latest developments as they happen.

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

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Wednesday, April 9th, 5:00 in the East.

A lot going on right now. This morning, we do begin with the latest on the search for Flight 370, and the news that broke overnight that once again, search crews have heard signals, possibly from the jet's black boxes.

Two noises were detected by the United States equipment on an Australian ship, only for a few minutes this time. The signals were weaker than they had been before. That in itself could be revealing and it's being called a positive sign and likely at this point the best chance to find Flight 370, perhaps within a matter of days.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin live in Perth with the latest on the search.

And, Erin, it seems again from the body language from the announcement overnight that they seem fairly optimistic that these signals are coming from the black boxes and they are narrowing down that search area.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, this is very encouraging news. Angus Houston is the man responsible for coordinating this multinational search effort. He gave a press conference earlier today.

Take a listen to how he characterized these new detections.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGUS HOUSTON, SEARCH COORDINATOR: I can now tell you that Ocean Shield has been able to reacquire the signals on two more occasions, late yesterday afternoon and late last night Perth time. The detection yesterday afternoon was held for approximately five minutes and 32 seconds. The detection late last night was held for approximately seven minutes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: Houston went on to say that the signals detected were noticeably weaker than the Saturday detections and that significant, he said that's most likely because the batteries of these black box pingers are expiring. They have a self life of some 30 days and we're now on day 33.

So the priority of this search operation right now, very much rests with the Ocean Shield, the Australian vessel equipped with the American operated towed ping locator still out there, scouring those waters, trying to pick up any more detections.

The more detections they make, the more they are able to narrow down a potential search field to try and find the source of that signal. And once they do that, they will then deploy the Bluefin 21 which is an American-provided autonomous underwater vehicle capable of searching the ocean floor for actual wreckage.

And that's really what they say they need at this point to confirm that this is, in fact, from the missing plane, John.

BERMAN: They'll keep listening until they are 100 percent convinced those batteries are dead.

Erin McLaughlin live for us in Perth, Australia, with this new development in this investigation. And what they are looking for, of course, is any evidence, any evidence of what led Flight 370 to make its dramatic turn away from its route to Beijing. Investigators in Malaysia expressing optimism about all of these new developments.

Nic Robertson has the latest for us this morning from Kuala Lumpur.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have heard from the acting transport minister on his Twitter account since the third and fourth pings have been announced. He said he's cautiously more optimistic. He also says he prays this will help everyone move forward. And he's also praised Angus Houston who is leading the search mission off the coast of Australia, praised him as a professional.

But what we continue to hear from officials here is that the black boxes are a vital part of the investigation, that they won't announce any sort of partial findings that they've had so far. We have heard saying that -- despite saying that, we have heard from the police chief here saying he's been able to rule out all 227 passengers being involved in the disappearance of Flight 370.

But the investigators won't go further than that because they say that the information they have so far is essentially only partial, that the black boxes will provide more information that's important.

And we also understand from sources here that it's very likely that it's not just the black boxes, if the plane is found and discovered for sure. That the medical team if you will, that's been formed as part of a commission by the Malaysians here to investigate the missing aircraft, the medical component will be important. The pathology experts for what they may find aboard the aircraft.

BERMAN: Those possibilities. Our thanks to Nic Robertson for that.

There was one American adult on board Flight 370, Philip Wood, an IBM employee who's heading them to Beijing. His partner Sarah Bajc tells Jake Tapper on "THE LEAD" that she thinks Philip Wood may still be alive. And she doesn't think that we're hearing the truth about what happened to the jet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH BAJC, PARTNER OF PHILIP WOOD: I do believe that there is some sort of cover-up by some sort of government agency, whether that's Malaysia, the United States, China. I don't know. But it's impossible to me that all those governments' radars were so silent and so quiet when a 777 was flying over their air space. There's nearly something we don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Most the people on board that flight were Chinese. Of course, they want answers. But they are saying there's been so much false information throughout these 33 days. At this point, they don't know what to believe.

Pauline Chiou has been spending the last 33 days with these grieving families in Beijing.

And, Pauline, there was a meeting overnight between a group of Americans and some of the families. So who were these Americans? Why were they there? And what happened?

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, these were three American women who all lost loved ones in the past in plane accidents. And for the very first time, Chinese families here were meeting people who could say sincerely, we know what you're going through because we've been through it already. And these three women came over on their own time. They are with an organization called planesafe.org. It's a non-profit organization. And the three women answered the Chinese families' questions for about two hours. Questions about the airplane, questions about terrorism, how they dealt with that because one of the women's husbands died in 9/11. He was in one of the towers, the Twin Towers on September 11th.

And the women gave guidance and advice and they also pushed the family members to press for more answers and warned it could take a long time. It could even take even years.

Now, as for some of the families who still hold out hope for survivors, I asked one of the American women what she would say to some of the Chinese families here who still believe that the plane is intact somewhere, may have crash landed, and that there are survivors on board. I asked her what she would say to these family members.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GALE DUNHAM, PLANESAFE.ORG: I respect every single family member and what they personally believe and the questions that they have. I think it's a very good question. There's -- we have no proof that this plane has crashed at this point.

And we have satellites that can read the license plate on a car. Don't tell me that after a month, we can't find an airplane?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHIOU: Now, Gale Dunham's ex-husband was a captain of a United Airline flight, and that flight crashed in Colorado back in 1991. And since then, Gale has been a huge advocate about safety improvements in the airline industry.

Now she and the two other Americans are going to stay here in Beijing until Friday. They say they are here for the Chinese families. They came with this non-profit organization. And they are willing to speak with them and answer any of the questions from how they investigated their particular incidents to how they emotionally tried to overcome all of the grief that they've been through the past couple of years, John.

BERMAN: It has to be such an important resource for the families. Pauline Chiou, thanks to you.

CHIOU: Right now, there are 15 planes, 14 ships scouring the waters in the Indian Ocean. They're trying to find that missing jet. The weather, of course, has been a concern almost every day.

Indra Petersons, how are things looking here?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I mean, this is the best news we have. They are getting to this critical time period. You can see the search area. Look how clear it is in the vicinity, really seeing all the weather moving out of the region, very good conditions. You can see the bulk of the systems out there really staying down to the south.

So, this is the good news. Now that that search area is farther to the north, the weather is a lot calmer in this region, looking at the clouds and any potential for rain. Can't say there's not a few scattered showers here or there. But again, nothing in comparison to what they were deal with a few weeks ago, even several days. We've got (INAUDIBLE) cruise on through the area.

Otherwise, yes, some light showers and even the winds. I mean, look at this. The bulk of the winds far down to the south, even these are clearing out. We're talking 10, 15, maybe 20-mile-per-hour winds. And that is it. I mean, you really could not have better news in such a critical time period right now than good weather for the next 24 hours.

ROMANS: All right. We'll take what we can get. Thanks, Indra Petersons.

Following the latest breaking news on the search for Flight 370 all morning. Again, two pings heard again. But first, happening now, Oscar Pistorius is being grilled by prosecutors trying to tear apart his testimony at his murder trial. We're live with this very emotional testimony this morning.

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ROMANS: Breaking news this morning from Australia.

Officials say they have reacquired signals in the Indian Ocean, signals that could be from Flight 370's black boxes. Now, these signals didn't last very long. Just five minutes and seven minutes, and they are weaker than they had been days earlier.

That's a sign the batteries on those devices may be dying. But this -- this gives new hope now that search crews may be closer to finding that jet. That jet missing for 33 days.

BERMAN: We have more breaking news. It's a crucial moment right now in South Africa at the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius. He is on the stand right now being cross-examined by prosecutors.

And these questions, they are tough, a lot tougher than he received on direct examination. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OSCAR PISTORIUS, CHARGED OF MURDER: I've made a terrible mistake and --

PROSECUTOR: You made a mistake?

PISTORIUS: That's correct.

PROSECUTOR: You killed a person. That's what you did, isn't it?

PISTORIUS: I made a mistake. PROSECUTOR: You killed Reeva Steenkamp. That's what you did.

PISTORIUS: I made a mistake, my lady.

PROSECUTOR: You are repeating it three times. What was your mistake?

PISTORIUS: My mistake is that I took Reeva's life, my lady.

PROSECUTOR: You killed her. You shot and killed her. Why don't you take responsibility for that?

PISTORIUS: I took, my lady.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Wow.

CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps is outside the courthouse in Pretoria.

Kelly, that was quite an exchange. What's the prosecution trying to do here?

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The prosecution is definitely trying to go after him with aggression, unnerve him and through unnerving him trip him up. They're essentially going try and trip him up on two grounds.

Firstly, they're going to try and get him to reveal a more aggressive side of his personality which is always the portrait of him that they've painted. That he's this very volatile and aggressive personality. And they'll try to get him to demonstrate that for them on the stand.

The second thing they'll try to trip him up on is if there's any inconsistencies in his statement. So, the hope is by going in aggressively, he essentially loses his train of thought and lets something slip that he was trying to hold back when he was more composed.

BERMAN: On the facts themselves right now, where we sit as he testifies to the prosecution this morning, what kind of factual case did Oscar Pistorius lay out yesterday. And factually speaking, what the prosecution need to do to undermine that?

PHELPS: Well, we always have to remember that, in fact, it's the state who has the burden to put the case on the record. And what Pistorius needs to do is poke holes in that. And he has factually provided some basis to poke holes in it. And we saw a lot of that actually this morning.

So, yesterday's testimony was important with regard to his state of mind. We know his defense rests on a mistaken belief, so that's what he was putting on the record yesterday.

Today, he went on a much more factual basis to try to contradict key, pivotal parts of the state's case. For example, we know that much of the state's murder case rests on the supposed evidence of neighbors having heard a woman scream.

So they used Pistorius' testimony today to put on record the fact that most of the neighbors, in fact if not all of the neighbors that were in closer proximity to Pistorius' house, they all gave statements saying they did not hear a woman scream and one or two of them in fact, said in the statements that they heard a man crying.

So, they are putting evidence on the record to suggest that there is a doubtful validity on the basis of the state's case. And they were quite consistent in doing this today because he was more composed and, therefore, more coherent and eloquent in the testimony that he gave.

BERMAN: After the judge cut off the testimony yesterday, he was more eloquent today. As you say, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. Now cross-examining Pistorius on the stand all morning. We will stay on it.

Kelly Phelps, thanks so much.

There is more breaking news this morning. Toyota recalling more than 6 million cars worldwide for problems ranging from air bags not deploying to steering columns breaking to seats not locking into position. They are in a total of five different issues affect some 27 different models, 2 million of the cars involved are from North America.

ROMANS: Feels like the year of the recall. It's only April.

Let's stick with recalls. GM dealing with more fallout from the faulty ignition switch. The company must pay $7,000 a day to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for being late to hand over documents.

GM says it handed over two-thirds of the papers. That's more than 270,000 pages and is working hard to hand in the rest. Meantime, stocks around the world up today after the U.S. stock market snapped a three-day losing streak yesterday. Futures pointing to a higher open today.

The big question on Wall Street right now, are we in for a correction? That's the 10 percent or more drop from market highs. The nervous Nellies have been out in force saying we need one after a few years.

We're going to get news out of the Fed today and get earnings reports over the next few days. At least for today, some of the recent selling seems to have stopped.

Happening today, President Obama and the first lady travel to Fort Hood for a memorial service honoring three people killed, 16 wounded when a soldier opened fire there before taking his own life. Investigators say Specialist Ivan Lopez got into some sort of altercation. That may have sparked the shooting. He was being treated at the time for anxiety and depression.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, a marine is dead, a fellow marine in custody this morning after a deadly shooting there. Authorities say it happened at a guard shack when one marine shot the other. Both were on guard duty, but few other details at this point being released.

ROMANS: New developments this morning in the search for victims from the deadly landslide northeast of Seattle. The death toll has now reached 35, 31 victims have been identified, including a 2-year-old girl. Eleven people still missing.

President Obama plans to visit Oso Washington April 22nd as he heads west for a trip to Asia. The White House says the president will meet with families and first responders. Real tough situation.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, the breaking news this morning. New clues in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Crews detecting new signals in the ocean that could be the vanished jetliner's black boxes.

So, can the wreckage be found before the batteries on those black boxes run out? And could we finally learn why the plane vanished without a trace? We are live next.

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BERMAN: All right. The latest now on the breaking news overnight in the search for Flight 370. Officials in Australia say a ship has again heard signals that could be from the jet's black boxes. Two sounds were heard in the Indian Ocean lasting just five minutes and then seven minutes. The signals were weaker than they had been. That's a possible sign that the batteries on those flight recorders are starting to run out.

Let's bring in Geoffrey Thomas. He's an aviation expert and editor in chief of airlinesratings.com. He joins us via Skype from Perth.

And, Geoffrey, I think the question that we have here, one of the questions we have -- it seems like an incredible stroke of luck that they were able to hear these pings in the first place over the weekend at that location. Now they've heard them again.

Do you get the sense that they feel that they are closer than they are letting on?

GEOFFREY THOMAS, AVIATION EXPERT: Look, indeed, John. It may also be described as an incredible stroke of mathematics as well, because there's been a lot of experts from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Malaysia and China working on the mathematics of this flight path of this airplane from the Inmarsat satellite pings, plus radar data from various countries that track this airplane momentarily.

So they are looking on the right flight path. They are looking exactly where Inmarsat, the satellite provider, said that the last known transmission came from this airplane. The last acknowledgment came from this airplane. So, it certainly is -- there's also a sense that there's a little bit more to it -- to this than they are telling us. For instance, there's a British nuclear submarine out there, the HMS Tireless. We asked about what that's doing and we're told no comment. We can't discuss it.

So there's, I think, a bit more intelligence to this man meets the eye.

ROMANS: Well, they certainly seem more confident as John was saying. The body language of Angus Houston was more confident than we've seen from officials in some time. When you talk about the over- engineering, last hour, you talked about the over-engineering of some of these parts in aviation, including the black boxes. We are very concerned those batteries are showing signs of dying out.

But you point out we could have a 40-day window. How long these batteries are certified for and how long they actually work in many cases?

THOMAS: Look, indeed, Christine. I don't think there's anything in aviation today that's designed to fail at the actual certification date. So much of it is over-engineered. The 777 itself, the Boeing 777 is probably one of the most over-engineered airplanes that are in the sky today.

And we saw that last year in San Francisco with the Asiana One. Hit the sea wall. That airplane spun and bounced and still stayed intact which is extraordinary structural integrity of the airplane.

So, look, it's a great airplane, over-engineered. And I do think they've got another four or five days, possibly, of battery life left in the pingers.

BERMAN: Geoffrey Thomas, thank you so much. Coining the phrase of the day -- an incredible stroke of mathematics in the search for flight 370.

ROMANS: We're following the very latest on that breaking news. The search for this flight. Again, pings heard again overnight. More live team coverage right after the break.

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