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Flight 370 Made Rapid Descent Below 5,000 Feet; Sources Say Pilot Last to Speak to Controllers; Stabbing Suspect to be Tried as an Adult

Aired April 10, 2014 - 11:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Young said he thought the one person that was most similar to LBJ would be Hillary Clinton, that she's the one person that has the kind of experience and the kind of relationships with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle that would be able to have some heft and push forward some legislation if she got in office. So we'll see if that happens, but that was something that Andrew Young brought up.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, whom I talked to --

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Didn't have anyone on the Republican side?

MALVEAUX: Didn't no, but (inaudible). That's not surprising, but we'll see, you know?

Goodwin says, Hey, it's all about the relationships. Make those relationships happen. People need to sit down and talk to each other, even if they disagree.


COSTELLO: Suzanne Malveaux, many thanks.

Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

"@ THIS HOUR" with Berman and Michaela starts now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The story is changing. Officials now say Flight 370 made a rapid descent below 5,000 feet. It disappeared, then reappeared on radar, they say. Was this to avoid detection? Is this proof of a criminal act? We're live with all the breaking details.

Another change, investigators now say it was the pilot, not the co- pilot, who uttered the last words from the cockpit. So what does that tell us? And a new ping coming from the ocean floor, leading authorities to narrow the search zone even more as they try to zero in on those critical black boxes from Flight 370.

Hello, everyone, I'm John Berman. Michaela is off today. It's 11:00 a.m. in the East, 8:00 a.m. out West. And we begin this hour with the breaking news on several fronts in the mystery of Flight 370. CNN sources say, after the plane took that mysterious left turn, it disappeared from radar, flying, they say, about 120 nautical miles before radar, they claim, before over Malaysia before reappearing. Was it deliberately flown as low as 4,000 feet to avoid radar detection? That's a key question.

Plus, Malaysia just now confirming that its air force did send aircraft out to search for Flight 370 shortly after it was reported missing. We've never heard that before.

And our sources say investigators are now confident that it was the pilot who was the last person to speak to air traffic controllers, the voice heard saying "Good night, Malaysian 370." For weeks, we were told it was the co-pilot.

In the meantime, crews looking for the wreckage now have new signals coming from the deep. The Australian agency coordinating the search says this time it was an airplane that detected a possible black-box signal from sonar buoys in the ocean and not the ship with the pinger locator that it detected four previous sets of signals.

We want to start, though, first with the investigative angle. These new revelations coming out from Malaysian officials.

Nic Robertson joins us live from Kuala Lumpur. Nic, you broke this news this morning, the notion that the plane disappeared, then reappeared. Lay out the implications here about altitude and what this means now for the investigation.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the first time, John, that we've heard about any change in altitude of this aircraft. This is an important detail for investigators. It's something we've been chasing for some time.

What we've heard is after it flew back across the Malaysian peninsula, you remember it did a left turn back across the Malaysian Peninsula, it gets out over the straits then it disappeared from military radar, reappears about 120 nautical miles further northwest.

Now, we're told that this has been deduced, that this disappearance has been deduced by those lack of radar traces, and they believe that the aircraft was downed at about 4,000 or 5,000 feet above sea level, missing, avoiding the military radar.

They say the reason this could have been happening is because the airways are quite busy in that area. Civilian traffic in that area, normal altitude about 35,000 feet, so it could be that the aircraft was dipping down there.

Another analysis being offered by a former Malaysian Airlines pilot is that it was trying to avoid the Malaysian military radar completely, but comes up a little too soon, and it's picked up by that radar on the other side.

The bottom line is, though, the aircraft appears to have been taken fully under control along 4,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level, fully under control, back up before it then continues its journey around the western side of Indonesia. Again there skirting Indonesian radar, John.

BERMAN: The key point you point out, they're deducing this. They're reaching this conclusion. They don't know for a fact it was at 4,000 or 5,000 feet. This is a conclusion they're coming to in their investigation. Let's talk about another key fact you broke this morning. Again, it's 34 days after the fact. You were told that the Malaysian military did send search planes into the air into the straits of Malacca to the west of Malaysia to look for Flight 370.

ROBERTSON: Yes, we've been getting further details on that, as well. This happened, we're told, at about 8:00 a.m. in the morning.

At about 7:30 a.m. in the morning, the military was informed by Malaysian Airlines that Flight MH-370 was missing. There was believed to be a turn of an aircraft, that left-hand turn, but the data, the flight data, hadn't been fully checked. So as a precautionary measure, we're told that the air force put up search aircraft into the Malacca straits.

We're told also now that they put up search aircraft into the south China Sea, as well, to try to see if there was anything that they could find out about this missing aircraft.

Obviously, this action came way later, about six hours after the aircraft had passed through that area. They have no chance of spotting it, but those aircraft, we're told, were put up as a precautionary measure by the military. We have not been told that before. This is new information.

BERMAN: They're now saying not only did they send planes into the straits of Malacca but also into the South China Sea. I want to make sure I'm clear about that.

ROBERTSON: This is something that we've been checking and verifying with one of the sources that provided this information. This is what we're being told. Into the Malacca straits and on the south China seas, obviously on the original path of that flight, John.

BERMAN: All right. That's very good to know. We'll talk about why that's important in just a second.

Nic Robertson, thank you so much again, breaking this news this morning.

So we're left with two big questions here. Could these new details help in the search, and why on earth are we just hearing about them now? What took so long?

Our aviation analysts, Mary Schiavo and Jeff Wise, are here. Mary, let's start with the dip in altitude first. Let's, of course, take it at face value, first.

Malaysian officials saying they believe this plane may have dipped below 4,000 or 5,000 feet. They have reached this conclusion because they say this plane disappeared from radar for about 120 nautical miles. Why, if we believe them, could a plane do that? Why would a plane dip that low?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it would dip that low -- could dip that low for a variety of reasons. One, it had a depressurization, had to go -- remember, it was at 35,000 feet, so it had to go down under 10,000 feet to get down to a level -- an altitude where people could breathe without oxygen, without pressurization.

Two, it could get down there to escape the busy commercial traffic lanes up above 18,000 feet. Without a transponder, you would be at risk for a collision avoidance problem because your collision avoidance equipment wouldn't work. You'd need the transponder for that.

So there are lots of reasons to go down. The issue is, you know, this is suspect information because they have it on radar, and then they don't have it on radar.

This is a Boeing 777. This is not -- you know, this is not a jet copter. It doesn't go from 35,000 feet to 5,000 feet in the blink of an eye.

So didn't radar pick up the ascent and the descent? Something about this isn't right, and I think we need more information. So even if they did dip down to 5,000 feet, they should have seen more than just all at once it's there, and all at once it's not. It doesn't work that way.

BERMAN: Jeff Wise, this doesn't seem to pass the smell test for Mary. What do you think? Not to mention the fact we're only learning about it now, 34 days into this investigation.

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes, it's late. There's a bunch of problems. There's a bunch of reasons you wouldn't want to go down to 3,000 feet. For one plane, it takes a lot of energy to go down and come back up. They're not designed to go at such low altitude.

Also, they burn a lot of fuel. You might be worried about the fact that passengers have got cell phones in their pockets. If you go to about 3,000 feet, you enable them to open their phones and call their relatives.

Obviously, that didn't happen, so that also would lend me to doubt this report. The fact that it wasn't on radar doesn't necessarily mean it had to go so low to avoid. There's a bunch of reasons why you think it might not be on radar for a little while.

BERMAN: It could be behind another plane? There could have been other things going on?

WISE: Sometimes radar just has gaps in it. It's sort of -- you know, you're painting the sky with like a flashlight.

BERMAN: It's a big leap they're taking to say it went to 4,000 feet. To stay on this point, Mary, to be clear, if it is to be believed it dipped that low, it would have been there was something mechanical going on in the cockpit, that something was going wrong and they were veering off course to try to fix that issue.

SCHIAVO: Sure, it could. But remember, they did all this, and according to Malaysian authorities today, they went from 35,000 feet, dipped down to 3,000 or 4,000 feet and then go back up to altitude which they said they were back up to altitude when they picked them up again.

They could have done it for depressurization, but then why go back up to altitude? It makes no sense. You wouldn't want to hop back up into the busy traffic lanes. There's so much that doesn't make sense about that.

BERMAN: Why get there? Who gets it there? Why, then, turn again? So many more questions. We are going to ask you guys all about this.

Jeff and Mary, don't go anywhere because we have to talk about these other revelations today about the pilots' last words from the cockpit, about this idea that they sent out search planes, where they sent them, and if this is now contradictory information because frankly, it does sound like it.

Some other headlines we're following @ THIS HOUR, authorities in Pennsylvania have taken a cell phone and computers from the home of a 16-year-old charged in Wednesday's stabbing rampage at a small high school there.

Alex Hribal faces four counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault. He will be tried as an adult.

Authorities say Hribal ran through Franklin Regional High School with two kitchen knives, wounding 20 students and a security officer before the assistant principal tackled him.

Just last hour, one student, Brett Hurt, recalled the attack.


BRETT HURT, WOUNDED IN SCHOOL STABBING: I didn't really know what was going on at the time because I was walking down the hallway with a friend of mine, Gracie Evans.

And then it just all, like, hit. She was screaming, and I was just standing there. And then everything just went -- like I didn't even know what was going on. I was just so surprised.

I could barely move because I got stabbed in the back. I had to have help going to the next room and her putting pressure on my wound to make sure I didn't bleed out.


BERMAN: Terrifying. NATO secretary-general saying the 40,000 or so Russian troops near Ukraine's border are ready for combat not training, like Moscow says, but Russian officials assure the world that there is nothing to worry about, at least according to them.

This comes as the clock ticks on the pro-Russian protesters who have taken over some of the Ukraine government buildings, Kiev telling them to put down their arms and walk away by tomorrow, and they will not be prosecuted.

The U.S. has accused Russia of stirring up the protests as an excuse to send its military into Ukraine.

Two years before the Boston marathon bombings, Russian authorities declined to give the FBI key information about the suspected mastermind of the attack. This is according to an inspector general's review reported by "The New York Times."

The information, according to the I.G., most likely would have prompted deeper scrutiny into Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

So the entire state of Washington and parts of Oregon were without 911 service this morning. It is up and running again now. Authorities have been giving alternative numbers to call in case of an emergency. They're investigating now the cause of this outage.

Ahead for us @ THIS HOUR, a fresh ping heard in the ocean in the search for Flight 370 and stunning revelations from the Malaysian government, why are we now, 34 days into this search, just learning key details about Flight 370's final hours?

That's next.


BERMAN: All right, we want to talk more now about the startling new details coming from the Malaysian government just today, 34 days into the investigation. Investigators now say it was Flight 370's captain, Zaharie Shah, who said those last words to air traffic controllers, "Good night, Malaysian 370."

For a long time, we actually thought they were different words and we thought they were spoken by the co-pilot.

I'm joined again by Mary Schiavo and Jeff Wise to talk about this.

Before, guys, I talk about the last words there, I want to go back to another key piece of information that we just learned from Nic Robertson, the idea that the Malaysian military is now saying that it sent planes up into the air to search for Flight 370 the minute -- or when they learned it was missing, several hours later, not looking for debris. This was looking for the missing plane, or a sign for it in the sky there -- Mary, there have been questions all along, why didn't the Malaysians scramble jets?

Now, 34 days, for the first time, they're suggesting they sort of did. Is that strange to you?

SCHIAVO: Well, it's strange because of the time lag. I mean the communications stopped. And then what occurred in the next, you know, period of time, few hours or even, you know, minutes, etc. And then much later they scrambled, not escort jets, but search jets to go search for it. You know, there's just too many hours there that are unaccounted for. It's very unusual.

I think there needs to be a lot more information about what happened in that intervening time, in that gap. There's a big gap there when their plane's missing.

BERMAN: And it's also key to know, they searched in the Straits of Malacca. That is to the west of Malaysia. You know, when they started looking for debris, the first place they looked was the South China Sea, to the east of the Malaysian Peninsula. Now, at this late hour, we're actually learning, they're saying, they sent planes out to the South China Sea to first look for the plane, also.

But the story there keeps changing. And it's a little bit contradictory -- Jeff.

WISE: Well, yes, indeed. I mean it's -- if they, in fact, were searching over the Malacca Straits at 8:00 a.m. that same morning, it implies that they were aware of the track, that they had figured that into their calculations, that they were really on the ball and that they were all the places that they needed to be.

Were they really? I mean this is coming out really, really late in the game. Is it true? Is it just put out there to burnish their own reputation?

You know, and a part of this reporting is that -- that even though they went out there to search, they didn't tell the other civil authorities about it. I mean, it sort of boggles the imagination.

BERMAN: It does.

Speaking of stretching the bounds of the imagination, Mary, today we learned for the first time from these same Malaysian officials they now believe it was the pilot who spoke the last words from the cockpit. As we just said, for a while, they were saying it was the co-pilot.

Does it matter, in and of itself, in this investigation who said the last words, since we now believe they were so benign, "Good night, Malaysian 370?"

SCHIAVO: Well, it does, for a couple of reasons. We need to compare that with who made the other communications.

And if there was a switch, why was there a switch? Usually, it's the pilot not flying who does -- handles the radio communications. So at that point, had the pilot and co-pilot switched in terms of who was actually flying? Was the co-pilot still in the cockpit? And clearly, there was no -- they said there were no signs of distress, problems, any hints of stress in the pilot's voice, from captains and other pilots who flew with the captain at Malaysia Air. So at least up to that point, one things are normal and maybe the pilot had switched to the pilot not flying position. But it still sounds just completely benign.

BERMAN: And we do not know that. We do not know when and if they switched.


BERMAN: They do say that they heard no sign of a third person in the cockpit -- Jeff. And they also say there was no sign of duress in his voice. We're taking their word for it there.

WISE: But how could they have thought for so many weeks that it was one guy, then all of a sudden they decide it's the other guy?

I mean, is it that complicated to figure out who's talking? And if it is that complicated and hard to figure out who's talking, are they right now or were they right before?. So it's hard to really make sense...

SCHIAVO: Exactly.

WISE: -- of what we should assume from this information.

BERMAN: I think the questions in and of themselves here are, frankly, the story.

Jeff Wise and Mary Schiavo, thanks so much for being with us, trying to make sense of this right now. And all of a sudden, there's a lot new to try to make sense of. Appreciate it.

Ahead for us at this hour, he's been called a typical young kid from are an Ozzie and Harriet family. We know that can't possibly be the case. Now, 16-year-old Alex Hribal is charged in a mass stabbing at his school. What he told the authorities who took him into custody next.


BERMAN: Franklin Regional High School in Pennsylvania is closed again today, as that small community tries to make sense of a stabbing rampage that left almost two dozen people wounded.

Sixteen-year-old Alex Hribal faces four counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault. He will be tried as an adult.

A vigil was held last night in Murrysville, as several victims remained in the hospital. Among them is 14-year-old Brandon Brown. His great aunt told us that Brandon's lung was punctured when a knife pierced his abdomen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOANNE WITKOWSKI, GREAT AUNT OF 14-YEAR-OLD STABBING VICTIM: We understand that the knife was a five inch blade. So very deep, deep wounds.

Brandon was alert yesterday after surgery. And his message was that he wants justice. He did not know this child. He was an innocent victim. This was a methodical, intentional act of terror against innocent children. The physical injuries will heal and scars, but the emotional scars, how do you recover?


BERMAN: Fifty law enforcement agents, including some from the FBI, are working to get to the bottom of this gruesome stabbing spree.

Authorities have seized a cell phone, two computers from the home of the 16-year-old suspect, Alex Hribal. The DA announced just this hour that a preliminary hearing is set for April 30th.

Our Miguel Marquez covering the story on the ground in Murrysville, Pennsylvania.

And joining me here in New York, CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin -- Miguel, give us a sense of where this investigation stands right now. What are authorities saying about this young suspect?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly if anyone, God forbid, dies in the hospital, he will face more charges. Right now, it looks like everybody is coming through that all right. We know that the worst of the injured went through another surgery last night. And people who do know him and his family say that he is clinging on to life.

We also know that the FBI has been through his house and has gathered a ton of information. The school is still closed. It won't open until Monday. They are going to clean it up, but they're also gathering information.

We know a slew of students have been talked to by the FBI and others to take those statements to try to figure everything out. Those -- what those -- the cell phones, the computers and all the material they gathered from his home will prove crucial to their understanding of what set this young man off on such a horrid and gruesome crime -- John.

BERMAN: Looking for clues as to what happened. It had to be something. We do know, Sunny, who is here with me in New York, he is being tried as an adult.


BERMAN: What exactly does that mean? I assume that's not a surprise, but what are the implications there?

HOSTIN: Yes, well, I was actually surprised by it...


HOSTIN: -- because that decision is often made by the district attorney, along with a lot of other attorneys at a D.A.'s office. And it usually takes a little bit of time, because you want to evaluate the kid's mental state. You want to understand whether or not he can help and understand the charges against him, whether or not he can help his defense, whether or not there really is mental illness here.

So I was surprised that the decision was made very quickly. But this is clearly a serious case, I mean someone that almost kills 21 people needs to be held responsible for that.

And that's what this means, that he's being tried as an adult, that he faces the same penalties that an adult would face. I mean if you're talking about attempted homicide, those cases usually, if it's first degree, if he really intended and premeditated this, he could spend the rest of his life in prison with the possibility of parole. So it's -- the stakes are much higher in adult court.

BERMAN: And the lawyer is saying, you know, he comes from an Ozzie and Harriet House. There are no signs, they say, that anything was happening there. How does this figure into the legal proceedings? Something had to have been going on.

HOSTIN: Yes. You know, I think that his defense attorney has made it clear that he's going to try to move this to juvenile court, that he will file that motion and that he's -- they're trying to figure out what exactly happened.

We don't really understand mental health issues when it comes to the criminal justice system, unfortunately. I've had many cases where you do have a defendant that has issues and it comes up in sort of an insanity defense, as opposed to pretrial, where it comes in terms of punishment, you think this person really needs rehabilitation.

And so I think the next steps are his attorney and his family will find out what caused this young man who, by all accounts, seemed pretty average, to do something like this. I suspect that there really was some sort of mental health issue.

BERMAN: Miguel, quickly, how are they doing today in Murrysville?

MARQUEZ: I think still in shock. This is a very lovely little area. It's rolling hills. It's springtime. People are sort of -- it's rural. It's just idyllic. And to have this happen here, people are completely in shock. They were in shock while it was happening. They remain that way. But slowly they've been starting to understand that this sort of thing can happen absolutely anywhere.

One other thing to add to this discussion you guys are having about his mental health, when he was taken into custody yesterday, he kept saying to authorities, I just want to die, something to that effect. So it gives you an idea as to state of mind -- John.

BERMAN: All right. This is something they'll be looking into.

Miguel Marquez in Murrysville, Sunny Hostin here with me here in New York. Really appreciate it, guys.

Ahead for us at this hour, we're going to go live to Perth in Australia for details on the new pings detected just hours ago, detected in a different way. This time it was a search plane looking and listening for any trace of Flight 370. How much of a difference does this make?