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Sources: Plane Sharply Dropped Altitude; Australian PM: "Confident" Pings From Black Box; Clinton Dodges Shoe in Las Vegas; Ten Killed, 30 Plus Injured In Bus Truck Crash

Aired April 11, 2014 - 06:30   ET

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


DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: So, there's credibility to that in that trying to get below that radar. There is discussion as to whether radar can catch the airplane down below 5,000 feet.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's show an animation that we have to talk exactly about the radar. We can show it cruising altitude, it's about 35,000 feet. We'll show where this plane was cruising at.

And as it drops down, it says that it dropped down below 5,000 -- between 4,000 and 5,000 feet, which the argument is that is below radar detection. It stayed there and disappeared from radar for 120 nautical miles. That seems very brief.

SOUCIE: It's very brief. In fact, it's less than 20 -- about 24 minutes depending on your speed. So why it would be down there, I can't explain that. We're still asking the why, of course, on everything.

BOLDUAN: Because you wonder if it went down for an emergency maneuver because there was smoke in the cockpit why didn't it stay down there?

SOUCIE: It would have had to have stayed there. To think about getting back up to 35,000 feet, if it was because there was no oxygen, then you're back up there, there is no oxygen, you know? So, why would you do that?

BOLDUAN: I know there's a lot of questions still to be asked, how quickly it did ascend once again. That's one question that we don't exactly know --

SOUCIE: Or descend.

BOLDUAN: Or descend, because how -- what would this feel like the you dropped from 35,000 to let's say 4,500.

SOUCIE: Well, we have to kind of understand the data which we don't have all of it yet, but we have one point where it exited below 5,000 feet and one where it entered above 5,000 feet. So, getting there and getting out of there, we don't know. If it was dramatic like this, which is I don't think what they're saying, what it could have been is a slow descent. If they had done a dramatic descent, it's very dramatic. You can dive it up to 14,000, 15,000 feet per minute, which is incredibly fast. In fact, you've got people screaming in the airplane at that point. That's how dramatic it is.

BOLDUAN: From your experience, does this suggest -- we don't know the why. But does this suggest what investigators have said all along a lot of this came because of deliberate action in the cockpit? Does this need to be deliberate?

SOUCIE: To me, it does more than suggest it because to program something like that it would go down to 5,000 feet and back up again would take some planning, it would take the ability to preprogram those movements and all that change. It's not something that would be in a scratch pad where you can just transfer the information over. This is a pretty extensive procedure for how to put all of that in.

So, it indicates to me that there was intent and then back up again if the data is correct.

BOLDUAN: What's your big lingering question with regard to this one aspect of the investigation?

SOUCIE: Lingering question again is mostly why did it come back up again? I have reasonable explanation for why they would decide to go down. If at that point they lost radio communication, they knew their navigation wasn't proper and they started heading this direction and they were lost, say, the safest thing to do is to get below 18,000 feet, out of the commercial airspace area and try to get down below there so they can avoid causing any damage to anybody else in the area.

What I don't understand is why then go back up to 35,000 feet. It makes no sense to me whatsoever.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that is the perplexing part. David, thank you very much -- trying to help us explain what's still an unexplainable situation. But the investigation continues -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks so much, Kate.

Let's take a look at the top stories right now.

The death toll rising overnight in a fiery crash involving a FedEx truck and a charter bus packed with high school students on Interstate 5 in California. Both of the drivers were killed along with five students and three adult chaperones on the bus. Police say the truck crossed over the median and onto coming traffic and collided head-on with the bus, which was taking seniors on a college tour in northern California. More than 30 people were injured in this crash.

The suspect in a deadly hit and run accident in a Florida day care center is in custody this morning. Police say Robert Corchado fled the scene after his SUV rear-ended another car and sent it crashing into the day care center. He turned himself in late Thursday after a statewide manhunt. A 4-year-old girl was killed and 13 other children and one adult were injured in this accident.

There are new questions about the motive for the teen who stabbed 21 people at a Pennsylvania high school. The attorney for 16-year-old Alex Hribal suggests he may have been bullied, although the FBI refutes that. The lawyer wants Hribal to have a psychiatric evaluation, eight students remain hospitalized after Wednesday's attack. Three of them are in critical condition.

All right. A brief scare and an impressive recovery for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A woman threw a shoe at her during a speech in Las Vegas. But wait until you see how she responded.

Brianna Keilar has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: In about two -- what was that, a bat? Was that a bat? That's somebody throwing something at me? Is that part of Cirque du Soleil?

(LAUGHTER)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hillary Clinton cracking jokes just seconds after a woman hurled a shoe at her during a paid speech in Las Vegas to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

CLINTON: I didn't know solid waste management was so controversial.

KEILAR: The hurler who slipped in without a ticket was immediately subdued and taken into custody. It's not the first time objects have been thrown at a politician. An Iraqi journalist chucked not one but two shoes at President Bush during this news conference and protesters in Egypt through tomatoes and then Secretary of State Clinton's motorcade.

The latest incident nowhere near as threatening.

CLINTON: Thank goodness she didn't play softball like I did.

KEILAR: Perhaps an item for her new memoir which her publishers said this week will come out in mid-June. Until then, expect some more dodging from Clinton, not shoes but questions about her presidential ambitions.

CLINTON: And I am thinking about it.

KEILAR: Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: I frankly am very impressed by the jokes that came immediately after. I know you were questioning how quick her physical reaction was. You think she should have reacted more quickly. CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Look, I think politics is all about comparison. And I think President Bush's ducking of the shoe overseas was quicker and more impressive. This was wide left.

BOLDUAN: She we -- this came out of left field. Let's test it out.

Berman, pretend giving a speech at Mandalay Bay, go!

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Actually catch the shoe?

CUOMO: Cat like. I knew you were going to throw it at me.

But I'll tell you, the jokes were very impressive and they show something that's important for her. She's not taking herself that seriously. That was good.

BERMAN: Solid waste management joke followed by a Cirque de Soleil joke.

BOLDUAN: I want you to contemplate how Chris would have reacted if the show would have been thrown at him. Just contemplate it.

CUOMO: Then, tweet me. Would you throw a shoe at me?

BERMAN: #yes.

BOLDUAN: #youwouldbehurtingafterwards. OK.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY: too little too late. We're following report that Malaysia's military scrambled planes hours after Flight 370 disappeared. The question, why would it take so long? We're going to take you behind that decision.

BOLDUAN: Plus, we're going -- we have to follow up on this bus and truck collision that claimed the lives of several high school students in California. The images are so difficult to see. It's such a devastating crash. We're going to talk with a police official on the scene about what possibly could have caused this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Malaysian government official tells CNN that their air force jets were scrambled just hours after Flight 370 went missing. Malaysia Transportation Ministry is denying that report. Now, that's confusing. We're used to that in this investigation.

But it does raise questions about what happened during those crucial first hours. Because if you recall, the report from the military which was supposedly new information, we got it from Nic Robertson yesterday who is over there unpacking this story for us, was that they actually knew that the plane had gone across the peninsula and it scrambled jets after it. So, joining us now is Colonel Cedric Leighton, a retired member of the U.S. Air Force and a senior service adviser.

Colonel, very good to have you with us this morning.

So, let's look at this one step at a time. All right? Something familiar from the investigation.

The military says they scrambled jets. The Ministry of Transportation denies the report. Is there any way to make sense of that type of confusion? It is either true or it is not.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET): Exactly, Chris. Good morning.

It is one of those area where's clearly the Malaysian government is speaking with not one voice but at least two and probably more than that. So, they don't have their message out right. In this particular case if you scramble jets, that's going to be a military responsibility, so I would lend more credence to the military's statement on this than the Transportation Ministry's statement on this particular issue.

CUOMO: Especially when you build in the next factor, which is, it took hours to do it which raises the question why did it take so long and would it even be effective at that point?

LEIGHTON: Well, exactly. And when you look at something like that, if you scramble a jet, what you're doing, Chris, is you want to get to the area that you're interested in very, very quickly. You know, scrambling a jet means you're going fast. You're putting it on after burner and you're going after the target.

You know, usually it's an unidentified object that you see on radar and you're trying to really ascertain what that object is, whether or not that object is a threat and whether or not you need to shoot that object down.

And so, in this particular case when you see what they did and the fact that it apparently took them many, many hours to do that, the idea of scrambling a jet at that moment is highly ineffective, to say the least.

CUOMO: Then, we hear that they scrambled them to the west, which now kind of coordinates with what they're telling us they believe the flight path was and yet the original search area was north and east and also west. Why would they have been looking north and east if they know they scrambled jets to the west?

LEIGHTON: Well, it makes no sense. It clearly indicates that there was some faulty communication. One possibility here is that the jet -- the jets that were scrambled were operating on different information and may have not known that the target that they were looking at on radar, that resulted in the jet scramble, was actually MH370. That could possibly explain why they were doing the search and rescue mission on the eastern side of Malaysia and a scramble on the western side. They may not have known that it was the same object.

But in this particular case, it's clearly shows that there is a lack of coordination between the civil aviation authorities, which would be the Transportation Ministry, and the military authorities, which, of course, would be handling any threats to the country of Malaysia.

CUOMO: Another detail that needs testing this morning. This information that they believe the plane dipped to low altitude, especially for a 777, may be as low as 5,000 feet. Assuming they have a way of knowing this, assuming they're right, it is fueling all of this talk of an intentional act to possibly avoid radar. Does it shape up as that to you?

LEIGHTON: Well, 5,000 feet is still pretty high in most radar coverage would allow for radar to pick up a flying plane at about 5,000 feet.

However, it is possible given the particular terrain that you're dealing with in that part of the Malaysian peninsula, there are mountains that are higher than 5,000 feet, it is possible to fly an aircraft below mountain level, which would be about 7,000 feet in some of those areas and that then could result in the aircraft being masked at least for a brief period of time from radar coverage.

That area is primarily a jungle area. It's right on the Thai/Malaysian border. There are gaps in radar coverage as obviously we are learning right now. It is possible for an aircraft to dip below 7,000 feet and not come out on radar or at least not be seen as an object that merits attention. So it is theoretically possible, but at some point they're going to pick it up coming in and going out. So that's the key area where there's some problem with that particular idea.

CUOMO: And then, of course, you have the real confounding detail that it is believed to have returned to normal flight altitude, which would obviously have undone any hiding that it had done before that. So let me end with this, Colonel, do you believe that they scrambled jets? Do you believe they did that?

LEIGHTON: Well, it would not be what I would call a scramble in the traditional sense of the word. If it were a reaction at the time that they saw the actual radar blip and couldn't identify that radar blip and then they scrambled jets, in other words, they went right at that moment in time to intercept that particular radar signature then it would be a true scramble.

In this particular case, to scramble jets at a point in time many hours after the plane went missing and many hours after the radar blip was reported, is to the a true scramble and is a complete waste of resources from a military standpoint.

CUOMO: So the military doesn't really have a lot of motivation to lie about that because it's not something that makes them look good necessarily. So you put some credibility in that report. Colonel, thank you very much. Appreciate the perspective this morning. Helpful. LEIGHTON: You bet, Chris. My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, coming up, the latest on a bus and truck collision that killed several high school students in California. We're going to talk to a police official on the scene about what went wrong.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. We're following breaking news this morning. A college trip for high school seniors in the L.A. area turned into a deadly collision when a truck slammed into their bus head-on. Ten people are dead including five of the students.

Lacey Heitman is public information officer for the California Highway Patrol. She's joining us from Orland, California. Thank you very much for joining us. What can you tell us about how this happened?

LACEY HEITMAN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL: Well, at this time, the cause of the collision is still under investigation. What we do know is that the FedEx big rig was headed southbound on Interstate 5. The reason that it crossed over the center median and into the oncoming traffic is still under investigation at this time. It did sideswipe a small white sedan before it collided head-on with the bus with the students.

CUOMO: And what do we know about how the victims are doing?

HEITMAN: We do have the nine confirmed deceased. We do have one that is still under critical condition at U.C. Davis. Thirty five total were transported to the local hospitals with moderate to minor injuries.

CUOMO: Lacey, how do you explain how people are either killed seemingly almost instantly in this crash or pretty much were able to walk away? It's unusual, isn't it?

HEITMAN: It's very unusual. In fact, when I arrived on scene I was surprised that anyone walked away from the collision. As you can see, the damage is just horrendous and the entire front of the bus, as well as the big rig, are just completely charred.

CUOMO: The people inside the bus, are they able to tell you what it was like after the collision, how the bus responded, what kind of -- what they had to deal with to get out?

HEITMAN: You know, sir, I have not been able to speak to any of the students personally, so I have not heard any of their stories. I know it took a mass effort from, you know, local fire departments and ambulances and the highway patrol and sheriff's department, everyone kind of pulled together and got here and got the students off the bus as soon as possible.

CUOMO: We're actually hearing the response was immediate and that made all the difference. How quickly was this effort coordinated and how extensive was it?

HEITMAN: You know, we had a highway patrol unit that was just a couple miles down the road from the collision, so him being able to see the smoke, to almost visibly see the collision from a far distance, he immediately got units and fire departments and ambulances rolling to the scene and that was absolutely vital in the survival of many of the students.

CUOMO: And the investigation is obviously going to continue into why this happened. At this point, is there any kind of issue of blame other than just bad driving? Is there any kind of suggestion that anything else was at play?

HEITMAN: No, sir. Until the investigation is complete, and likely an autopsy is performed, we won't know the reason for the collision until our multi-disciplinary accident investigation team concludes their investigation, which could take up to a couple of months. They have a lot of facts and evidence to gather and put together and put all the pieces of the puzzle together to find out what happened.

CUOMO: It's just amazing that he had -- not for that fast response, who knows what would have happened because once these two vehicles went up, as we can see from the pictures, it was just an inferno. How long did it take to put it out?

HEITMAN: I'm unsure of the time. I know with the quick response, the fire didn't spread very far. It was contained rather quickly due to the quick response.

CUOMO: Boy, it's amazing just looking at the pictures that people walked away and you were able to quiet down those flames. Everybody is going to be very interested to hear why this happened because it's just horrible. Kids so young having lives stopped so short. Adults as well. Lacey, thank you very much. Appreciate the information this morning.

HEITMAN: Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: All right, so we've been following this crash. We also have a lot more on the search for Flight 370. So we're going to be taking you through these stories with the latest information from everywhere the story is happening right now. Let's get to it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are confident that we know the position of the black box flight recorder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is in flames already.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was one person when we arrived on scene who was on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a who done it. This is a question of why.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My best friend jumped in front of me and takes the knife for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was going through my mind, will I survive or will I die?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It is Friday, April 11th, 7:00 now in the east. New this morning, search teams have closed in on Flight 370. They say to within just a few miles. Those are the words of Australia's prime minister telling reporters that they're, quote, "very confident" those pings picked up over the last several days are from the plane's black box. And we have new information about the final hours of the flight itself. Let's begin with Matthew chance live from Perth -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, thanks very much. The Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, briefly raising hopes that some progress had been made over the course of the past 24 hours. He was speaking to China, of course, Chinese people the majority on board the missing Malaysian Airliner. They're intensely interested in progress.

He went a little further, I think it's fair to say, than any other Australian official had gone in terms of characterizing that progress saying that they were confident that the signals that had been listened to under the surface of the Indian Ocean were from the black box flight recorders. They had narrowed down the search within a mile or so.

In fact, according to the man who is overseeing the multinational search effort, Angus Houston, there's been no real breakthrough, no significant breakthrough, in the past 24 hours. So Angus Houston attempting to claw back a little bit under raised anticipation that the remarks by the Australian prime minister had made.

Never the less, the search area has diminished significantly. It's now down to about 18,000 square miles, which you think about a week ago or so it was more than 80,000 square miles of search area. So there has been a significant amount of progress since then. Back to you -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Matthew Chance in Perth, Australia, for us. Matthew, thank you so much for that update.

Let's talk about all the new developments here to break it down. Miles O'Brien, a CNN aviation analyst and a science correspondent for PBS "News Hour" and also Mary Schiavo, CNN aviation analyst and former inspector general for the Department of Transportation and now an attorney who represents victims and families after airplane disasters.

Good morning once again to both of you. Mary, I want to start with you. I want to start where Matthew Chance began. The statement from the prime minister this morning is saying we're very confident the signals from the black boxes are the missing plane and then he says we are confident we know the position of the black box flight recorder to within some kilometers. That's going further than we can say anyone really has, especially someone of his position to this point. And that seems to really narrow it down more than the search area we've discussed so far. What do you think?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, that is a significant narrowing because when we last heard the pings were some 17 miles apart and that would make a very large search area for the submersibles. If we have it narrowed down, one Bluefin-21 can cover about 40 square miles, as they call it, mowing the ocean floor a day. So that would indeed be good news for the crew that's going to put the submersibles down to start searching.

I would question how they were able to do that if the most recent ping turned, as they mentioned, turned out not to be a signal from the sunken black boxes but, however they did it, narrowing it down is hugely important.

BOLDUAN: I was wondering the same thing. This would seem more plausible if that ping had been connected to the black box. But there is more information that, of course, I assume they are not giving it publicly.

Miles, according to the joint agency, the coordination center out of Australia, they now say they have two search areas today totaling about 18 square miles, these two areas. We were at 500 square miles yesterday as far as the search area that we knew. Do you think this is small enough that they should put in the Bluefin?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, you know, if they have any expectation that those pingers are energizer bunnies and are still going, I think they're going to keep doing what they're doing because the more you can narrow down that search he better off you are. As slow as this is, it's going to be much slower when we get into the unmanned vehicle, the Bluefin and doing it sonar search. That's just a very laborious process. It will stretch on for quite some time. It's easy to look at this and say let's just get the sonar going on this area, but it's still a pretty big area and will take some time.