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Search for Flight 370; Co-Pilot's Phone Detected During Flight; Crisis in Ukraine; Cross Examination Over at Pistorius Trial

Aired April 15, 2014 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a sea bed search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The Bluefin submarine returning to the ocean floor now for a second day after hitting its big hurdle. What it found on its first day on the job, this as new questions are raised about what was happening in the cockpit moments before that plane vanished.

We've got all these new angles live.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Pro-Russian protests spreading this morning in Ukraine, defying the country's demand they disarm. The standoff is escalating. Will civil war break out and will Russia officially get involved? We're live.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Thirty minutes past the hour. Really nice to see you here this Tuesday morning.

BLACKWELL: Good to be with you.

ROMANS: There is breaking news this morning in the search for Flight 370. The Navy just revealing that an underwater search vehicle, that Bluefin-21, it didn't see anything on this first trip scanning the ocean floor, nothing of interest, nothing related to the plane, and it was a trip that was cut short because this unmanned sub had descended to the maximum depth it could, some 15,000 feet below the ocean surface.

Now the Bluefin-21 is called the best hope yet for finding wreckage from this jet, and this morning, search crews are preparing to lower it again, again into the Indian Ocean to look once more for the plane that's been missing now for 39 days.

Erin McLaughlin live in Perth with the latest on the search. So they got it out there, they got it down for a couple of hours, had to pull it back out. Now they're going to try it all over again -- Erin.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Christine. I think it's important to remember that nothing happens quickly in waters this deep, and certainly, this is indicative of that. Authorities here saying that they found absolutely nothing from the two hours that it was down there searching the ocean floor. Really, though, that two hours would only allow it to search a fraction of the 15-square-mile area that was supposed to have been yesterday's mission, an area that authorities here had determined the most probable place to find the black box, based on the ping detections that they had picked up last week.

Now in terms of what happened, well, the Bluefin-21 went down there. It searched and it came across an area that was deeper than its depth capacity. It's only supposed to go some 4.5 kilometers or 2.8 miles beneath the ocean surface. It encountered waters deeper than that. And as a precaution, it just simply resurfaced.

Now technicians on board the Ocean Shield, we understand after they're downloading the data, they're also going to try and shift the search area to more shallow waters before sending it back down again, but here's the thing, weather is not permitting at the moment, has delayed everything. It's been some 18, 19 hours since the Bluefin has been in the water. So, again, this is looking like it's going to be potentially a slow and very painstaking process -- Christine.

ROMANS: Nothing happens quickly in waters this deep. That, I think, is -- that sums it up.

Erin McLaughlin, thank you.

BLACKWELL: This morning there are also new developments in the investigation into why Flight 370 turned off course. A U.S. official tells CNN a cell phone tower in Penang, Malaysia, tried to make contact with the co-pilot's cell phone about 30 minutes after the jet made its left turn and headed back over the Malay Peninsula. Now the phone apparently was turned on at the time.

Let's go to Kuala Lumpur and senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, who's been covering the investigation.

Nic, walk us through what this means. What do investigators believe was going on at that time of contact with this cell phone tower?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure. I mean, what we've got here, Penang on the west coast of Malaysia, you have the aircraft crossing over the Malaysian Peninsula, passing out into the Malacca Straits, Penang right on the coast there. Now we're told that the co-pilot's cell phone was on. We know that cell phones try to reach out and connect to the nearest cell phone tower -- to prepare themselves, to be ready to make a call, to get that connection to show the signal strength on the cell phone.

And it appears to have been part of that connection between the co- pilot's cell phone and the nearest cell phone tower in Penang on the coast there, as the plane passed overhead. What does that tell us? It potentially means that the aircraft was at a relatively low altitude as it came back across the Malaysian Peninsula. We know from sources here that about 80 miles further out to sea, the aircraft was down at about 4,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level. So, this information is sort of adding to the picture that we've been getting, that the plane was flying low back across the Malaysian Peninsula. We don't know, was the co-pilot trying to make a cell phone call? Was his phone automatically reaching out to try to sort of handshake, make a connection with the nearest cell phone tower? We don't know that. What officials here are saying, though, is that until they get the black box, the technology themselves to extract the data from the black box they cannot piece together all the pieces of information. Malaysians have said they do not have the technology themselves to extract the data from the black box.

We talked to the acting Transport minister today. He said it doesn't matter to him who is the person who actually extracts that data. This is what he said.


HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, ACTING MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER: I don't think it's important who gets custody as far as I'm concerned, and this is my own personal tradition. It's finding out the truth. And when going to find out the truth, definitely we have to review what's in the black box. So there is no question of it.


ROBERTSON: Now we do know that the Malaysian cabinet here has now authorized an international investigation committee to be set up here, so that's going to begin the process of putting together different international experts under what appears to be Malaysian leadership to sort of oversee and coordinate the whole of this -- the investigation here.

BLACKWELL: All right, so no indication of a dirty custody fight over the black box once they are retrieved.

Nic Robertson in Kuala Lumpur. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, Ukraine this morning is teetering on the brink of civil war, the government asking for international peacekeepers to help it deal with pro-Russian militants who have taken over government buildings and refuse to stand down. And despite promises that Ukrainian security forces will move in and force them out, no major operation has yet begun.

Now last night President Obama and Vladimir Putin, they spoke, trading barbs over who is behind the escalating violence.

Phil Black is live in Kharkiv, Ukraine, with the latest.

And, Phil, you know, this morning the international pressure on Russia building. The German foreign minister in a newspaper interview saying that Russia should distance itself from the unlawful actions of those pro-Russian demonstrators in Ukraine. And then you've got the secretary-general of NATO just with a statement, a tweet, really, "Russia should stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution."

This is an impasse that every day gets more and more dangerous. PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, that's right. And in the face of that very strong and growing international condemnation, Russia remains defiant, insisting that it has no role in anything that is taking place here in the east, that its operatives are not on the ground, that it is not orchestrating these small, seemingly coordinated uprisings, which is the claim that is made by the Ukrainian government and Western governments as well. They very strongly suspect that Moscow has a hand in all of this.

And no doubt this will all come to a head on Thursday when Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union are scheduled to hold talks on the fate of Ukraine in Geneva. But in the build-up to that, what we are seeing here on the ground is these pro-Russian militants and supporters very much consolidating their control in towns and cities across Ukraine's eastern frontier, up close to the border with Russia.

And to the point where the Ukrainian government seems to be at a loss on just what to do next. Its authority is leaking away. It has tried to talk tough, talk of force, threats, ultimatums. That has not worked. It has also tried to be more conciliatory with talks of amnesty, and indeed, negotiations and political inclusiveness going forward. That has had no impact as well. And now we've had this suggestion from the Ukrainian acting president for an international peacekeeping force, which would see the fairly extraordinary circumstance of international soldiers here in eastern Ukraine, potentially facing off against Russian forces across the border.

That's what he's talking about. You've got to say it seems pretty unlikely. It is difficult to imagine other governments wanting to see their forces in that situation, but of course, it would need approval from the U.N. Security Council. That's where Russia has a veto. But what the Ukrainian government is clearly saying is that it does need more international support to stop this country from breaking apart even further and to deal with the ongoing threat it believes is coming from Moscow -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Phil Black this morning. Thank you so much, Phil.

BLACKWELL: Breaking news overnight, severe storms tearing down homes in the south, and the danger does not stop there.

Indra Petersons is tracking the latest, next.


ROMANS: Boston and the nation paused today to mark a solemn anniversary, one year since a bomb attack on the Boston marathon, an attack that left three dead and more than 260 injured. A memorial ceremony set for this afternoon, bringing together survivors, the people who helped them, and their families.

There will be a moment of silence to mark the exact time when the first bomb went off. Still, the city seems more focused on moving forward than looking back. Boston Strong banners are everywhere and the marathon will go on as scheduled next week with many runners taking to the course, they say, to honor those who were affected by that bombing.

BLACKWELL: It could be another dangerous day of weather from the south to the northeast. Severe storms are marching their way east now. And take a look at these pictures. These are from Mississippi, not far from Biloxi. Officials say the strong winds here caused all this. Flipped over some trailers, an RV park there. Dozens were damaged, two people hurt.

ROMANS: Indra Petersons tracking the storm for us, and the big differences as you can expect today -- Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A lot of them. We're talking about severe weather, we're talking about rain and even snow. Yes, you can actually see it right now. And take a look at current conditions. You're talking about very warm temperatures so we had the warm front ahead of the cold front. Look at the difference behind it. We're talking about snow already right now towards Cincinnati, and yes, those temperatures quickly dropping to the freezing mark, if not below.

So let's take it one step at a time. Look at the southeast, still talking about a threat for severe weather. You can actually see the explosive nature of all the instability out here, all this rain spreading into the northeast today. So where do we have the severe weather risk? Remember, we showed you that video of those strong straight-line winds? Look for those again today from Norfolk all the way back down through about Jacksonville, Florida.

Heavy thunderstorms will be out there, even some large hail is possible. Then comes the rains, some heavy rain, even filling into the northeast, but behind it, look at this, what is the white? We're talking snow this late in the season? Yes, we are. We're going to zoom in a little bit closer, bulk of this happening in these overnight hours.

Look at this, we even have the threat for some flurries out towards New York City, even Philly tonight. And notice that cold air it fills in, look at that, going towards the freezing mark and even down into the southeast we're talking about that huge temperature drop out there.

Here we go. Who's going to see the most snow? Yes, of course, upstate New York, places like Vermont, but again, flurries, Philly, New York City, yes, don't be surprised. Heavy rain will be the big story, but again behind it, it's all about that big temperature drop. Looks good for about another day in the northeast, but it goes, oh, down so quickly.

BLACKWELL: I come to visit for just a couple of days, and this is the welcome that you offer?


PETERSONS: Here comes the blame I was talking about.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Indra. PETERSONS: You're welcome, Victor.

ROMANS: Just the facts. She just has the facts.

BLACKWELL: Wow. I get it.

ROMANS: All right, let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Kate Bolduan joins us.

Hi, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Good morning, guys. We're following the new developments as you are in the search for Flight 370. Search crews are putting the submersible Bluefin back into the water today. It's the first day of -- as the first day of searching hit a snag when it reached its maximum depth much earlier than expected.

So will this technology really work, or is this going to lead to another dead end yet today? Our aviation experts are going to be joining us to help break us down, better understand the technology and better understand the topography of the ocean floor.

We're also watching the tense standoff in Ukraine this morning. Pro- Russian demonstrators continue to occupy government buildings in the eastern part of the country and President Obama and president -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, they spoke on the phone yesterday about the violence.

We're going to analyze, we're going to talk about what they said, what was said to each other and if it will have any effect on Russia's influence in Ukraine and the continuing -- the situation that just continues to escalate there.

Christiane Amanpour is going to be joining us as well as military experts to take a look at what's going to happen.

ROMANS: All right. Looking forward to that.

BLACKWELL: All right. Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

BLACKWELL: Hey, happening right now, a sigh of relief from Oscar Pistorius. His cross examination at his murder trial, it comes to an end after several intense days. We're live next.


BLACKWELL: In South Africa right now, Oscar Pistorius is testifying for a seventh day at his murder trial, being questioned now by his own attorney, now that the intense cross examination has come to an end.

Prosecutors spent the morning trying to catch the sprinter in inconsistencies over what happened the night he shot and killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERRIE NEL, PROSECUTOR: You said we should blame you for having taken a life. That's what you said yesterday, am I right?

OSCAR PISTORIUS: That's correct, my lady.

NEL: Who should be blamed for you having shot her?

PISTORIUS: My lady, I believed that there was a threat that was on my life.

NEL: So, once again, we have -- we shouldn't blame you for the fact that you shot her. Am I right?

PISTORIUS: I agree with Mr. Nel, my lady.

NEL: That we shouldn't blame you. Then who should we blame? We should blame somebody or something. Who should be blamed?

PISTORIUS: I'm not sure, my lady.

NEL: Should we blame Reeva?

PISTORIUS: No, my lady.

NEL: She never told you she's going to the toilet. Should we not blame her?

PISTORIUS: No, my lady.

NEL: Should we blame the government?

PISTORIUS: I don't know who one should blame, my lady.

NEL: I'm asking -- you must be blaming somebody for this.

PISTORIUS: I don't, my lady. I believed there was a threat.


BLACKWELL: CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps is at the courthouse in Pretoria.

Kelly, so the cross examination is now and it was contentious at many points. Take a look at it over the five-day span of this cross examination, and what is your feeling, your perception of what was accomplished during those days?

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's really too soon to tell what was accomplished because we can look at cross examination in and of its own right, but that's not the way the judge and the assessors will be looking at it. That they'll be considering his portion of testimony in relation to all the evidence of the trial.

We can infer how Pistorius' legal team thinks that they've fared in this because they have just completed their re-examination of Pistorius. And in stark contrast to all of the days spent on the stand poring over details by the prosecution, Pistorius's legal team essentially stood up and finished within a matter of minutes, picking on just four key points that they chose to re-examine and emphasize from the court.

So they clearly don't feel too raffled by how things have gone. I think what Nel did manage to do finally for the first time in the trial really was put a very clear version of his narrative of what the state, in essence, accuses Mr. Pistorius of actually committing that night, which up until now we haven't been exactly clear how they've said that evening played out, and he did put a clear version of that on the record.

But the defense knows they still have other witnesses to put on the stand, and they clearly feel that they still have a case to present.

BLACKWELL: We know the burden is on the state to prove its case, but are you surprised that after five days of cross examination that the redirect was just a few minutes?

PHELPS: No, I'm not surprised at all. In fact, it's entirely what I expected. And the reason I say that is that it provides a counterbalance from a strategic perspective to the strategy that Mr. Nel put forward, and these two gentlemen know each other's strategies very well. This is not the first time they've appeared in a case together.

So while Mr. Nel's strategy was all about drawing it out for a long period of time, essentially confusing the issue and then trying to trip Pistorius up, Mr. Roux took the exact opposite strategy. He went in for a short, sharp re-examination and simply highlighted to the court, essentially trying to rise up from the white noise, what they believe are core, key contentions that cause trouble for the state's case.

BLACKWELL: Interesting. One more thing, can you explain for us or describe what we're not seeing and who we're not seeing, especially, obviously, Oscar Pistorius, who's decided not to appear on camera, but give us an idea of his disposition, his posture in this courtroom.

PHELPS: Well, today his posture was a lot more composed than it had been yesterday, but throughout his period on the stand, we have seen him veer at times from quite composed and very focused and determined, directing his evidence straight towards the judge, not looking back once at Mr. Nel speaking to him.

We've seen it veer from that to be very emotional, sort of crunching down into himself again, hands on head, and then also at times, probably quite understandably so we've seen some signs of frustration and sighing and his head going back as he sat through and endured that grueling cross examination from Mr. Nel.

So we've seen him veer from all different states throughout this very long, over a week that he's been on the stand.

BLACKWELL: And it continues. Kelly Phelps there for us in Pretoria, thanks.

ROMANS: All right. Six minutes to the top of the hour. We'll be right back.


ROMANS: Welcome back. We're watching futures today. European stocks are lower right now so are futures. We have several hours before the opening bell, so things can always change. That's the way the markets look right now. But it's tax day. Have you filed your taxes? Today is the deadline. And you can find lots of tax day deals out there. A free snack-size curly fries, hey, at Arby's, special chicken deal at Boston Market.


ROMANS: And look at this, stress relief, hydro massage offering free sessions. Hand & Stone -- excuse me, Hand & Stone also offering a discount. I know, I'm not sure what those are, but if you know what they are, stress relief.

Speaking of stress, maybe the social media and PR departments at U.S. Airways needs some stress relief because the airline is apologizing for a very big, bad Twitter blunder. Yesterday, U.S. Airways sent out a lewd tweet when responding to a customer complaint. Instead of including a link to the customer help site, U.S. Airways tweeted a pornographic image.

The company said the photo had been tweeted at them and tagged for removal, but obviously, they messed up and somehow re-tweeted it. They're currently reviewing procedure to see how the mix-up occurred, #fail. I guarantee you all PR people this morning are all saying, oh, wow, we've got to make sure that never happens to us.

BLACKWELL: And who is managing our account.

ROMANS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: Thanks for joining us this morning on EARLY START. Stay with us. "NEW DAY" starts right now.