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Bluefin-21 Completes First Full Mission; ROV to Find Flight 370 ; ROV Would Be Used To Find Flight 370; Families Demand Answers About Search; Ferry Sinks, Crews Race To Find Survivors

Aired April 17, 2014 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone.

Crews desperately search for hundreds of people missing after a ferry sank off of South Korea's coast. At least nine people are dead but officials expect that number to rise and it could rise substantially. Most of the passengers on board, high school students headed on vacation. Some hope that survivors could be alive inside air pockets on that ship.

But time is running out. More than a day has passed. The icy water there can kill a person within just a few hours.

Now, the latest in the search for Flight 370. Preliminary tests of oil slick in the search area show it is not aircraft engine oil or hydraulic fluid. Data from the Bluefin-21 mini sub is being analyzed after it completed its first full mission underwater. Australia's prime minister says he expects the best leads in the search will be exhausted in about a week. After that, he says crews will have to reassess what they're doing.

Breaking this morning in Ukraine. More violence that could heighten tensions with Russia. Three people were killed, 100 stormed the Ukrainian military base. This came hours ahead of international talks between leaders from Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and also Europe. In the meantime, Russian President Vladimir Putin is admits troops were in Crimea during the referendum to join Russia and blames Kiev for not opening a constructive dialogue.

And royals Down Under. The duke and duchess of Cambridge are touring across Australia after a visit to New Zealand as usual, William and Kate drew huge crowds wherever they went when they seem to mix well with the locals. The couple met with Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Sydney. This is Kate's first trip to Australia. I for one am glad we got to share this milestone with her -- Kate.


As we mentioned, the Bluefin-21 completed its first full mission overnight to try and find Flight 370. But crews are facing some very tough challenges both above and below the Indian Ocean. Even as new analysis has further refined the search area. Let's dig deeper on both, above and below.

Meteorologist Indra Petersons is here, as well as David Gallo, the co- leader of the search Air France Flight 477, and director of special projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. We'll get to David in one second to talk about the search below the water and below the surface.

But, Indra, we've talked about how weather has been a factor. For many, they don't understand because they would think that it doesn't apply when they're under the water.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I mean, you have to take a look at this video. It makes it very to see. You have to take a crane out here and you literally have to lower something that weighs about 1,500 pounds. That's like a small smart car here that you have to lower into the ocean.

And keep in mind, you want to watching for, sometimes when you have high wave heights, you can literally have the ship get in the way of the launch and have that come underneath the ship and be sucked in by the propeller.

BOLDUAN: And something so expensive and so important, you have to be careful.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and on both sides of the equipment, you also have the sonar. So, you really want to be watching the calibration, and the fact if that hits the side of the ship. You're talking about ruining the entire mission.

Let's talk about the weather conditions out there and what we're concerned with right now.

First thing they're going to have to watch, of course, is going to be the direction of wind. Not only is it coming from the southeast of what side you want to launch off of, but, again, you don't want this sucked underneath the boat or you could ruin this valuable equipment. One of the concerns lately is the winds have been kicking up, where you start to see the blues -- 20, 30-mile-per-hour winds out there. Of course, it's important for what's going on on the surface but also means the wave height starts kicking up.

So, with that, we no longer sticking that five-foot range. So, we start to see some 10-foot waves out there. That is tricky for launching this piece of equipment into the water. The other thing that's going on is the window. When can they launch this piece of equipment?

Well, recently, you've been seeing some thunderstorms picking up throughout the area. That closes that window when you start to see those thunderstorms. Of course, keep in mind that doesn't just affect visibility and wave height but you're talking about that turbulent weather. So, that's going to be the concern and, of course, the visibility as well.

So, a lot of things to be factoring in. It's not as simple as just taking a piece of equipment, dropping in the ocean as something expensive as this, there are a lot of considerations to put into place -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right. And that's just above the surface, Indra. Thanks so much. David Gallo is here to talk about the additional challenges below the surface. You and I have talked many times about the topography and how that can pose a challenge.


BOLDUAN: Let's talk about other challenges the Bluefin would be facing. I want to show you our first animation here. One thing, if you think about it, it makes sense. One thing it's going to come up against is the sheer darkness.

How dark it is down there. Why does that matter when it comes to the Bluefin?

GALLO: Well, in this first stage it doesn't matter too much. When you get to the camera stage, visibility is important because they want to take photos of the things on the bottom so you want the best chance of clear water so light will penetrate, you get a decent photo.

BOLDUAN: As we know, that's going to be the key because the sonar is using sound waves.

GALLO: Sound. Yes, but it's not affected by the darkness but the camera will be.

BOLDUAN: Yes, exactly right. You've got to have that because you need to pinpoint where you're going to go, what you have, and if you're ever going to be able to bring it up.

GALLO: Right.

BOLDUAN: Another challenge that I find interesting is a temperature -- the temperature down. What are the temperatures?

GALLO: Once you get below 1,000 feet, even more towards 2,000 feet, the ocean is almost just above freezing because sunlight doesn't penetrate that deep into water, so it's incredibly cold.

BOLDUAN: So, that -- we can understand the affect on the human body but what is the affect on a piece of machinery like the Bluefin?

GALLO: It can get more brittle but it's more the pressure that is the thing that affects the strums more.

BOLDUAN: We have an animation for the pressure that can build up. You can understand. If you've ever gone scuba diving you can understand pressure just barely.

GALLO: Positively.

BOLDUAN: It's been described as an elephant balancing on a postage stamp. It's a pretty interesting visual. What is the impact of pressure at that depth?

GALLO: Well, you want to get the instrument back so you have to have the metals to keep the electronics safe but you've got to have equal amount of flotation to get them back up to the surface. So, you want to protect that so that doesn't implode and the electronics, the housings don't implode, too.

BOLDUAN: As we talk about it imploding, it wouldn't necessarily completely implode and disintegrate but it would damage the Bluefin enough that it would be inoperable?

GALLO: Anything with an air pocket, Kate, is going to get crushed. And not only crushed but once it gets crushed it explodes outwards because of the incredible violence of that. So, it can take out the vehicle without too much trouble at all.

BOLDUAN: With that consideration, what then -- how do they factor that into when they decided to go deeper than they originally thought? From 4,500 meters to 5,000 meters, is there a big difference there?

GALLO: There's a big difference. But they have a way of adjusting the software and looking at the components. I'm sure they built big margins in the safety of that vehicle so they could stretch their operating depth out a little bit.

BOLDUAN: They wouldn't be doing it unless they knew --

GALLO: I'm sure the teams are positively share that it's safe to do.

BOLDUAN: At we one moment what do you think the biggest challenge is for the teams as they consider putting the Bluefin in and for the Bluefin? Is it the conditions above the water as Indra is pointing out or below?

GALLO: It's all that stuff. It's the launch. It's the recovery because you don't want to have the vehicle on the surface and not be able to pick it up. It's the rhythm of getting into the team getting into the rhythm of launch recovery data analysis, uploading, downloading, that stuff. That's probably the most important thing right now.

BOLDUAN: And as you said, the first two attempts with glitches, you don't really consider them failures. They're just getting their feet wet.

GALLO: It's very common when you've got high technology in a situation like this to have those issues.

BOLDUAN: David, thank you very much. Indra, thank you, as well.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's go from looking for records to what happens if we find it.

When we come back on NEW DAY, if they do find something from Flight 370, that's where an ROV comes in. That is a remotely operated vehicle. And that's what's going to get the black box. We're going to show you how one of these things works, ahead.


CUOMO: Welcome back.

Right now an unmanned, underwater vehicle, the Bluefin-21, is about to head back into the ocean to scan the seafloor for flight 370.

Now, if the device finds the plane's wreckage what happens next?

Rosa Flores has the answer.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This could be the key to solving the mystery of Flight 370. It's a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV for short.

Once wreckage of Flight 370 is identified, an ROV like this one is likely the next crucial step in finding the plane's black box.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of the hydraulic is running.

FLORES: It's controlled from the surface using this joy stick, has lights to illuminate the stark black of the ocean deep.

Cameras transmitting back footage in real-time. And high frequency sonar to combat the notoriously difficult visibility in the area of the Indian Ocean where the plane is believed to be.

But most importantly, the ROV has robotic arms called manipulators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has jaws, open and close the jaws.

FLORES: They are essentially mechanical hands, able to retrieve objects from the ocean floor, are deeper than any human could withstand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Strand and retract.

FLORES: A second manipulator can be equipped with tools for cutting through metal such as on the fuselage of a plane.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: The ideal if there was a black box. Not a problem at all for a ROV to pick it up in a basket and recover it back to the vessel.

FLORES: Experts say top priority for investigators is to retrieve both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. This ROV called the Triton SLX can go to depths of 10,000 feet. But the ROV that is brought to the wreckage of Flight 370 could have to withstand the pressure of around 15,000 feet of water. Underwater pulses were detected at that depth last week. And unlike the Bluefin searchers are currently using, the ROV is connected to a boat through a line called an umbilical and has a constant power source and is able to feedback information immediately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ROV can stay submerged for days.

FLORES: And the hope is with these capabilities, the ROV will finally manage to bring some answers to the surface.

Rosa Flores, CNN.


CUOMO: All right, so that's what the ROV will do. Later this morning, we are going to take you inside a submarine to demonstrate just how hard a search this is. That is Martin Savidge. He is standing outside what later this morning he will be inside when he takes a test dive. You're not going to want to miss it.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely not.

Also coming up next on NEW DAY, families of Flight 370, 370 passengers, are taking questions to the top. They want answers to more than two dozen questions and they want them quickly. Some of them very technical questions about the search in the investigation. We'll have much more on that.

CUOMO: And the fighting intensifying in Ukraine as Vladimir Putin admits to sending Russian troops into Crimea last month. We'll tell you what happened and how it could affect international talks.


BERMAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. Family members of those on board Flight 370, those passengers, their family members are frustrated with the Malaysian government right now and they are taking action. They have publicly released a list of 26 questions that they want answered by authorities, including where the investigation into the missing plane stands right now.

Jeff Wise is here to walk us through some of these questions. He's a CNN aviation analyst and a contributor to Jeff, broadly speaking first, what do we know about the family of questions they're asking right now?

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It really runs the gamut from soup to nuts. I mean, this is a whole grab bag of questions that the family members have. Everything from incredibly arcane details like the serial number on the black box to much more general questions about how the search is being conducted.

BERMAN: Let's talk about some of the specifics here. They asked a question, I think, dealing with a question a lot of people have been asking, the emergency locator transmitter. When a plane is trying to land on the sea, can the emergency locator transmitter be activated? The way they asked it is fascinating. WISE: I mean, obviously it's a great question, in fact, because, yes, we haven't detected an ELT signal and if a plane crashed into the ocean, should we not have? Therefore, where is the plane if it's -- they haven't detected the signal? The fact is that we don't know. The Malaysian authorities have really not been very forthcoming on this matter. When the plane was delivered by Boeing to Malaysian Airlines, it had four ELTs on it. That was quite a while ago. Were they modified? Were they replaced? We don't know.

BERMAN: The warning though when a plane is trying to land on the sea is different than crashing. They're asking if the thing sat down on the water might not those have gone off?

WISE: Right. I think a lot of people have been thinking about Sullenberger type of, you know, miracle on the Hudson where it sat down gradually. In that case the ELTs did not go off.

BERMAN: Another question. Have the search and rescue teams received final results from the searched areas? Are they sure it's impossible that there's anything there?

WISE: Right. So we're having to maybe interpret a little bit about what this -- it's a funny translation. But I would -- what I interpret this to mean is they've searched these areas but does that definitively mean that it's not there or did they miss it? Search and rescue professionals will tell you when you search an area you're not reducing to zero the probability it's there. You're just reducing it closer to zero and the fact in the ocean, it's different from land.

Where if something lands on a forest or in a field it will stay there unless somebody moves it. The ocean, you've got currents moving things around, stuff could resurface that had sunk before. This is a great question. How do we know that it's not in some patch of ocean that wasn't previously?

BERMAN: Also, again, these questions are for the families. Can the detected frequency of 33.3 correspond to the pinger locator attached to the black boxes? It's a different frequency than the ones we know that the black boxes sent out but can it correspond?

WISE: Well, this is a great question and this really boils down to the heart of what we're doing right now looking on the bottom of the ocean of the Bluefin-21. We were told that the pinger locater box was going to be at 37.5. And yet when the signal was obtained it was 33.3. Does that rule it out?

Some experts say no, that, in fact, there are various factors that can change the frequency. Other, experts say, no, that can't happen. If you have a loved one on that airplane, well, that's a really, really compelling question.

BERMAN: Let's talk about this broadly speaking because this is a perfect example of it right now. What's the significance of all of these questions? To me, it indicates that they're searching, these gray areas, the unknowns, the non-specifics to try to get a sense of what's going on here. WISE: Well, unfortunately that's about all this entire riddle is. It's just questions and riddles. Remember, even to this day we have no physical evidence of what happened to this airplane. All that we really have to go on to believe that it's in the southern area at all is this Inmarsat report that was released by the Malaysian authorities and that itself is a very obscure document that doesn't provide a clear picture. So I don't blame at all the family members for having a lot of questions and for being almost disturbed by the level of uncertainty.

BERMAN: But you can see the scenarios that they're creating in almost every case. The first one, what happens when the plane lands on the water? At the end there let's talk about the frequencies, can it correspond and then that second question right there, the areas they already searched, creating scenarios where maybe there was a mistake made in this search and rescue process.

WISE: Absolutely. Absolutely. As each day goes by and we don't find the wreckage on the sea the questions are only going to get more urgent. What happened to my loved ones?

BERMAN: Does anyone have the answers here?

WISE: Nobody has the answers right now.

BERMAN: So these questions are to the Malaysian government right now. Who would they be better addressed to? Boeing at this point, the people in Australia at this point, to Inmarsat at this point?

WISE: I think, you know, we've heard so much confidence from the Australian and the Malaysian authorities saying, that look, we're very confident we're about to find this plane. If that doesn't pan out I think we're really going to -- we're going to ask the authorities why were you so confident. What do you know, where does your confidence come from? I think they're going to have to open their books and explain.

BERMAN: And of course, the prime minister of Australia saying if they don't find any definitive clues within one week they have to reassess where this entire search is going. Jeff Wise, great to have you here, really appreciate it -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, JB, we're following the search for survivors as a ship continues to sink and it may have hundreds of trapped teens and others inside.

Also another developing story, bloodshed in Ukraine. Let's go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't even look like one life raft was even deployed. That makes completely no sense to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People heard a loud thud. Certainly indicates they hit something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daughter said to me, mom, I don't want to go there. So I'm very regret.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no physical evidence of MH370.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no transparency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The record that we've got nothing to hide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin doesn't care.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Mr. Putin's decisions are not just bad for Ukraine, but they will be bad for Russia.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Thursday, April 17th. Now 7:00 in the east and right now rescuers are trying to get to nearly 300 people who are still missing after a ship capsized off South Korea's coast. The weather is not cooperating. Nine are reported dead. But after more than a day in icy waters officials expect that number to rise. Most passengers were high school students headed for vacation. Paula Hancocks is in Jindo, South Korea. Here is her package with the latest.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): Beneath these frigid waters nearly 300 people, mostly teenage students and their teachers remain missing. The ship's captain with his head down telling police, I'm sorry, I'm at a loss for words. Overnight, three bodies were recovered from the sunken ferry bound for a resort island off the southwest coast of Korea. The miraculous rescue of a 6-year-old girl was caught on tape. Her parents and brother were not found.

Grief stricken family members gather at a harbor in Jindo waiting into the night desperate for any information. A mother's anguish as she recalls encouraging her daughter to take the trip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just go. It will be a great experience for you, for your school days. So I'm very regretting -- I'm very regretting this.

HANCOCKS: Dramatic video of the first 24 hours of the frantic rescue shows passengers clinging to guardrails and being airlifted to safety. Most of the crews about what could have caused the ship to sink have come from eyewitnesses who report hearing a loud bang and feeling the ship beginning to tilt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds like he hit a submerged object, which caused a gash in the hull which would allow a lot of water.

HANCOCKS: If that's the case the gash apparently was large enough to impact several compartments below and ultimately capsize the ship. Also in question, the handling of the evacuation. According to passengers they were initially told to stay on board. This cellphone video thought to be from inside the ship shows passengers all wearing life jackets.

Outside the ship, only one of 46 life boats deployed. These instructions heard from the crew saying, do not move. If you move, it's more dangerous. Do not move. Could have cost many lives. One of the ways relatives found out about their loved ones was through text messages.

There are a few people in the ship and we are not dead yet so please send along this message. Another student texted his friends. I think we are all going to die. If I did anything wrong to you, please forgive me. I love you all.


HANCOCKS: We just had an update from the Coast Guard basically telling us that bad visibility has been seriously hampering these rescue operations. They say the investigation -- the investigating at this point why only one life boat was deployed. They are also trying to find out why they can't get more people into the ship itself. The divers are finding it incredibly dangerous to try and get inside.

Trying to figure out when these cranes arrived, tomorrow morning, whether they can inject more oxygen into the ship to bring it up higher so they can get inside or whether they can tow it closer to land. At this point though they are assuming there may still be survivors. Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: All of that, no comfort to all of the families who just want to know what happened to their loved ones. Paula, thank you, thank you very much.

This morning preliminary tests of that oil slick in the search area show that it is not aircraft engine oil or hydraulic fluid. We're talking about the search for Flight 370 and we're waiting to see if the first complete underwater drone mission yielded any clues as to what happened to Flight 370.

What we do know is the following. Australia's prime minister says their best leads in the underwater search will be exhausted in the next week or so. Miguel Marquez is live in Perth, Australia, with the very latest -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kate, this latest news that the oil is not from MH-370 comes as a great frustration to families who are waiting for some physical evidence the plane is actually down there.