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Deadly Ferry Disaster; Search for Flight 370

Aired April 22, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 8:00 p.m. here in New York, 9:00 a.m. in South Korea where there's breaking news in the ferry sinking. The death toll climbing and a troubling new fact emerges. The first distress call was made by a young passenger, not a crew member.

Breaking news as well off the coast of Australia with the Bluefin-21's mission looking for Flight 370 is shortly coming to a close and the entire search effort could be about to take a major turn.

And he says he flew 2300 miles the hard way right next to the landing gear. We've got new details about what he was doing before getting out of that Hawaiian Airlines flight and where a teenager was really trying to go.

We begin a week almost to the minute since the ferry disaster began, with a breaking news out of South Korea. The death toll rising and it could go higher. Now the divers are searching the ship's cafeteria where so many of the high school students were believed to have been.

Tonight, there's yet another piece of evidence that it simply did not have to end this way. The latest, one South Korean boy's five simple words, "Help us, the boat is sinking." His fate unknown. The timing of his words, though, is simply stunning. That's because he said to them long before helicopters were launched, before rescue ships arrived, before an evacuation was even ordered.

And here's the real kicker. Before the ship's crew even got on the radio and raised the alarm. "Help us, the boat is sinking," he said. His voice said those words after picking up his cell phone and dialed the Korean equivalent of 911 three minutes before the helm's first distress call went out. The exact same thing happening, you'll remember, on the Costa Concordia.

That's just one development today. There were several. The latest, sadly, is the discovery of more bodies.

Our Kyung Lah is on the water right now and joins us with the latest.

So once again tonight, you're outside the search area. What is going on with the effort right now? I know the death toll has risen pretty dramatically today.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has risen to 128, Anderson, but it is still a frantic search, and you can tell just by looking right over my shoulder. If you can see there are a number of divers who are parked right at the spot where the sunken ferry is, 65 feet below those buoys and that orange -- that yellow crane that you're looking at.

Those orange inflatables, some of them are not filled with people because those divers are under water right now. This is dangerous, this is very, very arduous. They are feeling their way through this sunken ferry because they can't see more than a foot in front of them combing through this area inch by inch. And because they can't see they are worried about their own safety, as well, because they can be hit by floating furniture.

Now the Navy did say that they have six divers who they have treated for pressure issues. They, Anderson, have been seen inside pressure chambers in order to be able to continue to dive. So a very difficult and dangerous task still happening here off of Jindo Island -- Anderson.

COOPER: And there were -- there were more arrests today, as well, of crew members, correct?

LAH: Yes, two more crew members, bringing the total number of arrests to nine. This is certainly looking more like a criminal investigation every single day. And we got a little clarity from those crew members about what happened in those final moments. The big question, why weren't the life boats deployed?

Well, one of the crew members said that he or she could simply not reach it. The button was too far away because the boat had already listed to its side. The natural question, why didn't you hit it sooner? We don't know that.

The other thing that we did learn is that the crew members are saying it was not that they hit anything. It was that the balance of the ship felt wrong -- Anderson.

COOPER: And the ships behind you, they seem pretty widely spaced out. Why is that?

LAH: Because we're looking at now a week in. It has been a week now since this accident happened. Take a look, you can see that there are a number of ships all around us. Some of those ships, especially the blue ones have trawlers out to their side, large nets and they're going fact and forth across this area, why? Because of bodies drifting out to sea.

That is the type of horror that this country simply says it cannot stand. They want to bring the bodies of these 15- and 16-year-old children back home -- Anderson.

COOPER: Kyung Lah, reporting, I appreciate it. I want to bring in the panel, Merchant Marine captain and maritime safety instructor, Jim Staples, Kim Petersen, governor-emeritus of the Maritime Security Council and president of Security Dynamics, also retired Navy SEAL, Brandon Webb is joining us as well. Captain Staples, let me start with you. The idea that a young man who now is presumably among the missing aboard the ship was able to call Korean authorities and sound the alarm three minutes before an actual call from the ship came. Does that surprise you?

JAMES STAPLES, MARITIME SAFETY CONSULTANT: Well, absolutely disheartening. Just shows the indecision on the crew's part which again is going to go back to the training. We need to find out where the captain was at the time that this call was made. And to be fair to him we have to know if the captain was even on the bridge at that time. I haven't had a timeline on that so I can't say, but yes, this is totally disheartening, especially when a young boy, a high school child, makes an emergency call over a seasoned captain.

COOPER: And what is the -- is there a procedure for calling authorities? I mean, is it -- I read that it's the captain who -- in terms of the ship personnel, it's the captain who has to make that distress call. Is that true?

STAPLES: Generally that's true. The captain is the one to put the distress call out. It's usually a mayday call that they'll put out.

COOPER: So if somebody on the bridge would wait for the captain to decide to make that call?

STAPLES: Again, it would depend if the captain may have been -- become incapacitated at some point. If the captain had been killed in an accident then somebody else would have to make that decision which usually would fall to the second in command which would be the chief mate.

COOPER: But you said -- I mean, in your experience, when you're on a ship, you're very much in tune with that ship. So even if you're down in your compartment you can sense that something is going wrong or it feels something is going wrong and call up to the bridge.

STAPLES: Absolutely. Anybody that's going to sea for any kind will tell you that even while you're sound asleep in the bed they'll know immediately if something has happened to that ship. You'll be able to tell if someone is taking too sharp of a turn or if something shut down with the ventilation or any part of the vibration on the ship. You're part of that ship if you've been on that ship for a while. You really know your vessels.

COOPER: Kim, we've got video here of the life rafts. And we should point they're life rafts, not life boats. They were on board the ferry you can see almost all of them are not actually deployed. Now the crew said today that they tried to make it to the rafts. But they were slipping and that they couldn't. What does that tell you?

KIM PETERSEN, PRESIDENT, SECURITY DYNAMICS LLC: Well, it seems to conform with everything we're hearing now from crew members who have been rescued. That the captain waited too long to recognize the danger that the vessel was in. And the -- the alert to evacuate the ship wasn't given until the vessel already was listing at 5-plus degrees. Now what you have to realize is that with this ship unlike some ferry ships that you have, for example in the Baltic where you have both life boats and life rafts. In life boats you can actually put passengers and crew into the life rafts and lower them into the -- into the sea. With the life rafts that you see on board the Sewol they have to be manually released from their lashings and pushed into the ocean where they would then deploy using CO-2 cartridges.


COOPER: So they're all -- they're all scrunched up right now. I mean, in this image that we're showing our viewers, they don't look like life rafts. That's obviously because they're all just compressed and you say through CO-2 they then inflate.

PETERSEN: That's right. And they don't inflate on the deck. What has to happen is that they have to be pushed over the side of the ship, which is some 10 meters, almost 33, 35 feet from the waterline where they then would deploy and the passengers and crew would have to go down a gangway to the water line, or in a worse-case situation actually throw themselves off of the ship and then swim to the life rafts.

So life rafts are a far more precarious way of evacuating from a ship than a life boat. But as I said, the Sewol didn't have life boats.

COOPER: And Brandon, divers have now, we know, made it into the cafeteria. It's believed a lot of the missing, those who are still missing, the bodies may be there. Again, I mean, this is a delicate question, I mean, is there any way at this point that survivors could be found? Could there be an air pocket a week into this?

Brandon, can you hear me? OK, I think we're having trouble getting to Brandon.

Captain Staples, the idea that these ships have life rafts rather than life boats, is that something -- I mean, would you want -- would you prefer to have life boats on a ship?

STAPLES: Well, that depends. It depends on the distance that it's running. I've always been first to go to life boats before we go to a life raft. Life boats, like the guest prior to me said that they can be mounted on the vessel. You can enter the life boat on the vessel and release them from inside the life boat.

So it's an easy way to get off the ship. With the life rafts they're sitting in a metal container, in a cradle. We call a cradle. And they need to be physically lifted and thrown off the vessel. So it's a little more difficult procedure. And then they can either have an embarkation ladder to climb down or they can be --

COOPER: Right.

STAPLES: They can jump into the sea. But a little more difficult to get into a life raft than it is a life boat. COOPER: And, Brandon, I think we got you back. You know, the divers, as I was saying, have made it into the cafeteria. We believe that's where a lot of the -- those who have not been recovered yet may be. I mean, is there -- is there any way that survivors could be found at this point given that it's been a week? I mean, could there be an air pocket a week into this?

OK, again, I'm told we don't have Brandon.

We're also learning that the ship actually did not make a sharp left turn, Captain. That it made what they call a J turn. Have you heard that expression? Do you know what they're talking about?

STAPLES: That's the first time I've ever heard the expression J turn. There's two types of terms we can do. We can do a round turn or we can do what they call a Williamson turn. And a Williamson turn is generally done if a man falls over the side of the ship. And the Williamson turn is done through take the stern away from the side of the person who fell on the ship so they do not go underneath and get chopped up by the propellers. And then we come back to our original course and then pick up the survivor.

COOPER: But a turn like this would not explain why the ship would list like this?

STAPLES: No. If they took a very, very slow turn it even proves the point further that he had a major stability problem with the ship. And I'd be very concerned about the stability when that vessel left the port, the original port.

COOPER: And Kim, we're told that there was no passenger safety briefing for the passengers. But you said that could have to do with the current rules, rules that were actually changed after the Costa Concordia accident. But they're not actually in effect until next year, right?

PETERSEN: Well, yes, actually it goes back to the Titanic. As a consequence of the Titanic disaster there was an international convention that Korea is a signatory to that established mandatory safety procedures that included briefings of crew, the number of life boats and life rafts that needed to be on the vessel.

And in this case we know that as a consequence of the Costa Concordia, she left port and was not obliged to give a safety briefing on how to evacuate the ship, where to find your life preserver, where your muster station would be until within 24 hours of the departure from her port. That was changed after the Costa Concordia. And now the requirement according to Seoul, which is safety of life at sea, is that you now must give a safety briefing prior to the vessel departing or as she is departing.

But here is the thing, that doesn't go into effect until 2015. And that is very little solace or help to the people who have lost their lives on board the Sewol.

COOPER: Yes. We're going to take a quick break. We're going to have more with our panel. We'll get in touch with Brandon as well.

Let us know what you think. You can follow me on Twitter @andersoncooper. Tweet any questions you have using #ac360.

Just ahead the remotely operated vehicles that have been making their way through the ferry looking for anybody underneath. So far finding only bodies. We'll see how they work.

Also tonight, the big changes that could be coming perhaps in a matter of hours. The search for Flight 370.


COOPER: More now on the underwater search of that sunken capsized ferry off South Korea. Deck by deck, cabin by cabin, divers doing dangerous work with the help of some pretty remarkable technology.

360's Randi Kaye shows us that they're seeing.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you're wondering how robots might help search for passengers on board the South Korean ferry, watch this. You're looking at a mini ROV, a remotely operated vehicle, snaking its way around the sunken shrimp boat off the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts. When it comes to shipwrecks, this machine is a work horse. It can stay under water for days at a time, maneuvering its way through tiny openings where human divers either don't fit or it is simply too dangerous for them to go.

RHONDA MONIZ, ROV PILOT AND DIVING EXPERT: So to go forward, you're going to use it for very, very intuitive, very user friendly. To back it up, you're going to back it up this way.

KAYE (on camera): It's like a video game.

MONIZ: It is. Exactly.

KAYE (voice-over): Rhonda Moniz is an ROV pilot and diving expert. She works for SeaBotix, which builds these ROVs. This robot is directed by an ROV pilot at the surface. It moves at about two knots per hour. Even in murky water or at night, these robots can see. They have lights and special low visibility cameras. And if that is not enough they have sonar, too, which can pick up images up to 400 feet away and feed them back in real time.

MONIZ: OK. So you can see the stern of the vessel. So you can see how the back of the boat is that square shape. And that's what we're -- that's what we're aiming at right now.

KAYE: A simple turn of the knob on the side of the controls and Rhonda sends the ROV for a deep dive. She rolls the knob back to return it to the surface.

(On camera): So whenever this mini ROV is used it's lowered into the water by a rope line that you see there. Now here in the water that we're on, it's only about 20 feet deeper. So -- but if this were going to be deployed to search inside the Sewol ferry that wouldn't be a problem, because this mini ROV can actually work in water as deep as a thousand feet.

(Voice-over): Keep in mind, divers can safely go down only about 130 feet. And these robots can swim upward inside a ship, too, just as divers in South Korea are doing to reach the cafeteria and areas on the upper floors of the doomed ferry.

(On camera): If you want to get to, say, you know, a higher level on the ship or a ferry like the third, or fourth or fifth level, could the mini ROV actually climb?

MONIZ: Yes, we would have to have a really good idea of the blueprint, if you will, of the vessel. Because it can be very disconcerting especially in something like that where it's close. So stairs were you'd normally be on the bottom are going to be like the overhead.

KAYE: And if anyone is found, the mini ROV is equipped with a grabber, strong enough to pull a human being out of a sunken ship on its own.


COOPER: Randi joins us now.

It's amazing, you're actually with the ROV. Can you show us more about it? I mean, the technology is just incredible. I have never seen this.

KAYE: It is fascinating, Anderson. And this is the one that we are working with today. So we saw it firsthand. Over here, this is one of five thrusters that's on the ROV and that would actually send it down and bring it back up to the surface. Over here is a video camera. We were talking about the sonar but this actually a video camera that it has, as well. And this is the grabber that I talked about with the piece.

And what's interesting about this, Anderson, is that they come in all different sizes and shapes and they have different functions, as well. Some just grab items like the -- like we mentioned which is what a grabber does. Others can actually cut things, others that they have can actually tie a line onto a vessel if it's a small vessel and pull it out of the water. And the others can be, of course, to recover bodies as we mentioned.

But in terms of what this would be doing in South Korea and the ocean there the first thing it would do is probably pull out all the furniture and all the large debris, I'm told, that would be blocking the divers and make it safer then. And then its next mission, Anderson, would be some sort of re-con, to go around the ship, go around the ferry. See what's there. That way the divers know where they're most needed and they can just assess the situation a lot better -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Randi, appreciate the update. \ Digging deeper now into the delicate and in this case emotionally harrowing undersea operations with our panel. And back with Brandon Webb, the former Navy SEAL who we weren't able to talk to before.

Brandon, let me start off with you. First of all, you know, we keep hearing about all the debris in the water, the blocked passageways. How useful is an underwater vehicle like this?

BRANDON WEBB, FORMER NAVY SEAL: Well, it is a tremendous asset. I mean, any time you have a rescue operation in open ocean with visibility near zero, it is incredibly tough for these divers just to maintain their position and just to let alone figure out where they're going. So having a device like that is just a tremendous asset to really speed up the search.

I mean, this is a massive ship over 500 feet or in just about 500 feet in length. So it is an incredible job that these guys have to do under really harsh conditions.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, a lot of them volunteers. It's got to be so disorienting to be down there. I mean, I'm a diver. To have that low of visibility, you know, to see only a foot in front of you. To have all this debris. I mean, to human beings' bodies, you know, trapped underneath, amidst all this wreckage. Can you describe what it's -- what diving under these conditions is like?

WEBB: Well, even -- you know, we do a lot of diving in ports where you have similar conditions, near zero visibility. And oftentimes, you lose track of what is up and what is down. So, you know, they're really going --

COOPER: Really? You get disoriented in that way. You can't tell what's up and what's down?

WEBB: Yes, absolutely. And a lot of the diving we do is on (INAUDIBLE), so there's no bubbles but you get disoriented. You really have to sometimes have to follow the weld of the ship's seam and just to find the surface, to find yourself -- to get up on the surface but, you know, listening to the conversations earlier, you know, I -- as I understand it, the third mate was at the helm of the ship.

And I grew up working on charter boats as a kid before I joined the Navy to be a SEAL. I was about to test for my captain's license. But it just really seems from what I know of the timeline and the captain, he was on the bridge for close to 20 minutes and just didn't make a decision. And as a parent myself, listening to those -- you're hearing about the kids making the phone calls to their parents, it just seems like indecision on the captain's part.

COOPER: Yes. Because, I mean, Captain Staples, there was plenty of time for evacuation or at least for mustering. I mean, the ship didn't go down in a matter of -- a matter of minutes.

STAPLES: Without a doubt, there was plenty of time to get those life rafts deployed, which should have been done. And again, to have a young school child make a phone call to an emergency place before a seasoned captain, that should tell you something right there.


STAPLES: That the captain was very indecisive.

COOPER: Kim, is something like this ROV going to see any better than a diver?

PETERSEN: Potentially it can with a sonar capability. But again, the limitation is not only because of lack of light but it's the amount of silt that you have down there. But you know, I applaud the use of the -- of this ROV because, you know, we have to be realistic. We're entering into a phase now that's more recovery than it is rescue.

This is almost a week into the event because of hypoxia, because of cold injuries, because of the lack of hydration. All of this really points to a fact that we have to now look at a risk analysis for the divers. This is extraordinarily stressful on these individuals. I know that Navy divers that have been involved in rescue efforts in the past that were much shorter and much less stressful than this ended up having to have psychological counseling from this, because it was so disturbing for them.

And at this point risking lives when you have technology available instead I think is a good move on the part of the South Korean government.

COOPER: It's -- I mean, what they're doing and the heroism of them to do this is just -- and they're doing it around the clock.

Captain Staples, it's good to have you on. Kim Petersen, Brandon Webb, as well.

As always you can learn more always by going to on this story.

Just ahead, breaking news on the underwater search for Flight 370. The unmanned Bluefin drone now in the final stretch. How much of the target area is left to scan. We'll tell you that and is there a plan B?

Plus, more about the teenager who stowed away on a Hawaiian Airlines flight, including his intended destination. It was not actually Maui.


COOPER: Breaking news tonight, 10 military aircraft, 12 ships will take part in today's search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. But search efforts could be hindered by weather conditions and the search may be getting an entirely new focus. More on that in just a moment.

As you know it's been more than six weeks now that searchers have been looking in the Indian Ocean for any sign of Flight 370. Some family members of the people on board are hoping that maybe legal pressure can help them get some answers. Rule enforced by the National Transportation Safety Board prevents American lawyers from contacting family members who lost a loved one in a plane crash for 45 days.

That time period has now passed. The families can file suit in U.S. courts against Boeing. As for the search itself, remnants of a tropical cyclone in the search area are hampering efforts from the air at least. Meanwhile the U.S. Navy Bluefin-21 submersible has covered more than 80 percent of the targeted search area so far found nothing.

CNN's Michael Holmes is live in Perth, Australia. So what more do we know about this latest search by the Bluefin? I mean, they're running out of territory in the search area.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, literally, Anderson, that's right. Mission number 10 done now and that focused search area that we've been talking about over the last week or so, as you point out, more than three quarters of it covered and still nothing found. No sign of MH-370, no word on the data results from that latest mission, but the previous nine, as we know, have turned up nothing -- Anderson.

COOPER: And what happens -- what happens next? I mean, if this next 20 percent gets searched and there is nothing?

HOLMES: It's not looking good, is it, for that particular area? The search leaders told us off the record that they were very confident they were in the right spot, given those acoustic signals they had picked up. But they are not going to give up, already discussions on what's next. We mentioned that other area of interest about 300 miles by 30. Much bigger than the current one, that could be next, although nothing has been decided at the moment.

Discussions between the Australians and Malaysians at the moment on issues like who would handle any debris if it is found. The delicate issues of human remains and also how best to deploy resources, whether to bring in, for example, more resources if that search area widens -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Michael Holmes, appreciate the update. Thanks.

Joining me now is CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest, CNN analyst David Gallo, director of Special Projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and co-led the search for Air France Flight 447. Also Mary Schiavo, an attorney and former inspector general of the Department of Transportation, who now represents victims of families of transportation accidents, and CNN aviation analyst David Soucie, author of "Why Planes Crash: An Accident Investigator's Fight for Safe Skies."

Richard, you're in Kuala Lumpur. The news that Malaysia and Australia are working out a formal agreement for key aspects of this search and recovery. I know you say the portions of it dealing with handling debris and carrying for any human remains should be fairly straightforward. There is also though a portion that deals with widening the search, what would that look like?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, that of course, you're quite right, Anderson, that is the interesting part about it because that is the part where they will have to re-appraise the evidence from Inmarsat. The pings that they have already heard and decide whether or not they still have the same credibility and confidence in that data. And if they do have confidence in it, the same level, how do they expand the search? Probably northwards up the arc, towards the sixth full ping. But to do that would be a fairly dramatic escalation of the search and require more assets because that search is 700 miles long.

COOPER: And David Gallo, if the Bluefin doesn't find anything in this search area, I mean, is it possible that it missed something in this targeted area or is the technology so good that there is no way it missed something in this area?

DAVID GALLO, CNN ANALYST: Well, Anderson, when you are searching with sound and sonar like this at this depths and this kind of terrain it is always possible to miss something. I'm sure they're very careful and looked at every spot maybe twice, overlapping zones, but it is possible they could have missed it. But I would have a real hard time giving up on this site so soon. So I'm very angst to see what pans out in the next couple of days.

COOPER: So you are saying even if nothing is found in the rest of the 20 percent on this targeted area, you would not necessarily give up on this particular search area?

GALLO: Yes, I just don't know how you give up in this area if they're so sure of these pings. You know, I just don't know how you walked away from this or steam away from this and head up the arc. I understand that that's maybe in the future, but I think this area -- not knowing exactly what went on out there just from what I do know I have a hard time giving up on this area without a little bit more harder look at what they may or may not have missed. Should they make this bull's eye bigger?

COOPER: Yes, I mean, Mary, to that point, I mean, if the satellite data is accurate and the pings were in fact from those black boxes then the searchers presumably are close.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: well, they're certainly close. But we've heard a lot of interesting things about the sounds of the ocean and the effects of the pingers, et cetera. I mean, there are a lot of things they can do and there is a lot of unknowns. For example, one of the things was the frequency on the pings. Have they tried to put a pinger in and checked the frequency. What happens when the battery is out? Does it really degrade down to 33.5?

Once this search area is exhausted, they have time to do other experiments. But one expert had commented that because of certain layers in the ocean, sounds can travel much farther than ordinary, so they would have time to literally put a pinger down and see how far it travels and how far they must expand the search. So there are a lot of things they can do, not just refining the Inmarsat data, but expanding their knowledge in this pinger part of the ocean.

COOPER: You know, David Soucie, the Australian safety bureau chief told CNN, he expects ongoing data analysis by an international team of experts in Kuala Lumpur to result in further refinement of the search area within the next couple of weeks. How much more refined can they get?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: You know, I really don't see that they could get much more refined. Remember, the Ocean Shield, the ship, went out directly to that spot and picked up those pings, very confident in that data and it has proven out because they find that. I'm with David Gallo on this, to give up on that are at this point just seems counterintuitive. So it is just a small distortion of that pinger can cause that frequency to change that much. So I'm still confident it's there. It's just that we have to search better and deeper somehow.

COOPER: You know, you last night in the program, you read some questions that family members put to authorities trying to get answers, a lot of them were very sensible, basic questions that I was really surprised that authorities haven't released. I'm not even talking about to the media but to family members. How likely is it to happen? Questions about like what sort of casing are the ELTs in, the electronic location transmitters?

QUEST: Some basic questions, question 20, does Malaysia have the capability to extract and analyze the black box information? If not, who has been identified for the task? Absolutely, Anderson, and that is why I think the next meeting in Beijing where the authorities have said quite clearly they're going to bring in technical experts.

I think if at that meeting they do not start providing some hard answers, and I know Mary has had much more experience of this sort of anger of families, when they don't -- when they turn up expecting answers. Then the authorities will deserve all the wrath that befalls upon their head. On the question of the search areas and of all the things we talked about just now, what happens next?

Of course, they got the Ocean Shield. They got everything there in a hurry because of the 30-day deadline. They have done the searches that they needed to do within those parameters. But now if nothing is found they do have that little bit more luxury of time to do the sort of experiments that Mary is talking about.

To try and re-think things differently because there is not a 30-day pinger limit about to expire. And they haven't found in the smallest, tightest area. So I think that is what we're talking about when we talk about a re-appraisal of what happens next.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody on our panel tonight. Up next more with Michael Holmes. He will take us inside a lab in Australia with the technology that can unlock the secrets of the plane's black boxes if and when they're found.

Also ahead, the teen boy who flew from California to Hawaii as a stowaway apparently or allegedly inside the wheel well of the passenger jet, what he told investigators about where he was actually trying to go when we continue.


COOPER: Well, if search teams were able to find Flight 370's black boxes and that's a big if, they could finally answer the biggest questions about what or who brought the plane down. Michael Holmes now takes us inside a lab in Australia that has the technology to analyse them.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): In a nondescript government building in Australia's capital, the secrets of Malaysia Flight 370 may one day be unlocked.

(on camera): What is this room, Neil?

NEIL CAMPBELL, AUSTRALIAN TRANSPORT SAFETY BUREAU: This is our audio laboratory, with outside signals and as well it has very good sound proofing.

HOLMES (voice-over): Inside the Australian Transport Safety Bureau laboratory when Neil Campbell and his team forensically examine data recorders not just from planes but also trains even ships.

(on camera): The reality is there are very few countries in the world, just a handful of them who have the technical know-how to work out what is inside one of these things. And this lab is one of those places.

(voice-over): Boxes from other investigations torn apart, burned, damaged in many ways suggests a tough assignment. But here they say the story of what happened is usually found.

CAMPBELL: A lot of our work is with undamaged recorders and it is very easy to download them.

HOLMES (on camera): But even with really damaged ones, your success rate in getting the information off is good.

CAMPBELL: Yes, we've always been able to recover the information from the recorders we've seen.

HOLMES (voice-over): He is a measured, cautious man, pre requisites. The boxes contain a wealth of information, up to 2,000 separate pieces from the data recorder alone. High technology built into a water proof, fireproof, shockproof shell. At the end of this complex train of information and analysis can be this, an animated representation of a tragedy. This one from a 2010 training flight, two dead after a simulated engine failure went wrong.

CAMPBELL: A lot of issues couldn't be controlled and the aircraft ended up impacting the train unfortunately.

HOLMES (on camera): And you're able to recreate this thing from the black boxes?

CAMPBELL: That is right. This is based on flight data recorder information. HOLMES (voice-over): The size of the boxes is deceptive in some ways, the vast majority of it containing technology that supports the brain buried deep within. Surprisingly small, but containing everything that Neil Campbell needs on a handful of computer chips.

(on camera): In a box this big that is that you need.

CAMPBELL: Yes, that is the crucial element.

HOLMES (voice-over): it is highly possible that if they're found they will end up here where Neil Campbell and his team says they're ready to attempt to unlock a mystery like no other. Michael Holmes, CNN, Cambra, Australia.


COOPER: I'm back with CNN safety analyst, David Soucie. So obviously the technology is advanced. But as much as the data and the voice recorders might tell what happened, they might not tell why it happened, at least not overtly.

SOUCIE: That is right, it is mostly designed to tell you whether or not a command from the pilot did actually happened the way that it was intended to so a command from the pilot, a switch that was turned on, that switch then is not only noted that it was moved or that it was initiated, but it also checks to make sure that intent, like for example, if you move the controls and it is supposed to move a number of degrees it will measure how much it moved.

It is designed to see if it did something mechanical. In that sense, if the auto pilot didn't function the way it was supposed to, is giving commands that were not received or given out, that would tell you what happened. But why it happened, that is something that takes a little more digging.

COOPER: And in terms of how long the data and voice recorders can remain useful. If they're at the bottom of the ocean, can it be too long as long as the compartments are not compromised?

SOUCIE: Yes, as long as they're retracted from the ocean properly, in other words, kept under pressure, and properly rinsed under pressure, and then removed it could last indefinitely. I mean, years and years and years down the road.

COOPER: So you have to keep them under the pressure that they're found in initially?

SOUCIE: You typically would, because of the fact if you bring them up too quick it changes the structure of some of the components, it can create oxygen bubbles, nitrogen can build up, that kind of thing. So you have to do that in a controlled environment to change the pressure. You have a box they can go into so you can bring it up by basket. But it is better that they get packaged in an ocean environment, and keep them packaged.

COOPER: David Soucie, thanks very much, David. Up next, how the teenager who stowed away on the Hawaiian Airlines flight spent the hours before the plane took off. We are learning new information and where he really wanted to go was not where he ended up.

Plus, stowing away inside a wheel well and surviving is certainly incredibly rare. It's not unheard of though, roughly two dozen people have beat the odds, their stories ahead.


COOPER: New details tonight about the teenage stowaway who authorities say flew to Hawaii from California in the wheel well of a Boeing 767. It's a fact that the boy turned up in Maui. Airport workers found him on the tarmac. The teen told investigators in Maui that he scaled a fence at San Jose Airport to get to the plane. A lot of people believe there must be more to the story that we don't yet know.

Hard to imagine that a teenager could survive in the wheel well with the lack of oxygen and sub-zero temperatures, the altitude the plane reaches. Tonight the story just doesn't square. Tonight, we are learning more about the boy at the center of it. Dan Simon joins me now with the latest. What might have motivated this kid to do this?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson to put it simply it sounds like this is a teenager who was homesick who acted out in a very irrational way to say the least. We understand that he told the FBI investigators that ultimately he wanted to go to Somalia to visit his mother. In fact, classmates from Santa Clara, California, said he told them that he was from Africa and that he wanted to move there.

Why he chose a Hawaiian Airliner, well, apparently it was the first plane he saw. But it gives you some insight in terms of his state of mind. We also gave you information on the time line, he apparently jumped the fence here at the airport at approximately 1:00 a.m. The flight left before 8:00 a.m., which means he would have been on the tarmac or in the wheel well itself approximately seven hours before it even took off -- Anderson.

COOPER: It actually raises a lot of questions about the airport security. The teenagers said they recognized the young man from the photos they saw of him. Did they say anything else about him?

SIMON: That is right. They saw that picture of him on the stretches. They say that was an outfit he wore often at school. He had been there only a few weeks. They say he was quiet and very reserved. Here is what they said.


SIMON: And when you found out it was him, what did you think?

EMANUEL GOLLA, CLASSMATE OF TEEN STOWAWAY: I was really shocked, and just really glad he made it and he is all right.

AHMED METALFINGER, CLASSMATE OF TEEN STOWAWAY: We wouldn't have assumed he would do this. The last person we expect.

SIMON: He never talked about going to the airport?

METALFINGER: No, that was a surprise.


SIMON: Well, the boy right now is still in a Maui hospital. They're watching him very closely, but he is said to be doing OK. He is in the custody of Child Protective Services and ultimately at least at some point they will get him back to California.

COOPER: It's an incredible story. Dan Simon, appreciate it very much. I was skeptical that this was actually even possible. Coming up, we'll show you how other stowaway attempts including some famous ones have ended.

Also, Yemen's conducting test to determine if a key al Qaeda figure was killed by terror operation. We've learned that Yemen has an extent of an assistance in that use of force against militants. We'll tell you who by.


COOPER: We spoke before the break about how skeptical many are that a teenager was able to make it halfway across the Pacific in the wheel well of the 767. The fact is it's actually not the first time this has happened. According to FAA, a 105 people are known to have tried to stowaway inside wheel wells. A quarter of them survived. Paula Newton has more and some of those who beat the odds and other who didn't.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Being a stowaway and a survivor means beating bone-chilling odds. A Cuban defector did it in 2002 by hiding in the wheel well of a Cubana Airline DC-10 that landed on the tarmac in Montreal. Victor Alvarez Molina described it as being so cold he couldn't breathe. He eventually was granted the political asylum he risked his life for.

He joins a rare group of just a couple of dozen people in the history of aviation known to have hitched a ride in the underbelly of airplanes and lived to tell us about it. In 2000, Fidel Maruhi was dazed but conscious after more than seven hours on a flight from Tahiti to Los Angeles. But more than three quarters of stowaways have suffered the fate you would expect after being in a space colder than a freezer for several hours with little oxygen.

In November 2010, 16-year-old Delvante Tisdale is thought to have breached perimeter security in Charlotte, North Carolina and hidden in a wheel well of a flight to Boston. As the plane landed, the teenager fell to his death just as the landing gear deployed.

WILLIAM KEATING, NORFOLK COUNTY, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This is a tragedy first and foremost for the Tisdale family. Secondly, it is something that once this occurs we want to make sure it never happens again.

NEWTON: But for decades now, stowaways have been a rare but real problem. Look at this life magazine photo from 1970, this 14-year-old drops out of the gear bay of the Japan Airlines DC-8 and falls to his death shortly after takeoff in Sydney, Australia. And gruesome death as the risk during takeoff and landing, body parts from a stowaway fell from the wheel well of a South African Airways jet in 2005 shortly before it landed in New York. A woman on the flight path describes how some of his remains landed on her home.

PAM HEARNE, LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK HOMEOWNER: I noticed something that looked like a human or animal part. My first reaction was maybe it was a horse's leg. But there is a sneaker on the leg, it is a whole leg. The first officers on scene said, my God, this is a human leg.

NEWTON: These graphic details make it all the more improbable that anyone would steal away on a jetliner and expect to survive. This California teenager is one of a very few to escape disaster, living on very little oxygen and a heck of a lot of luck. Paula Newton, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Still find it unbelievable. Let's get caught up with some of the other stories we're following, Susan Hendricks has a 360 bulletin -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, officials in Yemen say DNA tests are being done on the bodies of militants killed in a massive anti-terrorist strike that was conducted with extensive help from American personnel. They're trying to determine if the al Qaeda bomb maker, Ibrahim Al-Asiri was one of at least 65 militants killed.

Vice President Joe Biden met in Kiev today with Ukraine's prime minister and pledged American support to keep Ukraine as one united nation. He said the U.S. will never recognize what he called Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea. The White House is giving Ukraine $50 million in financial assistance.

And President Obama got an aerial tour of the devastation in Oso, Washington today. One month after a giant mudslide buried homes and killed at least 41 people. He promised residents that federal assistance will continue.

And you have to see this. This is a massive iceberg, the white chunk you see that broke off Antarctica last fall, it is moving quickly towards the ocean. This covers 255 square miles, almost twice the size of Atlanta and six times the size of Manhattan. Scientists fear it could eventually threaten shipping lanes.

COOPER: That is crazy. It doesn't look that big from here, but obviously it is deceiving.

HENDRICKS: Yes, it really does, and six times the size of Manhattan and really, it is a waiting game and could take a year or so to finally disappear. They're watching that. COOPER: Susan, thank you very much. That does it for us. We'll see you again at 11 p.m. Eastern tonight for another edition of 360. Hope you join us. Make sure you set your DVRs so you never miss the program. "CNN TONIGHT" starts now.