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Mystery of Flight 370; Malaysian Prime Minister Speaking Out; Interview with Sarah Bajc

Aired April 24, 2014 - 20:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, John Berman here in for Anderson, and we begin with breaking news. Any moment now we could get word that the first big shot at finding Flight 370 and the likeliest place to find it is over.

For the last week and a half we saw the Bluefin-21 sonar scanner as they're going back and forth across the targeted search area. As of yesterday it has scanned 90 percent of that area, so tonight it's either done or very close to it. We are waiting to hear.

And we're talking about what the next step in the search might be. We've also got an exclusive interview with the prime minister of Malaysia, in reaction from someone who's been waiting for weeks for answers, for anything, about the fate of one of the passengers. The man she was going to spend the rest of her life with.

First, though, Michael Holmes in Perth, Australia.

Michael, we are waiting for word on what could be the last search for the Bluefin in this phase. What is the latest tonight?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and if it goes as it has in recent days, John, we should be hearing about mission 12 in the next hour or two or three. But as you said, the previous 11 missions have yielded absolutely nothing, no sign of MH-370. Mission 12, it should be done by now and we should be hearing about that any moment.

You make a good point, though, this was the area that the searchers were expressing confidence about. They thought it was their best shot. This was focused around the largest and longest acoustic sound that they hoped was a ping from the black boxes. We are hearing that they are still confident they will find something at some point, somewhere, how long it will take, though, is a very different thing.

BERMAN: Something at some point somewhere.

Michael, what more are you hearing about the long-term plans for this search? Because we really do seem to be about at that phase.

HOLMES: Yes, with this focused area they really did narrow down what was a very broad search area, into this one area that now would appear to be almost complete if not completely searched. They might redo some of those areas, just go near the first ping, which is just north of this area. They could look at that arc where the flight path was suspected to be, 300 miles by 30 miles.

There are talks going on, Malaysia, the U.S., the Australians and others. And they say that next week they'll have a better idea. It could be a complete reset. New underwater vehicles, new ships, the Ocean Shield that's out there working with the Bluefin. It's going to need to refuel in the next couple of weeks so it could take time.

One of the assets they're looking at is a vehicle like the Orion, which is a very powerful side-scan sonar that can be towed behind a ship. The advantage of that, it sends back realtime data to the mother ship. And of course being towed it doesn't have to be resurfaced and data downloaded. It can also go much deeper than the Bluefin. That's one other option -- John.

BERMAN: Michael Holmes, thank you so much. We'll come back to you if we get any news on the Bluefin again, news about the final search in this phase, could come in any time now.

What is news to us is deeply personal to anyone with connection to the 239 passengers and crews on that flight. They have a hunger for the truth that so far has gone largely unmet. It's not that they're expecting the final word on what happened to the Boeing 777 more than a month and a half ago. Many, however, are demanding far more from the officials than what they're getting, especially from the Malaysian authorities.

Right now you're looking at Chinese families early this morning marching on the Malaysian embassy in Beijing. Similar confrontations have been taking place for weeks now in Kuala Lumpur.

Tonight, we'll speak to one of the most passionate and persistent critics of the investigation, Sarah Bajc, whose life partner was on Flight 370. First, though, aviation correspondent Richard Quest, whose own search for answers on their behalf took him to the very top. He spoke exclusively today with Malaysia's prime minister asking him many of the questions the families have been asking. Including why after the jumbo jet made that left turn back across Malaysia why did the Malaysian Armed Forces track it on radar but not scramble fighters to take a closer look.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: No planes were sent up on the night to investigate?

NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: No, because simply because it was simply deemed not to be hostile.

QUEST: Don't you find that troubling that a civil aircraft can turn back, fly across the country and nobody thinks to go up and have a look? Because one of two things -- I understand that the threat level, and I understand -- either the plane is in trouble and needs help, or it is nefarious and you really want to know what somebody is going up there to do.

So as prime minister, don't you find that troubling? NAJIB: You see, coming back to my earlier statement, is that they were not sure whether it was MH-370.

QUEST: Even more reason to just go up and have a look.

NAJIB: They were not sure. But it behaved like a commercial airline.


BERMAN: Behaved like a commercial airline. That's not all he told Richard. Some of it ended placating the families, and some that clearly won't including new word on that preliminary report which has been released to international authorities and will be released to the public next week but has yet to be shown to the families.

Richard Quest joins us now with more.

And, Richard, I do want to start with that point that you really pressed the prime minister on. But it really seems to be a glaring hole in his explanation. He said the blip on the radar screen didn't act like a hostile aircraft. It seems like they're not revealing nearly enough information about why they think that and as you and I both know all too well, a commercial aircraft can be plenty hostile if it falls into the wrong hands.

QUEST: I think we know exactly why, John, in some shape or form. It was a young junior radar officer, is my understanding, on duty that night. There is no threat level or particularly high threat level at the moment in Malaysia. He saw the plane. He recognized it as a civil aircraft and he didn't do anything about it.

That is going to be in many ways the big question when we get the final report that the authorities are going to have to answer.

Everything else, John, is just stuff. Names are different, last words, searching here, searching there. The core issue is why they didn't send up a plane to investigate as they did with the Ethiopian hijacking recently, as they did with Helios, as what seems to be the normal procedure.

BERMAN: And that was the key question you kept pressing him on, and the key answer he did not give.

On another subject, Richard, is the prime minister confident now? What does he think about the area they're searching? Does he think it's the right search area?

HOLMES: Whether he thinks it or not it's all they have got. And that is because of the Inmarsat data, the so-called handshakes, those six and a half handshakes led to that place the south Indian Ocean where they picked up the pings. So the blunt question for the prime minister of Malaysia, when he heard about the Inmarsat data and he heard what was happening did he have confidence in it?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NAJIB: To be honest, I find it hard to believe to begin with. Because how could a plane that was supposed to be heading towards Beijing, you know -- they could decide that the plane and that -- half way towards Antarctica. It's a bizarre scenario, which none of us could have contemplated. So that's why when I met the team, and mind you these are the foremost experts in aviation industry. I asked them again and again and again, are you sure? And their answer to me was, we are as sure as we can possibly be.


QUEST: And that's, John, really sums it all up because no matter how many critics I have heard who say, why are they searching there? What's the reliability of the Inmarsat data? Shouldn't they produce the numbers? Shouldn't they produce the data?

John, this data was reviewed by the NTSB, the AAIB. It was reviewed by Boeing. It was reviewed by the Malaysians and others. There has been plenty of peer review about it. And as the prime minister went on to tell me it is all they have got.

BERMAN: We'll ask some of the best minds in the business about that search area in a little bit, Richard. First, though, I want to play something the Malaysian prime minister said when you asked him about the victims' families. Let's listen to this.


QUEST: Are you prepared to say that the plane and its passengers are lost?

NAJIB: At some point in time I would be. But not --


NAJIB: Right now, I think I need to take into account the feelings of the next of kin. And some of them have said publicly that they're not willing to accept it until they find hard evidence.


BERMAN: But Richard, this seems to be vastly different language, almost a contradiction to what he said in a press conference almost a month ago. Let's listen to that.


NAJIB: It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that according to this new data like MH-370 ended in the Southern Indian Ocean.


BERMAN: So Richard, is this sending the victims' families mixed messages at this point? QUEST: No, I don't believe it is in any shape or form for the simple reason he is not saying what Malaysia Airlines says and what the airline would perhaps like more people to come to the reality of that the plane crashed into the water and that there are no survivors. He is dancing a much tighter line than that because out of respect for the families, he doesn't want to go to that final hurdle.

He is not a fool. He knows exactly where this is going. But to say -- you know, the critics can't have it both ways. Do they want the prime minister to say and -- until we wait for hard evidence, or do they want him to say that the plane crashed and everybody is dead? That is the dilemma he faces and what he did with me in this interview was walk that line.

BERMAN: Richard, it was a terrific interview. An important interview. Thank you so much for bringing it to us. Really appreciate it. But as you say there are still critics out there. So let's get reaction now from Sarah Bajc, whose life partner, Philip Wood, was en route to Beijing one last time on Flight 370, helping the couple relocate to Malaysia. And Sarah joins again tonight.

Sarah, thank you so much for being with us. I know this has been an incredibly difficult time for you as we see these weeks pass by with every new piece of evidence. You know, as a piece of junk that washes up to shore turns out to be nothing. Now a new interview with the Malaysian prime minister getting sometimes conflicting signals. How are you holding up tonight?

SARAH BAJC, PARTNER OF MH-370 PASSENGER PHILIP WOOD: Well, I spent most of the morning with my job, basically scraping the floor. I'm just so astounded by this new shift that the prime minister is taking. You know, with all due respect to Richard, because I genuinely appreciate the reporting he's done. I think he's being too generous with the prime minister here.

You know, this is an elected official who has a legal and moral accountability to protect the interests of the citizens of his country. And you know, the people on his team are only his tools to use, to lead. It is squarely on his shoulders and he has not held that team accountable for doing what they're supposed to do.

BERMAN: The prime minister at one point did try to address some of the concerns of the family in his interview to Richard. Let's play a little bit of sound of that for you, Sarah.


NAJIB: I know this is a very, very excruciatingly painful time for them. I understand that. And we've done our best. We did many, many briefings. And we gave them as much information as we could in terms of information that could be -- that were corroborated. But the most important information that they want and sadly the one that we can't provide is where is the plane.


BERMAN: To be blunt, Sarah, this doesn't seem satisfying to you.

BJAC: No, you know, he is reading from a script sheet that some qualified professional PR person has put together for him. Actions speak louder than words. The briefings both in Malaysia and in China have been a joke. You know, they have their officials -- at the beginning they actually had officials at those meetings who would sleep in the meetings. They would laugh at the questions produced by the families. They would not answer the questions.

It has been a recurring theme. And the patience level of the families has just gone. Not only with the fudging of the investigation but also with the really irresponsible and disrespectful treatment of the families.

BERMAN: Sarah, there was one point that he made or actually one thing he didn't say. He refused now to say that he believes the plane is lost, where just one month ago he seemed to indicate. You know, he said the words that the flight ended in the Indian Ocean. What do you make of what seems to be a bit of a contradiction here?

BJAC: I make that out to be political maneuvering. I mean I think that maybe they're starting to open their eyes a little bit to the fact that some mistakes have been made. And it's best to reallocate blame to someone else. And you do that by backing off of your statements.

You know, this is not an unprecedented situation. It's only an unprecedented outcome. You know, there's been multiple terrorist attacks where the transponders was turned off, yet they ignored that. There've been multiple issues the plane is being taken and used as weapons. They ignored that. There have been multiple instances of family groups rallying together and fighting for the truth and they have ignored us, too.

BERMAN: Sarah, I do want to end on a positive note here because you teach economics to high school kids basically and we learned today that the house that you lead is in the running to be the all-around champions for year in academics and art. I just want to say, you know, it's remarkable that you've been able to continue leading these kids going through everything you're going through. So I want to say, you know, our fingers are crossed for you there. Congratulations on that.

BJAC: Thank you. Go Curie.

BERMAN: Sarah Bajc, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

A quick reminder, make sure to set your DVR so you can watch "AC360" whenever you like.

And next, the questions that Sarah Bajc raises and Richard Quest raised also. We'll try to get a few answers from our panel of experts next.

Also tonight, breaking news in the ferry disaster, the death toll rising, and new technology now entering the search for the missing. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: At this moment, we're waiting to hear that the Bluefin-21 has completed this phase of the search for Flight 370. As you just heard from our Michael Holmes in Perth, word is expected any minute and we will bring that to you when it happens.

There is a lot to talk about with our panel, back with us tonight, Richard Quest, let's also bring in CNN aviation analyst, David Soucie, author of "Why Planes Crash: An Accident Investigator's Fights for Safe Skies." Also CNN analyst David Gallo, director of Special Projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He co-led the search for Air France 447.

And former Transportation inspector general Mary Schiavo, she currently represents accident victims and their families.

All right, guys, I want to talk about Richard Quest behind his back right here. He just did this interview with the Malaysian prime minister and there was a lot in there that was fascinating.

Mary, let me start with you here because Richard pressed the prime minister on the notion that Flight 370 took this left-hand turn over the peninsula, they tracked it on military radar and they did not scramble any jets.

The prime minister told Richard it was because it was deemed, for some reason, somehow, that it was not hostile. Is that a satisfying explanation to you?

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: No, it's not. And you could tell that Richard had zeroed right in on the weakest point because how do you know it's not hostile? He said well, it was civilian aircraft. Well, then either you knew it was MH-370 or you didn't, and if you didn't know what it was, then obviously you have to go find out.

So I think Richard was reading the tea leaves pretty well. It was probably somebody junior on duty or I think somebody either left their station or wasn't paying attention. And the Malaysian prime minister was just never going to say that. So I think Richard did a masterful job trying to pin him down.

BERMAN: And David Soucie, that would mean -- if you accept Richard's explanation for how it could have happened, and it seems to be a good one here, that there was a mistake made somewhere early on. And presumably the Malaysian officials have known about this for some time and are trying to keep that quiet?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Yes, it's confusing to me, except for the fact that the Malaysian radar, if it's an older radar which I suspect that it is, is just for defense purposes. It doesn't have secondary pings. It would be able to -- what their goal is at that point is to say, is this aircraft a threat. So in that realm you become complacent about what it might be. And that's exactly why we found ourselves in the situation we did with 9/11. It's just the unfathomable. It's not something that wouldn't even come to your mind. And I think that's where we finding, it's just the complacency of that radar operator, seeing that there's something out of order and just thinking well, it's not defensive so therefore it has nothing to do with me and then moving on so yes, that is a mistake and it should be corrected.

BERMAN: And just to be clear to say it, you know, out loud the reason that this is such a big deal is because in this day and age you do not know if a plane is hostile or not. It's something we've learned all too well on September 11th in this country.

Mary, I want to ask you another question now. You heard Sarah Bajc talking about how the families are just not getting their questions answered, seven weeks into this now. Simple things, like flight path calculations, cargo manifests, facts that are out there that may have been in that report that has been turned over to international authorities right now.

These are fair questions, aren't they?

SCHIAVO: Very fair questions, and really straightforward questions and I really commend the family for this list of questions. And I know they have many more. But they're very down-to-earth questions. They are simple questions -- and investigators should be asking themselves and answering. And I also think it's a mistake, they have already prepared a preliminary report. What should have happened is they should have called those families together and reviewed it with them first.

They are the ones that are most important here. And so now they're going to get it with the rest of the world. And so they just keep compounding the distrust level and it's unfortunate. Hopefully these questions that the families have will be in the preliminary report. But I don't want to get anybody's hopes up. Usually preliminary reports are really cursory. Just, you know, the bare bones of the facts, and that the investigation continues. So let's hope it's more than that, but sometimes it's all it is.

BERMAN: And the prime minister announced to Richard, by the way, that that report will be public one week from now. Why the one-week wait, we're not really sure about.


BERMAN: Richard, I do want to bring you in here now directly, because I think you may heard Sarah Bajc talking. It's clear the Malaysian prime minister is trying to reach out to the families of those on board 370. There's a long way to go and these families clearly not satisfied.

What more does he need to do at this point?

QUEST: Well, this is an interesting point because when you talk to the Malaysians or you talk to the airline, they're very clear that their duty is to the next of kin. So you constantly question about why is there just this discrepancy between the next of kin's demands and views and what you're saying.

Now a lot of the questions that they have asked, they have received the information. I'm not saying all. But I've had it on an extremely high authority that a lot of the information has been provided. And then they ask for it again or in a slightly different form. And where I think the Malaysian government or the airline is falling down is that they are not responding fast enough again to give the information because this next of kin are entitled to that information. They are the people who are affected most.

But I don't think anybody should be in any doubt that at least from the very top of the prime minister, his view is that the change will take place. Information, may be the cargo manifest, maps, passenger lists, the preliminary report. Maybe these -- as he said to me, Richard, we have heard the messages people are sending.

BERMAN: They have heard them but they're still going to wait a week before they make this report public.

And, Richard, you make clear to me and many others, these reports usually are public.

QUEST: Well, I asked him that. I said straight out, why don't you do it now, Prime Minister? He said he wants the International Committee to look at the report. I am not sure why. I said to him is it because there is something embarrassing in the report against Malaysia? He said no. He said, I just want this international committee to look at it but it will be made public next week. So I then probably ask for a copy earlier.

BERMAN: Right. Well, we'll see if in a week, not now.

David Gallo, I do want to bring you in on this important point. The search area now off the coast of Perth, Australia could be coming to a conclusion really any minute now. We'll bring you that news when it happens. This first preliminary search area it seems as if at this point it may turn up nothing.

And so the question a lot of people have is if they did hear these pings why are they not finding anything on the ocean floor?

DAVID GALLO, CO-LED SEARCH FOR AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447: Well, it's very possible, John, that they've just missed them. That they are there just outside that search circle that they've been -- that they've been focusing in. That's a possibility. It is a possibility that there is someplace totally different, but in that vicinity, and the ocean is playing tricks with the sound.

You know, it's a difficult thing. And I've been arguing this all along is how do we -- if we do believe in those pings, that they're pingers from the black boxes, how do we leave this area even if they have to expand that circle two or three times to make the bull's eye bigger?

BERMAN: May have to expand it two or three times and that could take some time, at least two weeks or so until they get more advanced equipment to that area to keep on searching.

Guys, thank you very much. As always you'll find much more on this story and others at

Up next, how the search for Steve Fossett's missing plane went terribly off-course? Is this a lesson now for those leading the search for Flight 370?

Plus, breaking news out of South Korea. More bodies recovered from the sunken ferry as the criminal investigation heats up.


BERMAN: Our breaking news tonight, we are waiting for results from the Bluefin-21 underwater drone's 12th mission. If it turns up nothing in the search that authorities have zeroed in on, one obvious question is, did they simply pick the wrong place to look? Last night, Anderson asked CNN analyst David Gallo who co-led the search for Air France Flight 447 for his take.


Anderson cooper, CNN ANCHOR: David Gallo, I mean, do you believe they'll looking in the right place or -- I mean, do you have to just kind of trust --

DAVID GALLO, CNN ANALYST: Well, it is the place they had to look because they had the pings. They had the Inmarsat data. They had the fuel consumption of the aircraft. Everything pointed to this area and you know, I have said all along that I don't know how you leave this area. If you're confident that the pings were from the black boxes, how do you begin to leave this area and think about any place else?


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: David said tonight, the question is, what if that information that authorities relied on to define the search zone, what if it is just wrong? The Inmarsat satellite data is certainly controversial, and as Randi Kaye reports, this is not the first time that the search for a missing plane has gone off course based on bad information.


RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's September 2007, Steve Fossett takes off from the Flying M Ranch in Nevada, heading south in a single engine airplane. He promises to be back for lunch, but that is the last time anyone sees of him.

MAJOR ED LOCKE, NEVADA NATIONAL GUARD: The best way to characterize this is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

KAYE: Within hours, a desperate search for the famed aviator is under way. The terrain is rugged, the wilderness between Western Nevada and Eastern California is vast.

(on camera): Did that plane have like the equivalent of a black box?

MAJ. CYNTHIA RYAN, CIVIL AIR PATROL: It has an ELT, a locater system that can be picked up by satellites.

KAYE (voice-over): Radar picks up the plane's track along the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, following a trail Faucet hiked as a teenager. Colleen Keller volunteered in the search.

COLLEEN KELLER, FAUCETT SEARCH VOLUNTEER: Before they could really pursue this evidence they were distracted by another piece of evidence that popped up, which was a visual sight out in the desert. That one was very tempting because whenever somebody says they see the airplane people tend to put a lot of credence in that.

KAYE (on camera): That visual sight came from a ranch hand in the area who tells authorities the plane flew over him while he was standing on his porch just about 15 miles from where Fossett took off. He says the plane was flying pretty low, just about a thousand feet. The tip changes everything.

KELLER: It was very distracting and they never looked back and looked at a previous evidence they had. They focused everything on this new piece.

KAYE (voice-over): The search area suddenly shifts dramatically, from the mountains about 60 miles northeast to the desert. The search continues for months. Still, no sign of Steve Fossett or his airplane. That is until a hiker finds some of Fossett's personal belongings. It is now October 2008, more than a year after he disappeared.

PRESTON MORROW, HIKER: I came across the ID card and the other cards and the money in the dirt, and the pine needles and stuff. I went wow. We put it all together, it is that Fossett guy.

KAYE: It turns out these items are discovered in the heart of the original search area. The mountains. The search teams quickly change their focus once again.

SHERIFF JOHN ANDERSON, MADERA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Just about the time we were going to call off the search the aircraft from Yosemite National Park spotted what they thought was wreckage on the ground.

KAYE: It is Fossett's plane right along the original radar track. The very spot in play before authorities shifted their attention to the desert. Based on a so-called hot tip from a ranch hand.

KELLER: They probably could have found him relatively quickly if they had followed up on the evidence they had very early on in the search.

KAYE: Instead of the plane being located in just days, the search lasted over a year and cost millions. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


BERMAN: Could there be a lesson here? Up next, more breaking news, the death toll rises in the South Korean ferry disaster. And they're using an unusual looking, but advanced underwater robot in the search now for missing passengers. We're live in South Korea with the latest on the investigation.

Also ahead, we'll look at major salvage operations like that of the cruise ship "Costa Concordia," to see how South Korea may eventually try to raise that ferry.


BERMAN: Breaking news in South Korea where it is already Friday morning. Divers searching the sunken ferry believe they have recovered the body of the boy who made the first emergency call for help. This as that ship began to roll on its side before the crew radioed the distress call. Officials will now use DNA tests to positively identify his remains.

One hundred eight one people are now confirmed dead, but 121 are still missing. Hopes of finding anyone alive are fading. South Korea's Coast Guard has now deployed an underwater robot called the "Crabster" as part of its search operation. This is an advance piece of equipment that can actually crawl like a crab along the sea floor on aluminum legs.

As we reported over the past week more than 300 high school children were on that ferry. Today, their school reopens. Students, as you can see, created a shrine near the entrance leaving flowers and hundreds and hundreds of notes. Some of those messages expressed regret at not being able to help when their friends were in need.

Kyung Lah is on a boat near Jindo in South Korea with the latest. And Kyung, today you learned that there were some modifications recently made to that ferry. What can you tell us about that?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we can tell you is that the prosecutor's office tells CNN that it is looking into that retrofit that you're talking about. This boat, this ferry was purchased from Japan in 2007 and last year was retrofitted to be able to handle an additional 200 people. They're looking at that. They're looking at whether or not the cargo shifted or not. And they were looking at whether or not a sharp turn may have contributed to what happened here.

BERMAN: Kyung, there is also news today that additional crew members had been arrested. The captain previously was arrested. There seems to be a large number of arrests here.

LAH: Yes, we're hearing about it every single day, and last night what we heard our time here in Korea is that there were four more additional arrests. That brings the total of arrests to 15. Twenty crew members survived what happened here to this ferry, only five of them now have not been charged. So this is a dragnet that is widening. It is something that the parents wanted here. They wanted a sense of justice, but it is not helping anyone as far as coping with this tremendous loss.


LAH (voice-over): They are the victims of South Korea's worst ship disaster in decades. But to those waiting on land they are lost children, teachers and parents. Billy Kim, playfully hula hooping in a Dalmatian costume grew up in Korea with an American boy's name. The mother says she loved goats when she was little, and the unique name, Billy, was chosen.

Some are only known by numbers. Listed on a white board at the port until their parents name them. Number 63, a student with the flower-shaped belly ring and adidas sweat pants, number 68, this one, a boy, skinny with pimples, braces wearing a light green hoodie. Connecting the young victims is one high school.

They were on a four-day field trip, a fun excursion, just before the junior exams for college. Park Ye Sun was 16. She dreamed of being a television screen writer in the future. Lee Seok Jun, aga 14, focused more on the present. His dad was out of work. Lee waited tables to help pay his family's bills. Their teachers were not much older than their students.

Kim Cho Wan, teaching her first year at the high school, lost her life. She died on her birthday. There are many stories of the Sewol ferry's crew abandoning passengers. But not so well known are the quiet stories of the crew's heroism. The 44-year-old Yang Dei Hong called his wife as the disaster unfolded.

The ship is tilting now, he said, use the money in the bank for the children's school fees. Before hanging up he said I need to go rescue more kids. His wife never heard his voice again. A nation's hopes fading. Prayers now comforting families of the lost.


BERMAN: Such amazing stories there. Kyung, we have discussed the boy who called emergency services before the ship's signal that there was a problem. You have some information about this boy?

LAH: A very brave boy. He is the one who called for emergency help. Korea's version of 911. A full 3 minutes before the crew itself had sent out a distress call. And John, we did learn that that boy's body has been recovered. His family telling CNN that he indeed is home. They did not release his name.

BERMAN: We hope that can bring some kind of peace to that family. Kyung Lah, thank you so much, very nice report.

After the bodies are recovered the ship will be salvaged. So up next, a look at recent operations like the one that succeeded in riding the Costa Concordia. That's next.


BERMAN: More now on our breaking news out of South Korea, the death toll in the ferry disaster rises to 181, 121 others still missing. And until the bodies of all the victims are recovered the ship does remain a grave site. But after the victims are returned to their families the ship will become a salvage operation and the investigators will try to answer the key question what caused that ferry to sink.

Now salvaging a ship that large will take time. It will be dangerous and expensive. But it has been done before. 360's Gary Tuchman reports.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is not the first time South Korea has had to deal with the disaster on the seas. The South Korean Navy ship exploded in the Yellow Sea in 2010. Forty six sailors were missing initially. The rescue effort began immediately. The effort to raise the ship also began quickly when it was determined that was the only way to recover the bodies of the dead.

Twenty five sailors were found in the ship's hull when the vessel was raised about a month later. The key to recovering the ship was a crane, which actually lifted it from a water and placed it on a barge. And as a grim reminder that recovery can be dangerous work, one Navy diver was killed and two others were hospitalized during the effort reportedly exceeding recommended times underwater.

In January, 2012, the cruise ship, the Costa Concordia infamously struck the rocks off the coast of Italy. The rocks, ripping through the left side of the vessel flooding part of the ship. Thirty people were killed, two are still missing, the ship ended up resting in shallow waters, some of it underwater, some not. At the time, they called it the largest ship removal by weight in history.

RICH HARIB, PRESIDENT, TANK SALVAGE: We feel confident we can do it. We feel confident with other partners we will do it safely and with the least disturbance to the environment and the least disturbance to the economy.

TUCHMAN: The Italians and Americans put together a salvage plan, released footage and animation of the complicated operation, which included attaching heavy cables from poles to keep the ship from sinking even deeper. The work was extremely dangerous.

HARIB: Anybody doing any work is going to be in a weird position. So you're going to have to have safety harnesses and equipment that can deal with that kind of environment because nothing is straight.

TUCHMAN: It was not until this past September 20 months after the accident that the Costa Concordia was brought to a vertical position. But months of the salvage operation are still left. Ultimately the ship will be towed to a nearby port and torn down. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent.

In just over a decade earlier in February 2001, a U.S. submarine, the Pacific, off the coast of Oahu initiates an incident. Nine people were killed including four high school students because of the depth and weight of the wreckage there were doubts that it could ever be recovered but it could. The U.S. and Holland worked together to find the wreckage.

After about five months of recovery efforts to vessel was lifted to the surface and eight of the nine victims' bodies were recovered. One victim remains missing today. After the valuables were taken off the ship it was then towed back out to sea and respectfully dropped 6,000 feet to an ocean resting place where it will remain for eternity. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Los Angeles.


BERMAN: All right, thanks to Gary for that. We're joined now by David Devilbiss, vice president of Marine Casualty and Emergency Response Services at Global Diving and Salvage, and by Dave Davidson, a retired Navy fleet master diver.

David Devilbiss, I want to start with you. When it comes to trying to recover the bodies of the victims here the divers not only have the challenge of navigating a ship upside down and under water, but the visibility is so poor. We keep hearing they almost have to operate by feel?

DAVID DEVILBISS, GLOBAL DIVING AND SALVAGE: Yes, it is a very difficult situation to work in, Anderson. Particularly that they have limited time at depth that they can work. So they have got to transit from the surface of the water down and enter the ship. Figure out where they are, divers can get very disoriented when they're working on a submerged ship under water.

If you can imagine going forward down a hallway and taking a left, normally you would be going to the port side of the vessel, in this case you're going to the starboard. All the floating objects are now floating up to the floor above you, and all the heavy objects have fallen down to the ceiling above you. As you look for victims you really have to use your hands to identify what is in front of you. So it is a very tasking, physical, and emotionally tasking project.

BERMAN: And Dave Davidson, it could be getting harder because up until now they have been searching the open areas on this ship. The big rooms like the cafeteria. Now it seems they're moving into the smaller rooms, these individual cabins. What are the complications there?

DAVE DAVIDSON, RETIRED NAVY FLEET MASTER DIVER: Well, as David said you know we have limited time in decompression. With the tables and schedules. So if you're going to go into a smaller space you think it would be quicker. But actually you have to go to the space and transit. So you have to transit to each space because it takes time because we have the umbilicals and attending lines. So I think it will be slower for square footage.

BERMAN: So David Devilbiss, the salvage operation we're told will not begin until the search for the victims is completely and only after getting the consent from the families of those missing that's according to the South Korean semi-official news agency. We're already seeing large cranes in the area. Now you say salvaging a ship like this is more an art than a science. What do you mean by that?

DEVILBISS: It is more of an art than a science. Salvage projects like this, you're dealing with a lot of unknowns in the situation. Unlike building a house where you have a pile of materials, you have a schedule and a plan to put them together. You're dealing with a lot of unknowns, internal bulk heads and tanks may have imploded on the way down. You don't know if you can rely on the buoyancy of the tanks when you go to put air in them, for instance.

Good salvage companies typically have a plan a, b, and c, so that when they run into the unknown or more information becomes available through the project they can then alter and be flexible to adjust with the realities.

BERMAN: And Dave Davidson, we just had the piece from Gary Tuchman talking about the different ways this is sometimes achieved. It's not just as simple as hooking up a crane, is it?

DAVIDSON: No, it's not. You have to have a lot of different salvage techniques, but it's going to need engineering analysis, possibly computer modeling. You have to make a plan so you know exactly how you will do the salvage before you do it. And then it is not hooking a crane up. You may remove weight, that is one way you can use salvage pontoons. The U.S. Navy has 35 tons of lift. You could use the water ballast tanks to help give you buoyancy. You will have to do a lot of inspections in the pre-salvage plan.

BERMAN: They have a big, difficult job ahead of them.

Just ahead for us, a Chicago doctor is among three Americans killed in a shooting at a hospital in Afghanistan. And you will not believe who the alleged gunman was.


BERMAN: A lot of other news tonight, Susan Hendricks has 360 bulletin.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, three Americans were killed at a Kabul hospital. Police say an Afghan guard at the hospital carried out that attack. Two of the victims were a father and son. The third American was a Chicago paediatrician who has been in Afghanistan for nearly ten years, his wife says he loved the Afghan people and their family holds no ill will toward the country or even the gunman.

Rising tensions along the Ukraine/Russian border as Russia carries out military exercises. And Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened consequences if Ukraine is using its military against its own people after Ukraine forces said they killed five pro-Russian militants.

In Japan, President Obama told reporters he is not hopeful Russia will back down. And it was man versus machine at a Tokyo museum when President Obama played soccer with a robot. He was impressed, but a little scared he said at the technology.

And now, a look at the new Guinness World Record for highest base jump. Two French skydivers had leaped from the world's tallest building in Dubai. Here it is. The Verge Kalifa is more than a half mile tall and John, they said they are not daredevils. They don't do it to kind of get afraid or do it to be a daredevil. They do it for fun.

BERMAN: I love how they hold hands, Susan, a tender moment as they plummet hundreds and hundreds of feet. All right ...

HENDRICKS: With a smile.

BERMAN: ... Susan Hendricks, thank you so much.

That does it for us. CNN Tonight starts right now.