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MH-370 Emergency Beacons Didn't Send Distress Signal; Malaysian P.M. Speakers Out about MH-370 Investigation; Interview with Sarah Bajc on MH370; Curiosity with Disaster Mysteries.

Aired April 25, 2014 - 11:30   ET


DAVID SOUCI, CNN SAFETY ANALYST & AUTHOR: But, nonetheless, the confidence that I have in those pings is extremely high because of the fact that I've investigated several different possibilities of what else it might be, including Woods Hole itself has monitor beacons that they use in the ocean on various species to try to track them and those do operate in that same frequency.

However, what I discovered is the ones that ping at one-second intervals and operate on that frequency, have not been manufactured for decades. The chance that a battery would survive that long is pretty slim. At this point, I ruled out in my mind any other possibility than a beacon from that black box.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: I think we've heard from viewers on Twitter and online that there is so much debris that hasn't washed up on Australian shore is shocking to people this far out.

David Souci, always a delight to have you with us. Thanks so much.

Ahead @ THIS HOUR, why didn't the emergency beacons aboard flight 370 work? They didn't send distress signals to satellites overhead. Does that mean the plane didn't crash?


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This just in from North Korea. Miller Matthew Todd, a 24-year-old American, was taken into custody on April 10th by North Korean authorities apparently after entering the country on a tourist visa. According to their report, the American man tore his visa to pieces. He shouted that he wanted to seek asylum. The North Koreans say he went there because he chose it as shelter. The case is under investigation. The big question is he in fact there by choice or is something else going on here? We'll let you know when we hear more.

PEREIRA: Back to the mystery of MH-370. There is hope that maybe the jet didn't crash. There were onboard four emergency beacons on that plane, and if the plane went down, they should have sent a signal. Not one of them did.

BERMAN: That indicates two of them were designed to transmit if they came in contact with water. Again, nothing happened. So what's going on?

Let's bring our analyst, Jeff Wise and Jim Tillman.

Jeff, almost half of the questions that the families presented to the Malaysian government were about these beacons. Is the absence of any information from these beacons any signal as big of a deal as families are making?

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: This is something the families are concerned about. The Malaysian authorities haven't been forthright in producing and raising the question why not? What equipment was onboard this plane? If the plane crashes, you would expect that the BLT, the transmitter will send out a signal sent out by satellite. It should be picked up. The signal will contain information about where the aircraft is. There's even a contact telephone number that authorities can call just to make sure it's not a false alarm. An older version will take longer to locate and so it would be very useful to know is it the older kind, newer kind. And families just want to know this basic information. The fact that they didn't receive a signal doesn't necessarily mean that that units weren't operational. For instance, when Captain Sullenberger landed on the Hudson, he did it gently enough it didn't trigger the G-force detectors that trigger these devices.

PEREIRA: We talked about failure rate. I want to bring in Jeff Tillman.

Failure rate is fairly high. Let's talk about what chances are that all four onboard the plane. Redundancy there for a reason, I would assume. What are chances all four would fail at the same time? Jim?


PEREIRA: Yes, we are, Jim.


What are chances, Jim, that all four beacons would fail at the same time?

TILLMAN: I think it's unlikely but a possibility. You know, I don't like the idea of saying because we don't have all of the information that we have enough so we can proceed. I feel that way about this whole investigation. We have heard over and over again and I heard you ask in the last hour, you know, the fact that we don't have anything better does not mean that what we have is perfect. It doesn't. I just wish we could open up this investigation. I wish we could go to the point where they are open-minded and flexible. As we look at every possibility since that's where we are, just possibilities and assumptions.

BERMAN: I think transparency is something that the families would like to see, Jeff Wise. What lessons have we learned about the emergency transmitters?

WISE: The nature of plane crashes is such that they just won't survive. Sometimes when planes hit very hard and the beacons could just be destroyed on impact. Also, if these things are underwater, they're not going to transmit. That's the nature of radio waves and water.

BERMAN: Jeff Wise, Jim Tillman, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.

Ahead for us @ THIS HOUR, under intense pressure from the angry families of those onboard flight 370, the prime minister of Malaysia now speaks out, speaking really for the first time to our Richard Quest in an exclusive and revealing interview. That's next.


PEREIRA: As we know, each day that goes by, families of passengers on flight 370 grow more frustrated, more angry, there's more raw emotion. The Malaysian government seems to be trying to put its best face on the situation as it comes under intense criticism.

Our Richard Quest got an interview with the Malaysian prime minister. Take a listen.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Michaela and John, over the course of the seven weeks, the relationship between the families and both the airline and the Malaysian government has continued to deteriorate. The families believe that they are not being given information. The airline says they are providing that which they ask. The government says they do provide many briefings. So there's a huge disconnect between the various views.

And I asked the prime minister, whatever he may think they were doing, the families clearly are unhappy.


QUEST: The next of kin continue to ask questions and they believe they're not getting the answers. They believe that various technical facts are not given to them. Can you tonight reassure them that they are being given the information and they believe they're not, that you personally will make sure that they will?

NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: I know this is a very excruciatingly painful time for them. We have done our best. We did many, many briefings. We gave them as much information as we could in terms of information that could and would be corroborated. And as I promised, next week we'll release the preliminary report that was sent to (INAUDIBLE). But the most important information and, sadly, that we can't provide is where is the plane.

QUEST: The perception of Malaysia as a result of flight 370. Putting it together with everything else, do you believe that there is a long lasting damage to the reputation of this country as a result of what's happened?

RAZAK: I think, given time, we can recover, Richard. And I believe the word will look at us and judge us in a sense that it was hugely complex matter to deal with. I think on balance we did a lot of good things. And that's one of the biggest things we did was to put together 26 nations in the largest-ever search operation conducted during peace time. That's a huge success for Malaysia. Admittedly, we made mistakes. There were shortcomings. The world must realize that this is totally unprecedented.


QUEST: Now, if this is all moving into another phase where the Bluefin-21 is going to go to different areas, it could take longer and it's going to be more expensive. But ultimately, the families are going to still be seeking answers and that could once again raise tensions.

Michaela and John?

PEREIRA: Richard Quest, thank you for that. Interesting interview.

I had a chance to speak with one of the family members, Marine Sharman's (ph) wife was on the flight. He said this term unprecedented bothered him. At what point was it unprecedented? When the plane made a turn? When the plane went off radar? He wants to know that. That's part of their concerns of getting questions answered.

BERMAN: I spoke with Sarah Bajc, another family member. Her partner was on that flight. What did she think about the Malaysian prime minister's comments? I'll give you a hint. She didn't like them one bit. We'll have more from that interview just ahead.



RAZAK: 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. As I promised next week we will release the preliminary report that we sent. But the most important information that they want and, sadly, the one that we cannot provide, is where is the plane.


PEREIRA: That was Malaysian prime minister speaking with our Richard Quest.

BERMAN: On "A.C. 360," I spoke with Sarah Bajc, the partner of Philip Wood, a passenger on flight 370. We wanted to get a sense of what the family members think. Sarah has been so critical of how the investigation is handled, so critical of the lack of information coming from Malaysian authorities. You've got to hear her reaction to the prime minister's comments.


SARAH BAJC, PARTNER OF MH370 PASSENGER PHILIP WOOD: 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. If he has not held that team accountable for doing what they're supposed to do.

Actions speak louder than words. The briefings both in Malaysia and China have been a joke. 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's been a recurring theme. And the patience level of the family's group is just gone. Not only with the fudging of the investigation but also with the really irresponsible and disrespectful treatment of the families.

BERMAN: Sara, there was one point he made or actually one thing he didn't say. He refused now to say 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 contradiction here?

BAJC: 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. You do that by backing off of your statement. This is not an unprecedented situation. It's only an unprecedented outcome. There's been multiple terrorist attacks where the transponder was turned off, yet they ignored that. There have been multiple issues of planes 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: You can see this is a relationship at this point which seems irreparably harmed. I don't think it will ever get better.


PEREIRA: It's hard to imagine it coming back. There's not much confidence in it at all.

We're going to take a short break here. Ahead @ THIS HOUR, Amelia Earhart disappeared back in 1937 while trying to fly around the world. Will flight 370 become the latest unsolved mystery?


BERMAN: So the big question a lot of people now facing, what if they do not find 370, what happens then? Does it become one of those mysteries that sticks around for decades?

PEREIRA: Would it rank up there for Amelia Earhart or "Titanic," the mystique it holds for all of us?

Professor Robert Thompson is a popular culture expert from Syracuse University joining us. Really appreciate your joining us. I think many of us here at CNN and beyond are interested in the fact that Americans, particularly, have this fascination with this ongoing mystery, more so than even around the world. Why do you think that is?

ROBERT THOMPSON, POPULAR CULTURE PROFESSOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: Right. Even people nearby where they think the plane is or even in China where many of the passengers were from don't seem to have the same constant sort of appetite for these kinds of -- for this story. Part of that is that we have lots of places to continue to fill that appetite. And the more information we get, the more we become interested and I don't know why we wouldn't. I mean, this is a fascinating story. The age where everything is being, you know, is able to be monitored and traced and all the rest, this enormous plane filled with enormous people, has disappeared. Now, when they eventually find it, whether or not this remains a big story will depend on what they find out happened to the plane. If it just crashed from some kind of malfunction or whatever, then I think this story will go away quickly. If it turns out to be some horrible mischief, then depending on what that brings out.

But if they never find it, and two years goes by, three years go by, then, of course, this becomes one of the biggest legends and mysteries out there. It's a big plane. A lot of people. It's Amelia Earhart times a lot.

BERMAN: What happens, you get people leading expeditions to search for it, you get false alarms that set off a frenzy of interest around the world. What do you think?

THOMPSON: Yeah, what happens I suppose to some extend is a continuation of what's happening now, but it gets -- it gets spread out over time. But, yes, eventually you get TV specials, you get people with better technologies and you get all kinds of speculation of, you know, a beam came down and took it out into space and whatever happened on "Lost" happened in real life. We're already getting those kinds of theories now. And the longer a plane like this is gone, the more and more outrageous the invitations are to speculate as to what happened. When science doesn't give you answers, you have to go outside of rationality to look for them.

PEREIRA: Robert Thompson is a popular culture expert at Syracuse University, looking at this sort of obsession with this mystery.

Thanks so much for joining us.

I wonder if, you know, airplane travel is something most of us use, it's hard for us to imagine most of this would simply disappear.

BERMAN: The way this developed is unprecedented. There were question, was it terrorism, was it not terrorism? The unknown is huge.

Over the next couple of days, we could enter a new, very important phase here where that Bluefin begins a new search. So stay with us for any information about that. Thanks for joining us @ THIS HOUR. I'm John Berman.

PEREIRA: I'm Michaela Pereira. "LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.