Return to Transcripts main page


Palestinians: Death Toll Tops 960 In Gaza; More Coffins Head To Netherlands Today; One Last Photo Captures Family On Flight 17; U.S. Evacuates Embassy In Tripoli; What Will Flight 17's Black Boxes Reveal?; Protecting U.S. Planes Against Missiles; Foster Child Dies in Hot Car; Fear of Flying

Aired July 26, 2014 - 8:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. So glad to have you company. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Eight o'clock now almost here on Saturday. This is NEW DAY SATURDAY.

PAUL: Yes, this morning, I want to -- the war planes and rocket fire have stilled over Gaza and Israel right now. This is for the first time in days.

BLACKWELL: Yes, but the death toll continues to rise even though this 12-hour pause from the fighting by Israel and Hamas is under way right now. In Gaza, Palestinian recovery teams say they have found at least 40 bodies in buildings that were smashed into rubble. And they were just too dangerous to get to until now.

PAUL: CNN's Martin Savidge joins us now live from Jerusalem. So Martin, I know Gaza official say that the death toll there topping 960. What might this mean for the U.S.-led efforts to get a seven-day cease-fire? Does this hamper in any way, anything that John Kerry is trying to do? Does it accelerate it?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think in most ways it is bound to accelerate it. It is bound to put the impetus. I mean, that is what the whole that the secretary of state had said, that the shooting has got to stop because of the incredible death toll that continues to rise. The death toll on both sides, but predominantly the greatest number has been on the Palestinian side.

So, that's what is driving this effort to bring about a longer lasting cease-fire. Right now, it is described as a humanitarian cease-fire. It's 12 hours. It is holding. That is a very positive sign. But essentially all it will allow is for people to try to stock up on some food, to desperately stock up on any water they can find. There has been great concern about that.

And then, as you point out, for the emergency teams to go into the rubble, which has been too dangerous previously with the ongoing conflict. So as a result of that they are discovering dozens and dozens of bodies. As you say, that will increase at least internationally the desire to bring about a long-term end. We will see if that can actually happen though. BLACKWELL: Martin, we've talked a lot about the negotiators and the IDF there. What are you hearing from people who live there in Jerusalem who are every day folks? What is their view of this conflict?

SAVIDGE: If you were to say, what is the majority opinion, most people, of course, support the military and support the ongoing effort inside Gaza, that is not to say they, in any way, like to see or in any way happy about the high death toll. Israel has said it never in any way is wanting to carry out or kill civilians.

That said, like any conflict, like in the United States, when you had the war in Iraq or conflict in Afghanistan, there are people who are divided over it. There are some who are opposed to any military operations against Palestinians who do not like to see the rising number of Israeli soldiers that have been killed.

I would say that they are in the minority. Most people still realize that they live under the threat of terror. That the rockets continue to fall on Israel, a well over 2,000 launched. I will not say there is a deeply divided nation in any way, but like in any conflict, there are those who speak out against it.

PAUL: Martin, when we look at the Gaza side of things, they have been living in the unrest for so long, both sides have been living in the unrest for so long. A lot of people look at it and they see, you know, the pounding and the suffering that Gaza has gone through with that 960 figure. If they would open the borders, is there any gauge as to whether people would actually leave the region?

SAVIDGE: Well, I think there are a lot of Palestinians, yes, would like the opportunity to freely leave Gaza. It is not that easy to do. But the likelihood of just lifting that security border and opening up the free trade that is something Hamas wants. It is part of its list of demands. It is not something that Israel would be ready to necessarily go forward with.

Israel will point at the fact and say look, you know, we have allowed trade. We have allowed cement to go into Gaza. How is that cement been used? Israel will say they were not using it to build schools, but using it to build tunnels underneath the ground into Israel to allow attacks on Israeli citizens.

So this is the kind of conversation that goes back and forth and has done now for years over how much access those in Gaza should have to the outside world and vice versa. It is a very contentious point and one that would require a great deal for negotiation and you're going to get done in say a 12-hour cease-fire.

BLACKWELL: All right, hour-seven here of this cease fire. We'll see if it holds for the full forecast 12 hours. Martin Savidge there in Jerusalem. Martin, thank you.

PAUL: Thank you, Martin.

SAVIDGE: You're welcome. PAUL: This morning, more victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines jet are headed back to the Netherlands. These are the latest pictures we are getting from earlier today. The plane you see loaded with coffins took off from Kharkiv, Ukraine.

BLACKWELL: It is the last scheduled flight en route to a Dutch air base. Thirty eight coffins are expected to be received with military honors and then taken to a facility there to undergo forensic analysis. And officials say the grim process could take weeks or months.

PAUL: Among the people lost, a young family from the Netherlands. I want to show you Kim Halley and 4-year-old daughter, Megan, there they are. Dave, the dad is the one behind the lens.

BLACKWELL: This photo was taken just before the flight took off. It remains for the Halley's extended family, a cherished final reminder of joy in the midst of this agonizing tragedy. Erin McLaughlin has that family's story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's too much to three people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A whole family. Yes. Too much to understand.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dave and Kim Halley were on their dream holiday with their 4-year-old daughter, Megan. Dave took what would be his very last photo. His wife and child ready for takeoff on board MH-17.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are looking at them and thinking, yes, it was a happy moment for them.

MCLAUGHLIN (on camera): At least their last moments were happy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They really were. Yes.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Kim's parents say all they can do is wait for their bodies. They watched as the first unidentified caskets arrived in Holland and while they did not know for sure, they told themselves the Halleys came off the plane first.

MONIQUE VERHAEGH, VICTIM'S MOTHER: They always wanted to win. We said this is it.

MCLAUGHLIN (on camera): When you saw the three coffins come off the plane, you said there they are.

THIJS VERHAEGH, VICTIM'S FATHER: The first three were our children. That has to be them.

MCLAUGHLIN: Do you blame anyone for what's happened?

THIJS VERHAEGH: Yes. The man who hit the plane, which blew up the airplane. If I get him, I could kill him. MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Not far away, the Halley house stands empty. Their car parked in the driveway. A makeshift memorial on the front porch and a grandmother's last moment remembered. As she was cycling from the Halley house just before the family left for the trip, she says she turned to see her granddaughter who waved and said.


MCLAUGHLIN: Now all they have left are memories. Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Netherlands.


PAUL: Tough.

BLACKWELL: Yes. So let's talk about the French families of those on board the crashed Air Algerie flight. They are hoping to get some answers today from their government as well.

PAUL: One hundred sixteen people were killed when that plane went down Thursday in Mali, 54 of them from France. New images from the crash site you see here. They show parts of the plane broken apart and burned nearly beyond recognition.

BLACKWELL: That plane was traveling from Burkina Faso to Algeria when it down just about an hour after takeoff and so far, one flight data recorder has been recovered.

Flight 17's black boxes are being examined right now by investigators in the U.K. What could those black boxes reveal?

PAUL: Plus Americans fighting in the Israeli Army. We are going to find out why some young people feel so compelled to join the fight.


BLACKWELL: It's 11 after the hour now. The breaking news, the United States has evacuated its embassy in the embattled Libyan capital of Tripoli.

PAUL: The urgent removal of embassy comes amid intense militia fighting in that area. It marks the second time in a little more than three years that Washington has closed the diplomatic outpost in Libya. Joining us with the very latest is Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. What do you know, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Victor. We are now able to confirm that overnight our time, the United States evacuated about 150 personnel, including some 80 U.S. Marines out of the embassy in Tripoli in Libya. They drove west. If you look at the map again, they were driven west across the border into Tunisia.

They will move on from there to a number of different areas. The State Department not announcing exactly where they are going. The U.S. took this decision to close the embassy in Tripoli, Libya because the fighting in that city had grown very close to the embassy. The airport is nearby. It has come under repeated shelling from rival militia groups in the last several days.

The embassy, simply they tell us could not continue to safely function. We have been watching overnight here at CNN, we have been watching this story minute by minute because this long, about a six- hour evacuation drive across the border. There was significant U.S. military force nearby watching just to make sure they did not run into trouble with all of the fighting going on, on the ground, and ready to move in if they did.

What I can tell you now is the U.S. had two F-16 aircraft patrolling overhead. They had a drone overhead watching the convoy all the way to the border. There were also several dozen Marines heavily armed in aircraft overhead ready to land if that convoy had come under attack and rescue the American personnel.

Keep in mind, there were already 80 Marines in the convoy because they were part of the protection force at the embassy. By all accounts, no shots fired. It all went peacefully. The U.S. had a lot of military fire power there, because I think everyone will remember, the Benghazi situation a couple of years ago.

When that outpost in Libya came under attack in a different location, of course, there was no force nearby to mount that rescue. This time, they wanted to make sure it all went flawlessly and there was the possibility of a rescue if these Americans came under trouble.

But what this really is, is a reflection that Libya, there is a great deal of concern. The fighting is so intense right now amongst the militia groups. The government is so fragile. This may wind up being what the U.S. calls another failed state. The Obama administration has been struggling for months to figure out how to exert its influence in this political situation in Libya.

But now it really has become a security situation. The airport closed down, destroyed due to shelling. That U.S. Embassy essentially had become one of the frontlines in the war across Tripoli and the Americans just finally had to go. They had to leave -- Victor, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Barbara, stand by. We have CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd on the phone with us. Phil, the U.S. not the first to take this step. Turkey evacuating its embassy. U.N. evacuations there as well at their facilities. Tell us about this group or these groups that are fighting there and have had control of this airport for some time.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST (via telephone): You had a lot of militias fighting in Libya for some time. We have lost track with all of the other things going on around the world. You have the emergence of the paramilitary forces against the militias, if you will.

People who oppose the rise of these Islamist militias in Tripoli. The in-fighting among the militias themselves with the addition of the newer group led by a former Libyan general is leading to some intense fighting in the capital.

PAUL: So how do you gauge who to keep there and who to pull out?

MUDD: I think it would be too easy to look at this as a result of what happened in Benghazi. My first reaction, I'm sure the first reaction of many people listening, this is a defensive reaction because of all the controversy surrounding the failure to secure Benghazi.

If you look at the situation on the ground, to me, this is quite prudent. The fighting has been going on because militias represent various geographic regions. The shelling in the capital is intensified. So I look at this and say anybody who is in a position of diplomatic security at the Department of State in Washington has to say we don't have very much option here.

BLACKWELL: Barbara, back to you. Do we know how long this could last and what efforts the U.S. is taking, if any right now, to kind of tamp down what is happening there in Libya?

STARR: Well, the evacuation, the State Department is saying, will last. The embassy will remain closed until the security situation improves enough in Tripoli that they can go back there safely. Again, what had happened, basically, and Phil is right. A partial reaction to Benghazi. They wanted this evacuation to go smoothly. They had plenty of military fire power to call in very quickly if they had to.

But in this case, what had basically happened over the last several days and weeks, is the nearby airport, which is quite close to the embassy, had been the object of shelling by rival militias. The airport now virtually destroyed. Militias dug in all over the city.

Once the airport closed, that left the Americans essentially no way out. How will they get out of Libya and the U.S. military likes to make sure that they can evacuate an embassy safely before they can't get the Americans out so driving out became the only option.

The situation in Tripoli is so dire that they would not have wanted to risk putting in U.S. military force, U.S. choppers and U.S. aircraft into that to get the Americans out. Instead, the decision was make it as low profile as you can and simply drive the Americans out of Tripoli. Head west to the border with Tunisia and get everybody across the border.

That has happened over the last six-to-eight hours. We have been watching it all unfold overnight. How long will this last? The problem in Tripoli right now is you have rival militias battling. You have a very fragile government. The U.S. making another diplomatic call for, you know, all the parties to lay down their arms and say get behind a new government.

But literally, since, Khadafi fell since the war in that country. They've had different governments, different people in charge, the militias have grown in strength and the affiliates with al Qaeda, the people that are held generally responsible for the Benghazi attack in Libya, those people have grown in strength. The government there really struggling to get a foot hold and actually be able to govern the country. One indication is it is our understanding that the U.S. did not even inform the Libyan government of the evacuation until the very end, until it was well underway.

They wanted the -- the situation is so insecure and unsecure that they needed to make sure today in the last six-to-eight hours to get all the Americans out and across the border without anybody in the Libyan government, perhaps any militias even knowing it happened. That gives you an indication of how fragile the situation is and how much the Obama administration may be struggling to exert its influence there.

BLACKWELL: We will see if we get some comment from the White House. Our Erin McPike is there this morning. Barbara Starr with the breaking news this morning. Barbara, thank you so much. Counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd on the phone with us, thank you as well.

The breaking news this morning, 150 staff including 80 Marines there, at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. The embassy has been shuttered and closed. They have been moved west to Tunisia. This evacuation after the fighting there in Tripoli.

PAUL: We're back in just a moment.


BLACKWELL: Fight 17, those flight data recorders and the cockpit voice recorder, both of the black boxes, they have now been handed over to the British. British authorities are working with the Dutch to extract the flight information and analyze the data.

PAUL: An expert with the NTSB may assist as well, but it could be weeks before we learn anything. Let's bring in CNN safety analyst and former FAA inspector, David Soucie, and former NTSB investigator, Alan Diehl, joining us live. Thank you both so much for being with us. Let's assume that a missile hit this plane. How would the black boxes reflect that, David?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, there's a couple of different things you could look at, but mostly what I would see in the black boxes validating of the other evidence. If you look at the black boxes and figure out which direction the missile came from, it could be used from that. You must know as you look at the trajectory of the shrapnel, you could look at the aircraft and you can tell from which direction it came.

Knowing that flight attitude. That is one thing. Many times, an accident investigation, you don't know what you don't know until you know it. At that point, that's when you learn something. You go into an accident investigation with a completely open mind to go in and expect something in the first place will taint the investigation. I choose to go in and say let's look the facts and data and do analysis after the facts.

BLACKWELL: Alan, the Dutch Safety Board said that the team of investigators they are putting together will try to find out if these black boxes have been tampered with to determine if anything nefarious had happened from the harvest and retrieval to handing them off. Is that easy to do? I mean, we were led to believe during 370 that that's pretty tough to do.

ALAN DIEHL, FORMER ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR, NTSB: It is difficult to do, Victor. One thing I think the black boxes are really important in providing is was that aircraft above 32,000 feet and on that ICAO approved air way? If that craft was below 32,000 feet, the rebels, when it ends up in criminal trial, which I imagine it will, probably in The Hague. They will say it was out of the war zone and not a legitimate target.

PAUL: So David, you know, when we look at the situation on the ground, we have the rebels today saying they're fed up with the fact that the people are still there and they haven't collected everything. They are giving them another week. If they only have another week, so to speak, how compromised is this scene going to be?

SOUCIE: Well, it's going to be compromised. It already has been compromised. I don't know there's anything that can be done about that certainly. I do know that they are assembling people right now that could go out there. The objective would be to document the scene in a very finite way and do the best they can. This is not typically the way we do an accident investigation. This is not a typical accident.

But to document the scene. There are ways to make three dimensional models and making high definition photographs and document the scene. This may be the first accident investigation that we'll have to investigate digitally.

BLACKWELL: To that end, Alan, if the rebels determine they are done, a week or two weeks, of course, these investigations take much longer than that, how compromised is the investigation and will you really ever get a definite answer about what took this plane down?

DIEHL: Well, fortunately, there was a European news agency crew on the scene a couple of days after the accident. This individual called me up. He read my book. He said, Doc, I want to talk to you. They went around, David, much like the NTSB does and I did with a GPS locater and cameras and they photographed the wreckage a couple of days after the event and they have some of the best documentation available. They also had some great pictures. Close ups of the damage to heavy structure.

He sent that information to me. I said you need to send this on to ICAO. You have built a great wreckage diagram. As we know, the separatists have been accused of moving the wreckage. I think this one news organization did a great job of building a wreckage diagram. Not as precise as NTSB, but it is probably some of the best evidence we have.

He also had some interesting pictures of damage to some of the bodies. I'm not a pathologist. I'm a psychologist, but if the Dutch medical examiners do a good job, they may find evidence of the shrapnel, but of the rocket booster. It is very interesting.

BLACKWELL: That may be how this comes together if they decide to shut this scene down. Alan Diehl, author of "Air Safety Investigators, Using Science to Save Lives, One Crash at a Time." David Soucie, also author of "Why Planes Crash." Good to have you with us. Thank you both.

PAUL: Thank you, gentlemen.

SOUCIE: Thank you.

DIEHL: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Shot out of the sky. I mean think about that.

Now some aviation experts worry what happened to Flight 17 could happen again. But one lawmaker is pushing to equip U.S. passenger planes with anti-missile technology. He will join us.

PAUL: Plus more on the breaking news this morning of the U.S. embassy in Tripoli -- it has been evacuated and it was not easy to do. Stay close, we'll tell you more.


BLACKWELL: And the breaking news is the United States has evacuated its embassy in the embattled Libyan capital of Tripoli.

PAUL: The urgent removal of embassy staff in neighboring Tunisia comes amid intense militia fighting in that area. And of course, this marks the second time in a little more than three years that Washington has closed its diplomatic outpost in Libya. Kind of a fluid situation right now, we're keeping our eye on it and we'll keep you posted throughout the morning.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely.

Let's go to Canada now. Chaos and fear inside a passenger plane. And we saw it on this cell phone video. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands up. Hands up. Heads down, hands up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heads down. Hands up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me all your hands. Heads down. Heads down. Heads down. Hands up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me all your hands. Hands up. Heads down. Heads down. Heads down. Hands up.


BLACKWELL: They are shouting "heads down" and "hands up". PAUL: As they're waving guns. I mean imagine if you put yourself in

the shoes of that person who was shooting that video. This started, by the way, with an angry threat that forced the Sunwing Jet that was carrying 189 people to Panama to turn back to Toronto. And it was escorted by U.S. fighter jets.

Now witnesses tell CNN affiliate CTV a 25-year-old Canadian citizen said he wanted to bomb Canada.

BLACKWELL: Ali Shahi -- the name is Ali Shahi -- he's due in court this morning for a bail hearing. According to CTV his demeanor completely changed after he was in handcuffs. He said he was sorry. He loved Canada -- once in handcuffs. The plane was searched and nothing was found. Police say Shahi faces four charges, including endangering the safety of an aircraft.

PAUL: So could the downing of Flight 17 happen again? I know that a lot of people have wondered that and some aviation experts now say, yes, it could.

BLACKWELL: And that's why New York congressman Steve Israel is trying to revise -- or revive rather a missile defense legislation to protect U.S. passenger planes.

PAUL: The original bill called the Commercial Airline Defense -- Missile Defense Act failed to advance back in 2003. But it would have required the Pentagon to pay $1 million a piece to install planes with anti-missile systems.

BLACKWELL: So when you crunch the numbers, it is almost $7 billion. Does it have a chance now the second time around?

Well, let's ask Congressman Steve Israel. He joins us live this morning from West Babylon, New York. Congressman good to have you.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Thank you very much. Good morning.

PAUL: Thank you sir.

BLACKWELL: Good morning.

So the question here is -- I mean how likely is it that this will get passed considering how much this costs and airlines, as we hear every quarter, are strapped for cash?

ISRAEL: Well, how much does it cost when a shoulder-fired missile is fired at a plane? It would completely ground aviation. Look, what's happened over the past several weeks are just chilling reminders that the threat of a surface-to-air missile is real. And I believe it is going to increase.

We know that there are 500,000 to 700,000 of these shoulder-fired missile systems around the world. We know that there are thousands of these systems in the hands of terrorists.

Terrorists are copycats. One rocket landed a mile away from the Ben Gurion airport. Our FAA said planes shouldn't land there. I'm concerned that they're going to replicate that tactic. And the fact is there's a solution. El-Al aircraft have defensive technologies. Many military aircraft have defensive technologies. Air Force One, corporate jets -- I believe that all Americans should have those defense technologies on the planes that they fly.

PAUL: Those technologies to install -- that has got to be meticulous and time consuming and effort as well. Wondering -- help us understand what is in this bill. Are you talking about all airlines across the board or are you talking about planes that fly to certain regions?

ISRAEL: We are trying to find the right mix that would incentivize in some cases and require in other cases, the airline industry to adopt these technologies. I just don't understand the argument why the Israelis have found the wherewithal and the resources to protect people on their planes but here in the United States we can't figure that out. I just don't accept it. Now, the airline industry has said that the cost of these systems is about, as you said, $1 million a plane. Guess what -- the cost of an in-flight entertainment system is $1 million a plane.

And I'm glad we have the ability to watch multiple channels, including CNN, at 30,000 feet. I also want the ability to land and takeoff from airports knowing that we're safe against the one terrorist with one easily deployable shoulder-fired missile.

BLACKWELL: Well, let's talk about that, the shoulder-fired missiles because our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes this morning says that that is the greater concern here, not these SA-11s or the BUK missile system where you get above 17,000 feet. So would it not be, I guess a better proposal to arm these airports or equip the airports themselves with stationary defenses instead of equipping each plane with defense.

ISRAEL: Well, the issue with that is that the planes themselves are not stationary. And so look, our airports are among the most secure in the world. But it is not that difficult for a terrorist to take a shoulder-fired missile, put it in the trunk of a car, drive it near an airport -- the range of these things is three to four miles -- and fire it on a plane that's landing or taking.

And, by the way, you don't have to hit the plane. Just the tactic of firing a missile, even if it misses, is going to have devastating consequences on the airline industry and our economy. Now, rather than trying to equip an airport here and an airport there, planes take off and fly into many airports around the world. Wouldn't it be better to defend the actual planes knowing that wherever that plane is traveling, it has a level of protection -- the same level of protection that El-Al aircraft have.

PAUL: Congressman, do you have any sense what kind of support you may have for this bill?

ISRAEL: Well, you know, I'm sorry to say it is probably going to be difficult. Many in the airline industry are concerned about the cost which is why I'm trying to find the right compromise, that right mix of incentives that will bring everybody to the table. This is going to be hard to do, but much harder is to answer the question the day after a shoulder-fired missile is fired. Why didn't we act sooner?

BLACKWELL: Congressman, I would like your reaction to the breaking news this morning that the U.S. embassy in Tripoli has been evacuated. 150 personnel including 80 marines moved to Tunisia.

ISRAEL: Well, you know, another reminder that this is a very dangerous neighborhood of the world. I believe that the decision to evacuate the embassy is the right decision. You want to err on the side of caution and safety.

This is a very unstable area of the world which is why I've always believed that the United States has an obligation to stick by the only truly stable democracy in that region and that is Israel.

PAUL: All right. Congressman Steve Israel -- we thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today.

ISRAEL: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Another baby, allegedly, forgotten in a hot car. That baby was in the process of being adopted. What the foster parents are facing now.


PAUL: 44 minutes past the hour. When I heard this, I thought how can this keep happening? Another child has died in a hot car.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this time it was a baby who was in foster care.

CNN's Nick Valencia joins us now.

So these parents were in the process of adopting this girl. What happened?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You would think with all the national attention, especially after this high-profile Georgia case that more parents would be aware or present. But this happens -- it's a sad reality especially in these summer months.

This 10-month-old was left in a hot car in temperatures that are reaching the low 90s for more than two hours in Wichita, Kansas. As Christi and Victor mentioned, the child was under the process of being adopted by this couple. These two parents had made a business out of this. They took care of children, had foster children and adopted children in that home that you are looking at there. They've since been removed and put in protective custody.

Earlier, a police department officer talked about the difficulties of dealing with a child death.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like I said before, baby deaths are extremely challenging. They're extremely difficult for detectives to work.

As I mentioned, we have to look at everything -- all the facts. What we have whether this was accidental or why it was left in there and how it was left in there.


VALENCIA: now this case is being investigated. It has led authorities there in Kansas to investigate this agency. It was a foster agency, as I mentioned it had other kids in that home. They are now being investigated for other cases.

PAUL: Yes and I'm wondering do we have any indication as to how adequately they were screened. I don't want to, you know, point the finger at anybody because this does happen and it does happen accidentally. But when you hear that there were, you know, six other kids, what do we know about the screening process?

VALENCIA: The man -- his name has not been released but his mother has since spoken to a local affiliate and she couldn't speak higher of her son. She said that he didn't intend to do this. That he's devastated and now he is questioning his own will to live. They say it's an accident and that, you know, this was his life caring for these children. And now he's in jail right now facing an aggravated child endangerment charge.

This has happened 18 times already this year, guys; more than 600 times since the mid-90s. It is a really, really terrible issue. And it happens to everybody. It happened to rocket scientists. It's happened to a school principal. And it happened here in Georgia to a man that worked at Home Depot. Justin Ross Harris, his case is still ongoing. We don't know if an indictment will be leveled against him.

But you're looking at the math there, all those 18 deaths already in 2014, an average of 37 each year.


PAUL: Wow.

BLACKWELL: All right. Nick Valencia reporting for us this morning. Nick, thank you very much.

VALENCIA: You got it.

PAUL: Thanks Nick.

So listen, if maybe you're still at the airport right now and you're feeling a little edgy about flying. You could join the club. Some people might say.

BLACKWELL: Yes, despite this week's air disasters, experts say it is still safe to fly. The skies are safe.

Up next -- we'll ask a psychiatrist about how to ease those nerves as you are about to board this plane. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Good morning. I'm Michael Smerconish.

Coming up on my program, we are digging deep on Israel and Palestine, and Russia and Ukraine. And we're doing it with House members of Foreign Affairs and Intelligence so that you can hear the latest details directly from them.

Plus wait until you see what Russian controlled media is saying about the crash of Flight MH-17.

And President Obama is getting a lot of grief for his handling of international affairs despite doing a lot of what Americans have asked for.

I'll see you at the top of the hour -- Victor, Christi.

PAUL: All right Michael. Thank you so much. Looking forward to "SMERCONISH" airing this morning 9:00 a.m. Easter -- in just about eight and a half minutes.

BLACKWELL: So three plane disasters in one week. I mean that's enough to make anyone swear off flying.

PAUL: At least for a while.

First there was Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. U.S. officials say pro- Russian rebels used a surface-to-air missile to shoot that Boeing 777 out of the sky.

BLACKWELL: Then on Wednesday near Taiwan, a TransAsia twin engine turbo prop crashed trying to land in stormy weather.

PAUL: And Thursday, an Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people crashed in Mali.

BLACKWELL: Despite all of this, experts say flying is still one of the safest way to travel -- safest ways, rather. In fact one statistician at MIT says the odds are in your favor and that you could travel once a day for 4 million years before being killed in a plane crash.

PAUL: That makes me go "what"?


PAUL: 4 million years?

BLACKWELL: Yes. Let's bring in psychiatrist, Dr. Gail Saltz -- she joins us live from New York.

Dr. Saltz, some experts say you have a better chance of becoming president or winning a Nobel prize in physics than being killed in a plane crash. I mean how do you balance these statistics with what we're seeing on television? How do people at home defy the odds -- or at least, I guess trust the odds and not what they're seeing on TV?

DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: That's the key. The key is the trust issue. So people who are already a little anxious or people who already have some fear of flying which, by the way, is one of the most common phobias are going to listen to this and have their fear be stirred up. And then they forget or have trouble believing those statistics which are accurate.

You know, if people want to be afraid, they should be much more afraid of driving their car because they are must more likely to have something happen in that instance. So what really it is our fear, our tendency toward anxiety about flight that has people stirred up combined with what we are watching, which is if you watch television, you would think that there are many more air accidents because we tend to cover them and cover them over and over again and in a way that, you know, is really frightening. That's what is stirring people up.

PAUL: You know -- you bring up a good point because I'm wondering, other than television possibly being a trigger, are there other certain triggers to avoid if you already have the heebie-jeebies about getting on a flight? Is there something you can do when you know you've got to get on it such as people sitting in the airport now to try to calm those nerves?

SALTZ: Yes. It can be hard right in the moment. So really what you ought to do is work on it ahead of time. If you are a person who needs to travel and you are feeling stirred up now, there are two options for you. Of course, there is always the option of seeing a professional who in, frankly, just like eight to ten sessions can work with you. There are many different kinds of treatment -- cognitive, behavioral, there's virtual reality where you actually -- centers where you wear a visor that simulates a flight.

And you learn the kinds of techniques to calm yourself in the moment which has to do with deep breathing, which has to do with basically tackling your thoughts in a way where you go, look, nothing is a guarantee. You can't guarantee anything frankly that you won't be hit by lightning -- right. But the likelihood is you will be fine and that any stirred feelings about this is going down or I'm going down and so on, that is your anxiety.

That is not accurate. That is not factual. That is not what's real or happening. That is an anxious process in your mind and you are an anxious person. If you are -- unfortunately what many people do quite honestly is they drink alcohol or they take a sleeping pill. And that really is not a good way to go. It doesn't, you know -- it basically can build a problem where people get very sloppy drunk on flights and that is actually not a good thing to do.

But you want to do things like relax your body by techniques where you basically squeeze your muscles very tight and then relax them. You can do visual imagery where you picture a very beautiful place that you find particularly relaxing and sort of go to that place in your mind. You can do slow, deep breathing to try to calm yourself.

But I would that if this is a big problem for you, it is worth it for a couple of sessions to go in with somebody who specializes in this and get some help.

PAUL: And you know, that empowers you to remember that you do have, you know, the power within yourself to really try to control this.

You cannot control what is going on around you, but you control what you're telling yourself in your head.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Dr. Gail Saltz, thank you so much for helping us get through this. And everybody who will be getting on a plane soon -- thank you for giving them a few tools to battle their anxiety.

PAUL: Absolutely. So go out there -- and thank you, Dr. Saltz -- go out there and make some great memories today.

BLACKWELL: All right. A quick break and "SMERCONISH" will start at the top of the hour.

We will see you back here at 10:00 Eastern.