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Interview With Washington Governor Inslee Regarding Mud Slide; Missing Flight Families Demand More Evidence of Plane's End Than Satellite Data; Where Are Flight 370's Black Boxes?

Aired March 25, 2014 - 12:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much for joining us at this hour. I'm Michaela Pereira.


LEGAL VIEW with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Frustration and anger boiling over as Flight 370 families beg for the truth. And just when we thought ships and planes were closing in on a possible crash site, stormy weather has another idea and shuts down today's search efforts.

Also, have any of the 176 people missing in a massive landslide been heard from today? We're about to find out from officials in Washington state community. A community buried under a square mile of thick mud.

And haunting words from beyond the grave in the blade runner murder trial. A text from Reeva Steenkamp to Oscar Pistorius says, "I'm scared of you and how you snap at me." Prosecutors saving the worst for last as they rest their case and set the stage for Pistorius himself to take the stand.

Hello, everyone, I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Tuesday, March 25th, and welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

Any minute now we're expecting to hear from officials on this devastating mudslide that has rocked an entire rural community in Washington state. Here's what I can tell you about what we know so far. A number of people unaccounted for has dramatically increased from 18 on Sunday to 176 by the end of the day yesterday. The fire chief is stressing that this is just a list of names, but it's not actually a tally of anticipated fatalities.

Still, after four days, hope that any people will be found alive is dwindling. Six bodies were found yesterday, bringing the death toll to 14. And what was a search and rescue operation has slowly been shifting to one of just a recovery operation. And just a short time ago, President Obama mentioned the government's response on his trip overseas to The Hague.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just spoke to Governor Inslee, who swiftly declared a state of emergency. I signed that emergency declaration to make sure he's got all the resources that he needs. My administration is in contact with them on an ongoing basis.


BANFIELD: Got to get to it.

I want to take you live to this area. In fact, where a news conference has just begun with some of the updating of the information. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's a good thing. We - we're hearing that around town. I was at the grocery store yesterday to pick up an item, and I was bombarded with people that -- what can we do to help? We want to get up there. We want to help dig. And we have a couple lists that we have of people that are local people in the Darrington/Oso area that are - that know people, know the lay of the land, may have some specialized equipment and knowledge. We've got them formally in our system and we're going to utilize those people.

But right now, we're in really good shape for the number of people that we have here, both with the teams that I indicated and those people. We don't need any more people coming up here. The last thing that we want to have happen is people showing up in their cars and sneaking up on the pile and they're up there working independently on their own. This is a geological event that's occurred there up.

And I'm going to use the example that I gave yesterday. We had a situation where the water in the ground up there started to do some things that were changing and it concerned us. And we had a period of time where we had - we had to back out of there and we had to get the experts in there to make sure that all of the responders that were out there on that pile could continue to be there safely.

And so if we have citizens that are going out there on their own, not within our system, they may not get that message. They're not in our accountability system, they're not in our information loop, they don't have our communications equipment. And so they're putting themselves in extreme danger. We do - we need to control that. We don't want to see that happen.

I'd like to now turn this over to our DEM director, Mr. Pennington.

JOHN PENNINGTON, DIRECTOR, SNOHOMISH CO. DEPT. OF EMERGENCY MGMT.: Good morning, everyone, and thank you for being here. Really appreciate all of the continued support. John Pennington, p-e-n-n-i-n- g-t-o-n, director, Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.

I'm, again, going to work off of some of my notes. I've got a lot of detailed information. Some of it kind of piggybacks on what the chief just shared but a little more detail on that. First and foremost, you need to know that visibility will be very high on the operations today. I know it's raining. So be it. They're out there. They're doing what we need to do right now. But extremely high visibility when it comes to the search and rescue efforts. You're going to see this up and down the Snohomish Valley, up and around 5:30, very high visible presence of what we're now doing. Very high coordinated effort.

BANFIELD: And as we listen in on this live news conference, we're going to go straight to the source on this, the governor, in fact, of Washington state, Jay Inslee is standing by with our Bill Weir to give us a first-hand account of some of the latest information.

Bill, get me up to speed and let me know how the governor is weighing in at this time.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've got Governor Inslee right here. But just to set the scene a little bit, imagine a small town with third and fourth generation residents. Everybody knows everyone. It's sort of a one-company town. We're on the west side of the slide area. It's a logging town. There's one sawmill. So you can imagine everybody is focused on what's the latest from the pile. What are you hearing?

And Governor Jay Inslee joins me now.

Talk about this number of 176 people unaccounted for. What are you hearing from this -- the searchers here as to how many of those folks could be truly lost, or just out of pockets (ph)?

GOV. JAY INSLEE, WASHINGTON: We -- the number we're carrying about is one and we're hoping for every single one who potentially could be rescued. And there still is very much a sense of commitment. I just came from the firehouse where the emergency personnel are gathered, every single one of those people, and there's about 300 people involved actively in the rescue on this side of the search effort now. We also have brought in an urban search and rescue group from Seattle and Tacoma. We have the National Guard that will arrive. So we have a full-scale, 100 percent pedal to the medal rescue effort is going.

This is a can-do town. I had a town hall meeting last night and we generated, you know, 50 to 100 volunteers. They want to be aggressive, getting in there, looking for their loved ones. And that's the right approach today. And we're going to commit everything we've got. As you know, the president called from the White House to the houses here in Darrington. This is a full-scale effort for these folks.

WEIR: Right. If you've got somebody down this road a few miles, though, and you haven't heard from them in a few days, all the search and rescue teams in the world aren't enough. Tell me what you saw. You flew over this area.

INSLEE: Right.

WEIR: Help us wrap our heads around the enormity of destruction. INSLEE: Well, I think that's the right word. The enormity was awesome in two sense. One is the scope. This is about a square mile that's under, you know, 10 to 20 to 30 feet of slurry and dirt right now. Basically, this mountain, you know, was cut in half. This mountain fell down on this town, basically. And not only --

WEIR: Across the town, across a river plus a highway.

INSLEE: Across a town. Not only did it fall down, but it spread out for about a mile-plus. And it fanned out across this valley. So it crossed the valley, crossed the river, crossed the highway and then went up on the other side of the valley. So when you stand on one edge and you look to the other, I was looking at this mountain that fell down. It was almost incomprehensible that a mountain a mile away could be a danger to your family. But, obviously, it was.

The other thing that was -- is just incredible to me is the power of this moving soil. It eliminated everything in its path. So in this square mile, there was not one stick standing. There wasn't one single fence post. It was absolute total devastation. And gravity and water and dirt are powerful things.

WEIR: And that makes this recovery, that search and rescue, so much harder. This is the kind of ground that can swallow big machinery.

INSLEE: Yes. The difficulty the searchers are having is this -- it's kind of a slurry, where it's not solid enough to support a person's body walking on it, but it's too solid to take a boat. So we're using -- they're using hover craft. We're using people obviously being as safe as possible. But these are very aggressive searchers. They want to be out there in the cusp. They're willing to take some risks associated and they're doing that right now and we're very appreciative of their efforts.

WEIR: And 72 hours after this slide, it's only natural for the stages of grief and uncertainty. What words of encouragement can you give to people?

INSLEE: I think people should take their hearts from Darrington. And the heart of Darrington, these folks are -- we're committed to each other fully. And this is one family. It's a family in Darrington. It's a family in Oso and Arlington. It's a family that stretches to the White House. They can feel some sense, I think, of being embraced by the 6 million people I represent.

When I was hugging some of the families yesterday, I said, look, there's 6 million people who want to give you a hug. And, yes, nature's very powerful, but there's another powerful force and that's empathy and compassion and love for our fellows and that's what we're going to be showing in the days to come.

WEIR: Just think of the emotional boost if they could find one person in there, hear one voice.

INSLEE: Well, people are looking for that. A dog was found yesterday and that was a boost. WEIR: Yes.

INSLEE: We're going to keep looking, though. We're going to keep hope alive here. We're doing everything humanly possible to find anyone alive in that pile. And that's our job. We're going to do it.

WEIR: OK. Governor Jay Inslee, thank you for your time.

INSLEE: You bet.

WEIR: Good luck going forward.

So, Ashleigh, we're going to try to talk as much as we can with volunteers. About 50 to 100 folks showed up this morning and -- with their chainsaws, with their waders on. They brought their fishing boats, if they're needed in that way. We've seen hovercrafts, dogs. They're using acoustic equipment. This thing was so big, it set off size seismographs seven miles away. Even though there was no earthquake involved with that mountain literally falling down on top of this town.

But we're here. We'll be talking to folks as they come in. We're trying to sense the hope, gauge it as it wans (ph), as you can imagine, depending on the time and who you're talking to. But an amazing human drama playing out here in this little town in Washington state.

BANFIELD: And, you know, distressing that the weather's only getting worse, too. That there's more rain in the forecast.

All right, Bill, keep us posted on any news as, obviously, those missing are hopefully accounted for sooner rather than later. Bill Weir live for us in Darrington in Washington state.

We have another very big story that we're also following for you, the latest on the search for Flight 370. Today, angry family members of the passengers on the plane marching and demanding answers. How do the authorities know for sure that this plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean? There's no evidence. How can they just say that? We're going to look straight at the evidence and see how clear it really is, just ahead.


BANFIELD: The search for missing Flight 370 is on hold, sadly, today because the weather is just simply too bad. It's awful in the southern Indian Ocean. Malaysia Airlines says that it's now offering $5,000 to each family that is affected by this. But that's initial and that's probably the tip of the iceberg and this is supposed to help with any financial strain during the search.

So it's likely to be little comfort at this point because it's been 24 hours of excruciating pain since the Malaysian officials announced that Flight 370, in fact, ended in the ocean and that there are no survivors. Some of the loved ones, they asked -- and I don't think anyone could be surprised, how can they say that when there's been no wreckage found and no bodies?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no evidence. If you find something, OK. We'll stop. But nothing, just from the data, just from analyses and you say the flight has crashed.


BANFIELD: And he's certainly not alone. Seems to be a question on a lot of people's minds. How can officials know for sure, 100 percent, that that's exactly what happened? That the plane's just gone in the southern Indian Ocean? Listen to what a spokesperson for Inmarsat told Wolf Blitzer yesterday.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you know for sure, without any doubt whatsoever, that the plane went into the Indian ocean and there are no survivors?


What I can tell you for definite is that, as the operator of the world's global maritime distress service for 30 years, we have a lot of experience. We feel the sadness of the families, and we do feel for them at this point.

But if you look at the plots that we have using recent adjusted techniques, we say the most likely route is the south, and the most likely ending is in roughly the area where they're looking now.


BANFIELD: Today Malaysian officials gave more details about just how the satellite data was analyzed.

And CNN's aviation correspondent, Richard Quest, joins me live. I'm also joined by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Kay, a former adviser to the U.K. Ministry of Defense, and CNN safety analyst David Soucie.

It sounded to me, Richard, like the official from Inmarsat thought it was quite a leap, actually, to take the data they had used to suggest the plane is gone, the passengers are dead.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: No, he was talking about the nature of the question. The -- he was not specifically addressing that point.

BANFIELD: He said it was a number of jumps.

QUEST: It was a number of jumps, but if you listened to the press conference last night, both from the Malaysian and -- the Malaysia Airlines CEO and from minister, they basically said it was time to come to that reality. BANFIELD: Can you help me? I heard this said several times from Inmarsat themselves, from officials who have expertise in this, and I still don't quite get it.


BANFIELD: Can you just explain in layperson's terms? What math did he do with the existing data that led us to the arc, to the spot where we suggest this happened?

QUEST: We're going to show some diagrams in a second. I need the help of our guests here, if I may.

Give me -- put your fist there. You are the satellite and you are the ground station. This is the plane. Join in at any point when you've got something to add to this, OK?

So, the plane is flying along, and the satellite is attempting to communicate with the plane, correct?

LIEUTENANT COLONEL MICHAEL KAY (RETIRED), EXPERIENCED MILITARY PILOT AND TACTICAL INSTRUCTOR: Yeah, so it's using, Ashleigh, continuous wave. It's a microwave. And it's a Doppler-shift microwave, and what that allows it to do is to take not just location, but velocity data.

BANFIELD: Imagine if it were a Slinkee and you were holding one part and Richard had the other side of the Slinkee and you're getting closer, the Slinkee is bunching up.

QUEST: There's a diagram that we'll show in a second. Now, as we get closer and closer, the time it takes for the information to get there gets less. It's exactly like a car, a train, as it goes past.

And what they have done -- join in please, gentlemen -- what they have done is they keep measuring that once an hour, as the plane has gone past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's coming down to the ground station. That information is being recorded by the ground station.

QUEST: And by measuring that distance and that distance and the time that all took, that's how they have managed to work it out.

BANFIELD: And, so, take a look at what's -- this is exactly it right here, Colonel.

KAY: There's some important additional -- that's what Richard's just explained there and I think that's good. If the plane is moving away from the satellite, the wave becomes elongated. If it's going towards, it becomes compressed.

BANFIELD: Stretch the Slinkee or compress the Slinkee.

KAY: But all that does is it gives an arc going south and it gives an arc going north. There's other bits of data here. The frequency modulation of that wave has allowed the analysts to go and look at data on other aircraft that have been in the northern sector. And what it does is that data that -- the new data, this unique data that they found out correlates to aircraft that would have gone south, and not to data mapped off other aircraft that have gone north.

Now, that tells us, it's gone south. It doesn't tell us how far it's gone south. The assumption they then used is the endurance of the aircraft from the last known transponder ping in the South China Sea with an assumption it's gone at around 450 or 400 knots.

And that's how they've been able to come to that three-percent area in the south.

BANFIELD: All of that is terrific if you're a data specialist or scientist or technician, but David, you wrote the book on crash investigations.

Don't you really need a piece of physical evidence to tell someone your loved one is gone?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: You really do. I mean, try to get a handle on it, that's what people want, is a handle on this. And this doesn't provide them with that. It's nothing tangible. It's nothing they can see, touch, feel.

Just -- they could see, touch and feel these people that were with them just a while ago and they can't now. They're looking for that. They're looking for that security.

QUEST: Can I throw back at you, though, Ashleigh? If yesterday they had put out all this information, right? And they put it all out, which I think they should have released these documents yesterday --

BANFIELD: How about 18 days ago?

QUEST: No. They didn't know about it then. Come on. Be reasonable. They didn't know about this 18 days. They've only been working on it the last 18 days.

But if they put this all out and said this is what we now believe happened and this is where we now believe the plane came down and not said anything else, the very first question -- the very first question that I would have asked would have been, are you now saying the plane has crashed in the sea?

And the experts would have said, we're not prepared to say that far. And I'd have said, but you're prepared to say it went all the way down there 18 days ago when there is no sign of it, so are you prepared to say the plane is now in the sea and everybody is dead?

SOUCIE: But this speaks -- go ahead, I'm sorry.

KAY: No. I also think there is a piece here, as well. We are hammering the Malaysians at the moment for the release of information. BANFIELD: Are they ever getting it.

KAY: This is unique information the analysts at Inmarsat have never been asked to do before, and if they're going to pass that to the Malaysian prime minister, the Malaysian prime minister is going to go back to them and he's going to say, I want you to go back and recalculate this stuff, because I have to get up and tell the world what I think we should be doing next.

So it's going to take a few days in order to corroborate that information to give the prime minister the confidence to be able to stand up in front of the world and say what he did.

SOUCIE: In the meantime, without delaying the search. If you notice, they kept the search going. They didn't stop the search.

BANFIELD: Thank you for that, because that's critical. And it leads us to what we're about to do after the break, David.

The search doesn't stop here. This is not over, just because of this announcement. In fact, the black boxes are still a very big part of this story, and they've still got days and days left of pinging. If and when or if they ever find any plane wreckage, those flight-data recorders, or so-called "black boxes," could still provide the answers to this mystery that has gripped this nation.

Can they still find them? Just how tough is it, now that we're at least in the vicinity of where they might be?


BANFIELD: Continuing coverage on the missing Malaysian Flight 370, ships combing the southern Indian Ocean for that flight have not been able to find anything of significance that is directly related to that airplane.

They haven't found the flight-data recorders, which is really perhaps the most critical piece of unraveling this mystery. This is becoming a race against time, too, because the so-called "black boxes" send out a locating signal. But it doesn't last. It's dead after about 30 days. That's when the batteries effectively run out.

So, if you're doing the math, April 6th is the due date. That could be the deadline, give or take a day or two or three, maybe even five, on that battery life.

And joining me to talk about the technology behind these black boxes is scientist, engineer and inventor Bill Nye, better known as "The Science Guy." If you don't know this about Bill, he was an engineer for Boeing, and he also worked on black-box technology for business jets.

You're the perfect person to talk to, Bill. I'm getting all of these different figures for how long until those pings effectively go silent. It may not be exactly 30 days. We may have plus or minus, what, five or so days, and then maybe quieter pings for days after that?

BILL NYE, "THE SCIENCE GUY," FORMER BOEING ENGINEER: Well, five days sounds like a lot of extra. Because when the water is very cold, the batteries are not as -- the chemical reactions of the batteries don't happen as fast, so it's not as likely that it will keep pinging. But that said, the problem is the thing -- the area that we're searching is enormous. It's just huge.

And I remind you, it's a three-dimensional problem. You have not just the width and latitude and the length and longitude. You also have the depth of the water. So it's an enormous volume.

If things haven't sunk all the way to the bottom yet or they're still drifting along, being dragged along the bottom, there isn't that much known about the bottom currents in that part of the world. As we like to say, it's easier to explore the surface of the moon than the bottom of the ocean.

BANFIELD: As is the -- apparently done.

NYE: -- cold and corrosive and --

BANFIELD: We seem to know more, yeah.

NYE: -- crushing.

BANFIELD: We seem to know more about the moon than we know about the bottom of the ocean.

Can I just ask you? There have been so many figures tossed about as to the radius and the depth at which we'll be able to pick up the pings, and they sound more like clicks than they sound like pings. But two nautical miles seems to be the rough guesstimate. But if you're two nautical miles down, does that mean you have to be right over top of them in order to pick them up?

NYE: Yeah, and this was the problem with the Air France crash a couple of years ago. Apparently instruments went right over the wreck and didn't detect the pinger.

And, so, there is another not-too-subtle problem with the ocean. It has layers of water that are separated by their temperature. The temperature affects their density, and so these separate layers of water will remain pretty separate and sound waves will bounce off the interface.

And so you could be right over it, but the wave is showing up or the sound is showing up miles distant. It's a very tricky business.

But the key is to get as many really high-quality sono-buoys or underwater microphones as close to where we think the wreck is as possible. And it's just fascinating. It's got an airplane disaster. It's got all these family members and it's got a possible hijacking.

BANFIELD: It's very frustrating.

NYE: It's really something, yeah.

BANFIELD: Bill, one of the things I wanted to ask about is Americans have sent over this remarkable technology called the Tow Pinger Locater 25. And apparently it's one of the best. They have shipped it over. It's suppose to land probably hours from now in Perth.

But then it has to get out to the site, which could take it until April 5th before it actually gets to any kind of search area. They've already said they're not even going to start searching with it until they have some kind of debris. But look at the math. April 6th is Day 30, where the pings may end. April 5th is only one day before.

What good is this incredible gear if it gets there April 5th and the pings stop, effectively, April 6th?

NYE: Everybody's doing his or her best.