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More Debris Picked Up by Satellite; 176 People Missing Following Mudslide; Secret Service Agents Sent Home

Aired March 26, 2014 - 08:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New satellite images were able to identify 122 potential objects.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: from air and sea. The biggest search yet for Flight 370. We're in Australia as the planes return as new satellite images find 122 objects in the search area. Plus, new information about a partial ping before the flight disappeared.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Holding out hope. The death toll rises from that mudslide in Washington state, 170 people still unaccounted for. We hear from the families desperately searching for loved ones.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, three Secret Service agents sent home after getting drunk the night before President Obama arrived in the Netherlands, one found passed out. We're live with the latest.

Your NEW DAY continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

PEREIRA: Good morning, and welcome to NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, March 26th, 8:00 in the East. I'm Michaela Pereira. John Berman is here for Chris Cuomo, who is off.

We have breaking news this morning, as more potential debris is spotted in the search for Malaysia Flight 370.

BERMAN: Yes, it is a possible new lead in this search that really intensified today as crews did get a break from weather, but all the planes have now returned and only found three objects by sight that did not really appear to be connected to the plane.

Our Kate Bolduan is in Perth, Australia, with the very latest -- Kate. BOLDUAN: Good morning once again, guys.

There's a renewed sense of cautious optimism here that we could be closer to finding Malaysia Flight 370. There are new satellite images showing 122 objects, possible pieces of debris in the same area of the southern Indian Ocean where the search has been focused since late last week.

And on this 19th day of searching, a dozen planes and five ships had a narrow window of time to search for the missing jet. They came away with three pieces of debris being spotted, as investigators analyze a partial ping from the plane that came nearly seven hours after it dropped off radar.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): This morning, Malaysian authorities say they've received new satellite images possibly showing debris from Flight 370.

HISHAMMUDDIN BIN HUSSEIN, MINISTER OF TRANSPORTATION: We were able to identify 122 potential objects. We have now had four separate satellite leads from Australia, from China, and France showing possible debris. It is now imperative that we link the debris to MH370.

BOLDUAN: In Australia, the country's prime minister voicing optimism that something will turn up.

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: A considerable amount of debris has been sighted in the area where the flight was last recorded. Bad weather and inaccessibility has so far prevented any of it being recovered, but we are confident that some will be.

BOLDUAN: This as special equipment from the U.S. like this unmanned underwater robot arrives in Perth, Australia. The special equipment includes a blue fin underwater vehicle to search for wreckage at depths more than 14,000 feet. Also, a toad pinger locator described as a giant listening device used to detect signals from the data recorder at depths up to 20,000 feet.

Dedicated to today's search, 12 aircraft and at least five ships from six countries. This multi-national effort still faces huge challenges as they scour more than 600,000 square miles of ocean and have yet to locate any of the suspected debris spotted by search planes Monday. This as new information emerges about Flight 370's timeline.

Experts say new satellite indicates the plane may have sent out a final partial signal around 8:19 the morning it disappeared, possibly a sign the plane was still flying or indicating the moment it went down.


BOLDUAN: We'll continue to follow all the moments from Pearce Air Force Base here in Perth, Australia. But for now, let's go back to John in New York. BERMAN: All right. Thank you so much, Kate. Let's talk about this breaking news.

We did learn a few hours ago this French satellite taking pictures of what could be 122 pieces of possible debris in the southern Indian Ocean.

Let's bring in CNN aviation analyst, former FAA inspector David Soucie, and CNN aviation analyst and "Slate" contributor Jeff Wise. They're both with me here in the studio.

We're also going to bring in airline accident investigator Shawn Pruchnicki who is in Columbus, Ohio, this morning.

And, Shawn, I want to start with you. These new satellite images that we just saw about an hour taken from the French satellite. The pictures were taken on Sunday, March 23rd. They show 122 pieces of possible debris, ranging in size all the way up until about 70 feet clumped together in a relatively small area.

What do you make of this?

SHAWN PRUCHNICKI, AIRLINE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR: Well, I think certainly this is very compelling. This is probably the first piece of evidence that we have that really starts to lend credibility to possibly that we're finding some of the debris field. But, you know, cautious optimism would be the way that I would characterize this, is that it is certainly possible that this could be something else.

But I think with just the sheer number of pieces that are part of this new piece of evidence lending far more credibility that maybe we have found something.

BERMAN: Jeff, what about that? What about the sheer number of pieces spotted by this satellite on Sunday, 122? Certainly, we haven't seen that number before.

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: No. I don't know whether that makes you more optimistic or less. It's been in the water for a long time and we know that these pieces are going to tend to disperse over time. All we can try to do is find it.

We've had a poor record in the past of actually locating these pieces that seem to be very compelling satellite imagery when we go back with boats and planes to try to find it later we come up empty-handed so far.

BERMAN: Yet, in fact, the planes are all back to Perth, Australia. The search is over for the day -- 12 planes, more than have flown yet were out today. All they reported seeing were three pieces of possible debris they think may be rope or a few of them. They don't seem terribly excited about what they saw from the sky today. As far as we know, nothing from the search vessels, from the ships.

You know, David Soucie, why are we getting these images from satellites that we can't seem to match by plane or by ship? DAVID SOUCIE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: You know, I don't really have a good answer for that except that when you're on that ship, you've got 20 to 50 foot swells. You're going up and down, not only are you going up and down, but the waves are going up and down. So, everything you see even momentarily changes with perspective all the time.

So, from a ship I can understand it. From the airplanes flying over top, you'd think they have a better opportunity see things like that. They're constantly changing. The waves on top of the swells are changing the way it looks. The white caps, everything going over the top.

But there is one good thing that came out in my mind, is that they flew over the area that they had identified was that. I'm sure they put up sonobuoys there. Once those sonobuoys are in there, they're able to continue to track that flow. So, they go out the next day, they're not starting from scratch trying to find where they were, they can start where they were tomorrow and expand from there.

So, I'm -- there's ways during that search, and I'm not a search expert, but I've seen them work before. Once they have the sonobuoy in there, they can use that to critically expand that area.

BERMAN: A smarter, more concise effort to be sure.

Shawn, you're nodding to that a little bit. Does the number of pieces found, the 122, does that lend credence to any possible one theory about how this flight may have ended?

PRUCHNICKI: No, actually, it doesn't. It really doesn't help us at all other than just tell us that if these are airplane parts, obviously the airplane went in the water, but it doesn't tell us how it ended up in the water or if it went in under control versus out of control.

So, still a long ways from being able to make that type of determination.

BERMAN: And, that, of course, is even if these objects are ever found and if they are known to be connected to Flight 370. Of course, I know you know that.

Jeff Wise, the other key piece of information over the last two days, some people think it's critical, is word of the partial handshake between the partial handshake and the Inmarsat satellite. Just to review, we knew there were handshakes at regular intervals. That's how they were able to track this route down in the southern Indian Ocean. But after the regular intervals, there was one that was irregular -- this partial handshake.

Explain what that is and the possible significance.

WISE: Well, this is yet another kind of information we've got where we thought one thing and it turned out to be another. It turns out that those pings were not being received at regular intervals. New data from Inmarsat suggests that they, in fact, some of them came very closely, spaced two minutes apart, there were gaps of more than an hour, then regularly spaced, irregularly spaced.

So, what is the significance? We don't know yet. We really need to get more information from Inmarsat about why they were spaced the way they were, what kind of conditions aboard the plane would have led to such spacing. What triggered each pulse? We don't know that.

I really -- I'm hoping and I'm optimistic that this is such important information, all we have to go on in terms of -- everything we know about the fate of this aircraft is from the analysis of these pings. These pings, which we remember, were not intended to carry any information. It's by kind of squeezing information out that we've learned anything.

BERMAN: New math from a new device that you're analyzing in a new way to be sure.

David Soucie, you suggested to me that perhaps the partial handshake was the plane reaching out trying to give some information.

SOUCIE: Yes, for me that's the only explanation for it. As far as the reliance of the schedule of these pings, the last three or four were every hour. The ones before that were not. There were attempts every two minutes to connect. To me, that says it attempted to connected, it wasn't able to, which is pretty common in that area for that satellite not to be able to connect for whatever reasons.

So there was times when it did that. What concerns me is there was a full hour, a little bit more, where there was nothing, but then after that you had regular for three pings in a row, you had regular hourly reports, which is typical of the SATCOM. It would have been reporting to say, I'm here, do I have anything to report.

So, if the ACARS was connected and providing data, at that time that's when the data would have been batch processed and sent together. But this last one to me is really important because it indicates for two reasons: one, it indicates an event occurred and the SATCOM was trying to communicate that. It was an irregular event that occurred.

I'm speculating, of course. But it would be indicative that the power source changed or there was an event that was reported to the SATCOM.

BERMAN: And to be clear, Inmarsat wasn't made by a human. It wasn't someone trying to send a signal. It was just the plane, the mechanics, the electronics of the plane trying to send that signal.

Shawn Pruchnicki, thank you for being with us.

David Soucie, you agree with that, that it was the plane just sending, not a human being, you were nodding to that?

SOUCIE: Yes, exactly. Exactly right. A very key point.

BERMAN: Glad we got it in there.

David Soucie, Jeff Wise, thank you so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.


PEREIRA: Back to our breaking news in a moment. John, thanks so much.

We're following developments, just north of Seattle. The grim toll from a huge landslide this past weekend. As many as 24 deaths. Scores of people are still missing.

Many of them are feared dead. The hope of finding any survivors in mud that is 30 to 40 feet thick in some spots is fading quickly. CNN's Ana Cabrera live in Arlington, Washington.

You know, these small towns in the Cascade Mountains of this area, really tight knit communities. I can only imagine they're reeling.

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Everybody is just heart broken, as you can imagine, but really pulling together with such strength and grace in this community during tough times, Michaela. Rescuers are calling this now a rescue and recovery operation. They acknowledge it's been four days since the landslide hit, haven't heard any signs of human life since Saturday.

But they believe in miracles and they're moving forward with the search with that sense of purpose and determination. But you do get a sense in this community that there is a cloud of grief that is now permeating the area.


RAE SMITH, SEARCHING FOR DAUGHTER: It's horrible because I know she is down there in the mud, in the dark.

CABRERA (voice-over): It has been the darkest four days of Rae Smith's life.

SMITH: My heart is broken. It's broken. She was my best friend.

CABRERA: Smith's daughter, Summer Rafo, is among the missing. The 36-year-old was driving to work when the massive landslide broke loose, flattening homes and crushing cars.

CALLER: I've got a big emergency. There is a house on 530 and a big slide and it is covering the road.

CABRERA: Newly released 911 calls capture the shock and panic that overtook this tight knit community.

CALLER: My neighbors house has been taken out and they're trapped.

CABRERA: Four days into the search, people are still trapped.

SMITH: My family has been down there digging for her since Saturday afternoon.

CABRERA: Aaron Briet, focused and determined, charged into the disaster zone against officials' orders.

AARON BRIET, SEARCHED FOR SURVIVORS: I wanted to rescue people. I wanted to find people that were still alive.

CABRERA: Instead, the horror he witnessed now haunts him.

BRIET: It's no fun finding bodies. It's no fun doing any kind of work like that.

CABRERA: Smith has lost hope that her daughter somehow survived, but says closure can come only if Rafo is found.

SMITH: It just hurts so bad. It hurts so bad. I have 12 other children, but not one of them can replace one that you lose, not one.


CABRERA: So we're continuing to monitor the missing. We right now know there are still dozens unaccounted for. And, again, the search for survivors is still what's helping to keep people going in this whole situation.

We do have some new video of a survivor being pulled out of the wreckage. This was from Saturday. But, again, these images and these pictures are new. We want to show them to you.

Remember that 4-year-old boy we showed you in a still photo a couple of days ago. Well, now we have video of his rescue from a helicopter camera and rescuers who came by helicopter and were able to pull him out from a house that was among the debris there.

We understand that he has three half siblings and his father who were still trapped in the wreckage, buff he was rescued. His mother apparently was at work at the time. She wasn't able to make it back to the house when she heard of the mudslide and so he is among the survivors and the slight glimmer of hope or silver lining in such a tragic situation, Michaela.

PEREIRA: And that image of him in the arms of his rescuers, I think will stick with many people for a long time. Thank you for that, Ana, because it gives us an idea of what rescuers are up against. The debris field we understand is one square mile wide. That is an incredible challenge to overcome.

Ana Cabrera, thanks so much.

BERMAN: Amazing picture to see.

PEREIRA: Yes, it really is.

Also developing this morning, three Secret Service agents have been sent home from the Netherlands for partying too hard. Apparently all three were reportedly drinking and one of them allegedly was found passed out. Those agents were in Amsterdam Sunday, a day before the president's trip to The Hague.

White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski is live in Brussels, Belgium, with the very latest for us -- Michelle.


Right. Not good. I mean, this is the Secret Service, the people, after all, who are charged with protecting the president on such a high profile, international trip.

And, you know, you don't see White House staffers caught up in this behavior, White House press. Maybe some would say by some miracle. This is once again the Secret Service, three agents, part of a counter assault team arriving in Amsterdam ahead of the president.

Apparently, they went out for a night on the town and according to an official source, one ended up so drunk that he was passed out on the floor of the hallway in his hotel. Adding to the embarrassment, it was hotel staffers that alerted U.S. officials to the problem.

Things were supposed to get better and rules tightened after that extremely unfortunate scandal in 2012 involving a number of Secret Service agents in Cartagena.

Well, now, there's an investigation underway. These three have been sent home. So, we'll see what happens from here -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Another black eye for the agency. Thanks so much, Michelle.

BERMAN: Not what they wanted.

Next up for us on NEW DAY, we're following breaking news from the Indian Ocean. New satellite pictures showing possibly 122 pictures in the water. But are these objects from Flight 370? We'll have the latest.


BERMAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone.

We are following the breaking news this morning.

Satellite images showing a possible debris field with 122 possible objects spotted in the southern Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia, about 1,500 miles off the coast. Now, all the planes searching for debris from Malaysia Flight 370. They're now back in Australia.

They did spot a couple objects today, three to be exact, but no word yesterday if they were linked to the jet liner. They don't seem too optimistic. They think they're seeing a couple pieces of rope and also maybe a blue object by plane, probably not connected to the 122 pieces of debris spotted by satellite.

We want to bring in CNN aviation analyst Jeff Wise. He's a contributor to "Slate".

I want to talk about the developments today. And I want to bring up the photo, if I can, of this debris field spotted by satellite on Sunday. There it is. This was taken by a French satellite on Sunday.

Jeff, we have not seen a picture like this before of quite just this much debris.

WISE: Yes. I mean, something is there. We don't know if it's from the airplane necessarily, but it's encouraging that there's so much material there. We've had a hard time really locating anything in the water. So --

BERMAN: Hard time, indeed. Now I should say that the flights have been leaving from Perth. All 12 planes that were leaving from Perth that took off this morning have returned there. As I said, found nothing of real significance, just three objects or so.

Why do you think that the planes are having a hard time finding what the satellites in space are seeing?

WISE: Well, it must be somehow ephemeral or it's moving quicker than we expect. I mean, ultimately, we have to bear in mind the possibility that this search box that we're looking at is not where the airplane is.

BERMAN: Let's talk about that. The search flight, the so-called southern corridor, the plane was coming down here from the Malaysia peninsula, flew south over the Indian Ocean to that area where this box is right now. You can see the plane flying down now. This is the area where they have been searching in that box.

You think it's possible that's the wrong box?

WISE: Well, listen, this is based on a model. That's the reason we're here in the first case. Because of the Inmarsat ping data that they have been able to put into a formula and what you get if you assume a certain speed that this airplane was traveling, it puts you in this area.

Now, the model can be perfectly good, but if you put in the wrong speed, it's going to be here. The slower you go, the way the math works out, the slower you go, the further to the north the debris field should be located.

BERMAN: So, it's possible the math is wrong.

Another possibility if we can bring up the ocean current here. This area where they are searching now, this box is just north. If you look at that bright line right there, that is an extremely powerful current -- one of the most powerful in the world there that moves stuff very, very fast and could be dispersing what the satellites are seeing.

WISE: It gets back to the question, why aren't we seeing four days later what we saw in the original image? It's because this tightly clumped debris is being separated and dispersed and it's no longer where it was.

BERMAN: The size of that debris if we bring up that picture again, the size of the debris ranging in size from small to about 70 feet. The pieces are in some cases 70 feet long, 70 feet wide. Why is that size significant?

WISE: Well, then you start to talk about the size of major structural components so we would love to get our hands on this and see. Is this a piece of fuselage, a piece of wing? If it's not, that's a piece of information. Negative information is still valuable to us.

Again, it allows us to rule out one box which corresponds to a speed at which this airplane was traveling. It allows to refine the model. We know that at 8:11 in the morning on the day that it disappeared, it was somewhere along this arc.

BERMAN: Let's do this again, because you're bringing up the partial handshake, 8:11 was the partial handshake, correct?

WISE: Actually, a few minutes after that. Just a slight refinement of our --


BERMAN: But just to review, the plane was flying south again over the southern Indian Ocean again. And explain to me the timing. There's 8:11 and then the partial handshake.

WISE: Right. So, what had previously been reported as the final transmission, 8:11, it was a full ping. Now, we're getting this new information that eight minutes later, there was a so-called partial ping. What they mean by partial ping has yet to be clarified. They're trying to clarify what it means.

It might have something to do with a crash, the final moment of the plane. What would do know is that by 9:25, there was an attempt to communicate which failed so basically that's the end of our time line. We know about that time it's all over.

BERMAN: Does the partial handshake give you any indication of where to look?

WISE: It would. If the analysis of what it means turn outs to be that, yes, it would had to do with some kind of catastrophic event on the airplane, that would allow us to have a slightly better window. Now, listen, we're dealing with such a huge error window here.

We don't know exactly how fast it was going. We don't know in what direction it was heading. The debris is being very elusive at this point. This is just a huge cloud of uncertainty that we're dealing with.

BERMAN: We're trying to hone in on a specific area as they can.

Jeff Wise, great to have you here with us. Really appreciate it.


PEREIRA: All right. John, thanks so much. Next up on NEW DAY: First, they learned their loved ones are considered lost. Now word of a potential large debris field found in the ocean. How much more can these families take? We're going to talk to a woman who knows exactly what they're going through.