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Search Area Moves North; Malaysia Clears Passengers, Not Crew; New Search Frontier; Teen with Rare Disease

Aired April 3, 2014 - 12:30   ET


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So a lot of this, I have to say, one of the other costs, one of the other challenges of this entire incident is this mental-health issue, which has really resonated across the military for so many years, so many young troops feeling the stigma of trying to get help for mental health treatment because we know many people look askance at that.

We don't know the circumstances here. It looks like the soldier was getting treatment, was being evaluated, but obviously something went terribly wrong, Ashleigh.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: It's so distressing, because when you see pictures like that, Barbara, of men and women in uniform, you want to think "American hero." You don't want to think, you know, "spree or mass murder."

Barbara Starr, thank you for that, do appreciate it. And we'll continue to look into this from the Pentagon, as well.

We're also looking at our other top story, the search for the missing plane, authorities saying passengers have all been cleared of any possible role in a hijacking.

But it's what they're not saying that might stand out. The crew has not been cleared.

We're talking about the flight attendants now, and we're going to outline why that is, next.


BANFIELD: Developing news now in the search for Flight 370, a British survey ship, the HMS Echo, is going to conduct something we're being told is a specific search Friday in a targeted area in the southern Indian Ocean.

Not exactly clear what that means, but a spokesperson with the Australian defense force is telling CNN that there will be, quote, "a big operations announcement regarding the search."

The Echo has been searching for some sonic transmissions from the flight-data recorder in part of the search area.

Authorities did say that they had one alert, but the alert was discounted and that false alerts can come from shipping noises. They can also come from whales in the area.

But that may have certainly changed the dynamics for a lot of people who felt as though they've had absolutely no activity whatsoever out in these search zones.

I want to bring in Christine Dennison and Colonel Michael Kay, again, just to sort of go over some of these breaking pieces of information.

There's a couple of other things I just want to let you know about. The spokesperson said that the Ocean Shield, this remarkable vessel that's out there, I think it's a day late. It's supposed to be arriving tomorrow.

On board the Ocean Shield, for those who haven't heard reporting up until now, are those two specific devices, the Tow Pinger Locater 25 and the Blue Fin 21. They're saying they'll be inside the box.

I don't know if that makes sense to you, but we're told that will be in the search area in the overnight hours, local time. I don't know that that means that things have changed now they're going to get there sooner.

A big operations announcement? What on Earth could that be? You're just as surprised?

CHRISTINE DENNISON, OCEAN EXPLORER: I am surprised. But I would think, obviously it's very positive, but I would think that they are in an area which they have reduced to a much more workable zone, which would mean it's much smaller in size so that they can deploy the towed pinger locator, and then possibly the AUV, which --

BANFIELD: Does that also mean they might get that ship to a site that's closer, sooner?

DENNISON: It's very possible. I think, again, we're not privy to all of the information, which I think is classified sensitive, and so they're releasing bits and pieces.

But it sounds to me as though they are ready to deploy, potentially, in an area that is of significance, and, Michael, you --

BANFIELD: Weigh-in. I'm just -- I'm astounded. I'm sorry, but every time I hear the search changes location, I get frustrated. I don't get optimistic.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL MICHAEL KAY, FORMER ROYAL AIR FORCE PILOT: You and a lot of people get frustrated, but we've got to caution the optimism here, and the reason we've got to do that is because, as Chad Myers did some brilliant analysis the other day, it will take 3,000 years to cover an area of 130,000 square miles with a ping locator.

What we're doing is that we're vesting all of our eggs into this silver bullet, the Ocean Shield, the ping locator that is looking for those GPS pings off the black boxes.

The reality is, and we have to be open about this, is that we're going to find likely going to find, the aircraft through some sort of debris trail.

And we can't keep investing our hopes and our dreams in finding this through the GPS pings. The GPS pings will run out in 10 days or around 10 days.

BANFIELD: No, sooner. I think we have until Sunday.

KAY: But they've got up to about 40 days, best-case scenario. After that --

BANFIELD: If they were stored well, and by the way, they'll be pinging quieter and quieter.

KAY: Exactly. Best-case scenario, we will have that. But once that goes, then all of this ping locator and all this HMS Echo, they're all -- we then have to default back to the --

DENNISON: But Michael the positive side is they are moving closer in towards the coast of Australia. They're at 900 miles, I believe, out.

And so I think the water is shallower, the ocean currents are also different. They're going north at this point.

So they could be following a debris field. They could have more luck, if you will, in that they're narrowing the search zone to --

BANFIELD: I hope there's something more to this that I don't know that does make people in the search feel more optimistic.

But like I said, every time they change the search location it frustrates me more than buoys my spirits that we're going to find this aircraft.

Our Christine Dennison and Colonel Michael Kay, thank you, as always --

KAY: Good to see you.

BANFIELD: -- for your input.

The authorities, by the way, have been doing a lot to try to figure out what went on inside that aircraft before it just vanished.

And they have told us they have cleared, somehow, forensically, all the people who were riding in the cabin, except for the group that was actually servicing them, the crew.

Why hasn't the crew been cleared? And what exactly would it take to clear them? You're going to find out, next.


BANFIELD: All 227 passengers on board Malaysian airlines 370 has been cleared in four specific areas of interest in that plane's disappearance, and those interests are hijacking, sabotage, personal and psychological problems. The crew, on the other hand, was not included in that list. Two pilots, 10 crew members were on board, all of them Malaysian, including this flight attendant, a married mother of a 10-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.

She'd been with the airline for 18 years. She loved to fly all around the world. Her husband says that he is grieving just like the passengers' family members and is at a loss for what to tell his children.


LEE KHIM FATT, HUSBAND OF FLIGHT ATTENDANT, FOONG WAI YUENG: I even promised them I'm going to bring her home, but I really don't know idea where is she now. And now I'm not sure whether I could bring her home.


BANFIELD: The extra salt in his wounds? Even his beloved wife is under investigation at this point.

I want to bring in CNN's national security analyst Bob Baer. Bob, it's very uncomfortable to say what is critical and that is nobody escapes the microscope in an event like this when there is just such a big mystery hanging over what happened.

But at the same time how on Earth can you clear all those passengers, but at the same time not clear the crew members? Where's the disconnect?

BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think, Ashleigh, first of all, if this plane, in fact ,was diverted, it was a sophisticated operation. It took a pilot.

I've been listening to the pilots, talked to a lot of them. Turning off the ACARS, the transponder and the rest of it, it's not what a normal hijacker would do, so they've obviously switched over to the crew. They're capable of doing this. Now, they're looking for motivation.

And to find out that motivation, it's a very painstaking process of going through all their phone calls, their logs, their e-mails, their personal correspondence, their computers, see who they are talking to, political affiliations or psychiatric problems.

And this could take weeks or months before they even get a single lead.

BANFIELD: So I'm looking at this list in front of me and there's -- you can't read it on television, but mark my words, there's 12 people, simple names with a nationality, all of them Malaysian.

And I keep asking myself, if I were a forensic investigator, what would I possibly be able to ask the surviving friends, family members and associates of these crew members when you can't actually interview the crew member, him or herself?

What could you possibly glean from all of those other interviews that you've gleaned from all the interviews of the passengers?

BAER: Well, Ashleigh, that's a good question. I -- they're looking for psychological problems, first of all. That's the most simple explanation. And anybody that was having a mental breakdown, there would be some -- you know, some sign of it in advance. And the family members would all have something to contribute. They're reluctant to talk. It's a terrible tragedy. It's hard to get the truth out of them.

And then secondarily they're looking for terrorism connections. That has not been ruled out so far. As I've said over and over again, the 9/11 hijacking and attacks, it started in Kuala Lumpur in January 2000. Did any of these people in the crew have a connection? So far there's been no evidence of it, but you never know.

BANFIELD: You never know. I'm sure people thought nothing of Mohamed Atta before he went through that magnetometer and did what he did on 9/11.

Bob Baer, always good to talk to you. Thank you, sir.

Bob Baer joining us live on that topic and in a few moments we're going to look at the possibility of the debris from the plane actually one day just washing up on shore after thousands upon thousands of search hours on the water. What shore might that be? That's coming up next.


BANFIELD: The new frontier in the search for Flight 370 could be the west coast of Australia. And when I say the coast, I actually mean the coast, not the water. As the search zone moves closer and closer towards the coast, debris from that plane may actually start washing up on the shore, maybe weeks from now, maybe months, maybe even years.

Joining me now to talk about how the first pieces of evidence from this mystery of the missing airliner may be found on the remote beaches of western Australia is Christine Dennison, an ocean explorer and expeditions logistics experts.

I think people aren't really there yet with their heads that eventually it might find us. We might not find it. The patterns of that area of the oceans, where in Australia, because that's a very desolate, desolate coast?

CHRISTINE DENNISON, OCEAN EXPLORER: Well, it is. That's one of the problems, you don't have a lot - you don't have a lot of people there. You rarely have any. You also have a search pattern that's now moved a little farther inland and farther north. So you're going to have different current. You're still going to have the gyre effect, which is sort of like a washing machine effect. It goes counterclockwise. So that's going to be pushing debris in lots of different areas.

BANFIELD: We're just looking at these beautiful pictures of the western coast of Australia.

DENNISON: It's lovely.

BANFIELD: That's not all beautiful, easy to spot beach either, is it?

DENNISON: It's not. And one of the issues that they will have, unfortunately, is, what washes up, where it washes up. It's a very long coastline. If anyone finds it, should there be people, they'll probably -- if they find one piece, it's very possible this would be a personal effect, which is a very difficult thing to fathom, but it's very possible.

BANFIELD: So you effectively have to talk about deference. I mean somehow you've got to market this concept to anybody who might be in that western - because it's very desolate to people anyway -


BANFIELD: But to be deferential with whatever they may actually spot.

DENNISON: There is. There's a responsibility and a sensitivity should you find any kind of debris that looks as though it would be, in this case, from wreckage. Whether it be a seat cushion, personal effects that you would recognize this is probably belonging to a wreck or it's a ship wreck, something.

BANFIELD: And it's happened before. It's not like this is pie in the sky. By the way, do you foresee at some point the bigger part of this effort to find this mystery missing flight moving to the land? Actually combing the shores of this extraordinarily remote western part of the country?

DENNISON: At this point, it's all possible just because we still do not know. Yes.

BANFIELD: How do you beach comb? Like what kind of a search -- what would it look like?

DENNISON: Well, I think you would first of all have, again, aerials. You would have helicopters that can fly just above and hover and see, are we finding a debris field. They may be following it. I'm not sure what they're doing as far as marker buoys. If they have a debris field that they're going to track, if they can't get to it. Again, you've got weather issues coming in. The whole - the importance behind this is, should anyone find it, they would have to be responsible enough to say, you don't want to touch it, you want to collect as much data, where you found it --

BANFIELD: Don't take it home. It might be the key to the mystery this entire world has waited to solve.

DENNISON: Exactly. And call in the professionals.

BANFIELD: And, you know, and let me just ask you this very quickly. Is it possible that Australia isn't even the beach where that gyre will be kicking this stuff to? I mean is it possible it could be Thailand? Is it possible it could be India?

DENNISON: It's possible -- it's a horrible thing, but it is possible.

BANFIELD: It is possible.

DENNISON: You have - you have Indonesia, you've got Australia, you've got the entire coast of India. And it's daunting at this point.

BANFIELD: Well, hopefully we can find something somewhere, whether it be beach or whether it be ocean. Thank you, Christine Dennison.

DENNISON: Thank you, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: As always, we appreciate it.

A look at some of the other top stories coming up as well, including an amazing moment that was caught on tape. A driver, really dumb, dumb, dumb trying to beat the train. Usually that's what happens. And there were kids in the back. I'm going to tell you what happened to that vehicle. And there's the other view too. Did I say dumb? I've got a few choice adjectives I'll add after the break.


BANFIELD: You know, when Sanjay Gupta talks, I listen. And his story today is about a teenager with a rare form of Lyme disease who's found a really unique way to deal with the stress of the situation. Here's Sanjay.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Schuyler Ebersol, high school started pretty normally, but his luck quickly took a turn for the worse.

SCHUYLER EBERSOL, SUFFERS FROM LYME DISEASE: I would have sometimes difficulty breathing. I'd have severe dizziness so that I couldn't really walk or see straight for days at a time. I would faint randomly and I would go to sleep some nights not sure if I'd wake up in the morning.

GUPTA: At first he just chalked it up to stress, but Ebersol quickly realized something was really wrong.

EBERSOL: And no one knew what was wrong with me and there were all sorts of hypotheses.

GUPTA: Home from school for months at a time, away from his friends and his world and very sick, Ebersol desperately needed an escape, and he found it in writing.

EBERSOL: I just started writing. And I would get lost in this world. And I identified with this character. And it was just a way to keep me going while everything else in my life wasn't so great.

GUPTA: And then after several months doctors finally discovered the cause of his symptoms, a rare form of Lyme disease. And at the same time, his scattered pages started to gel (ph) into a book.

EBERSOL: The book is called "The Hidden World." It's about a main character who has a heart attack, he slips into a coma, and when he wakes up he turns into a wolf in the hospital room.

GUPTA: Sound familiar?

EBERSOL: I didn't really intend for there to be a lot of me in the main character, Nate Williams, but it sort of happened that way.

GUPTA: "The Hidden World" was published last December. With more in the works. And Ebersol says, through it all, writing saved his life.

EBERSOL: You really just have to find something that can sustain you and keep you mentally strong. For me it was writing and then the quest to get published.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.


BANFIELD: I want to show you some storm damage near St. Louis today. The National Weather Service is confirming a tornado touched the ground in University City, Missouri. At least 100 houses were reportedly damaged along with a lot of cars, a lot of trees that are also down. And another wave of storms is due to hit the St. Louis area this afternoon. So beware and listen to your weather service.

Check this out now. Another picture for you. A driver of an SUV running a red light and then trying to weave through the guardrails. Yes, at a railroad track. That's what happens when you do that. The passenger train smashes into the passenger side of the SUV.

It's incredible that the two adults in the front seat suffered only minor injuries. What's even more incredible is that there were two children in the backseat and they weren't hurt at all. I said dumb before, but I will add this, reckless. And I hope the police are using that in their charging document because when you've got kids in the car, even when you don't, you don't go around the guardrails.

Thanks for watching, everyone. My colleague Wolf starts right now.