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Ocean Shield Detects More Pings, Searchers Optimistic; Stabbing Rampage at Pennsylvania High School

Aired April 9, 2014 - 12:30   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to return to our breaking news coverage of the mass stabbing at a high school outside of Pittsburgh in just a few minutes, but we've also got another major story developing this hour.

Just when the hopes were fading right alongside those batteries that were fading on the black-box pingers, we've got two new sets of pings that have been detected and it's prompted this rather stunning announcement about the search for Flight 370.


ANGUS HOUSTON, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTER: I'm now optimistic that we will find the aircraft or what's left of the aircraft in the not too distant future.


BANFIELD: The same Australian ship and United States listening equipment that detected pings twice over the weekend, well, they detected the pings again, or at least sounds that were certainly consistent with the pings, and it was on two separate occasions yesterday.

The now four encounters came within 17 miles of one another. The new signals slightly weaker than the first signals, albeit, and this time only one telltale pulse, not the two as you'd expect if you're looking for separate pingers on both the plane's flight-data and the cockpit- voice recorders. And still, after 33 days, there is no physical trace of the Boeing 777 or anything inside it that has turned up.

Today, 15 different aircraft, 14 different ships, all of them crisscrossing the search area that authorities have greatly reduced now as their confidence seems to have grown.

And, once more, I turn to my CNN colleague Will Ripley who is in Perth live at this hour.

Will, this the time yesterday we were hearing how vital it was to just reacquire the signals, but there had been a long silence. They were picked up, then it seemed they were lost, but now the reacquisition's happened. And we just heard this normally very reserved Australian search coordinator has changed his tune somewhat. He made a pretty bold prediction.

Has this search been completely re-energized?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, absolutely, Ashleigh, and you're right. It was striking to a lot of us who have listened to Angus Houston, day in and day out, use so much caution, caution, by the way, that he's still using, simply because, as you pointed out, there's no physical evidence, nothing tangible yet, no piece of Flight 370 that's been spotted or recovered in the Indian Ocean.

But what we do have is now four pings, and they're going to continue listening as long as they can to try to zero in on the location, because each time they hear a ping, they can get a better idea of where these data recorders might be.

And that's when they're -- the next step would be to actually deploy the submersible and go down and take a look. But they're definitely not there yet, Ashleigh. They want to keep listening as long as those black boxes are potentially emitting those signals.

BANFIELD: And just quickly, Will, yesterday, you and I were speaking live at this very hour, and as it turns out, when we were having a conversation about the deafening silence that these teams were experiencing, they actually were not.

They actually were detecting things. It just takes a while for them to get that information to us. It seems it takes them 12 hours, which makes me ask you about right now.

It's 12:30 Eastern time, here in America. It's 12:30 at night, your time. I'm sure it's the exact question you're wondering, if they're actually making detections as we speak?

RIPLEY: Absolutely. And, you know, we are on the phone around the clock getting updates.

What we've noticed is they're holding these press conferences. They're calling them with relatively short notice when they have something to announce. So, when we heard there was going to be another press conference, we all had a pretty good idea there would be something to announce, and sure enough, we learned two more pings.

One thing that was really striking, too, Ashleigh, you know there are preparations under way here in Perth to accommodate the families if they choose to fly here. Angus Houston, he said, when these families come, they will be looked after. He used the word when, not if, and that's the first time that he's spoken with such confidence the families will be coming here.

BANFIELD: And the confidence we expect to find this plane within a matter of days, that's some language that, you know, you just don't use when you are a man of his ilk.

Will Ripley, as always, terrific work. Thank you for that, and report back to us the minute you hear if they're hearing anything. And, by the way, even if the search teams are closer than ever to the remains of MH-370, the last two-and-a-half miles of this journey is certainly going to be the hardest.

That's how deep, give or take, the ocean is where those pings are being picked up, and tracing them back takes a whole lot of know-how and probably a pretty serious amount of luck as well.

I'm joined now by CNN's meteorologist Chad Myers in Atlanta and, from Boston, Tom Altshuler, who's the v.p. and general manager of Teledyne Marine System. That's the company that makes and designs undersea communications gear, including the pingers and also the pinger detectors.

All right, Chad, I want to start with you. Will Ripley was telling us about effectively what we have. We've got four hit zones, but they're 17 miles apart, and they seem to me, you know, the neophyte in this game, to be in a very strange pattern.

Can you help us make sense why they would be so disparate and in such a strange shape?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We assume, you know, just from the layperson, we look at the pinger, we think, oh, it's going to ping just like a bell. It's going to go everywhere. It's going to go in every direction.

That may not be the case because of the ocean floor. We know the ocean floor is a little bit rugged here. We also know that it's made of muck. Thousands, millions of years of fish number two, scales, whatever, food has fallen down here and made a very mucky bottom.

So when this pinger hit the ground, did it stay up on top? Probably not. Did it tumble down into a little crevice? Probably. Did it settle down into the muck even more? Yes, sure, probably. So rather than a ping that looks like this and goes all directions, omni-directional, it probably is more like a cone here. And so when you pull the pinger locator through this, you might miss it.

But also it could mean echoes off some of this topography, where this -- it wouldn't be a cone that goes straight up. It may go to the side a little bit if it's bouncing off some topography here. It may go to that side. And so the 17 miles is more of a factor of, you know -- I don't like the fact that it's 17 miles, but if this thing is still pinging loudly, here's what we have. We have these ships that are dragging themselves across.

We have to understand, too, Ashleigh, that this cord is two-and-a-half miles long. It's like trying to catch a fish. You've got a tuna on the other end of your line, but you've got a two-and-a-half miles worth of fishing line out there. Where is that tuna?

It could be wiggling back and forth back through here because of the currents under the water. It had a very long two-and-a-half hour ping right through the middle, I believe, but then it had a shorter ping as it turned around. It takes a long time for this ship to turn around, almost three hours to turn around, reeling in its receiver, sending it back out, and then it made a smaller slice through a different part of this cone or of this ping. And that's why we didn't see as much of the ping the second time around even though it was only about six or eight hours later.

BANFIELD: You make perfect sense. It's also remarkable that it is such an imperfect science, after all. This is the best of the best equipment, and yet, it is just so -- I don't know, it seems so rudimentary.

Hold on for a second, Chad. I want to bring in Tom Altshuler for a second.

Tom, I heard you say last night during this live news conference about the silt that Chad was talking about on the ocean floor and how it could be playing havoc not only with the pinging, but also with the wreckage.

Some people are of the conviction that the wreckage could actually be swallowed by that muck. But I think it was you said who said, Maybe not. Maybe it's more like sediment on top of volcanic rock. What is your prediction of where this -- of this particular area, what might that ocean floor really look like?

THOMAS ALTSHULER, TELEDYNE MARINE SYSTEMS: That's a little hard to tell. I don't really know a lot about the ocean floor in that particular area.

But typically in the deep ocean, you know, you have muck. But it's very common to put instruments down 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 meters in the ocean and have them sit on the bottom comfortably. So thinking that everything would just get swallowed up is probably unlikely, but you will have some material that goes into the muck if there's a lot of muck there.

With a complex (inaudible) like you expect or the terrain that you expect down there, it's unknown how things will really look until you get down with a side-scan sonar.

BANFIELD: And when the director of this search said that he thinks we're going to find this plane in a matter of days, does that mean that the AUVs, those autonomous robotic vehicles, are probably being launched, either today or tomorrow? How could you possibly find it in a matter of days when those things aren't in the water yet?

ALTSHULER: No, they would need to put those in the water pretty quickly.

If you think about it, what they're going to do next is take the area that has been laid out. You know, you have a relatively large area that's been laid out, 17 miles, and they're going to start doing what's called mowing the lawn.

And so if you think about a lawn mower, it cuts a swath through an area and then you turn around and cut another swath. They'll do with that the sonars.

Those swaths are only hundreds of meters wide, and so it will take a long time back and forth to really get an image. And so, you start doing a calculation on that and you're looking at days to go and really image the bottom there.

BANFIELD: Tom Altshuler, great to see you. Thank you for the insight on this particularly optimistic day. I'll just saying.

And, Chad Myers, as always, you make the very complex seem very understandable. Our appreciation, thank you.

I want to return in a moment now to this breaking news out of Pennsylvania. Listen, these kids who came to the hospital were telling the doctors they didn't see it coming, and they didn't see whoever stabbed them going, either.

Such crowded confusion, kids were stabbed without even knowing who did it. We're going to give you the details in a moment.


BANFIELD: Back to our breaking news here on CNN, several high school students in Pennsylvania right now are fighting for they lives in local hospitals after one of their fellow students went on a stabbing spree inside the hallways and classrooms of the school.

At least 19 kids and one adult have been treated, and that adult is a security guard at that school.

Just moments ago, we spoke with the vice president of the guard's company. He says that guard is expected to be OK after being stabbed in the stomach after helping to subdue the suspect. By the way, that suspect, just 16-years-old, a boy who is now in police custody and is not likely to be out of custody anytime soon.

We're told he's a tenth grader at Franklin Regional Senior High School. This is in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, not far from Pittsburgh, just 15 miles to the east of Pittsburgh.

The school officials say the assault is over, the school is secure and all other schools in that area closed for now. The high school will remain closed for several days. It is a crime scene. There will be counseling made available to all who want it or need it.

Joining me now, Mel Robbins is with me. She's a CNN commentator and criminal defense attorney. Also Jean Casarez joins me again, a legal defense attorney in her own right as well. And then in Washington, D.C., is CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.

Tom, just quickly to you, right off the bat, the FBI is involved in this investigation already. We know that the locals have taken over the bulk of this. We know that this doesn't appear to be anything terrorism related at this stage. But what is the FBI specifically going to be doing? TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, the FBI was asked to assist the local police and that's exactly what they're doing. The police are in charge of this. The local prosecutors will determine whether the individual's charged as an adult or as a juvenile.

But as far as the specific bureau assistance, the computer examiners were sent, evidence response team members to do forensic work, the crime scene investigators, if you will, additional agents to help with the probably hundreds of interviews that will have to be done in this case. And also the people from the victim assistance program, which is run by the FBI, which will provide assistance to the families of the victims of this incident. So that's --

BANFIELD: Will the FBI at all be trying to interrogate this young man, either at this early stage or later?

FUENTES: I don't think so unless the local police allow it or want it or, you know, the subject himself agrees to it. Obviously, he doesn't have to submit to any kind of interrogation or interview at all. It's within his rights.

But, you know, in this case, unlike many of the tragedies we've had in schools over the last few years, at least the individual that did it is still alive and may be able to say what was in his head, if it's believable, what was in his head that caused him to want to do it. But the FBI will assisting also trying to get the computer records, the phone records, everything, neighbor interviews, friends, classmates, relatives, to try to figure out what was on his mind and whether other individuals might have been part of encouraging him, if you will, to do it, even if they didn't directly participate.

BANFIELD: Yes. For his sake I'm going to say this, I hope that young man has an attorney real close by just to protect this process because we all know that the process can be thwarted and that can have all sorts of ramifications later down the line.

Tom Fuentes, thank you for your insight.

FUENTES: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: I'm going to take a quick break. And when I come back after the break, I'm going to ask Mel and Jean a couple of specific questions about, had this been a gun attack, what would change in the equation for that young man? What would change in the equation for the results of what these hospitals saw? And then also, what is this young man going to face, because he's in custody now. That's coming up right after this.


BANFIELD: More on our breaking news now. A school in Pennsylvania now closed. Twenty different people, almost all of them kids, taken to hospitals after a mass stabbing allegedly at the hands of one of their fellow students. This happening at Franklin Regional Senior High School in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Murrysville, Pennsylvania, to be exact. That assailant, a 16-year-old sophomore. A young man who was taken down by the principal, cuffed by the resource officer, and taken to get treatment for injuries to his own hands apparently before he will undoubtedly be taken into custody and go through the criminal justice process.

Joining me now, Mel Robbins and Jean Casarez.

(INAUDIBLE) information on the crime scene itself.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Several things. First of all, the crime scene itself, which is the school, we are learning that numerous rooms are involved, long hallways are involved. This is going to be a very complex crime scene for investigators. So it was not confined to just the area near the front door, because, as we know, the doors were open this morning and it happened shortly after that.

We also are learning, reporting are saying, local reports, that the suspect was taken to police headquarters, but then was taken to the hospital in his - his -- was taken to police headquarters in his hospital gown where he was then questioned or at least tried to be questioned. So he went to the hospital first, two hours, transported in his hospital gown to police headquarters.

And we're also learning lastly from Dan Stevens, the Department of Emergency Management coordinator for Westmoreland Department of Public Safety, that the FBI is bringing in people right now, individuals, to take a look at the background of this suspect.

BANFIELD: Undoubtedly what Tom Fuentes was saying, looking at computer and cell phone records, et cetera -


BANFIELD: And then, obviously, canvassing and interrogating everyone they can to find out what transpired immediately preceding this attack.

One of the questions, Mel, everybody was saying when these headlines started splashing across cable news was, how on earth do you get that many victims? How does an attack go on this long?

MEL ROBBINS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, it's the first thing I thought too. Yes. Well, let's kind of unpack it for everybody. It's 7:13 in the morning. The high school starts at 7:30. It's a lot like a concert where people are walking in. There are kids everywhere. There are teachers going to classrooms.

BANFIELD: It's loud.

ROBBINS: It's loud. And if somebody's got a knife and they're going to do a knife attack, there's no gunfire. So if you're slashing kids in the hallway, which it sounds like this 16-year-old was, most of the victims probably don't even know that they got hit. Kids that are milling about have no idea that this is happening. If kids even start screaming in a high school hallway -- I've got a high-schooler. I dropped her off yesterday. Kids are like, hey, la, la, there's tons of chaos and noise. BANFIELD: Sure.

ROBBINS: So I think one of the things that's interesting about this is it's very different than a gun assault.

BANFIELD: Kids know now if a gun goes off, run.

ROBBINS: What to do.


ROBBINS: And also -

BANFIELD: Unbelievable.

ROBBINS: Knife, super physical -


ROBBINS: Super up-close. Very brutal and very personal. I would not be surprised if we learn that there was something that was going on with this kid and some of the kids that he attacked because of what we know about people that attack with a knife.

BANFIELD: Yes. And we'll let you know -

CASAREZ: And, remember, there were two knives, not just one knife.

BANFIELD: Right. That's right. The police chief said that he was flashing two knives down the hallway.

Also want to tell you that the doctors at Forbes Hospital said no injuries that came in to us were superficial. All of them were stab wounds and all of them seemed to be pattern-like to the torso. That this person meant business. There weren't slashes, so to speak. They were deep stab wounds for the most part.

Also want to let you know, one very critical detail here. Someone pulled the fire alarm. Whether it was a teacher or whether it was a student, this was protocol and it could have helped in the evacuation. That according to the police chief. It could have helped to save lives as well. One thing is for sure, the principal and the resource officer stopped this attack and got that teenager subdued.

A lot more details coming up right after the break.


BANFIELD: I have an update and I'm just going to have to read this for you. It's the conditions of these kids, their ages and what happened to them.

At Presbyterian Hospital, we're told, a 17-year-old male is in critical condition with chest and abdominal wounds. He is out of the O.R. and he's in the ICU at this time. Over at Children's Hospital, five patients. A 14-year-old male in critical, stab wound to the chest. A 17-year-old male in serious, stab wound to the right of his chest. A 16-year-old male in serious, stab wound to the right arm. A 17-year-old male in fair condition, stab wound to the left arm. A 17- year-old female also in fair condition, stab wound to the right hand.

On at Mercy Hospital, an adult male discharged with superficial wounds. I do not know if that is the security guard who, according to the police department's chief, was stabbed in the stomach. At University of Pittsburgh Medical Center East, three 15-year-old males have now been discharged to their families. One 16-year-old female was discharged as well. And then one 17-year-old female is right now undergoing treatment for facial wounds. She is in the ER. She is in fair condition. Again, facial wounds to the 17-year-old female. And we're told she is likely to be discharged later today.

There are seven teenagers who at this time remain at Forbes Hospital. Also from Forbes Hospital, we're told, an adult male patient was being treated and is now released. So I have an adult male at Mercy and an adult male at Forbes. One of them could be the security guard, another could be an 18-year-old. These kids ranged in ages from 14 to 17. Perhaps one of them closer to 18.

We're continuing to do this breaking news for you. All the details coming at you next. I'm passing the baton over to my colleague, Wolf Blitzer, who starts right now.