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New Signals Detected in Plane Search; Hospital Updating Stabbing Victims' Conditions; Ukraine Issues Ultimatum to Protesters; Preview: Interview with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

Aired April 9, 2014 - 13:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Investigators now appear more certain than ever that they have, in fact, zeroed in on the missing Malaysian plane. New signals detected in the Indian Ocean are raising hopes of finding Flight 370. Here are the latest developments.

The Australian ship Ocean Shield towing a U.S. pinger locator has picked up two fresh signals. That's a total of four now since Saturday. All the signals were within 17 miles of each other.

Also, authorities have analyzed the signals detected Saturday and concluded they were -- they were from the electronic equipment -- from electric equipment, not some natural occurrence. They also said earlier that the pulses were consistent with the signals from a plane's black box.

Meanwhile, planes and ships are moving ahead with the visual search for debris in the Indian Ocean; 15 aircraft, 14 ships have been involved in today's search.

The detection of those two new pings helping investigators right now narrow the search area for the missing plane dramatically. The head of the agency coordinating the effort says this, quote, "I believe we are searching in the right area."

Our panel of experts are now standing by with the latest on these important developments. But let's go to our correspondent, Will Ripley. He's joining us from Perth, Australia. That's where the search is based, for the very latest.

First of all, Will, what's the next step now that the crews have detected a total of four pings, four of these signals coming from what they believe are these two black boxes, what happens now?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, the next step is that they just keep on listening for more pings, hopefully. You're right. The search area is dramatically smaller today than it was even just yesterday. We're talking about an area, though, that's still quite large, 500 square miles.

The Ocean Shield is dragging behind this towed pinger locator. And they're going to keep using this pinger locator as long as possible. Here's why.

It can cover a lot more ground than the other piece of equipment on that ship, the underwater submersible, the Bluefin 21. The TPL can do about six times the work in one day that the Bluefin can do.

So if they can keep listening for pings, each time they hear one, they can narrow down more and more where this debris might be, and only when they're absolutely certain that the black boxes that they believe are somewhere on the bottom of the Indian Ocean in this area, only when they believe that those black boxes have stopped emitting a signal, will they then deploy that submersible, because once the submersible goes down there, this whole process becomes a whole lot slower.

BLITZER: Yes, and those batteries, the weaker the batteries get, the weaker the signals become, and that makes it more difficult. Those batteries are supposed to last for about 30 days but sometimes they can last 35, even 40 days. Right now, what, we're in day 33, day 34, along those lines.

So they're very worried about the strength of those batteries.

What are they saying about the fact that one of the pings lasted for more than two hours, one lasted for about 13 or 14 minutes, and these two most recent pings lasted, what, for 5 or 6 minutes each, what are they saying that means, Will?

RIPLEY: Yes, well, you know, you said it, they're getting weaker. You know, from two hours down to just a matter of minutes and a fading signal. That could say a couple different things. It could say the batteries are dying, which, you know, we believe they are. Now on day 34 here in Perth, when the batteries are rated for only 30 days.

It could also mean the listening device was somewhat farther away from the black boxes when they heard these pings. So that's why it's so critical to keep listening, to keep trying to get that listening device down there, get as many different pings as possible to zero in on where this plane might be, Wolf.

BLITZER: Will Ripley in Perth, Australia, for us with the very latest.

Will, thanks very much. We'll check back with you. We'll have analysis of what we just heard in a moment.

But I quickly want to go to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. They're updating us on the conditions of some of those children who were stabbed earlier today at that high school.

DR. LOUIS ALARCON, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PITTSBURGH: -- 17 years old. I have permission from his family to provide some detail about his injuries.

He sustained a single life-threatening stab wound to the left side of his torso. He arrived with a very low blood pressure and evidence of massive bleeding within his chest and abdomen.

Within minutes, the trauma team had this patient in the operating room to manage injuries combined in his chest and abdomen. He had injuries to his liver, his diaphragm and major blood vessels between the chest and the abdomen. Fortunately for this young man, the knife missed his heart and his aorta.

He's currently in our trauma intensive care unit being -- with ongoing resuscitation for his injuries, in critical condition, on life support, and he will require additional surgery in the next several days.

QUESTION: What is his prognosis?

ALARCON: He is in critical condition, but we are very hopeful and -- that he will make it through this.

QUESTION: What is his name?

ALARCON: I cannot provide that at this time.

QUESTION: What grade? Can you tell us what grade?

ALARCON: He is 17 years old. I understand he was in the senior high school.

QUESTION: How are they attending this psychological (INAUDIBLE)? (INAUDIBLE)?

DR. STEVEN DOCIMO, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PITTSBURGH: I don't have direct information on that. We are providing support with social workers and other appropriate support to the teenagers at this time.

QUESTION: Dr. Alarcon, the one that you just described, would he be considered the most serious --

ALARCON: Yes, he's the most seriously injured patient that I'm aware of in the UPMC system.

QUESTION: On the -- you know, can you give us a little bit more information about what the next few days hold for him?

ALARCON: The next several days will include ongoing treatment for bleeding and treating blood clotting disorders that occur with major trauma in intensive care unit with transfusion of all the blood products that he needs, life support on a breathing machine, on a ventilator and additional surgery in the next several days.

QUESTION: Is there room to be optimistic?

ALARCON: Yes, we're very optimistic he's going to make it through this. And he's got a great team of people taking care of him right now.

QUESTION: What can you say about how he was treated before he got to you?

ALARCON: I really have to commend the prehospital people and EMS providers who brought this patient very quickly to a Level 1 trauma center so he could get the life-saving treatment that he needed.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE). Is he conscious? Would he be conscious?

ALARCON: When he arrived, he was speaking but was very unstable and currently he's on a breathing machine and sedated.

QUESTION: Is there any evidence that students or staff at the school were able to do things that helped these students?

ALARCON: I don't have details about the prehospital management.

QUESTION: Can you tell us a little more about the nature of his injuries, multiple stab wounds or...?

ALARCON: He had a single stab wound to the left side of his torso between his chest and his abdomen. And apparently it was a large knife of some sort, because it caused a large injury to his abdominal wall, but also went through, like I said, his liver, his diaphragm and major blood vessels.

QUESTION: Will he need surgery on multiple organs?

ALARCON: Correct.

QUESTION: Doctor, why will he require additional surgery?

ALARCON: He had what we call damage control surgery, where our first goal is to control the hemorrhage and then get the patient to the intensive care unit for ongoing resuscitation. We don't want to subject patients like this to too many hours of operation when the initial goal is to just stop the hemorrhage and control bleeding and that's what we did today.

QUESTION: And how long was his surgery today?

ALARCON: I believe his surgery was under two hours.

QUESTION: Were you there?

ALARCON: Yes, I was part of the team operating on him today.

QUESTION: Anything more you can tell us about the (INAUDIBLE) who underwent surgery here earlier?

DOCIMO: Only in generalities. I don't have a release to give specifics. However, it was a single stab wound. It did cause an injury to the chest. The repair was done and he is not in intensive care. He's in a regular hospital room at this point and expected to recover.

BLITZER: All right, so that's Dr. Steven Docimo and Dr. Louis Alarcon, briefing us on the condition of these students who were stabbed.

Fortunately, we're told, all expectations are they will survive. Clearly at least a few of them are in critical condition right now. We'll have much more on this horrible stabbing attack at this high school outside of Pittsburgh.

That's coming up, also much more on the latest very encouraging developments on the search for the Malaysian airliner. We'll be right back.



ANGUS HOUSTON, JOINT AGENCY COORDNN CENTRE: It looks like the signals we picked up recently have been much weaker than the original six signals we picked up, so that means probably we're either a long way away from it or, in my view, more likely, the batteries are starting to fade and, as a consequence, the signal is becoming weaker.

So we need to, as we say in Australia, make hay while the sun shines. We need to get all the data we can.


BLITZER: The Australian, Angus Houston, who is heading this search operation. Some encouraging developments overnight. Still, though, no wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

So where do we all go from here? Let's bring in our panel of experts.

Mark Weiss is a CNN aviation analyst, former 777 pilot for American Airlines. Peter Goelz, CNN aviation analyst, former NTSB managing director and Tom Fuentes, CNN law enforcement analyst, former FBI assistant director.

All right, Peter, where do we go from here? Because this is pretty encouraging. They now have four pings that have been detected and they believe this is not some sort of natural pings; these pings come from these two black boxes.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, this is exactly what we were hoping for, that they would pick up multiple sets of pings, they need to keep the process going and get as many hits as they can as long as these batteries survive because then you go into a much longer and protracted search.

So they got to keep the Ocean Shield at work. Hopefully pick up more hits. And I think they're going to narrow this search area way down.

BLITZER: Because right now it's within 17 miles or so. But the depth of the water, Mark, is about 3 miles alone. So it's still a pretty significant area but clearly it's not hundreds of thousands of square miles as originally this huge search in the Indian Ocean was concerned.

But they still have a lot of work to do. And they're not going to send the submersible, the unmanned vehicles down until they really believe those batteries are dead.

MARK WEISS, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes. And apparently, you know, they really want to get that cone narrowed down so they really have a specific area. But this does speak volumes to what really has to happen now with regulation and new equipment on aircraft, so that this type of a situation doesn't occur in the future.

BLITZER: Yes, well, they got to move ahead and hopefully they'll learn lessons from this. But everybody's pretty upbeat right now. Not just cautiously optimistic, they're optimistic that they're going to find these black boxes and presumably some wreckage must be nearby or relatively nearby.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, exactly. But even if there isn't debris on the surface, you have a crime scene on the ocean floor and they can afford to be meticulous because it's not going anywhere. That's going to stay there. It might sink a little bit further into the silt, but in the next few weeks or a month, it won't matter. It's not going to move, unlike the debris on the surface which the cyclones and everything else can move it hundreds of miles away from the crime scene.

BLITZER: And we want to make sure that everybody realizes that even if they have detected the pings, they still have a long way to go to find those two black boxes.

GOELZ: They have a long way to go, and they've got some very challenging questions to answer in terms of do you recover the wreckage, do you recover victims? They're very tough questions that need to be addressed.

BLITZER: A lot of viewers want to know, and you've worked on these multinational investigations, who gets custody of those two black boxes, the flight data recorder, the cockpit voice recorder, once they find those two black boxes?

FUENTES: Well, it's not finder's keepers. I mean, the Australians will get custody of it on the spot, but it's the Malaysians who will determine who examines it, where it goes from there. It's a Malaysian case; they make the determination.

BLITZER: Since it's a U.S.-made Boeing 777, everybody thinks the U.S., the NTSB should take a look at those two devices and determine what's --


FUENTES: Well, everybody's hoping that and the NTSB are the most qualified in the world, we think, but in this case the Malaysians will decide which country's team -- you know, we would expect to be NTSB. But it is their decision.

BLITZER: Are you worried about that, Mark, that maybe Malaysia will say, you know what, we'll take first look at it, we're going to investigate and we'll get back to you?

WEISS: Well, let's hope that their past track record is now going to take a different course and that they've learned from their mistakes and I think that the negative publicity that they've had throughout this process will move them in that direction, that they're going to want the best and the brightest on this case.

BLITZER: And you worked at the NTSB, you want to make sure your colleagues there get access to it?

GOELZ: Well, of course, and the Malaysians don't have the equipment and don't have the experience to read these data recorders or the voice recorder.

BLITZER: You want to make a final point?

FUENTES: And when it came to the computer analysis, they turned to the FBI. They said, these are the best examiners in the world; they have the most experience and most expertise, so they sent the computers to Quantico, Virginia, for the FBI to examine. So following that pattern, they'll be looking for the best experts to handle this.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

Up next, we'll speak with an underwater expert about these challenges that face all the searches right now as they try to locate the two black boxes from Flight 370.


BLITZER: Searchers picking up two fresh signals which they hope are coming from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. There's a total now of four signals since Saturday. All within 17 miles of one another. And it's giving searchers new hope they will find the aircraft that disappeared over a month ago.

Let's bring in CNN analyst Rob McCallum. He's an ocean search specialist.

Rob, if they finally do narrow the area, they have four signals now, 17 or so miles apart; walk us through what happens next.

ROB MCCALLUM, CNN ANALYST: Well, the towed pinger locator is essentially a glorified microphone. It's simply an underwater hydrophone that picks up the signal.

The next step is to try and get some imagery. And in water you do that through the use of sonar. And so they will deploy sonar assets in order to give us imagery of the sea floor and anything that might be lying on top of it.

BLITZER: Are they going to hold off on that submersible equipment until they exhaust the possibility of the batteries still operating and emitting those pings?

MCCALLUM: I think the timeline now is so fine, such small scale that it doesn't make a lot of difference. The batteries look to me that they're on their way out. So I would expect that the AUV that's carrying the initial sonar package will be deployed in the next day. They may choose -- because we're still dealing with quite a broad area -- they may choose to bring in other sonar assets in order to speed up the process of scanning the sea floor. BLITZER: I've heard a lot of folks say that that -- the ocean silt problem there could be very significant, especially when you're looking for two relatively small boxes.

MCCALLUM: You know, the level of silt on the sea floor varies tremendously around the globe. If we had been where we thought the search area was going to be a couple of weeks ago, up in the Bay of Bengal, the silt there is very thick, you know, meters, tens of feet in depth because it's the outflow from the rivers of the Himalaya.

But down here off the coast of Western Australia, I would expect the sediment to be pretty hard-packed.

BLITZER: So in other words, the silt may not necessarily be a problem. But they have really have never taken all that close a look or mapped out the bottom of the Indian Ocean in that area, have they?

MCCALLUM: No, there has never been a submersible down to this part of the world before, but you can tell a lot by looking at the bathymetry, you know, the underwater topography, the landscape, if you like, of the sea floor and looking at current flows and current strengths.

And I would expect the sediment here to be relatively hard-packed. So if a black box was sitting out, I think you would see it quite clearly.

BLITZER: So you think they are on the verge, relatively close to finding it? Is that your bottom line, Rob?

MCCALLUM: My bottom line is that we're in the right haystack and now we have to working our way through that. And we will switch now from just listening in a very passive way for sounds and we will go into active mode, actually using sonar to provide initial images of the sea floor.

BLITZER: Rob McCallum, ocean search specialist, our analyst, thanks very, very much. We will stay on top of this story for all of our viewers.

Also another important story we're following, an ultimatum in Ukraine. Demonstrators are being warned to give up or else. We have an exclusive interview on U.S. options in Ukraine. The defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, has just spoken with our Jim Sciutto. Stand by.



BLITZER: We'll get back to the search for Flight 370 and the Pennsylvania school shooting in just a moment.

But first, in Ukraine right now, pro-Russian demonstrators are being given a 48-hour ultimatum. Those demonstrators are still holding two government buildings in Eastern Ukraine but the country's interior minister says they have 48 hours to come to a negotiated settlement or his troops will force the demonstrators out.

Russia's foreign ministry warned that any military action by Ukraine could start a civil war.

U.S. officials tell CNN they have good reason to believe that Russia is behind the supposedly grassroots revolts in Ukraine. They point to the fact that they each have followed the same pattern. Our own Jim Sciutto is in Beijing and explains.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Strong words from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel regarding Russia's military moves around Ukraine and I pressed him.

I said, it's the impression, it's the criticism of some that the U.S. and the West effectively conceded Crimea to Russia without real costs imposed on Moscow, on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He said no, that's not the case, and it's the West's strategy to impose those costs over time and that Russia will feel those costs over time. He also says that NATO is now looking at more options, more costs to impose on Russia.

Here is how he answered my question on the level of concern today.


CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We are always vigilant. We're always looking at the options that we need to take. As you know General Breedlove, who is our Supreme Allied Commander, has been tasked by NATO to come up with new and additional measures and options. He will be reporting those options back to me as well as to NATO.

So, we don't take anything for granted.


SCIUTTO: Those options he's talking about are military options, not an attack, but the movement of military assets around Ukraine to send, in his words, "a strong message" to Moscow, to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And he also made the case that there was already one cost that Russia is suffering at this point and that is, in his words, "international isolation" and he believes that over time that that isolation will raise the cost for Russia to the point where it changes its behavior.

He cited, for instance, the vote in the U.N., where well more than 100 countries voted against Russia's actions in Crimea. Only 10 or so voted in support. The trouble, of course, is that those costs, including international isolation, has not yet changed Russia's behavior.

None of those 40,000 troops have moved back from the border on Eastern Ukraine. He says that it will over time. So far that hasn't happened. He's confident that it will -- Jim Sciutto, CNN, Beijing. BLITZER: A lot of more of Jim's exclusive interview with the Defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, will be airing during THE SITUATION ROOM later today, 5:00 pm Eastern. Jim spoke to the Secretary of Defense on a wide range of issues, including what the U.S. needs to do, is doing; the U.S. Navy, the U.S. military right now on the search for the Malaysian airliner as well.

And he made some fascinating comments on that point as well. Much more on the interview on Ukraine, much more on the Malaysian airliner search. Much more on other military related issues coming up, 5:00 pm Eastern in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's been a positive day on Wall Street. The Dow, the S&P 500, the Nasdaq, they are all right now showing some solid gains. Take a look at this. The Dow Jones industrials up about 75 points right now.

Other news: defects involving a long list of Toyota models have forced a huge worldwide recall. Look at this, covers more than 6 million -- yes, 6 million vehicles, about one-third of them in North America. Included are 27 different models, including the Toyota-built Pontiac Vibe and the Subaru Trezia among others. Some of Toyota's most popular models, the Corolla, the Camry, the Rav4, the Tacoma pickup, they are also all on the recall list, includes cars built from 2004 to 2013.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. I will be back 5:00 pm Eastern with a special two-hour edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. Coming up in the meantime, "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.