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Search for Flight 370; Pennsylvania School Stabbing

Aired April 10, 2014 - 09:00   ET


CUOMO: And of course be sure to catch our original series "CHICAGOLAND." Airs tonight at 10:00 Eastern, 9:00 Central. Everybody has good teeth.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely right. And time now for "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks, guys. Have a great day.

NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks so much for joining me. We begin this hour with breaking news and a very busy morning in the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

Right now we have a number of new developments unfolding. Sources tell CNN that when the flight took that mysterious turn and fell from the radar it must have plunged in altitude to between 4,000 and 5,000 feet.

Another new twist? Thirty-four days after the flight's disappearance, Malaysia is finally confirming that it did in fact dispatch search aircraft soon after the plane vanished. Sources also tell us that investigators are now confident that it was the flight's captain who radioed in that last message and there was no sign of stress or a possible third party when he said, "Good night, Malaysian 370."

And this morning search crews discover a possible new signal, raising hopes that they may be closing in on the flight's so-called black boxes which could explain exactly what happened.

Let's begin with that new signal. CNN's Will Ripley is in Perth, Australia.

Good morning, Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Carol. Yes, we know that data analysis is happening as we speak on that fifth possible ping that was detected, not by that towed pinger locater that we've been talking so much about. This one was actually detected by what's called the sonar buoy. We know the Australian Air Force was flying over this area where the Ocean Shield is, and they were dropping these sonar buoys into the ocean.

What happens is it has an hydrophone, an underwater microphone, and this thing goes down about 1,000 feet. It listens as well. Just like the towed pinger locator does. And we're told that one of these hydrophones picked up what they believe could be a signal from an in- flight data recorder. But they need to check it out. That's why there's data analysis that will be happening through the overnight hours here in Perth.

We also got a new tidbit t of new info. Carol. We know that that British ship, the HMS Echo, that was a few hundred miles away with the Chinese ship that thought it heard something, remember that, happening a few days back. Well, they have now cleared that area and the British ship, the Echo, is moving up to join the Ocean Shield. It's actually getting pretty close and we know that that ship is going to be in the area as well, listening to see if they can try to get a lock on anymore possible underwater signals. So definitely a lot happening here, a lot that we'll be following here -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So that means, Will, the search area has shrunk yet again, right?

RIPLEY: That's right. Yes. We know that the actual visual search area, the area where they're looking for debris is now down to 22,000 square miles or so. So that is the smallest that it has been yet. Still, though, no debris sighted. So it will be interesting to see what happens as they continue narrowing the size of this search area.

COSTELLO: Will Ripley, reporting live from Perth, Australia this morning.

The other big developments I told you about this morning, investigators now say it was Captain Zaharie Shah who said those last words to air traffic controllers, "Good night, Malaysian 370." And they now confirm the plane at one point dipped to between 4,000 and 5,000 feet.

Nic Robertson is in Kuala Lumpur with more of these developments.

Hi, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Carol. Well, what we know is that the investigators played that air traffic tape recording between the cockpit and air traffic control. They played that to five pilots who knew both the first officer and the captain. Now they say they were able to identify the first officer speaking when the aircraft was on the ground, but that last communication at 1:19 in the morning was given by the captain.

They say that there was no third party in the cockpit, that there were no sign or sound of distress coming from the cockpit at that time. Of course, who was in control, who was talking at the ;last -- through that last communication, a very important thing for investigators.

And now also we're learning after the aircraft did that loop back, flew back across the Malaysian peninsula, it then dipped below military radar, reappeared about 120 nautical miles further away, came up again. What we're being told is that the belief is from all the data they have is that the aircraft was dropping down to an altitude between 4,000 to 5,000 feet, possibly they say because it was trying to dodge what is a busy commercial air lane in the sky there.

Again, this is what they're putting together from the best data that they have at the moment -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So why didn't they tell us this information before?

ROBERTSON: Investigators have been keeping this very close to their chest. We understand that one of the reasons that they didn't, in fact, announce the aircraft had made that dip in altitude is because they were aware that if they said that, that would tell people that somebody was in control of the aircraft. And it does seem, as part of the investigation, to be something that's been very closely held.

It's taken a lot of time to get the information, not only about this change in altitude but about the cause. Remember a couple of days ago we were talking about skirting around the north of Indonesia. About flying beyond the Indonesian radar control. All these different features that shows somebody was controlling the aircraft. That sort of information the investigators have been -- have been not willing to put forward. We're getting it only now from sources -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Nic Robertson reporting live from Kuala Lumpur.

Let's bring in Mary Schiavo now. She's a CNN aviation analyst and former inspector general for the Department of Transportation. And Peter Goelz, he's a CNN aviation analyst and former NTSB managing director.

Welcome to both of you.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Nice to be here this morning.


COSTELLO: Great to have you. Let's start with the where. Investigators now say the plane took off from Kuala Lumpur, made that strange westward turn back over the Malaysian peninsula. At some point they say the plane dipped in altitude to as low as 4,000 feet and disappeared from military radar.

Mary, care to tackle that? What does it tell us?

SCHIAVO: Well, it can tell us three things. We still don't know why, but we know three things that could have accomplished. One, if you had a loss of pressurization, you'd want to get down certainly below 10,000 feet so you didn't have to rely on oxygen and you could live in a depressurized cabin or cockpit.

Two, you want to get out of other traffic. That's where you have to do it because commercial airliners fly at much higher attitudes, you know, 18,000 feet and above. And three, if you don't have any communications, you need to get out of other traffic because if your transponder is off or broken or doesn't work, you don't have any collision avoidance. So three reasons you might need to get down and get out of harm's way. COSTELLO: OK, so, Peter, if the plane did dip low and disappeared from radar near Perak, Malaysia, and that's what sources are telling us, might that mean those fishermen on the other side of the country, on the other side of Malaysia, on that island, Kota Bharu, did they really see Flight 370? Remember this? Let's listen.


SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "I was fishing when I saw the plane. It looked strange, flying low," Azid tells me. "I told my friend that's not normal. Normally it flies at 35,000 feet. But that night it touched the clouds. I thought the pilot must be crazy."


COSTELLO: So does that lend more credence to what those fishermen say they saw, Peter?

GOELZ: Well, certainly you have to take their eyewitness statement more seriously now because apparently the Malaysians have some evidence that they're confident in that the plane was down at 4,000 or 5,000 feet. But I think, you know, as much as Mary wants to point towards the aircraft, the real issue here is it looks like more and more somebody in the cockpit was directing this plane and directing it away from land.

And it looks as though they were doing it to avoid any kind of detection. And that's a -- that's a very disturbing but that's where the evidence is leading.

COSTELLO: Well, let's have that debate between you two, because, Mary, you seem to think that maybe something mechanical went wrong with the plane. But as Captain Shah radioed in that last transmission, he sounded calm. There was no sign of distress. So could something catastrophic happen that fast after that last transmission?

SCHIAVO: Well, it can. And the point is we still don't have any motive and any evidence of a crime yet. And by the way, if you're trying to get away from radar, although apparently Malaysian military radar didn't go below 5,000 feet, for most radars and most civilians radars, they'll take you down almost to the runway threshold. So you'd have to get down a lot lower than 5,000 feet if you're trying to avoid radar.

And the fishermen story is still problematic because if they were at 4,000, 5,000 feet, they wouldn't have seen the kinds of things -- the detail on the plane. They said they could see the doors and the windows and all that. 4,000 to 5,000 feet is still way up there in the sky. So I mean, if anything, it's just continued more mystery. You can't say it's a crime and can't point to the mechanical failure. Well, we have a lot more evidence now which is always helpful in the investigation.

COSTELLO: Well, Peter, Malaysian investigators say they do think it's possible that this was a criminal act, that someone on board that plane deliberately, you know, made that turn and the altitude changed in a way that didn't make sense. They seem to think it was deliberate, may have been criminal.

GOELZ: Well, that is the government's position. And, you know, I think we've all been skeptical that there isn't quite enough evidence to indicate that. As Mary said, there's nothing in the captain's background or in his flight simulator that indicates anything amiss. But there is still this -- the performance of the aircraft, how it got into the ocean hopefully 1,000 miles, if we're looking in the right place, from Perth, is really inexplicable and has to involve some degree of human control.

COSTELLO: Mary, when they do find those black boxes, and I think they will, you know, five separate signals have now been picked up in one -- general area, although it's a large area. It seems like they're going to find those black boxes, what will they tell us? Will they fill in all the blanks for us?

SCHIAVO: They might fill in all the blanks at the very first attempt to download because if, as the Malaysian authorities are saying that someone committed the perfect crime, then surely you'd pull the circuit breaker on the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder so if they go to download it and they find the circuit breakers have been pulled and they're empty, then we'll know.

But I suspect that we'll have a lot of data certainly on the flight data recorder. And that's why it's going to be imperative to find it. They've done similar search. There was a flight -- South African Airways that went down in the Indian Ocean in '87. And that was found in 16,000 feet and it was still good, so -- one of the recorders. So there's hope, there's hope they'll find it all soon.

COSTELLO: Mary Schiavo, Peter Goelz, thanks so much for joining me. I appreciate it.

GOELZ: Thank you, Carol. It's a pleasure.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, not a single piece of debris has been found in the search for Flight 370, but a possible debris field depends heavily on how the plane might have entered the water. A look at what searchers are hoping to find next.


COSTELLO: Welcome back to our special coverage in the search for Malaysia Flight 370. There are a number of new important developments unfolding right now. Sources tell us that when the flight took that mysterious turn and fell from the radar it must have plunged in altitude to between 4,000 and 5,000 feet.

Another new twist, 34 days after the flight's disappearance, Malaysia is finally confirming that it did, in fact, dispatch search aircraft soon after the plane disappeared. Sources also tell us that investigators are now confident it was indeed the flight's captain who radioed in that last message and there was no sign of stress or a possible third party when he said those final words to air traffic controllers, "Good night, Malaysian 370."

And this morning search crews discovered a possible new signal, raising hopes that they may be closing in on the flight's so-called black boxes which could explain exactly what happened.

Even as searchers continue to hear pings believed to be from those -- that plane's black boxes, not a single piece of debris has been found in the search. Is it possible the plane stayed intact while sinking to the bottom of the ocean? Some experts believe no matter how -- some experts believe no matter how the plane might have come down, there should be at least some sort of debris floating on top of the water.

Gary Tuchman has more for you.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not a speck of wreckage has been found from Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 raising the question is it possible all the wreckage is under water?

JIM TILMON, FORMER AMERICAN AIRLINES CAPTAIN: The chances of not having debris very, very remote.

TUCHMAN: Jim Tilmon is an aviation expert with decades of experience as a pilot for American Airlines and the Army Corps of Engineers. He does say the amount of debris on top of the water would vary based on the scenario of how the plane went down. For example, if it went down at a steep dive at high speeds, that's what happened to an Alaska Airlines jet that plunged into the Pacific off the coast of California in 2000 killing everyone aboard. Much of the wreckage would go under water, says Captain Tilmon, but not all.

TILMON: It's not like sticking your hand in the water. It's like slamming your car into a brick wall. And that's the more likely result of that kind of situation. You're going to have lots of debris.

TUCHMAN: What if there was a catastrophic explosion in the plane's last few seconds? That's what happens with TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island in 1996 and Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.

TILMON: In any case whether the airplane breaks up while in the air, you're going to have a wider debris field. You may very well have very small fragments of the aircraft that are going to be identifiable.

TUCHMAN: Then there's this scenario, a hijacking of an Ethiopians Airlines flight in 1996. In that case the pilots ran out of gas during the hijacking, and were forced to make an intentional landing in the Indian Ocean. Even that kind of landing, says Captain Tilmon, would result in significant debris above the water. TILMON: Water is like concrete. If you hit it hard enough, and it just destroys the airplane's integrity. And you're going to have pieces that are going to be there. And it'll open up things like compartments and sections of the airplane that have items that will float.

TUCHMAN: The best case scenario for the Malaysia Airlines plane would be the type of landing made by U.S. Airways Captain Sully Sullenberger on the Hudson River in New York City. But that is by far the most unlikely scenario.

TILMON: Sully did an incredible job of flying, but he landed on a river. And the river is pretty relaxed, let's say, by comparison with an ocean where you've got swells of 10, 12, 16 feet. And it's pretty difficult to make that kind of a landing on water.

TUCHMAN: The search continues for the wreckage. The landing scenarios just mentioned, all part of the investigation.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


COSTELLO: Still to come in NEWSROOM, the heroes emerging from yesterday's school stabbing. We're hearing lots of stories of people especially students who rushed to help.

Elizabeth Cohen is working that angle live from Murrysville, Pennsylvania.

Good morning.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Carol, in the midst of all the sadness here, incredible stories of composure and teamwork at a time of crisis. We'll have that and more after the break.


COSTELLO: We'll continue our coverage of the search for Flight 370 in just a minute but first several students and faculty at Franklin Regional High School are being hailed as heroes this morning. Many in the town's tight-knit community held a prayer vigil last night to honor the victims and the heroes. And there are more stories of heroism among the students. One of them told CNN's Anderson Cooper how she tried to save her best friend.


GRACEY EVANS, HELPED STABBING VICTIM: As soon as the three boys got stabbed in 30 seconds, I let out -- I didn't know what to do so I let out a blood curdling scream. At that moment I -- there was somebody that pulled the fire alarm. I was just trying to keep people alive. I was trying to keep the one kid alive that I was applying pressure to. I was telling him to keep talking to me, keep awake, that he needs to stay awake, that they're going to -- that the EMTs are going to be here soon and you're going to be fine and everything.


COSTELLO: So many stories of heroism. Elizabeth Cohen is here to tell us more.

Good morning, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Carol, when you think about that kind of composure from a teenager with no training, it's really amazing. And just minutes before Gracey (ph) did what she just described, a boy helped her by protecting her from the assailant. And Gracey's boyfriend wrote on his Facebook -- on the Facebook page to this young man, he said, I can't thank you enough for everything that you did for Gracey. And this boy that protected her is now in the hospital.

Now the other stories we're hearing is that when the assailant was allegedly stabbing people, that some of the -- the students took off their hoodies and used them as tourniquets. We're hearing about the assistant principal who helped wrestle the alleged assailant down to the ground. We're hearing about the security guard who acted very quickly and got kids away from the crime scene.

So as awful as everything is that happened here yesterday, there were so many people who did their best under terrible circumstances to minimize the damage -- Carol.

COSTELLO: The other hero in this that should be mentioned is this teenager who pulled the fire alarm, got all the students to run out of the school. He was injured himself.

COHEN: Right, exactly. I mean, that's really, really quick thinking. Here he is, he's injured and he thinks -- he thinks quickly enough to pull the fire alarm to alert people that they need to get out of the building. I mean, it's the kind of thing that you hope you would do under those circumstances, but until it actually happens, you don't know if you're going to have the composure. But that young man had the composure.

COSTELLO: Elizabeth Cohen reporting live this morning. Thank you.

Now let's turn our attention to the suspect, his name is Alex Hribal, he's 16 years old. And yes, he will be charged as an adult. He faces four counts of attempted homicide, one for each person critically injured. The total number of victims reflected in the 21 counts of aggravated assault. He's also charged with possession of a weapon on school -- on school property, rather.

Earlier on CNN's "NEW DAY," the teenager's attorney says both families and classmates are dumbstruck.


PATRICK THOMASSEY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR ALEX HRIBAL: He has never had any mental health problems whatsoever. He's never been in the juvenile court system. He was a well-liked student. He wasn't, you know, how some kids refer to other students as weirdoes. He's not. He's not a loner. He interacted well with other students. So we're going to try to figure out what happened here.

Obviously there's a problem. You just don't leave and go to school and do what he did yesterday. And the parents are horrified by this, naturally. This is -- this is not their son. They can't figure it out either. But obviously there was some deep-rooted problem somewhere which caused him to do this.


COSTELLO: Investigators searching the family's home seized a -- seized a cell phone and some computers.

Wednesday's stabbing at Franklin Regional Senior High School happened at a time not considered dangerous. And according to one witness, school safety drills don't cover -- don't cover this, when things happen early in the morning.


MIA MEIXNER, WITNESS TO SCHOOL STABBING: We've never really been prepared for a situation that would happen if it happened in the middle of the hall or during class change or something like this before school even started.


COSTELLO: Still, despite 21 people being stabbed, school officials say their protocols appeared to work effectively.

Joining me now is Ken Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services.

Good morning, sir.


COSTELLO: Ken, school officials say their safety protocols worked. In your mind, did they?

TRUMP: I think that there are a number of things that worked well, having the school resource officer, security officer and the administrator there. We need to have adult visibility as students are arriving. The story behind that in many schools around the country is the custodians open the doors as early as 6:00 a.m. A lot of kids are in the building just before the teachers in many cases arise.

And we need to have more adults supervising and visible and ready to go at that time as soon as the first kid hits the door in case something like this happens.

I think in terms of the other protocols, I have some questions and a different take on the fire alarm, for example. Pulling the fire alarm actually causes more kids in the hallway. If you have mass attackers, multiple attackers, rather, and a mass incident, you're actually exposing kids versus having them locked down.

So I think the intention was good there. As far as training that as a procedure, a number of us have concerns about that. So I think that's a lesson learned and for debate and discussion because you have kids running out of the building, first responders coming in, not knowing who and how many bad guys you have in the building could actually have the opposite effect of what fortunately worked OK in general yesterday. So I think --

COSTELLO: Well, I think that -- I think some of the confusion might be, and this is from interviews I read from students, they say they really didn't prepare for a knife attack, per se, they prepared more for a gun attack. I mean, is there a difference? There certainly is, right?

TRUMP: Well, actually, the focus on the weapon is really not where we need to be in general. Obviously a gun will cause more damage faster than a knife. But there was a lot of damage done yesterday with a knife.

The issue is staff preparedness, student preparedness and the training that will cross all different types of issues. You're going to have to deal with lockdown preparedness, communications, social media, text messaging, crisis communication, parents blocking the school, parent- student reunification, a number of those issues. And that's going to cross the board.

The time of day is an issue because as the students pointed out in your interviews, we typically don't see school administrators diversifying their drills and doing lockdowns between class changes. Early as students arrive when many of these incidents happen and we need to diversify the drills while at the same time not going overboard. We have some schools across the country where they're telling kids to bring a can of soup and put in their desk drawer at elementary school to throw at the gunman. That's not the type of drills we have.