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A Look at Issues With Underwater Search; South Korean Rescuers Continue to Search for Survivors of Ferry Disaster; Ukraine on the Brink; MH370 Families Demand Answers

Aired April 17, 2014 - 12:30   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jeff (ph), I'm going to ask you -- Jeff (ph) is our pilot, by the way, who's -- you can see him crammed way in the back there.

Jeff (ph), do us a favor. Can you bring us up to full-illum on the outside? And then he's going to bring it up, and then you can see the diver out here, and you get, also, a sense of just how difficult and how quickly something could be swallowed in the darkness.

He's just placing a black-box simulator for us into the claw. We're going to use this for a demonstration here, but, again, take note here that you can't see the back half of his body and this is with intense lighting that we have. Remember, at that depth, totally dark all the time, so that's one of the major factors they have a problem with.

Thanks very much. Off he goes. And, look, he quickly just begins to vanish. I can't stress enough, any time we move -- right now, we're sitting on the bottom -- any time we move, Don, it would kick up such a severe dust cloud. I think we can sort of maneuver here.

NUYTTEN: Hold on just a sec. Can I have the HPU?


NUYTTEN: Tell me when.


SAVIDGE: Just a simple thing here how the black box could be. We're going to drop in this basket, I think. Same type of technology that could be used by an ROV, right?

NUYTTEN: That's correct.

SAVIDGE: But somebody would be trying to do this from way up on the surface via a video camera.

Over the target, you get it in, and you're going to want to hold it there, because, you know, it's a long way up to the top. For them, it's going to be hours. For us, it's only going to take a minute or so.

But, you know, crucial here just to point out that using something like this at the great depth with the visibility issues they're going to have, not to mention with the incredibly cramped conditions. You've got water dripping because all of this is the condensation. So, you've got very cold temperatures. It's a very tough environment, and I've got to say we're nowhere near as deep as they would have to be.

It's a real challenge, isn't it, Phil?

NUYTTEN: Yes, it certainly is. And if you look at the manipulator and at the flight recorder, and if we were to fire up our vertical thrusters now, you'd see all of this vanish in a huge cloud of sediment. You want to see that?

SAVIDGE: Yeah, can you do that for us, Jeff? Just fire up the vertical thrusters? All right, so we'll give you an idea what happens. And these are the ways that you maneuver down here, right?

NUYTTEN: Yep, that's correct.

SAVIDGE: Now you can feel it. We're starting to rise.

NUYTTEN: Here comes the dust cloud.

SAVIDGE: And it'll -- yah, you'll see it starting to --

NUYTTEN: Drop down. Drop down. Down.

SAVIDGE: Take us down a bit, Jeff.

And now, you know, this is the muck that rises up, and this is where you quickly could lose whatever it is you're trying to find. You may have seen something just in the distance right out of the light of the cameras. And it's obscured, and the problem is now, Don, that's going to hang there for a while.

NUYTTEN: Yeah. It's going to do that.

SAVIDGE: And all you can do is sit and wait.

And in case you happen to be worried, we have the ability to wait down here for how long is it?

NUYTTEN: 72 hours.

SAVIDGE: Three days.

NUYTTEN: Yeah, life support is --

LEMON: Marty?


LEMON: Marty, I have such claustrophobia. I'm sitting here watching you. I can't even figure out how you're doing it.

But I have to be honest. I know it's a very serious story. This is fascinating television, fascinating to watch. And we'll see Martin throughout the day here on CNN, throughout the coming days, Martin, so rest up. I have a feeling you're going to be on a lot. Appreciate it.

We're going to move on now and talk about the crisis in Ukraine. There has been a violent attack on a military base, and President Obama is accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of deliberately trying to destabilize the area.

A live report, right after this break.


LEMON: Breaking news now, at least 18 people have died in the South Korea ferry disaster. The sunken boat is five stories tall, upside down. It is hard to imagine trying to climb out. Again, 18 people now dead there.

Rescuers can't even get in, yet they are proceeding under the assumption there are still survivors inside and crews are working around the clock to find them. The hope is that, within the ship, isolated pockets of air are able to support passengers trapped within the vessel.

Parents say their children reached out to them from inside via text messages like this. "Father -- I know there is a rescue operation under way, but if it is possible, get out of your room." "Son -- No, Dad, the ship has tilted, and I can't get out. No one is in the hallway."

Surviving for days in an air pocket is not unheard of. A Nigerian cook in an up-ended tugboat was rescued after almost three days.

I want to bring in now Mario Vittone, a retired U.S. Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer and maritime accident investigator, and also CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

So, I want to start with Mario. Mario, you know, the currents are so strong there. How difficult would it be to actually dive down to rescue people if they are indeed in air pockets?

MARIO VITTONE, MARITIME ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR: You have to understand that over 500 divers have been trying for, what now, 24 hours to get in, and they can't do it. And that's certainly not for lack of trying, so you have to imagine how hard it would be then to try and get out.

So, it's a terribly difficult task in the best of conditions, but with the ship on its side, and then you add cold water and current and debris, there's a real safety problem for the divers, as well.

LEMON: Yeah.

Chad Myers, let's talk about the real possibility about whether it's possible for someone to survive in air pockets. Talk to me about that.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: As long as that boat is floating, and it appears that it is because that bowsprit is up there above. You can see that that's the ram that you always see below a cruise ship.

If that's above water, that means that there's air inside that ship somewhere. There has to be or it wouldn't be floating. The deal is, when he's talking about these tides, these tides are 10 feet from top to bottom. And when you go from high tide to low tide, the current will go at somewhere between six- and seven-miles-per-hour.

And I've been diving a number of dives on three- to four-knot current, and that's really difficult to go the other way. It's great to go -- easy to go with it, but it's difficult to get to go the other way, try to swim against that current any length of time.

Don, you may have seen this picture. This is a Getty Image. This is from "THE SITUATION ROOM" in Korea, and they're talking about where the ship was. It hit something here and then floated to the north.

And then what happened after that? Let's get to this. Let's go show you why there is such a current here. We'll take the location. There's South Korea.

There's where they were going, Jeju, right there, and they were trying to get to that location, but they were skirting this tiny, little island right through there. There was that same guy, right there. The boat was coming down, the ship, coming down through here, hit something and has now moved up to the north.

Our team here has looked at this graphic, there's the guy, and plotted it on top of there. So, there's where the course was. This is where it hit something and still floating there in those currents as those currents go back and forth, twice a day, at six-miles- to seven-miles- per-hour, Don.

LEMON: Yeah, thanks.

Listen, I want to bring in now Peter Boynton, who's founding co- director of the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security, to help us out here. Peters, thanks for taking the time to join us here today.

Listen, talk to us about how difficult it is to navigate those waters. Let's just say that there are survivors in there, but you're dealing with an upside-down boat.

Everything is probably backwards and all mangled up, and trying to get out of there, you would have to just stay put and wait on a rescue team, if indeed you stood any chance of being rescued or saved at this point?

PETER BOYNTON, KOSTAS RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: That's right. The conditions are very difficult. The currents make it very difficult. The inverted nature of the ship make it very difficult.

Maneuvering around the ship, of course, you've got to exercise extreme caution not to further destabilize the submerged ship. And, in terms of the -- inside the ship, imagine really the equivalent of a five- story building upside down on its side with no lights, trying to find your way around. It's a very challenging operational environment.

LEMON: Let's talk a little bit more about that, Mario, because they're bringing in obviously these huge cranes, and you heard what Peter said there, that if you destabilize it, you run the risk, even if there are air pockets, of getting rid of those and doing more harm than good. They have to be very careful with these cranes and, also, any type movement of that vessel.

VITTONE: I think what's most important about this is this water temperature, and that hasn't been talked a lot about. People have survived in air pockets before. We've seen that before, certainly, but at 50 degrees, or just above 50 degrees, that water is very cold.

So, not only would they have to have air, they would have to be able to get up out of the water completely and then get dry enough to stay warm.

So, time is really a factor. If there's someone in there, then every minute is what's going to matter to getting them out, because that cold water and that cold environment makes survival less likely than these other situations we've seen.

LEMON: Chad, when last we spoke, I think the water temperatures you said were, what, 50, 60 degrees --

MYERS: Correct.

LEMON: And then, but huddling together, even at this point. or if you're high enough where you don't have to touch the water, still that cold water is going to make temperatures pretty cold inside, even if you are in an air pocket and you can manage to stay away from the water.

MYERS: Yeah, if you can stay away from the water, you're at least in better shape.

If you're in the water, you're one to six hours survival time, and we're so far past that. That's just sublime to think one to six hours in the water, underwater, even you're floating there with an air pocket.

Every time you breathe in, you're using oxygen. Every time you breathe out, you're expelling carbon dioxide. You're using that oxygen up. Even if there is a pocket. it would have to be a very large pocket to really get anybody to survive for any length of time.

There's our temperature. At one to six hours --


MYERS: -- it's hard to imagine what could happen there. I just don't think we have a lot of options here. They're trying to pump and have been trying to pump air into these pockets, but they've been so far unsuccessful.

Had this area been in the Japanese current down through here, Don, make it a different color, you can see it. Weather and temperatures in here, 60 to 70 degrees, this is like our Gulf Stream, but that current really doesn't get up here to Korea very much.

So, that's why at this point in time we're only somewhere between 50 to 60 degrees, depending on which way the current is going.

LEMON: Chad, Mario, Peter, thanks very much to all of you.

We'll be right back.


LEMON: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, in for Ashleigh today.

The unrest in Ukraine spiraling out of control. Earlier today, a gang of about 300 pro-Russian militants attacked a Ukrainian military base. Troops shot and killed three of the attackers. The bloodshed comes on the heels of President Obama accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of supporting non-state militias trying to destabilize a country.

Meanwhile, during a televised question and answer show this morning, President Putin said the Russian parliament has given him the authority to use military force in eastern Ukraine.

Let's go to my colleague now, Nick Paton Walsh, who is following these developments very closely live in eastern Ukraine.

Nick, what is the latest on this attack on the Ukrainian military base?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as far as we know the (INAUDIBLE) Ukraine interior minister, three people were killed during that and over 63 injured during what he said was an attack by pro-Russian protesters on this base down by the sea in Mariupol, a town there. Now, video emerging from that showing pretty violent clashes and it's being considered really the first deaths amongst these pro-Russian protesters.

But, Don, we have a glimmer potentially of hope here that (ph) in Geneva, where high profile talks have been going on between the U.S., EU, NATO and - sorry, of course, Russia and Ukraine, they say they've reached a deal. And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has just been speaking, outlining the basic bones of that. And that seems to be perhaps the best they could do to try and calm the situation.

But if you read through the document of what they think they can all achieve by working together, it's a tough ask because, frankly, depending on who you are, it means totally different things. They agree that illegally armed - (INAUDIBLE) armed group should be disbanded and illegally operated buildings should be vacated.

Now, if you're Russian, that perhaps means the central government in Kiev and the militant groups loyal to them, they should disband. Perhaps even does it mean the government, which they don't regard legitimate, should they leave the buildings they're currently in. If you look at that from the pro-Ukrainian side, that, of course, means that those pro-Russians protesters and the militants back in the (INAUDIBLE) should lay down their arms and vacate the police stations and government buildings here that they've taken over.

So a long way to go in that depending on how you're really interpreting it. But what is certainly perhaps going to lower the temperature a little bit from this morning after these first deaths and news of those broke that we might actually be seeing a diplomatic track for here because key to this too, they've all agreed to keep talking, they've all agreed there's no place for violence in this, there's no place for radical extremism, anti-Semitism.

A strong allegation made by Secretary of State John Kerry that some leaflets have been handed around in pro-Russian areas to Jews telling them to register with the interim government. Now, I have to say, we haven't seen much of that at all in any of the areas we've too, but there's still that allegation leveled very strongly by Secretary of State John Kerry.

But it is possible that this negotiations track will continue. They've asked that the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, be a central role in all that. They will, obviously, be here to monitor withdrawals, move around the area and try and calm the situation.

But, Don, I've got to tell you, we're not really looking at a situation on the ground that's begging for some sort of political solution. These pro-Russian protesters this morning, their leader, de facto chairman of the council that says they run the building behind me here and the local administration, they were calling for referendums as early as May the 11th. So while many consider their sponsor Russia here to be striking a more diplomatic and conciliatory tone, there's certainly the potential that people on the ground here say, look, we're not part of any deal like that and perhaps pick apart this neutral agreement saying the other side aren't honoring it.


LEMON: Right. Can we get to Vladimir Putin, Nick, because did he say anything in his Q&A show this morning that hints at his intentions for Ukraine?

WALSH: Well, these annual Q&As, they go on for hours. I mean it's hard to keep track of everything he says. It's sort of his one time where he lays bare the contents of his soul, so to speak, as which (ph) George Bush once glimpsed (ph) into. He said he saw the (INAUDIBLE) of.

But really here he basically gave a series of suggestions that he didn't want to interfere in Ukraine. He justified their annexation of the Crimea. He did reserve the right, he said, to send Russian forces into Ukraine if there is disorder or bloodshed on the part of those protesters supporting Russia here and the potential of getting closer to the Russian Federation.

But as ever, hedging his bets, confident, strident, seeming as though he has a clear agenda that he's pursuing domestically because a lot of these Q&A sessions are designed really to appeal to the internal market, not for external consumption. And just as a snub to the United States, live telelink (ph) question from Edward Snowden, the former CIA contractor. And he asked, is the kind of surveillance in the U.S. possible in Russia? Does it happen?


LEMON: You said that you don't see any - you know, anything on the ground that hints at any sort of resolution here, Nick, that's the sad part. The president of the United States saying, hey, listen, we don't want to go to war, but still they're adding troops to the eastern Ukrainian border. So, thank you, Nick Paton Walsh. We appreciate you joining us. We'll continue to follow this developing story in Ukraine as often as we need.

Now, back to that search for that missing Malaysian plane. The families of those on board asking some very tough and very specific questions of airline and government officials. Exactly what do they want to know and why can't or won't the officials answer? That's coming up.


LEMON: The families of the passenger on Flight 370 have expressed their frustration and heartache throughout the search for the missing airliner and now a committee representing the families has released a mix of 26 questions and demands for investigators and search teams. The list includes logical questions about how emergency locator transmitters on the plane work. But the list also had some unrealistic requests such as access to the jet's logbook. They also want investigator's phone numbers.

So joining me now to talk about all of this - these questions that the families had, CNN analyst -- safety analysts and former FAA inspector David Soucie.

And I need to tell you that CNN has paraphrased these questions from the families for brevity and clarity, OK. Let's go with the first question. How you doing, by the way?


LEMON: It's good to see you.

SOUCIE: Good to see you, Don.

LEMON: So the first question now, it says, what did Malaysia Airlines do when the flight went missing?

SOUCIE: Well, right after the flight went missing, we're not sure what they did. But we do know is that the air traffic control centers communicated with each other. They finally figured out, hey, there's something missing. They also coordinated with other traffic control centers. So for about seven or eight hours this went on, this discussion. So until that was done - until that had run its course, Malaysia really didn't do anything for that first seven or eight hours.

LEMON: That's what I was going to say, isn't that the point of the question, we really don't know -

SOUCIE: That's right.

LEMON: Because we don't know, right? There's no -

SOUCIE: We don't know that they did anything. That's right.


Let's go on to the second question now. It say, how many electronic locator transmitters were on the plane?

SOUCIE: Well, there's two types of electronic transmitters now. We've got the ELTs, which are a deceleration type ELT. When it decelerates, it goes off. And there's two of those. There's one in the rear of the aircraft, there's one in the front. The one in the rear is also saltwater activated too. So there's those two.

Now, there's also EPIRBs, emergency position indicator radio beacons, and those are located on each of the aircraft - or each of the rafts which are aboard the aircraft. There could be as many as 10 of those on board.

LEMON: Really?


LEMON: Of locator beacons?

SOUCIE: Correct.

LEMON: Those -

SOUCIE: These are floating locator beacons that when you - when the raft is deployed -

LEMON: Right.

SOUCIE: You can deploy these rotate - these EPIRBs is what they're called and it puts out a frequency at the same frequency the ELT does.

LEMON: The same sound.


LEMON: It's the same as the black box frequency?


LEMON: No. That's a different one.

SOUCIE: No, that's the pinger that's in the water.

LEMON: That's in - OK.

SOUCIE: This floats on the top of the water.

LEMON: But so far no trace or no sign of any of those?

SOUCIE: No. So that would indicate to me that there hasn't been any rafts deployed.

LEMON: That is amazing.

SOUCIE: It is.

LEMON: This story is just unbelievable. The mystery of it.

SOUCIE: It is.

LEMON: So many things had to go wrong. It's just - it's just really unfathomable.

SOUCIE: It really is.

LEMON: Yes. OK. Let's get to this question. How many - I'm sorry, can the Malaysian government specify the rights of the families to know the facts of the case or details of the investigation?

SOUCIE: Well, this is the thing with the ICAO -


SOUCIE: With the ICAO rules, the International Civil Aviation Organization. They aren't specific enough as the U.S. rules are that say there's a Family Assistance Act and what it says is that you will give updates, you will get briefs, you will release the information to the families. That doesn't exist in the international community. And that's where we are with this. You know, I think that ICAO need to step - really address that.

LEMON: How many - it's, as you said, the locator beacons, the ELT you said, the black boxes, all of that, it's just really -- how can -- none of these things you can hear. None of them find -- none of it. No debris. No nothing.

SOUCIE: Right. It's not very uncommon to have an accident in the water where the two ELTs don't go off.

LEMON: Right.

SOUCIE: It's not that uncommon. They're not 100 percent reliable. They do work well. But when - but they're not required by FAR 121 or in the civil world for commercial air transport either. So because they're not required, we're not certain that they were actually on the aircraft. They're delivered from Boeing that way -

LEMON: Right.

SOUCIE: But we don't know that they were kept on it. LEMON: All right, thank you, David. Appreciate it.

SOUCIE: You bet.

LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. I'll see you back here at 11:00 p.m. Eastern tonight for CNN's special report, "The Mystery of Flight 370."

Thanks for watching so much. My colleague, Wolf, is in the chair. It starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, fast moving developments in Ukraine. The United States announcing more aid to Kiev as tensions on the ground