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Australian Lab Examines Flight Data Recorders; Florida Ship's Bridge Simulator Provides Training; Young Ferry Heroine; Mission 31

Aired April 23, 2014 - 12:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Ships and planes have spotted plenty of ocean junk, nothing, not one piece, is related to MH-370. Today, for the second day in row, aerial searches have been halted because of that weather, specifically Cyclone Jack.

In Malaysia, authorities say they have finally completed a preliminary report on MH-370. They're not making the report public. The passengers families are understandably outraged.

If and when the plane's black box and recorders are found, they may be analyzed in Australia. As CNN's Michael Holmes found out, Australia's pretty ready with a bunker-type lab.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a nondescript government building in Australia's capital, Canberra, the secrets of Malaysia Flight 370 might one day be unlocked.

So, what is this room, Neil?

NEIL CAMPBELL, AUSTRALIAN TRANSPORT SAFETY BUREAU: This is our audio laboratory. It's a specially designed, screened room, so it's shielded.

HOLMES: From electronics and audio --

CAMBELL: That's right, outside signals, and as well, it's got very good soundproofing.

HOLMES: Inside the Australian Transport Safety Bureau laboratory where Neil Campbell and his team forensically examine data recorders not just from planes but also trains even ships.

Now, the reality is there are very few countries in the world, just a handful of them, who have the technical know-how to work out what is inside one of these things. And this lab is one of those places. Boxes from other investigations, torn apart, burned, damaged in many ways suggest a tough assignment. But here they say the story of what happened is usually found.

CAMPBELL: A lot of our work is with undamaged recorders, and it is very easy to download them, perhaps as you would a USB memory stick.

HOLMES: But even with really damaged ones, your success rate in getting the information off is good.

CAMPBELL: Yes, we've always been able to recover the information from the recorders we've received.

HOLMES: He is a measured, cautious man, prerequisites for a job that involves not just knowledge, but patience, lots of patience.

CAMPBELL: From the flight-data recorder, we obtain a raw data file.

HOLMES: Just ones and zeroes.

CAMPBELL: Which contains just ones and zeroes.

HOLMES: The boxes contain a wealth of information, up to 2,000 separate pieces from the data recorder alone, high technology built into a waterproof, fireproof, shockproof shell. At the end of this complex train of information and analysis can be this, an animated representation of a tragedy, this one from a 2010 training flight, two dead after a simulated engine failure went wrong.

CAMPBELL: A lot of the symmetry which couldn't be controlled, and the aircraft ended up impacting the train unfortunately.

HOLMES: And you're able to recreate this thing from the black boxes?

CAMPBELL: That's right. This is based on flight-data recorder information.

HOLMES: The size of the boxes is deceptive in some ways, the vast majority of it containing technology that supports the brain buried deep within, surprisingly small, but containing everything that Neil Campbell needs on a handful of computer chips. In a box this big, that's what you need.

CAMPBELL: Yeah, that's the crucial bit.

HOLMES: But they have to be found, first.

Malaysia not a country with the technical ability to decipher the boxes, nothing's been decided, but it is highly possible that if they're found they will end up here, where Neil Campbell and his team say they're ready to attempt to unlock a mystery like no other.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Canberra, Australia.


BANFIELD: It's amazing.

And back to our top story, as well, the ferry disaster in South Korea, how do ship's captains learn what to do before they head out on the water if disaster strikes?

Where do they get the training? Our Rosa Flores is finding out. Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Ashleigh, this is a full bridge simulator. Take a look around me. It has got all the bells and whistles.

Right now, we could have thunderstorms and rain, and we're going to complicate the situation a bit just to give you a sense as to what captains experience at sea.

All that, after the break.


BANFIELD: In a disaster at sea, what you don't know can get you killed. An experienced crew can save your life.

If you just imagine for a moment that you yourself are in this situation, perhaps these conditions were not unlike those on the South Korean ferry, water gushing in, pouring in, a boat starting to list and, understandably, people beginning to panic.

Our Rosa Flores is on a simulator in Fort Lauderdale where crews train for disasters just like this. Rosa, you're not in the belly of the ship. You're on the bridge. I wonder if you could show us what it would have been like from that perspective when that ferry started to list.

FLORES: We are definitely going to show you that, but let me set the scene for you first, because we want to kind of show you what the bells and whistles.

We're at Resolve Maritime Academy. This is Dave Boldt, and he's going to help me out now. And so right now, in this scenario, we're exiting the Port of Miami. And then let me show you what it looks like when you're out at sea, and you can see the bigger body of water here in just a moment. There we have it.

And then we can add other conditions, perhaps treacherous conditions that a captain could experience. We could have rain, thunder and this just adds to the situation.

So, Dave, let's go ahead and start listing the ship. We know this ferry listed about 60 degrees in 30 minutes.

So this is what it will look like from the bridge. So crew members at this point, Dave, help me out with this here, what would you be communicating to your crew members? What would you be telling them if you're listing at about 60 degrees?

DAVE BOLDT, RESOLVE MARITIME ACADEMY SIMULATOR DIRECTOR: It would depend on the exact situation, but generally if you're a crew member on a ship listing like this, you know something's wrong so you're waiting for information from the bridge.

You have different announcements you make that would tell crew members what the particular problem is and based on that they would go to different stations to deal with different problems.

FLORES: And it would be critical to know their specific positions.

Now we have an interesting perspective here, because we were going to be able to give you a view of what passengers would be able to see.

So take a look at the second camera, because this really gives you a perspective and paints the picture. Take a look. So this is the 60- degree list from the side of the boat. So you can see that the water is a lot closer to those lifeboats, perhaps a lot closer to those balconies. And so that's the experience that the passenger would see.

Now here's the other thing that we can do for you. We can take you down below to where perhaps water could be gushing in. Take a look at this video, because this is really telling.

At this academy, they teach crew members how to plug holes. So the first thing that they do is they go in there, they assess the situation and figure out where the water is coming from, then they use basic tools to plug those holes.

And here's this. Pete, a gentleman that we were interviewing there, tells me sometimes if a mattress is what you can use, then you use a mattress to plug that hole. And with that said, I want to bring in the CEO and the founder of this company to talk about the training that's required, because -- and this is Joe Farrell.

So, Joe, one of the things that really just stands out to me is that there are so many positions out there that require continuing education. That's not the case for captains.

JOE FARRELL, JR., CEO, RESOLVE MARINE GROUP: That's right, Rosa. It's an anomaly if you consider how many people are on cruise ship vessels in particular these days versus the airline you flew in on.

The captain's been checked out every year to every 18 months. On the ship, you don't have to go back after you've gotten your captain's license to run and operate a ship. There are safety courses, but they don't apply to the captain or the licensed officers renewals.

The companies we work with like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, NCL, Disney, they're very proactive, so even though there's no legislation for it, that's why we built the simulator for them. We're catering to those. But one other thing I like to add is the area of personal responsibility. You are your first line of your own personal safety. You can have crew members and that, but if something is going on --

FLORES: At that point, your gut has to kick in and --

FARRELL: Use your own common sense, because we've seen too many casualty situations.

FLORES: Yeah, Joe, thank you so much. And thank you so much, Dave.

And with that said, Ashleigh, you know, this is the reason why these simulators exist, so that captains can practice these dangerous situations, dangerous ports, currents, they were telling us, so that they can avert disaster.

BANFIELD: Sure. And one captain I was talking about said that he spent a fair bit of time in the simulator, and that even though the platform you're standing on isn't on gimbals, so it's actually not moving, you feel as though you're moving and oftentimes you have to hold on, because you feel like you're going to tip over.

Rosa Flores, live for us, thank you for that.

FLORES: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: While the actions of the captain and crew of the South Korean ferry have come under fire, one young crew member is being hailed, posthumously, as a hero.

A third of the people who survived the disaster owe their lives to her actions, and you're going to hear all about her in just a moment.


BANFIELD: The captain of the sunken South Korea ferry had 40 years of experience, but now he's charged with abandoning his ship. He's one of 11 people in legal trouble for this senseless tragedy. And then there's this one young heroine on the crew with wisdom beyond her years who stepped up and did the right thing, sacrificing her own life to save others. Paula Hancocks talks to the men who say they owe their lives to Park Ji-Young.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A mother cries, "I love you. I'm sorry," as her daughter's coffin passes by. Park Ji- Young was just 22. A crew member on board the ill-fated Sewol ferry. A crew member who gave up her life so others could live.

These men were part of a group of 17 school friends heading to Jeju Island for their 60th birthdays. Four of them are still missing. They say they owe their lives to Park. Lee Joong Jae describes how the ship listed so much, the wall became the floor. An open door made the gap between them and the exit too great to step over.

"Her colleague was lying on the floor," he says, "hanging on to the microphone, telling passengers not to move." Park took the keys from him, forced her way to the door, closed it and locked it to keep it shut so that passengers could walk across.

"She was right next to the exit," says Kang In Hwan. "She could easily have escaped. That door saved so many lives. It was like the bridge of life."

I asked, how many lives? They estimate around 50 escaped through that exit. That's nearly a third of all passengers who made it out alive, helped by just one woman.

"She was just a girl," says Kim Jung Keun, "but she was so brave. If every crew member on that boat was as brave as she was, the disaster would not have been this bad."

Among the first to be rescued, Kim says the captain and other crew members were already on dry land by the time he got there. "While the captain ran away to save his own life, she gave her life to save others," says this family friend. "We are so proud of her."

Park's relatives don't want to talk publicly, but tell CNN they want to follow her example of thinking of others, although they say they could never do anything as courageous.

Park dropped out of college two years ago when her father passed away to help support her family. She was transferred to the Sewol just six months ago, a step up within the company. Praised for her professionalism and ultimately for her courage.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, in Chung (ph), South Korea.


BANFIELD: Such an incredible story of heroism and a stark contrast to the actions and the reported miss actions of the captain and many other crew members.

I want to bring back cargo ship captain Jim Staples, a marine safety consultant.

I just wanted to get your reaction to that crew member. Twenty-two years old. She can't have been working on that ship for long and yet she defied orders and went with logic.

CAPTAIN JIM STAPLES, CARGO SHIP CAPTAIN: Yes, it's just a shame that she had to lose her life. We were talking about what could have been wrong, what did go wrong, the inactions of the captain. And it's a breath of fresh air to see that this young lady, Miss Young, stood up to the challenge. She knew what to do. She knew her responsibility was to get those people out of that cafeteria and get them to safety. And she gave her own life for doing that. She's a national treasure for the Korean people. She's something for them to be very, very proud of. This is a woman that I would have been proud to have under my command.

BANFIELD: Captain Staples, it's unbelievable when you look at the sheer numbers, three quarters of the crew survived and three quarters of the passengers at this point are likely dead. I just - I can't wrap my mind around that. And as a ship captain, I'm sure it's even tougher for you.

STAPLES: Oh, absolutely. Just the statement about the young man holding on to the microphone and telling people to stay where he was, when yet this young lady knew what the right thing was to do. She knew to get everybody off that ship. It sounds to me like she should have been the one in command of that vessel and the gentleman that was - was in command was absolutely not making the decisions in the best of the passengers and the crew. It's just sinful that she had to give up her life. And like I said, she's an absolute national treasure to the Korean people and something for them in this tragic moment to be very, very proud of.

BANFIELD: Well, and we're told that she refused a life jacket, saying that the passengers came first. So, you're right, a hero not only for South Koreans, but for anybody all over the world who's watching this -- this tragedy play out.

Captain Staples, thank you. It's good to see you again.

STAPLES: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Captain Staples joining us live from Boston.

What was it like on the world's tallest mountain on its deadliest day? An American who was there and survived last week's devastating avalanche tells us about the Sherpa who saved his life. That's just ahead.


BANFIELD: We talked to a guy today who missed death by just a few inches. John Ryder, an American, was on the side of Mount Everest last week when a sudden avalanche buried his climbing group in ice and snow. And when I say ice, I mean boulders of ice. Ryder survived. thirteen Sherpa guides did not, however. And three other guides are still missing at this hour. John Ryder is still on Mount Everest. He talked to CNN by telephone about what happened to him.


JOHN RYDER, (voice-over): We heard the avalanche come off that west shoulder of Everest. And it was a, you know, a pretty good sized chunk of ice come down. And, you know, you heard it crash down. And all the thoughts run through your head, was somebody under it, you know, how big was it, how much -- and everything flashes so quickly, but then, within seconds, the valley's full of just snow and ice.

Our Sherpa did -- you know, Mark (INAUDIBLE), the climbing Sherpa beside me (ph) both immediately, you know, just pushed us behind blocks of ice and just, you know, get down, get down. And it just -- the cloud of ice and snow just encompassed the entire canyon pretty quickly.


BANFIELD: Ryder says that he believes all expeditions to the peak of Mount Everest will be canceled this year. And that avalanche happened last Friday and it is the deadliest accident ever on the mountain. But there are enough of them to be a cautionary tale for many who plan these trips and maybe don't have the training that they need, Sherpas aside.

Look, we've been talking a lot over the last several weeks about the ocean, the currents, the ocean floor, Malaysia Flight 370, and how searching for it has told us how little we know about the ocean. And then came along the ferry disaster, the South Korean ferry, which has told us, again, how little we know and how difficult it is when water and oceans come into play and lives are at stake. There is someone, however, who comes from a dynasty that knows perhaps more than the rest of all of us, and that's Fabien Cousteau. With a last name like that, it needs no other explanation, Jacques Cousteau's grandson.

Nice to have you here. Thanks for being here.

FABIEN COUSTEAU, EXPLORER/FILMMAKER: Thank you, Ashleigh. It's great to be here.

BANFIELD: You know, I know that you've got this spectacular expedition coming up in June and I'm going to get to that in a moment, but I wanted to -- since I have you, you're just a perfect resource to talk about what's happening in South Korea. The efforts that these divers -- and you having dived since you're four -- the efforts that these divers are going through, risking their own lives to try to find the other 143 missing bodies, it's presumed now, can you imagine what this task is like?

COUSTEAU: Well, it -- yes, I can. And it's extraordinarily difficult and heart-wrenching to see that they have to go through this and that the families have to go through this. to go back to your other story, if you're climbing on the mountain, you're climbing on the ocean. So, water's everywhere. And it's something we just don't know much about. The oceans are the focal point as we get keeping slapped in the face over and over again about how little we know.

BANFIELD: So June 1st is a big deal for you. You've got a Mission 31 expedition. You're splashing down in The Keys and your effort is to sort of mark the 50th anniversary of your grandfather's wonderful efforts that have told us so much about the ocean floors and the ocean's - life in the oceans currents, et cetera. What is Mission 31 exactly and what are you -- how crazy are you with what you're about to do?

COUSTEAU: It is - it is a little crazy, it is a little unusual. Mission 31 basically aims to connect people around the world in real time for the first time ever for over 30 days, 31 days to be exact.

BANFIELD: You're going to live underwater for 31 days?

COUSTEAU: We're going to be working and living under water for 31 days at the world's only undersea marine laboratory. We'll be able to communicate in real time. I'm distributing Nokia devices to our friends and our team members so that we can talk to people in all seven continents through all the different events (ph).

BANFIELD: I read something -- you call yourselves aquanauts.

COUSTEAU: Not yet.

BANFIELD: Not yet?

COUSTEAU: Not yet. You have to have lived under water at pressure depth for over 24 hours in order to be able to claim that.

BANFIELD: And you're going to be doing this for 31 days.

It's called -- the lab is called the Aquarius Research Lab?

COUSTEAU: The lab is called Aquarius. It's nine miles off shore and 65 - well, the entrance is 65 feet down. And that will allow us to go diving for 10 to 12 hours a day because we'll be at saturation depth.

BANFIELD: And, you know, gosh, if there's one thing about the Malaysian air disaster, I have to day, I have never learned so much about the sea and about what we don't know. What are you going to be able to teach us?

COUSTEAU: Well, this is -- that's exactly the point, is to try and put the focal point back on ocean exploration and discovery. We have wonderful partnerships with Northeastern University and Florida International University that will help us gather that scientific data in a way that is palatable to the general public and be able to really entice them to learn more about the oceans and, of course, bring to the world at large more about the ocean world.

BANFIELD: I can't believe you've been diving since you were four. Can you teach me? Can I visit that place or is that just for masters like you?

COUSTEAU: Well, we'd better get -- we'd better get started right now, but I am happy to teach you to dive, absolutely.

BANFIELD: Well, I look forward to hearing the results and maybe seeing some live transmissions from there, especially at this time, like I said, there is a lot gripping, you know, information right now coming out about now the ferry disaster and MH370, where knowing the oceans, we now know the meager percentage of what we don't know about the oceans. So, thank you.

COUSTEAU: It's all - it's about funding, you know? It's all about -

BANFIELD: Well, 1. - how much, 1.37 million some-odd to get --

COUSTEAU: That's a drop in the bucket in terms of the oceans.

BANFIELD: Well, nice to meet you.

COUSTEAU: Nice to meet you.

BANFIELD: Fabien Cousteau, thank you for coming.

And thank you, everyone, for watching. My colleague, Wolf Blitzer, starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, an object of interest washes ashore on the coast of Australia.