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Several Injured During Severe Turbulence; Expansive New Search for Flight 370; Acrobats Plunge to Ground in Circus Accident; Deadly Violence Spreading in Ukraine

Aired May 5, 2014 - 08:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, there was a drop like the bottom of a roller coaster.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Overnight flight fright. Severe turbulence on a US Airways flight. Six injured. The plane forced to land. What happened? We're going to hear from those on board.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Bloody battles across eastern Ukraine. Dozens killed as the violence gets even worse. Fears of a Russian invasion grow. What will the U.S. do next?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Terrifying plunge. A horrible accident caught on tape. Ringling Brothers performers dropping from two stories high, nearly a dozen injured. What went wrong? We talk live to the company behind the show.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

BOLDUAN: Good morning and welcome once again to NEW DAY. It's Monday, May 5th, 8:00 in the East.

Scary moments for passengers on US Airways flight. The pilot was forced to it turn back after hitting some severe turbulence. The plane was headed to Orlando from Philadelphia when the cabin started bumping violently. Several people were injured, including crew members.

CNN's Rene Marsh is following all the developments from Washington.

Good morning, Rene.


Heart-pounding seconds for 265 people on board US Airways Flight 735, 17,000 feet in the air, above Delaware, when all of a sudden, a violate mid-air shakeup.

Listen to them tell it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shoes were flying, cell phones were flying, people were screaming. And it was very, very, very scary.

MARSH (voice-over): A frightening scene on a US Airways flight as passengers were jolted around, six people, five, including two flight attendants, went to the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought we were going down. I really did.

MARSH: The Orlando flight hit severe turbulence shortly after taking off from Philadelphia International Airport. Passengers say the drop in altitude came out of nowhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were going and all of a sudden there was a drop like going down the bottom of a roller coaster and things flew up in the air.

MARSH: One passenger described seeing a woman flying out of her seat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw the lady three rose in front of me, she bashed her head like all the way up to the plastic, and to describe it, the plastic was broken.

MARSH: This photo shows cracks in another overhead compartment after a passenger crashed into it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was crazy experience. We were just up in the air like lifted out of our seats.


MARSH: All right. Well, pilots depend on other pilots ahead to report turbulence. There were some reports of light turbulence in that area. But nothing as severe as what the plane actually ran into.

We should tell you that turbulence injuries are most common in commercial aviation. There are about, according to the FAA, 32 per year. But the injuries are virtually nonexistent when people have their seatbelts on.

Back to you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much for that. Boy, I'll tell you, some people say turbulence, not a big deal. Well, it is when something like that happens, you can be sure of that.

So, let's now turn to the search zone for Flight 370, because it is getting dramatically bigger. The three nations that will lead the next phase of the search say it will take months, more advanced equipment, and $60 million or more to find the plane. They also insist, though, they're still looking for the plane in the right place.

Let's go live to Kuala Lumpur and bring in Will Ripley.

Will, how can you be expanding the search zone but still think you're in the right place?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you what, if what was said overnight is any indication, they're going to be re-examining the data to make sure that they're in the right place. Starting on Wednesday, that team of experts that met right here in Kuala Lumpur is heading to Australia, going over everything they know so far about the disappearance of Flight 370 -- everything from the satellite handshakes to the underwater pings, and any data that was collected during the massive search, 4.6 million square kilometers searched so far.

They're going over all of that, just to make sure their educated guess, because let's be honest, that's what it is, where this plane is, to be sure it's accurate. Use the words dramatically bigger for the search area, and you're absolutely right. Think of it this way. In all of the Bluefin-21 missions, so far, it has searched less than 200 square miles under water, this new search zone, 23,000 square miles.

So, while they're looking at the data, they're also taking a look at the resources available across the world to be able to get to this area and start searching, still going to be a long process. Could take up to a year and cost $60 million -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Search continues, larger area, needing more help to cover it all now.

All right. Will, thank you very much for an update from Australia -- from Malaysia, actually.

Let's turn now to the horror in Providence, Rhode Island, this morning after a human chandelier of circus performers came crashing down on Sunday. The apparatus holding a group of women of female acrobats by their hair collapsed, sending them plunging to the ground.

Let's bring in CNN's Alexandra Field, who's joining us now with much more.

Everyone recognizes, when you go to see these acts, there is danger and there is risk. But there is also a lot of safety apparatus involved to make sure this doesn't happen.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And a lot of people whose job it is to make sure this equipment is working properly. So, a lot of questions are going to be asked about what was done behind the scenes, because you go to the circus, you expect to see something stunning, but not shocking. And when this happened, the curtain went up, everyone saw these women hanging by their hair. And then the devastating sight of them falling 25 to 35 feet down to the stage.


FIELD (voice-over): A circus act goes horribly wrong. Eight acrobats suspended by their hair more than two stories above ground suddenly plunge when the apparatus holding them fails. Eleven people were injured, one critically.

STEVE PARE, PROVIDENCE PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSIONER: At this point, it doesn't appear to be life threatening. But there are serious injuries from that height and fall.

FIELD: The fall, a frightening sight for the thousands of spectators, including many children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody didn't realize at first it was an accident. Thought it might be part of the show. But then soon realized it was an accident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole metal came on top of everybody. It was scary.

FIELD: Promotional video shows what the stunt is supposed to look I can, one of the highlights of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey's Legends show. They're working with local and national officials to make sure this doesn't happen again.

LAWRENCE LEPORE, DUNKIN DONUTS CENTER: We will do whatever it takes to come to the bottom of this, make sure that when the show goes -- to perform again, that it's safe.


FIELD: All right. Now, naturally, that show was stopped after the accident happened. Two more shows were canceled yesterday. We're told that another show has been canceled this morning, and the circus says this act will not be performed again until they can make sure this show is safe.

BOLDUAN: All right. And that's the only thing you -- everyone can understand that at this point. But no one can understand exactly what happened. They're done this so many times since January. You said they have done it every week.

FIELD: Something for local investigators, the circus and even federal investigators to look at now.

BOLDUAN: Alexandra, thank you so much.

CUOMO: Now, we keep saying in Ukraine, well, you know, this is probably as bad as it will get. But it keeps getting worse. It's now months of simmering anger over there, and boiling over, stoked by Russian interference. Almost 70 pro-Russian separatists released in the southern city of Odessa after protesters violently stormed the facility. Riots there have already left dozens dead. And many are wondering if an outright invasion by Russia is coming. Arwa Damon is live in eastern Ukraine with more this morning.

Arwa, what's the situation?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is something of an uneasy calm right now, but what is especially disturbing is that this violence is coming at a time when the central government has sent additional troops to the eastern part of the country to try to rein these separatists in. But as each day goes by, we see the pro-Russian camp asserting its own authority.



DAMON (voice-over): Gunfire erupts as pro-Russian separatists attack this military recruitment center, forcing Ukrainian troops to evacuate.

"Where are the gunmen," someone shouts.

The weekend violence, the bloodiest conflict began, potentially pushing the nation to the brink. About 40 people were killed in a blaze in the trade union building in Odessa, in the south of the country, after riots broke out there on Friday. Another six people were killed in clashes.

In Odessa over the weekend, protesters stormed the police headquarters, demanding the release of their comrades who were arrested during the unrest. The pro-Russian demonstrators smashed windows and security cameras. Ultimately, dozens of detainees were freed, and the crowd erupted in cheers.

The escalating violence and deaths of pro-Russian supporters heightening the fears that Russia could say it has a reason to invade.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: Our NATO allies, the ones who are the former soviet-blocked countries, and former eastern-blocked countries, they're scared to death. They think that if Putin gets away with this, they may be next.


DAMON: And those fears are not unfounded, despite everything. There are still plans for a referendum to be held in parts of eastern Ukraine. Not scheduled for May 11th. And the more Kiev tries to assert its control, the more we're seeing people here turning towards Russia.

BOLDUAN: Arwa, thank you so much. Arwa Damon on the ground in eastern Ukraine. Let's continue the conversation with Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."

What Arwa was talking about, there is this fear now, dozens of deaths in Odessa over the weekend. There is this fear that Vladimir Putin might make that step to say, ah, we now see a reason to invade. I do wonder, though, is Russia really wanting to invade further? Do you think Vladimir Putin is just happy with the instability that's already being created within Ukraine right now?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN'S "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" HOST: That's the million- dollar question, Kate, which is he doing this to create an atmosphere of instability, which allows him to prove his point, which is, you can't solve Ukraine without me. You can't hold elections there. And this is -- you know, this is all about the run-up. We're 20 days away from the elections and he is trying to prove, it seems to me, that nothing can happen in Ukraine, unless he decides it's going to happen.

Now, the West has made several offers of diplomatic meetings and solutions. Right now, he doesn't want to take them, because I think he still wants to continue to prove that he can destabilize the place much more than we think. Now, the danger is, things can go out of control. We don't entirely know what his calculation is.

But you know, the back of everyone's mind, the big question is, could you imagine Russian troops and American troops in some way being locked in a military confrontation? Remember, the entire Cold War, that never happened. But we seem to be getting a little bit closer to what is still a very unlikely event. But we're getting a little bit closer to it.

BOLDUAN: Well, and we consistently, though, despite where the fact that the violence is ramping up, we continue to hear from the administration. Military intervention is not on the table. But we are also hearing more and more calls from Republicans here in the U.S. saying that we need to do something. Light arms, defensive weapons, to help Ukraine.

Is there any suggestion that that could help tip the balance?

ZAKARIA: My fear about those kind of gestures, military gestures, is you want to do something that would actually work and would make a difference, and where the threat is real. One of my old professors, international relations, said two things are very dangerous and expensive in international relations, threats when they fail and promises when they succeed. So be very careful when you make threats and promises. I think it would be very hard to muster a military threat that will be meaningful, other than presumably a very -- a lot of air power.

But again, you would be talking about an American-Russian direct confrontation. Remember, two countries, each have 3,000 nuclear missiles. We always stop short of that during the Cold War for fear that what if this escalates.

BOLDUAN: I mean, it's really hard for anyone to imagine it would get to that point, when you use the context of the Cold War. But what has been done to this point, it's kind of a bit of a split decision on (AUDIO CLIP) the use of sanctions.

Over the weekend, you spoke with the man at the U.S. Department of Treasury who is in charge of applying that pain to Putin and to his inner circle. How are they defending the sanctions, especially the unilateral sanctions, the U.S. has put in place? Because many experts don't think they have worked -- they have been effective enough.

ZAKARIA: The interesting question, Kate, what does one mean by work? So if you look at the sanctions, there's no question, of course, the Russian stock market is down 13 percent. Russia was going to grow at 2, 2.5 percent this year. Estimates are now it will grow zero.

They tried to borrow money last week. They tried to do a bond offering. They had to cancel because there was no demand.

BOLDUAN: You asked the key question.


BOLDUAN: Does Vladimir Putin care?

ZAKARIA: Right. The question is -- there is no question, there is pain. The question is, is that pain meaningful to the only guy that matters? My guess is in the short term, it doesn't matter, because Putin is -- he's actually up maybe 10 or 15 points in the polls because of this. This is nationalism, he wraps himself around the Russian flag.

But eventually, any ruler has to care, especially in an oil-rich country, because remember, the way these oil-rich countries survive, they give subsidies to people. They dole out a lot of money, and Russia is no exception. So, if the money starts running out, my guess is it will make a difference, and he will want to cut a deal. Still a deal that proves, you know -- at some level, he's won by proving and reinforcing the idea that Russia needs to have enormous influence in Ukraine.

And part of the reality is, the reality on the ground. Those pictures we saw, that report from Arwa shows, in that part of eastern Ukraine, they are pro-Russia. They may not all be, they may not want independence, but it's very clear that the Kiev government is not very popular there, and that these local separatists do have some backing.

BOLDUAN: And that the government cannot do it by -- cannot quell this, calm this, by itself.

ZAKARIA: And if they can't do it by the elections, we have a real problem, because will the elections be held in eastern Ukraine or not? That's -- we're on a 20-day clock here, where things can get much worse.

BOLDUAN: Yes, for the first time there really is a clock. May 25th, when things change one way or another.

Fareed, thank you so much. Good to see you.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure.

BOLDUAN: Michaela? PEREIRA: All right. Let's take a look at your headlines at this hour.

We start with breaking news. The CEO of Target has just resigned this morning. Gregg Steinhafel is stepping down after the massive data breach involving of as many as 110 million customers. He had been with Target for some 35 years. CFO Roxanne Austin will take over immediately as the interim chief executive. So, shakeup there at Target.

Nigeria's militant Islamist group Boko Haram now claiming responsibility for the abduction of more than 200 school girls. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowing to bring them home after international pressure. The social media campaign "Bring Back Our Girls" has gone viral.

Jonathan admitting Sunday he does not know where the girls are.

Back here at home, crews in Oklahoma are attacking a fire that has claimed at least one life and forced 1,000 people from their homes at one point. Authorities say it began Sunday as a controlled burn. But hot, dry conditions and high wind -- you can hear right there -- whipped it into a wildfire that's burned about 4,000 acres and destroyed several homes.

Officials tell CNN, the fire is about 75 percent contained. We're told the fire containment line is holding. So that is good. Obviously, they want to make sure there is no flare-ups with that wind whipping around. That's really a problem.

BOLDUAN: A problem they face as the sun comes up today.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, severe turbulence on a plane, tossing at least one passenger into the overhead bins, many others thinking that the plane was going down. What happens when turbulence gets out of control? We'll show you.

CUOMO: Bad things.

Plus, a daring circus act goes terribly wrong. Acrobats fall 40 feet. Freak accident, or prove that the circus is not safe? We'll get perspective from Ringling Brothers' representative, live.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty minutes into the flight, all of a sudden, we just feel this boom, and the plane felt like it dropped 20 feet down. Shoes flying, cell phones flying, people were screaming. And it was very, very, very scary.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

As you just heard, terrifying moments aboard a US Airways flight Sunday. Six people were injured after that severe turbulence forced the Orlando-bound flight to turn back to the Philadelphia airport.

How can passengers brace for a bumpy ride?

Here to break it down, David Soucie, CNN safety analyst and former FAA inspector.

Really good to have you with us. I think this is the kind of thing most people have hit, some kind of turbulence at some point. This was extreme. In fact, we have a cell phone picture somebody snapped, David, and you can see. I mean, somebody -- it looks like somebody's head?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: It's possible. It's over on the side, so it could very well be that. Anything loose. A loose bag, someone that didn't put their bag underneath where they're supposed to.

You know, we kind of take these things for granted when you hear it over and over, especially frequent flyers. And you get complacent about it.

PEREIRA: But you've got to keep that seatbelt fastened. This was soon after takeoff. I think some people are saying 20 minutes after.

SOUCIE: Right. Just as they were taking off, 17,000 feet.

PEREIRA: In fact, let's move on to that. So they were at 17,000 feet.

SOUCIE: Right.

PEREIRA: This point is when they say you can turn on your cell phone -- not cell phones, your automatic devices, your mechanical devices or whatever.

SOUCIE: Actually, it's 18,000 feet.

PEREIRA: So here, 17,000 feet is where it happened.

SOUCIE: Right, right. As you're coming up, it's still climbing, the aircraft still climbing. Interesting thing about this, it was not reported. There were some moderate turbulence reported by previous aircraft, but no severe turbulence reported in the area at all.

So, it's just a matter of where that particular pocket of light air is, what's called clear air turbulence. You can't see it, you can't sense it, you don't know where you're going to find it. And if an aircraft had not been through that very specific same place, it wouldn't have known that severe turbulence --

PEREIRA: Is that generally how it works, the previous flight before you reports back and let's you know the turbulence -- you can expect it in a certain area?

SOUCIE: Yes, a lot of communication. You have to look for the right altitude, you can change altitudes, because these are like -- turbulence looks like a wave sometimes. Is what people think of it as, but it's really a river. It's like a river of air going through, and there is a big one that typically --

PEREIRA: Oops -- messed it up. My bad. There you go.

SOUCIE: There's an area here which has a lot of air going through it, kind of more common refer up there. Of course, over the Rockies here, Colorado.

PEREIRA: So this isn't unusual, then.


PEREIRA: But the fact that it hadn't been reported -- generally, you have a bit of a warning, though. This seems to come out of the blue.

SOUCIE: Well, with severe turbulence, it's extremely rare. In 10,000 hours of flying, in my experience, being in the cockpit and flying, observing pilots, I probably only experienced it may be two or three times in all those hours. So, it's very uncommon to have severe turbulence. We're talking about dropping more than 100 feet.

PEREIRA: Right. What can the pilot do? Let's move along. What can the pilot do to prepare or to react properly?

SOUCIE: Well, the best thing to do for a pilot is not to react.


SOUCIE: Because if he does -- remember, these wings, I used to work in a facility that would test wings. And these wings were pushed up, we would push them up. This is at Cessna, on a smaller aircraft on a jet. But these wings will flex a great deal. And as they come back down, reactively, they're coming back down and can actually amplify.

PEREIRA: So, you don't want to react too much.

SOUCIE: Yes, you don't want to move too much on it and just want to fly through it, slow the aircraft down, if you anticipate it. If you're not anticipating it, I really sneaks up --

PEREIRA: And this is -- OK, my producer and I are white-knuckle travelers when it comes to turbulence. These planes are built to withstand turbulence.

SOUCIE: Absolutely, absolutely. When I was mentioning we do these tests, these wings would go up and nearly touch each other before they break. I mean, the very severe, it's made to do that, made to flex. There is fuel inside of this wing. There are joints and everything inside wing designed to bend, to flex, because then the center of the aircraft in the middle will stay as stable as possible. The wings are designed to take most of this kind of -- PEREIRA: I did that for all of you at home like me. When you get nervous -- we would never fly again if we didn't think these things were built to withstand it.

David Soucie, we appreciate it, because you know, it does make us worry when we see this kind of happening.

SOUCIE: Nothing to worry about. Turbulence is turbulence.

PEREIRA: Bumps in the road. But this kind of situation, Chris and Kate, that would have left ice in my belly.

SOUCIE: Keep your seat belts on, though.

PEREIRA: Absolutely. Keep your seat belts on.

CUOMO: Planes built to take it, but your head isn't. That's the problem. The plane will be fine, but that's why you have to keep that seatbelt on.

Coming up on NEW DAY: disaster at the surface. A stunt goes terribly wrong, injuring nearly a dozen performers. Question is, how did it happen? Another important question, will it happen again? We're going to hear from Ringling Brothers, live.