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Turkey Mine Disaster; Santa Maria May be Found; Flight 370 Search on Hold for Repairs; Author Claims Zodiac Killer Was His Father

Aired May 14, 2014 - 12:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: More than 200 people dead in a coal mine explosion and fire, 120 more may still be trapped, and they are three quarters of a mile underground. Coverage of the massive rescue and recovery operation straight ahead.

And also this hour, do you notice a resemblance? The man in the photo, the elusive zodiac killer who terrorized San Francisco in the late '60s. Is it possible? We're going to meet the man who says he's cracked the case while searching for his own real father.

And, a kid on a tricycle, a vicious dog on the hunt, moving in and attacking. And you will not believe who came to the boy's rescue. Pictures are dramatic. If you don't like cats, I promise, you're going to change your mind when you see the rest of this video. It's remarkable.

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Wednesday, May the 14th. And welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

We begin this hour almost a mile under ground, possibly the closet one can get to hell on earth. Two hundred and thirty-eight coal miners are known dead after a transformer explosion leading to a blackout fire and partial collapse. It happened in the Turkish city of Soma and may well become the deadliest mine disaster in that nation's history. Remarkably, at least 93 miners and one report says hundreds actually have come out alive. But Turkey's prime minister says as many as 120 may still be trapped. CNN's Ivan Watson made his way to Soma earlier today and sent us this report.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're now overlooking the gritty coal mine where a desperate race against time is underway. Where ambulances are lined up and rescue workers are hard at work trying to save some of the hundreds of Turkish coal miners who are believed to have been trapped down at the bottom of the mine shaft when what authorities have described as an electrical fire broke out there some time Tuesday afternoon.

Soma, which we drove through, where there are quite literally hundreds, if not thousands, of residents lining the streets of the main street of that small city behind police barriers and behind riot police in front of the main hospital there with some of the people clearly anguished, waiting for news about their missing loved ones and some of them getting the terrible news that their loved ones have not survived this terrible disaster.

Now, tragically, this is not the first time Turkey has seen a coal mine disaster. In 2009, in 2010, dozens of miners were killed in two separate deadly incidents at other mines in other parts of the country. And, in fact, just about two and a half weeks ago, a Turkish lawmaker tried to file a motion to investigate reports of safety hazards at this very coal mine, a privately owned coal mine, and he was voted down in the Turkish parliament. That's sure to become an issue in the days and weeks ahead.

Right now, the main priority is to try to ensure that there is some supply of clean air going down to depths of more than a kilometer underground and to try to establish some kind of contact with the miners who are still believed to be down there. Nobody knows exactly how many people were there. There was a shift change underway when the fire broke out. And you can see, with people gathered around here, the anguish on their faces, as they wait and pray for their loved ones to emerge.

Ivan Watson, CNN, at the Soma coal mine in western Turkey.


BANFIELD : And our thanks to Ivan for that report.

I want to get some insights now from a preeminent voice in the field of mining. David McAteer is the former head of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. He's live with me now on the telephone.

Mr. McAteer, you know, when we see these pictures overseas of these terrible accidents underground, one of the first questions that comes to mind is, are the standards there somehow different than the standards here and could that kind of accident happen here?

DAVID MCATEER, FORMER (ph) (via telephone): Oh, the standards there, basic principles of mine safety, apply around the world. The science is the same. The fact is that we have a stronger law, more frequent inspections. Their mine was inspected five times since (INAUDIBLE). A mine that size, with the conditions that we have, (INAUDIBLE), would be inspected in this country 30 or 40 times in that same period of time.

But the same - the principle safety conditions or practices should be the same. You should not have an explosion that comes outside of a power box. The power boxes are self-contained so that -- build in a way that if an explosion occurs, it's contained -- the explosion is contained within the box itself and it doesn't go out into the atmosphere of the mine.

BANFIELD: Well, and, you know, should being perhaps the operative word.

MCATEER: Obviously this one didn't (ph).

BANFIELD: I mean when you say should not happen, should not be the circumstance. There's another should that could be in here. Should there have been a shift change underground? Is that a common practice? Because it just puts so many more men at risk at one particular time.

MCATEER: The fact that they changed these shifts at the face (ph). They change it at the workplace. It means you double the number of people at risk. And the only purpose for that is the purpose of having higher production. And the production would - it is increased and continues, you don't have any downtime. Well, that also takes the number and doubles it to the number of people who could be killed. And that's a practice that (INAUDIBLE) is done in this country as well, is not a safe practice.

The other part that's very disconcerting is the presence of the methane gas. And the distance of the methane gas in this mine is well known, in this region is well known, and we have mechanisms in this country and abroad -- it should be everywhere and that's the point of fact - to remove the methane gas before it can be ignited.


MCATEER: And that -- the barriers to do that is fundamental.

BANFIELD: David McAteer -

MCATEER: And then the last part clearly that's quite disturbing is the -

BANFIELD: Oh, I'm sorry. Go ahead.

MCATEER: The failure of the -- to have a secondary escape way. The power went down and the elevators don't work and so the men are trapped down there. That's -- in the early 1900s in this country, they decided that we have to have a secondary escape way that needs to be in existence and the failure to have that is just a fundamental shortcoming on the part of the government, as well as the part of this company.

BANFIELD: You know and some of these pictures, Mr. McAteer, just show how tragic the outcome is. And clearly I think there are a lot of answers that still have to be ferreted out as to just how this could happen, as we still, you know, hope and pray that many of those who are thought to be trapped will be found alive and will be rescued and will have those incredible reunion photographs to show you in the days ahead.

Thank you, David McAteer.

Also ahead, solving a mystery of history. Is this sunken ship off the coast of Haiti the long-lost remains of a ship sailed by Christopher Columbus? Some brand-new information on this story today. We're going to dive right into that after this break.


BANFIELD: There is a lot of history mystery in the news today. We're going to talk about the zodiac killer in just a moment. But for the story I'm about to tell you, we have to go a lot farther back than that. Like more than 500 years back. Christopher Columbus era. The famous flagship Santa Maria may actually be near. That ship sank somewhere in the Caribbean in 1492 and now an underwater explorer is almost positive that he has, in fact, found it. CNN's Miguel Marquez has been working this story. And a man with the most famous last name in underwater exploration is also here to talk to us as well, Fabien Cousteau. I don't even need to explain that, do I, Fabian?

: Thank you.

BANFIELD: But before I get to you, Fabian, because I know you have a lot of insight on this, I have to ask you about just the straight reporting of these facts because this story has sort of taken on a life of its own and all of a sudden it's becoming a bit tragic.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) the Indiana Jones of the nautical world, Barry Clifford. And he made a big presentation, a lawyer-like presentation in front of the Explorer's Club in New York today and he laid out everything he had for why he believes this is the Santa Maria. Three things, the location of it. He says that where they found it, a league and a half, 4.7 miles off of the shore of Cape Haitian is where he now believes that's exactly where Columbus was on that Christmas night.

BANFIELD: OK, that's good news.

MARQUEZ: The pile of bricks he says comes from the same bricks or the same rocks that were quarried in northern Spain, where the Santa Maria was built.

BANFIELD: That's good news.

MARQUEZ: They have to test them still.

The cannon that they found, the Lombard (ph), this old school cannon that he found outside of it, off the ship, he says was on the Santa Maria. They have records of that. And there are very, very few of those that exist.

BANFIELD: Sounds amazing.

MARQUEZ: Sounds good (ph).

BANFIELD: What could possibly go wrong?

MARQUEZ: The site has been looted he said today. He found the site back in 2003. He's been back many times. He was back there two weeks ago. He said he could not recognize the site that he has seen before. He believes that the cannon has been looted, the wheels to the cannon have been looted. The cannon is a big piece of his argument for why he thinks this is the Santa Maria. He is now calling for an emergency excavation and that the Haitian government, who he's already been talking to, you know, fast track things so they can get down there, get in and get everything out.

BANFIELD: So, Fabian Cousteau, I had originally planned to ask you, wow, what a terrific project. This will be incredible for all of mankind, or at least South America. And now I have to ask you, with what's happened, is there hope?

FABIAN COUSTEAU, OCEAN EXPLORER: Yes. I think there's absolutely hope. And Miguel laid the lay of the land out correctly. A lot of the pieces of the puzzle have been looted or so we hear. That said, there's a lot of document over the last dozen or so years that he's been working on this site. And I believe that there might be enough there still to positive identify it. But that's going to take some time.

BANFIELD: But you and your family have been responsible for finding, I think it's fair to say, thousands of different pieces of artifacts under the sea.


BANFIELD: And it's not as though there weren't any other ships of this ilk or of this era. How difficult would it actually be to get the dive teams down there, to actually retrieve this material that's now 500 years old -


BANFIELD: Test it -


BANFIELD: And not destroy it in the process?

COUSTEAU: Well, the archaeological aspects of things make it that it is a long process. It's in 15 feet of water from what I hear. So it's shallow.

BANFIELD: Amazing.

COUSTEAU: It's amazing and yet -

BANFIELD: Maybe it hasn't been seen (ph).

COUSTEAU: Well, it's not so amazing it hasn't been seen. I mean there's a lot left out there to discover. But, at the same time, it's also been masked by 500 years' worth of growth -


COUSTEAU: And shifting and damage and so on and so forth.

BANFIELD: When I looked at the pictures, and I think - look, I can't recognize a lot of which part of what we're looking at is actually wreckage, but it does just look like one piece of coral reef after another.

MARQUEZ: That's - that's the ballast pile that we're looking at right now.

COUSTEAU: It takes a trained eye for sure.

BANFIELD: Does it ever. COUSTEAU: It does.

BANFIELD: So maybe that's why, even in 15 to 20 feet of water, it's not that simple. Look at that. It just looks like a beautiful coral reef.

COUSTEAU: It's topical water. So, you know, anything that does fall apart will.

BANFIELD: Yes. Well, listen, I hope we can all reconvene on this set to talk about better news that they've been able to, despite the tragedy of the looting, that they've been able to determine a remarkable piece of history.

Miguel, thank you. And, Fabien, always great to see you. Good luck on Mission 31.

COUSTEAU: Thank you so much.

BANFIELD: Coming up soon.

COUSTEAU: It's coming up very soon.

BANFIELD: Get ready to be saturated.

COUSTEAU: A couple of days we're starting training.

BANFIELD: We're going to do more on this, but another time. Thank you both.

Do you remember the case of the Zodiac Killer? I just alluded to it at the beginning of this segment. This was a man who claimed to have killed nearly 40 people, and while taunting authorities for years, he was never found.

But a man has now come forward claiming that the Zodiac Killer is really the father that he's been searching for for years, and you're going to hear from him ahead on LEGAL VIEW.


BANFIELD: The underwater search for Malaysian Flight 370 is on hold. The delay will likely last four or five days. That's because crews are now trying to repair a malfunctioning part on this underwater drone, the Bluefin-21, and a broken transponder on its mother ship, the Ocean Shield.

The damage happened this week when the underwater rover was being hoisted up on to the deck of the ship and it accidentally struck the navigation responder.

A man in Louisiana says he has finally cracked a mystery that has been driving police crazy since LBJ was a president. Remember the Zodiac Killer? That's the nickname that a serial murder gave to him or herself, bragging about killing at least 37 people.

The Zodiac has never been found, but a man in Baton Rouge has written a book, claiming the killer is actually his dad.

CNN's Dan Simon is in San Francisco.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Zodiac Killer has come to San Francisco.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Zodiac case has fascinated both the public and Hollywood for years, but the killer has remained at large ever since the Bay Area killings began in December of 1968.

Now in a new book called "The Most Dangerous Animal of All," author Gary Stewart, a businessman from Louisiana, says he has finally cracked the case. A search for his biological father, he says, led him to San Francisco and to conclusively identify his father as the Zodiac Killer, according to publisher Harper Collins.

Stewart writes, "I felt it was my responsibility to learn the truths that I learned in a way that would leave no doubt as to the identity of this killer."

Take a look at this picture of his father, identified as Earl Van Best, Jr., now deceased and an old sketch of the Zodiac. They do seem to bear a striking resemblance

So far police aren't saying much, in part because over the years, others have come forward purporting to name the killer and no credible leads have emerged.

But in his book, Stewart points to this as one powerful piece of evidence, a cipher or cryptogram the Zodiac sent to a newspaper with the words "E.V. Best" and "Junior", the name of his biological father.

BRYAN HARTNELL, ZODIAC VICTIM: I feel the knife buried in my back.

SIMON: Bryan Hartnell was only one of two survivors who could give a description of the killer. He has rarely spoken publicly.

HARTNELL: He had some clip-on glasses that were either affixed to the hood or affixed to glasses underneath.

SIMON: On his chest he also wore what became known as his symbol -- crosshairs and a gun sight.

At least five people were killed during the year-long spree. The killer claimed responsibility in a series of letters to newspapers. He called himself "Zodiac." As the investigation continued, different persons of interest would emerge.

This 2007 film focused on the chase and the clues leading to one suspect named Arthur Leigh Allen, a school teacher. The evidence seemed promising, including Allen's watch with the Zodiac symbol. But his fingerprints and handwriting didn't match the killer's. Allen died in 1992. He always maintained his innocence.

ARTHUR LEIGH ALLEN, ACCUSED ZODIAC KILLER: I'm not the damned Zodiac. SIMON: And while theories continue to proliferate in books like this one, authorities are still no closer in naming the actual killer than they were many decades ago.

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


BANFIELD: And joining me right now on the phone is the man we're talking about today, Gary Stewart, who wrote this book, "The Most Dangerous Animal of All," in which he says the masked murder who called himself the Zodiac Killer is actually his father.

Mr. Stewart, I'm so glad to talk to you. Can you just tell me the significance of the evidence that you've uncovered as compared to the evidence that everyone else before you has uncovered when they claim they know who the Zodiac Killer is and why you think yours measured up greater?

GARY STEWART, AUTHOR, "MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL OF ALL" (via telephone): First of all, I never set out to try to prove that my father was a criminal or a serial killer. Mine was truly a journey to find myself and my identity my finding the other half of me in my father.

And as I researched and looked and searched, I found pieces of evidence, including one of the first things, how strongly he resembled not just the visual Wanted sketch of the San Francisco police department, but the description of the height, the weight, the hair color.

And then I guess the most profound thing for me was the Zodiac continued to say to the "Chronicle" and the authorities, "Have you cracked my code yet? My name is" -- and "If you crack this cipher, you will have my identity," and If you solve this code, you will have my -- you will solve the case, you will crack the code, you will have my identity."

And having not studied the letters very much, I decided to go back and look at the ciphers. Of course the 408 ciphers had a hidden message in the code, and school teachers from the Bay Area decoded that cipher. And there was a hidden message there. And what they didn't get is there was another message hidden in that cipher. The decoded message along with the cipher itself revealed my father's name.

BANFIELD: And I just want to remind our viewers, if I could, that the code that you're talking about said, "E.V. Best" and "Junior," and of course your biological father is Earl Van Best, Jr. Have you spoken to any of the surviving -- I think there are only two -- surviving members of the Zodiac and shown picture of your father and gotten their take and their feedback?

STEWART (via telephone): I have not, and because my journey was a personal journey for me, I wanted to find out who my father was. And it became very personal to me when I found out that he had abandoned me as a 4-week-old infant and walked away. And the human side me, being raised in a conservative, loving, Christian home where faith, hope, forgiveness are just the way we live our lives, I wanted to extend that forgiveness to him for abandoning me. So it's more personal for me, and I've not -- I don't dwell in the serial killer side of my story. So I've not reached out to the survivors.

BANFIELD: It is fascinating. No matter how you look at those photographs, it is uncanny when you compare them side by side.

Gary Stewart, thank you for talking to us and sharing the story. We'll be interested to find out if the police jump on this and actually continue this cold case and get a solution to it.

Gary was joining us live from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

And Erin Burnett, my colleague, is going to have a lot more on this story on her program at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow night. Make sure you tune in for that, as well.

Meantime, it is the week of exclusives on CNN. The saga of the NBA Clippers owner Donald Sterling who just can't stop talking, what he says has great effect, especially on that man, Magic Johnson, who is now speaking out, again, exclusively to our Anderson Cooper.

You're going to hear what he has to say about all the awful things Sterling charged him with.