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Van Dams Thank Pair Who Found Danielle's Body

Aired March 2, 2002 - 08:26   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The parents of Danielle van Dam are publicly thanking the 2,500 volunteers who looked for their daughter. A pair of searchers found Danielle's body Wednesday in the desert.

Reporter Tina Esedine (ph) from San Diego affiliate XETV sat down with them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TINA ESEDINE, XETV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Of all the hundreds of volunteers throughout three weeks searching for Danielle van Dam, it comes down to one day and two men.

CHRIS MORGAN, VOLUNTEER SEARCHER: We started, I can just tell you, we started searching way up in the hills, maybe a quarter or a half mile up in the hills and it was really rugged. And we were saying to ourselves probably not a good chance that someone would hike way up there.

ESEDINE: Some 30 yards off Dehesa Road, someone did, and left this 7-year-old girl dead in the brush.

KARSTEN HEINBURGER, VOLUNTEER SEARCHER: The body was very easily seeable. So he was the first one to say you'd better come check this out. I changed my trajectory by about 20 degrees and I was pretty much right by him. And it was easily seeable.

ESEDINE: And it was the first day Karsten Heinburger and Chris Morgan volunteered for the search. Who would have known they would discover Danielle?

(on camera): Were you scared? Were you nervous?

MORGAN: I wasn't scared. I would say my first reaction was shock and then just non-belief and then finally when it sunk in just -- I -- it was very surreal and it's hard to put in words.

HEINBURGER: I think I was thinking, nah. But curiosity still, you know, leads you to that friend that says come here, come here, check this out. So we, so I did and I, we both stood there for a while just trying, to I think maybe trying to convince ourselves that it wasn't a body. And then we realized that, I think we knew in our hearts that it was her. ESEDINE: So did it make you realize just how fragile life really is, how fleeting life is? Tell me what it was conveying to you in those moments or now?

MORGAN: It's something that you're never going to forget, obviously. It's hard to get that vision out of your head and it definitely makes you appreciate life, your family, your friends. And it makes you understand and appreciate what the van Dam family is going through. And the main thing is the fact that there's closure. And I think it's really important to especially the family.

ESEDINE (voice-over): There was no mistaking what they had found.

(on camera): You both were pretty confident that it was Danielle, at least in your hearts, would you say, Chris?

MORGAN: I would say that's accurate, yes. Yes.

ESEDINE: Why is that?

MORGAN: Because of what we saw. We knew pretty much that it was the body of a girl with blonde hair.

ESEDINE: Police have said she was found on her back?

MORGAN: Everything, we can't comment on anything about the body or the crime scene.

ESEDINE: You both obviously, and understandably so, seem still a bit shaken up. Do you see this staying with you for quite some time?

MORGAN: Yes, this is, I don't think I'll ever forget this. I mean it's going to be really hard. It's something, there's some images you just can't put past your mind and that come back and come back.

HEINBURGER: I think, you know, this family is going to stay in our hearts forever.

MORGAN: Absolutely.

ESEDINE: Do you still see Danielle when you close your eyes or when your eyes are open?

HEINBURGER: Eyes open, quick flash.

MORGAN: Yes.

HEINBURGER: It's not fun.

MORGAN: It's impossible not to. It really is. Unfortunately.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: And that piece from our affiliate XETV. A neighbor is charged with kidnapping and killing Danielle van Dam. A public memorial service for the second grader is planned for later this month.

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