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CNN NEWSROOM

Florida Plane Crash; War Progress Report

Aired July 10, 2007 - 10:00   ET

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


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris. Stay informed all day in the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what's on the rundown.

We are gathering details on a new story coming in to CNN. A small plane crashing into homes in central Florida.

COLLINS: President Bush on the road this hour, ready to emphasize his so-called post-surge phase.

HARRIS: He made her list. A United States senator linked to the alleged Washington madam.

It is Tuesday, July 10th, and you are in the NEWSROOM.

And quickly now to T.J. Holmes in the CNN NEWSROOM for the latest developments on this breaking story, this horrible scene in Sanford, Florida.

T.J., what's the latest?

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, let's get folks right to these pictures, which certainly help to tell this story. Sanford, Florida, just outside of Orlando, a short time ago, a small plane crashed into at least two homes there in this neighborhood. We do not know how many people were on board that plane. We do not know how many people were in those homes at the time.

But this is the result, as you see here, two homes appear to be destroyed. Smoke coming from both of them now. But as we saw earlier pictures, a different perspective that the entire roofs, there appears to be nothing left of the roofs of these homes.

What was happening? The plane, according to officials telling us, was headed from Daytona to Lakeland, Florida, when it radioed in. It was having some kind of a problem. That problem, we're told, was that an emergency was declared because there was smoke in the cockpit.

What was happening? Well, they declared it an alert one, saying that the plane was in trouble. A short time after that, they raised that to an alert three, which, according to airport officials, means that a crash was either happening or it was imminent. And that plane then, in fact, crashed into these two homes in this neighborhood.

We do know of at least three people who have been injured. Two of those in pretty serious condition, critical condition, with severe burns. Again, we don't know if those people were in those homes or on that plane. And also, we know that a firefighter has been injured as well.

Again, smoke in the cockpit is all we know. Do not know that it certainly was a fairly serious issue, but we don't know what possibly caused that smoke to get in the cockpit. We just don't know what was happening on that plane.

And also another key is to try to figure out what or how many people were on that plane at the time and also how many people were in these homes. Right now we just know of three injuries. And that could be a blessing in this case that more people weren't at home at the time or more people weren't on that plane. We just do not know.

But this is the aftermath of the scene here. I wish we could give you some of that earlier video, a different perspective of these homes, which appear to just be gone and completely gutted.

HARRIS: Well, T.J., I tell you what, we are going to get something of a firsthand account of what the scene was like on the ground there in Sanford. Thank you for that information and that update. Matt Minnetta is on the line with us. He is with the Sanford Fire Department.

Matt, thanks for talking with us. We know you are your hands full right now. If you would, please describe the scene that your firefighters responded to this morning.

MATT MINNETTA, FIRE INVESTIGATOR: We had a typical neighborhood out here. Two homes that were fully involved with fire. An airplane had crashed into the rear side of the home, causing significant damage. The other homes, because of firefighter efforts, were saved and not damaged, but the two were heavily, heavily damaged with smoke and fire.

HARRIS: How is it that your firefighting team goes about approaching this fire with a plane that we're understanding had a lot of fuel on board. If you would, how intense was the fire that your team was up against?

MINNETTA: It was an extremely intense fire. When you say a lot of fuel, it was definitely a significant amount of fuel for a fire tactic squad. But it wasn't a large plane. It was what I believe a Cessna that was calling for emergency landing, smoke in the cockpit. It was attempting to land in a field, from what I was told. It did hit the rear of the structure of these two homes.

HARRIS: Matt, you arrive at that scene. You're in a residential neighborhood. And you have a fire to contend with. And then there is a rescue element of this as well. How did your team approach those two very different missions?

MINNETTA: Thanks to the community-wide response teams and the way we run calls out here, we had plenty of personnel out here to help us out. Some people took the medical side of it, some did firefighting tactics. Basically plenty of personnel. Whatever was necessary to get done was accomplished.

HARRIS: OK. So, Matt, here's the real question. Were the injuries -- we understand one of your firefighters was injured. Can you describe the extent of those injuries?

MINNETTA: As of this time, he was just complaining of a little difficulty breathing. He had some chest pain. Could be possibly from smoke inhalation or heat exhaustion. We treated him with an IV line, some fluids, and transported him for safety reasons. When I last spoke with him, he seemed to be doing a lot better.

HARRIS: We understand three other people injured. What can you tell us about those injuries? And where those people were discovered? And what kind of shape they were in?

MINNETTA: One of them, I'm not sure, an adult, had some burns to their body. They were talking. They seemed to be OK. They were transported because of the burns. We had a, what I believed to be a 10-year-old boy, that had 80 to 90 percent of his body was third degree burns. I spoke with him very shortly. He also was being flown to the ORMC for further treatment. The other one is possibly the pilot that we have not located at this time. We are still getting back to the plane.

HARRIS: Is it your belief at this point in time that it was just the pilot and no other passengers on the plane?

MINNETTA: As of this time, that is what we believe. I can't confirm for sure, but that is what we believe right now.

HARRIS: So you believe in at least one of the homes an adult and a boy?

MINNETTA: Yes.

HARRIS: OK.

And, Matt, it looks like the fire is certainly contained and under control. What's left in terms of the work of your firefighters at this point?

MINNETTA: Removing debris. You know, and there's minimal spot fires are popping up once in a while because possibly the fuel that was involved in the plane and the fuel (INAUDIBLE) inside the homes. It's just going to be basically getting everything cleaned up and then starting the investigation.

HARRIS: Matt, we haven't been able to locate the plane in our pictures. Can you give us a sense of where -- what's left of the plane actually is in one of those homes?

MINNETTA: No. The best way I can describe it is, I am two houses down from the fire and I see a door to the plane here. Seven houses down, is the propeller. So it's possible that the plane has just been completely destroyed.

HARRIS: Matt Minnetta with the Sanford Fire Department.

Matt, thanks for your time.

MINNETTA: Yes, no problem.

COLLINS: Wow. Some more information as we see there about the injuries. Very disturbing. Just to repeat that quickly. We are learning from the Sanford Fire Department that one adult apparently inside the home, a 10-year-old boy inside the home suffering some pretty serious injuries there, 80 to 90 percent of his body burned. A little 10-year-old boy, third degree burns, in fact. And as we just heard, Miles O'Brien joining us now.

Miles, it appears from that last report that they believe it was only the pilot on board this Cessna 310 that we've been talking about.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you can imagine a single pilot in a situation where, for whatever reason, smoke gets into the cockpit. Was there some sort of electrical fire. You know, obviously, in Florida at this time of year, they wouldn't be running the heating system necessarily.

But it would certainly be very easy to get, first of all, disoriented, can't see out the window well, and you're also troubleshooting this difficult problem. It's not like you can easily just open up a window. There's not a lot of time necessarily in a situation like that to keep flying the airplane, figure out what's going on, when all that's happening. And not the least of which is if you're breathing in all that smoke and how you could quite easily be overcome.

The question is, what caused that smoke in the cockpit? And that will be something that investigators will be looking at.

COLLINS: Miles, as we're talking with you, we're going to put a picture of the type of aircraft we're talking about, keeping in mind that we don't know the exact model of this Cessna 310 has been flying since, I believe, like 1953 or something. It's been out there for a long time. There are many, many different models of it, but that's generally the type of plane that we're talking about here, a twin engine plane.

O'BRIEN: Yes, depending on which year, which iteration of it. It's 240 horsepower engine, flying about 230 miles an hour, has six seats total, including the pilot's seat. And it's used for light charter operations. Used in training as well to teach pilots how to fly with two engines.

And as I was saying earlier, Heidi, that particular training is very challenging because on an airplane like this, it doesn't have a lot of excess power. And if you lose an engine in a critical stage of flight, and I'm really talking about just after takeoff or as you're rolling down a runway, that kind of situation, the power margins are very tight there and it can be difficult for the airplane to continue flying on one engine. Now that doesn't fit the puzzle that we've seen thus far, but I'm just trying to give you a little background on what it's like to fly an airplane like this. It's not like being on a 777. When you lose an engine there, that thing will fly all day long and with no problem on that one engine. Plenty of power to spare.

COLLINS: Right. And maybe, Miles, if you could, talk a minute -- when you speak about the smoke in the cockpit, again we are talking about a plane that was possibly coming in for a landing or possibly had just taken off. So not going to be very high up in the air, of course.

But, when we talk about how you can control something like that when you can't seen very well, sometimes we talk about IFR and DFR. Can you explain that for us a little bit? Would this have been a type of pilot credential that you would need to be instrument rated for?

O'BRIEN: Well, here's the thing. You know, yes, certainly if somebody had some experience flying instrument rated, you know, the instrument conditions, in other words, bad weather, relying on your instruments as opposed to looking out the window, that could help except in a case of smoke in the cockpit, you might not be able to see the instruments themselves. And then you've got a real problem.

There are, you know, on some of the bigger airliners, they have full-fledged masks which give you the ability, as a firefighter might have, to still be able to see or try to cut through the smoke if it's in the way between you and the instruments. But depending on the health of the pilot, the age of the pilot, and in a plane like this you're not going to have that emergency mask there, because this is not the kind of airplane that is pressurized, doesn't fly at very high altitudes, you wouldn't have to have oxygen or that sort of equipment on board. So something like this could happen very quickly and quickly you lose complete, you know, not just visual orientation out the window, but with the inability to even see the instruments, you don't even have that backup.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, what do you do?

O'BRIEN: That's a tough situation.

COLLINS: I mean you've got a cockpit full of smoke. You can't see the instruments. You're low to the ground already.

O'BRIEN: Yes, that's a tough situation. You know, if you had the presence of mind and if everything else was working well, you'd want to stay on autopilot if you could, because the autopilot would be able to keep the wings level and keep you flying on a heading. But, you know, it's very difficult to say all the things that were going on at the time, much less whether the pilot could even, you know, find his way to the proper buttons. So it's -- that's one of the worst type of scenarios that a pilot could contend with. And it's a difficult thing, frankly, to practice for or simulate for. It's not the kind of thing you have a lot of options on.

COLLINS: There's always a lot of discussion too when we see scenarios like this about placement of airports and mixing with residential areas. You know, it's all over the country. People often say, well, you know, we've got to put the airports out in the middle of nowhere because -- in case there is an incident like this, the plane can go down in an airport or in a cornfield, if you will, or somewhere away from residential areas, it's just not realistic?

O'BRIEN: Yes, it's difficult. You know, I've flown into Orlando-Sanford and that is -- it's a downtown kind of location. And the growth of Florida has crept up on the airfield. And that's typically how it goes. The airfield's there, and the growth approaches it. And overtime some of these airports that have been there for a long time end up getting completely hemmed in by neighborhoods. You know, think about Midway in Chicago.

COLLINS: Right.

O'BRIEN: Just a month or so ago we were talking about a story out in southern California, a twin-engine piper version of this aircraft crashing on approach to an airport out there into houses. You know, ideally, you'd like airports to have a nice buffer zone around them, but that's not the reality of real estate, I suppose.

COLLINS: No, it's not.

All right, Miles, thanks so much for helping us out with this. We're going to continue to watch as we keep getting live pictures in from Sanford, Florida. You see the aftermath of a Cessna 310 that has flown into two homes there, we've been told. At least three injuries. We're going to continue to watch if that number should change because it is just all happening right before us. And we will keep you updated.

HARRIS: And this just in to CNN. Pakistani state-run television is now reporting that Pakistani troops have killed the head of the besieged mosque, the red mosque, a rebel cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi was killed, we understand, by militants when he tried to surrender to Pakistani forces who had stormed the red mosque. As you know, negotiations broke down and that led to the storming of the mosque.

Still unclear as to who killed him, at least at this point. But we want to get this information to you as we're getting it here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Pakistani officials say 50 militants and eight commandos were killed in the initial assault.

But the news just in to CNN is that the rebel cleric, who was leading this operation, this insurrection, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, was killed by militants when he tried to surrender to Pakistani forces. Still trying to tie up a couple of loose ends on this story. And once we do, we will give you an update right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Bush tries to focus attention on energy and healthcare today, even as members of his own party are showing increasing impatience on Iraq. I'm Elaine Quijano live in Cleveland. I'll have that story coming up.

HARRIS: Louisiana Senator David Vitter tied to the alleged D.C. madam. A Washington sex scandal phones home.

COLLINS: Utah firefighters struggling to tame the biggest blaze in state history. A progress report ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: We are following this story for you now in Sanford, Florida. A terrible aftermath there of a small plane crash where the plane went directly into two homes in the area. Not sure if that plane was trying to land or take off, but it did crash about a mile or two from the airport there. We are learning of at least three injuries, including a 10-year-old boy, that the fire department there tells us has been burned, third degree burns over 80 to 90 percent of his body.

We want to get more information now from Elizabeth Artz. She is with our affiliate WFTV in Orlando.

Elizabeth, thanks for being with us. Tell us what you have been able to find out at the scene?

ELIZABETH ARTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just learned that there's going to be a press conference in about 30 minutes from now. So at that point in time, we should get a lot more information. We should get some confirmation to this stuff that we have been hearing.

We, too, have heard that there are three people who are injured. You have the extent of it those injuries. I think that the knowledge of the full extent of the injuries is not known yet. As of right now, we have no reports of fatalities.

The Cessna 310 landed on those two homes about 8:30 this morning. That's what we're hearing from eyewitnesses out here. They describe it as one big, loud, pop, and then three smaller pops, like a pop, pop, pop, right after that loud boom. One woman that we talked to came outside immediately. She said she called 911. And in talking to the operator, she learned that several other people in the neighborhood had already called 911.

We spoke with a man who lives in the preserve at Lake Monroe (ph). That's where this happened. He's lived here for about a year. He's a retired firefighter from Connecticut. So he had a little experience as he witnessed the scene. And he described it as horrific, saying that the houses were a total loss. She saw one woman who he said was frantic, as you can imagine, just in her underwear. She was running out of her home. He couldn't tell how injured she was, but he said that she was very frantic.

And a lot of folks who weren't even involved, just people who live around here, have had sad and frantic expression on their faces as well as they come to realize what happened to their neighbors. We have not spoken to anyone who actually knew the people who live in those homes, but everyone out here tells us that this community, that really didn't know each other well before, a lot of working-class folks who just kind of go to work and do their thing, have been able to bond in the face of tragedy. They've had an opportunity to talk to one another. They say that everyone has been so helpful and comforting to each other. But again, we've not spoken to anyone who actually knew the folks who live in that house.

You mentioned a 10-year-old child. From what we heard, and again this is just from an eyewitness, this is not official confirmation, that there were two children upstairs in one of those homes. They got separated from their mom. And as we have at least one 10-year-old boy. So a very scary day here in Sanford.

Someone did report that they saw smoke in the cockpit of the plane, but, again, no official word on whether that plane was trying to land or if that plane was taking off from the airport here in Sanford.

COLLINS: All right, Elizabeth, thanks so much. To have you on the scene there helps us a lot as we continue to look at those unbelievable pictures and what is left from that plane crash. Around 8:30 this morning, as you heard our correspondent Elizabeth Artz there from our affiliate WFTV say, we are expecting a new conference to possibly learn a little bit more. But keep in mind, it is very early. Likely not going to know the exact nature of the cause of all of this for some time, but hopefully get some more information for you just as soon as possible.

HARRIS: Let's talk about Iraq now, at the crossroads. A critical status report just days away now. Will it force swift changes to war plans? The president may offer a bit of a glimpse within hours. CNN White House correspondent Elaine Quijano is traveling with the president and she joins us from Cleveland.

Elaine, great to see you.

President Bush was expected to talk about the economy and healthcare today, but we understand that he will definitely be talking about Iraq.

QUIJANO: The war on terror, we are expecting the president to talk about that likely. But the White House is saying not to expect the president to announce any kind of Iraq strategy changes at all this week, despite the fact that a growing number of Republicans are now coming forward and publicly voicing their discontent with his Iraq approach.

Most notably among them, the Republican senator of this state, Senator George Voinovich. He will not be accompanying President Bush today on his trip. His office saying that the senator did not want to miss any votes in the Senate back in Washington, especially on the defense funding bill.

Nevertheless his absence does underscore the criticism that the White House is facing in Iraq. The administration also trying to lower expectations when it comes to the report due this week on political goals for the Iraqis to meet. You've heard them referred to as benchmarks as well. Here earlier on "American Morning," his White House press secretary, Tony Snow, commenting on that report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Benchmarks are not a device for trying to figure out how to get out of Iraq, they're a device for figuring out how to succeed in Iraq. And so I think it's going to set of an important debate. But this is not the beginning of the end. It's the beginning of a new way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Now Snow also said that the report will show some of the benchmarks have been met, some have not. Meantime here in Cleveland, President Bush today will try to focus attention on energy and healthcare. He's going to be visiting a factory. Also visiting the Cleveland Clinic just behind me. Then later he'll talk before a group of about 400 business leader here in the region and he'll take part in what's expected to be a sort of town hall style event, will make some remarks and possibly take some questions from the audience.

Tony.

HARRIS: Our White House correspondent Elaine Quijano traveling with the president in Cleveland.

And as Elaine just mentioned, President Bush will address the war on terror. Just hours from now, he is due to speak at a couple of different locations in Cleveland this afternoon. We will carry his remarks lived, scheduled now to 1:45 Eastern Time.

COLLINS: A developing story and we are on top of it this hour in the NEWSROOM. Unbelievable pictures coming in live to us from a small plane crash. Two homes were hit outside of Orlando. Sanford, Florida. We have continuing coverage coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Fingers crossed in Utah. A record blaze scorches hundreds of thousands of acres. Will firefighters get a break today?

COLLINS: Are you wilting yet? Hot, isn't it? Too hot for a lot of people to handle, in fact. Is there any relief in sight? We'll tell you about it coming up after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And still following this developing story. A small plane down. Two homes hit in Florida. At least three people injured. The plane going down, again, in Sanford, Florida, and crashing into a residential neighborhood. The preserve at Lake Monroe, just outside of Orlando. Three people seriously injured. An adult male and a 10- year-old boy with serious injuries. Injuries also to the pilot of the small plane. A firefighter also injured. We're expecting a news conference in about 20 minutes from now and we will, of course, bring that to you.

COLLINS: Hot, dry weather fueling wildfires in the western U.S. Dozens of fires still burning from South Dakota to California. What's believed to be the biggest fire in Utah's history has grown to 311,000 acres. It's now 10 percent contained. Interstates 15 and 70 have reopened, but could close again depending on the conditions.

A thunderstorm last night and cooler temperatures today helping hundreds of firefighters near Hot Spring in South Dakota. A lightning-sparked wildfire has increased in size and left more than 30 families homeless.

And for many of us across the U.S. today, no break from that incessant heat. From Central Park, to the Pacific Northwest, temperatures should be at or near triple digits. A lot of states and cities have opened cooling centers. Officials are urging people to stay indoors.

Chad Myers with us now.

Oh, I hate the heat.

HARRIS: But, why? Why?

COLLINS: It's so hard (INAUDIBLE).

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: I have family in both those cities. Invite them on down to where it's so much cooler. Right?

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: Terrific. All right, Chad, thanks so much.

COLLINS: Good morning, everybody. This is Tony Harris.

HARRIS: I'm Heidi Collins. Good morning, everyone. Here's the news at this hour. A Republican lawmaker now tangled up in the D.C. Madam case. Louisiana senator, David Vitter confirming his involvement with and alleged escort service in a written statement. Vitter called it a quote, "serious sin," he apologized to anyone he may have disappointed. His number appeared in the phone records of the alleged D.C. Madam.

Prosecutors accuse her of running a prostitution ring. Deborah Jean Palfrey said she didn't even know Vitter was on the list. She spoke to CNN radio.

VOICE OF DEBORAH PALFREY: I was forewarned. I was told not told who it was going to be though, and I was just told to expect a phone call. And I got it a few hours ago and boy did I get it. I had no idea who this man was prior to a few hours ago. Even though I'm sure he obviously was a client, and he apparently has stated accordingly and stated so. But, I don't remember this man. I think he used the service in 2001.--

HARRIS: Vitter's office says the contact came before the Republican ran for the for the Senate. Vitter was elected in 2004 after five years in the House.

COLLINS: A developing story that we are on top of in this hour in the NEWSROOM. A small plane crash, it hits two homes in Sanford, Florida. We know of at least three injuries, including a 10-year-old boy. More about that as we continue here.

HARRIS: Staffing problems at the Department of Homeland Security, what it means for your security.

COLLINS: An admission and an execution. China's government sends a clear signal, trying to fix deadly food and drug problems. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Want to get you back to this story that we have been following in Sanford, Florida, just outside Orlando. You're looking at a terrible scene coming in from you're affiliate WFTV, where a small plane a Cessna 310 crashed into two homes there, and just unbelievable what it did to those homes. We learned a bit from our Miles O'Brien, who is also a licensed private pilot, telling us that indications may be that plane was obviously full of fuel to leave damage like that.

Obviously you would expect pretty severe damage, but to have a fire erupt like it did, it has been amazing how these two houses -- we have watched them basically go up in flames and disintegrate before our eyes. We also know according to Sanford fire department, at least three injuries we have been told, an adult and a 10-year-old boy inside either one or two of the separate homes there.

The boy apparently suffering burns -- third-degree burns, 80 to 90 percent of his body. We also are aware of -- that the pilot was injured, we believe the pilot was the only individual inside that Cessna 310, and possibly also hearing word that a firefighter was injured. That says to me four, but who knows as these things continue to happen.

I'm sure you understand that developments change in this, so apparently the call came into the tower at the airport around 8:35, airplane in trouble, smoke in the cockpit. And then very shortly after that, alert three, meaning that the plane has crashed or is crashing at the time. So that's what we know at the moment. At this moment we are of course continuing to follow it. Live pictures continuing to come in this morning.

HARRIS: People problems at the Department of Homeland Security, as in there aren't enough of them. What does that mean for your security? CNN's Kelli Arena reports.

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You'd think the department responsible for securing our nation's borders, responding to national emergencies, and protecting the country against terrorist would have no problem recruiting top managers. You'd be wrong. Nearly a quarter of the senior leadership posts at the Department of Homeland Security are vacant, and according to a new congressional report, that makes the country vulnerable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: Terrorists are not going to wait until we fill vacancies at the top.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: Thompson, the Democrat who chairs the Homeland Security Committee says he wants the department fully manned, to ensure a smooth transmission when the Bush administration hands over the reigns in 18 months. Terror groups have attacked in Madrid and London during a changeover of power or just before an election, and the U.S. is not immune.

A DHS spokesman says the department is mindful of that but calls the report misleading. He says the department is far along in filling those vacant spots.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSS KNOCKE, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: About 70 percent are already in the process of being hired. They've been identified, they've been recruited, we've got to go through the vetting process, which often just entails that a background check for a security clearance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: But members of Congress say the staffing problem at DHS is chronic, and one former DHS official says he often had a problem recruiting candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE FORESMAN, FMR. HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL: Frankly, this country has been in a horse race since 9/11 to raise our level of national preparedness, and many of the top talented people, who are the ones that we want in these critical positions simply put, are burned out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: And, when they suffer from burnout, they've got some place else to go, the private sector where the paychecks are higher and stress levels lower. Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.

COLLINS: Quickly want to get you to a news conference underway out of Sanford, Florida. We're listening now to MATT MINNETTA, he is with the Sanford Fire Department. Let's listen in to the very latest on this crash.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MATT MINNETTA, FIRE INVESTIGATOR: ...inside the home without an air pack (ph). He was not on duty to rescue the child.

QUESTION: We heard reports that people were across the street and went into the home. Would that be that firefighter? MINNETTA: If you heard those reports that's probably from the firefighter, yes. It was at -- I believe the 10-year-old boy is the one that he went in for.

QUESTION: OK, and there was a toddler in the house as well, right?

MINNETTA: We have no reports on where the toddler is. We heard it was a 4-year-old child, but we have no accounts as to exactly where he is or if he was definitely in the home or not.

QUESTION: So he's missing right now?

MINNETTA: We don't know that he was there to begin with, so I don't want to say he's missing.

QUESTION: Do you know the condition of the people at the hospital?

MINNETTA: They're all in critical condition. It seems as though the 10-year-old boy received the most damage, the most burns. He did give a thumbs-up when he was getting put into the rescue. He gave me a thumbs up. So, we just kind of helped him out, do what we could, started an IV on him to give him some fluids.

The adults seem to be sitting on their own, just kind of talking to the Fire Department, giving them what information they could, but yes, the child seems to be the one with the most -- the most damage.

QUESTION: Describe the scene when you saw it, like when you first arrived.

MINNETTA: Heavy, dark column of smoke due to the fuel loads (ph) inside the homes, two homes being involved, not to mention aviation fuel that also contributed to the fire spread. Firefighters got ahold of the scene very quickly, saved all the homes across, adjacent homes, homes nearby, everything was saved. They pretty much got it confined to those two homes.

The plane did make contact, obviously with the homes, causing significant damage to the homes and the plane. The plane is in numerous pieces throughout the five or six homes' backyards.

QUESTION: Do you know which home was hit first? Which one was hit first?

MINNETTA: I really don't know which home. They're both so destroyed right now, that's farther down in the investigation.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ...two fatalities?

MINNETTA: Two fatalities, both confirmed fatalities are the fatalities from the plane itself.

QUESTION: Two men? A man and a woman?

MINNETTA: Don't know, just two onboard the plane.

QUESTION: Can you confirm if the plane clipped homes before it hit those two?

MINNETTA: I can't confirm that it has. I didn't see any damage that it did, but I don't know for sure, it doesn't seem to be right now.

QUESTION: What were those injured doing right before the plane crashed? Have you talked to them about that?

MINNETTA: The injured citizens?

QUESTION: Yes, the family.

MINNETTA: Just seems as though they were in their home, kids home from school with summertime. No real whereabouts are known, no exact reason (ph) of what they were doing at the home, we don't know.

QUESTION: So the parents didn't tell you -- did the parents tell you about the toddler?

MINNETTA: I did not speak directly with the parents, so I don't know how they got the information. Initial reports are a family of four, but since I did not speak with the parents, all we have for sure are the two parents and the 10-year-old boy that we have taken to the hospital.

QUESTION: Do we know if the boy was sleeping upstairs or (INAUDIBLE)?

MINNETTA: I have no idea where he -- all I know is when I came up on scene, the fire crews were attending to him on the sidewalk in front of his home.

QUESTION: What time was the first call?

MINNETTA: I'm not even sure the exact time of the call right now. We can look that up and find out for you all later.

QUESTION: All three injured were in the same home?

MINNETTA: As far as we know, yes.

QUESTION: So it's a mother, father and a child?

MINNETTA: Yes.

QUESTION: No one was at home in the other house? Is that correct?

MINNETTA: At that (ph) -- I don't believe there was anybody home. All -- like I said, all we have is the three confirmed injuries in the one home. The other home that did receive damage, I have not gotten any reports that somebody was in there or not.

QUESTION: The injured firefighter, did he live in this neighborhood?

MINNETTA: I heard that he did, yes. He works for Lake Merry (ph) Fire Department, so I'm not sure exactly where he lives. But, I believe he does live in the neighborhood if he got here that quick and did not have an air pack, he probably had his gear with him just because we usually keep our gear with us.

QUESTION: What is his name?

MINNETTA: I don't know his name yet. I could get that for you, though.

QUESTION: How severely was he hurt? How severely was he hurt?

MINNETTA: He was talking to me, as far as everything goes. He said mostly just a little difficulty breathing, smoke inhalation is, you know. No traumatic injuries at all received to the firefighter.

QUESTION: What did the boy -- you personally loaded the boy into the ambulance?

MINNETTA: Yes.

QUESTION: So, you were there, you saw him? What did he -- did he say anything, what did he look like?

MINNETTA: He was not talking. He was severely burned. He was -- I was just assisting the rescue ambulance (ph) crews getting him into the rescue. We just kind of put some burn dressings on him, got him an IV going, and put him back there. And like I said, all the -- only real speaking he did was just a thumbs up, you know, maybe trying to crack a smile, but just the thumbs up. He was a pretty tough kid.

QUESTION: How about the people in the neighborhood help out, when the first incident happened, before 5:00 a.m. (ph) today?

MINNETTA: We had so -- when I arrived, there was already three units on scene, so we had enough fire personnel to get it going. I don't know about citizens helping out. I'm sure they were more than willing to help out. I saw a few running around doing what they could, but the great thing about our dispatch center and our communications here is we get a lot personnel on scene real quick.

QUESTION: Just for clarity, three people in one house, critically injured, four people in the other house, but you don't know if they were there.

MINNETTA: No, what we have is three people injured in one home. We don't know if there was anybody in the other home. We have not found anybody. If there was people in there, we probably would have found them by now in the other home. This one was a supposedly a family of four, but we only have three people accounted for right now. We don't know if the other person was in the home, or if he is somewhere else right now.

QUESTION: You mean the toddler, is that -- the four-year-old?

MINNETTA: Yes, well, four-year-old, yes. We don't know if it's a boy or a girl. I shouldn't say he.

QUESTION: Are you looking, I mean -- going to neighbors, going to -- I mean, what ...

MINNETTA: They're on scene now, looking around, doing what they have to do. We're going to conduct -- the State Fire Marshal, a very thorough investigation in a little while, but right now, we're still managing -- we want to make sure the structures are safe for us to be in there. Right now it's not safe, there's still small fires that pop up, and a lot of debris removal to go.

QUESTION: But do you have any reason to believe that that child would be somewhere else?

STEVE OLSON, LOCAL GOVT. OFFICIAL: I need to dive in here for a second. We have some new information. My name is Steve Olson, I'm with Seminole (ph) County government. We have some new information from the Command Post. We need to get there, get that for you. In about 45 minutes, we hope to turn around some new information.

Just a clarification, the plane went down around 8:30. It was en route from Daytona to Lakeland, it developed smoke in the cockpit. Witness reports seeing the plane kind of pivoting like this over Lake Monroe, disappearing over the treeline, and then seeing smoke. This person is on the way here in this subdivision (ph).

But again, we've got some new information. That might answer a lot of your questions, and we just got the information from the Command Post, so we'd like to wrap it up here, go down to the Command Post, get that new information, and in 45 minutes turn it around so we can give you latest stuff. A time for (INAUDIBLE).

QUESTION: So, the pilot -- passenger names (ph)?

OLSON: No, we don't. We don't have that.

QUESTION: Do you have any names yet?

OLSON: No names yet, or anything on anyone.

QUESTION: This new information, what's this in reference to? I know you can't get specific ...

OLSON: Basically, you know, we hope to get more -- to answer more of your questions about the people on the ground, maybe even about the plane, we have some new information at the Command Post that they want to tell us about. We would like to get there and get that ...

QUESTION: And you said the plane was going to Daytona? OLSON: It was leaving Daytona to Lakeland, developed some sort of trouble, we heard smoke in the cockpit and witness reports seeing the plane just kind of losing altitude, and going back and forth like this, (INAUDIBLE), when it went down behind the treeline from what she could see, she was en route to the subdivision. Crashed, and then she saw smoke.

But again, if you could let us just gather our thoughts here and be back with you, let's say about 11:30 or so.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE).

OLSON: It could, so you know, things are pretty (INAUDIBLE) here and there (INAUDIBLE).

Thanks, appreciate it.

COLLINS: All right, so we have been listening to two different individuals there. The headline from this press conference coming to us from Sanford, Florida, is two fatalities now confirmed. Apparently, that would be the pilot and a passenger or even perhaps student on board that plane, the Cessna 310.

So again, two fatalities in this horrible plane crash in Sanford, Florida, just outside of Orlando. Also, getting more information on a family in one of the homes. We are learning that it is a family of four, a mother, a father, a 10-year-old boy, and a four-year-old toddler. The mother, father and 10-year-old are in critical condition. We had already told you about severe burns over 80 to 90 percent of the 10-year-old's body.

At this point, however, the four-year-old has not been accounted for. Not sure what that means. I'm sure they're talking with neighbors, and trying to find out where that four-year-old would be at this point, and still going through a pretty horrific scene there.

They talk about the pop-up fires still developing in those homes, lots of debris to make their way through, but also remarkable to me, as we heard Matt Minnetta say, from the Sanford Fire Department, that the 10-year-old boy, as he was taken out to the hospital, gave them the thumbs-up, and tried to crack a smile, but they're calling him a very, very tough kid.

Again, there is a second home involved, and we were told that -- we don't know if anyone was inside that second house, but they believe they would have gotten to them and would know more at this point if there was anyone else inside. So hopefully, that house was vacant.

Also learned from one of the government officials there that this plane took off from Daytona heading to Lakeland, and that was when the smoke in the cockpit was determined, about 8:30 this morning, the plane went down about a minute after that. So we are continuing to follow it.

Going to have another news conference around 11:30, more information coming in from the Command Post. We will stay on top of it for you, and bring it to you just as soon as we know more.

HARRIS: And still to come this morning, commandos storm a sacred site. Now, 15 hours later, the fight goes on without the militant leader. Details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Michael Moore was on Wolf Blitzer's "THE SITUATION ROOM" yesterday, where he talked about his new movie, "Sicko," and how CNN reported on it. This has generated a lot of interest on the Web and in the blogs. We invited Michael Moore to be on "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight, along with our chief medical correspondent, dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay is joining us now. Hi there, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning.

You know, there's been a lot of people very interested in health care, and for good reason, where the system is headed, what can be done about it, and no doubt there's huge buzz around Michael Moore's film as well. Yesterday there was a lot said by Michael, quite frankly, lots of numbers thrown around, and it can get admittedly somewhat confusing.

Now we spent a lot of time on a Fact Check piece about "Sicko," and we're comfortable with what we presented, except for one number, where I made a mistake. I misquoted Michael with regards to the per capita spending on health care in Cuba.

Now, he said they spend $251 per person. I misquoted him as saying $25, and that was an error of transcribing the number down incorrectly, and I want to do this, because as a journalist and a doctor the facts are extremely important to me so I wanted to correct that for you now.

Interesting, Michael on his own Web site, states that Cuba spends $229 per person on health care, which is the exact same number we stated as fact.

I don't know why he just didn't put that number into his movie. Regardless tonight, as you mentioned, on Larry King, Michael and I are going to chat for a little bit about health care, and I can say with confidence that I have the sole goal of trying to inform people, and through that information hopefully creating a better health care system.

COLLINS: All right, understood. We will be watching it. Thank you very much, Sanjay. Appreciate it.

And, again, Michael Moore will join Dr. Gupta on "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight. You can catch that coming your way 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

HARRIS: And there's this, a developing story, and we're on top of it this hour on the CNN NEWSROOM, a small plane down, homes hit in Florida.

President Bush on the road. Will he chart a new path in Iraq? A critical week, maybe some revealing comments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

COLLINS: And, Heidi, we are still following development of out of Sanford, Florida. A small plane crashing into two homes in a residential neighborhood. The preserve at Lake Monroe, just outside of Orlando. A family of four in one home, a mom, dad and a 10-year- old boy in critical condition right now. We don't know, and more importantly perhaps, firefighters don't know where the 4-year-old is. We heard at the end of the news conference a short time ago that additional information is coming into city officials, and we expect another news conference at the bottom of next hour, about 11:30 or so, hopefully some promising news with respect to the 4-year-old. It appears no one was in that second home. We are following this developing story throughout the morning for you here in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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