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Utah Firefighters Battle Massive Blaze; Small Plane Crashes into Florida Neighborhood

Aired July 10, 2007 - 15:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The generals say one thing. More and more senators say another. When it comes to the war in Iraq, the U.S. troop buildup and what happens next, the president sides with the generals.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: But the tug-of-war on the war is still heating up on Capitol Hill. and it may come down to how many Republicans switch sides.

Hello. I'm Don Lemon, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

PHILLIPS: And I'm Kyra Phillips.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

President Bush with a message to his critics on Capitol Hill: Give his top commander in Iraq a chance to make his war strategy work. The president delivered another spirited defense of his war policy at a town hall meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, seen live here on CNN just a short time ago.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What would the Iranians think about America if we stepped back in the face of this extremist challenge? What would other extremists think? What would al Qaeda be able? They would be able to recruit better and raise more money from which to launch their objectives.

Failure in Iraq would have serious consequences for the security of your children and your grandchildren.

And so I made the decision rather than pulling out of the capital, to send more troops in the capital, all aimed at providing security so that alternative system could grow.


LEMON: Joining us now with more on the president's speech and what his critics are saying, our Elaine Quijano,, who is in Cleveland with the president -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon to you, Don. That's exactly right. Amid pressure from his own party, on Iraq President Bush today, as you heard, made a direct appeal for lawmakers to give the strategy of the troop increase plan some time to work. The president just wrapping up remarks here in Cleveland. He's speaking to the Greater Cleveland Partnership, an economic development group. He also took questions from the audience here.

In his remarks, the president addressed the political debate taking place on Capitol Hill over Iraq, at a time when Democrats and now some prominent Republicans as well are pressing the White House to change its Iraq strategy.


BUSH: I believe Congress ought to wait for General Petraeus to come back and give his assessment of the strategy that he's putting in place before they make any decisions.

That's what the American people expect. They expect for military people to come back and tell us how the military operations are going. And that's the way I'm going to play it as the commander in chief.


QUIJANO: Now, President Bush also reiterated his belief that success in Iraq is linked to security for the American people.

What is different now, though -- we have heard these themes before, but what's different, of course, is the political atmosphere the White House is facing right now. The president's arguments are now set against the backdrop of some prominent Republican voices expressing concern that the strategy in Iraq is not working and must be changed -- among those expressing their concern, Don, the Republican senator of this state, Senator George Voinovich.

LEMON: All right, thank you very much for that, Elaine Quijano.

We want to talk about the political atmosphere and prominent Democrats now.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, spoke out just moments ago after the president's speech.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I think it's very important that the American people understand that we are going forward as we speak with legislation that has some teeth in it, that means something to the American people. The American people are outraged. They're demanding a change of policy in Iraq.


PHILLIPS: Let's go back to Iraq now and get reaction to Mr. Bush's remarks and the reality on the ground there in Iraq. CNN's Hala Gorani joins us live again once again from Baghdad.

You listened to the speech, Hala. You spent weeks there on the ground, but Iraqis still didn't get what they wanted, right?

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a little vague, perhaps, for some Iraqis. And also perhaps the terminology doesn't hit home in the way it would or could in the United States.

When you speak with ordinary Iraqis, all the way to high-level officials, Kyra, they tell you benchmarks and timetables are an American agenda. They're not an Iraqi agenda. July 15, September 15, this is an internal political American agenda.

The Sunnis, in particular, who are the minority here, have told us over the last few days, as we have covered the political crisis in this country, you know, we cannot rush these laws through, especially oil-revenue sharing laws or laws that would allow ex-Baath Party members to come back within the ranks, because these laws are too important, not just for the Sunnis, but for the country as a whole -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Hala Gorani, live from Baghdad, appreciate you staying up late for us.

LEMON: A security breach by a passenger going in through the exit, that happened at the Oakland International Airport earlier today.

CNN's Dan Simon is live for us in our San Francisco bureau to update us on the very latest.

What do you have, Dan?


It happened just after 9:00 a.m. local time. Apparently, a male passenger got through security by going up an exit ramp. Getting some conflicting information in terms of what happened next. The TSA says the terminals were not evacuated. Everybody was allowed to stay in.

But an airport spokesperson tells me all the passengers had to be rescreened. We will try to sort out what exactly happened. But you can see those long lines there, as operations were shut down for a brief time. Compounding matters, that airport is going through a major renovation. So, in addition to those long lines, folks there have to go through the headache of trying to get around all the construction.

Obviously, there are going on to be some significant flight delays. But the airport tells me that nobody is going to miss their flight, that those airplanes are going to be on the ground waiting for those folks to board -- Don.

LEMON: It will be interesting to see the fallout, Dan, especially with trying to get connections and all like that, because, you know, one little thing, and it snowballs.

Dan Simon in San Francisco, thank you.

PHILLIPS: A bit of progress. Despite the conditions, firefighters in Utah are throwing everything they have at the largest fire in that state's history. It's just more than one of 40 large fires burning across 13 Western states.

Kara Finnstrom on the scene in Cove Fort, Utah -- Kara.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, firefighters are going to be closely watching the wind this afternoon to make sure it doesn't pick up and push this fire into any new directions.

Also, they are continuing to beat back any flare-ups around homes and around that main interstate. Now, the area we're in now is one where the fire made its initial push. And on this hillside just behind me, you can see where the fire stopped and where the green shrubs survived.

We also took some video overnight that we want to share with you of some of those flare-ups that firefighters are so concerned about. They say that these flare-ups took place in the late afternoon, early evening, when those winds picked up,and that's the time of day when they will also be on standby today, ready for that possibility again.

Now, earlier today, firefighters did get up in helicopters. They're out there mapping and trying to get a better feel of the actual acreage burned. But, at last report, we were already at 311,000 acres, which is easily a state record. Firefighters say the dry conditions out here and the wind really pushed that fire along. But they say that massive size also had to do with what's been fuelling this blaze.

PHILLIPS: All right, Kara Finnstrom. Thanks.


JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We're going to go live right now to Portland, Oregon.

And that's where we find our affiliate reporter, Angelica Thornton. There she is, by the Grant Park pool.

And just how hot is it getting there?

ANGELICA THORNTON, REPORTER: Well, Jacqui, if you're not from the Northwest, if you're from Phoenix or Atlanta or the sun, this isn't bad. But native Northwesterners think this is really hot. Temperatures in the Portland area today expected to be in the low 100s, same thing for the Vancouver area.

And that's why pools like this one have been packed all day, lots of kids here for their swimming lessons or just to take a dip, and, of course, parents trying to find some relief in the shade, as well, but they are also jumping in. It is pretty steamy here. Elsewhere in Portland, people are trying to go about their day as usual. We talked to some construction workers this morning. They started their day today, at 6:00, so they could be out of the heat this afternoon. They are basically just drinking lots of water and taking it slow.

On the coast today, temperatures are supposed to be in the 90s. Now, that doesn't sound bad to folks in other parts of the country, but meteorologists here in the Northwest say temperatures in the 90s on the Oregon coast, they're calling that unprecedented. Cooling centers have been set up all around the state for the elderly, for the homeless, for people who thought they could go outside and handle it, but maybe just need a little help.

That's the latest live here in Portland, Oregon.

Angelica Thornton -- back to you, Jacqui.

JERAS: Hey, Angelica, a quick question for you. CNN's Rob Marciano used to work there in Portland. He wants to know if the snow cone guy is out there at the pool.

THORNTON: What is that?

JERAS: He wants to know if the snow cone guy is out there at the pool.



All right, good news. He wants a grape. Thanks very much, Angelica, joining us there.


LEMON: Yes. And we know what Rob was doing on his live shots in Portland.


JERAS: Eating snow cones.

LEMON: Eating snow cones.

JERAS: Absolutely.

LEMON: The little sneaker.


LEMON: Rob, no more snow cones.

Thank you, Jacqui.

JERAS: Yes. LEMON: The mortgage mess. One couple thought they found a way to avoid foreclosure, only to end up paying rent to live in their own house. How can avoid that nightmare?

Gerri Willis joins us straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: An admission and an apology -- a Republican senator linked to an infamous Washington escort service, straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Stories we're working on for you this hour in the CNN NEWSROOM: two homes burned and smoking and five lives lost. You're looking at the aftermath now of a small plane crash in Sanford, Florida.

Authorities say the aircraft was in distress and trying to land at nearby Orlando International Airport -- among the dead, at least one small child and the husband of a NASCAR official.

Questions about the future of Senator John McCain's presidential campaign today, after two top strategists resigned. It comes about a week after the campaign laid off dozens of staffers in the wake of weak fund-raising numbers.

And despite the loss of some high-profile GOP support, President Bush says he won't be pressured into withdrawing troops from Iraq. In a speech in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Bush reiterated that terrorists want to use Iraq as a refuge, and America simply can't allow that.

LEMON: He is on his wife's list and probably his constituents' list now, too, all because he was on an escort services list.

Louisiana Senator David Vitter has confessed to some serious sin in his past -- and that's a quote -- courtesy of the so-called D.C. madam.

CNN's Brianna Keilar joins us now from Washington.

Brianna, what's happening today with the Vitter case?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, it's a busy day on the Hill, but Senator Vitter is keeping a low profile today. He's not been seen at his office or hearings that he might have showed up to, this, of course, after his phone number was linked to that escort service run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. madam.

Now, that prompted Vitter to issue a statement last night saying: "This was a very serious sin in my past, for which I am, of course, completely responsible. Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and from my wife in confession and marriage counseling."

Now, Vitter goes on to say that he will keep the discussion of the matter between his family and God. But, you know, back in March, when Palfrey was indicted, we wondered, everyone here in Washington wondered, which political bigwigs, were breaking a sweat. You know, in the past month, we learned Randall Tobias, a top State Department official who has since resigned, was in her little black book.

But Vitter is the biggest fish so far and the first lawmaker to be caught in this scandal -- Don.

LEMON: A very interesting response, too, I hear from the wife in all of this, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, and this isn't a response from today. We have not heard from her directly because of this, but in his statement Vitter says that he's received her forgiveness. But judging by something that she said in the past, she might have been a tough woman to win over.

Back in 2000, she talked with Newhouse News Service about politicians' wives who had managed to look past their husbands' transgressions. And she said -- quote -- "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary," referring to Hillary Clinton. "If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony. Trust me."

And, of course, Lorena Bobbitt, Don, the woman who cut off her husband's penis in 2003, so very harsh words there.


KEILAR: I know. It's hard to say with a straight face.


LEMON: I don't know how you got through that one out loud.

KEILAR: I tried.


KEILAR: But you're bringing me down.

LEMON: That was pretty gutsy of her.


LEMON: So, what does this all mean for her career -- for his career, I should say?

KEILAR: Well, some political observers, they have said that Vitter, you know, he really has time on his side. He's not up for reelection until 2010, and that maybe enough time will have passed to dull voters' memories of this. But, of course, we are just going to have to wait and see.

LEMON: Yes, and it's some very serious stuff. We're laughing, but her response sort of invoked that.

Brianna Keilar...

KEILAR: Colorful.

LEMON: Yes, very colorful. Thank you, as usual, for your report.

PHILLIPS: Well, you think you have got junk in your trunk? It sure beats a wrecking ball. Boy, we're taking a really bad turn on this show.

LEMON: I know.


PHILLIPS: Something you don't see every day, thankfully -- straight ahead.


PHILLIPS: Well, a wrecking ball is built to wreck stuff, right? Well, not like this. The car is a wreck, thanks to a 1,500-pound steel ball that just decided to cut loose, snapped free from a cable, rolled downhill, and smacked right into several cars before junking up somebody's truck.

It happened during the demolition of a library at Allegheny College in western Pennsylvania. Luckily, nobody was hurt.


LEMON: All right, he is one angry man.

Furious filmmaker Michael Moore unloads on our very own Wolf Blitzer. Why would he do that? It's about the media and the Iraq war.


MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Why don't you tell the truth to the American people? I mean, I wish that CNN and the other mainstream media would just, for once, tell the truth about what's going on in this country.


LEMON: Stick around. There's lots more where that came from. The "Sicko" smackdown -- still ahead.


PHILLIPS: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon. A small plane crashes into a Florida neighborhood. At least five people are dead, and several more seriously burned.

PHILLIPS: So, what went wrong? CNN's Miles O'Brien joins us with what investigators will be looking for.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Well, we get straight to the newsroom now.

T.J. Holmes working on the details of a developing story.

T.J., what do you have for us?

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Don, out in L.A., this is a case a lot of folks will remember. Chester Turner is the name, serial killer convicted in the slayings of 10 women and a fetus, has now been sentenced to death. This is a onetime pizza delivery man.

Chester Turner, again, 40-year-old, was sentenced to die for the 1987 to 1998 murders of 10 women. One of those women was pregnant, six-and-a-half months pregnant. But he has been sentenced to death. A jury convicted him in April of those killings. And, then, in May, a jury recommended the death penalty. And now that conviction and that death penalty has now become official.

Again, he was actually already in prison for the -- for the rape of a -- a 2002 rape of a woman. And then DNA tests actually connected him to these other killings. And these killings happened within a 30- block-area of where he lived, preyed on women, poor women. Some of the women even had drug problems, so preyed on them in tough neighborhoods there in Los Angeles, but Chester Turner now sentenced to die for those killings, the 1987 to 1998 murders of 10 women and one fetus, just an update there on a case we have been following here for some time.

But it does appear -- now, of course, he gets an automatic appeal, but he has been given the death penalty -- Don.

LEMON: All right, T.J. Holmes, thank you for that.

HOLMES: All right.

PHILLIPS: Well, he's never shied from controversy. In fact, he seeks it out. So, maybe we shouldn't have been surprised by Michael Moore's tirade yesterday on CNN's "The SITUATION ROOM."

The filmmaker was ostensibly here to talk about his movie "Sicko." Instead, he tried to blitz Wolf Blitzer and our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Moore really took issue with a piece that Sanjay did fact- checking "Sicko."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MOORE: Why don't you tell the truth to the American people? I mean, I wish that CNN and the other mainstream media would just, for once, tell the truth about what's going on in this country, whether it's with health care -- I don't care what it is. I mean you guys have such a poor track record. And for me to come on here and have to listen to that kind of crap.

I mean, seriously, I haven't been on your show now for three years. The last time I was on you ran a similar piece about "Fahrenheit 9/11" saying oh, this can't be true what he's saying about the war, how it's going to be a quagmire, the weapons of mass destruction, you know?

And -- why don't you start off, actually, with my first appearance back here on your show in three years and maybe apologize to me for saying that three years ago?

Because it turned out everything I said in "Fahrenheit" was true. Everything has come to happen, everything I said. I mean I was -- I took you in that film to Walter Reed Hospital and it took three years before you or any of the rest of the mainstream media would go to Walter Reed Hospital and see what was happening to our troops.

So for me to have to sit here and listen again to more crap about socialized medicine or how the Canadians have it worse than us and all this, all the statistics show that we have far worse healthcare than these other industrialized countries. We're the only ones that don't have it free and universal. And, you know, there's a -- there's a -- you said that Germany was the only one that was better than us in terms of wait times. The Commonwealth Fund, last year, showed of the top six countries, we were second to last, next to Canada. It showed that Britain, for instance, 71 percent of the British public, when they call to see a doctor, get to see the doctor that day or the next day. It's 69 percent in Germany. It's 66 percent in Australia.

And you're the ones who are fudging the facts. You've fudged the facts to the American people now for I don't know how long about this issue, about the war.

And I'm just curious -- when are you going to just stand there and apologize to the American people for not bringing the truth to them that isn't sponsored by some major corporation?

I mean I'll sit here for as long as it takes if you can do that for me.

BLITZER: All right, well, just in fairness, we had a lot of commercials for "Sicko" that we've been running on CNN, as well. So, you know, we have commercials. This is a business, obviously. But let's talk a little bit about one of the --

MOORE: You have a nightly medical report. You have something called "The Daily Dose." I watch CNN. You have it every day. "The Daily Dose" sponsored by -- fill in the blank. And you are funded by these people day in and day out. Don't even compare that to my movie being out for a couple of weeks --

BLITZER: Well, I would --

MOORE: -- and a couple of --

BLITZER: I would say that --

MOORE: -- rinky-dink ads for 15 seconds.

BLITZER: I don't know if you're familiar with Dr. --

MOORE: Come on.

BLITZER: I don't know if you're --

MOORE: Come on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: No, no, no. I don't know if you're familiar with Dr. Sanjay Gupta's record. But I would stack up his record on medical issues with virtually anyone in the business.

MOORE: All right. So when I -- when I now put on my Web site, as I will do tonight, how his facts were wrong about the $7,000 that we spend -- it's actually, I've read one report now, it's even more than $7,000 that we spend per person each year in this country. I'm going to put the real facts up there on my Web site so people can see what he said was absolutely wrong.

BLITZER: Well, if we get that confirmed, obviously, we'll correct the record. Sanjay -- but I'm just saying --

MOORE: Oh, you will?


BLITZER: Obviously, Sanjay Gupta --

MOORE: You'll be getting it.

BLITZER: -- is not only a doctor and a neurosurgeon, but he's also an excellent, excellent journalist.


BLITZER: And, look, I saw the film and it's a powerful, powerful --

MOORE: I saw Dr. Sanjay Gupta over there embedded with the troops at the beginning of the war. He and the others of you in the mainstream media refused to ask our leaders the hard questions and demand the honest answers. And that's why we're in this war.

We're in the fifth year of this war because you and CNN, Dr. Gupta, you didn't do your jobs back then and now here we are in this mess.

What if you had actually done the job on that?

That's why anybody who hears anything of what you say now about universal healthcare should question what you're saying, what you're putting out there. You didn't do the job for us with the war. You're not doing it with this issue. And I just -- I just wonder when the American people are going to turn off their TV sets and quit listening to this stuff.

BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta did an excellent job covering that war. He was with the Navy's medical doctors and he went in and risked his life and he actually started to perform some neurosurgery on the scene.

MOORE: You have the questions.

BLITZER: It was --

MOORE: Why are we here?

BLITZER: Look --

MOORE: That's the question.

Why are we here in this war?

Where's the weapons of mass destruction?

BLITZER: Look --

MOORE: Why didn't you -- why did it take you so long, Wolf, to finally take on Vice President Cheney?

It took you to 2007 before you made the man mad at you.

BLITZER: Those are fair questions.

MOORE: -- four years.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little --

MOORE: Where were you?

BLITZER: Let's talk about "Sicko." That's the film that you're here to talk about.

MOORE: Yes, let's forget that.

BLITZER: There's plenty --


BLITZER: There's plenty to talk about the war. There's plenty to talk about --

MOORE: How about --

BLITZER: There's plenty to talk about with "Sicko." Let's -- let's --

MOORE: I just haven't seen you in three years, so I was just wondering --

BLITZER: Well, we've invited you --

MOORE: -- how you felt after three years of not seeing me --

BLITZER: Michael --

MOORE: -- after you trashed "Fahrenheit" -- after you trashed "Fahrenheit" and said that I was wrong about --


MOORE: -- oh, yes, this war was --

BLITZER: We've invited you --

MOORE: Come on, I'm just waiting for an apology.

BLITZER: Michael, we've invited you on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, you've declined our invitations over these past three years. But there have been plenty of times we've asked you to come on the show and plenty of times you've declined. Which is --

MOORE: Really?

BLITZER: Which is, of course, your right.

MOORE: And you wanted to apologize?

Why did you want to talk to me?

BLITZER: No, we wanted to interview you. That's what we do on television.


PHILLIPS: And in all fairness, of course, we want to let our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta respond to what Michael Moore had to say. You can catch part of -- the other part of that interview with Michael Moore ranting and raving in "THE SIT ROOM" coming up at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time.

But in all fairness, we want to let Dr. Sanjay Gupta to respond.

As we did mention -- Wolf mentioned, he is a neurosurgeon. He works in the health field industry. He's also a journalist.

This is what he had to say to what Michael Moore had to say on Wolf Blitzer.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No doubt there's a huge buzz around Michael Moore's film, as well.

Yesterday, there was a lot of stuff 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 a $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.

Interestingly, Michael, on his 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.


PHILLIPS: And you can tune in to "THE SIT ROOM" at 4:00 Eastern for a little more unedited more interview, if you can stomach it.

Also, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's going to be able to respond to the filmmaker's claims of factual errors coming up on LARRY KING LIVE.

LEMON: The mortgage mess -- one couple thought they found a way to avoid foreclosure only to end up paying rent to live in their own house.

How can you avoid that nightmare?

Gerri Willis joins us, straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LEMON: Every day at CNN we come across ordinary people who with little or no fanfare have an extraordinary impact on the lives of others.

Well, today, we introduce you to a woman who is fighting the very serious global problem of human trafficking.

Her name is Somaly Mam. And after being forced into prostitution at age 16, she has reclaimed her life and is devoted to saving the lives of other young women and girls in Cambodia.


SOMALY MAM: In Cambodia, prostitution is illegal. But right now you can see everywhere we have the prostitutes, because of the corruption. The brothel owner, they force them to have sex. They hit them. They receive a lot of violence.

I remember when I was young. I was sold into the brothel. I was forced to have sex and I was raped.

But I needed people to help me. I need the people, but nobody helped me.

My name is Somaly Mam and my mission in life is to help the victims, to take them out from the brothel. And many of them HIV/AIDS. Sometimes they cut themselves. Sometimes they try to suicide. I just say to them, you have your hands full. Everybody treat them -- treat you so bad.

Why they treat you so bad?

It's not your fault.


You face the police who are corrupted. You go into court. Sometimes they are so corrupted.

I have a lot of people that are trying to destroy me everywhere. They're trying, trying. But I just want to say to them no way.

My organization, we have the counseling and we have advocacy training, serving, addressing and imbue them of the opportunities of the world and then integrate them into society.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I feel like I have a new life. I was so upset before, it seemed like everything was destroyed. Now I have a new life.

MAM: I just want to give them love, for real. It's what I needed.


LEMON: If you'd like to learn more about Somaly Mam's organization or to make a contribution, you'll find all the information you need at

More NEWSROOM in just a moment.


PHILLIPS: A mayday from the air -- a fiery crash and heartbreak for many families, including NASCAR's. A small plane plows into a home in the Orlando suburb of Sanford, Florida. A neighboring house also goes up in flames. Both people on board the plane were killed. Michael Klemm, a pilot with NASCAR Aviation, and Dr. Bruce Kennedy, husband of NASCAR board member Lesa France Kennedy.

An adult and two children on the ground also died. Three others were badly burned.

The pilot apparently was trying for an emergency landing at a nearby airport after reporting smoke in the cockpit.

LEMON: Well, as the housing market struggles, at least one economist believes 300,000 American families could lose their homes to foreclosure. One couple saw disaster coming, but thought they found a surefire way to head it off.

And our personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, has their story.

GERRI WILLIS, PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: (voice over): Rhonda Schnitzler (ph) and Hank Gribensk love their home in Loxahatchee, Florida. They hope to pass it on to their children one day, but that day may not come.


WILLIS (on camera): Rhonda and Hank fell behind on their monthly mortgage payments and struggled to keep their heads above water. Then they found what they thought would be the perfect solution in an unlikely place -- their mailbox.

H. GRIBENSK: Countrywide already filed for foreclosure. So that made it public record. As soon as that happened, flyers came in from everywhere. "Stop foreclosure." "We can help."

And then the flier from the Florida Housing Council came and that was the best written flyer out of all of them.

WILLIS: How did they come off to you in their flyer?

H. GRIBENSK: Well, as soon as it said Florida Housing Council, I associated that with Florida.

WILLIS: It was safe?

H. GRIBENSK: Right. And then in the flyer it said through federal guidelines. So with that, I figured, OK, this is something government- wise that will help. WILLIS (voice over): To Jack Moussa, the company's founder and managing director, the name isn't misleading. In fact, he says it's straightforward.

JACK MOUSSA, FLORIDA HOUSING COUNCIL: It's not a government agency.

There's Florida Roofing.

Does that make them a Florida state company? It's just a name.

WILLIS (on camera): And how does it help people?

MOUSSA: If there is a need for financial restructuring, debt management, we would be called upon and we'd provide a service.

WILLIS (voice over): As promised, FHC stopped the foreclosure process. But Rhonda and Hank paid a price. They became renters in their own home. H. GRIBENSK: We got a letter which stated that we were now renters and that we were so far behind in the rent that they were going to evict us if we didn't come up with ...

WILLIS (on camera): Wait a minute.

So you get a letter in the mail that you are now renters?



WILLIS: And what was that like?

R. GRIBENSK: You wouldn't want to be in this house.

H. GRIBENSK: We were not happy.


H. GRIBENSK: We were not happy when we got that letter.

R. GRIBENSK: I was crying hysterically.

WILLIS (voice over): The tears and the heartache could have been avoided if the couple had read and understood the fine print of the contract they entered into with FHC.

H. GRIBENSK: He didn't say anything about signing over the house to him, deed wise. All we were doing was signing a contract to hire his company to help us out of foreclosure proceedings. That was it.

WILLIS: In fact, that wasn't it. Not even close. What they had signed was an agreement to put their home into a trust and to make payments through FHC for one year, after which they had the option to repurchase their home.

DAVID SILVERSTONE, COUPLE'S ATTORNEY: It said that, in order to get their house back after a year, they had to repay a $26,000 fee plus 50 percent of the equity in the home.

WILLIS: According to the lawsuit Silverstone filed on behalf of the couple, this would give FHC a 300 percent return on their initial investment.

SILVERSTONE: We're saying they violated Florida law. We have an Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. They violated Federal Truth in Lending laws. We have a usury law here in Florida. Those are the main statutes they're violating.

WILLIS: This isn't the first time that FHC has been sued for the way it does business.

(on camera): Why are so many people suing you and saying your action is unfair and misrepresents your intent? MOUSSA: Every one of these clients that have sued, they have lived through the terms of our agreement in full, which -- during which time we have subsidized their payments. Every agreement is only entitled to one year. After the year expires and we've called upon them to come and resolve the interest in the trust, they have come up with suits that this is illegal and it's coercive and we didn't know what we did.

ADAM SKOLNIK, FLORIDA HOUSING COUNCIL ATTORNEY: The language is written in plain English. There's no "legalese" in any of the documents. It's actually written on what's been known as a fifth grade level.

WILLIS (voice over): Here's an excerpt from the contract: "For the purpose of acquiring beneficial interest in a title-holding land trust in which a third party corporate trustee shall hold title to the subject trust property," et cetera.

For now, Rhonda and Hank are still in their home. Their lawyer is trying to get the transaction with FHC declared null and void and unenforceable.

H. GRIBENSK: I get angry. But we'll make it.


LEMON: Oh, Gerri Willis.

Gerri joins us now.

Your heart just goes out to that couple.


LEMON: What do you do?

What should people look out for so that this doesn't happen to them?

WILLIS: Well, there are red flags out there. This does not happen to you if you're in foreclosure. You don't have to be taken advantage of.

Number one, avoid those people who say they're going to rescue you from foreclosure by taking over your deed -- oh, but just for a short period of time, until you get yourself straightened out.

No. They're going to take your house from you.

Look out for offers to negotiate with your bank. You can do that yourself.

LEMON: Right.

WILLIS: You don't need somebody in the middle saying, hey, guess what? You know, these people, they're are on the up and up and they can definitely pay for this themselves.

LEMON: You don't knead a middleman.

WILLIS: No. You can call up your bank yourself and try to get them to come the table. And believe, with the way the market is right now, a lot of bankers are negotiating with people in trouble. They don't want to own your home.

And, finally, if you're talking to somebody who is for profit, unh-uh. For-profit foreclosure rescue, it doesn't happen. You want to talk for a not-for-profit. Call the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They can hook you up with counselors that can help you out -- Don.


So Rhonda and Hank, any recourse for those guys?

WILLIS: Well, they're suing right now and they're waiting to find out if they're going to be able to keep their house. They're, of course, living in it right now. But the story is not over for them.


We wish them luck.

Thank you very much.

We always appreciate your advice.

WILLIS: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Let's get straight to T.J. Holmes.

We're getting details on a developing story right now.

Pretty amazing pictures -- T.J.

HOLMES: Yes, a picture out of Baltimore. A church, we understand, is on fire here.

Let's just go straight to that live picture that we do have for you.

This is the First Mt. Olive Freewill Baptist Church there in Baltimore. And they are battling what's been called a three alarm fire.

Now, witnesses are telling fire officials that this fire was started because lightning struck the steeple of this church. And that's where a lot of the smoke and flames we've been able to see in these pictures is coming out of.

But that is the word, according to fire officials, that, in fact, it was struck by lightning. It sounds like we're getting a little traffic there from the helicopters keeping an eye on the fire. But that gives you a different perspective there.

I'm not sure if this is still a live picture or not. But, again, The First Mt. Olive Freewill Baptist Church.

About 80 firefighters and other officials on the scene. No word of any injuries right now, of anyone possibly in that church at the time. But we do have word, according to the Associated Press, that at least one firefighter has been taken to the hospital who had some kind of a leg injury. We don't know the severity of that, but a leg injury.

And, again, back to live pictures here. We're trying to make out a heck of a -- a glare there we're seeing on that picture. But you can make out firefighters working pretty hard trying to figure out and trying to work this fire before it, I guess, completely destroys this church.

From what we've seen, smoke and fire have kind of been in one area of the building so far. So maybe they're trying to contain it and salvage some of this church there in Baltimore.

But The First Mt. Olive Freewill Baptist Church. And, again, the word we're getting is that lightning struck this. And that is the word that fire officials are giving the media from witnesses that they have talked to, that they actually saw lightning hit this church.

So a kind of a strange occurrence there. People always talk about getting away from folks who've got lightning around them sometimes. And you don't hear about lightning hitting a church that often.

So nothing -- nothing funny there, just kind of a strange coincidence that maybe lightning hitting a church there in Baltimore.

But firefighters working on it. And, again, only one injury right now that we know of, and that is an injury having to do with a firefighter who had a leg injury. So hopefully they can salvage some of this church. But it appears to be concentrated in the roof, the top, the steeple area of that building. A little flame that we can see shooting out here and there. So they're trying to get that under control. We've got an eye on it, guys.

PHILLIPS: All right, T.J.

As you're watching that, check into this for us, too, if you can. This is just coming across the wires.

According to Reuters, a section of New York City's Times Square, we're being told is -- according to this wire service -- has been closed down apparently. Police investigating what they describe as a possible bomb scare. They're saying that several blocks of Seventh Avenue in New York downtown, including along the front of the Reuters building, actually, where the wire service is based out, has been closed to traffic as police are investigating what they say is a suspicious item. We're working more details.

We'll bring it to you, right after the break.