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Warning Signs of Minneapolis Bridge; Interview With Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty; News Conference on Bridge Collapse
Aired August 3, 2007 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Welcome back to a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.
I'm John Roberts. It is Friday, the 3rd of August.
Good morning, Kiran.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Good to see you, John.
You know, we begin another difficult day in the twin cities. Less than an hour ago, we heard from the Hennepin County medical examiner confirming that they, indeed, have identified another victim. That brings the number of dead, the people who died in this collapse, up to five now.
The names of four people who were confirmed dead yesterday also came to light. The newspaper in St. Paul describing them as a likable salesman, a mom and businesswoman, an ace pitcher married to his childhood sweetheart, and also a woman who was realizing her dream.
The search is expected to resume within an hour now for others still missing. There are also 79 people hurt. Five of those hurt remain in critical condition at area hospitals this morning.
And, of course, the eyes of the nation are still focused on Minneapolis. The first lady will be visiting today, and the president will be visiting Minnesota tomorrow -- John.
ROBERTS: The rescue workers, recovery workers had some difficulty yesterday. They had been working with the Army Corps of Engineers to try to expose a little bit more of the debris that's down there in the river. They got them to lower the level of the Mississippi by a foot or two, but that caused some other problems. It sped up the current and created some dangerous eddies.
They had to suspend recovery operations for a little while, particularly on the north side of that bridge, because it's still very unstable. They hope to be able to get some more work done in there.
Yesterday, on the down river side of that, they were using side- scan sonar. They identified a number of targets. One of those targets was a car that didn't have anyone inside it.
They also found some scaffolding that was a result of the bridge construction, a little bit of a debris field. And they also found a pickup truck that had been there for sometime. A little baffling as to exactly how that got in the river at that time and no one knew about it.
They should be resuming the recovery operation here in the next half hour or so as the sun begins to come up here on Minneapolis. We hope to hear as well, within the next couple of minutes, from Sheriff Rich Stanek about the state of recovery operations and just how far they hope to get today.
We have got reporters covering every angle of this story across the country.
Chris Lawrence is in Minneapolis for us this morning. Sean Callebs just outside of New Orleans, in Slidell, Louisiana, on how quickly a destroyed bridge can be rebuilt. And our Greg Hunter is in Connecticut with the very expensive lessons that were learned at a similar disaster on a highway overpass there.
We begin this morning with Chris Lawrence and the latest on the investigation and the search this morning.
Where are they going with it today, Chris, as far as you know?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the question right now isn't so much did the state know that there were problems with the bridge. They knew. The federal government told them.
The question now is, did they have any reason to believe that these problems rose to a level that the bridge needed to have a major overhaul and was in any danger of collapsing?
LAWRENCE (voice over): It was Minnesota's busiest bridge, but the bearings that helped support it were showing significant corrosion as far back as 17 years ago. Inspectors later discovered cracks near the joints. Minnesota officials stepped up inspections, but declined to add steel plates to reinforce the bridge.
DAN DORGAN, MINNESOTA DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION: Dr. Dexter's (ph) research at the time was the fatigue cracking was not expected in the deck truss, that we could expect continued years of service from that structure.
LAWRENCE: Federal inspectors designated the bridge as "structurally deficient," but even the secretary of transportation says that doesn't mean the bridge is unsafe.
MARY PETERS, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: The bridge should be repaired, should perhaps be considered for replacement at some point in the future. It was by no means an indication that this bridge was not safe. Had that been the case, Mn/DOT, Governor Pawlenty would have shut this bridge down immediately.
LAWRENCE: It collapsed Wednesday and killed several commuters, including a wife and mother whose daughter had hoped her mom was simply missing.
JESSICA ENGEBRETSEN, MOTHER MISSING AFTER BRIDGE COLLAPSE: My mom is one big fighter. I know she can get through this. She is just somewhere where we can't see her right now and she's just waiting.
LAWRENCE: On Friday, divers will try to identify more victims after swirling, murky water forced them out on Thursday. They were able to inspect license plate numbers of some of the submerged cars.
CHIEF T.J. DOLAN, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPT.: We know of several people who are pinned or trapped and were at the time that we left them deceased.
LAWRENCE: Rescue workers are using sonar to direct the divers and have detected cars east and west of the bridge.
KRISTI ROLLWAGEN, DEP. DIR., MINNEAPOLIS EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: The suspicion is, is that there are actually some vehicles under that concrete pile that you see emerging from the top of the river there.
LAWRENCE: Getting underneath it means moving very large, heavy pieces of bridge and could take days.
LAWRENCE: Investigators have already been watching that surveillance video of the collapse frame by frame. They have also already started to look at inspection and maintenance records from the past 10 years and plan to go back even further.
They will start to use these in concert with each other to try to get through some of these theories as to what may have happened. Was it corrosive effects from the moisture from the river and the deep freeze in the winter? Could it have been the high traffic volume, 140,000 cars and trucks that pass through every day?
They're going to sift through a lot of these theories, and it may take some time before they come to a definite conclusion.
ROBERTS: And as we heard from Mark Rosenker, the head of the NTSB, just a few minutes ago, they're actually going to move some of this debris downstream and try to reconstruct at least a portion of this bridge in the course of their investigation.
LAWRENCE: It looks like an airplane crash reconstruction.
ROBERTS: Very much like the TWA investigation.
ROBERTS: Chris Lawrence, thanks very much -- Kiran.
CHETRY: John, thanks.
Also new this morning, a look at some of the other stories the AMERICAN MORNING team is working on. We have Rob Marciano watching extreme weather, including extreme heat coming to the Midwest.
CHETRY: Well, a new deal for Northwest Airlines and the pilots after a wave of flight cancellations last week.
Ali Velshi is on this one for us.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kiran.
We've been reporting that since last Friday, there have been tremendous delays -- not only delays, but cancellations of Northwest Airlines flights. Hundreds upon hundreds of them.
Northwest was, well, sort of suggesting that a high rate of absenteeism by its pilots was to blame. The Airline Pilots Association was saying, our pilots are getting sick, they're working too many hours. Well, Northwest and its union, its pilots union, have come to a new labor agreement which would stop this from happening at the end of last month. This keeps happening at the end of the months, when the pilots reach their maximum flying time as allowed by the FAA.
We don't have a lot of details on this deal right now. It is going to cost Northwest Airlines some money, but it's going to get them out of this quagmire, hopefully.
The pilots seem to be happy with this deal. They're going to be voting on it tomorrow, and we'll see whether it works. But for people flying Northwest, it could mean that the flights that you're on actually get to their destination -- Kiran.
CHETRY: Yes. That's really all you want out of an airline, right?
VELSHI: That's all the traveling public wants. Let Northwest and the pilots deal with the details.
CHETRY: Thanks so much, Ali.
ROBERTS: Still to come this morning, the man in charge here in Minnesota. We will talk with Governor Tim Pawlenty about the bridge collapse and a new report that signs of trouble might have been overlooked.
That's coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.
But first, we want to show you some more of those great pictures that were sent to us by our I-Reporters. Take a look. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ROBERTS: Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has ordered an immediate inspection of other bridges in the state of Minnesota after the bridge collapse here in Minneapolis. But a tense focus is on what happened after other inspections that showed problems at the I-35 bridge and why the state didn't do more to fix them.
Governor Pawlenty joins me now.
What about that? That's the big story this morning in the "Minneapolis Star Tribune," that the Minnesota Department of Transportation knew that there were some problems, stress fractures in this bridge, was considering a retrofit, yet nothing happened.
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R), MINNESOTA: Yes, the report that we had which is mentioned in the paper indicates they recommended two courses of action. One was to reinforce some steel plates, but apparently they were concerned about doing that because of the vibration, or continue close inspections with some future action. They chose the second option, and obviously now people are going to be going back and saying should they have looked at other options? And we're going to be asking the tough questions, John, and getting to the bottom of that.
ROBERTS: Are you comfortable that they looked at this hard enough? Did the right thing here?
PAWLENTY: Well, yes. This bridge has been under inspection since 1990 and it's had all kinds of inspection. Clearly, just to net it all out, there were warning signs that there were problems with this bridge, concerns with this bridge. But no one came forward and said a collapse is imminent or it should be closed.
They kept talking about future fixes. And so now going back with hindsight, you're going to be able to say, well, should they have taken a different course or is what they did reasonable? These were decisions made by experts and the like. And, you know, we trust and rely on them, but now we're going to have to go back and critically review those decisions.
ROBERTS: So you're the guy in charge here. What are you going to be asking the people who work for you on this?
PAWLENTY: Well, first of all, we're going to do a stem-to-stern review of this particular bridge and its failure, but outside consultant in addition to the NTSB.
Number two, we're having all the bridges in Minnesota inspected on a prioritized basis starting with the three that have a design that are similar to this one. And then we're also going to inspect all of the bridges in Minnesota, plus review all of our inspection procedures, protocols and timelines to make that they are modern and robust.
Clearly, something went wrong or a wrong call was made here, John. And with the benefit of hindsight we will be able to see that. But the important is, at no point, as far as I know, did somebody say, close this bridge, it's in imminent danger of collapsing or failure.
ROBERTS: In hindsight, should they have?
PAWLENTY: Well, obviously, with the bridge collapsed, yes. But we don't know until the NTSB and this consulting firm does their investigation to precisely what happened. But that's the point. Clearly, there were concerns, there were yellow flags, warning signs, but not apparently rising to the level of the experts saying, close the bridge, it's going to fail, or there is an imminent problem.
ROBERTS: If this article is correct, bids might have gone out later on this year for a retrofit on the bridge to begin in 2008. Was work potentially delayed because of budgetary concerns? One consultant who's quoted in that article says Minnesota DOT basically is broke.
PAWLENTY: The indication in the paper from one of the persons I read this morning apparently internally was these are not the type of fixes that would have been prohibited by any budget limits. We've had a debate in Minnesota about additional transportation funding. The legislature didn't pass my proposal, and I vetoed their proposal. So we've had a bit of a stand-down on increases. But of course we've had our continued base level of funding as well.
But we'll know more about this. But the reinforcements or the recommendations do not look they were of such magnitude financially that that would have been the problem.
ROBERTS: As happens in many cases, you know, this has gotten to a political level on Capitol Hill, with a lot of people pointing fingers as to, did the administration do enough to fund highway projects? This particular bridge has been listed as having structural deficiencies for 17 years, and if memory serves me correctly, that would cover a couple of Democratic administrations as well, at the federal level and at the state level.
What do you think of this idea that people are starting to point partisan fingers at this disaster?
PAWLENTY: Well, first of all, I would hope that we don't get into that on a partisan or political basis. Obviously, things could have and should have been done better. Everybody agrees both nationally and across all of the states we've got major, major infrastructure problems. And it's not one-year-ago or two-year-ago problem. It's a one-decade-ago or two-decade-problem, and it's been building. So we have to address it.
We're going to have to come together as a nation, as states, Republicans and Democrats, and address it. And it's really a 20 or 30-year backlog, not a two or three year backlog.
ROBERTS: No question, though, that this bridge collapse (INAUDIBLE) in a very, very stark way. You've got a lot of work to do. PAWLENTY: Everybody agrees, there's no question. We all agree that there needs to be more investment and attention on infrastructure.
We had some differences nationally and here about how to do that, but we need to move forward. There's no disagreement on that.
ROBERTS: All right. We'll let you get to it.
Governor Tim Pawlenty, thanks very much.
Good to be with you.
PAWLENTY: OK. Thank you. Thank you.
CHETRY: All right. We want to take you now out live to a press conference that's taking place. The Hennepin County sheriff, Richard Stanek, speaking right now, hopefully giving an update on the situation.
SHERIFF RICHARD STANEK, MINNEAPOLIS: Last night, the sheriff's office provided perimeter security on the river itself. There was no news from overnight.
Starting out this morning, our operations are going to be on concentrating on clearing the upstream side of the collapse site. So we're concentrating on clearing the upstream side of the collapse site.
Dive operations are being moved to the lower St. Anthony Lock on the west bank, and just generally, again, if you look up, this is northeast. And here is the -- here is the collapse site.
Here is the lower St. Anthony Lock here. The sheriff's office -- we're down here now. Just to acclimate you.
We're going to be moving our dive operations up to here to the lower St. Anthony Lock. All right? So this is where the divers are going to be staging, going into the water.
We're going to continue down here with our command post and centralized operations and briefings for you folks. This side of the river will be kind of our emergency operation site. If something happens in the river and we need to get out or get someone out, we'll be doing it down here. OK?
We have -- yesterday, as we talked, we worked generally in this area just downstream of the collapse site. Cleared a number of identified targets to the side-scan sonar. And I've got a picture of that for you this morning so you can take a look at it when I'm done with this part of the briefing. And then we worked late yesterday afternoon, the early part of the evening, on a couple of pockets of water and a submerged vehicle between the north and the southbound lanes as it came down at the collapse site. So, today, we're working in this area primarily.
We know that there are four cars that are partially submerged on the upstream side that you can see visibly from the air or from the land. Initially, during the rescue operations on Wednesday evening, these cars were generally checked. Not thoroughly. So we will be redoing that today.
And then through side-scan sonar and operations, we've identified potentially nine additional targets submerged on the upstream side of the collapse site. That's where we will be focusing our operations on later this morning, the afternoon and evening, until we've identified those nine targets. If you remember, yesterday, we talked about four targets down here that we identified and worked on throughout the day and afternoon.
Now, one of them turned out to be a vehicle from the actual collapse, one of them turned out to be a vehicle that had been there for an awfully long time. One of them was a debris field from the collapse site, probably debris from the bridge itself. And I think one of them was scaffolding from the collapsed bridge. And so when I talk about targets, not necessarily vehicles, but ones that -- things that have been identified through the sonar that we will be checking out today.
Conditions on the river even more treacherous than yesterday. Now, yesterday, you know, we were pretty careful to say very hazardous. And today, it doesn't get any better. In fact, I'd venture to say it probably gets worse.
You've got the water coming out of the lower lock. You've got the current. You've got the debris. It creates, as we talked about yesterday, those manmade eddies, or whirlpools.
You've got water coming both through here. You've got water coming through the bridge.
The divers will be taking extreme caution. We will be slow and methodical during our search operations today.
We've got several concerns in addition to this. One is part of the collapsed bridge, the structure. There's a part that's visible here on the east bank, and yesterday there were reports that some debris was falling from that.
That concern continues very strongly for us. And we'll be watching that throughout the day, continuing to assess the safety and security of our rescue workers, the people who are going to be in the water, as well as anything else coming down from this.
Secondly, I talked about, you know, just a large amount of debris in the water and creating the currents and the eddies. The water levels are fairly normal in terms of what we did from yesterday. The depths range anywhere from two to 14 feet.
There is also a power line that Xcel Energy is going to be working on today to shore up and continue to make safe for us. I believe it's somewhere up in this area.
It's a concern. It's a large one. It carries a heavy load.
You know, we're concerned that if we have to bring equipment down or we get storms, whatever it maybe, we do not want that to come down into the river with the rescue workers and all else that's going on. So they're working on that this morning.
We've got -- generally, we've increased our staffing for the day in terms of about 16 boats that will be working the river. I'm pleased to say that our mutual aid assistance is working out great. You'll see folks here from St. Paul Police Department, Ramsey County Sheriff's Office...
CHETRY: All right. We're getting an update as we've been watching from Hennepin County, Minnesota, sheriff Rich Stanek, talking about what they are hoping to accomplish today in terms of that recovery effort.
They're talking about clearing the upstream side of the collapse site, showing on a map what -- where -- what area they're going to be, and also talking about some of the hazards, saying that the conditions today are actually worse than they were yesterday, citing the current, as well as a lot of the debris. And he said these manmade whirlpools that have come into the area not only because of the water flow, but because of the debris in the water, he described what they're going to be doing today in terms of the recovery as very slow and very methodical, talking about being able to identify through sonar vehicles perhaps in the water, and those are the things that they're going to be checking out again today.
So an update from Minnesota on the progress of this recovery effort.
We're going to take a quick break.
When we come back here on AMERICAN MORNING, today in the mail you'll probably get applications for a new credit card, probably one that will offer some sort of incentive -- airline miles, free vacations. But do any of these really, really offer you a good deal? And which ones?
We're going to find out next on AMERICAN MORNING.
CHETRY: You know the reward cards. We get advertisements for them all of the time. We get the envelopes in the mail saying, sign up for this card and you'll get a lot of good stuff.
Well, they offer you everything from cash back, to free airline flights, even hotel stays and merchandise, actually. But which of these really deliver?
Well, CNN's money saver, Gerri Willis, is here to break it down for us.
Hi, Gerri. Good to see you.
GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Good to see you. Happy Friday, Kiran.
You know, the big thing here that you've got to watch out for -- because there are a million cards, just like you say -- you've got to pay attention to the APR. That's the interest rate they want to charge you on these cards.
They need to be 10 percent, maybe a little more is a great rate, but they can range as high as 18, 19 percent, you name it. Watch out, too, for the fees. There are going to be huge late fees, overcharge fees. And, of course, with a travel card, there can be big-time restrictions for blackout dates, expiration for those points. So there's a lot to keep an eye on.
CHETRY: Now, keeping all that in mind for consumers, what are the best cards out there?
WILLIS: Travel card. If you want a travel card, Miles by Discover is a very interesting card.
Listen, you get 12,000 miles for just signing up, which is a very big deal. And look at that APR. That's an excellent APR for a rewards card.
No annual fee, and, let's see, no blackout dates. One of the big things about this card, too, is that you can use any airline, any hotel. There aren't restrictions on the brand names used.
CHETRY: OK. And then what about -- that's the travel. How about savings? You know, some of them promise that for however much you spend, you get a percentage cash back.
WILLIS: Yes, this is the newer thing in this category. In fact, American Express has a very interesting card in this category.
They take one percent of all of your purchases and put it in a high-yield savings account that pays 5 percent. Now, that is not nothing. That is pretty darn good.
WILLIS: No annual fee. And the APR is really pretty low for the first year.
But, look, if you're trying to save money this is a little bit of help.
CHETRY: Well, that's really interesting, because you don't mist the money anyway. It's coming out from what you spend it on. WILLIS: That's right.
CHETRY: Pretty neat. And the other thing is, you're going to pay it off in full every month and you're not as worried about the APR, but you want to get one that has...
WILLIS: I think this is revolver. A lot of the American Express cards are now revolving cards rather than paying them off every month.
They want you to build up some of those -- some of that debt over time, of course.
CHETRY: All right.
WILLIS: But, you know, one interesting card -- you've got to hear about this one. This is for college students. It's called the Citi MTVU Card. Check this out.
The APR through the roof, as they are for all the student cards. But you get points for good grades, which is sort of interesting.
CHETRY: For concert tickets, airlines and CDs. That's pretty neat.
WILLIS: Isn't that cool?
CHETRY: Yes. So, if you pay it off in full every month, you won't have to worry about the APR.
WILLIS: That's right. And keep in mind, too, that when you're shopping for one of these cards, the important thing to think about is, OK, what do I do? How can I best take advantage of these?
Am I a big traveler? Do I really want -- do I put a lot on my card every month and I can have great savings because of that?
You have to pick out the best thing for you. Credit.com a great place to go to get information on these cards.
CHETRY: Gerri, thanks so much.
By the way, don't forget to watch Gerri this weekend, "OPEN HOUSE". Among the topics, are women better investors than men?
WILLIS: Of course they are.
CHETRY: Shh. Don't give it away
Also, planning for a baby.
That's at 9:30 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHETRY: There's a live shot this morning; a look at the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A lot of questions this morning about what went wrong, about what may have caused that, and about whether or not there were many warning signs leading up to the tragedy that took place two days ago.
It's Friday, August 3rd. I'm Kiran Chetry here in New York. Thanks for being with us this morning.
ROBERTS: And from Minneapolis, Minnesota, as we continue our special coverage here of the bridge collapse. I'm John Roberts.
So you saw the scene behind us there that the recovery process is going very slowly. We heard from the Hennepin County Sheriff Rick Stanek, just a little while ago that because they lowered the level of the Mississippi River, to try to expose more of this debris, they've caused some problems with currents and some dangerous eddies in an area where the debris from the bridge is very unstable.
There's a lot of concrete and a lot rebar in the area, there's cars, as well, posing a danger for the recovery workers who go in there. And they dive those wrecks trying to look for the eight remaining people who are still missing.
Yesterday, one more person was found. That raises the death toll now to five. Again, eight missing; more than 70 people injured.
Yesterday, they got a number of hits. One on a vehicle, some scaffolding that came off the bridge. As you know, it was under construction. An old pickup truck that had been in the water for sometime, and just some of the debris field, but they did not find any more victims of this crash.
They hope to be working on the northern side of the northwestern side of that bridge in the upstream side in the next day or two. They believe there may be more casualties in there. So they will be back at a today but they said this is going to be a very, very slow process -- Kiran.
CHETRY: John, thanks so much.
First Lady Laura Bush will be in Minneapolis this afternoon. She will be speaking with victims, and also helping provide support.
In the meantime, though, the question, what should the federal government do to prevent future tragedies? Congressman Keith Ellison represents the Minnesota District where that disaster occurs; he toured the tragic scene yesterday. He joins us from Capitol Hill.
Our heart goes out to all Minnesotans, especially those in your district, and the friends and family who lost their lives, or were injured in this.
It must be quite a difficult time as you're talking to your constituents, Congressman. REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: It is a tough time. It's important just to communicate to people that we're working here in Washington and folks are working hard in Minneapolis. I couldn't be more proud of our city, county, and local officials who have respond in a very excellent way. Not to mention the good Samaritans who just stepped forward to help people. It's been a tremendous display of humanity.
CHETRY: I imagine. You know, there's also, today, some of the sadness turning to anger. People asking questions about whether or not this bridge that was seemed structurally unsound --
CHETRY: Structurally deficient, right, back in 2001. Did you ever raise concerns about this bridge as a congressman in this district? Was this something that people were aware of, especially those in government?
ELLISON: Well, I came into office January 1st, 2007. I didn't know the bridge was structurally deficient. I had no prior knowledge of it.
But I tell you this, you know, all across this country, there are bridges that are deemed to be structurally deficient, which means that they need work. And we've got to really focus on investing in infrastructure.
Out of this horrible tragedy, and it is that, hopefully, we can learn something and that is that we cannot let our infrastructure go. We've got to invest, we've got to focus, we've got to inspect. The NTSB was on the scene right away. They will be investigating exactly what happened. But I'd just like you to know that there are literally thousands of bridges across this country that have that same rating.
CHETRY: Yes, in fact, you're right. There are more than 70,000 bridges across the country with that rating of structurally deficient. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's an imminent collapse, but engineers are estimating that to repair all of that would take at least a generation, and cost more than, I believe it's $188 billion, all told. Are we overstating the problem, or is this a major undertaking that can't be ignored?
ELLISON: It's a major undertaking that cannot be ignored. We have to get at the problem. As big as the problem is, we have to begin that journey, and there is no better time than now.
CHETRY: There was an op-ed piece in "The Minneapolis Star- Tribune". Nick Coleman (ph), writes, that the outrage is not partisan, it's general. That both political parties have tried to govern on the cheap, and have both dithered, dallied, and spent pubic wealth on stadiums, while scrimping on the basics.
In fact, they were supposed to break ground on the new Twins ballpark, that's now been postponed, because of this tragedy. Is that a fair criticism in your opinion, Congressman? ELLISON: Well, I will say this. You know, life is about tradeoffs. Government is about tradeoffs. And you can have one thing or another. You can invest in infrastructure or you can pursue other government expenditures, which are not as productive as basic infrastructure investment.
There have been tradeoffs. There's no doubt. I think this is a time when we are going to have to refocus our attention on the basics. What really matters? Safe infrastructure has got to be a basic core function of the government.
CHETRY: Representative Keith Ellison from Minnesota, thank you for your time this morning.
ELLISON: Thank you.
ROBERTS: He is one of the men at the center of the tragedy here in Minneapolis, Sheriff Rich Stanek from Hennepin County. His deputies were some of the first on the scene after that bridge went down.
As you heard, here on AMERICAN MORNING, just a few minutes ago, he is also overseeing the divers who are trying to find the remaining victims of this tragedy. I got a chance to do a walk and talk with the sheriff, and spend time with him yesterday. And ask him about the enormous job he and his organization now face.
ROBERTS (on camera): How would you describe the environment that your deputies, your dive teams, are working in trying to complete this recovery operation?
SHERIFF RICH STANEK, HENNEPIN COUNTY: It's a very difficult environment. I mean, our deputies are professionals, they're professional divers. This is what they do day in, day out. But these conditions out here are very challenging. They responded last night about 6:00 p.m. to a very chaotic scene, a bridge collapse, a number of vehicles, and unknown injured and unknown dead. They get here, you know, rescue operations are in full-blown immediately.
ROBERTS: Given all of the training that you have employed in a post 9/11 world, was this that still challenged by the scope of this disaster?
STANEK: Oh, yeah. I've been a cop for 23 years, the better part of my adult life. I've been a homicide commander for a number of years, as well, been out to a lot of really bad scenes. But to come here yesterday, and see what we saw, I was on the river for the first two hours. I could reach out, touch the submerged vehicles. We watched the rescue operations from really right at the scene itself.
It was tremendous what you could see: Cars on fire on the bridge; people still scampering around trying to get off; the rescue efforts under way, rescue workers in the water rescuing people; fatalities that were removed from the scene.
ROBERTS: Are there any initial indications as to what happened? People who we've talked to who survived the collapse say they felt this enormous vibration before the bridge let go. Almost like some sort of harmonic vibration that caused the bridge to come apart.
STANEK: You know, we honestly don't know. I've talked to a number of the transportation safety officials, the structural engineers. We don't know. All we know is that either it's a freak of nature, a very tragic accident at least. But why did it happen, and why did it happen at this time? There was some minor construction going on at the bridge, minor construction, by anybody's account. And a bridge like this, a main thoroughfare to the heart of the city with a 2 million population just in this epicenter.
It's gone. It's a mystery. But we're going to figure it out. We're committed to that.
ROBERTS: Sheriff Stanek, thanks very much for your time. I know you're very busy.
STANEK: Thank you.
ROBERTS: And as Sheriff Stanek said, just a few minutes ago, in that press conference that we carried on CNN, this is going to be a very slow process because those waters of the Mississippi around the upriver side of that bridge still very dangerous for the recovery workers -- Kiran.
CHETRY: Right. And a little bit of better news in that they are saying there are eight people missing, as opposed to the 20 or 30 they thought yesterday. And more people showing up in local hospitals, that were pulled out alive. So like I said, a small bright spot in that tragedy there.
In the meantime, showdown brewing over a kid's health program that tops your "Quick Hits" now. The Senate has passed legislation that would add 3 million lower income children to a popular health insurance program.
President Bush will likely veto it. He says it will balloon the program beyond its original mission. The Senate has the votes, though, to override the veto.
And doctors have come up with a low-cost test for cervical cancer that involves nothing more than vinegar, gauze and a bright light. Researchers hope it's a low-cost way to catch it early, especially in developing countries, which account for 80 percent of cervical cancer cases.
Letting loose in the place that you least expect it, the office. We're going to go inside one company that is taking a page from elementary school recess. It's sending its employees out to play. The big business benefits of fun, up next on AMERICAN MORNING. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. A shot there I-35 bridge, what remains of it, and those cars sorted of hanging precariously close to the edge there. It's going to be a long period of time to get that whole area cleaned up.
They won't begin any of the demolition process until they are sure they have recovered all of the bodies, and that is a process that could take at least the entire weekend.
The tragedy here in Minneapolis has cities across the country looking at their bridges. More than a quarter have been rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. And 24 years ago the collapse of a highway bridge in Connecticut sparked big changes in the way that state maintains its bridges and roads. Our Greg Hunter is live for Coscop (ph), Connecticut this morning.
Good morning to you, Greg.
GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, behind me, the Mianus River Bridge and that entire section of I-95, it's three lanes up there, crashed into the river 24 years ago.
HUNTER (voice over): A highway bridge collapses in the dead of night. Cars plunge into the river below, killing three people and seriously injuring three more. It's the Mianus River Bridge, the year, 1983.
One of the pins holding the bridge up had been weakened by rust.
RICHARD BIEDER, MIANUS RIVER BRIDGE VICTIM'S ATTORNEY: One of those pins wedged itself out. Once you lose one of the pins it's going to start dropping. Boom. The whole thing falls down.
HUNTER: Attorney Rob (sic) Bieder, representing the victims of the collapse. They settled for millions. He says the state could of saved lives and money if it had just properly inspected and maintained its bridges.
BIEDER: It's spend the money, because it's going to cost you more if you don't spend the money, and the bridge collapses.
HUNTER: It took nearly six months and $20 million in repairs to reopen the river crossing. Engineers redesigned the bridge, this time, doing away with the pins.
(On camera): It was this section of I-95 that fell 70 feet into the water that changed the inspection process in Connecticut for the better.
(Voice over): At the time, Connecticut had only 12 engineers. Now, they employ dozens, all part of the billions of dollars the state has invested into inspections and maintenance. But for Connecticut, some problems still remain. The American Society of Civil Engineers reports that 33 percent of its bridges need repair, or replacement. That's slightly above the national average.
ANDY COATES, AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CIVIL ENGINEERS: It's going to be a question of catching up. And the longer we wait, the bigger the price tag will be.
HUNTER: Does that mean people should be afraid to cross America's bridges?
COATES: I think we're going to find out, when the investigations are done, that this was some unique combination of circumstances that, again, we're going to want to learn from, and apply in the future. But our bridge system is basically safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNTER: According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, they say in the coming years, we'll need about $250 billion to replace and repair existing bridges. That's just the bridges. They also say it will cost between $1.3 and $1.6 trillion dollars for the rest of the infrastructure, that's things like roads, things like aviation, clean water, dams, of course, bridges.
If you'd like to find out about bridges in your state, logon to cnn.com, click on the AMERICAN MORNING section, a little later this morning and you can find out how the bridges are in your state.
John, back to you.
ROBERTS: That's a really good resource to point people to. Greg Hunter, thanks very much.
CHETRY: CNN NEWSROOM is minutes away. Tony Harris is here with a look what is ahead.
Hi, Tony. Welcome back.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Hey, Kiran. Thank you.
Good Friday to you. We have got these stories on the NEWSROOM rundown for you this morning.
Working in the ruins of the Minneapolis bridge collapse. The difficult task of recovering bodies continues today.
Neglect and now danger: Thousands of American bridges deemed structurally deficient. Is there money to fix them?
"Made in China" a new health hazard. Almost 1 million toys in the latest recall. Information you need to know.
Heidi is with me in the NEWSROOM. We get started in just minutes, at the top of the hour, right here on CNN. Kiran, have a great weekend.
CHETRY: You, too, Tony. Thanks.
Well, it's a program designed build team work, to improve morale, and to create a happy workplace. It's recess for grown-ups. Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us how it pays for both the worker and the boss in this "Fit Nation" report.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pop all of the balloons! Pop all the balloons!
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Balloon races, broom races, and guessing games.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First place!
GUPTA: Sounds more like summer camp than a meeting at ING Direct, an online financial services company. The reason? Happier, more productive employees.
JOY ZABEN, ING DIRECT: You think about employees as more than just in their work environment, their entire -- their stress level, their health. I mean, this got them up and moving around.
GUPTA: Many corporations want employees to step away from their cubicles and enjoy themselves. One way is to make them laugh. David Raymond organizes seminars on workplace fun. He says it creates camaraderie and keeps workers active.
DAVID RAYMOND: We want to make sure it's appropriate and easy for everybody to participate, but we want some of the things to be physically challenging.
GUPTA: Employees feel more energetic.
CORRINE LESTER, HAPPY EMPLOYEE: Having fun activities allows you to have a better frame of mind when you're working.
GUPTA: And there could be real health benefits as well. Research shows laughter can help blood flow, preventing diseases such as hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and strokes.
DR. MIKE MILLER, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND MEDICAL CTR.: When we have a good laugh, or we feel very relaxed, it, in a way, helps us to rejuvenate.
GUPTA: It also reduces stress shown to be a primary factor when it comes to weight gain and heart problems.
Other ways to encourage happy workers? Well, Google provides activities like volleyball and scooters on the job. Other companies even allow pets in the office. All aimed at keeping employees relaxed, and more productive. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting. (END VIDEOTAPE)
CHETRY: That looks like fun, right? As always, for more information go to cnn.com/fitnation.
How about this? Do you like to sing along to musicals? How about the movies? Well, now you can, without shame, even if you don't know the words. It's a new version of "Hairspray."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was interactive to the audience and it's like a welcome change from sitting like statues!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: Our Lola Ogunnaike takes the karaoke challenge. You can't stop the beat ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN HOLLYWOOD CORRESPONDENT: One more time!
(GIRLS SINGING): You can't stop the beat!
CHETRY: Well, there it is. "Good Morning, Baltimore", everyone knows that part, but what about the other words to the "Hairspray" song? Our Lola Ogunnaike went out to check out a new version that will help you out with the lyrics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It can bring the fans closer to the movie and makes them feel like they're in the movie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was like interactive with the audience and its like a welcome change from just like sitting like statues!
OGUNNAIKE: See, I don't know the words to anything so I'm like. You can't top the beat -- and then -- lama, jama, nama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was singing in the version that you couldn't sing to, so now I'm not annoying the people next to me!
OGUNNAIKE: Come on!
OGUNNAIKE: One more time!
Bring it home!
CHETRY: Very cute! So this is the version with the karaoke lyrics right on the screen?
OGUNNAIKE: Yep. They call it "Hairy-oke" It is going to be at 100 theaters across the country. Tampa, Atlanta, San Francisco. It's here in Midtown Manhattan. People are really getting into it, Kiran. They're always singing anyway so now let's make it official.
CHETRY: Exactly. The people who don't want people singing aren't going to go to those ones for sure.
OGUNNAIKE: There are some people who should leave the singing to the shower. But there are some people who are actually really good. It felt like "American Idol" when I was there the other night.
CHETRY: Very cute.
Now, a couple of other movies out, "El Cantante" is out with Jennifer Lopez and her hubby, Marc Anthony. The last time she tried to do something with her significant other, it didn't turn out so great.
OGUNNAIKE: Yes, last time she was on screen with a significant other it was "Gigli" with Ben Affleck. The whole "Bennifer" situation did not turn out good.
This is a lot better than "Gigli" -- not hard, considering that "Gigli" was such a bomb. It's getting middling reviews, though, two stars.
Jennifer is actually really good. Marc Anthony is actually the one who struggles in this. It's a biopic, it's sort of like the Latin version of "Ray" or "Walk The Line."
CHETRY: Exactly. And your recommendation, quickly before we go for the weekend, would be "The Bourne Ultimatum", with Matt Damon? You loved it?
OGUNNAIKE: This is a summer of three-peats and usually the films get worse as they go along, but "Bourne Ultimatum", I think is best one. I have to say. The car scenes, the chase scenes are amazing. The fight scenes are great. It's been compared to James Bond flicks. But the theme -- as you know, James Bond has gadgets. Bourne, actually does damage with a washcloth. And that's all I'm saying.
CHETRY: All right, that's your pick, so I'll trust you on that one. Lola Ogunnaike, great to see you. Thanks.
Also, coming up, the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what they're working on for the top of the hour. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: See these stories at the CNN NEWSROOM.
Search and recovery: Divers back in the Mississippi River to find victims of the Minnesota bridge collapse.
America's bridges getting older and handling more traffic. Are they safe?
Popular toys pulled from store shelves. "Made in China", making headlines again.
NEWSROOM just minutes away at the top of the hour on CNN.
CHETRY: We had to show you this. It was an unbelievable wipe out at the X Games. There you see it. A skateboarder, 40, 50 feet in the air and just crashes to the ground. That was skateboarder Jake Brown. It happened right at the end of the mega-pipe with throws boarders almost four stories into the air.
He let go of the skateboard. Fell to the bottom. Hit so hard actually the sneakers flew off. He didn't move for several seconds, but was eventually able to walk away. Taken to the hospital for observation. He's doing all right -- and he came in second in that event, by the way, John.
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