Return to Transcripts main page


Emergency Landing on Hudson River

Aired January 15, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Breaking news tonight. Shocking scenes out of New York in what the state`s governor, David Paterson, has called a miracle on the Hudson.
U.S. Airways flight 1549 made an extraordinary emergency landing, belly-flopping into the frigid waters of the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan, just blocks from where I`m sitting right now.

What we know is the Airbus 320 departed New York`s La Guardia Airport at about 3:24 this afternoon en route to Charlotte, North Carolina. Less than four minutes later, the pilot radioed air traffic control, reporting a double bird strike, telling controllers he needed to turn back. Then radio silence.

Within moments, the pilot, who is being called a hero tonight, headed south over the Hudson River and made an emergency but controlled landing into the icy waters at about 3:31 p.m. Eastern. Aviation officials report all 148 passengers and five or six crew members were rescued and are safe, although Mayor Bloomberg is saying they`re double-checking just to be absolutely sure.

I now want to turn to my panel of experts. On the phone, Linda Powells, former commercial airline pilot who has written a column on bird strikes; Arthur Wolk, aviation expert and pilot; Peter Golls, former NTSB managing director; and Jerry Wallace, who was a witness to the crash.

And we`re going to start with Mr. Wallace because he saw it all.

You saw the plane hit the water. You live nearby, near the Hudson. You were looking right at it. Tell me what you saw, Jerry.

JERRY WALLACE, WITNESS: Jane, it was a -- it was a remarkable sight, almost surreal. It`s certainly nothing that you`d expect to see ever. I - - I was going to my window, which overlooks the Hudson from the 22nd floor of my apartment building.

And I immediately noticed the aircraft coming down. It was in a very controlled manner. It was like a normal landing approach. I could see that flaps had been deployed on the aircraft. The landing gear were not down, but that the plane was absolutely in a controlled manner.

As soon as I realized it was going to go into the water and ditch into the water, I -- I decided I would take a picture. And as I was thinking about taking a picture, it occurred to me I should be calling 911 and not taking a picture. So as the aircraft came down and touched the water, I was on the 911 call.

And as soon as that concluded, which was very promptly handled, I then started taking a series of pictures and, hopefully, those have been shared with everybody now so you -- so you can see them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask this. When the plane landed in the water, apparently, there were some -- I`ll call them exit row heroes. One of the passengers on the plane said that they were actually holding the doors of the plane as the plane landed and, immediately, those doors opened. What did you see in terms of how soon the doors -- the exit doors began opening?

WALLACE: From the time the actual splash subsided to the plane hitting the -- landing on the water, the doors immediately began to open on -- the two front doors, as well as the doors over the window. It was almost immediate. And people began queuing out.

And what I saw was a -- was a very orderly movement of people coming out of the airplane on both sides in the front and then coming out over the wings. People coming out and queuing up on the wings, some of them with life preservers on and some of them that didn`t have life preservers on. And I tried to capture some of those in the pictures I was taking.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So what I`m hearing from you is that people were calm, cool, and collected as they exited the plane. There didn`t seem to be hysteria? No pushing, no shoving? All really civilized, controlled behavior?

WALLACE: My goodness. I`ve sat on a plane just like myself, and I`ve sat on the exit row myself. And you always ask yourself that kind of hypothetical question, "what if?" And I was watching people coming out through the exit rows with my binoculars, and people were helping people. And it was absolutely -- looked like a very controlled process going on.

And once again, people were queuing up, walking down the wings, and helping each other out.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, Jerry, to me the story here is how many heroes. You have the heroic pilot. We`re going to get to him in a second. What a hero that man is.

You have the heroic passengers, who were calm, cool, and collected. In fact, one passenger said there was a woman with a young infant, and everybody basically said, "That person is getting off first." They moved to the side as the infant -- the mom and the infant passed through. So you had this really civilized behavior.

You also had these boats that seemed to come out of nowhere to rescue these passengers standing there on the wing and in these little rafts that are attached to the plane. They seemed to come out of nowhere. Tell us about those boats.

WALLACE: In the series of pictures I took, you can see immediately one of the river ferries, which I was watching through my binoculars, was going across the river. As soon as the captain of the ferry noticed it, he made a sharp turn to the right, from my perspective. And made a -- a quick but cautious approach up to the -- up to the aircraft, because there were some items floating around in the water. I think there might have been one or two people in the water at that point.

And he made a cautious approach to the boat. Came right up onto the aircraft, came right up to the aircraft, and you could see immediately people going back and forth, lending assistance back and forth.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, I`ve tried to get onto boats before, in my life, and it`s always struck me how -- how high they are when you`re in the water. What was the manner in which they were literally pulled from the rafts or from the wing and whisked onto the boats? Because it would strike me that they might need a rope or they might need some kind of extra assistance.

WALLACE: Initially, it appeared that the gentleman -- or the captain of the ferry came up bow first to the aircraft, and people were -- you could see people on the rails of the boat helping people.

And then some of the other ferries started coming up, came up bow first. A couple of them came up stern first, and then they -- they started moving people.

The whole sequence was so rapid, though, from the time it hit the water, from the time the people were out of the aircraft and filing out, and from the time the first boat got there, the second boat began to arrive. And then you could see the emergency response.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How much -- how much time do you think?

WALLACE: I would say we`re looking at maybe three to four minutes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh. That`s -- that`s fantastic. That`s amazing. It really is -- must have been surreal. You said surreal.

WALLACE: It really was. I mean, whenever you see an airplane getting ready to go in the water, you really doubt what you`re seeing. And so I kind of had to calibrate to that.

But I`m a private pilot, also, so I do have some experience in flying. And the pilot was doing a superb job. He couldn`t have put that plane in the water better.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have this amazing technology called Google Maps. And I want to show it to you, because it really shows the trajectory of this flight and the plane, exactly where it took from at La Guardia. It was headed west, and then after traveling for a very short period of time, then makes a turn and starts going south. There it is about to go south, down the Hudson River.

At this point, it`s believed that the pilot knows that he`s got trouble. And he has to make that emergency landing right there in the middle of the Hudson River between Manhattan, not far from where I`m sitting right now, and New Jersey.

How extraordinary, Mike Brooks. We are talking about a hero. I can`t mention this pilot`s name enough. C.B. "Sully" Sullenberg III. This man is a captain at U.S. Airways. Previously, a fighter pilot at the U.S. Air Force -- or with the U.S. Air Force.

And guess what, Mike? He`s president and CEO of something called Safety Reliability Methods. Certainly, a well-earned name tonight. More than 40 years of flying experience. And he has also participated in several NTSB accident investigations.

Was this just textbook perfect landing in a horrible situation?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN ANALYST: I`ll tell you what, Jane. You couldn`t have asked for a better landing. That Sully and his first officer, whoever he or she is, they -- they are the true heroes. Along with the flight attendants, Jane. Because you know, a lot of times people think, oh, the flight attendants are there to get us a cocktail and some peanuts.


BROOKS: But you have to remember that flight attendants are there for your safety. No. 1 priority.

And, in fact, I can guarantee you, everybody who is going to be flying after looking at this all day today, they`re going to pay attention next time. They`re going to look at that safety information card, and they`re probably going to give a little tug on the seat belt just to make sure that they are securely fastened about them.

Because you know, earlier on HLN, we heard one of the passengers who was there, talking about his experience. And how hard they did hit the water. And they said that, you know, thank God that there were no serious injuries in this thing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I mean, the plane could have split apart if the landing wasn`t handled correctly. It could have flipped over.

BROOKS: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And it was calm. The way it was described by one witness, it was almost like it looked planned. That`s how calm it was.

Jenny Ziesenhenne, you are a former flight attendant and instructor. I`m curious about what happens at the moment that it hits. What are the flight attendants trained to do to get everybody out? How did they get everybody out so quickly? And wasn`t this a race against time, because the bottom of the plane is starting to sink? In fact, they were not able to exit in the rear exits.

And I believe we actually have a mock-up of this particular Airbus, which we can show you. It appears to be that there are two, four, six, eight exits. And the exits in the back, the plane had already, apparently, sunk too low. They couldn`t use the exits in the back.

JENNY ZIESENHENNE, FORMER FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Well, what happens here is that you have flight attendants that are fully trained to immediately start the evacuation when they get the instructions or, in this case, I believe they said that the pilot came on and said, "Brace yourselves." so they know immediately what they`re going to do, because they`re so highly trained.

The flight attendants in the back know that, if they see water, they`re going to be moving the passengers to the front of the aircraft. The flight attendants at the front of the aircraft are beginning to initiate evacuations there. And the whole time, the whole idea is to keep people calm, moving, and to protect their lives.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Peter Golls, you were formerly with the NTSB. I want to ask you about the rafts. Because when these people go out -- and again, it`s a race against time because the boats -- the plane is sinking. And if it gets too low in the water for them to open the doors, the water goes gushing in, right? So it`s a race against time to get those doors open while they`re still above water. Is that correct?

PETER GOLLS, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: That`s correct. And, you know, you have a -- the general rule is 90 seconds to evacuate the plane after it comes to a stop. That`s what the crew trains for. That`s what the -- the rule is. And it sounds -- sounds like they did -- they did a great job. Sounds like people got out of there in an orderly fashion. And got out of there quick.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And what I`d like to talk about when we come back in just a moment is how they waited for the boats to pick them up. They were on the wings, standing there, ankle-deep in water. And some of them were in rafts. We`re going to analyze all of that. Panel, stay right there.

This is an amazing story. We can be so thankful no passengers were very badly injured. No life-threatening injuries, that`s for sure. We`ll have a lot more as these details keep rolling in. But first, here is one passenger`s account of this crash.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was it like when people initially tried to get out of the plane? Was it scary?

JEFF KOLODJAY, PASSENGER ON U.S. AIRWAYS FLIGHT 154: There was the baby with the lady I remember on my left-hand shoulder, and she was trying to crawl over the seats. And I just remember saying, you know, women and children first, you know?




GOV. DAVID PATERSON, NEW YORK: There is an heroic pilot who saved himself and approximately 154 other passengers this afternoon. We`ve had a miracle on 34th Street. I believe now we`ve had a miracle on the Hudson.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A miracle on 34th Street. I like the sound of that. That`s New York`s governor, David Paterson, applauding the heroics of the pilot, C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, who made an emergency landing right into Manhattan`s Hudson River earlier today.

I am back with my panel of experts. I want to go straight to Linda Powell. She`s a former commercial airline pilot and an expert in these bird strikes.

Let`s talk about the cause, Linda. According to eye witnesses, the plane hit a flock of birds. Some have said a flock of geese. The pilot reportedly reported a double bird strike. And Mayor Bloomberg says it appears both engines were knocked out. What do you know?

LINDA POWELL, FORMER COMMERCIAL AIRLINE PILOT: Hello, Jane. And hello to the panel. Thank you for having me.

I remember writing a column in 2003. I wrote a column called "From the Cockpit" for the Orange County Register, and I covered bird strikes quite extensively, actually, at that time. An American Airlines aircraft had had a bird strike coming out of La Guardia and diverted into New York. They actually had significant engine damage on only one of the engines. I recall it was an F-100 or Focal (ph) 100.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But in this case, you have what appears to be -- and we`re going to get some more insight into this in a moment. Appears to be both engines going out. So is it very likely that -- and, again, we have to wait for the NTSB investigation -- this plane hit a flock of geese and one goose got into each engine? How does it work? When a bird hits on engine, what happens?

POWELL: Damage, absolutely. And when you have migratory bird patterns, birds -- we don`t know yet whether it was Canadian geese or what type of bird. Of course, the NTSB will be able to determine that.

But the engine is -- can be damaged. It can be damaged to the point where it will not produce power. You can have damage to the fuselage, as well, the windshield, especially when the bird strikes are happening at lower altitudes right after take-off, which is the predominant occurrence of the bird strikes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right. And I`ve heard that New York is -- and we think of it as a big city, but it`s on the route that birds take from Canada all the way down to the south in the winter.

Arthur Wolk, aviation expert and jet pilot, this is the worst nightmare for a pilot. When something like this happens, it`s almost like lightning strikes twice. If, in fact, it was a bird in each engine, we don`t know that now. All we know is that you usually can fly a plane, right, with one engine?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And this plane had to land. So -- so give us your analysis of the bird issue.

WOLK: Well, clearly, you had a double engine failure. Otherwise, the plane wouldn`t have ended up in the water. So it`s obvious that more than one bird, likely, entered each engine. When these engines are originally certified, they actually shoot birds into the engines, and the engine cannot lose more than 25 percent of its power. Otherwise, you can`t certify it.

Unfortunately, the size birds they use are so small that they`re not realistic, compared to the kind of birds an airplane will hit, such as water foul.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, this is apparently geese, according to some reports. And again, all of this is preliminary. The NTSB is going to do an investigation, but we`ve heard geese, a flock of geese.

WOLK: Yes. The largest bird they use on certification is a four- pound bird. So you can get a -- either a large goose, or you can get a number of them in each engine. And that will cause the engines either to disintegrate, physically disintegrate, or flame out, meaning the fire goes out and you`re without power.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Art Cornelius, you`re a former commercial airline pilot. I understand that at airports, they have sirens. They have all sorts of mechanisms to scare the birds away from the runways. Is that correct?

Hey, Art. Art?

OK. Let me go back to Peter Golls on this. You`re with the NTSB. What is the mechanism to keep the birds away from the planes?

GOLLS: Well, there`s a variety of techniques that both the airports use, which they have -- they have trained dogs. They have sound devices. They destroy any habitat that would attract birds. There`s also the big -- the beginning of the introduction of radar that can see flocks of birds.

So I mean, bird strikes have been with aviation since the very earliest days. The first bird strike was with Orville and Wilbur Wright in 1905. So we`ve had them all the way along, in the history of aviation. And Arthur would know better. I think there`s probably been 400 deaths over the history of aviation due to a bird strike. So it`s not uncommon, but it certainly isn`t common.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike Brooks, what happens next in terms of the NTSB investigation and analyzing this plane, the black box? And I understand SCUBA divers have been deployed, as well as helicopters, just to make absolutely sure nobody is still in the water?

BROOKS: They`ll pull the -- the flight data recorder and the voice recorder. They`ll synch those up. They`ll pull the engines off and do analysis. They`ll be able to tell exactly how many birds, if it was birds, hit the engines, what size they were.

They`ll take a look at the flight control surfaces to see if there was any ancillary damage there. They`ll have a pretty good picture fairly quickly on what happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to go back to Jenny Ziesenhenne, former flight attendant instructor. When the folks get to the exit, what happens then? Because when we`re looking at the pictures -- and we do have a still photo of the actual plane with people standing on the wings. It appeared some went into these rafts that appeared to deploy automatically connected to the plane. Tell us about those.

ZIESENHENNE: Absolutely. What happens is, as soon as the plane has come to a stop, you assess, make sure that the door is above water; and then you open the door and it deploys. And you immediately start instructing people to get out of their seats, release their seat belts, and get into the rafts.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, you must be very scared when you open that door initially. Oh, my gosh, is water going to come pouring in? How do you deal with that?

ZIESENHENNE: Well, you just open it as quickly as possible. You assess it to make sure that it is not below water. That`s -- you know, you`ve -- that`s the thing, is you really have to get the speed up as quickly as possible. You are right about that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, just answer yes or no. Those rafts that we`re seeing alongside the planes, those are attached to the planes? They deploy automatically?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Thank you so much. Stay right there. Much more to cover on this truly amazing story. Incredible that nobody had any life-threatening injuries when this plane crashed into the Hudson River.

Back with more shocking details in just a moment.



MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: It would appear that the pilot did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river and then making sure that everybody got out. There is no reason to believe at the moment that this wasn`t something that we should thank God for, that everybody got out safely.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What a hero he was, indeed. More than 40 years of flying experience proved invaluable for C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger. He was the heroic pilot of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, not to mention 150 passengers, are praising today.

CNN`s Mary Snow joins us now on the phone from the banks of the Hudson River.

Mary, what is the latest? Where is the plane right now? And what`s the scene around you?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I`m staring at the plane right now. We are about two miles south of where it first hit the water. I can see the tail of the plane bobbing in this frigid Hudson River with many, many emergency crews down here in Lower Manhattan.

We`re told that it`s at -- there are about nine Coast Guard vessels that have been trying to stabilize this plane as it floated and drifted southward from where it made impact on the water. The current here is very, very strong.

And just so many amazing stories, Jane, that you`re hearing from passengers as they describe getting out of that plane in these frigid waters.

What Governor David Paterson was calling it is the miracle on the Hudson. We now know that that miracle that he so -- that he called -- includes an infant who was aboard the plane, 155 people including five crew members.

I spoke with one of the passengers, who said he was about two rows in front of one of the engines. He described it, hearing an explosion. He said he saw flames.

One thing that you keep hearing from people, it`s just how calm everyone stayed.


SNOW: And there are many people who are crediting the pilot for what they`re saying were really heroic actions. Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the press conference said the pilot walked through the plane a couple of times to make sure that...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s a very important piece of information that you just mentioned there, Mary. The pilot stayed. He was the last one off. He walked through the plane twice, Jerry Wallace, to make sure everybody was out before he, himself, exited.

Now, one of the things that Mayor Bloomberg said, Jerry, is that they are double-checking to make sure, triply sure, that everybody is out, because the boats took them hither and yon. Some went to New Jersey. Some went to New York. What did you see, Jerry?

WALLACE: I saw immediately the taxi boats converging from both directions: the New York side, as well as the New Jersey side. It was remarkable to see how fast and how quickly they responded. They were basically around the aircraft within a matter of minutes.

And all of them seemed to be working on either side of the aircraft, retrieving people, getting them off the wings and off of the rafts and into those respective boats.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: and one of the reasons why they were double and triple checking is that, apparently, some boats went to the New Jersey side, and some boats went to the Manhattan side. So the people who have had hypothermia injuries -- again, no life-threatening injuries -- are scattered at many hospitals across two states.

What do you know, Jerry, in terms of the direction of these boats?

WALLACE: I saw, once again, boats going -- coming from both directions and then exiting and going back out in both directions. From a hypothermia perspective, I think I did see a few people in the water. And certainly, people that were standing on the wings, part of their legs were in the water. And I`m sure it was quite cold.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you so much for your insights. Stay right there. We`ll have a lot more, coming up.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Breaking news tonight: what many are now calling the miracle in Manhattan. US Airways Flight 1549 bound for Charlotte, North Carolina, made an extraordinary emergency landing into the frigid waters of the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan less than four minutes after take-off from LaGuardia airport.

The pilot radioed air traffic control reporting a double bird strike. Frantically asking if he could turn back, but then realizing he wouldn`t make it. The pilot made an emergency landing into the icy waters at 3:31 p.m. Eastern time. Aviation officials report all 155 passengers and crew members were rescued and are safe.

Back with me: Mike Brooks, HLN law enforcement analyst, and Arthur Wolk, aviation expert.

Mike Brooks, I understand that there were divers that went into the water. There were helicopters hovering above the scene. And Mayor Bloomberg says they wanted to check not once but twice, three, four times to make sure everybody was accounted for.

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. What they did, they performed a grid search and made sure that no one else was in the water. But let me just tell you, Jane, the response to this was unbelievable. In fact, those ferry boats are part of the planned response for a waterborne incident in the Hudson River.

So you have those as first -- basically first responders. And they were -- they were responsible for saving many lives as well as the NYPD and the FDNY Marine and Harbor Unit. I meant, they did -- they did a great job. They put a couple of divers in the water. In fact, one diver, the mayor said, went -- from NYPD -- went into the plane just to make sure that it was clear.




BROOKS: Then one diver did go into the water just to make sure it was clear. It is truly, as the governor said, a miracle on the Hudson today.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And they really do have to check to make sure that everybody is accounted for, although they do believe they`ve gotten everybody, because everybody is scattered. You had some going to New Jersey, some going to New York. We`ve heard various different hospitals: Roosevelt Hospital, St. Vincent`s, Jersey City Medical Center, Palisades Medical Center.

Tell me about hypothermia, Mike Brooks, because that is apparently what most people are suffering from, although no life-threatening injuries.

BROOKS: No. No life-threatening injuries. One flight attendant either might have had a possible fracture; she was taken to Roosevelt Hospital. But hypothermia, Jane, cold water is considered anything -- any water temperature below 70 degrees. That`s when you start to lose your core temperature and you figured that the water there today was 32.5 degrees --


BROOKS: -- 21-degree air temperature. Those people were standing on the wings with water up to their knees. In fact, there were at least two people that were fully submerged in the water. So you`ve got the cold water playing a role in this. You`ve got the wind chill and, you know, the wind going across exposed skin.

That`s why we were seeing so many of these people start to become hypothermic because your core temperature -- you start to lose temperature and you lose a lot out of your head and a lot of people weren`t able to retrieve any kind of hats, gloves. That`s why they were becoming so hypothermic.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s right. And speaking of passenger, we`re going to hear from one now. The plane dumped down in the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey. And it was really a stunning emergency landing.

I`d like you to listen to one of the passengers describe exactly what happened.


JEFF KOLODJAY, PASSENTER: Got some bad leg injuries and everything, but all in all, I give my hats off to the pilot.


I mean -- I think there`s five life rafts. I think everyone made it on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did the pilot say? Why did you have to make an emergency landing?

KOLODJAY: I guess an engine blew and no engine. It was -- it was bad, man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How strong was it when you hit the water?

KOLODJAY: It was pretty bad.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he indicate --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: There you have it. Arthur Wolk, you`re an aviation expert. These are second-by-second decisions that are life and death. And this pilot handled it textbook all the way down the line. Fascinating to me.

ARTHUR WOLK, AVIATION EXPERT: No question about it. That`s why we call him captain because he`s trained. He`s experienced. And he understands how to handle emergencies.

Having said that, and as an airline transport pilot myself, I will tell you that having a double engine failure and deciding to land in the water because any other place would be even more hazardous is a stunning achievement.

But an even more stunning achievement is to get the airplane into that water without it cart-wheeling, without it flipping over, without it breaking apart. And so his achievement will probably go down in the annals of aviation history as one of the most brilliant piloting jobs ever.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike Brooks, he has more on 40 years` experience as a pilot. Used to be with the U.S. Air Force and apparently assisted the NTSB in some accident investigations. So this is a man -- not to mention being an instructor at one point. This is a man who knows his stuff. If you had to have one person in that seat at that time, this was the guy to have.

BROOKS: I`ll tell you what, he and that first officer -- they did -- and the flight attendants, again, did a remarkable job and saved many, many lives today, Jane.

Right now, it looks like they are -- the plane has been secured to a tug and they`re trying to tow it over to the New York Waterway Ferry Terminal, which is just north of the World Financial Center. That`s where -- it`s going to take some time because the tides were going out, Jane, and the water was very, very swift, as we heard from our correspondent down on the -- on the riverbank there. And, you know, with the -- with darkness.

But they`re going to try to tow it over to the New York Waterway Ferry Terminals where the NTSB investigation will begin.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we can`t forget the exit row heroes and the flight attendants.

Arthur Wolk, apparently everybody was operating in heroic fashion. Initially, according to one passenger, there was a little bit of panic and then somebody said, be quiet, shut up or something like that, and everybody calmed down. Psychologically, what happens in situations like this, to see this remarkable civility in a moment that you would expect complete panic?

WOLK: I think the -- the best way to describe it is that -- when the times get tough, it`s time to get tougher. And that`s exactly what the passengers did. This is a marvelous achievement by all aboard.


WOLK: And I think it`s a great credit to everyone who was on that aircraft for having done everything right, which is why they`re all going to go home tonight.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. The pilot did everything right. The flight attendants did everything right. The passengers did everything right. Actually some of them at the exit rows holding the doors and at the moment of impact, opening those doors immediately. From eye witnesses who were observing this from a distance, everybody did the right thing. They even let the mother with the child off first, which is just truly -- it just gives me hope for human nature.

Mike Brooks, you`re going to have the last word. We only have a couple of seconds.

BROOKS: You`re absolutely right. All the other stories that we always cover about tragedy and kidnappings and everything else, this is, you know -- as he said, a miracle on the Hudson today. My hat is off to the crew, the flight attendants, and as I always say, Jane, you play like you train. They are very well-trained. And the plan came together today.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Mike, you and I have covered so many tragic stories that are so depressing, that leave you so down. This one is really upbeat. This is a great story. It really kind of restores my faith in human nature. Thank you both, Mike and Arthur; a truly remarkable story. Come back soon.

Stunning new developments in the Caylee Anthony case tonight: meter reader Roy Kronk revealing shocking details about his gruesome discovery of Caylee`s remains. He reportedly now believes he saw her tiny skull back in August when he first alerted authorities.


ROY KRONK, METER READER: There`s a fallen tree that looks like somebody tried to cut on it at one point. There was a white board hanging across the tree, and there was something round and white underneath of it. And I don`t know what it is. But it just didn`t look like something that should be there.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Round and white. Could Kronk have seen Caylee`s tiny skull back in August? We`re going to get to the bottom of it.

Meantime, just days after Kronk lashed out against him on national television, Richard Cane, the sheriff`s deputy Kronk claims blew him off rudely back in August, is reassigned. Cane forced to surrender his gun and badge until the internal investigation into his conduct is over.

Also breaking, the Anthony family has released photos they claim prove items described to Dominic Casey over the phone from states away by a psychic were, in fact, at the scene. Yet questions still surface about the psychic`s credibility.

And on top of all of that, another high-profile expert joins Casey Anthony`s defense team. Is it really the dream team of the 21st century? We`re going to discuss.

We want to hear from you. Give me a buzz: 1-877-JVM-SAYS; that`s 1- 877-586-7297.

Let me bring in my expert panel: Sharon Liko (ph), family lawyer, criminal defense attorney; and Bill Manion, pathologist and assistant medical examiner for Burlington County, New Jersey; and Ric Robinson, former state trooper; as well as Drew Findling, criminal defense attorney and Kathi Belich, CNN affiliate WFTV correspondent, who has done excellent work covering this case since the beginning.

Kathi, what is the very latest tonight?

KATHI BELICH, WFTV CORRESPONDENT: Well, we`ve heard that -- as you said -- Deputy Richard Cane has been relieved of his gun and badge at this point; reassigned to work in supply until the end of this investigation. It turns out he`s the same deputy who investigated the Anthonys` missing gas cans back in June 24th.

Also, the defense has gotten autopsy photos now and gotten photos of Caylee`s remains from investigators. Also, the search warrant affidavit from the search of the Anthonys` house on December 11th and that affidavit could tell us the story behind what was found at the scene and what -- based on that, what led investigators to search the Anthonys` house.

We should be getting that search warrant affidavit sometime next week.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Drew Findling, you`re an attorney. Do we have here a failure to communicate when Roy Kronk now says, "Oh, I think I actually did see Caylee`s skull back in August?" And apparently he did not convey with enough urgency or he really was blown off rudely by this officer who reported it as more trash.

DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: You know, preserving the integrity of a crime scene is stressed not only in local police departments, but by the department of justice; and not just the first crime scene, the primary crime scene, but secondary crime scenes. And when a patrol officer gets information like this, it`s his responsibility to not only take it in, but to let the detectives know immediately.

It was not for him to blow off. And what he`s doing is opening the door because there`s got to be a forensic fight that`s going to be started by the defense because the integrity of the crime scene was clearly compromised. Better testing would have been made available had this information been conveyed early on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You are right; much more analysis of the Caylee Anthony coming up in just a moment. Stay right there.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The latest bizarre twists in the Casey Anthony case in just moments.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight: shocking developments in the case of Charlie Myers, accused of killing a young mother in front of her 4- year-old son but only after she tried to save the little boy from being sexually assaulted by 22-year-old Myers.

Today, this confessed killer was indicted on 20 counts, including aggravated murder, robbery, kidnapping, and gross sexual imposition of a child under 13. Just hours ago, another bombshell: prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty for Charlie Myers.

Also tonight, new developments in the case we`ve been following of news anchor Anne Pressly who died five days after she was found severely beaten in her home. The suspect, 28-year-old Curtis Vance, hauled into court where he entered a not guilty plea to capital murder and rape charges. On his way out, Vance said, cops have the wrong guy. Interesting considering police found Vance`s DNA at the scene of the crime. If convicted, Vance could also face the death penalty.

Now to the continuing tragedy in Florida that is the Caylee Anthony murder case. I`m back with my panel to discuss all the latest twists and turns, and we are taking your calls. Phone lines lighting up.

Martha in Kentucky, your question, ma`am.

MARTHA, FROM KENTUCKY: Yes. Everybody talks about where the remains were found. What about where the body was actually killed?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, you raise a very good point. Dr. Bill Manion, there has been so much focus on the scene of the remains. The area approximately 15 homes away from the Anthony family, this wooded area where Roy Kronk first reported seeing something suspicious in August, where the private investigator for the Anthony family went and videotaped in November. Where little Caylee`s remains were ultimately found in mid- December.

But that doesn`t mean that she was killed there; far from it.

DR. BILL MANION, PATHOLOGIST: No. It seems the evidence now shows that she was killed at home. There was decomposition in the trunk of the car and her body was transported there.

I guess what bothered me today when I read the story that Mr. Kronk thought he saw a skull in August, correct me if I`m wrong, but when I first heard about Mr. Kronk discovering the skull, he said he picked up a plastic bag and the skull rolled out of the bag. How did the skull get back in the bag? He said it was sticking out of the bag. This was from August until December? I just don`t believe it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: None of it really makes a whole lot of sense.

MANION: The body could remain undisturbed for five months with animals and wind and rain and flooding. It doesn`t make sense to me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here`s another problem. Okay. He made the call on August 11th, and if Caylee was killed June 16th, as police believe, driven around for two days and then dropped at that location on June 18th, would there be enough decomposition between June 18th and when he spotted the bag/whatever he spotted on August 11th to actually reveal a skull?

MANION: Yes, I thought about that. It`s in the summertime, it`s very warm. Animals have access to that, insects and the water. All kinds of decomposition is going to take place. I believe that the skull could have become skeletonized in that period of time, in that two-month period of time. You could have had just the skeleton remaining there after being in the elements for two months.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ric Robinson, former West Virginia state trooper, what about this deputy at the center of the storm? He`s had to hand in his badge, his gun, his patrol car. He`s been assigned to the sheriff`s department`s version of Siberia as the internal investigation happens.

First of all, why are they still investigating this? Why haven`t they resolved this a long time ago?

RIC ROBINSON, FORMER STATE TROOPER: Well, they want to make sure that they get the facts out. And I have to tell you, police agencies -- when I was director of the state police, I was absolutely firm that we needed to make sure that anything we were involved in, if it was right, if it was wrong, get it out, get it over with.

Even though everything I`ve read about and everything I`ve heard about the Orange County Sheriff`s Department, they`re a really top-of-the-line police agency. But maybe public relations-wise, they need a little work.

As a matter of fact, I think Kronk has probably done a good job because at least he has come out. Even though I think at this point he`s really kind of getting into the act even more, saying that he thought maybe he saw a skull and months went by and then he`s urinating out some place in a snake-infested swamp and looks down and all of a sudden there`s this body -- but listen.

I don`t want to vilify the guy. He might have been a decent guy that was just upset that he wasn`t listened to and he went out and looked for himself. If he would have said that, I would say to you, you know, he`s probably being straight with you. But saying he`s driving along, he had to go to the bathroom, he walks out, snakes I don`t care, I`m tinkling and I look down and I see a body, that`s just -- I don`t believe in coincidences.


Drew Findling, this is such a distraction right now to the case. It`s also creating all sorts of chaos. Why isn`t the internal affairs investigation by the sheriff`s department done already? The body was found a long time ago, December 11th. We heard the 911 calls. We`ve heard Roy Kronk`s accusations that he wasn`t listened to for a long time.

ROBINSON: But Jane, remember, just because somebody had said something or accused her of something. When we were talking last night, I thought, if this guy has got a couple of complaints on his record, I really don`t know how you can be an effective, aggressive law enforcement officer and not have people disagree. You`re taking away their liberty. You`re arresting them and you`re doing things sometimes that they don`t like, so, yes, you get complaints. That didn`t bother me.

I have to tell you, knowing that his police powers had been taken, his gun, his badge, he no longer has the power to arrest --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m just saying they need to either exonerate him the way they did on the previous ones or not? But they should just resolve it.

ROBINSON: They have got to be right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They have to resolve it right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got to go. Hold on one second. We`ll be right back.

Much more to sort through in the Caylee Anthony case; it gets more bizarre by the minute. Here`s another of meter reader Roy Kronk`s more infamous calls to 911.


KRONK: There`s a fallen tree where it looks like someone tried to cut on it at one point, but there was a white board and there was something round and white underneath of it and --



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lots to talk about tonight in the Caylee Anthony murder investigation. Back with my panel.

Cheryl in New York, your question or thought, ma`am.

CHERYL, FROM NEW YORK: Hi Jane. Love your show.


CHERYL: I have a question, I want to know why back in August when Kronk was with the deputy out there, why didn`t he walk down into the woods with that deputy to show him exactly where it was and what he saw.

ROBINSON: I believe I can probably answer that. Because there were snakes, and if I had a guy working for me that went into a swamp, just waded into a swamp where you know there`s for instance, six and a half foot rattle snakes, I would say this, is a guy I probably don`t want working for me. The mistake, I think that Richard Cane may have made, I would have gone back to the office to a supervisor and said we need on get a boat and go out there and see what that is. Maybe it`s just trash, maybe there`s nothing to it, but we need to do that and it sure seems as though that was not done.

FINDLING: I`ll tell you, Jane. Let me tell you where the mistake was made.

SHARON LIKO, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It`s Monday morning quarterbacking. It`s really easy to say after the fact you should have done this or you should have done that. How many leads do you think these people had? How many calls do you think they had? Thousands. They cops have to make a judgment call as to whether they need to follow up on every single thing. If they thought it was a credible concern of somebody then they would have gone out there and followed up.


FINDLING: I`ll tell you when the mistake was made and I was interviewed about this in August. The mistake was made in the hasty nonsense arrest of Casey back in the beginning of the case. This isn`t, unfortunately, the first of these cases and even more unfortunately, it`s not the last. But in cases of this magnitude with missing children, normally you let the patient linger out from. You can constitutionally wiretap bedrooms, phones, cars, everything. You`ve got psychics --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why is that a mistake, Drew?

LIKO: She was lying to the police.

FINDLING: We have got psychics involved.

LIKO: They`re in the investigation so they didn`t have to wait until they had a murder charge.

ROBINSON: What it really boils down to --


FINDLING: That`s not the way these cases are usually investigated and then you don`t have to worry about psychics. You don`t have to worry about bondsmen coming in from other parts of the country. You let the person if you think they did it, crack and you take more than one shot at an interview.

This was poorly handled from the beginning.

ROBINSON: You know I`m listening and I have the feeling this guy`s been watching a little too much of those late-night cop shows.

FINDLING: No, I tried more of these cases than you`ve probably ever been involved in.

ROBINSON: Talk about a Monday morning quarterback.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have to leave it right there but we`re going to have you all back real soon to continue this fierce debate.

I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell and you`re watching "ISSUES" on HLN.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: More on the murder of the heroic Ohio mother who with her last breath fought to save her four-year-old boy from the clutches of an alleged sexual predator. Twenty-two-year-old Charlie Myers indicted today on 20 counts including murder and kidnapping. Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty. Will they also seek to have the little boy testify?

That`s tomorrow on "ISSUES."

Now it`s time to check in with Nancy Grace. Hi, Nancy. What do you have for us tonight?

NANCY GRACE, ANCHOR, "NANCY GRACE SHOW": Jane, minutes after takeoff, a US airbus -- a 320 packed with nearly 200 passengers slams into the freezing Hudson River; the Coast Guard racing to rescue.

And Jane, new jailhouse video of intense confrontation, grandparents George and Cindy Anthony visiting the tot mom behind bars. We have the video.

And just confirmed, the attorney for Lee Anthony has made it very clear announcing tot mom brother Lee Anthony will seek criminal immunity.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. Incredible, Nancy, thank you.

"Nancy Grace" starts right now.