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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Train Derailment; Interview with Mike Rogers, Dianne Feinstein

Aired December 1, 2013 - 12:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Good afternoon from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley. We're following two breaking news stories today. First, that deadly train derailment in New York City. These are live pictures of a Metro North commuter train that went off the tracks at the Spuyten Duyvil Station in the Bronx this morning. Four people are dead, at least 67 people have been injured, 11 of them are in serious condition.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation tells CNN the train's operator, who was among the injured, says he applied brakes to the train but it did not slow down.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has visited the crash site, and President Obama has been briefed on the incident. We will continue to follow this story and update you throughout this hour.

Here in Washington today was the self-imposed deadline for the Obama administration's healthcare.gov Web site to be working for what the White House had called a majority of users. Obama administration officials briefed reporters a short time ago. I want to bring in CNN's Tory Dunnan.

So, Tory, is it all fixed?

TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, I think the safe answer is going to be, we'll see. But, bottom line, the administration believes they've met the goal of having a system that will work smoothly for the vast majority of users. Let's take a listen to what the president's point person on this, Jeff Zients, had to say during a conference call earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFREY ZIENTS, SPECIAL ADVISER, HEALTHCARE.GOV: The bottom line, healthcare.gov, on December 1st, is night and day from where it was on October 1st.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DUNNAN: "Night and day," those are his words.

I do have to say we really won't know for sure until users try to get on that Web site over the days and months to come. But on the call officials pointed to what they say is dramatic progress being made on the site, that average response times for a page should now take a fraction of a second, that's down from eight seconds.

They also say they've decreased the error rate from 6 percent to below 1 percent, and that 50,000 users should be able to get on the site at any given time. That's actually double what it was.

Now if there are more users at any given time as well, people will be put in a virtual queue. They will then receive an email that tells them of a better time to come back and try. We're told the system should be able to support at least 800,000 consumers a day.

But this may not be over yet, because, Candy, the administration says that more work will be done in the weeks and months to come. Lots of numbers there. But that's pretty much the bottom line, what we heard today.

CROWLEY: And Tory Dunnan, thanks so much. I think this is something we'll watch throughout the rest of the week. Thank you.

The question now is, if this is a reboot, and if it is successful, will it help the president get back on his feet? Joining me CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein.

He has clearly taken a hit. We see right track/wrong track going up.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Confidence, trust...

CROWLEY: Everything, yes.

BROWNSTEIN: ... pretty much all -- the full monte here.

And, you know, I think you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So it's not likely that even if this is working better that public opinion will turn around overnight.

I think the real critical question here is not whether the system is now ideal, because we know it's not, whether it's good enough to buy them some time on two fronts: politically to push back against some of the criticism they've been facing; and more important, substantively, they want to sign up 7 million people by the end of March.

We're now talking about a four-month sprint. Yes, some of the blue states are making progress, but this federal site has to start signing up people a lot faster than it has been.

CROWLEY: And what about the rest of the agenda do you think? I mean, is it all dependent on getting this thing running?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think, you know, the rest of the agenda was problematic to begin with. We look at the other big item, is immigration reform. And, you know, there -- that really is an internal battle inside the Republican Party, between those who believe they have to resolve this by 2016, and a more conservative base in the House that's reluctant to move forward on what the Senate has done. So his leverage was limited to begin with. But when your approval rating is down south of 40 percent, the leverage that was limited really becomes miniscule. So, yes, I think getting this on track is clearly the key to having any hope of achieving anything else in his -- in the second term.

CROWLEY: Ron Brownstein, thank you.

Earlier, I spoke to Howard Dean and Rick Santorum right as the news about the Web site was breaking.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Joining me now, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Gentlemen, thank you both for coming. Let's first react to this website. The old rule, Governor Dean is, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Is there lasting -- let's assume that everything they say right now is right. And we won't know until people try to get on, but let's assume it's right. Can the president right this ship? Or has some lasting damage been done?

DEAN: I think the president can right this ship. This website is now apparently functional now. I haven't tried the website. But if this program works, and I think it will, three months from now, a huge number of people who didn't have health insurance are going to have it, and mostly at a better price. I think that's the proof in the pudding. So I think this is all dependent on how well the system functions, not on all the propaganda or the screaming and shouting and yelling that is going on in Washington. It's going to be ordinary people's experience and their neighbor's experience with this website.

CROWLEY: Senator, I think you have a differing view just because I was watching your reaction as Joe was reporting.

SANTORUM: Yes, this really feeds into the president's competence. That's really the question that the people have, is the president competent to do his job? And Obamacare is certainly front and center. What's going on in the Middle East is another area. There's a whole group of issues now that people are questioning. And you talk to anybody. I've talked -- I talked to an insurance -- some people in the insurance industry this morning. And they told me that most of the front end may be looking good. People may be able to get on and get responses, but the information coming out the back end to the insurance companies is still garbage. It's undecipherable. And it's requiring them to, on a case-by-case basis, actually have someone go -- because there's misinformation, there's triplicates, there's husbands labeled as wives. There's all sorts of problems with the data coming into the insurance companies. So you think you may have signed up, but you may not, because the insurance company may not have the data available to actually put you in the system.

CROWLEY: And Governor, to pick up on sort of the broader point from Senator Santorum. And that is that there has been this unease that has -- that started, you know, probably earlier than the launch of the website, but nonetheless has continued. I want to show you a CNN ORC poll. This is a good track, bad track, how well do you think things are going in the country today question. And right now, 59 percent of the country thinks things are going badly.

Now, that is up from September. It is nine points above April. So there has been this steady deterioration for how people feel about the direction the country's going. People no longer see President Obama -- I think only 40 percent of people see President Obama as able to kind of run the government. Is there that kind of lasting damage? That's certainly what Senator Santorum is talking about.

DEAN: No, I think there's no evidence for that at all. Again, I think that's right-wing talking points against this president. They've from day one when he got in there, they tried to undermine him as a human being. And I think that's, you know, it's not a tactic that's good for the country. So my view is --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Governor, it's true you had some -- it's true that you had reservations. You didn't like this when it first rolled out, right?

DEAN: No, this is -- look, this is not from my point of view an ideal plan, but this is what passed the Congress and this is the law. And Romney did the same, something very similar in Massachusetts, and it's worked very well. So who am I to say that the court -- the Supreme Court and the Congress of the United States is wrong all the time? I think we ought to make this thing work. It's the law. It can work. Mitt Romney proved it did work in Massachusetts, where 98.5 percent of all of Massachusetts citizens have health insurance.

I fail to see this has anything to do with the president's competence, other than the procurement process, which has been screwed up for many years, long before this president ever got into office.

So I lose my patience with this nonsense. And I do believe that the facts are going to be determined by what happens on the ground. And I think three months from now, a lot more people will have health insurance, and a lot more people will be happy with all of this.

SANTORUM: Well, first off, it's not nonsense. Massachusetts probably has the highest insurance rates in the country. So for all the quote, good it does, people pay a lot, and that's what you're going to see.

When this website eventually gets fixed, the problems really begin for this administration. Remember, this bill passed not because they put together this great plan. They put together in the Senate a bill that could get 60 votes and could be moved to the House and they could fix it in conference. Well, guess what, they never got a chance to fix it. This is a disastrous bill, No. 1. It is a big problem. The president stood behind it, promised all these things. What's going to happen? People's rates are going to go up, they are going to go up dramatically. They're going to see their premiums go up, they're going to see their deductibles go up. And here's the thing that again, no one's talking about. The networks, in other words the doctors and hospitals that are in these exchange products, are dramatically smaller.

In other words, yes, you'll be able to get your preventive care from your doctor, but if you want to go to the children's hospital, sorry, you can't get that kind of specialized care from specialized doctors. Why? Because the Obama bill set prices at such levels that doctors and hospitals, particularly the ones that are in high demand, do not participate in these programs. So you're going to see the end result be higher costs, less care, and then as a result, because they're narrow networks, longer waits and longer lines. This is just beginning, the disaster of Obamacare.

CROWLEY: Go ahead, Governor. I've heard that complaint, as well.

DEAN: We've heard this kind of talk -- we've heard this kind of talk for three years while these Republicans were trying to undermine this program. And what we haven't seen is what the results are. And I think that none of that's going to happen. There are going to be some rates that go up, because rates have been going up for 30 years. And there's no cost control in this bill and there was no cost control in Governor Romney's bill. That's going to have to come later. We're going to have to get away from fee-for-service medicine in order to do that. That was not addressed in this bill. That was not addressed in Romney's bill. Certainly wasn't addressed by the Republicans any time that they were in charge.

SANTORUM: I wasn't for either of them, Governor.

DEAN: So I really think we ought to have a little bit more forbearance. I think we ought to, for once, we ought to pull together and try to make this thing work.

It can work. Look, I was just as much of a critic of this bill as anybody else. But I think we ought to pull together and make the thing work, and I think it can work, and I think 30 million more Americans are going to have health insurance. And there's more work to be done.

SANTORUM: Well, let me just add that one of the solutions that President Obama tried to accomplish was to let people keep their own insurance. It turns out that a lot of insurance companies are actually allowing that to happen. And that could cause even more problems for Obamacare, because that means fewer and fewer people get into the exchanges. And the ones who at least to date, these are just facts, Governor Dean. The ones to date in the system are much older. I talked to one insurance company today that a third of their enrollees are over 60 years of age. That is not how an insurance system will work. And -- but those are the people signing up. And the folks who can keep their plans because they're more customized and lower cost, will now. And the folks who are going to get into these exchanges are going to be probably sicker, older, and as a result, premiums are even going to go higher.

CROWLEY: You know, Governor, this is -- you're right, this will play out -- go ahead.

DEAN: I think it's great we're insuring people who can't get insurance that are over 55 and 60, that's what this is supposed to do.

CROWLEY: Let me -- I just want to turn you both a little bit to something else, it's the Supreme Court agreeing to take up the case of two not for -- two for profit companies whose owners have an objection to certain forms of birth control. And the court has agreed to take that on to see whether the government can enforce them to include -- in this case, it's Plan B and Ella, which are morning after pills designed to prevent fertilization of an egg. And so this is going to the Supreme Court. That also could sort of upset the balance. Where do you think that's going, governor?

DEAN: Where do I think that's going?

CROWLEY: Yeah.

DEAN: I have no idea what the Supreme Court's going to do. They haven't been entirely favorable to women's ability to control their own reproductive lives. So I -- but I don't have any idea.

My view of that is we're a single country and I don't think employers get to impose their religious beliefs on their employees or any other beliefs, for that matter. I mean, this idea that we can pick and choose what we're going to do is a tough idea.

I was deeply opposed to the Vietnam War and I thought it was immoral because we were being lied to by our own government. I still paid my taxes and the people who didn't pay their taxes went to jail.

So, you know, this is one country. We all have to live by a set of things that are passed in Washington and agreed to by the court. We'll see what the court does, but I don't think a particular employer has a right to decide what kind of health care their employees are going to get.

That's now in the hands of the federal government and that's where it should be.

SANTORUM: I think Howard said it right that now individuals can't decide what kind of health care they want. The federal government is going to decide what your health care is and they're going to side what is moral-- CROWLEY: But they're talking about their employees' health care.

SANTORUM: Yeah, but it's going to decided what their employees' health care. This is a business, Hobby Lobby is a business. It is very explicit about their, they don't open on Sundays, they're very clear about their religious content. They give a huge amount of their money to charities that are faith-oriented charities.

I mean, the idea that the First Amendment stops after you walk out of a church, that it doesn't have anything to do with how you live the rest of your life, I don't know very many people of faith who believes that their religion ends with just worship, it ends in how you practice and live that faith.

And now with the federal -- what President Obama's saying, no, once you step outside that church door, then I get to impose my values on you. Your religious values don't matter anymore, it's my values that I can impose on you.

I don't think that's what the first amendment stands for and I don't think that's what the court will say.

CROWLEY: Senator Santorum, Governor Dean, I hope for you--

DEAN: What the First Amendment says that--

CROWLEY: I've got to end it there.

DEAN: First amendment says that -- OK.

CROWLEY: -- go ahead, finish the sentence.

DEAN: Go ahead.

CROWLEY: No, I'm going to let you finish your thought.

DEAN: I was just going to say, it says Congress shall not establish or shall establish no law regarding the establishment of a religion.

SANTORUM: Or free exercise thereof.

DEAN: That's pretty clear, your employer doesn't get to tell you what--

SANTORUM: Or the free exercise thereof. You didn't finish the first amendment -- or the free exercise--

DEAN: Or the free exercise thereof. That's correct. That means you can exercise it for yourself, but you can't force other people to conform to your religious beliefs.

SANTORUM: But the government can force you to violate your own religious--

DEAN: And it can't enable you to force your religious beliefs on other people.

CROWLEY: We're going to leave it there. The Supreme Court is going to rule eventually. I hope you'll both come back. Thank you so much, Senator Santorum, Governor Dean, appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: The investigation into that deadly train wreck in New York City is just starting, but the train's operator is offering some clues. An update on the derailment when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: An update now on that passenger train derailment in New York City, four people are dead, at least 67 are injured, including 11 who are seriously hurt.

The train's operator who is among the injured, tells authorities he applied the breaks, but the train did not slow down.

President Obama has been briefed on the derailment and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the scene.

We want to go now to CNN's Alexandra Field who is at the crash site.

Alexandra, what are you seeing and what information have you been able to collect?

ALEXANRA FIELD, CNN CORREPSONDENT: Well, Candy, we know that this train came off the tracks as it came around a sharp curve here in the Bronx. And we have now learned that the four people who were killed were riding in the two cars that flipped completely on their sides. We know now that three of them were thrown from the train, one remained inside the train.

It's just a horrifying sight when you see these train cars.

This is an eight-car train, seven of the cars came off the track. 67 people are injured, 11 of them in critical condition.

Emergency crews rushed here this morning to help those who were on board the train.

It's estimated there were about 100 people traveling on this train. They then began to search for anyone who could have been thrown from the train.

There were Coast Guard boats in the water as well as well as divers in the water and cadaver dogs searching the woods. We're told that no one was found in the water, people were only found inside the train and thrown from the train.

We do believe right now, according to emergency workers, investigators on scene, that everyone who was on the train traveling from Poughkeepsie this morning to Grand Center is accounted for.

The question everyone is asking why this train came off the tracks. Governor Andrew Cuomo was here this morning taking a look at the damage. Here's what he had to say when asked about a possible cause.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK: There are a number of factors that can be looked at. The NTSB is going to come up and do an investigation. Speed is one of the things they'll look at, they'll look at track condition, et cetera. But we shouldn't speculate on what they might find. Let them do the investigation and see what they might find.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FIELD: NTSB will be out here today with their investigators taking a look at the train and the tracks. For now, Candy, Metro north service is clearly suspended on this line, so is Amtrak service between New York City and Albany.

CROWLEY: Alexandra Field, thanks so much for that.

With me now on the phone, Aaron Donovan. He is spokesman for the Metro North railroad.

Andrew (sic) let me -- Aaron, let me ask you first if you have any update on the numbers that we have, the four dead, 60 plus injured. Is that still the case?

ARON DONOVAN, METRO NORTH SPOKESMAN: Hi, Candy. Yes, that's correct. The latest information we have is what Governor Cuomo released earlier, 63 injured and four dead as well.

CROWLEY: And can you tell me, do you have a handle -- is it even possible to get a handle on how many people were on that train at that time?

DONOVAN: Based on our normal count of passengers, we had approximately between 100 and 150 people on board that train. There would have been more people than normal.

Normal train capacity on that is 100 people, but with the holiday in place, we may have had as many as 150 people on the train, which is a very low number for a train that size. Given the early hour of the morning it would have been fewer passengers than normal.

CROWLEY: Right. And the divers in the water were clearly there searching for bodies or perhaps train parts as well. Was there reason to believe there were people in the water?

DONOVAN: I have not heard any reports of anyone in the water or any part of the train in the water. Certainly all of the first responders want to conduct as thorough an investigation as possible, and leave no stone unturned, and I imagine they're doing above and beyond their due diligence to send the divers into the water, but we have had no reports that any people were in the river.

CROWLEY: And what is the next step for you all? What is your - assuming that you have - are you convinced now that no one else is on the train or beneath the train? What is your next step?

DONOVAN: OK. Once we are this point convinced that we have accounted for all of the passengers on the train. The next step is to allow the NTSB to conduct a full and thorough investigation into all of the characteristics of the (inaudible), and looking at any number of factors. When the NTSB gives us the all-clear, then we can begin to repair and clean up the tracks. We'll bring in heavy equipment that is needed to rerail those cars and bring in the crane and put those cars back on the tracks. We need to get those cars away from that area and set them aside, so that further investigation can take place, and it will allow us to restore train service. At this point in time, we do not have any trains running through that section of track.

CROWLEY: Mr. Donovan, thank you so much for your time this morning. I know it's a hard time for the passengers and their relatives, but for you all as well. We appreciate it.

DONOVAN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: We'll continue to keep all of you updated on this breaking story throughout the day. When we come back, assessing the national security landscape and how safe we really are with Senate and House Intelligence Committee chairman, Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We are also watching other stories around the globe. This week marks the 12th Thanksgiving in Afghanistan for U.S. troops. It is a war that reminds us constantly we are only one missed piece of data away from another terror attack against the U.S. I spoke with the chairman of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: The big question that's always asked, are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago? In general?

FEINSTEIN: I don't think so. I think terror is up worldwide, the statistics indicate that, the fatalities are way up. The numbers are way up. There are new bombs, very big bombs, trucks being reinforced for those bombs. There are bombs that go through magnatometers. The bomb maker is still alive. There are more groups that ever and there's huge malevolence out there.

CROWLEY: So congressman, I have to say, that is not the answer I expected. I expected to hear, oh, we're safer. Do you agree?

ROGERS: Oh, I absolutely agree that we're not safer today for the same very reasons.

So the pressure on our intelligence services to get it right to prevent an attack are enormous. And it's getting more difficult because we see the al Qaeda as we knew it before is metastasizing to something different, more affiliates than we've ever had before, meaning more groups that operated independently of al Qaeda have now joined al Qaeda around the world, all of them have at least some aspiration to commit an act of violence in the United States or against western targets all around the world.

They've now switched to this notion that maybe smaller events are okay. So if you have more smaller events than bigger events, they think that might still lead to their objectives and their goals. That makes it exponentially harder for our intelligence services to stop an event like that.

CROWLEY: Because essentially one person can do a small event.

ROGERS: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: So, one of the things that the senator said was that there is more hatred out there, more -- and why is that?

FEINSTEIN: I think there is a real displaced aggression in this very fundamentalist, jihadist, Islamic community. And that is that the west is responsible for everything that goes wrong, and that the only thing that's going to solve this is Islamic Sharia law and the concept of the caliphate.

And I see more groups, more fundamentalists, more jihadists more determined to kill to get to where they want to get. So, it's not an isolated phenomenon. You see these groups spread a web of connections. And this includes North Africa, it includes the Middle East, it includes other areas as well.

CROWLEY: Lots of times we look at kind of some of these splinter groups going, yeah, but their interest is local.

ROGERS: And here's the -- but here's the concern of that. Now, remember, you have somewhere near 25 states that have some failed level of governance, meaning they can't secure large spaces of their own country. Those are always attractive for safe havens when it comes to any terrorist organization. And we're finding they're taking advantage of that.

So you see what's happening in a place like Syria where you have a pooling of al Qaeda members and affiliates of al Qaeda in a way we've never seen before at the level of numbers that we have never seen before, and here's the scary part of this, some thousands of people showing up to participate in that in their mind jihadist effort are westerners, meaning they have western passports.

A percentage of them have already gone home, including the United States, by the way, is included in that western number. We are very, very concerned that these folks who have western paper have gone there, participated in combat events, are trained, are further radicalized, now have the ability to go back in western countries.

We know that those--

CROWLEY: And to ply that trade.

ROGERS: Well, to ply that trade. And now they have a connection, a direct connection to al Qaeda affiliates operating in a place where most people would say, well, we have no interest in Syria. Well, clearly we do. And clearly, that's just one place. And it's starting to spread.

You saw what happened in Lebanon recently.

CROWLEY: In Lebanon, that's right.

ROGERS: Where they blew up the Iranian embassy.

This is all starting to spread. Iraq is having its problems now. It's spreading into Lebanon, Jordan has issues, Turkey along the border has issues. This is very, very, very concerning.

FEINSTEIN: There is now a bomb that can go through magnatometers. People can get on aircraft with those bombs. They have tried to send four into this country, two in printer cartridges, one by Abdulmutalleb, and one, asset, was able to obtain out of Yemen.

These were coming into this country, two of them aimed at synagogues in Illinois.

Now, having said that, the only way to stop this was with intelligence. The only way you could stop that is putting clues together to ferret out where this was coming from.

CROWLEY: So where is our weakest point?

ROGERS: Well, I mean, I think -- the threat level has never been more diverse than it is today. And that's one of the bigger, I think, concerns that we have. And I think why both -- we both would agree that the threat is higher today and we are probably less safe is the more efforts they try, the more perfect you have to be in order to stop something. And that's a huge challenge.

CROWLEY: And lucky.

ROGERS: And lucky.

And so, you think about what's happened with recent disclosures. We have now three al Qaeda affiliate groups have changed the way they communicate means it's less likely that we're going to be able to detect something prior to an event that goes operational, meaning that they've already started the final planning stages to blow something up or shoot someone.

And so we're fighting amongst ourselves here in this country about the role of our intelligence community that is having an impact on our ability to stop what is a growing number of threats.

And so we've got to shake ourselves out of this pretty soon and understand that our intelligence services are not the bad guys. The bad guys, the al Qaeda affiliates, Russian intelligence services, Chinese intelligence services, the Quds force that operates terrorism events all around the world, those are the folks we need to focus our attention and our energy on in order to keep America safe.

CROWLEY: So it seems to me what both of you are saying you haven't liked this focus on the NSA and the complaints about the NSA in terms of the breadth of what they're collecting. ROGERS: Well, I would argue it allows them to focus on the problem. We spend a lot of time now internally focused, their up -- I can't tell you the thousands of man hours they have spent trying to prepare people to understand fact from fiction, what is happening versus what is not happening.

And we both -- both of our committees take great pride in our real oversight function of which we participate in to make sure they're not violating the law.

Well, we've had to recreate all of that work over and over and over again every time there's a disclosure. And our fear is, every time we do that, we take them away from their focus, which is what is al Qaeda's next event? Who is moving somewhere in the world is trying to get into the United States or an allied country to kill somebody. And that part seems to have gotten lost in the fact that we have new threats.

I think people think what the senator was talking about, Dianne was talking about, was people think, well, we've got this thing beat, it's kind of over. We don't have to worry about al Qaeda anymore. And what we see is that's not the case.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: For more of our interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Mike Rogers, please go to cnn.com/sotu to hear about their fears for Afghanistan and their worries about Syria. But when we return, an update on that commuter train derailment in New York City, including new images from inside the train.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We continue to follow this hour's breaking news. We've just gotten one of the first images from inside the commuter train that went off the tracks this morning in New York City.

At least four people died in this morning's accident. Officials say at least 63 people are injured, including 11 who are in serious condition. For those of you who aren't familiar with New York City, the wreck happened just north of Manhattan Island. CNN's Samantha Mohr joins us to pinpoint the site of the wreck. (INAUDIBLE)

SAMANTHA MOHR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Candy.

We're just going to take you in here, showing you, of course, the Northeast. We have Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York. There's Long Island. So we're going to zoom into Manhattan here, take you on up the Hudson River. And the location of the accident was Spuyten Duyvil, which means in Polish (sic), it means "the devil's spout." And that is where the Hudson meets the Harlem River here.

And you can see here are the tracks. Here are the actual train tracks showing up on the map. And you can see just how severe this turn is. And that is where the train derailed. Here is the station right here that apparently the train was heading towards and then was unable to stop. And then the train actually came around the corner. And when we look at those pictures, the train is kind of lined up and then came very close to the water.

Air temperature time of the crash was in the mid-30s in the area. Light winds, fair skies, it was a little overcast, but the visibility was fine. That obviously was not an issue. Water temperature at the time was in the mid-40s, which is typical for this time of year, that's why all those divers that were looking for possible victims, had wet suits on to insulate, because it only takes about 30 to 60 minutes in water that cold to start to lose consciousness, and only about an hour or two to survive water temperatures that cold.

So this kind of gives you an idea of the lay of the land, Candy, on how things are set up here at the incident site. And it looks like weather definitely not a factor in this particular crash, and it could be a whole lot worse this time of year.

At the beginning of December, the first of December, as you well know, in New York City, it could be -- we could be in the middle of a winter storm, a Nor'easter, and definitely that was not the situation here this morning -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Yes, they'll be looking into what happened here, I think, for many weeks to come. Samantha Mohr, thank you so much.

MOHR: You bet.

CROWLEY: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo now is at the scene of the train -- of that accident. He was there fairly early on, and here's what he told reporters a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: A very tragic situation. The first order of business is to care for the people who were on the train. As you heard, unfortunately, there are four fatalities, 63 injuries. And those people are being cared for right now.

As Tom mentioned, if you need information, if you had people who were on the train, 3-1-1 is the appropriate number to call to get more information. We're trying to stabilize the situation right now.

New York is blessed with the best first responders, I think, anywhere in the country. And we want to thank the NYPD and the fire department personnel, and Amtrak personnel, and the MTA personnel who were right on-site doing an extraordinary job as we speak.

In terms of causes, we don't know exactly what happened. The NTSB is on its way. They'll do a thorough investigation. And we'll wait to see what the NTSB says before speculating as to any causes.

QUESTION: Governor, are the numbers firm or is anyone unaccounted for? And can you talk about the status of the injured, what the extent of their injuries is? CUOMO: Seriously injured. But at this point it's fair to say our report is that they're stable and we think everyone is accounted for. The site has been gone over a number of times.

QUESTION: Governor, what about the operator of the train (OFF- MIKE) alive?

CUOMO: The operator is alive. He was injured. And he's being cared for medically now.

QUESTION: The passengers that were -- unfortunately died, what car were they in?

CUOMO: The two cars that are on the side that you can see in the front of the train.

QUESTION: The two cars that are turned on their side?

CUOMO: Yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Amanda Swanson was a passenger on that train when it derailed. She joins me on the phone.

Amanda, first of all, let me just ask, since you are on the phone with us, I am hoping that you are fine and uninjured.

AMANDA SWANSON, PASSENGER ON DERAILED METRO NORTH TRAIN: I -- yes, I actually wound up probably one of the least injured people on the train. I'm actually safely in Harlem. I left the scene early, probably shouldn't have, but I wasn't in the right mind state to be making perfect decisions.

It was actually kind of overwhelming to hear all of that, that I just heard in your control room.

CROWLEY: Yes, I think we are showing right now on our screen, I'm not sure you can see it, some pictures that you took post the derailment I think. What were you -- describe to us what was going on at that point with you.

SWANSON: During the accident?

CROWLEY: Well, I understand -- we're looking at the picture you took. What's happening during that?

SWANSON: I'm sorry. I'm not in a place where I can see what you are showing right now. I apologize.

CROWLEY: OK. Tell us...

SWANSON: I did...

CROWLEY: Yes. SWANSON: I know that I took a few outside of the train, and then also one from the inside of the train. As far as during the crash, I was actually nodding off, and I wound up waking up because I felt that my body seemed to be at like a 60- to 45-degree angle, even though I was sitting upright in my chair. And I knew that didn't feel quite right.

And I opened my eyes just in time to realize what was going on. And I could hear the screeching of metal over the music in my headphones. And so I just kind of became immediately aware of what was going on, clutched all my personal belongings so as not to lose them, and then just kind of rode out the crash and just tried to stay conscious and aware so that I could do whatever I could on my end to stay alive and uninjured.

And then once the train came to a complete stop, I was in one of the cars that was completely on its side. And as soon as I realized that I was OK, or at least as OK as I could have been in that moment, I just immediately took my phone out and called the police.

CROWLEY: And so, if I hear you correctly, you awoke as the train was literally derailing from the track. And eventually...

SWANSON: Right as it was starting.

CROWLEY: Right.

How many people were in the car with you? Were you able to see -- when you went to get out, what did you see around you?

SWANSON: Well, people, obviously, moved in opposite directions toward opposite ends of the car. If I had to guess, there was about eight to 12 people around me. But on the other side of the same cab was probably an equal number on that side.

I could hear that people were injured. I could hear moaning. And I heard a couple of men communicating to each other that someone was stuck and they were trying to do what they could to either help or to make sure that person was all right.

Whereas on my side of the train, the emergency doors and the, like, regular doors had all been opened. So even though we couldn't get out because we were on our side, we could at least see fresh air.

And I wound up being on the phone with the police for a while until the first responders showed up.

CROWLEY: And so you could physically not get out because essentially, the train on its side, even though the windows above you were open, you couldn't climb out.

SWANSON: We couldn't get out. We weren't tall enough. There was nothing to climb on.

CROWLEY: Right. SWANSON: Plus the fact that we didn't know, since we couldn't see out, where exactly we were, how close to the river we were, if there was even any land for us to climb onto. You know, that area is very hilly and, of course, you know, obviously right on the Hudson.

So my first concern was just, did I see water in the train, in my particular car? I did not. So the safest thing was for us to just stay put and wait for the FDNY.

CROWLEY: And describe to me, first, the phone call that you made. were they aware of the crash? And then tell me about the rescue.

SWANSON: The -- as far as the phone call goes, it seemed to me that at least for whoever I was dispatched to was unaware, because she was, not taken by surprise, but just definitely had to take down the information. I was sorry I couldn't give her more, but at least I was coherent.

And then a couple minutes into the conversation she then alerted me that she was starting to receive more calls. They just -- she just kept me on the line, told me to remain calm, which we were all trying to keep each other calm on the train.

And, I mean, I don't have an honest amount of time, like, you know, it's a little foggy. But I was very impressed with how quickly I did hear sirens. And then within minutes of hearing sirens the fire department had come down. They appeared at the top -- on the roof of -- well, you know, the side of the train.

And a couple of the firefighters came in through the open doors, climbed down, and immediately started assessing the triage and making sure that they found the most injured people first.

After -- after a few minutes of that and then all of us communicating with each other, trying to formulate a plan to get us out, due to the kind of like sporadic nature of the terrain in that particular area, those of us who were ambulatory and were capable of climbing out, some with the assistance of the FDNY, were climbed out through the emergency doors, and then walked up through the -- like through the broken trees and stuff along the side of the Hudson to safety.

And then that's where they started collecting us all in a group so that they could go around and assess the injuries.

I was very lucky to be in a car where it seemed that most of the people around my, the injuries were minor, very minor, for the most part. And it wasn't even until I got out and I saw those other pictures that I took of the train on its side and, you know, those that I realized how bad it was.

And then when I got to the base camp kind of area and saw all of the people on stretchers, that was when I kind of started to get a little panicky, like, not for my own self, but I just realized the gravity of the situation. CROWLEY: And am I hearing you correctly? So what happened -- those of you who were ambulatory and relatively uninjured were hoisted up by the emergency personnel that had climbed into the train.

SWANSON: The side doors at the back of the train, where you move between trains, some of them in the cars that were a little less contorted were able to spring open. So we could climb out the side much more easily.

So that was how -- that was how the people on my end of the train got out. I can't clearly attest (INAUDIBLE) people in the other cars that had more complicated situations. There were some cars that all the windows were broken out. And there were some cars where the doors were open, some with doors were closed.

So I'm sure the rescue attempt in each individual car was probably vastly different from each other.

CROWLEY: From what I understand, Amanda, you probably were pretty lucky, because the fatalities were apparently in the cars that went on their sides, which is -- you were in one of those.

You sound so calm. Were you this calm throughout the whole ordeal? Or was there panic?

SWANSON: When it first was happening, when I became aware that I was in the middle of a train crash, I kind of had a very brief conversation with myself where I was, like, OK, Amanda, this is that moment.

You're going to stay awake. You're going to stay guarded. And you're going to live through this. And that sounds silly, but that was just -- it was important to me that I do that. It was important to me to get to call my parents when this was over.

So with that, there was only the actual moment of the final impact when the train came to a complete stop that I felt like I no longer like had cognizance or control.

But then just the way the train landed and the fact that I could clearly stand up, I'm actually surprised to hear you say, I assumed -- because like I said, I'm not anywhere with a TV right now, I actually have very little information on the situation, I assumed that the more severe injuries were in other cars that landed in different ways, because I definitely feel like I just serendipitously took the best seat on that train today.

CROWLEY: Yes, you were very lucky. We are glad to talk to you. We certainly appreciate your time. Amanda Swanson, I assume you've made that phone call to your parents. Thanks for joining us.

SWANSON: Yes, of course. Thank you.

CROWLEY: Our coverage continues right after this.