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Families React to Lack of Information of Missing Flight 370; Searchers Scanning Millions of Square Miles; Pilot of Flight 370

Aired March 19, 2014 - 12:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And before we bring you that moment, we want to show you the chaos that ensued as our own Kyung Lah got caught in the middle of this crush.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing?

Back off, back off!



BANFIELD: The picture of that grieving mother as she is being taken out of that room by officials is absolutely heart-wrenching. She was one of two women who were there to plead for some solid information on the whereabouts of their loved ones.

The translation is on the bottom of your screen, and you can read it for yourself. Have a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (speaking in foreign language): I don't care about what your government does. I just want your son back soon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (speaking in foreign language) : I am Li Le's mother. My son was on the plane. My son -- I just want my son back. My son is Li Le.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (speaking in foreign language): We have been here for 10 days, no single piece of information. We want media from the entire world to help us appeal (ph) that Malaysian government to give us information as soon as possible. We need media from the entire world to give us information as soon as possible. We need media from the entire world to help us find our lost families and find the MH370 plane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you speak English?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (speaking in foreign language): We have no information at all. They only say, "keep searching" from South China Sea to Malacca Strait to Andaman Sea. I just don't know where the plane has gone to?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you speak English?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (speaking in foreign language): We some 20 families aren't satisfied with Malaysian government's inaction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But they say they have been accompanying you guys?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (speaking in foreign language): We don't need to be taken care of. What we need to know is the truth, to know where the plane is. We have had enough. Malaysian government are liars. We hope media all over the world keep pressing Malaysian government and find our families and this plane. They can't just be gone like this.

We are in terrible mood. Every day we sit here waiting. We will keep waiting and will never leave.


BANFIELD: It's important to remember that these are the people who are so acutely affected by what is going on in these last 12 days. That woman was dragged out of that room by officials -- officials -- the same officials who when questioned said there weren't two women in the room.

Kyung Lah, our Kyung Lah, even asked the question, and was remarkably told there weren't two women in the room.

There were hundreds of cameras recording them, however, so ultimately, the Malaysians had to answer the question.

And this was the reaction from Malaysia's acting minister of transportation.


HISHAMUDDIN BIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN ACTING TRANSPORTATION MINISTER: I fully understand what they are going through. Emotions are high. And this is something that I discussed with the French delegation this morning in dealing with the families.


BANFIELD: It's a little hard to hear that, that he fully understands. Because I'm sure everybody watching that thinks, you didn't lose a loved one in that plane crash. You can't possibly understand what those people are going through.

Only a few people in the world can actually comprehend what it's really like, like the passengers of Air France, their family members. Air France 447 crashed on June 1st, 2009, and there were 228 people who were killed in that disaster. Took them five days to find the first bodies and the wreckage in the Atlantic Ocean.

Today CNN's Samuel Burke reported on the German association of the families of Air France 447 who wrote an open letter to the families of Flight 370. And that letter reads in part, quote, "Like you, we are completely dismayed about the vague and partially contradicting information policy by the Malaysian government.

"As MH-370 is an international flight and booked by passengers from various countries, you, as families, should feel entitled to approach your respective national governments to put pressure on the Malaysian military and civil authorities to speed up the investigations and to care for quicker release of findings."

I'll remind you, three Americans were on board Flight 370. Sarah Bajc's partner, Philip Wood, was one of those passengers and she is holding out hope that he is still alive, possibly because he's being held hostage.

And last night on "ANDERSON COOPER 360," she made an emotional plea to whomever could be responsible.


SARAH BAJC, PARNER WAS ON FLIGHT 370: The reality is, whoever has done this has been successful. They have fooled all the experts and all the governments in the world. They have made a very serious point.

But I think they can accomplish their goals without hurting people. Because in the end, the families and the god of whoever is doing this could forgive them creating this crisis.

It's a terrible thing they have done, but I think they couldn't forgive if they took innocent lives, and so I'm just hoping. I'm hoping and I'm asking, please, to not hurt the people on the plane.

You know, find some other way to accomplish what you're trying to accomplish, but don't hurt the people. Let Philip come back to me, please.


BANFIELD: These emotions are so fresh for Sarah, but there is one woman who watches her and knows all too well what she went through.

Heidi Snow went through it, too. She lost her fiancee in TWA 800. She's formed an organization to help people like Sarah.

And very much like Sarah and those other people we just witnessed in that horrible melee, she was in those hotel rooms during those briefings where people just lost it.

She is going to explain huh this is like, in just a moment.


BANFIELD: We continue our look at the mystery of Flight 370, up with of the most harrowing moments in the last 12 days has been today, watching the family members literally breaking down in front of the international press and the harrowing sounds of a mother with a son on board who just couldn't hold it another moment.

And as we remember all of those people and their loved ones who are going through this, I want to bring in Heidi Snow.

Heidi is the founder of ACCESS, the Aircraft Casualty Emotional Support Services group. Heidi lost her fiancee on TWA 800.

Heidi, I know that you probably had quite a visceral reaction. I have no connection to an aircraft disaster, and you are integrally connected with the loss of your fiancee.

How did you react when you saw that mother today?

HEIDI SNOW, FOUNDER, ACCESS: It really brought me back to day one at the Ramada Inn in New York where we all met following the loss, and everybody was trying to get information, hoping to get the confirmation that their loved ones were actually on board.

There were a gamut of emotions in the room for days. There were press conferences, just like that, and people just hoping to get information to make some sense of what happened.

And hearing her brings me right back to that. And so many of the people who've been calling us for help from past air disasters all remember that. We were just hoping to get information and learn if they were actually on board.

And at this point in time, I really think that the hope is starting to give way to a little bit of reality right now for people, and I think it's an extremely difficult time, because as time passes, it gets harder to accept that they may have actually survived.

And I was holding onto hope during these first few weeks. It took five weeks before my fiancee's remains were found, and I just remember I needed that so bad/

But every week that passed, the hope started to decline a little bit, and it got harder and harder and harder.

BANFIELD: Is there a right way, a wrong way? Clearly, what I'm witnessing on the screen right now and how they treated that mother in the briefing room is entirely the wrong way.

But what is the right way? What is the most delicate way to handle people like you whose lives are shattered?

SNOW: You just have to accept that everybody is going to handle it differently. And her reaction is what she need to do.

That's like -- that is how she grieves, and the people there need to accept her for what she is doing and support her in that, and let her vent in the way she needs to, because that's how she grieves. Everybody grieves in their own way, and everybody reacts in their own way. And I remember that very well. There were very quiet people in the room where we all met at the press releases, and then there were people getting extremely heated and angry.

And the key is for the people who are responsible for maintaining that location and taking care of the families there to allow them to do what they need to do. And accept them for who they are. And that's how they get through it. And the reactions vary so much per person --

BANFIELD: For what it's worth -

SNOW: -- but they need to grieve.

BANFIELD: Yeah, and I was just going to say, for what it's worth, they don't know it, but hopefully, they can feel it, because there are millions of people praying for them right now.

And, you know -

SNOW: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: -- we just feel for them. There's nothing we can do. We feel very helpless.

But hopefully you can help these people at some point, once they start wanting the help and needing the help and realizing what you said. When the hope gives way to reality, they will search out the kind of help you can offer.

Heidi, it's great to talk to you. Thank you. Appreciate it.

SNOW: Absolutely. Thank you so much.


You're so welcome, and thank you for the work that you do.

There's another element to this story that's becoming intriguing, as well. The International Space Station could end up playing a part in the future in preventing what we have been witnessing.

Coming up, astronaut Chris Hadfield's going to join me to talk about the next generation of satellites, the size of a shoe box, that could be called upon to help find missing aircraft.


BANFIELD: It's hard to wrap your head around searching 3 million square miles. It is a hell of a big haystack to look for, not even a needle, instead what more is considered by the analysts to be a piece of a needle.

Chad Myers is with us from the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, and also somebody who has looked down at earth from space and knows the enormity of this task from five months commanding the International Space Station. NASA Astronaut Chris Hadfield has an idea about how this type of mystery could be more easily solved in the future and the future may not be that far off.

Chad, I want to begin with you - and, Chris, if you could stand by for one moment. Chad, tell us where we are now, globally, with our technologies and our satellites in terms of being able to handle this task. And then I'm going to ask you to hand off that same question to Chris, where we're going and how much better we could be and will be.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Sure. Well, I feel like I want to be the star of "Hunt for Red October" and say one ping only in a great accent, you know in a -but anyway.

The one ping we have is from one satellite. It's the Inmarsat satellite. An Inmarsat satellite, as we know, put down a big, big ring around the earth. Had we had three more or two more satellites making pings, we'd have a big x, we'd know exactly where that plane is. We don't have that just simply because of where we are in technology, but also where that plane turned off a lot of its transponders.

The search area that we're worry about today, working on today, is not the big red square down here, but a much smaller square, about 3,000 -- 2,000 miles from Perth, Australia, in that area. Now that tells me that they have more data than they're giving out.

They have other pings, hourly pings, that they know that this plane may have been going in a certain direction. They don't know whether it's north or south, east or west, but they're ruling other things out. When you only have one ping, you simply don't know all of the answers, and that's where we are at this point.

So the search area where along the line yesterday is now focused a little bit farther to the south. We have planes in the air today. Yesterday's search area was larger. They're focusing and focusing and focusing and that's some good news.

But, Chris, you have technology, at least you know about it, that's going to be operational soon that could narrow this down to literally a football field. Tell us about this technology.

CHRIS HADFIELD, NASA ASTRONAUT: Yes, Chad and Ashleigh, the Space Station does a lot of different things, but it's also an unprecedented way to look at the world. We have astronauts with hand held cameras, we have earth cast on board, which is a mounted camera.

But just five weeks ago, the Space Station released 28 little tiny satellite cameras that are now orbiting the world. They're about the size of a long, skinny shoe box. And each of them goes around the world every 90 minutes and they can see things down maybe to about the size of a car, around 10 or 15 feet long.


HADFIELD: And, unfortunately, they just got deployed five weeks ago, and they're still in the early stages of testing. They're run by a company called Planet Lab out of California. But the beauty of those will be, they will take a picture basically every second. And you go five miles a second.

So every five miles they will take a picture of the world and continuously stream that information back to us, giving us a look at the planet like we've never had before. And since it can see down to things maybe as small as a car, they would have been invaluable.

It can only see when there's no clouds in the way. And, of course, it doesn't see things very well at night. But it will be sort of a way to see our planet more completely than we've ever seen it in history. And in a case like this, the worst part of all of those grieving people is the not knowing. And the ability to see more clearly from something like the Space Station will hopefully help solve what actually happened and give some relief to all the families that are grieving so openly and without conclusion right now.

MYERS: I heard about the shoebox size. But tell me how they stay in space. I know you gave them a shove, so they're doing, you know, five miles a second. But how do they not fall down? They don't have any propellant to keep them back up when they start coming down, right?

HADFIELD: Well, there's nothing to slow them down. If you think about it, the moon doesn't have any propellant either.

MYERS: Oh, true.

HADFIELD: And it doesn't fall down. Once you get going fast enough, there's nothing to slow you down, or almost nothing. And every few months or so on the Space Station we fire up the engines just a little bit, the thrusters, just to raise our orbit a little. These little satellites don't have any thrusters, so their orbit will slowly decay and they'll burn up in the upper atmosphere after a couple years.

But in their couple years of service, they're about this big, they weigh about 10 pounds or so each. They will map the world, give us - I can't even count the number of pictures. But just a wonderful way to watch the changes, all of the different types of changes, all the things that are possible to understand about our planet. But in this case, to help with natural disasters, as well as some of the manmade disasters that happen.

BANFIELD: Commander, I - you know, this is just so remarkable, this information that you're saying we are just on the verge of having at our disposal. But is there anything that you can tell me about this new technology that will help this current problem? Can it actually lend anything to finding Flight 370?

HADFIELD: Well, I talked to Will Marshall, who is, I think, the CEO of Planet Labs, actually yesterday. And they are - you know, they're just in the early commissioning phase. If maybe the timing had been different, you know, you can't do anything about it.

But they're just - just one by one turning these things on and trying to get them working. And it's just -- you know, you slowly build capability and then figure out ways that it's going to be useful. In this case, I'm not sure, at least in the next really short-term, that these cameras will be ready to give us the type of information we need.

They're trying. I mean NASA's trying. We're trying to use all the satellite technology that exists to try and answer this question, as well as the thousands of people in airplanes and searching other places. But this new piece of the puzzle, this new capability, is just one of the things that we can get back from the space station.

BANFIELD: Awesome.

HADFIELD: And hopefully soon we'll get these things activated so they'd be able to help us better in the future.

BANFIELD: Commander Hadfield, thanks so much for taking the time. I know you're in Vancouver to do a Ted talk, and I'm sure that will be available, if not already, very soon for people who are fascinated by the work you do, which is everyone. Available on Monday, did I hear, I think? Or you did it -- you did the talk on Monday, so I'm sure it will be available soon. But thank you for your time. Thank you for your expertise.

HADFIELD: It just went out online today, Ashleigh. Thank you very much.

BANFIELD: Perfect timing.


BANFIELD: Thank you. Commander Hadfield joining us from Vancouver. And Chad Myers, as always, also a phenomenal voice on all things technical. (INAUDIBLE) every voice counts at this point because no one knows much.

The search for the clues on this missing plane focusing on the pilots at this point of Flight 370. And up next, we're going to show you what we've learned from the pilot's FaceBook page.


BANFIELD: One of the biggest mysteries of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 centers around the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah. Sam Burke has been combing through Shah's FaceBook and YouTube pages to find out more about him.

What did you find out?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can't be certain it's his page, but these were created a long time ago. They have the picture of the captain, the name of the captain.

I want to show what I think is the most interesting part. A post that he published on FaceBook just after the Boston Marathon bombings and in which he said, "U.S. under attack again, condolences to the deceased."

Now, we also looked at the YouTube pages and there you can see a lot of videos about atheism. And it would seem that whoever posted these is at least sympathetic toward atheism. A video. There you see "The God Delusion," a documentary about atheism.

Also the person behind these pages had an affinity for repairing gadgets and home devices. YouTube pages about repairing the air conditioning at home, repairing the spray hose on the sink yourself, and so many pictures across FaceBook and YouTube of his love for aviation, flying planes with his friends. Little helicopters --

BANFIELD: Sam, none of this -- none of this jives with, you know, terrorists in the past, if this is a theory. They keep a really low profile, and they sure don't talk about God in that way.

BURKE: Yes. I mean I think the atheism videos are absolutely fascinating. There's a (INAUDIBLE) video --

BANFIELD: And you said something about cooking - a love for cooking.

BURKE: He seemed to love cooking. Cooking noodles. You see so many pictures with his kids and wife and it just looks like your average dad who loves cooking.

Another thing that's very interesting, particularly for Malaysians, is that he posted videos about the Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. And this is made for a lot of political fodder in Malaysian because just hours before the plane took off, this opposition leader, he's been a thorn in the side of the political ruling party there.


BURKE: He was sentenced to jail just hours before it took off. So a lot of Malaysian press are questioning whether the flight has something to do with that, although we don't see anything about that.

BANFIELD: Insight into all the questions people have about every passenger who was on that plane and crew members as well. Sam, thank you. Good work. Appreciate it.

And we're flat out of time, but we're continuing this story. So stay tuned now as my colleague Wolf takes over.