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Mystery of Flight 370; Search for Landslide Survivors

Aired March 26, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It is 8:00 p.m. here on the East Coast of the United States, 8:00 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur and in Western Australia.

There are new developments in the search for wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. We're going to speak exclusively with the captain of the lead ship on the scene, an Australian vessel. An Australian captain looking for 122 pieces of debris that were spotted by a French satellite. Whether or not they're actually pieces of debris from the plane we do not know.

There's that and there's the search for answers in the mystery of what or who brought the plane down. And it is back to that. Who. Back to the deeply troubling notion that only a member of the flight crew could have made the Boeing 777 do what it apparently did.

There are conflicting reports, though, tonight on Flight 370's captain, on his behavior leading up to the flight. The contents of his home flight simulator, any political influences on him and what investigators are telling reporters both in Malaysia and here at home.

And I want to stress that there are conflicting reports. We're going to explain the sourcing on both of them for you.

We're going to be totally transparent about the fact that different sources with different connections to the investigation and potentially different agendas are as you might expect saying different things.

Now "USA Today", for example, citing a high-ranking unnamed Malaysian law enforcement officer who says the captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, is believed to be solely responsible for the flight being taken off course. As for American investigators, they're also focusing sharply on the crew, analyzing Captain Shah's home flight simulator among other things.

For the very latest we want to be joined by our justice correspondent Pamela Brown right now.

So I understand the FBI is expected to turn over hard drive information to the Malaysians in the next day or two. What are your sources telling you about what they've uncovered.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Anderson. The sources are telling me tonight that so far investigators have found no smoking gun in either the pilot or copilot's backgrounds that would suggest a premeditated act by either of them. Now sources say that investigators, they haven't found any concrete evidence on that hard drive of the captain's simulator that we see right here as well as his laptop, and the copilot's laptop, that indicates a motive or that the pilots were planning the plane's disappearance.

And also a source in Malaysia told CNN that police who searched their homes did not find a suicide note or any evidence to suggest financial or marital problems. But this is an ongoing investigation, and investigators of course are still digging into the backgrounds of both of these men.

COOPER: And just to be as transparent as possible here, the other report which "USA Today" had put out, they said that came from a Malaysian official involved in the investigation. Your sourcing is on the U.S. side.

BROWN: Yes. So we have -- so I've been speaking to law enforcement sources on the U.S. side, and then also there has been a Malaysian source, a senior Malaysian official in the government that has been speaking with our Tom Fuentes. So we're hearing from both sides but the bottom line is that there seems to be no concrete evidence at this point, Anderson, that there is a clear-cut motive, whether, you know, the communications that the pilots were in, their financial state.

There is nothing to sort of jump out as a red flag that they were planning something. But then you look at the process of elimination here. And of course investigators are going to continue to zero in on these two men who were in the cockpit, who were in control of that plane. And so nothing is being ruled out at this point.

COOPER: All right. Pamela, stay with us because I want to bring in CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien, himself an accomplished private pilot. "New York Times" correspondent Michael Schmidt and Mary Schiavo, former Department of Transportation inspector general, currently she represents accident victims and their relatives.

Miles, let's start with you. What do you make of this "USA Today" report pointing the finger essentially at the pilot? Does it make sense to you?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: No, it doesn't make sense at all. I think it's premature, I think that it's thinly sourced. And I just think they got out ahead of things. Here we are 20 days later and they're circling back to the flight crew. Now the flight crew cannot be excluded from possible blame in all this by any stretch. And as a matter of fact, you have to put them very high on the list.

But there's a lot of other series of events that could have occurred. And for "USA Today" to contend -- "USA Today" to contend that the first officer could not fly the maneuvers that we witnessed is just plain wrong.

COOPER: And, Mary, you basically agree with what Miles is saying, that just because the lead pilot was the most experienced person on the plane that -- I mean, the indications that -- the implications that somehow makes him the responsible one.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes. There's a shocking lack of evidence. And to make this leap that they have made, it's just really outrageous. I mean, I was a federal prosecutor before I was the inspector general. And the bottom line here is, they have no evidence. Simply because they don't have any other evidence that it must have been the pilot, you know, it's kind of like in a -- you know, in a dime store, a mystery novel. The butler did it because they don't know who else did it.

And there is simply no evidence here. And, you know, granted the plane -- what were the facts? The plane made a turn, the plane made a descent, and the plane stopped communicating. I've worked accident cases in which those things happened in -- for mechanical reasons.

COOPER: Michael, you say this is another big misstep by the Malaysian government. How so?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it seems to me like the Malaysians are once again trying to book end this thing and sort of put everything to an end. They're saying it was the pilot. We can all go home now. And this was sort of similar to what the prime minister did on Monday when he said, look, you know, the plane is lost and, you know, everyone is presumed dead.

So you sort of get this feeling from the Malaysians that it's not as much about the evidence and the investigation as it is trying to make this thing go away.

COOPER: And Miles, I mean, just as Mary said, in terms of what we know, you could have a scenario where this pilot or a pilot or these pilots were involved in somehow bringing down the aircraft. You could also have a scenario in which they were heroes trying to stop the aircraft from ending up in the water. We don't have any evidence either way.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely. I mean, "USA Today" with this sole source said that the entire group of passengers had been ruled out. I find that very difficult to believe. It's quite possible that there was a hijacking, that -- that the pilots -- the crew was under duress, that perhaps there was a bomb on the aircraft and they're heroes for flying the airplane away from land.

We don't know. And so I just -- you know, I think we're coming full circle back to the beginning here where we started off blaming the flight crew. And again the Malaysian authorities want to come to conclusions without any supporting evidence released whatsoever.

COOPER: And, Pamela Brown, U.S. authorities -- I mean, as you've been just reporting at the top of the program -- continue to do their own review. Is there a sense of the timeline on that, when that will be done or is that just something that continues -- just continues on?

BROWN: Well, the Malaysians are leading this investigation. And so right now the FBI is really just focused on that hard drive, Anderson, and retrieving all the data that they need to hand over to the Malaysians. And they expect to do that by the end of the week. But again I just want to sort of emphasize here that neither U.S. officials nor Malaysian officials are implicating either pilot in the loss of this plane.

In fact, Anderson, just talking to sources it seems like here we are almost three weeks in and they're still baffled by the fact that there aren't any clear cut answers right now. And as one of my sources said, there's a counter argument for every single theory that's out there right now.

COOPER: And, Mary, I mean, if it -- if it wasn't the pilot and he had nothing to do with this, then either the Malaysians or at least the Malaysian source that "USA Today" talked to are way off in terms of figuring this out, which is certainly discouraging that at this juncture as our other guests have said they're basically circling back to something early on.

SCHIAVO: Well, there's a common flaw in investigations called belief persistence. And that's when investigators or police get in their idea that somebody's a suspect, and then they try to make everything fit it. And that's how we end up with wrongful convictions by the way in criminal cases. But I think they have that going on. They've got belief persistence. They think well, it has to be the pilot.

And by the way, on the four planes on September 11th, 2001, it took weeks and in some cases months to figure out that there were 19 people aboard, many of whom had flight training. We didn't find that out for weeks. And finally that evidence came out.

COOPER: And Michael Schmidt, this 122 pieces of debris that have been much talked about over the last 12 or so hours, it was seen on a French satellite, it just -- it's important to reiterate, there's a lot of junk floating around in the ocean, particularly in this region where the currents kind of swirl around and have stuff clumping together. So we have no idea nor do the searchers at this point have any clear idea, at least based on the information that's been released publicly what those pieces of debris are.

SCHMIDT: As the Australian prime minister said the area that they're looking 1500 miles off the coast there is really in the middle of nowhere. And it's a very treacherous area. The currents are very strong. The weather is terrible. And there's really no land, making it even more difficult to get the planes out there.

So I think we're going to continue to sort of see these reports that come out saying oh, there's pieces and such. But I'd be very surprised if we are able to find even a dozen of these by the end of the week.

COOPER: Michael Schmidt, good to have you on, Mary Schiavo, Pamela Brown, Miles O'Brien.

Let us know what you think. Any question you have, we'll to the panel about it. Follow me on Twitter @andersoncooper, tweet us using #ac360. More on the search for that debris ahead. We're going to take you on board the vessel leading the hunt, a 360 exclusive. We're going to talk to Australian captain in charge of that vessel, the Australian ship Success, optimistically named.

Later two incredible rescues. One a child pulled from the Washington mudslide. See the child there being carried by a first responder. Just an extraordinary rescue. The other -- and we're also going to talk to a woman who almost drowned in mud in her own home.

The other which you've probably seen the video, this is a -- in Houston, raging fire out of control. There on the -- on the ladder, to the left of the screen, there was a captain of fire department there in Houston who was trying to reach a construction worker who is dangling.

We're going to show you what happened next as the building started coming down around him. We're going to talk to that firefighter about what he saw and experienced. It's extraordinary when we come back.


COOPER: More breaking news on Flight 370. The search is back on. Ships and aircraft now raising to the areas where French satellites spotted some 122 small objects floating in the ocean. Now the question is, is this the first sign of a debris field, the first tangible pieces of the puzzle? We don't know. There have been a lot of false hopes as you know before. That's the possibility, though, after nearly three weeks, that certainly is the hope.

Now only on 360 tonight, the captain of the lead search vessel, Captain Allison Norris of the Royal Australian Navy joins us by phone aboard her ship, the HMAS Success.

The new satellite images that are out there, some 122 objects, are you aware of where those are located? Are you close to any of them? Have you specifically been tasked to look for any of those?

CAPT. ALLISON NORRIS, ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY: We are continuing to (INAUDIBLE) authorities ashore to get updated information on those objects. And we will expect additional tasking, weather permitting of course, should those images prove to be relating to the aircraft.

COOPER: How is the search going at this moment? Are you in the search area right now? How are conditions?

NORRIS: We've been conducting the search now for quite a number of days. We are in the search area. It's just getting light here. It's about 7:00 Perth time at the moment. We are continuing to conduct a vigilant search using all of the resources available to us to ensure that we are able to make the best opportunity to find any debris or any sign of the missing MH-370. We have not sighted anything relating to the missing Malaysian Airlines flight.

COOPER: And in terms of your capabilities with your ship, right now are you primarily relying on just people, you know, looking through binoculars? Or is it primarily radar? How does that work?

NORRIS: The type of wreckage or object that we're looking for is so close to the water line that now radars would not be able to pick it up. So we are very reliant on lookouts who use binoculars and night vision glasses to scan the horizon and scan the area around the ship while we conduct our search pattern.

COOPER: It's got to be a very difficult thing for those lookouts to be, you know, scanning waters hours on end. Do you rotate them through? How long do they actually stay out there looking? I would think after awhile the eyes, looking through the binoculars, you would just -- it would just be very difficult constantly looking in the water.

NORRIS: The conditions down here, it's very cold. We rotate the lookouts through every hour. And make sure that they are appropriately dressed to combat the very cold conditions down here. Yesterday's conditions were very good for visibility. And we expect that the conditions will probably deteriorate again over the next 24 to 48 hours. And we will adjust our search pattern to maximize our opportunity to find anything in the water.

COOPER: And do you have investigators or analysts on board the ship with you, or would you have to take that back to land to be looked at further?

NORRIS: Anything that we recover would have to be taken back to shore for investigation.

COOPER: All right.

Well, Captain Norris, I appreciate all your efforts and I appreciate you talking to us tonight. Thank you.

NORRIS: Thank you very much. You have a good night.

COOPER: All right. You, too.

Well, all eyes are on the ocean surface, all ears are or will soon be directed underwater listening for the acoustic pings from the 777's data flight recorders like these. Now they're powered by batteries with a limited life span as we've been reporting now for a while. And tonight CNN's safety analyst David Soucie has new reporting on the possibility that they're actually losing power even faster than expected.

David Soucie is author of "Why Planes Crash: An Accident Investigator's Fight for Safe Skies." He joins me along with David Gallo, co-leader of the search for Air France Flight 447, director of special projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

So, David Soucie, let me start with you, you talked to an auditor who actually examined these pingers in the same warehouse where this flight was kept. What did he --


SOUCIE: Well, what he found was that the pingers were being stored in a hot, closeted area, a lot of humidity and a lot of heat. The manufacturer recommends that they either be refrigerated or that they be in a room temperature, you know, 70, 85 degrees, something like that. So what his concern was, and he brought this to their attention, is that these needed to be taken out, put into refrigerators and -- or put them into proper storage areas.

So they did that. They retired those ones that were out and they put them in there. But yesterday he called me again and he said, they're not doing that. The procedures and the processes --


COOPER: So they did that that one time but it's not something that they routinely do.

SOUCIE: Yes. Exactly, as a part of their routine they're supposed to be doing it. But he said it's just not being maintained well. So we can't say that all of them have been stored there.

COOPER: Right.

SOUCIE: But my concern is that if those ones that were stored in there improperly and had been exposed to a lot of humidity and heat -- because remember, these are water-sensing devices. When they have water in them that's when they ping. So the -- the fact that the battery of the ones that were bad was about half life.

COOPER: So are -- and these are again, when we say pingers, these are in the flight data recorders.

SOUCIE: Yes --

COOPER: This is what sounds -- alerts people to where the flight data recorders.

SOUCIE: That's the sound. Yes.

COOPER: Right. Now if they -- are they tested before being put into the data recorders and boarded on the aircraft?

SOUCIE: Well, they're tested in that they have a machine that will test them to see if they ping.


SOUCIE: But there's no way to check the --

COOPER: The actual battery. Right.

SOUCIE: The load of the battery. No.

COOPER: Really? That's -- SOUCIE: No.

COOPER: David Gallo, if the pingers have failed, or obviously a limited life span, what's then the best way to go about finding the black boxes?

DAVID GALLO, CO-LED SEARCH FOR AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447: Good old systematic mapping of the seafloor. Line by line, step-by-step. And it takes a bit longer but that's what happened in Air France 447.

COOPER: Now in that case, the pingers were no longer working, not because of any default that we know about but simply because it took so long to actually -- I mean, it took some two years to actually find the location underwater of where the plane was and where the boxes were, correct?

GALLO: Yes. The pingers were long past gone. But, you know, I went back and looked at some of the maps, Anderson. And it looks like they towed the pinger locator right over the top of the wreckage in the first few days after the -- after the tragedy and didn't hear it.

COOPER: No kidding.

GALLO: Yes. It looks that way. I'll try to find the reference so we have it but --

COOPER: Explain how that could happen.

GALLO: It's not surprising to me. Yes. I mean, the oceans play games with sound all the time. A thermal layer, a mountain here and there, a valley, and especially in that region it was extremely rugged underwater terrain. So it's easy to bend sound around. And if you're not in the right place with the right gear with the right operators it might be easier to miss a signal.

COOPER: And, David Soucie, after that Air France crash, wasn't there a new mandate for the life of these devices?

SOUCIE: Yes. The French Civil Aviation Authority -- and I can't pronounce the name but it's a BAR and what they did is they said look, this was a horrible situation. They were trying to race against time trying to find this aircraft. So they recommended that it go to 90 days. Everything manufactured be 90 days.

What they did was they said the manufacturer of the device from now on, from 2015 on, if you're going to make a new one, it does have to be 90 days.


SOUCIE: But the FAA and the ICAO, any of the other organizations, the ACED (ph), none of them have said yes, but we have to go back to the 20,000 aircraft that are flying right now and upgrade those.

COOPER: That's interesting. So it's only going to be for aircraft after 2015 for 90 days. SOUCIE: Exactly. Yes.

COOPER: And, David Gallo, it's been 20 days. Still not one piece of the plane has been picked up so far. Does that surprise you?

GALLO: Yes. At this point, Anderson, it's surprising me. And I'm thinking with this latest batch, it looks like to me anyway just a gut feeling the density and size of the objects looks about right. And it doesn't mean it's from this particular aircraft, but it looks like it came from one spot at one time. Not accumulated over time. So we'll see what today brings.

COOPER: David Soucie, does it surprise you, I mean, that 20 days have gone by?

SOUCIE: Well, it does but I'm really encouraged like David said about this debris field for two reasons. One is that as he said it looks like it was all at one time. But even if it isn't there's some portions where you can see it's swirling a little bit. And so everybody says well, maybe it's just --


SOUCIE: Junk. But that's actually a good thing. Because that means that there's a place where it's coming together.

COOPER: Collecting.

SOUCIE: So if you think about if this debris was anywhere within that same junk area it would have brought it in there. So they have a better likelihood of finding it.

COOPER: David Soucie, appreciate it. David Gallo as well.

For more on the story of course you can go to

Up next an incredible story of a woman who survived the deadly landslide in Washington state in her home. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It hit so fast that we went down. We were underwater and mud. And I just remember thinking, OK, Creator, if this is it, I might as well relax. And I just let myself go limp.


COOPER: She was buried in mud in her home. Her home swept away a quarter of a mile. She was riding it out under -- just incredible.

Also a child stuck in the mud after the landslide destroyed his family's home. An amazing rescue ahead.


COOPER: An update now on the other major story that we've been following the past few days. The deadly landslide in Washington state. At least 24 people were killed when a mountainside collapsed on Saturday burying two small towns. Now officials say up to 176 people may still be missing in the mud, they're unaccounted for. Today the governor of Washington said the area suffered what he called 100 percent devastation.

Now last time we told you about the rescue of a 4-year-old boy on Saturday. Tonight we've got some remarkable video of that rescue from a camera mounted on a helicopter which couldn't land. They have to hover over the scene. You see in the left-hand side of your screen the rescue in the black shirt securing the child.

Here's the same video with the boy. His name is Jacob Spiller. Highlighted by the circle in the upper part of the screen as rescues actually first reached him. Officials tell us that Jacob was upstairs when the landslide struck his house. His father and three siblings are still unaccounted for. Jacob's mother is OK. She was not home at the time.

For many the firefighters and the rescuers who are digging through the mud, the stress is taking its toll.


JEFF MCCLELLAN, FIREFIGHTER: We were digging, we came across a gentleman. And his son is out there as a civilian on the debris pile and it's his father.


COOPER: Those rescuers are not giving up, however. Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The top priority is still the search for survivors. And firefighters we've talked to who have spent much of the day at the decimated landslide scene say they have not given up on that quest.

JAN MCCLELLAN, FIREFIGHTER: If that miracle can happen, we live for that hope. We really live for that hope.

TUCHMAN: But this has been a disappointing day here in Snohomish County, Washington. With no survivors found. The rescue and recovery work is being done with choppers and police dogs, bulldozers, shovels, and even by hand. Dozens of structures buried in up to 40 feet of mud, mud that in many places is like quick sand which limits people's ability to work effectively and even to recover bodies.

STEVE MASON, OPERATIONS SECTION CHIEF: When we first got here, crews went out and hit the hot spots. There's a house roof here. OK. Let's get in through the roof, go down through, work on that house and see who's in there if there's anybody in there. As you continue along you step back. And you do a more comprehensive search because now you're looking for the stuff that doesn't jump off the page at you. TUCHMAN (on camera): The main highway that goes through the affected communities of Oso and Darrington remain shut off. For the time being the general public and even residents are being kept out while emergency vehicles go in and out.

(Voice-over): The recovery of bodies will continue, as will for now the continued search for people who may be trapped and alive.

ERIC FINZIMER, FIREFIGHTER: We can't lose hope for anybody in this community. That's not what we're here for. We're here to find those people.


COOPER: It is so difficult for all involved.

Gary Tuchman joins us now live. This emergency work at the scene, it can't continue around the clock, though. I mean, once darkness falls what do they do?

TUCHMAN: Well, it actually does, Anderson, but in a very limited fashion. Once it gets dark here there will be trucks on the road rebuilding the country roads that were damaged during the landslide because the emergency work can't continue safely without those roads being in good condition. But as far as the recovery work, and yes, the rescue work, that can't take place during the night because it's way too dangerous. You step in the wrong hole you could end up in 40 feet of mud.

COOPER: Gary, appreciate it very much.

Robin Youngblood lost her home in the landslide. She was bruised. She made it out alive. But she is angry about her situation. I spoke with her a short time ago.


COOPER: Robin, first of all, I'm so glad that you are OK. Walk us through what happened Saturday morning. I understand you were sitting in your living room with a friend. All of a sudden you heard this huge roar.

ROBIN YOUNGBLOOD, LANDSLIDE SURVIVOR: Yes. I've never heard anything like it before. I said, what the heck is that? And we walked over to the window. There was a wall of -- it took me a second to realize it was mud and it was racing like 150 miles per hour across the far end of the valley. And I said, my God and then it hit us.

COOPER: What happened when it hit you? I mean, what did it feel like? Could you actually see the mud as it came up to the house?

YOUNGBLOOD: I didn't see it hit us. I hit so fast that we went down. We were underwater and mud, and we had mud in every orifice. And the house was moving. And I just remember thinking, OK, Creator, if this is it, I might as well relax. And I just let myself go limp.

COOPER: How long did it go on for?

YOUNGBLOOD: Couldn't have been more than 30 seconds.

COOPER: That fast, really?

YOUNGBLOOD: From the time it hit us until we landed.

COOPER: And I understand it actually ripped your house off the foundation.

YOUNGBLOOD: My house is matchsticks. There's nothing left. It ripped the roof off and I thank God for that because if the roof had still been on, the house filled up with mud and water, we would have drowned. The only way we got out is we dug the stuff out of our nose and mouth so we could breathe, but I was able to pick my way through debris and get up to the top and call for my friend, Yeddi from Holland, my student who was with me for a week.

And she was pinned under a tree that had fallen and I couldn't get to her. There was nothing stable to stand on. So I just yelled at her to dig herself out somehow, even if she was hurt, better to be hurt and alive because I could see that the house was going to fill up with mud.

COOPER: So you were actually underneath the mud? You were completely covered?

YOUNGBLOOD: Yes. There wasn't a dry place on my body when we got in the ambulance. They had us strip down. Everything was sodden. We were in hypothermia by that time.

COOPER: I understand the house was actually moved a long distance. About how far?

YOUNGBLOOD: A quarter of a mile.

COOPER: That's an extraordinary thing. Your house was moved a quarter of a mile in a very brief amount of time. I mean, you are so lucky to be alive.

YOUNGBLOOD: Don't I know it. I have no idea how that happened and I have a hurt finger and lots of bruises and a torqued back. But no broken bones. God knows how that happened.

COOPER: You bought I understand your house two years ago. Did anyone warn you at the time that this mountain was unstable? Because I've talked to geologists who did studies back in 1999 about this area, did anyone warn you?

YOUNGBLOOD: Nobody ever told us there were geology reports. I heard on King 5 last night they asked somebody from the county zoning commission. And the guy said, well, yes, that report was there, but I guess we never read it. Nobody told any of us. This is criminal as far as I'm concerned.

COOPER: And you helped take care of a little boy, a boy named Jacob who's 4 years old. He was rescued. You were there right after, I understand, he was pulled out of the mud, brought to the ambulance. How do you -- you talk about comforting people in a case like this. What do you say to him?

YOUNGBLOOD: The minute I saw him I said, my God, how old are you, Jacob? He said four. I said what's your last name? He didn't know. I said, honey, I'm a grandma. I'll take care of you until we figure this out. I stripped his clothes off, I put him in a big blanket and I held him all the way until they found his mother. I sang him songs and I just tried to help him stay calm.

COOPER: Robin, thank you for your strength and for talking to us. And I'm just so sick about what has happened to everybody there. And our thoughts and our prayers are with all the survivors and all those who are looking for those who are unaccounted for. Thank you, Robin.

YOUNGBLOOD: Thank you so much, Anderson. Thank you for doing what you do.


COOPER: We had to cut down that interview for time. You can watch the whole thing on our web site at You'll hear more from Robin. If you want to help the landslide victims go to A number of organizations listed.

Up next, the concept of pilot suicide on Flight 370, one theory that investigators have to look at. We're going to talk about what investigators are looking at. One or both the idea that one or both of the pilots on board might have purposely crashed the jet.

And we'll hear from a firefighter who rescued this construction worker just seconds before the building started to collapse. Extraordinary. We'll talk to that firefighter precariously perched out there on that ladder.


COOPER: Breaking news tonight, conflicting reports on what role if any the pilots in Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may have played in the airline's disappearance. As we told you about at the top of the program we want to be transparent about the sourcing on this. "USA Today" is reporting that a high-ranking Malaysian police officer said investigators believe the pilot is to blame and they're ruling out the co-pilot, simply saying the pilot was the only one who had the experience, the knowledge to do this.

CNN sources say that investigator have not reached that conclusion. Unfortunately, however, there have been instances when commercial airline pilots have intentionally crashed their jets, killing everyone on board. Randi Kaye takes a look back.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A regularly scheduled flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Cairo, Egypt, with a stop at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. That was the plan for EgyptAir Flight 990. But on October 31st, 1999, the Boeing 767 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean about 60 miles off the coast of Massachusetts.

UNIDENTIFIED CONTROLLER: I lost contact with the Boeing 767 in my air space. We lost radar. We lost everything.

KAYE: Crash investigators say the co-pilot had learned he was being demoted and took control of the plane when the captain stepped out of the cockpit, sending it into a nose dive toward the ocean. The cockpit voice recorder revealed the co-pilot repeated "I rely on God" 11 times just before the crash. The captain can be heard on the recorder saying "What's happening?" even more chilling, the last words heard are the captain saying "Pull with me" as he struggled to get his plane to change course. In that instant the co-pilot turns off the engine, sending the aircraft slamming into the sea. All 217 people on board were killed.

UNIDENTIFIED CONTROLLER 1: Any luck with EgyptAir?




KAYE (on camera): With EgyptAir, the transponder stopped working and there was no mayday call. The NTSB ruled the co-pilot intentionally crashed the plane, though, Egyptian authorities still say it was a mechanical failure.

KIT DARBY, RETIRED COMMERCIAL AIRLINE PILOT: Certainly pilots are part of the potential for the problem. So they have to be looked at. But basically it's not a guilty until proven innocent really because there's only a few sources that could cause this type of problem, someone outside the cockpit certainly the people inside the cockpit.

KAYE (voice-over): A suicidal pilot was also to blame for this, December 1997, the crash of Silk Air Flight 185. It was heading from Jakarta, Indonesia to Singapore when it crashed into this river.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It sounded like a bomb dropping. First explosion up in the air then it exploded again then it crashed into the water.

KAYE: The plane dropped into the river in less than a minute, breaking the speed of sound and killing all 104 passengers and crew. The NTSB concluded that the pilot deliberately directed the flight to crash. In Indonesia, they claim the findings are inconclusive. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: It's certainly a troubling and perhaps remote possibility, but one that has to be explored by investigators. Joining us two pilots who are both CNN aviation analysts, 777 Captain Les Abend and Miles O'Brien. Does that make sense in any way that a suicide pilot or co-pilot would be involved in this?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Why do it in the middle of nowhere? It just doesn't make sense. I would have done it after takeoff. My understanding is that there's one of the world's biggest buildings and towers in Kuala Lumpur. Why not do it going into Beijing?

COOPER: Miles, others would say perhaps you wanted to go to a deeper area, the waters in the Gulf of Thailand were very low. But pilot suicide as we talked about in that EgyptAir disaster off Nantucket back in the late 90s, that was shortly into the flight, correct? The Malaysia Airlines flight if the information is accurate, it went on for hours well off course. Does that line up with the theory of suicide?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: What's interesting about this, if you look back at the EgyptAir 990 story, there was a lot of recriminations that were focused on the family of the first officer who was implicated by the NTSB on a suicide mission. Of course, the Egyptians deny it all. So what we are talking about here is the possibility and again, remember, we're not saying this is what happened.

But the possibility that there was a suicidal crew member who might have been worried about some sort of stigma associated with suicide, particularly in the Malaysian culture. If you wanted to commit suicide in such a way that you couldn't be implicated, this would be a way to do it.

COOPER: Going to a very far, remote area where the difficulty of actually finding the aircraft.

O'BRIEN: Exactly.

COOPER: Les, what kind of psychological screening do pilots undergo?

ABEND: Well, we go under most of the screening occurs at the time you're an applicant for the airline. The airlines do a good job of vetting people. A very similar type people. Now, as we get on with the airline and go through our careers, there isn't a whole lot unless there's something affecting our job performance.

COOPER: I would imagine other pilots, co-workers keep an eye out for any anomalies.

ABEND: We watch each other's backs. We really do.

COOPER: Miles, it is important to point out like everything else, this is just something that investigators are looking at. Because again without a suicide note these pilots could just as well have been heroes to try to stop this plane from going into the water as something more nefarious.

O'BRIEN: There is a scenario you can add to the list where somehow they were commandeered. The flight was commandeered. Somebody in the back of the plane decided to hijack it. For whatever reason the pilots were able to either dupe the hijacker or somehow take control of the plane in some way. But perhaps they thought there was a bomb on board and the safe thing to do was to park it in the ocean like Shanksville, PA.

COOPER: Yes, we simply don't know. Again, Les Abend, appreciate it. Miles O'Brien.

Up next, a remarkable rescue caught on video. An apartment building under construction in Houston went up in flames. A worker trapped on a balcony with the flames approaching. We'll talk with the firefighter who is out on that ladder there desperately trying to get to this construction worker in time. An extraordinary story ahead.


COOPER: For weeks now we've been covering the search for the missing plane. There is so much heartache and mystery and we'll continue to search for answers. But right now, we want to bring you a story that does have a happy ending, a story of survival. It's a daring rescue caught on camera. If you haven't seen the video before, I hope you are sitting down because it's remarkable to see.

Just to set the scene, an apartment under construction in Houston was on fire. Construction worker was trapped on a balcony. A woman in a nearby office building grabbed her cell phone, started taking video. It needs no narration, just the raw video will tell us the rest of the story. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was inside there. Do they see him? My God, God, God Oh, God Oh, God, God, my God. No, no, no, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the glass melting up there. See the window melting?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They need to get him. Jesus, God. God. Hell, he can jump from there. I mean, good grief. They need to move that truck up, my God. I think that we probably should be going.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Time to evacuate, guys. Hell yes, thank Jesus. Thank you, God. No, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about this guy?



COOPER: Just extraordinary. Remarkably no one was hurt in the fire. The firefighter who is on the end of that ladder and helped rescue the construction worker, Senior Captain Brad Hawthorne of the Houston Fire Department. He joins me tonight.

Captain, this rescue is just extraordinary. When the video starts, how long had the fire been going on about at that point? CAPTAIN BRAD HAWTHORNE, HOUSTON FIRE DEPARTMENT: Not long. We pulled up and there wasn't much fire, but it moved through the entire building in a couple of minutes.

COOPER: It moved that fast.

HAWTHORNE: It moved extremely fast. Fastest-moving fire I've ever been to.

COOPER: When you arrived on the scene were you immediately aware this construction worker was trapped up there?

HAWTHORNE: We had reports. Our chief told us to go to the north side of the building, there was three men trapped on the roof. So we got there, positioned the ladder truck, and got the ladder set up to the roof when we started noticing we had a small amount of fire on the left side, climbed about halfway up the ladder I noticed the whole attic roof was on fire. Then just seconds later by the time I get to the top of the ladder the entire roof was completely involved in fire.

COOPER: Was it moving that fast because of the winds? Why was it moving so fast?

HAWTHORNE: The wind and just the construction. It was really fast, faster than I expected.

COOPER: You're on the edge of the ladder, right?

HAWTHORNE: Right, yes.

COOPER: We see the ladder going toward the guy. Were you afraid he would jump or something before you reached him?

HAWTHORNE: It was always possible. I mean, if it gets hot enough, most people will jump before they'll burn.

COOPER: That ladder looks like it's moving pretty fast. That must be pretty -- you're obviously experienced. That's got to be pretty frightening to be out on an extended ladder like that moving fast.

HAWTHORNE: Well, it's not typically a practice we like doing except under emergency situations. Moving a ladder with guys on it, but we knew that seconds counted this one.

COOPER: The ladder couldn't get all the weight to where the construction worker was. There's a limit to how far it can go.

HAWTHORNE: We got it over to him about a couple feet short. That's when I told him to hold up at first so he wouldn't jump until we got it to the right point. Then I waved him to come on. And that's when I kind of got up there, gave him a little room. He jumped over and I grabbed him as quick as I could so he didn't slip. Then my chauffeur started moving the ladder to the right to get us away from the wall. Within 5 seconds that's when the wall and floor collapsed.

COOPER: Did the guy say anything to you when he finally made it on the ladder?

HAWTHORNE: We kind of looked at each other, slapped each other's hands, smiled and thank you, Jesus.

COOPER: I can imagine. How's he doing, do you know?

HAWTHORNE: It was close. He's doing fine. Doing fine. We've seen him after all this was over, I'd have probably been more shook up. He was calm, cool, collected through the whole thing. And he's doing really good. He was back to work two hours later.

COOPER: We're watching this building collapse as you're pulling away. It's incredible. When it starts to collapse, can you tell the building is falling? I don't know where you were looking, but do you see it coming toward you?

HAWTHORNE: You could hear the cracking and the popping of the fire, breaking boards. It did get louder for an instant, then you could feel the heat. And we was swinging to the right which it kept us out of the fire and it saved us. My chauffeur did a good job getting us out of the heat.

COOPER: You all did an incredible job. I hope you get a beer or something after this. How do you relax after this? It's so stressful just watching I'm getting nervous.

HAWTHORNE: Right. It can be scary, but we train a lot. And you try to do it just where it's I guess -- don't know how to explain it. Just doing your job. Just human nature. Just doing the job and making it -- it just happens.

COOPER: I'm glad you're out there. I'm sure a lot of people in Houston are as well. Thank you so much for all you do.

HAWTHORNE: Thank you.

COOPER: Just amazing story and heroic effort by Captain Brad Hawthorne and the rest of the Houston Fire Department. The firefighters are working the scene of a devastating landslide in Washington State risking their lives to save others.

At least two firefighters died, 13 others were injured in a fast-moving nine alarm fire at a Brownstone in a Back Bay neighborhood west of downtown. We don't know what caused that fire. And our hearts really go out to the Boston Fire Department, the families of the firefighters who died. Michael Kennedy and Ed Walsh. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Since we started our coverage of Flight 370, we wanted to try to focus as much as possible on the passengers on the flight, the mothers and fathers, the friends and colleagues who are now missing so to honor them we created a photo gallery that you can see on our web site, That does it for this hour. There is new information about the Washington landslide expected shortly. We'll bring it to you at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Set your DVR every night so you can watch "AC 360" whenever you want. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts right now.