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Wildfire in Arizona; Shelly Sterling Negotiating Sale of Clippers; Airliners Getting Too Close

Aired May 23, 2014 - 20:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in for Anderson Cooper.

Tonight, we are going to show you the face of a wildfire and the people working to stop it.

Also, a two airliners came just seconds from disaster, and why this is just one of the several incidents over the past two months. Question is, how safe is your next flight?

Later, it was either climb or die. We are going to talk to a guy who did just that and somehow kept his cool after being swallowed up in a mountain of ice.

But we start tonight in Arizona where firefighters were just now starting to get a handle on the massive wildfire but could very quickly see all of their efforts disappear some crucial hours ahead.

Ana Cabrera is joining us now. She is on the scene for us with the very latest.

Ana, you're out of the fire lines today. Is there any progress being made in the fight against these fires?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if you can see just how smoky it is around me. This fires are still burning strong. But they are making some progress. At least five percent of this fire is contained. It's toward 7500 acres. They have been hitting it hard from the are dropping water, fire retardant, and really focusing on burnout operation to sort of trap the fire.

And in some of these areas, you could see it is just so steep and rugged and tougher firefighters to get in there on the ground. So they're actually having to use these small incendiary devices that they are dropping to do some of these controlled burns. Those devices are about the size of a ping pong balls. They ignite when they hit the ground and they could slowly burned down the hill to cut the fire off as it continues to spread, Wolf.

BLITZER: Are residents, Ana, still being evacuated?

CABRERA: They are number of homes. They will evacuated and those 3,000 people-plus who were told to standby are still under pre- evacuation notices. This is really, the crucial area. They're focusing, in fact, northeast flight. That is not contained yet. And that is where they're worried.

There is a road there. That's the hard line right now as they continue to try to do burnout around that area. But if the fire would have jump that road, then it opens up into a canyon where there is lots of heavy fuel. Now, leads right up into the (INAUDIBLE) village. So, that is the area they're most concerned about and really focusing their containment efforts on right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: In terms of weather, I'm hearing there actually maybe some relief in sight this weekend?

CABRERA: Fingers crossed. Very nice day today. Cooler, calmer, and this week we could even see a little bit of rain. There are storms in the forecast, if that rain, that's great news. But if it brings more wind, well, that could be a problem. So weather is still a big concern, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ana Cabrera on scene for us, thank you.

Let's go to California now with our new developments that could foreshadow Donald and Shelly Sterling's departure from the L.A. Clippers. New signs they might not contest the NBA's mandated sale of their team.

Report says well, that Shelly is negotiating with the league seeking to retain at least some ownership or interest. No indications yet if she will get anything.

Meanwhile, we're learning more about the other woman, V. Stiviano, and how her recording of Donald Sterling's racist rant first came to life.

Details from "360's" Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new Instagram posting from V. Stiviano, calling herself a material girl, dancing to the song by Madonna. Shared by her followers the same day, we're learning new information about the racist rant she recorded about Donald Sterling and why it took several months for it to come out.

The answer is buried in mounds of NBA confidential documents related in the Sterling investigation and reviewed by the "L.A. Times" reporter, Jim Rainey. He writes that Sterling and Stiviano argued one night last September. He was upset, she posted this photo of herself with Magic Johnson on Instagram. Stiviano recorded the argument as it continued inside her home.

It all may have ended there had Shelly Sterling not filed this lawsuit against Stiviano six months later, in March, insisting she return the fancy cars, $240,000 cash and $1.8 million town house Donald Sterling had given her.

JIM RAINEY, REPORTER, L.A. TIMES: So she sued. And indeed that does seem to be the precipitating event in all of this. KAYE: Rainey says that only after Stiviano was served with a lawsuit did she give copies of the recordings to friends for quote "safekeeping."

He says Stiviano believes one of her friends sold the tape to the celebrity gossip web site, TMZ, which later released it. Stiviano's lawyer told "the L.A. Times," she had the recording but did not leak it to the media.

The NBA investigation, according to Rainey, also shows Shelly Sterling put a lien on Stiviano's home. Six days later on April 9th, Rainey revealed another heated moment between Stiviano and Donald Sterling, and a Clipper's employee caught in the middle.

It is all spelled out in these text messages posted on the "L.A. Times" Web site, now part of the investigation. On April 9th, Sterling had a Clipper's employee text Stiviano telling her that Sterling had ordered the parking pass and the luxury suite access be given her for that night's game be sold.

Then this from the unnamed employee, Mr. Sterling said to let me know if you need anything. We don't want to have any issues at the game. Stiviano's response, no, tell Mr. Sterling that I don't need anything nor do I want anything. But thanks for asking, let the games begin.

RAINEY: She said let the games begin or let the games began. She may have meant something totally innocuous, maybe she was looking forward to the NBA playoffs. I don't know. But I think a lot of people read it as being a threatening or a menacing message.

KAYE: That text was sent at 5:33 p.m. Just two minutes later, 5:35 p.m., Stiviano sent the attached audio file of Sterling's rant to the Clippers employee. Sixteen days later, April 25th, TMZ posted Sterling's rant and the NBA began the process of removing him from the Clippers and the NBA for good.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Not surprisingly with the story. There is always plenty to talk about.

Joining us, Stephen A. Smith. He is the co-host of "First Take" at ESPN. Also, the sports agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Stephen A, when you hear that Shelly Sterling is now negotiating the sale of the team with the NBA, what do you make of it? Because there are report out there, she is actually still trying to retain at least some kind of ownership of the team.

STEPHEN A. SMITH, ESPN HOST, FIRST TAKE: Well, I believe it is a highly intelligent move on her part because I believe it is a no-win situation. Everybody keeps talking about how litigious Donald Sterling and his wife are in terms of their willingness to go to court and fight for everything. But the reality is very, very simple.

When Donald Sterling signed on to be an owner of an NBA franchise, he signed an agreement. It is in the NBA constitution. And if you impugn or sully the name of the NB brand in any way shape or fashion, they can have grounds to get rid of you.

Remember, it is a private fraternity. And their belief is that is that the NBA constitution supersedes any in all things. And that's why it appears to be a foregone conclusion, that they would be gone anyway. So if you're Shelly Sterling, why fight that win. There is money to be made. You can sell the team and move on because clearly nobody wants to work for you in terms of playing basketball for your franchise.

BLITZER: You know, Drew, this report there were reports that Donald Sterling was trying to transfer ownership to his wife. Is that even something he can do without specific approval of the NBA? Because there is language in the constitution on that.

DREW ROSENHAUS, SPORTS AGENT: No, I believe that the league is going to have to approve this. It is my opinion that whether you sell it to your wife or not you're selling the team, and it has to be approved by the league.

The bottom line is this is a very positive development as long as she goes ahead and sells the team. Is it better that she has the team right now than Donald Sterling? Absolutely. But does it solve the issue if she keeps the team? No.

Let's get this team away from the Sterlings, get it as far away from Donald Sterling as possible. They will get a billion dollars or more and let's get this guy out of professional sports altogether. Moving it to his wife is fine in the short term but that is not the long-term solution. And I'm glad she wants to sell. Let's hope she follows through with it and this is not just a sham to keep it in the family.

BLITZER: As you say, it is a good thing if in fact she is seriously negotiating the sale of the team. But why is she the one negotiating the sale? I mean, her husband is really the principal. He is the one who could go ahead and negotiate and get an auction going right now. He doesn't need her to do it.

ROSENHAUS: It is an easy answer, because she is a lot more popular than he is. She is going to be able to get her better deal. She will have more time to get a better deal. He is vilified and deservedly so. He will not have the same opportunity to sell the team that she would have.

SMITH: Drew makes a great point, because the bottom line is simple, considering the way he has been excoriated, just nationwide if not worldwide. It would be very difficult for him to get the kind of fights for the franchise that he has gotten.

When Adam Silver came out and gave him the lifetime ban, he pointed out specifically that this was against Donald Sterling and against not anybody else. So as a result of it, even though you don't want a Sterling owning the team at the same time, you look at her and say she is not the one who made those comments.

So the asking price that she may have, she is in a better bargaining position than Donald Sterling is to maximize the potential of this franchise. Even though he would still get a pretty penny, he can't maximize it to the ability that she can because he is the one who sullied the reputation.

BLITZER: Stephen, you have no doubt there would be a major bidding war. A lot of people want to buy the L.A. Clippers. And we're talking a billion dollars. There are some people that are suggesting they could wind up getting even more.

SMITH: Well, I have no doubt about that, Wolf. But the point is this. If you could get a billion, you might be able to get a billion if you're Donald Sterling. If you're Shelly Sterling, you may get 1.3 billion. There is a extra $300 million. The last time I checked that is extra change in your pocket. It counts.

BLITZER: You agree, Drew?

ROSENHAUS: Absolutely. Look, he has no leverage, Donald Sterling, he has to sell. The owners are trying to get him out. The players want him out. Coaches want him out. Society wants him out. That is not good leverage position. That is not negotiating position.

But when you get the wife in, she has more leverage. She doesn't have the same pressure. She will get a better price. People will rather deal with her. She does not have to sell immediately. She can buy more time, get a better deal and price. And it is all about money. OK? So --

SMITH: Well, Drew, the other point that needs to be made here, Drew and Wolf is this, if you're the NBA owners who compile the board of governors you want her to get as much money as she possibly can. Because you have to remember when she sells the franchise it is split the other 29 days. And those are extra dollars that come into her pocket. So they want her to be able to sell because the more money she is able to get the more money they're able to get.

ROSENHAUS: And no doubt about it --

BLITZER: Go ahead.

ROSENHAUS: I was just going to say, Wolf, the higher of the value, the franchise and the sell, is better to the league and other franchises raises the value of other NBA teams. So this is important to the NBA owners that Mrs. Sterling is doing this transaction and not Donald Sterling.

BLITZER: Yes. And remember, he bought the team back in 1981 for about $12 million. So if he sells it for a billion or a billion and a half that is a nice little profit over all of these years.

Guys, thank you very much. Steven A. Smith, Drew Rosenhaus, joining us. Up next, the Vietnam vet who put his faith in the VA hospital in Phoenix and his daughter who says the system repaid that faith with one delay after another to his death.

Later, how safe are the skies? How good is air traffic control? Should you be worried when you board your next flight after a string of near collision?


BLITZER: President Obama's chief troubleshooter is looking to problems with the VA, vets waiting months for care while administrators allegedly cook the books to try to cover it up. We don't know what is uncovered. We do know sadly just how easy it is to find families who say they're hurting.

Drew Griffin has a powerful report.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In late 2012, Pedro Valdez, a Vietnam war vet started having shortness of breath. And his daughter says this proud vet would only consider one place for treatment, the Phoenix VA.

PRISCELLA VALDEZ, DAUGHTER OF PEDRO VALDEZ: He would have appointment cards that were given to him had. He show up to the appointment and this happened for over ten months.

For ten months he would show up for an appointment. He would have the card in hand. Go to check in. And they would tell him, Mr. Valdez, you don't have an appointment in the computer, we have no idea what you're talking about. We don't know why you have that card. But we can't see you today. We have a booked computer schedule. We have people waiting and will get back to you.

GRIFFIN: Priscella says she watched the father who raised her and her brother and her sister alone, who worked construction his whole life, began to deteriorate, and yet somehow Pedro Valdez kept the faith the that VA would help him.

VALDEZ: My dad is a Vietnam veteran. He made it out of a gruesome, gruesome war. And I hardly ever in my life remember seeing my dad cry. He was a brave man, a very reserved man. And in October of 2013, I remember him telling me that he was going for an appointment. He was very excited he was finally going to get seen. He ends up showing up to my house that morning and I'm like dad, you know, I come out, dad, what did they do, what did they tell you? What is going on? He says they didn't see me again. I don't understand it. Will you please go back with me and find out what is going on. And I told him I said definitely let's go back right now.

GRIFFIN: Priscilla says after insisting it finally happened, her father had an actual appointment.

VALDEZ: I saw her put it into the computer. We left, the appointment was for January 6th, three months later. Three months later is as soon as she had an appointment. There was no questioning why it was taking so long to get it in three months. That is just as soon as she had, there was no question, if's and's or butts.

GRIFFIN: On new year's eve she found her father gasping for breath, She rushed him to a private hospital, undiagnosed until now. He was suffering from acute respiratory failure.

VALDEZ: (INAUDIBLE). They take him back for a day later. He was in intensive care and died six days later.

GRIFFIN: The VA's office of the inspector general is now investigating. Allegations of secret waiting lists used hide appointment delays as well as the destruction of these lists at the Phoenix VA. Last week the inspector general updated Congress on the investigation.

RICHARD GRIFFIN, VETERANS AFFAIRS ACTING INSPECTOR GENERAL: The initial lists that we were given we have gone through. And there were only 17 names on that list. Our review to date, and we have more work to do on this because we want to have more than one set of eyes look at all the records. But on those 17, we didn't conclude so far that the delay caused the death.

GRIFFIN: Because of privacy laws it is hard to know if Pedro Valdez was on anyone's list at the Phoenix VA, secret or not. Priscilla Valdez only knows this, her father tried to get an appointment for ten months here and couldn't.

VALDEZ: I asked several different people, how would I find out if my dad was on that list? But to me, the list is just a piece of paper. I know because of what I witnessed, because of what I seen my dad go through so whether or not he was on that list, I know what he went through. And he was a true victim of the delays, their refusal, the embarrassment they put him through.

GRIFFIN: Priscilla, is there any doubt in your mind that the denied care at the VA led to your dad's death?

VALDEZ: Is there any doubt in my mind that it led to it? There is no doubt in my mind at all.


BLITZER: Drew, you just got back from Phoenix. You know the VA office of the inspector general's was trying to know if the veterans actually did die waiting for care there. So far they say they can't find any evidence of any death related to delayed care. Families you have been talking to, do they trust the VA to investigate this?

GRIFFIN: Wolf, after all of this, the answer is no, they don't. They have no idea even like in the case of Priscilla, if her father's case is one the cases being they're looking at and they have no way to make a judgment call on it, will they determined that in end Pedro Valdez is dying anyway. So, the fact that nobody saw him for 13 months? That really didn't cause his death? And it really have nowhere else to turn.

You have to remember, Wolf, these are not wealthy families. They are not going to hire an attorney or medical examiner? By in-large, they were going to the VA because they really felt they had nowhere else to go. So do they trust the VA now or even the inspector general? They don't, Wolf.

BLITZER: They clearly, obviously don't. Do we know when the investigation will be over?

GRIFFIN: It could be another three months, maybe August before the final investigation is through. And keep in mind there are currently 25 other VA facilities facing the same type of investigation. So it is going to be a while before we get any answers believable or not to these families, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Drew. Thanks very much.

Coming up, another close call in the skies. We're going to tell you how close and how often this happens.

And later, a couple speaks out about their ordeal on board the Costa Concordia and what they're still going through today.


BLITZER: Yet another close call between two planes, this time in Houston. The FAA is investigating the incident which happened earlier this month and seems to be happening again and again.

Rene Marsh reports.



RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An air traffic controller in training directs a united jet to turn putting it on a possible collision course with another plane departing Houston Bush Intercontinental airport.

The two planes take off at roughly the same time. United flight 601 turns right as directed and is now in the path of the other plane. Within seconds, according to the FAA, the controller realizes his mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: United 601, stop the turn right there, sir, stop your turn, stop your turn, flight 601.

MARSH: The two planes came within a mile of each other. At takeoff speed that means they were mere seconds from possible impact, passengers on both flight might not have been aware of the near disaster, but the pilots were stunned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, 601, you know what happen there had? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all basically crossed directly over the top of each other. That is what it looks like from my perspective. I have no idea what was going on in the tower. But you know, it was pretty gnarly looking. I'm guessing he was supposed to give us a left turn.

MARSH: This is yet another high profile incident of airliners getting too close. Something that actually happens every day.

In April, two planes nearly collided over the runway at Newark Airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Acey 4100, traffic off you right, you have him in sight? Maintain visual.

MARSH: The controllers directed a united airlines Boeing 737 to land, as a smaller express jet was cleared for takeoff on an intersecting runway. The larger jet is nearly on top of the plane when air traffic control tells it to circle the airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we were putting the nose down and yes, he was real close.

MARSH: The day after this incident, a Boeing 757 flying over the pacific came too close to another aircraft. After climbing to the altitude, air traffic controllers assigned them. The aircraft was forced to plunge 600 feet fast.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: These mistakes can occur through a controller making an error to a pilot making a mistake. But remember, there is avionics on board, completely one call peak CAS which is collision avoidance assistance.

MARSH: The nation's skies are under stress with increasing air traffic and a potential shortage of controllers. The FAA says it has taken steps to prevent any similar occurrences in the future but would not elaborate.

Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Joining us now, CNN safety analyst David Soucie is the author of "Why Planes Crash: an investigator's flight for safe skies."

David, this reported near miss in Houston, the planes came within nearly a mile of each other, only 400 feet apart vertically, if you will. Help us put that in to some sort of perspective, how close was this incident from disaster?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Wolf, it was very close. If you think about the fact that they were less than a mile, 7.8 miles from each other and they are flying at let's say they are around 200 miles an hour to make the math easier, we're talking only about ten seconds the amount of time it took for him to say stop your turn, stop your turn, around the whole thing he said was around ten seconds. So yes, it was very close and it should not be minimized. BLITZER: It appears it was due to an error by the air traffic controller who, according to the FAA, was in training. So does that concern you?

SOUCIE: Well, it absolutely does, except for one thing. Wolf, I've been in the situation doing observation and surveillance on them in the towers. And when you do that, when you have someone in training, on the job training, you have another person who is watching the same screen, exactly a mirror image and you have a third person watching the both of them.

So I would suspect what happened here in the background what you can't hear is when he made that -- told them to make the wrong turn, then the other person right next to him was saying fix it. And the person by him was saying fix it and had he not said something immediately the other person, in fact, it might have been the supervisor, that actually made that calls saying stop, you turn.

BLITZER: David, it would seems like we have been hearing a lot more of this near-misses lately. The FAA says back in 2012, there were more than 4,000 near-misses, 41 of them characterizes quote "high risks events." So, why are this happening? Apparently more frequently now than they used to?

SOUCIE: Well, there are a lot of things, with anything like this, an accident or incident, we have to look at a lot of causes. The inspector general did examinations in 2010 and at that point it was because they had changed the reporting. It was automated reporting. They changed the way they have punitive or non-punitive assessments of the event.

So that has changed and caused a little bit more reporting, but it still did not offset the fact that there were more and more and more. So the way I see it is about the way they are traffic routing. There is more traffic in the sky and they're putting them into the wrong places. They have delays. There is not a system in place yet that can handle that kind of traffic and these delays that we're having from weather and other things. So it is very concerning.

BLITZER: A lot of travellers this weekend for the Memorial Day holiday. Bottom line how worried should they be?

SOUCIE: Well, at this point you know it is no more worrisome than it ever was. And that is probably not very comforting for people to hear. But nonetheless it is important to remember that on board each aircraft they have collision-prevention systems. What it tells the pilot if he is in danger and they will take care of it and make the corrective action.

BLITZER: Well, let's hope nothing untoward happens. All right, thanks very much, David Soucie.

Up next, the couple who escaped the Costa Concordia but could not escape the emotional toll.

Also, how a hiker survived against all odds and climbed to what could have been an icy death.


BLITZER: Dozens of survivors of the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster have been telling their story in an Italian court where the captain is on trial for abandoning ship. Thirty two people died when the ship run aground and capsized. Two years later, survivors are still reliving it. Anderson reports.


ANDREA DAVIS, COSTA CONCORDIA SURVIVOR: There was something worrying me at the back of my mind that this cruise was going to be doomed. And I started questioning myself, where that instinct came from.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "AC 360": Andrea and Lawrence Davis were self-described cruise junkies and they wanted to celebrate Lawrence's 60th birthday with a Mediterranean trip. They chose an Italian cruise liner called the Costa Concordia and boarded the ship in January of 2012. Five days after Davis boarded the ship docked in Rome.

ANDREA DAVIS: We had -- just to put into the picture we had had an incredible day in Rome and came back to the ship in the early evening. Just on an absolute euphoria and we were having drinks before dinner and got into the dining room a little later than usual.

COOPER: That euphoria was suddenly shattered when Andrea heard a loud scraping sound.

ANDREA DAVIS: Immediately the lights went out and the ship started s shuddering, and everywhere, there was an immediate list on the ship and the debris started falling around the dining room.

COOPER: Passengers began to panic. Andrea and Lawrence made their way on the tilting ship to the guest services desk where passengers gathered and waited for instructions.

LAURENCE DAVIS, COSTA CONCORDIA SURVIVOR: The first announcement that came across was we have an electrical problem. We'll keep you updated. We wondered what had actually happened and we stood around and just waited and saw the image of children running around, parents screaming. People had life jackets on. We didn't know if this was the real thing or what was actually happening.

At that point in time, the ship was listing quite substantially at about a 15-degree list. All of a sudden, the ship levelled out. It like came steady straight. And I still looked at Andrea and I could just feel the sigh of relief going through my body like the tension just went out.

Took a violent switch to the star board side and listed even further. And that is when I actually looked at Andrea and I said this is it. This ship is going down, we're going to sink.

COOPER: The Davises made their way through the chaos only to be turned away at every lifeboat. ANDREA DAVIS: We kept getting shoved from pillar to post, at one time I shouted please let us on, there are only two of us. And we were told after a few moments of waiting that we only have room for one more. And I looked at Laurence and together we, without verbalizing just moved on and let the next passenger on. The deck was wet and there was debris all over. And there were injured people. And there were doctors running. And I remember at one time this chain of little children were being guided who knows where.

COOPER: The ship was still tilting and so they made their way to the highest point that they could. But even then the water was surging around their feet.

LAURENCE DAVIS: We now decided we have to look after ourselves at this point and that is when we took the leap and jumped into the ocean.

COOPER: The Davises consider themselves strong swimmers, but Andrea had just had hip replacement surgery, which slowed her down.

ANDREA DAVIS: Laurence was able to hold onto my life jacket and we tried everything possible not to separate. He said to me, kick, splash, kick, splash, we just swam and swam and swam.

COOPER: The Davises don't remember how long they swam through the frigid water, but eventually they reached the shore where they had to climb up a rocky cliff with sharp coral and rocks before they were finally safe.

LAURENCE DAVIS: Once we got to the top of the rocks and just sat there we just saw people climbing from other angles and just shouted and screamed for family. There were a group of us, about six to try to keep warm. At that point in time I actually lost it. My emotions just erupted and I was crying, uncontrollable.

COOPER: The Davises say they feel lucky they survived, but they say they have suffered physically and emotionally from the ordeal. Andrea's feet were severely cut by the rocky coral. They blame the captain, Francisco Schettino, for causing the accident. He is facing 20 years of prison from manslaughter and abandoning ship. The Davises have not been asked to testify in his trial. They say they prefer not to discuss the legal issues and instead focus on moving on at what they call their second chance in life.


BLITZER: The Davises by the way blame not only the ship's captain who denies wrong doing, but also the cruise line, they have joined a class action lawsuit in Italy. Carnival Cruises which owned Costa. Cruises said in a statement, I'm quoting now, "We have been working closely with our passengers, crew and the community since this tragic situation occurred. There is often litigation that results from incidents like this, but our top priority has been the welfare of all of those involved."

Now, Susan Hendricks with a 360 Bulletin -- Susan. SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, deadly clashes ahead in Eastern Ukraine ahead of Sunday's presidential election. More than 30 people were killed in the fighting between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian militants. Also ballot boxes have been destroyed and polling places shut down. Russian President Putin is warning of a civil war and claims they ousted the pro-Russian president earlier this year.

And the coast guard says a missing British yacht seen here in better times has been damaged off the coast of Cape Cod. But its four-man crew is still missing. They ranging in age from 21 to 56. They were last heard from a week ago.

And on the Colbert report last night, funny man, Stephen Colbert tackled the V.A. scandal and Wolf, your name came up. Take a look.


STEPHEN COLBERT: The Obama people now say the president first learned of these new allegations from CNN. He had no clue what is going on in his own administration. Here is an idea, get the NSA to start spying on Wolf Blitzer.


HENDRICKS: Better look over your shoulder, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, I suspect people are watching all the time what is going on. Thanks very much, Susan, for that very funny stuff on Colbert.

Up next, the fight to stay alive against all odds. How a man climbed 70 feet out of an icy crack in a mountain. We'll talk to him later.

Also ahead, the amazing story of a soldier who survived a bomb attack in Afghanistan but lost his four limbs. These days he is biking, running and jumping out of planes.


BLITZER: Imagine walking alone under remote mountain in the Himalayas, suddenly the ground gives way and you fall 70 feet into the icy earth. It happened on Monday to John All. He is a professor of geography at the Western Kentucky University. He is an experience climber and now seriously hurt. He had to climb or die. But first he turned on his camera. Jason Carroll has the story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thankfully, I didn't keep falling that way.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trapped alone, 70 feet below the ice, Professor John All was broken, bruised and fighting for his life. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My right arm, I can't use it anymore.

CARROLL: While conducting climate research, All was hiking alone on a mountain in the Himalayas when he plunged into a hidden icy crevasse and probably landing on a ledge just 3 feet wide. His face bloody. He suffered several broken ribs and a fractured arm from the terrifying fall. The professor made a life-saving decision to climb out his camera in tow.

JOHN ALL, FELL 70 FEET INTO A CREVASSE: I hurt bad, but I got to get out. Funny the amount of damage the body can take and still function pretty well. The pain was wonderful, let's put it that way because I was at least alive to feel the pain.

CARROLL: It took around five agonizing hours to reach the top with an ice ax eventually reaching his research team's camp where the professor was later rescued. All's family still can't believe he made it out alive.

JOSEPH ALL, BROTHER OF JOHN ALL: He could have been a goner for sure, if you look at the video he could have just kept on going down. And I don't see how you get out of that. I mean, if you look at the sky, I don't know how you get up there if you don't have one of your arms functioning.

CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: John All is now recovering in Kathmandu in Nepal. I spoke to him earlier by Skype.


BLITZER: Hi, John, first off, I understand against the advice of your doctors you left the hospital early. How were you doing?

ALL: It was a painful decision and I mean that light literally. It is a lot of healing you have to do. My roots still hurt, my apartment is in pain most of the time. I'm healing but it will be a slow process unfortunately.

BLITZER: Well, take us through, John, what happened. What led you falling into that crevasse, you were just what? Walking across a snow field and then what happened?

ALL: We had just done a major haul up to camp 2 and established camp 2 and the rest of my team were staying down the rest. And I was staying up there to collect snow samples. And I thought it was a good opportunity to scout out the route and see where we would establish our next camp. And so I was just on what seemed to be very safe terrain. Nice field with crevices in the distances.

And suddenly I went from walking in the blindingly bright sunlight to falling down a mine shaft. And the first thing I really felt was my face smashing against the ice and then bouncing and my whole body bouncing on the back wall and sort of bouncing back and forth between the two walls as I was moving down the crevasse, until I landed on the piece of the ice, the ledge that saved me from continuing down and unquestionably, perishing if I had continued down to the bottom.

BLITZER: So your body was basically broken so how did you get out of there?

ALL: Being so broken, broken arm, dislocated shoulder, broken ribs, internal bleeding, all of these different things meant that I couldn't rely on the right half of my body at all. And even the left half was not functioning well. And so really it became a balance question and to some extent the fact it was a crevasse, and there were back walls that I could face or lean back against as my feet were moving really helped to maintain that balance. Otherwise, I wouldn't have had it with a smashed right side.

BLITZER: Was there ever a point, John, where you thought you wouldn't make it out of there alive?

ALL: Well, from the beginning, once I started falling. Climbers know you don't fall down deep crevasses and come out. I mean, it is just not done and when I stopped and was still alive that was a huge, huge chance for me to take. But even then, you know, at 70 feet up my body is not working. I'm going to go hypothermic in a short period of time.

I knew it was one of those things if I stopped and rested or stopped about anything or hesitated I was going to be dead. This was the type of thing where I was going to die slowly over time and my choice was to either accept that or to fight against it and to climb out.

BLITZER: And you finally did, you made it to the top. You say you had to basically roll back to your tent to call for help? But help couldn't arrive until the next day? Is that what happened?

ALL: Yes, I -- when I finally got out of the crevasse I thought I was just going to walk back to the tent and trying to stand up, I just staggered and collapsed in the snow. And yes, as I waited for the helicopter the temperatures got down way below zero and I knew there was just a question of time. Would they get there before I ran out of what I had in the bag.

BLITZER: Well, John, good luck, Professor, we're obviously thrilled that you got out of there alive. Thank you very much for joining us.


BLITZER: And just ahead, a real profile in courage. Despite terrible battle scars why this warrior wouldn't even call himself wounded.


BLITZER: This holiday weekend it is a chance to remember those who died in battle. It is also a chance to introduce you to somebody who survived an attack in Afghanistan. Although he lost all four limbs hold back your pity. Retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Bills is far too busy for it. Barbara Starr has tonight's "American Journey."



BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Travis Mills is determined today to shave time off his run on the treadmill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go to the right.

STARR: And he is doing it with no arms or legs.

STAFF SGT. TRAVIS MILLS, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): How I survived, I have no idea. I was yelling at the medic to get away from me because I thought I was done. I wasn't freaking out or anything, just accepted the fact that this could be it.

STARR: Far from it. Even though he lost all of his limbs when an IED exploded under him in Afghanistan and he spent months at Walter Reed Hospital he quickly started to living his motto, to never give up, to never quit. He would bring his infant daughter, Chloe, to his workouts. There was never any sitting around.

MILLS: I couldn't sit around, stew about it. I was 26, got stuff to do, might as well do it.

STARR: Now he says it is all for Chloe and his wife, Kelsey.

MILLS: Look at this technology, how neat is it? You can lose both arms and legs and still walk, I'm running today, I snow board, go downhill biking. It is wild.

STARR: Travis also recently jumped out of an airplane with the Army Golden Knights parachute team. He insists despite three tours full of fire fights and his injuries he does not have posttraumatic stress, but he has a rare determination.

MILLS: It is where the rubber meets the road. I put personal friends in body bags and they're not here. I am. And that is just, how selfish would it be if I gave up?

STARR: Travis is doing more than just living life. He is trying to buy a camp in Maine for wounded troops. And he knows public support for the war itself is in decline, but he wouldn't talk politics.

MILLS: I know what I did over there it meant something, the first time you go, you want excitement, the second time, you know they got your back, the third time, I called up, had them cancelled so I could go for the third time because I had a great group of guys. I did not want to leave them stranded. There was no way.

STARR: And no way does Travis want you to worry about him.

MILLS: And the wounded warrior, I was wounded, I'll give you that. But now I'm not. I'm not wounded anymore. I mean, it's likely at you, you're wounded. Wounded means I'm still hurt. I'm not hurt. I'm fine. So -- once upon a time I was a wounded warrior, but now I'm healed.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, Dallas.

BLITZER: I salute your Travis. That's 360 for tonight.

CNN Spotlight starts right now.