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THE SITUATION ROOM

Deadly Airliner Crash Caught on Camera; Interview with Deborah Hersman; .S. Official: Jordan Stepping Up Its Airstrikes; Commuter Train Crash and Fire Kills Six; Interview With Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Aired February 4, 2015 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, deadly crash on camera. An airliner suddenly cartwheels into view, clips a car and a bridge and slams into a river. Survivors' stories -- incredibly, many passengers, including young children, lived through the crash, some swimming away from the wreckage. We're going to learn how they did it.

And Jordan strikes back -- a U.S. ally retaliates for the savage murder of its captured pilot by hanging two terrorists. Now it vows a relentless war against ISIS.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A sudden moment of horror captured on dash cam video. An airliner with 58 people on board falls from the sky, hits a moving taxi and a bridge railing and plunges into a river. More than half on board are dead. But somehow, there are survivors and search and rescue operations are still underway. We have extraordinary images of the crash and its dramatic aftermath, the pilot's urgent distress call and new clues to what may have gone wrong.

Our correspondents and analysts and newsmakers, they're all standing by with full coverage.

Let's begin with CNN's Brian Todd.

He has the very latest -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, investigators are poring over the black boxes, combing through the wreckage of this TransAsia plane which crashed moments after takeoff from Taiwan's capital city.

One key piece of evidence to determine the cause, an unbelievable piece of video which captured the flight's final horrifying moments.

TODD (voice-over): From a car's dash camera, the scene unfolds in about six seconds. The turboprop plane appears suddenly on the left side, losing altitude. It makes a dramatic pitch to the left, clips a taxi cab and the bridge, and hurtles into the water. Analysts say the pilot of the TransAsia Airways plane may have been trying to carry out a life-saving maneuver by crashing into the river.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: The pilot had apparently been making an attempt to make a left turn to avoid landing straight ahead, which would have been into buildings, highway and other things that would have caused that aircraft to possibly rupture into flames.

TODD: Much of the plane remained intact in the Keelung River in Taiwan's capital.

Among the 58 people on board, there were more than a dozen survivors. But the pilot and the two co-pilots were not among them. The black boxes containing the flight data and cockpit voice recorders have been recovered. While the investigation into the cause is just getting underway, experts say the plane's steep pitch to the left indicates the left side engine, or part of the aerodynamics on that side, might have failed. One possible clue, an audio recording from the cockpit to air traffic control moments before impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayday! Mayday! Engine flameout.

SOUCIE: A flameout means that the engine has lost its combustion. In other words, there's no thrust coming from that engine any longer.

TODD: Among the survivors pulled from the water, a one-year-old baby. Despite the breathtaking images, one expert, says this was a survivable accident.

SHAWN PRUCHNICKI, FORMER TURBOPROP PILOT: Because of the slow air speed, the relative angle that it impacted with the water and the way the fuselage was lying in the water, there was a lot of survivable space here.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: And we now have a second crash involving that same airline, TransAsia, in less than a year. In July of 2014, another TransAsia plane in Taiwan crashed, killing 48 people. And it comes during a disastrous 12 month period for the Asian region, with the AirAsia crash off Indonesia that killed 162 people on December 28th, and, of course, the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean, which still has not been solved -- Wolf, a horrible year for aviation.

BLITZER: And you're getting information the actual propellers of this aircraft, they could have been a big factor here?

TODD: That's right. Experts are telling us tonight watch what investigators are saying about whether there was feathering of these propellers. If an engine -- they say if an engine or the aerodynamics of a propeller plane fail, then the propellers are supposed to be feathered, meaning the thin edge of the propeller is supposed to be turned in the direction where the plane is flying to cut through the air like a knife and eliminate drag.

If that's done right, we're told, that could conceivably even help to straighten out the plane. Watch for what investigators are saying about whether there was feathering going on when this plane was in trouble and whether it was done right. Sometimes it can be done automatically. So we'll watch for that (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much.

Let's get some more now on what happened before those harrowing final seconds all caught on camera.

CNN's Tom Forman is joining us now.

He's got more on the route that the plane followed just after it took off, minutes before the crash -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, if you take a look at it, this is how it took off. And this is the way it flew, roughly paralleling the river through here. Now, whether or not that was by design or simply by accident, we don't know.

Let's look at what happened during that process. At this first dot here, when it's really just beginning to take off, let's take a look at this. From the time it was getting off the ground, at zero seconds here, as it's taking off, it rose to an altitude of about 100 feet and had a speed of 133-and-a-half miles per hour at that point. It could have been up to 150 miles an hour for this aircraft at takeoff. And maximum takeoff weight about 50,000 pounds.

Now, it advances over this area here, over the river through some areas, and it reaches this point. And I want you to watch what changes with these numbers over here.

When it's gone just this very short distance, the flight time moves forward and now, we're about two seconds into the flight and it has driven up toward an altitude of some 13,050 feet, although this number is not quite right here. It's a little further along than that.

And the speed is now around 122.77 miles an hour. That's after it gets right off the ground.

Then as it moves forward to its next point along the way, it rises to about 1,250 feet, 95 miles an hour. Suddenly we've had a change here. And that's where we're seeing this first turn start to happen here. We keep talking about the turn to the left. There were two of them. The one you're seeing at the end is the catastrophic one where this plane goes down. But this seems to be the place where it first had a change in its power supply, a change in its climb and it made the first turn.

Now whether this was by design or because that left engine did stop functioning and it pulled it that way because the right engine is pushing around, we don't know. But that took it sweeping over this way. And then it came in toward the end there. And in the end, look at this. It's still holding about the right speed, but that's partially because it's falling so quickly, because look where it is -- 200 feet off the ground over here.

So big change there, Wolf, in terms of what it was doing and a change that was really precarious because of everything that was flying over in this area.

Take a look. These are the buildings it was trying to clear, some of them 12 stories tall. That meant as it was coming in toward the end, it was very close to the tops of them. It had a lot to avoid. And, in fact, even at its best point, Wolf, it was not that much higher over all those people on the ground -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, there were lots of high buildings there. So, clearly, it could have been a whole lot worse.

FOREMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. And even when it came in at the bottom, we keep talking about this bridge. I want to give you another perspective because it does make a difference.

Look at this bridge from the ground. The bridge itself was six stories tall. That's what this plane hit on up here. So it had all sorts of obstacles in front of it as it was trying to deal with what appears to be some sort of catastrophic failure that led it to crash down into the water, Wolf.

So truthfully, the minute it stopped, the moment it stopped gaining altitude, this plane had huge obstacles right in front of it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Tom. Thank you.

Immediately after the crash, survivors wearing life jackets waded and swam away from the wreckage. Rescuers also found children who made it through the ordeal alive.

CNN's Pamela Brown is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with more on the survivors. And there were survivors.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There were survivors. And one of those survivors includes a little boy, Wolf. We have video of him. You see him captured in this video right here. He was pulled from that wreckage, this toddler, and then gently placed into the arms of a rescuer in a boat as other survivors wait in line.

Now we're not sure who was holding him there at that boat, but we've learned from Taiwan's official news agency that a one-year-old toddler and his parents survived the crash, but became separated. The wife and toddler were taken to a different hospital than the dad. And it turns out, according to this news agency, that the father was so desperate to get to them, that he actually biked to the other hospital injured to reunite with them.

And a doctor at a hospital where several survivors were taken says that many of the people from the plane crash seem to have been hit by a huge force from the outside. They suffered trauma from their heads to their legs. One first responder who went into the plane's cabin after that crash told "The Taipei Times" that the cabin was flooded with chest deep water. The seats were severely deformed. Many passengers were tangled up in their seat belts and hung upside down. Some even passed away in that position.

The toll, so far 31 confirmed dead, 15 injured and 12 missing, officials say. But that search and rescue continues right now.

BLITZER: Yes, the luckiest person may have been the driver of that taxi cab, right?

BROWN: Yes. This is really unbelievable, Wolf. I mean you see that cab in the video. So as the plane's going down, one of the wings of the plane clips a taxi. And right here, we see the mangled taxi after that crash.

But amazingly, the driver and the passenger inside cheated death. They were both taken to the hospital. They have serious head injuries, we're told, but -- and the driver actually told the Taiwanese press that he fainted when the accident happened. But, Wolf, when you look at this video, thinking a plane struck it on its way down and the two people inside survived, really incredible.

BLITZER: Yes, it is incredible, indeed. I'm happy they did survive.

Thank you very much, Pamela Brown.

For more on where the investigation goes from here, I'm joined on the phone by the former NTSB chair, Deborah Hersman.

She's now the president and CEO of The National Safety Council.

Deborah, thanks very much for joining us.

Looking at that video, it certainly looks as though one of the propellers was not turning on this plane.

What does that say to you?

DEBORAH HERSMAN, FORMER NTSB CHAIRMAN: You know, I think the investigators have a lot of good information here. They've got a mayday call that came through on air traffic control. They've got visual with the video evidence. And then they've got the recorders. This is really the best case, as far as an investigation goes, with the access to information that they have in the early hours.

BLITZER: Does it seem, Deborah, like the pilot was trying to ditch the plane in the river?

HERSMAN: You know, I think it's really hard to say what the pilot might have been doing. There's is so much that's happening, it's really a dynamic situation and we really only have a few seconds of information.

But when they download those recorders, they are going to get control inputs. They're going to get, potentially, what the pilot may have been trying to do with respect to controlling the aircraft. And they will get conversations, too. And so the good news is there is some experience with respect to the Taiwanese authorities that are investigating this accident. They don't have a tremendous amount of experience, but they do have good experience. And they have been very helpful to work with in the past. BLITZER: Was there another landing option available to the pilot that might have had a safer outcome?

HERSMAN: You know, given the rapid descent over a populated urban area, I would say that there are not many pilots who get the opportunity to pull off a Sullenberger type landing in the Hudson. This is just fortunate that we actually did have survivors. You talked about the cab occupants, but also those people on the plane that survived.

It does show you the majority of accidents are survivable. So it is important to make sure that people think about emergency egress and how to get out.

BLITZER: That's very good advice.

The plane itself, it was they call an ATR 72-600.

Is that generally considered a safe plane?

HERSMAN: You know, I think most planes have very good records nowadays. We've got a lot of commercial aircraft that are built all over the world. These aircraft have been around. ATR has been around.

But I think this airline is going to have to look very closely at these two events that have occurred recently to understand what happened. And I think it will be very important to understand what caused, if there was an engine failure, what caused that failure, to make sure other -- other aircraft aren't susceptible to a similar failure. They'll want to get on that immediately.

And then I think understanding what was going on in the cockpit with these pilots, because pilots are trained to deal with an engine failure.

And so what did they do?

How did they respond?

What happened?

BLITZER: And this airline, this Taiwanese airliner, TransAsia, it's the airline's second deadly crash in less than a year.

Could there be a bigger problem here as to how this airline operates?

HERSMAN: Absolutely. I think any time you have a crash that is an event that everyone has to pay attention to, when you have a couple in a year for any time period, you have to begin to really dig a little bit deeper into the airline, into their culture, into their practices. And it may be something beyond their control. But I think when you have multiple events, you've got to take a deeper dive and you really have to peel back the layers of the onion to say what's going on with this operation.

BLITZER: Deborah Hersman, the former NTSB chair.

Thanks very much for joining us.

HERSMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, was the pilot trying to ditch his plane in the river?

Our aviation experts, they're standing by. We'll take a closer look into the deadly crash and how so many people actually managed to survive.

Plus, a key U.S. ally plans to step up its airstrikes against ISIS after that gruesome murder of one of its pilots.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following the investigation into today's deadly airliner crash in Taiwan. The plane's last horrifying seconds in the air were all caught by a car's dashboard camera. At least 31 of the 58 people on board the plane are confirmed dead, but there are also at least 15 survivors.

Let's bring in our experts: the former commercial airline pilot and aviation consultant, Alastair Rosenschein; along with our CNN aviation correspondent, Richard Quest; and our -- and the former FAA safety inspector, David Soucie. Guys, thanks very much.

Alastair, you're a former pilot. You looked at the video. Do you think the pilot was actually trying to ditch the plane in the river? What's your analysis?

ALASTAIR ROSENSCHEIN, AVIATION CONSULTANT: Well, it's rather hard to say whether he was. What I can say for certain is that the ATR-72, like all twin engine commercial airliners, is quite capable of flying with one engine out. That's with one engine failed. So we're assuming here that they had lost an engine, as that seems the type of mayday call.

And so questions have to be asked why the aircraft was flying an erratic flight path, why it descended and the latter stages, looks like the left wing there had stalled, causing a very rapid roll to the left.

You know, the accident investigators will be looking at every aspect of this flight and the training and the technical aspect of the aircraft itself, but I think I wouldn't be at all surprised if a certain amount of focus isn't on the handling of the aircraft and trying to reproduce this particular failure in the simulator and seeing how other crews handle it. Because it does, you know, have the hallmarks of a mishandled flight.

But, you know, it's really, really difficult to say. It is entirely possible they had a failure which no crews could have handled.

BLITZER: Yes, that's entirely possible. They're going to be looking at all of that.

David, if a pilot hadn't clipped that bridge, clipped that taxi, then the bridge, could that landing actually have been more successful in that relatively shallow water?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, as Alastair said, it's hard to predict.

However, at that angle, as steep as it was, and it apparently as Alastair said also, that that left wing had stalled, which would not have been recoverable at any point even if the bridge wasn't there, so I believe you're -- I'm not sure that it was possible to pull off a Sullenberger type landing at this point.

BLITZER: A Miracle on the Hudson, as they say.

Richard, how do people survive this type of crash? Are they fortunate to be in the front of the plane, the middle of the plane, the back of the plane? What's going on inside?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Pure unbridled luck, Wolf. It depends where you are in the aircraft, and that depends on the nature of the plane. It's often been said that the safest part of the aircraft is the back. That's because the front hits an object first.

But if you look at the statistics, they are infinitesimally small in their difference. So for example, they always say flying backwards is supposedly safer than flying forwards if your seat is backwards. Again, it's a very minor difference.

What you will have here is a classic situation that those who were in a particular part of the plane, so for example, from these pictures, we know the front of the fuselage went into the water. That's where most of the deaths and the casualties were. The back of the plane is not in the water to the same extent. That's where many of the survivors.

And then you get the situation, Wolf, where the plane breaks up, as it did here, and some people are thrown, as they were, the seats are thrown from the fuselage, as well. It really comes down to pure luck.

BLITZER: But do you have to make sure you tighten your seat belt and you get into that crouched position, that certainly can help. Luck is important, but you have to do what they tell you to do.

QUEST: I'm guessing in this situation, Wolf, there would have been almost no opportunity for any brace, brace.

Look, from what we know, the plane had departed. It had got about five miles downstream. It was at about 1,300 feet. You've got a mayday, mayday. An engine has flamed out. As soon as that happens, the plane starts to descend very rapidly. You then, at this moment of extremis, get the stalling of the left wing, clipping the bridge; and into the water it goes.

My guess is judging by the cockpit voice recorder and what we know so far, there would have been virtually no time for any brace positions.

BLITZER: Alastair, is this plane, this ATR-72-600, is it a pretty safe plane? Does it have a good safety record?

ROSENSCHEIN: Well, yes, it does, although in the past year, they've managed to lose another one of these aircraft. And as your previous commentator said, when you start to get more than one accident in this type of aircraft in a similar type of accident, then you have to look at it very closely indeed.

And I myself have flown twin turbo props, 50 seater ones, but they were built, a much, much older type of aircraft; and it had very, very poor handling capabilities with an engine out.

And you know, basically, the most important thing when flying an aircraft with an engine out is your air speed. And you try and maintain the engine out air speed, which should give you a reasonable rate of climb to clear all the objects that you might see on -- ahead of you.

However, in this case, that didn't happen, and so something's gone horribly wrong.

BLITZER: There have been several Asian carriers, David, that have had problems, as we all know. Is there something -- is this just coincidental or is there something, is there a major problem in Asia right now with some of these newer carriers?

SOUCIE: It's too early to tell, because we don't know the cause of most of these accidents. So now we're going to try to go back and look at it and make a connection. I don't see a lot of connection between these accidents. So, although it's hard to believe that it's anomalous in any way, but I do believe that that does need to be looked closer. We need to peel the onions back and see what's going on with these air carriers.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you're right. David Soucie, Richard Quest, Alastair Rosenschein, guys, thanks very much.

Coming up, a key U.S. ally answering -- answers the murder of its captured pilot by hanging two jihadists. Now it's planning what they're calling a relentless war against ISIS.

And a deadly collision and a fire on a commuter rail line near New York City. There's new information coming in. We'll share it with you right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A key U.S. ally has carried out its first acts of revenge for the savage burning alive of a captured pilot. Jordan has quickly executed two jailed terrorists. It's now vowing what they're calling a relentless war against ISIS, and we're learning it plans to step up its airstrikes as part of the U.S.-led coalition. We have full coverage. Let's start with CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's standing by with the very latest -- Barbara. BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: What do we expect from Jordan? Wolf, I can tell you that the U.S. is very clear. It is supporting Jordan in whatever it decides to do in the coming hours.

And there is a general feeling that, yes, Jordan will step up its airstrikes. They're not putting troops on the ground, so airstrikes clearly on the table to go against ISIS in Syria.

There are a couple of technical issues, though, that will shape anything that might happen. The Jordanians have a capable air force, but ISIS targets right now are mainly mobile targets. ISIS on the move, on the ground. Not the easiest thing to chase down. So the Jordanians will be looking for some technical assistance from the U.S. in targeting intelligence, surveillance, all of that.

If in fact, the Jordanians take to the skies with increased airstrikes, you are likely to see the U.S. also take to the skies in support of what they are doing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And so we should anticipate in the not-too-distant future a major increase in the number of Jordanian and presumably U.S. airstrikes, is that what I'm hearing?

STARR: Well, look, King Abdullah is the one that is saying it, that Jordan will take action, and he tends very much to be a man of his word. He doesn't take any of this lightly, to say the least. So if he is putting it out there, the U.S. takes him at his word.

Let me just say, it takes about 72 hours -- this is a known fact -- for the so-called air tasking order. The coalition list of targets that are portioned out to different countries. It's a 72-hour cycle from when you start. We don't know when it starts, but we know it will take about that amount of time for all the pieces to be put in place, if King Abdullah lives up to his word, which we expect that Jordan will take action against ISIS -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you.

After the brutal murder of its pilot, Jordan wasted absolutely no time in hanging those two jailed jihadists. Today, King Abdullah is making it clear that's just the beginning of an all-out war with ISIS.

Let's go to Amman, Jordan. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is standing by with more on the reaction there. It's been quite intense, Jomana, hasn't it?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after we spoke last night, we talked about people on the streets calling for revenge; and many here in Jordan woke up to the kind of news that they were hoping to hear, the execution of two of the highest profile jihadis in Jordanian jails. Sajida al-Rishawi, the failed would-be suicide bomber, that Iraqi woman that we know ISIS had been demanding in a prisoner swap, and also, Ziad al-Karbouli, an Iraqi, too, who was a top aide to the former leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al- Zarqawi. These are two prisoners with -- who had ties to al Qaeda in Iraq and ISIS here; and their executions were welcomed by so many Jordanians today, and we heard calls for more.

Jordanians are saying that this should be only the beginning of the Jordanian response. They want to see the execution of more ISIS- linked prisoners.

Of course, Jordan has a large number of jihadists in its prisons, whether former members of al Qaeda or ISIS supporters and sympathizers. We have heard from the government in recent months that they've cracked down and hat they have behind bars.

And we also heard from the family of the pilot, Wolf, saying that more executions should take place of ISIS supporters who are in Jordanian jails. But the father of the pilot's saying that they -- these two executions that took place, these two executed prisoners do not compare to his son.

BLITZER: And they were both sent to the gallows, both of these convicted terrorists. The woman and the man, Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouli, they were both hung, right?

KARADSHEH: Yes, that's correct. This is the sentence in Jordan. It is death by hanging. And we have not heard more details about how this took place. We do know that it happened at dawn today, and Jordanians woke up to the news, Wolf, with an urgent banner on state television announcing it to Jordan shortly after 5 a.m. in the morning local time.

BLITZER: All right, Jomana. Jomana Karadsheh in Amman, Jordan for us, thank you. We'll get back to you.

Joining us now, a key member of the House Armed Services Committee, an Iraq war veteran, the Democratic congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

Congresswoman, thanks very much for coming in. First of all, do you have a problem with Jordan's decision to go ahead and hang these two terrorists?

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: These are two people who Jordan has already identified and found guilty. They were on Death Row. I think the mistake, though, that people are making is somehow equating hanging these two terrorists, these two Islamic extremists, with the burning alive of this Jordanian pilot. And there really is no equation. '

I think that this action that Jordan has taken is a symbol and a statement to groups like ISIS, al Qaeda and these other Islamic extremist groups that they're not going to stand back and cower in fear, that they're not going to take what ISIS has done and that they are going to wage this war, both in a military sense and an ideological sense.

BLITZER: And I'm told that, from Jordan's perspective, this is only just the beginning. They're going to really dramatically step up their attacks against ISIS in Iraq and in Syria. They're not going to -- this is not just hanging these two terrorists. They're going to move forward with an intensive airstrikes. What are you hearing?

GABBARD: We actually met with King Abdullah of Jordan yesterday shortly before he went to meet with the president at the White House, expressed our deepest condolences on the loss of this pilot, but we also heard from him a very strong and resolute statement of not only going out and, you know, really putting all of their resources towards defeating ISIS and these other groups, but he very clearly identified that there are two avenues that have to be pursued simultaneously.

One is a military action, but the other is an ideological war that is also being fought here. He talked about the president of Egypt, President el-Sisi, who has very actively called for other leaders of these moderate Muslim countries to stand up against this extremism, and that this is yet another symbol of the necessity of that action that has to be taken.

BLITZER: I want to get some more on what King Abdullah asked you. You're a member of the Armed Services Committee, and your colleagues. We know he's seeking more U.S. military assistance. He's got some problems there. We'll discuss that and more, Congresswoman.

We'll take a quick break. More on what happens next when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Back with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She's a Democrat. She serves on the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committee. She's also an Iraq war veteran.

Congresswoman, is there any indication at all that the coalition is ready to deploy 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria in order to destroy ISIS? Mike Morell, the former CIA deputy director, he was on TV this morning saying it would take 100,000 troops.

Are you hearing at all, anybody here in Washington is ready to make that kind of commitment?

GABBARD: I haven't heard anything like that. And I think putting that proposition forward is a -- is a dangerous one, because the groundwork hasn't been laid in place to even get to that point where we should consider putting that amount of our troops or any troops' lives in danger.

Because again, and I've said this before, we have to identify exactly who the enemy is. This isn't just about ISIS and al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria. The king of Jordan, as we spoke to him yesterday from the Armed Services Committee, talked about how these same Islamic extremist groups exist in Nigeria, in Sinai in Egypt where they just launched a big attack. And we've got to recognize exactly who they are and then come up with a strategy to defeat them.

And that strategy has to be a three-pronged strategy. It's got to be militarily, decisively so, strongly. It's got to be politically, where in Iraq, for example, you're going to have a different political solution to this so that the Sunnis currently in Iraq are not creating that oxygen because of their being disenfranchised by the Shia government and aligning themselves with ISIS. We can't allow for those types of situations to occur.

And last but not least, ideologically. These are people who believe if they kill as we saw this horrific attack on this Jordanian pilot, then they will go to heaven. Their families will be taken care of. So this theology, this ideology has to be challenged not only by us, but by these moderate Muslim leaders, like the king of Jordan and everyone else.

BLITZER: Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he was on CNN today. He said what the U.S. needs to do right away, he said, provide troops as forward air controllers, intelligence, special forces, to get, I guess, the Iraqi military, the Kurdish military, the Free Syrian Army, to help them do the real fighting. Is that realistic?

GABBARD: I think there is some support that we should consider giving to these ground fighters like the Kurdish Peshmerga, who have been doing an outstanding job and very decisively defeating groups like ISIS on the ground. Whether we have Special Forces really going in in a quick insert strategic defeat and exit, I think these are different things that we consider.

But again, this has to be part of an overall strategy that seeks to decisively defeat ISIS.

BLITZER: He also says, McCain, that ISIS is winning right now. Despite all these rosy little tidbits that administration officials, others are putting out, he says ISIS is still winning. Do you agree?

GABBARD: I think the reason why ISIS, I think, is continuing to increase in strength and their threat is not diminishing, again is because they haven't been clearly identified; and that clear and decisive strategy has not been laid in place.

Some of these airstrikes have been effective. We've seen the airstrikes combined with the Kurdish Peshmerga's fighting on the ground in Kobani, for example. That has been effective. But we're not talking about just what's happening in Iraq or Syria. We've got to look at this from a much broader perspective and within that context.

BLITZER: You know, we learned overnight that the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, one of our closest allies in that part of the world, they were part of this coalition airstrike campaign but they stopped their airstrikes after that Jordanian pilot in his F-16 went down. And we know what happened to the Jordanian pilot.

They are concerned that the U.S. does not have search and rescue operation missions close enough, they're far away, whether in Kuwait or Qatar or the UAE. They are not even allowed to fly from Turkey even though it's a NATO ally, as you know. The U.S. doesn't want to establish those bases, those rescue operation bases, in northern Iraq.

That's a problem, isn't it? GABBARD: God, there are so many problems with that whole proposition.

I think first of all now is not the time for countries like the United Arab Emirates or for countries like Turkey to be stepping back.

This is something that's happening right there on their doorstep and in their countries and in the region, and they should be the ones who are stepping up as the king of Jordan has, as the president of Egypt has, in taking on a leadership role in this, and the United States should work with them as partners in order to be able to effectively accomplish that goal.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, thanks very much for coming in.

GABBARD: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Congressman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

At the top of the hour, we're going to have much more on these incredible pictures that have been coming in. The latest on the deadly plane crash including new information on the passengers who survived.

But up next, a deadly accident right here in the United States. A rush hour commuter train collides with an SUV, starting a huge fire.

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BLITZER: We're getting new information on a deadly computer train wreck near New York City. It happened during the evening rush hour on a Metro North Railroad's Harlem line. Investigators are looking into why a woman drove her SUV onto the tracks as the train approached. The collision and the fire that followed killed her along with five train passengers.

Our Rene Marsh is on the location right now. She's got the latest on the investigation.

Rene, what are you learning?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, at this hour, it's still a mystery how this SUV got stuck on the tracks. But we just received an update from the NTSB. We know that one of the train's recorders is in route to Washington, D.C. where they'll analyze it. By tomorrow we should know how fast this train was traveling. We also know in the next 24 to 48 hours they hope to interview the train's crew.

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MARSH (voice-over): Smoke and flames poured out of a packed Metro North train after the rail line's deadliest crash yet. Five people dead in the blazing inferno.

ROB ASTORINO, WESTCHESTER COUNTY EXECUTIVE: The bodies are all from the front car because the bodies are all very badly burned and unidentifiable. MARSH: At least 15 injured after the commuter train slammed into a

Mercedes SUV stuck on the tracks. It was crushed and tossed 1,000 feet. The driver was the sixth fatality.

The 5:45 Metro North train left Grand Central Tuesday evening. As the train approached Valhalla, a suburb 30 miles outside New York City, this SUV crossed the track. But it gets stuck. Witnesses say the railroad crossing arm went down and the driver got out to inspect before getting back in the car. More than an hour after leaving the station at around 7:00 p.m. the train slams into the SUV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep going.

MARSH: New video from inside the train shows how packed it was. More than 600 people were on board. The electrified third rail rammed through the train. Smoke filled the cars and the temperature rose.

UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGER: There was a passenger that ran past me. He had blood on his face. And people were pulling the windows off, trying to get out through the emergency windows.

UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGER: The first car caught fire and the second one. But we were able to get off in time. But it was scary.

MARSH (on camera): The NTSB is now getting its first look at the crash site. You could see investigators there surrounding that first burned out car of the train. The first step in this process is documenting all of the wreckage.

(Voice-over): Investigators have the train's event recorders which will tell how fast the train was traveling and when brakes were applied. They are also examining the rail crossing signals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each of those devices has a recorder on it. Those recorders have already been secured.

MARSH: Hundreds of passengers self-evacuated. Some say they were on their own without instructions.

(On camera): Any indication at this point whether this process of getting passengers off the train happened fast enough? Have you had a chance to speak to passengers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this press briefing, I'm going to discuss the NTSB's investigative processes because we have not confirmed any of that at this point. We will. By the time we have completed this investigation, we will know everything that we need to know.

MARSH (voice-over): This is not the first time there has been death on Metro North's tracks. December 2013, a Metro North derailment killed four passengers in the Bronx after the train's engineer fell asleep.

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MARSH: Well, one official who saw the inside of that first car of this train says that it was absolutely gutted. The preliminary theory is that fuel from the SUV sparked that fiery explosion -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a horrific situation.

All right, Rene. Thanks very much. Rene Marsh on the scene for us.

Coming up, a deadly crash caught on camera. An airliner suddenly plunges from the sky. Clips a car. Then a bridge and slams into a river. Somehow, though, there are survivors.

And Jordan strikes back. The key U.S. ally hangs two terrorists after the brutal murder of its captured pilot and vows a relentless war against ISIS.

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