Return to Transcripts main page


Egypt: Crash Cause Likely Technical Not Terror; Navy: "El Faro" Believed Found On Sea Bottom; One Killed, One Injured In University Shooting; Deadly Texas Storms Kill At Least Six. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired November 1, 2015 - 06:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: We are learning new details this morning of the final seconds before a Russian passenger jet crashed killing all 224 people on board. Now Egypt maintains no foul play is suspected, but the investigation into what caused the crash is under way.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, breaking overnight, search teams locate wreckage they believe is "El Faro." The cargo ship disappeared with 33 people on board during Hurricane Joaquin.

PAUL: In Texas, families remembering victims of some brutal weather.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are hoping and praying and holding out hope that --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know she's up there and, you know, in a better place and she is smiling down on us and she is our little angel now.


PAUL: A slow moving storm dumps more than 15 inches of rain in some places. It sparks tornadoes and now there is even more rain on the way.

It is so good to have you with us this morning. Thank you for making time for us. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you. We are starting our coverage in Egypt where the investigation into the crash of Metro Jet Flight 9268 is now ongoing in the Sinai Peninsula.

Russian and Egyptian teams are working in tandem trying to recover the bodies of the victims and comb through this crash site, 224 people were on board when that plane went down. There are no survivors.

In the meantime, we are getting these new pictures of the wreckage and the investigation. You see the mangled hunks of debris here. Investigators are trying to figure out why the plane passed security checks moments before and crashed after takeoff. We are covering this this morning from around the world. We are beginning with senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, following the story from Sharm el-Sheik. That's where the plane took off.

Arwa, what are official making of these claims by ISIS affiliated militants that they shot down that plane?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, those claims are being refuted and effectively dismissed by both Russian and Egyptian officials. One Egyptian military source that CNN spoke to said that the Islamic militants, especially those affiliated with ISIS that operate in the Sinai do not have the surface-to-air missiles with the range that would be capable of bringing down a plane at cruising altitude.

And they are, at this stage, saying that they had no indication ahead of time according to the country's transport minister that anything was going wrong with that flight.


HOSSAM KAMAL, EGYPTIAN TRANSPORTATION MINISTER (through translation): If the pilot doesn't report any faults on the plane, all that will be carried out is routine maintenance checks on the plane before takeoff. The checks done before takeoff did not reveal anything. Up until the crash happened we were never informed of any faults on the plane nor did we receive any SOS calls.


DAMON: That is why it is so critical at this stage that authorities be able to retrieve vital information from the two black boxes that they have managed to obtain from the site, exactly when that is going to happen, unclear at this stage.

Meanwhile, at least 163 bodies have been recovered, taken to around six morgues into Cairo where the very difficult process of identifying them and eventually sending them back to their loved ones will begin. But, again, a lot of unanswered questions at this stage on what brought that flight down.

BLACKWELL: Arwa, it seems that and we have covered aviation events like too many of them over the last two and a half years that investigators seem to be going through this phase of the investigation very quickly recovering the black boxes within hours of this crash.

DAMON: It has been especially if you compare it to past crashes the most recent ones, but that is also due to factors on the ground here. They were able to locate the crash site fairly quickly.

The plane went down at around 6:20 a.m. local and within four to five hours, the remains of the plane had been identified and rescue teams were able to get on-site fairly quickly.

And that, of course, is playing a significant role in the fact that they are able to not only retrieve the bodies of those who perished, but also they have been able to seal off this area where the plane went down.

Remember, it went down in the middle of the Sinai. This is actually a no-go zone. It is a military zone because of ongoing clashes between various Islamic groups and some of them have pleaded with ISIS and others not.

[06:05:05] But on-going clashes that have taken place over the course of the last few months with the Egyptian military so it is a blocked off military zone and the prosecutor's office has declared it a crime scene.

But what really helped in those initial stages was the fact that the wreckage, the remains of the plane was very quickly identified. It was in an area that the authorities and the rescue and recovery team were able to get to fairly quickly.

BLACKWELL: All right, Arwa Damon reporting for us there in Sharm el- Sheik, thank you so much.

PAUL: Now I want to go to CNN aviation correspondent, Richard Quest, who is joining us from London. Richard, Flight Radar 24 released flights 9268's altitude and speed changes, I want to take a look at some of this that we are getting in here.

If we can pull this up on the screen, you can see the speed climb, we understand, from 272 knots to about 405 knots about 466 miles per hour. For some 20 minutes before it plummeted at 6:11 a.m. There was no data tracked after 6:13 a.m. A steady climb to 30,000 feet and then it descends. What does this kind of data tell you?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: What it tells us, the Flight Radar 24 data is reliable, but it's not absolute in the sense that it's not good enough for investigative purposes. It receives from ATSB responders.

But the gist is there, even if not the specifics. What it certainly shows us is that something took place about 21 minutes into the flight that was fairly dramatic and that caused oscillations in altitude.

The plane starts to go to that and a dramatic falloff in speed. According to the data that they have released, the speed at one point drops to 93 knots which is well, well below anything that the plane is able to fly at.

Now, the issue, of course, is what was it that took place that first of all, caused the oscillation and the variations in attitude and then led to the falloff in speed. That will become the cause and effect.

It will be looked at as to the event itself, dramatic catastrophic and certainly to the point of destruction, and then how the plane was being flown in that emergency.

So we know, for instance, much has been made of the fact the passengers, those bodies that have been recovered still were in their seats with their seat belts on. Some of have suggested that was because the pilot, you know, asked them to because of what was happening on the plane. We don't know that at all.

It was only 20 minutes in the flight. It's entirely possible the seat belt sign was still on. So there is a lot of information there. The black boxes, which I believe are now being read out in Cairo, will give us the data.

And as I always said, because they have got the debris field and they have the wreckage, this is going to be a textbook investigation.

BLACKWELL: So Richard, I wonder. Let's keep these pictures and the video up of the debris field and the investigators looking through the six-mile field here. What could be gleaned from the pictures that we are seeing now?

QUEST: So far, not a huge amount other than the fact that it would appear in some of the pictures that the tail did separate. It looks as if it's fairly clean separation from the tail.

Now, there are some who are suggesting that a previous accident of this plane, 12, 14 years ago, a tail strike of this particular aircraft, might have had something to do with it, nothing other than pure speculation.

At the moment, there is one particular picture where you can probably see the pressure bulkhead. Again, we don't know what the significance is. The debris field is compact, which is leading to suggest that 10 miles sounds large but it's not huge.

But it doesn't suggest there was a total breakup of the aircraft in mid-flight. It came down fairly tactile, but it may have been broken off on the way down.

BLACKWELL: So the fact this it may have broken up on the way down, does that make this crediting from officials of any claims of terror more or less likely?

QUEST: Well, one can't say and one wouldn't say. The claims of terror have to be discounted on the basis of military intelligence whether or not those terrorists have the capability. Remember importantly -- we know this from MH-17. You can't bring down an aircraft with a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile.

[06:10:03] It has to be from a very sophisticated operation like the buck system. It has to be radar guided. It has to have a sophisticated operator. You can't just aim and fire. It has to be much more than that.

So unless those involved have obtained much more sophisticated military hardware than anybody believes they have got so far, in which case you're looking at a very different game or a very different set of circumstances, you have to take the military intelligence which says this is not terrorism.

Now, three airlines, if I'm not mistaken have decided to give a pass over the Sinai Peninsula and over that particular area out of an abundance of caution. I suspect other airlines will follow whether it's confirmed one way or another, but so far terrorism is certainly not seen as the cause.

BLACKWELL: All right, Richard Quest for us in London, thank you.

PAUL: We want to take you now to the St. Petersburg Airport. That's where this memorial has formed for the victims of the plane crash. The remains of those tourists and we've been talking about this morning killed.

They could be arriving home as soon as today because more than a hundred family members of those victims have submitted their DNA to help identify these bodies. More on that later in the show and take you to St. Petersburg Airport to see what is happening there.

But breaking overnight, it appears the wreckage of "El Faro" has been found. This is the missing cargo ship that disappeared a month ago during Hurricane Joaquin, 33 people died when it sank. We have breaking developments for you coming up next.

Also U.S. Special Forces headed to Syria to fight ISIS. Now some presidential candidates are expressing their concerns about that decision.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You either do it or you don't do it.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think it makes sense to send a handful of ground troops into harm's way when there is no plan for them to win.




PAUL: New this morning on CNN, take a look at this. A cargo ship that went down in a hurricane exactly one month ago appears to have been found. A deep sea drone could go beneath the water today to confirm the ship is the El Faro.

The U.S. Navy says it is resting upright and in one piece on the sea bottom so it appears to the radar images about three miles below the surface. Some 30 people were on board when El Faro disappeared when sailing into Hurricane Joaquin on the way to Puerto Rico.

Now only one body has been recovered thus far after it sank. Our Nick Valencia is covering the story for us this morning. I'm wondering how certain does the Navy feel that this is indeed the El Faro?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are cautious, but they sound like they have found exactly what they are looking for. The team of NTSB investigators as well as the U.S. Navy will go into day with a deep ocean remotely operated vehicle to try to confirm with 100 percent certainty that this wreckage is that of El Faro.

It was yesterday afternoon that they spotted these images using high tech sonar technology. Within the last week, a team has been in that area using that technology to try to figure out if this is El Faro.

It was located where it was last seen off the east coast of the Bahamas about 15,000 feet underwater. Today as Christi was talking about marks exactly one month since El Faro was reported missing on that trip from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico.

If this is exactly what they are looking for, what a relief it would be for the families that have been looking for closure, Christi. They have been wanting the remains of their families returned, 33 members on board there, 28 of them Americans.

Five Polish engineers and now this could provide the closures that the families have been looking for the past month.

PAUL: So have we heard from any of the families since getting this news?

VALENCIA: Over the time, over this last month they have been giving interviews at Jacksonville asking for closure. You know, they want the remains back. Only one body has been identified from the 33 on board that vessel. So this could be some closure for them and hopefully, investigators confirm with 100 percent certainty that it's the vessel itself.

PAUL: All right, Nick Valencia, really appreciate it. Thank you.


BLACKWELL: We've got some breaking news on the campus of North Carolina Winston-Salem State University. School officials tell CNN there's been a shooting, at least one person is confirmed dead and a second person injured. Both victims are believed to be students.

The school was placed on lockdown after the call came in to authorities before 1:30 this morning. Officials say the suspected gunman is still out there somewhere believed not to be a student.

Winston-Salem City Police are helping the campus police with the investigation. We will stay on top of this with the latest developments and bring them to you as soon as they become available.

Also this morning we are following the severe and deadly storms in Texas. More than a foot of rain is dumped on some parts. Plus add tornadoes to the mix and it could only get worse.



BLACKWELL: These intense rainstorms are slamming Texas have now killed at least six people. The downpour has been so severe the city of Austin has set a new record for the month of October, at least 20 inches of rain has drenched part of the state, near the state capital. But much more rain is expected in the eastern sections and along the gulf coast.

PAUL: Let's talk about all of our friends in Houston there. They were really pummeled. Emergency crews making a lot of water rescues there, flood watches and warnings are still in place there.

BLACKWELL: CNN meteorologist, Allison Chinchar is tracking this far too slow moving storm. Who is under the gun next?

ALLISON CHINCAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's going to be everybody that's pushing a little bit farther east. Take a look at this map. A map of Texas that shows all of the rain that has already fallen in this area the last 48 hours.

Now, the most impressive numbers fell between Austin and San Antonio right along the I-35 corridor. We had almost 20 inches of rain in a majority of spots and a few actually did creep over that 20-inch mark.

Take a look at some of the numbers beneath me, 21 in Killeen, Texas. Austin picking up 16 inches of rain and again, a lot of spots picking up a foot of rain so they have inundated by all of that rain.

Now in addition to that we have a lot of storm reports. Tornado reports in the last 24 hours. Not all of them are confirmed. They will go out and do surveys for today. We know at least numerous reports, and there has been some damage with several of those tornado reports as well.

Once we take a look. The moisture is surging up toward parts of Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia and rainfall estimates the next 24 hours. Again, we are talking about another 4 inches, 6 inches of rain in many spots. Some could pick up as much as 10.

That is why we have the flood watches out for many of those states and it's not just the rain falling, guys. It's also going to be all of the moisture that comes with it that is going to increase all of the water in the creeks and river beds as well. That is something they will have to keep a close eye on as well.

BLACKWELL: All right, Allison, we will watch it. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Of course, we are still watching the latest developments on that passenger jet that went down in Egypt, 224 people on board, all of them killed, and now a claim of responsibility from ISIS. Why Russia says that is not the case.

Plus, Donald Trump rallying up support in Virginia and revealing plans to revamp the VA. So how does the presidential candidate plan to pay for it?


[06:28:48] BLACKWELL: Our big story morning, the investigation into the crash of Metro Jet Flight 9268, all 224 people onboard were killed when that plane went down, all but four of them are believed to be Russian. Some of their bodies could start to be headed back to St. Petersburg as soon as today and relatives are there waiting.

They have submitted DNA to help identify their loved ones. Ian Lee is outside of one of the six morgues in Cairo that are now processing everything here. Ian, what is the investigation like where you are?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning. The investigation is still ongoing, 163 bodies now we know have been brought here to Cairo. The majority of them are at the main morgue here in Cairo.

They are going over to really identify who is who. They are doing DNA testing and other forms of identification, really to make sure that these bodies can get back to their loved ones in Russia.

There are still 63 bodies out in the desert that have yet to come in. We are expecting those bodies to come in as well. They are looking for any hints, any clues, that these bodies can really tell about what the cause of this crash is.

We know both black boxes are here in Cairo now.