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Hurricane Dorian Growing in Size as It Hits the U.S.; First Aerial Image of Unprecedented Destruction of Bahamas; Family of Texas Shooting Victim Speaks Out; 20 Bodies Recovered From Deadly Boat Fire, 14 Still Missing. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 3, 2019 - 15:30   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN's live special coverage of Hurricane Dorian. I'm Victor Blackwell here along this intracoastal here in Jensen Beach. And we're continuing to get those gusts of winds, a hurricane warning is still in effect for much of the eastern coast of Florida as this storm slowly starts to creep north.

Now here in Martin County, evacuation orders have been lifted. The bridges on to Hutchinson Island, the Barrier Island, those will be opened eventually. Water service to the island has been restored. But I think it's a perspective that we need in this conversation about what Florida is facing and what has happened to the islands of the Bahamas. This afternoon we've spoken with several people who rode out the storm in shelters, in their homes. I want you to listen to one what experience was like, and what they've seen.


HUBERT MINNIS, BAHAMAS, PRIME MINISTER: This is probably the most saddened and worst day of my life to address the Bahamian people. As a physician, I've been trained to withstand many things but never anything like this.

JENNIFER GRAY, METEOROLOGIST: This one is mammoth. We talk about these storms, these hurricanes, they normally come and go over an area. They don't actually sit right on top of you with winds this ferocious. It's actually excruciating to watch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Water is simply everywhere.

MINNIS: The December devastation is unprecedented and extensive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- People are trying to make it to the other side with this white house I but some people, the water just took them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just extraordinary that a hurricane this powerful has gone on this long.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think everyone here is pretty much in shock. It's utter destruction everywhere we look.

JOSE ANDRES, CHEF: I want everybody to understand, we are not near the hurricane, we are like 90 miles away. Imagine what's going on in Abaco.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please pray for us. Pray for Abaco, please, I'm begging y'all. My baby is only 4 months old. Please pray for us.

JACK PITTARD, HURRICANE DORIAN WITNESS: It's been horrendous. The wind, you would never believe it. It was like people were in the attic moving pianos around. I was concerned whether or not the roof would fly off and I might go out into the wind.

KELLIE MACKEY, HURRICANE DORIAN WITNESS: I'm sorry, I'm really out of it.


KELLIE: In all of my years, I have never seen anything like this at all. And I pray to God we never experience something like this again.


BLACKWELL: And Brooke, you and I know what is likely next for the island of the Bahamas, having covered hurricanes and tornadoes and other natural disasters. But typically, those move through in an afternoon or overnight. But Hurricane Dorian with winds at 185 miles per hour, gusts at 225 at some points, sat over those islands for days.

So, as we get these first aerial pictures, everyone can expect we're going to see more of those, that number of five deaths likely to increase, as you and Jennifer discussed, 13,000 homes, the estimate from the Salvation Army, destroyed. That's a conservative estimate. We're going to see more of these pictures. There are lots of rescues and recoveries to be made and a lot of work. Years of work, to rebuild those islands.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Yes. Let's get to those images, Victor, thank you very much. In case you're just joining us, this is the breaking story, the destruction, the obliteration that is Great Abaco in the Bahamas. I have with me retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore who of course commanded the military efforts in Hurricane Katrina a number of years ago.

And so, General, I don't know if you're in front of the monitor to can see what I'm seeing but it is gone, what bits we're seeing from the helicopter footage over Great Abaco. What if you're a rescue crew, you know, how do you even begin, what do you even do?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE, RETIRED, COMMANDED MILITARY RESPONSE TO KATRINA (via telephone): Well, if you're the first rescue crew there, the first thing you do is call for more help. Because we're going to need more assets in there as soon as you can. And that information is critical, the people making the decisions.

What you're seeing there is very are similar to what we saw in Biloxi. I mean everything is leveled to the ground, much like in the case of New Orleans covered under water. And this is a live search and rescue mission, Brooke. I know this goes on the USAID and I'm giving an opinion here that I wasn't asked for. USAID does a great job on long term development. They are not a rapid response force.

This mission needs to be given over to the Coast Guard and the United States Navy and Marines. Because they've got the capacity to go in and there and evacuate people with landing crafts where there's no docks. USAID has none of that. So the U.S. government, if they really want to try to save people's lives that is what needs to be done now, Brooke.

And the problem is that the storm is still hanging around, and with that, it limits the capacity of where helicopters can go. But we need to get them there as close as we can, working with the Coast Guard as well as a big deck ship in there that can go in and do the rescue work with helicopters and Marine landing craft is what we need to have now, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I can't imagine how many people must be, you know, if you're in the Bahamas, if you're in Great Abaco, the only way out is by air or by sea. And so we will find out in the coming days the survivors, the fatalities, the number of thousands and thousands homes lost. General Honore, I appreciate you jumping on the phone. Thank you so much.

We're of course going to stay on our continuing coverage of Hurricane Dorian as it continues to pummel the east coast and of course the aftermath of places like what you're looking at, the Bahamas.

We're also hearing for the first time from the family of Rodolfo Arco, one of seven people killed in the mass shooting over the weekend in Odessa, Texas. Their message for the country, in the wake of this latest mass shooting.



BALDWIN: Just into CNN, a law enforcement official telling us that the gunman responsible for a deadly shooting spree in west Texas bought his weapon in a private sale which does not require a background check. That development coming one day after the ATF official said the gunman had failed a gun purchase background check.

We're also learning more about those victims. The suspect killed seven and injured 25 others. Those killed range in age from 15 to 57. And now the family members of those victims are preparing to bury their loved ones and some are speaking out. And CNN's Scott McLean is with the family members of one of those victims now. And so, Scott, please, as you speak with them, pass along my condolences. And the floor is yours. SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brooke, so much to the

focus after the shootings is always on the shooter because everybody wants to know why. But it is important to know in this case, there are obviously seven families who just experienced the worst weekend of their lives.


One of the victims is Rudy Arco, a 57-year-old entrepreneur who originally came from Cuba and he had five kids. And I'm here with his wife Bari and two of his kids, Julie and Arty. And guys, I'm so, so, so sorry that I'm even sitting here talking to you guys. I cannot even imagine what you guys are going through. I just want to know what do you want the world to know about your dad, your husband?

BARI ARCO, WIDOW OF RODOLFO ARCO: That he was an awesome Cuban man, hardworking guy, and he didn't deserve the way that he died. And my kids doesn't deserve to don't have a dad because somebody had a gun and decide to kill people. So, I want that somebody take a step forward. Accountability, and help Americans who don't go through what we are going through.

I would like to say to Mr. President Donald Trump that we met in Las Vegas, Nevada in the International Church. That how he said he wants to make America great again. We want him to say that he wants Americans to be safe again. I mean, it's unfair that Congress, somebody needs to do something fast, before another victim, another family, another kid, another dad, uncle, please do something.

JULIE ARCO, HER FATHER, RODOLFO, WAS KILLED IN MASS SHOOTING: Today, it's us. Tomorrow, it's another brother, sister, mom, dad.

MCLEAN: Yes. Bari, I know that today you saw the truck where that your husband was in when he was killed on Saturday. And I cannot even imagine what that experience was like. I know it was so, so, so draining for you. It was important for you though to talk to us today because you have this message. What do you want to see done from this?

BARI ARCO: We need a change. We need to be safe. Like I said, we are from Cuba. We left Cuba because we hate communists. And now we're in America. The best country, the best everything, and we're not safe. Look what happened. Just he was coming from work, driving his truck. And that's it. He's gone.

MCLEAN: Bari, I know that you got inside of the cab of the truck today. I wonder why it was so important for you to see that.

BARI ARCO: Because at the beginning, when the accident happened, I want to run to the truck and see why and how and have questions about it. And we wasn't have the right, because, you know, when a crime happens, they close everything, and they don't let us go inside. And I wanted to see that, to realize this is real. And sometimes, I was just waiting for him to send me a message or call. And I feel, no, I'm dreaming. For me to see his blood and see everything how it happens, it was like, hey, this is real. You aren't going to see him anymore.

MCLEAN: Julie, sorry, I was just going to say Julia and Arty, I know that you know that your dad came from Cuba here to escape the political situation. And you were telling me, Julie, that he left Las Vegas to come here to Odessa to start the trucking the company. But the last straw in you guys leaving seemed to be the Las Vegas shooting. And so I wonder how it sits with you, knowing that a mass shooting is ultimately how he died.

JULIE ARCO: It's ironic, I would say, like the irony in it but when it's your day, it's your day. And we try not to question it. It is what it is. We wake up every day, hoping it was just a bad dream, and you realize this is your reality. Like it's the first thing I think about, I think we all agree that in everything we do, you think of him in one way or another.

ARTY ARCO, HIS FATHER, RODOLFO, WAS KILLED IN MASS SHOOTING: Really, it's tough. I mean my dad is the type of person, the last person I would ever think to go, you know, he's just on his toes and looking to help everyone out. And just aware of his surroundings all of the time. You know, just drive you know --

JULIE ARCO: He was such a good man, you know, he had so much faith.

ARTY ARCO: -- deserved so much better.

JULIE ARCO: If he said ten words to you, five of them were about God. You know what I mean? Everything was -- she had so much faith. He never worried about anything. Because if you tell him you're worrying about something, he'd say, it's OK, you've got God, we've got God. Like it's fine you know.

MCLEAN: Before I let you guys run, I have to ask you, you guys came to here in part to fulfill his dream of starting his company. And while you're getting emotional, I know you guys have only been here a year. Does this experience make you want to run from this place or does this place --

JULIE ARCO: Definitely.

MCLEAN: -- make you want to stay?

BARI ARCO: Both. We have both feelings.


JULIE ARCO: We feel like, how are we going to stay here --

BARI ARCO: -- without him.

JULIE ARCO: -- without him. How am I going to pull up to my house every day and see him at his house next door and he's not there? Like how are we going to do that? But at the same time, we're like, him and my mom sacrificed so much for this business. And to move here and they sold everything and they struggled. And how are we going to not live on what he wanted? It's what he would have wanted for us to stay here and continue.

MCLEAN: I am so sorry again, that I am having to talk you, and I'm so, so sorry for your loss. And I'm sure all of our viewers feel the same. I'm just grateful that you guys chose to talk to us today. And again it's important to remember that these shootings have consequences. In this case there are obviously seven people whose lives were lost and there are 25 people who were injured. And some of those injuries may last quite a long time. We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: Just in, the first name of a person on board the Conception, that's the California dive boat that burned and sank on Labor Day, and now 34 people, including one crew member, are feared dead. And while the Santa Barbara County Sheriff says investigators are now gathering DNA to confirm identities. The brother of 41-year-old researcher and dive instructor Kristy Finstad is now confirming she was on the boat. A short time ago the sheriff revealed that so far, they have recovered 20 bodies. He explained the challenges his dive teams faced trying to reach the victims.


SHERIFF BILL BROWN, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY: There were several other victims that were seen by the divers somewhere between four and six that are still within the wreckage, but due to the positioning of the boat, they were unable to be recovered before nightfall. Today efforts will be made to stabilize the boat so that divers can safely enter it, search it, and recover additional victims.


BALDWIN: Five of the crew members, including captain, were able to jump off to safety. Christine Dennison is a veteran diver and founder of Mad Dog Expeditions, Remote Logistics and So Christine, thank you so much for coming in. And we were chatting at commercial break and you brought up a couple points that I had yet to hear about the type of boat and also the tanks that would have been on board that would have served as an accelerant.



DENNISON: What I was able to learn about this boat was that it is a Coast Guard and NOAA, they have it listed as a wooden boat. So you have the hull of this boat, the interior is all wood. And of course that is going to make for a very disastrous situation, which it did, should there be any type of igniting of fire, which is what we are seeing happen. We don't know where it started. So we are not speculating. But clearly, there was a fire that moved very quickly.

BALDWIN: In addition to the wood, you talking to me about nitrox and of course those oxygen tanks which they would have had many of, presumably, if they're out diving for a couple of days. Which would have done what?

DENNISON: Well, enriched air allows divers to have more bottom time and also some claim it makes them feel better. What you have is you have cylinders, large cylinders on board that, that again, if there was an ignition somewhere on that boat, it's going to accelerate any kind of fire. And that may have been what happened, having all of this additional O2 on board, and it just, it spread so quickly it seems that --

BALDWIN: Awful, awful, awful. And you know, it's in the middle of the night. People were asleep. You know, we don't know so much of what would have happened and would they have known where the sort of escape hatch was? And a lot is not known. But what we heard from the Coast Guard, they are suspending the search. It sounds like they have recovered these 20 bodies. Now, according to the Sheriff, maybe they have IDed remains within this boat that are stuck there. So what do they do next?

DENNISON: I think, first of all, any boat, and this was a very good operation, by all accounts, very great crew,


DENNISON: When you board a boat like this there is the safety briefing. So they outline where the fire extinguishers are, where the escape hatch would be, any sort of scenario, they go through it. You have a three-day charter. You have people on holiday having a good time. You forget. Those that aren't familiar with the boat, you do forget. You are relaxed. You are having a good time.

If this happened as it did at some time during the night when they were fast asleep, it's panic. You wake up to smoke. You wake up to sounds. Again the boat was anchored. So that boat was not shut off. You have engines running, ambient noise. These four people woke up and probably just where do you run?

And we don't know the condition whether there were flames there or not. I think they are being very sensitive with the search and recovery for the sake of the families and everybody involved. And I'm sure it's very difficult but what they are able to do is see they have bodies and they are not going to disturb it. I am sure treat it as a crime scene more than likely until they can keep everything contained for forensics.

BALDWIN: And full potentially bring the boat up.

DENNISON: And have you know the work that can be done there which is all just horrific.

BALDWIN: For these families, I was talking to one gentleman earlier who was supposed to be on the trip. But because of a bad hip, ended up saving his life. But he knows so many people in the tight-knit diving community in southern California. Christine Dennison, thank you so very much for your expertise. I appreciate you. And thank you so much for being with me. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.