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Family Still Missing in Bahamas; Trapped from Flooding on Ocracoke Island; American Airlines Mechanic Accused of Sabotage; Diver Talks about Boat Fire. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 6, 2019 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:00]

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": It would get a lot of national attention (INAUDIBLE).

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And need a -- need the infrastructure of an existing, maybe a lower part -- that's an excellent point.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Have a great weekend.

Brianna Keilar starts RIGHT NOW.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, a chilling new warning from the Bahamian health minister who says the number of people killed by Hurricane Dorian may be, quote, unimaginable.

And a mechanic for American Airlines accused of trying to sabotage a plane with 150 people onboard. Hear his alleged motive.

Plus, as a diving boat went up in flames, the surviving crew members are telling investigators what they did to try to save the people onboard before jumping off to save themselves.

And Mexico is not paying for the wall. Instead, it's coming at the expense of U.S. service members and their families. How America is breaking its promise to those who serve and sacrifice.

But first, it's a grim reminder of the power of hurricanes. Officials in the Bahamas are bringing in more body bags, as search and rescue teams continue to dig through the rubble looking for survivors and victims of Hurricane Dorian. The storm devastated the northern islands, laying waste to entire neighborhoods, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless and wondering what is next.

The death toll stands at 30 right now. That number, though, is expected to go much higher with hundreds and possibly even thousands still missing.

One of the missing is five-year-old Adrian Farrington Junior. He was swept away in the storm surge. Adrian's father told a local newspaper that after waiting (ph) in the surge for around an hour with a broken leg, he saw fins circling in the floodwater. So he put his young son on a roof and tried to keep him safe, but a gust of wind blew the boy off the roof into the murky water and the last thing that he heard was his son yelling "daddy."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADRIAN FARRINGTON SENIOR, LOST SON IN HURRICANE DORIAN: I still can see my son getting dragged across the roof reaching out. I'd want him to understand is that I love him and I tried everything possibly as human to save him from a natural disaster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Anastacia Lewis is a native of Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, which was so hard hit.

And, Anastacia, you were actually in the United States during the storm. Your family was there. And they lost nearly everything. Two of your cousins were missing. I understand that you've located one of them. What are you hearing from your family, and tell us about that, this cousin has been located alive.

ANASTACIA LEWIS, FAMILY MEMBERS MISSING IN BAHAMAS: Yes, thank God.

Thank you so much for having me.

Good afternoon, everybody.

We were looking for my cousin, Allison Bane Wilcom (ph), and she was out there in Sera (ph) Harbor (ph). They found her alive. But there are so many other family members who are still just missing. My husband is from East End, Grand Bahama, and there are so many people that are just still missing. It's horrific. It's horrific.

KEILAR: What was the process like trying to contact them? How long did it take? Did you have to go through multiple people? How did that work?

LEWIS: We have two phone systems there in the Bahamas. And both -- all family members have different carriers, but I was able to keep in contact all the way through, thank God for that, and so there was no difficulty. I'm getting reports every second. So I was able to keep in contact with everybody. So they're updating me.

KEILAR: And did they -- did your family have the feeling that they were adequately warned by the local government about what to expect, that this storm might not just roll over the Bahamas, that it could sit on top of the Bahamas for days?

LEWIS: There was, I don't think, anyone would have been able to prepare for this storm adequately. It was -- it's unimaginable. There is no way we would have been able -- some persons would have been able to survive because the storm sat there too long. It was just too long. So the length of time was the purpose and the reason why, you know, we have this major damage. But I'm here in Atlanta and my goal is to help as many Bahamians as

possible. My efforts here in Atlanta is going to assist a lot of the churches, because that's where a lot of people had to run for shelter, the churches, the churches, the people are in the churches. So that's --

KEILAR: And you -- you say you're going to help. You say this is your duty to help your people of the Bahamas.

LEWIS: Oh, yes, I have to.

KEILAR: What -- what are the urgent needs right now? What are they telling you?

LEWIS: Everything. They need every single thing. They need food, water, clothing, generators, baby supplies. Everything you can think of they are going to need. This is going to be a long-term project.

Homes, cars, businesses lost. We have a whole lot of work to do. And so I'm going to be here on the ground in Atlanta. My first set of shipments and trailers are going to my home church, which is Jubilee Cathedral, which is one of the largest churches there on Grand Bahama.

[13:05:09]

That's where we're going. The people are in need. And I am going to do everything that I can to assist. And my company, Aris (ph) International, is allowing me to be here as long as I need to, to help the people of the Bahamas.

On Saturday I'm going to start my first food drive. I'm going to post everything on FaceBook so people can follow me. We just have a lot of work to do, so all hands needs to be on deck just to get our people back to where -- we are going to rebuild paradise.

KEILAR: And we are so happy to have you on to talk about it. This -- this is a nation of islands in need. And, Anastacia Lewis, we really appreciate you coming on to talk about it.

LEWIS: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: Hurricane Dorian is making landfall today in the outer banks of North Carolina. Cape Hatteras taking a direct hit as what is now a category one storm makes its way north. Hundreds of thousands of people are without power as the result of high winds, flooding, even tornados, and hundreds more could be trapped.

Benny Lacks lives in the outer banks. He's on Ocracoke Island.

And, Benny, you're there. Tell us about the situation that you're facing.

BENNY LACKS, TRAPPED BY HURRICANE DORIAN: Well, it was just tremendous wind at first and then the rain started pounding on the windows. And I thought most of it was over. And as I looked outside, there was this wave of water that was coming -- it was like three feet high and it was just a surge from the sound. And it filled the road. And as a matter of fact, tons of debris, many homes here underwater. Some had as much as four and five feet inside their house.

I'm actually fortunate that the water just missed coming in the house here. But our neighbors, we're out trying to help each other because some of them have lost quite a bit. Nothing like what happened in the Bahamas.

KEILAR: No, nothing like that, but you did make this determination that you were going to stay. At what point did you look at the forecast and say, I think I'm going to stay instead of leave?

LACKS: Well, we were watching the forecast. Obviously all of our eyes have been on that. And it looked like it was going ashore in Myrtle Beach. And my aunt didn't want to leave. She said, we'll be fine. And we stayed. And had we known this was going to happen, we wouldn't have been here.

KEILAR: You would have left?

LACKS: I'm pretty sure. We would have left, yes. I mean when we -- and we -- we watched it. I was watching on the weather, and we saw it make that turn toward Morehead City and I felt at that point we were going to be in for a lot of flooding. And, unfortunately, we are. She's out here working now.

KEILAR: And, Benny, we've just gotten word that your county is going to be evacuating people by air. What are you -- what do you -- what do you need at this point in time? What do your neighbors need? Are you able to get out?

LACKS: No. Our -- I mean for those that were able to get their vehicles to higher ground, I believe those vehicles were spared. It's just very limited space here as far as parking. Everything is, you know, right at a very low level.

KEILAR: Yes.

LACKS: And like my vehicle was actually completely under water. The only thing from the door handles down was underwater. So I imagine it's the same for a lot of people.

KEILAR: Do you -- so then how do you get out? Have you contacted authorities? What are you going to do?

LACKS: Well, for now, I'm -- I'm going to do what I can with my aunt, try to clean up until -- I believe they said the Coast Guard, National Guard was going to be coming. And if they do, we'll do the best we can to get off the island at that point.

KEILAR: OK.

All right, Benny, thank you so much for talking to us and showing us what you're dealing with there on Ocracoke Island. We appreciate it. We'll be thinking of you as you do your best there to clean up and still to stay safe. Still some terrible conditions there. We have some disturbing news. A mechanic for American Airlines accused of trying to sabotage a plane that was set to take off with 150 people onboard.

Also just in, officials revealing new information about that deadly dive boat fire as crew members tell investigators what happened right before they jumped off.

And children living on one U.S. military base won't get a desperately needed new school because the money is now being used for the border wall.

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[13:14:52]

KEILAR: In just a few minutes, an American Airlines mechanic, accused of trying to sabotage a plane that had 150 people onboard, is due to appear in federal court.

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According to a criminal complaint, he tried to disable the aircraft's navigation system before takeoff at Miami International Airport.

We have CNN aviation and government regulation correspondent Rene Marsh here with us.

I mean, luckily, Rene, the pilots caught this issue, but it was just before takeoff. What --

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: I mean --

KEILAR: Right?

MARSH: Yes.

KEILAR: I mean it's very scary. What happened?

MARSH: So, I mean, let's set the scene. I mean this plane is actually on the runway. It's traveling down the runway. You have 150 people onboard. And then an error message. The pilots realize that something is wrong. And fast forward to once this plane is back in the hangar, they're able to figure out that someone tampered with a critical component on the plane.

Without getting too in the weeds, essentially this is a part of the plane's navigational system that gives pilots critical data, like how fast they're going. I mean a pilot needs to know how fast that they're traveling. So that was disabled. What they found was this airline mechanic with American Airlines stuffed a piece of Styrofoam in one of the tubes that just essentially made receiving those readings impossible.

This turned out well, but this is a serious offense here. And this is someone that is considered a trusted individual, a mechanic on the airline. And if this story isn't crazy enough, the reason that he gave authorities, he said that he wanted to do this because he didn't want to cause harm, he wanted to delay the flight because he was hoping that he would be -- have to then have to fix the issue and he would get overtime.

We should mention that American Airlines and the mechanics union, they've been in this bitter dispute over labor -- a new labor contract. So he wanted to get overtime and that was why he did this.

KEILAR: That is nuts that that is --

MARSH: Yes.

KEILAR: Would be a way to do that.

So, I mean, just to be clear, you're saying this plane was traveling down the runway?

MARSH: It was.

KEILAR: It was right -- it had already been cleared for takeoff and was beginning to -- its takeoff?

MARSH: Passengers onboard, crew on board, they are ready to go. And Miami International Airport is actually a hub for the airline. And these pilots, they saw the error message, they realized something was wrong, and they aborted that takeoff.

But had this plane gone up in the air, we know that planes have a lot of redundancy systems. However, this would have created an issue for pilots in that there would be critical information about the altitude, about the speed of the plane that they perhaps would not have been able to easily receive, and that's a problem.

KEILAR: That is unbelievable.

MARSH: Yes.

KEILAR: Thank you so much for that report, Rene Marsh.

New details in that horrific boat fire that killed 34 people in California, as we are hearing from the surviving crew members who say they did everything they could to help passengers caught in this deadly inferno, but they just were not able to.

Plus, Mexico is not paying for the border wall. Now it's military kids who will suffer the cost.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:23:01]

KEILAR: This just in to CNN. We're now learning more about that fatal dive boat fire in California that left 33 passengers and one crew member dead. Five crew members, including the captain, were found alive and they are now talking to investigators about what happened before they jumped off the boat to save their own lives.

And according to NTSB investigators, the crew says they tried to save the passengers sleeping below deck, but the flames blocked the escape routes.

Let's talk now to long-time diver Dale Shesckler.

Dale, you were originally planning to be on this boat the night of the fire. You ended up not going. You know someone who was on the boat and died, someone that you had been diving with, and you also know the skipper of the boat, who survived.

First off, I am -- I am so sorry as you have been watching all of these developments and mourning the loss of your friends in this tight-knit diving community.

Can you tell us, first, why you decided you weren't going on this trip and how you feel now knowing what happened?

DALE SHECKLER, ORIGINALLY PLANNED TO BE ON BOAT, BOUT CHANGED HIS MIND: I very much wanted to be on the trip. I ended up having a hip replacement. And then the hip replacement went bad. And then I had to have a secondary surgery, so I had to cancel all my trip plans.

KEILAR: So you had to cancel all your trip plans. You were very disappointed.

You've been on this boat many, many times, right?

SHECKLER: Several times.

KEILAR: Several times.

SHECKLER: Probably at least a hundred.

KEILAR: At least -- at least a hundred.

So tell us a little bit about the boat and how surprised you were that this happened to the Conception.

SHECKLER: Well, the boat was meticulously maintained. It was staffed with the most professional crew. It was run by an excellent operation. The owner was superb in his professionalism.

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It -- it -- I can't say enough good things about the operation. It was -- I always very much enjoyed being onboard the boat, by the customer service, by what they had to offer. The food was really good, I'll tell you that. Yes, the diving was excellent too.

KEILAR: And the safety, tell us about the safety. What kind of -- what kind of instructions if you were on this boat would you be given by the crew? And did they ever run through what to do if there was some sort of evacuation when people were asleep and in what was really the bottom level of the boat where you had all of these bunks? SHECKLER: They did a full safety review. They told you where the life

vests and the flotation equipment was. They told you where the firefighting equipment was, the fire extinguishers. They told you where the emergency oxygen was available in case there was a diving accident. The briefing was very well done, very thorough.

KEILAR: And escape routes?

SHECKLER: No, they did not cover that.

KEILAR: So they didn't cover, when you've been on, and you said maybe a hundred times, from various points in the boat, because, I mean, just to be clear, right, you have the bridge on top, then you had more of like the common area, right, where you would dine on the middle level --

SHECKLER: Yes.

KEILAR: And then the bottom level is bunks?

SHECKLER: Right.

KEILAR: So they did not actually review what to do in the case of -- it seems like a lot of this had to do with if there was an emergency when everyone was on -- really out in the open on this ship, right?

SHECKLER: Yes, but it was very well labeled. Several points through the bunk room, emergency exit this direction, emergency exit that direction.

KEILAR: OK.

SHECKLER: They had emergency lighting down below. So it was -- it was very clear.

KEILAR: So you know the skipper, who survived.

SHECKLER: Yes.

KEILAR: And these crew members are saying they did everything they could. You know, when you hear that, what do you think?

SHECKLER: What a superb crew they are. I know that Captain Jerry would have gone to every bit of possible effort he could. If you listen to the recording, I mean he was -- he was choking to death in -- in what he was trying to convey in his mayday signal. I've -- from what I understand, at least two of the crew members tried to get back onboard to save people, to access the firefighting equipment. I know they would have gone to every possible effort to save the people onboard.

KEILAR: What are -- what's on your mind as you're dealing nowadays after this has happened. You were supposed to be on the boat and, in the end, an injury prevented you from going on this trip. I mean what are you thinking when you consider all of these people who were on this trip? And these are -- these are people who are very -- this is a very dedicated group of divers there in the California area. We were talking about that off camera. There's a specific type of diving in California, and it's, you know, certain people are interested in it and maybe a lot of people aren't, but these folks, they loved doing it. And this was a huge hobby for them.

What's on your mind now as you think about what should have been such a wonderful, wonderful weekend turning out like this?

SHECKLER: Well, like you said, it was -- well, what you've got is you've got a large amount of divers, a fairly large amount of divers, the diving community. I think I heard once that 20 percent of the United States are certified divers.

But there's a subset of people that love California diving, that love diving the chilly waters of California for what it has to offer. The underwater kelp forest, the abundant marine life. I heard it once said that the Channel Islands are known as the Galapagos of America in terms of their diversity. And so it's like a subset.

When you go onboard these liverboard (ph) boats, you get to know everybody very well, especially after several days of diving, you share experiences, you share photographs. And you get to know each other very well. You'll play cards together. So its -- there's a certain amount of bonding that takes place.

KEILAR: Well, I'm very sorry for you, Dale. We are so glad to have you on today, as you expected to be on that trip. Thank you so much for coming on, Dale Sheckler.

SHECKLER: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Brianna.

KEILAR: The power of Hurricane Dorian is on display. Neighborhoods are in ruins. Massive vehicles just thrown through homes. The relief efforts underway to help those who have nothing left.

[13:30:04]

Plus, it's being called all-out hostility with top members of the president's national security --