Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Southwest Jet Skids Off Runway; One Fatality Reported

Aired December 08, 2005 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: At the top of the hour, if you are just joining us. This is what we know. The 737 Southwest Airlines Flight 2148, which left from Baltimore at 5:00 p.m., upon landing at Midway -- now they had circled Midway, the landing had been delayed, they were running about two to three hour average delays at Midway because of the intense snow -- 8.3 inches of snow on the ground.
At 7:15 this flight finally lands, Flight 1248, and is unable to stop on the runway. We don't know the reasons yet why. We do know that it crashed through a barrier fence on the south part of the runway, landing, ending up, finally coming to a stop on Central Avenue and 55th Street in the street, where it struck at least two cars from the earlier reports, according to WGN. A firefighter telling a reporter from WGN, struck two cars. One of them was a parked car. Nobody inside it, thank goodness.

The other, unfortunately, was a car moving down that street. Five people inside that car. According to this eyewitness to WGN, that car was struck by one of the engines of this plane. One of those massive engines on that 737, striking a vehicle with five people inside. Three of them, children, we are told; two of them adults. We do not know the full extent of the injuries. We are told one of them is at least critical and one of them is serious. We do not know about the other three. And that report now is about an hour hold.

So we are awaiting any kind of information we can get on the status of those five people inside that car. But you can imagine the terror -- not only in the pilot as he saw his plane approaching that car, but in the car itself as they slammed into this plane, whether it was the engine or whether it was the nose section.

The plane now is parked on Central Avenue and 55th Street. Of course, the whole area is shut down. Of course, Midway Airport is shut down. There are a very slow number of flights getting into Chicago O'Hare Airport. It is a mess, to say the least, if you are waiting for anyone flying into this region or were hoping to fly out of this region. That is simply not going to happen any time soon. Probably best just to try to get home at this point.

No flights coming into Midway Airport. We have been getting a lot of eyewitness reports over these last three hours. We have a brand new eyewitness report coming in from WFLD, our affiliate. Let's listen.


MARIA VELAZQUEZ, EYEWITNESS: Right down the block. Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE, WGN CORRESPONDENT: You were outside when this happened?

VELAZQUEZ: Yes. We were shoveling snow. This loud, loud noise -- we thought it was a truck and so, he started yelling, Mom! Mom! And so then we approached the scene and there weren't any ambulances, any cops, anything that you know -- there was a car down there underneath the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a car underneath the plane?

VELAZQUEZ: Yes. There's one there.


VELAZQUEZ: There were some people in there too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were still in the car?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were they saying anything? Were they even conscious at that point?

VELAZQUEZ: Oh no. I mean, we couldn't even see because it was snowing horribly. I mean, now it's calmed down, but --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you think when you came upon this scene?

VELAZQUEZ: Shocked. I was very shocked. It was -- I've never seen something like that. I thought maybe with the loud noise, it had been a truck. I never expected to see one of the Southwest planes out here like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Describe the noise. What did you hear?

VELAZQUEZ: It was thunderous. It was horrible. It was screeching and then like just a loud thunder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did it sound like the plane was trying to stop? Did you hear the engines revving?

VELAZQUEZ: Yes, it sounded like it was trying to stop. It sounded like a screeching. And he thought it was the -- you hear that noise as the train. That's what he thought it was. But then we just walked here and we saw everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you first got here, were the passengers still --

VELAZQUEZ: They were in the car. In the car and the plane, and everything. It had just happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. And tell me about the evacuation. What did you see there? VELAZQUEZ: Well, we know -- afterwards we kind of went back. So we didn't, you know, we didn't stay for the whole procedure. In fact, right now we just came back and now they've kind of -- people have started to leave, but.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're knew the neighborhood here --

VELAZQUEZ: Oh yes. We've --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, Midway, as we know, is a very small airport, hemmed in by Chicago neighborhoods. Have you ever worried about something like this happening?

VELAZQUEZ: Never. Absolutely not. I mean planes go right over my house. They go right over the house and you can see them all the time and never do you ever think that something like this would happen so close to home. It's, you know, it worries you. It's dangerous. And, you know, kind of makes you feel like packing and going.


COOPER: Well, one of many eyewitness accounts that we have been hearing over the last three hours or so. It did happen just a little bit under three hours ago. 7:15 central time in Chicago. Midway Airport, a very small airport by standards here if you compare it in fact to O'Hare Airport. We're on the phone with Jim Dent, a former pilot who has flown into the region.

Jim, talk about Midway. I mean, what is it like flying into it? It's location? I mean, it is completely surrounded -- when you look at these overhead maps, it's completely surrounded by residential communities and small businesses and traffic.

JIM DENT, FORMER PILOT: Yes, it is. It's kind of like similar to flying into LaGuardia. Same thing. The airport was there and then, of course, it grew up around it. So now you have a faletra (ph) of homes and businesses around there.

Midway is an old airport. It's been around for a long time. In fact, it was the original airport that serviced Chicago prior to O'Hare. So it's got a long history behind it. And that's probably why the runways are so small or short. It's because it was one of the older runways that they used and they just never grew it.

COOPER: Now when you say short, I mean, by comparison to O'Hare Airport, is it -- how much shorter?

We got a press conference Jim. Let's listen to it now.



CORTEZ TROTTER, FIRE COMMISSIONER: And we've transported three that were just minor injuries to three area hospitals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All were in the cars?

TROTTER: No. Five were in one car, four were in another one, three were off the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were the injuries on the plane?

TROTTER: Well, minor injuries, bumping injuries and things like that. The people were shook up, as you can imagine, and they wanted to be examined. So on the advice of the paramedics, they went to the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the status of the situation right now? Obviously, the plane is not going anywhere for a while.

TROTTER: No, it's not. NTSB will have their people here. We've been notified by them that they would like for the plane to stay in place and it is out in the street on Central at 55th and so the plane will at least stay in place for at least overnight, from what we understand. The airport is currently closed and Aviation will give you an update on the status of flights and the airport opening later on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Commissioner, we're just getting word that there has been one fatality as far as a person in this plane. Would you be able to address that?

TROTTER: No. All I can tell you is that there was one person transported from the scene, as I mentioned earlier, that was in serious or critical condition. And so whatever update you're getting, if it's from the hospital or someplace else, I can't confirm it. I can only tell you how the patient was transported from here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the condition of the plane right now?

TROTTER: Well, there seems to be what I would term some significant damage to the plane, but of course, that's up to the experts and the NTSB to report on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously, you're not going to do the investigation about how this occurred, but whether -- tell us a little bit about what it's like at the scene.

TROTTER: Well, as I said, the aircraft is out in the street. The cars received substantial damage, as you can imagine. The street is closed off, so no one can get through. It's secured. We did strike out the still in box (ph) and the EMS Plan 2 (ph) about probably now nearly an hour ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any fuel spilled?

TROTTER: There was some fuel spillage. The squad company came in as well as one of our hazardous material teams. They contained it -- did an excellent job at doing that, so they didn't create a secondary problem for us. And so now it's just a matter of cleaning up. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the cars was directly under the plane, I understand?

TROTTER: Well, one of the cars was under the side of the plane, under one of the wings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the other cars?

TROTTER: It was near the nose of the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

TROTTER: All right, guys, thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cortez Trotter, the fire commissioner, with an update for us there. Unconfirmed report that one person who was involved in this accident may have died. We do not have that confirmed at this point; however, people we talked to who were near the scene said that that car was very badly damaged. So we're going to try to continue to collect information here at the scene. Mark, we will toss it to you.

COOPER: Well, this is Anderson Cooper in New York. You are watching CNN, of course. This -- that's the latest information. We do now have confirmation from Christ Medical Center Hospital that one person has died. We know it is a male. We do not know the age of the male. Christ Medical Center Hospital confirming that one person, one death is confirmed.

Earlier we had been told there were five injuries in one vehicle alone. Five injuries in one vehicle. The fire commissioner also talking about four other injuries and three injuries aboard the aircraft. They were all minor bumping injuries.

We have just now received even more word on the fatality. It is an 8-year old boy who has died. Christ Medical Center Hospital confirming one death so far. An 8-year old boy has died.

This is what we know at this time. The plane now sits at the intersection of 55th Street and Central Avenue. There are firemen on the scene, the police of course, investigators from the FAA, investigators from the NTSB are on their way. All trying to find out exactly what happened. But the story at the moment, of course, is this fatality, an 8-year old boy who was in one of the vehicles that was hit by this plane as it was unable to stop on the runway. There you seen the runway.

It overshot the runway. It crashed through a barrier -- steel reinforced barrier, according to one eyewitness -- came to rest on 55th and Central. Fire commissioner is saying a number of vehicles were severely damaged. One of those vehicles held five people -- three children and two adults inside that vehicle. One eyewitness told WGN that it hit, that that vehicle hit one of the engines of the aircraft. If you can imagine how terrible that must have been. And those people had to be removed -- some of them at least had to be removed with the Jaws of Life from firefighters.

One of our affiliate reporters from WFLD actually heard the Jaws of Life being used. Apparently it was not enough to save the life of one young child, an 8-year old boy, who has in fact died.

All the passengers on board this aircraft -- three of them have been treated for minor -- what the fire commissioner called bumping injuries and trauma, but nothing too severe. Most of the passengers have been taken to the terminal where no doubt they will be interviewed by investigators, put up for the night.

All the accounts we are hearing from passengers -- and we have heard several already over the last several hours were that it was calm on board this aircraft, as calm as it could be, I suppose. One passenger telling WMAQ-TV that it got really bumpy and then she heard a big crashing sound. This was Katy Duda (ph). She said everyone was calm.

Everyone around me seemed OK. Another passenger saying, we were just landing. We were in a holding pattern because there was a lot of snow on the runway. She said it was a little bit rough, nothing out of the ordinary. It just got very bumpy and then we heard a crashing sound. And the next thing I knew, it looked like we were in the middle of an intersection. And still another passenger, a man by the name of Stanley Dan (ph), saying that he couldn't tell much of a difference as the plane came in to land between the runway and the grass on the side of the runway.

You know when you're landing, and you look outside the window, you know, you always see that big black runway, you know, pushing ahead of you. He couldn't see the runway. He couldn't see the grass. He saw a field of white, essentially. He says we weren't slowing down. It looked like the runway wasn't plowed at all. We were kind of going for a while until the impact. We hit. He says we went through the barrier, ended up in the middle of the street with cars and stuff riding past us and everything.

Midway Airport, of course, just in the center of a busy area where people live, where there are businesses and there is traffic. And it is in the traffic that the injuries have occurred.

Sean Callebs, CNN reporter, is also on the scene.

Sean, tell us what you're seeing.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you can see how the aircraft ended up in the middle of the road, the nose pointing down. And the snow over here has built up, just since the time of the accident. Ironically, I had been at O'Hare Airport, getting ready to fly back to Denver. I arrived there around 5:00 o'clock eastern time and the flight that I was scheduled to be on had been delayed over and over again. I watched the conditions change from daylight to dusk, then into night.

And the snows just came heavier and heavier over the hours. And clearly, the maintenance personnel at O'Hare and Midway as well, simply overburdened by these weather conditions. The runway got very, very thick snow on the runway. Several times individuals at O'Hare told us the big problem was getting aircraft from the hangar over to the gate, that the snow on the runway was just so bad.

And just hearing how you described how that plane came down, the Southwest flight, passengers saying it was relatively calm until they landed. It would certainly hold up with what was going on at O'Hare. It wasn't terribly windy, not cold as it has been in the past couple of days. It's considerably cold in the Chicago area, temperatures below zero Fahrenheit over the past couple of days.

And we saw planes that were delayed, delayed, delayed and then eventually canceled. So the weather conditions were simply horrific. And you just have to think that those vehicles were simply sitting ducks. It took me two hours to take a cab from O'Hare to Midway. This was about a 30-mile drive. Normally it would take just about 30 minutes. It was basically bumper-to-bumper traffic on the toll way, then on the interstate. Getting off, very thick snow on the ground. Salt trucks are out.

The snow plows are out. The snow simply coming down throughout the day. The weather conditions at the airport were simply terrible. To me, it was almost amazing to watch all these aircrafts take off throughout the day, as quickly as they would ice the wing of the craft, it would simply fill back up again. And knowing just the thin layer of ice or snow buildup that was on the wing, that can adversely affect a takeoff or landing -- I was amazed that things were going so smoothly. Not that many cancellations, just delays. And the mood among passengers looking at the conditions. Everybody simply seemed to accept this was the way it was going to be.

But you have to feel for those cars that were on the road at the end of the Midway runway, with that 737 coming through the fence. You just have to think that those cars were sitting ducks. Because of the traffic is anywhere like it was on the way out here, there's just simply nowhere to go. Traffic was going maybe 10 miles an hour. So it just had to be horrific to sit there and watch that aircraft coming through, apparently the nose gear collapsing somewhat as it went through the fence. Anderson, simply a horrific situation out here.

COOPER: And it is not clear at this point the five people who were in this vehicle, one of whom did not make it, an 8-year old boy who has died this evening just a short time ago. Whether they saw the plane coming or not, we do not know. Whether they were hit by one of the engines on the plane, as one eyewitness has reported, or whether they were hit in fact by the nose of this aircraft as that landing gear came down, as it came barreling through the barrier fence, that steel reinforced barrier fence, we do not know.

Another eyewitness had reported to us that one vehicle was actually trapped underneath the front section of this aircraft. We certainly -- we just cannot confirm that at this point.

There is a lot we do not know. What we do know, and again, it is the saddest news of all. One child has died, an 8-year old boy, who was just riding in a car. He wasn't even on this plane. The passengers aboard the plane -- 98 passengers, five crewmembers are safe. They are alive. Fire commissioner reporting just a short time ago that there three people on board the aircraft who were treated for minor injuries, what he described as bumping injuries. He said understandably, people on board the plane -- some of them were traumatized, somewhat panicked, but they are safe and they are alive. And this certainly could have been much worse.

There was, of course, a crash in Midway Airport back in the '70s -- 1972, it was -- December 8. Not too far off. A plane hit branches of trees on the south side of 71st Street, hit the roofs of a house, killed the woman and daughter inside that house; 45 of the passengers on board that plane -- 43 of them, I should say, died.

We're going to take a short break, regroup, gather some more information. We will be back in just a few moments with our continuing breaking news coverage of the crash of Southwest flight out of Midway Airport, Southwest Flight 1248. We'll be right back.


COOPER: And welcome back to our continuing coverage of this accident which has occurred at Chicago's Midway Airport. It occurred well more than three hours ago. Here's what we know. The 911 call was received at 7:20 p.m. We learned that from the fire commissioner just a short time ago. Twelve people who have been injured have been transported to area hospitals.

We have just learned that one of them, according to Christ Medical Center Hospital, one of them as died, an 8-year old child. That child was in a vehicle. There were four other people inside that vehicle, two other children, two other adults in that vehicle. Five of the injuries -- well, one of them was critical, one of them was serious, and as we know, one child died. There were four other people injured. Not clear yet how they were injured.

And then aboard the aircraft, there were three minor injuries -- bumping injuries, as the fire commissioner called them. All have been taken to three different area hospitals. Five -- we have just learned five of those injuries -- five of the most serious injuries were in one car that was hit by the plane. Then there were four people in another car and then three other people on the plane were treated. Again, the three people who were treated in the plane, it was for minor injuries.

So there were two cars involved -- that is getting clarification because we've heard some conflicting reports over the last several hours. Was it one car or was it two?

The fire commissioner has confirmed there were two cars hit by this plane. And as you can imagine, a horrible scene as this plane went through the barrier, broke its front landing gear, most likely as it went through that barrier. It came to rest on the street on Central Avenue and 55th Street. And no people on board that plane were killed, thankfully. But as of now, the one fatality has been from a passenger in the car. Let's listen to one of the eyewitness accounts that we had just a short time ago. This is from Tom Fitzgerald, who heard the plane crash.


TOM FITZGERALD, EYEWITNESS: Approximately 7:15, I was bartending, and I heard two loud booms and approximately five minutes later, people were running, ambulances were coming up and down the street. We have a security camera. We thought it was an automobile accident and we looked out the window and we saw the tail section of the Southwest Airlines laying across the street on Central Avenue. It's on the south side of 55th Street. And almost on the south side of the intersection, right by the red lights.

And I walked out there and we actually heard fire engines and ambulances and police and all kinds of other vehicles around there -- the traffic was still moving at that time. They blocked off the area. And the police are escorting people off -- away from the property. I heard -- but I didn't see it -- but someone said the plane did land on two automobiles.

And I'd seen people coming off the tail section, a car, and people were walking off the back end and then I think on the other side they said they were sliding down the slide or something like that. I didn't see it, but, I'd seen people coming off the back end of the plane. And it was pretty well scratched up, laying right across Central Avenue and the west -- going westbound. And it was pretty hectic. It went through a steel wall, and they had steel beams holding the wall up, and it tore apart, you know, went through the wall. I guess, it apparently slid off the runway and right onto Central Avenue.


COOPER: Sean Callebs, our CNN reporter is standing by on the scene.

Sean, as you look around you, as you look at the scene on the street, what do you see?

CALLEBS: Well, let me set it here just a bit. We are actually on the corner of Central and Archer. I can look down a very snow covered street, about 300 yards. I see the aircraft right smack in the middle of the road. The nose -- its pointing toward us. And also down a bit, which would certainly make sense, considering everybody said that the nose gear apparently went down as this aircraft was trying to land a few hours ago.

The snow has been coming down for a long time. It's probably built up around six to eight inches during the day --

COOPER: Sean, I'm going interrupt you. We've got a press conference. Let's listen in.

(BEGIN PRESS CONFERENCE) TROTTER: We found an aircraft that had slid through the barrier walls, out onto Central at 55th. Our crews boarded the plane, as well as did an assessment on the outside of the plane. We found two cars that had been struck by the aircraft. As a result of that, we've transported 12 people to area hospitals. Five people were transported in serious condition. One of the five we determined to be critical. Another four people were transported to area hospitals. Those people were in serious, but stable condition. And the other three people that were transported were transported in good condition to area hospitals, so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Describe what happened to the cars.

TROTTER: Well, as you can imagine, plane versus car, the car doesn't make out too well, so there's some substantial damage on the two vehicles. There's also what from my interpretation, some significant damage to the aircraft from coming through the wall. So at this point the acting aviation commissioner can give you an update, but the airport is closed at this time and the NTSB is investigating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Extent of the injuries, Commissioner?

TROTTER: Well, as I said, five of them were coded by the paramedics as serious. And one of the five they coded serious and critical. The other four were transported -- were transported serious, but stable condition. And three were transported under what we call walking wounded. So they were not serious at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many of them --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of all those, how many were passengers aboard the aircraft?

TROTTER: Three. The walking wounded were the passengers aboard the aircraft.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were they hurt from the impact or from the evacuation?

TROTTER: No, the evacuation went pretty smoothly. We can surmise -- I don't have the reports in front of me, but they were complaining of injuries that would probably be associated with bumping and being tossed around a bit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- who are trained for this type of thing, the evacuations. Talk a little bit about how it went from your perspective, even thought it's early.

TROTTER: Well, it went very well. I've told the crews here on the scene that I thought that they did an extraordinary job. We not only were doing -- work from the people in the cars, we were at the same time evacuating people from the plane. And then Chief Fox, who is behind me to my left, who was the incident commander, actually had the foresight to start in the hazardous material team for a fuel leak. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From an emergency response perspective, though, is this one of the scenarios you worry about, since Midway is so tight, so confined, there really isn't room for error?

TROTTER: Well, I don't know that we have enough time for me to tell you what keeps me awake at night, but certainly this would be one of the scenarios and like you said, this is what we train for. And I think that the people did an extraordinary job and that's taking nothing away from the crew on the aircraft in helping us evacuate the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commissioner, back to the car for just a moment. Did they have to use the Jaws of Life to extricate the people from the car?

TROTTER: Well, yes, they used heavy-duty extrication equipment. Whether or not the Jaws of Life were used and some other tools that we have in our squad, it was in fact a pretty serious extrication.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three in the aircraft and five in one car?

TROTTER: Five in one car, four in another, and three on the aircraft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us what the road conditions were like? How crowded was this traffic? Was it bumper to bumper like we're seeing out on this road at the time of the accident? What part of the aircraft actually struck the vehicles?

TROTTER: Well, from all indications, the forward part of the aircraft struck the vehicles. The road conditions were pretty much probably what you saw when you were on your way here. What they were like when the aircraft came through the fence, I can't tell you -- well, we weren't here at that very moment, but once we arrived on the scene, we could see that there was some damage to at least two vehicles.

Okay? All right guys, thank you.


COOPER: Well, Cortez Trotter, the fire commissioner, is just confirming what we had heard a little bit earlier from him. And again, the headline at this moment is 12 people in this incident taken to three different local hospitals. Three people aboard the aircraft were taken to hospitals with minor, what he called bumping injuries. He also termed them walking wounded.

Four people were taken with serious, but stable -- in serious, but stable condition to local hospitals. All of those four people were in one car. The hardest hit car, five people inside that vehicle. All of them taken to the hospital with serious injuries. One of them did not survive. Originally Christ Medical Center Hospital had confirmed one death, the death of a child.

They had said the child was around eight years old. The Associate Press is now reporting that child to be six years old. So some discrepancy there. We do not know. But a definite confirmation from the hospital that one person has died, a child.

Let's go back to the presser, Cortez Trotter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have there been any earlier consideration of closing the airport?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There hasn't been. So it's closed because of the accident?

HARNEY: It's closed because of the accident and we're not able to plow and broom right now because the truck drivers are working on the inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How recently had that runway been salted or been plowed before this?

HARNEY: The two main runways had been plowed and broomed since the snow began. So that's a constant process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about before this aircraft was about to make its landing -- how recently had it been plowed?

HARNEY: I don't have that information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us your name again.

HARNEY: Matt Harney. H-A-R-N-E-Y.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your title?

HARNEY: I'm the acting commissioner of Aviation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far as you know, Mr. Harney, had there been any delay in the snow plowing or brooming that runway?

HARNEY: I don't believe so. It's always an -- interesting to go through as the aircraft is open -- uh, as the airfield is open.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

COOPER: All right. Just hearing some comments made by Patrick Harney, the acting aviation commission, saying that throughout the day the various runways at Midway had been salted and had been cleared.

He would not say when this runway, in particular, runway 13-C, had last been gone over, prior to the landing of this aircraft. He did not comment on that. Seemed to indicated that would be part, obviously, of the investigation. But he said, he simply did not have that information.

Prior to that, Cortez Trotter (ph), the fire commissioner, has told us 12 people were taken to local area hospitals. Five people, most seriously injured, five people taken with very serious condition to a hospital. They were all in one vehicle crushed by the front section of this aircraft. A child in that car died.

We don't know -- the hospital saying originally saying the child was around eight years old. The Associated Press is now reporting the child was six years old. But one death, of that child, from that vehicle.

There was another vehicle. Four people in that vehicle, seriously injured, but stable, also taken to hospitals.

We're going to take a short break and come back with the latest information we have.


COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of this breaking news story. A crash in Midway Airport in Chicago; one fatality at this point. A child, AP reporting a six-year-old child, the hospital said may be around eight years old. We're not clear, exactly, but we do know, we have confirmed from Christ (ph) Medical Center, one child has died. This child was in a vehicle, of all things, with four other people. And they were struck by this aircraft, Southwest Flight 1248, as it came crashing through a barrier, unable to stop at the end of the runway. A runway that had seen a lot of snow. Let's listen to Southwest Airlines press conference.


GARY KELLY, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES: A couple of injuries, that we understand, that were onboard the aircraft, were customers.

QUESTION: Passengers who weren't taken to hospitals, what happened to them?

KELLY: They are currently at the airport. And they are being interviewed and primarily we are working to care for them and help them contact their families, and again, meet their immediate needs.

QUESTION: Does this affect the Southwest operations outside of Chicago, or?

KELLY: Well, certainly all of the flights into and out of Chicago have been impacted, yes; but beyond that, no. There hasn't been any other impact to our operations.

QUESTION: Gary, what would cause a flight like this coming in -- it was believed the runways at Midway, since they are shorter, than say O'Hare and some other major airports?

KELLY: It is a roughly 6,500 foot runway. And all indications are that the aircraft was cleared to land properly. There was heavy snow, light winds, plenty of visibility. At this point, that's all the information we have, and of course, we'll be working with the NTSB in their investigation.

QUESTION: What about the accumulation of the snow, there at the time, even though they had been trying to clear runways for hours?

KELLY: We just don't have any other information about the condition of the runway at this point. We do know it was snowing and obviously there was likely snow on the runway.

QUESTION: Had Southwest ever expressed concern about the length of runway or anything else at that airport?

KELLY: It's -- we have been operating at Chicago Midway for 20 years. It's a great airport, and we've never had any problem whatsoever.

QUESTION: Were there any inquiries by the crew? Were there any notices put out by the Weather Service, at all, about the conditions at the time because of the snow?

KELLY: The only information I have at this time is what we've mentioned. We know that it was snowing. It was cleared to land. The aircraft were backed up in the area. They were circling, there were some diversions, so it was a slow traffic night, in terms of landings. But we don't have any other information at this time.

QUESTION: How would you describe the evacuation of the plane?

KELLY: I don't have any information other than the fuel lines were secured. There were fuel leaks. They were quickly secured. All the passengers got off the aircraft safely and were transported to the terminal.

QUESTION: Do you know, all the exist were used? Floor exits over the wings?

KELLY: I do not know.


KELLY: I don't believe we used the slides. But I do not know that for certain.

QUESTION: Do you know how long the aircraft was circling for?

KELLY: Roughly, 30, 35 minutes is the unconfirmed report that we have.

QUESTION: Why was it circling? Because of the weather?

KELLY: Just because of heavy traffic into the airport, due to weather.

QUESTION: And you said that unconfirmed, "a couple" were taken to hospitals, do you know how many "a couple" is? KELLY: Two is the number that I have, but again, that is unconfirmed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We realize that you have lots of questions at this time. What we would like to do now is go back, allow Gary and our other executives to have more time to get directly to our folks in Chicago, get more answers to your questions.


COOPER: Listening to a press conference, Gary Kelly, of Southwest Airlines. Just to let you know what we know at this point: 12 people have been taken to local area hospitals. The most serious, five people, who were in one vehicle that this plane slammed into as it broke through that barrier, as the front landing gear broke.

It came to a stop on 55th Street and Central Avenue, hitting a car with five people inside. We don't know if they saw the plane coming. We don't know if they were sitting there or if they were moving.

Five people taken to hospitals with serious injuries. One of them, a six-year-old boy, according to Associate Press, and we now know he has died, at Christ (ph) Medical Center Hospital.

There was another vehicle also slammed into by this plane. Four people in that vehicle have serious but stable injuries. They too were taken to local hospitals. Only three people aboard the plane were treated, minor bumping injuries, they termed them. This out of 98 passengers and five crew members. It certainly could have been worse, but for the five people who were in that vehicle, for the family of that little boy, who has died, it could not be any worse at this hour.

CNN's Sean Callebs is standing by in Chicago.

Sean, what are you seeing?

CALLEBS: Well, now you get a pretty good indication of what the conditions are like out here. This kind of snow has been coming down for hours.

We heard the fire commissioner earlier talk about the condition of the runway. That it had been groomed, it had been plowed. But really, I was at O'Hare Airport for hours, watching crews work there. And as quickly as they would clear a runway or de-ice an aircraft, it would build back up again. Something like six to eight inches of snow has fallen in this area in the past eight or so hours. So really maintenance crews simply overwhelmed by a large degree --

Sorry, someone is pulling our cable here.

But behind me about 300 yards down the road, you can see the tail section of the Southwest aircraft. The aircraft actually came down the road like this and is pointed more toward where we are, at this area. We also heard the fire commissioner talk about that the front end of the aircraft did make contact with that car carrying the five people. And the traffic out here, simply bumper to bumper. Took me two hours to drive from O'Hare Airport to Midway. That's usually about a 30, 35 minute drive. But the snow has built up all the streets are snowy, the interstates, the toll way, especially a secondary road like this, right at the end of the Midway runway.

So if, indeed, conditions at the time of the accident, are like they were now and traffic was backed up bumper to bumper, it is amazing that it wasn't more serious that it is. And we're certainly not trying to down play it at all. Any loss of life, certainly regrettable, especially a young child; a horrific situation out here. More questions than answers at this hour as you would expect.

You heard the inspectors, the investigators here, asked awhile ago, what they have found out to this point. And really, in the very initial stages of beginning this investigation, I can tell you the FAA, NTSB, they will go over all this with a fine-toothed comb. It will take months and months before the final cause of the accident does come out.

But what we're hearing from eye-witnesses, apparently the front landing gear collapsed as this Southwest 737 was coming in from Baltimore. And just going through the fence at the end of the runway, then ending up where we are on Archer Road -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yeah, we should also point out, we don't know if the landing gear collapsed as the plane landed or if it collapsed or broke as it went through barrier fence. Still, as Sean points out, rightly, so much information to be learned. FAA investigators are on the scene. We believe and NTSB investigators are heading to the scene.

And as we continue to cover this with Sean Callebs, who is on the scene, I just want to point out, it was exactly 33 years ago, today -- 33 years ago, exactly today -- December 8, 1972, that there was another crash at Midway Airport. Flight 533, a United Air Lines flight, hit the south side of 71st Street, as it was coming in for a landing. It hit a person's house and killed two people in that house, and 43 onboard that plane, including the pilot, the first and second officers died; 18 passengers survived in there.

So, when Sean says it could have been worse, he is absolutely right, it was worse 33 years ago today. The anniversary of United Air Lines crash of Flight 533.

Sean, I mean, we know that 12 people have been taken to local area hospitals. We heard from the fire commissioner earlier, Sean, that the jaws of life and other heavy equipment was used to extricate these people from these terribly damaged vehicles.

The scene now, it is still cordoned off, but it is not as intense as it was two or three hours ago. All the passengers are gone, correct?

CALLEBS: Exactly. I'll get our photographer, Leo, here to kind of pan around a bit. And you can see there were a number of pedestrians out here. It has really pared back significantly, especially since that news conference a short while ago. We're seeing a lot of the people who typically come out, unfortunately, when an accident like this happens, to see what's going on.

There were dozens of people out here when I arrived, about 45 minutes ago. A number of them have gone in. Certainly, the conditions out here; very frigid conditions, the snow coming down, having a lot to do with that. And also, this area is just filled with a number of police officers, firefighters. I just saw an incident report vehicle, very large truck, come in from O'Hare Airport about five minutes ago, to make its away down to the scene, as well.

This is exactly what you kind of expect after an accident like this, Anderson, but just to set the scene. People knew, they knew, all day long that conditions were going to be like this. So this weather didn't sneak up on anyone. In fact, the reason I came to Chicago last night was to cover the bad weather that they certainly did expect at this time. But still the airport stayed open. They seemed to be running relatively well, at least, O'Hare. A number of flights had been delayed, but not that many had been canceled.

But I can tell you at the customer service lines there were hundreds of people lined up. Clearly, a number of flights had been canceled because of this weather. And if we think back on what the passengers said, flying in from Baltimore, that it was a pretty uneventful flight until the very end. Visibility is certainly going to be something that people look at.

Clearly, they land with instruments in the 737, but just driving over here, it was just kind of one of these gray, overcast Chicago days. Not terribly windy, as you would expect. But the snow coming down for hours and hours. Never blizzard-like conditions, but certainly coming down in a very steady fashion, like it is now.

They expect about three inches to six inches of snow to the north of Chicago. But where we are, down in the southern section, they expect anywhere from six to eight inches. So we know that authorities are going to also look at the conditions of the runway. They said they had been groomed. They had been plowed, but when it comes down like this, just constantly, they're just fighting an overwhelming battle trying to keep those runways clean and keep the aircraft coming in and taking off as safely as possible.

COOPER: And if you're wondering, if you're watching this throughout the United States, as many are, and you are wondering what conditions are going to be like in your area, and tomorrow, and flights. We're going to talk about that over the course of the next 15 minutes.

I just want to point out, as Sean was mentioning, about the delays that Chicago area airports were experiencing today. Associated Press reporting earlier that more than 400 incoming and outgoing flights had been cancelled at Chicago's airports throughout the day because of this winter storm that was just blanketing the state. And according to Wendy Abrams, who is a Chicago aviation spokeswoman, there were delays averaging two to three hours at Midway, or one to two hours at O'Hare. This, of course, before this incident occurred. Midway is now just shut down. And O'Hare at last check, Chad Myers was saying, there were only about 30 incoming flights landing -- landing now, at O'Hare Airport.

I'm told that we have Larry Langford, who is with the Chicago Fire Department. He joins us on the phone.

Larry, what can you confirm about the injuries thus far?

LARRY LANGFORD, CHICAGO FIRE DEPARTMENT: We had five that were in serious or critical condition. One of the five definitely left the scene extremely critical. We had four others that were in serious but stable condition. And three others that we consider walking wounded, or just bumps and bruises, taken to local hospitals. And as we are saying that one of those that was in the automobile, is extremely critical.

The car was underneath the aircraft when we arrived on the scene, here at 55th and Central. We had two alarms for this, to get about 120 firefighters here. We had no fire. We had a minor fuel leak, which we were able to deal with quickly. We got all the people off the aircraft with just a couple of minor injuries and getting the people off. The serious injuries and the critical injuries were on vehicles on the ground.

COOPER: It's good that you were able to mobilize so many firefighters, 120, a massive response to this incident.

The five serious injuries, the one very serious, that was -- they were all in one vehicle?

LANGFORD: Yes, they were. A vehicle that was on Central Avenue, that ended up pretty much underneath the fuselage of the aircraft.

COOPER: Oh, god. And the four people who were serious but in stable condition, were they in another vehicle?

LANGFORD: They were in another vehicle that is now in front of the aircraft and a piece of the engine and wing collided with that vehicle. It looks like the fuselage may have hit it from the front. But that vehicle was not underneath and there was no entrapment in the second vehicle.

COOPER: And the three people, the walking wounded, I believe as you called them; those are the people -- they were onboard the aircraft, correct?

LANGFORD: They were onboard the aircraft. After they were transported over to the terminal, they decided they wanted to be check out, so they were taken in what we call "condition green" to the hospital for check out; but just bumps, bruises, that sort of thing. Normally, they encounter that sort of problem in getting off the aircraft after it is come a stop. COOPER: I don't want to put you on the spot, I know you can only say what you can say: Christ Medical Center has confirmed one death, a child. The Associated Press was reporting it is a six-year-old boy. Can you confirm that? Do you know that?

LANGFORD: I can only confirm that there was a child that left the scene extremely critical.

COOPER: OK. Just a -- it is such a terrible thing. That child being -- that child was from the car with the five people, correct?

LANGFORD: That is correct. The five people in the car that ended up underneath the fuselage of the aircraft.

COOPER: Larry Langford, appreciate all your efforts tonight, from the Chicago Fire Department. Thank you for joining us.

And as we said, we want to tell you, as you are watching around the country, and wondering perhaps how this may affect your travel, or where this weather system is moving. We want to focus on that in our continuing coverage. Rob Marciano is standing by in Pittsburgh, where he is just getting walloped with snow, as well.

Rob, tell us the conditions where you are? Rob, talk about this storm. How big is it? Where is it moving? And how are the conditions where you are?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the storm is two-fold. There is the northern branch of the jet stream and a southern branch of the jet stream. This split flow, you know, expands the bad weather from north to south. But as those two flows converge -- and we think that's going to happen later on tonight, or at least one will transfer energy to another. Then the storm moves over to the East Coast.

But as far as the West Coast factor of this storm, it started out as kind of like an upper air low, that was really generated by the extreme amount of cold air that came down from Canada and broke all sorts of records from Denver down to Texas. So that, now, is spinning out and intensifying as it does so at the surface.

So, we're starting to see this snow intensify as well, coming down here in Pittsburgh. Now it's been snowing for about four or five hours. At one point it was snowing at about an inch an hour, now it's tapered off to maybe a quarter to an half an inch an hour. And we've got about three inches of snow on the ground.

So anywhere from three to eight inches of snow is in the forecast and that has really been thread or the banding of snow that we've seen across the Midwest with this entire storm. It has been pretty consistent.

And typically that can be the case when you're not as close -- not real close to a big moisture source like the Atlantic Ocean. Once this transfers over toward the Atlantic Ocean tomorrow, then there are big question marks as to how much snow comes into the Northeast. But I heard Sean Callebs mention that the he didn't notice a whole lot of wind with this storm. Well, that is true. We're not noticing a whole lot of wind here in Pittsburgh, either. But just some consistent snow that is coming down in a span of about four to eight hours. It is likely that when we wake up tomorrow morning, not only here, but in Chicago, that this all will be gone, or at least it will have stopped snowing and we could actually break out into some sunshine. And the problems go over to the East Coast.

So, even though they're getting some lake-enhanced snow tonight, in the Chicago area, winds should switch around enough to where come tomorrow morning, the snow should have stopped by wake up time and sun up tomorrow, Anderson.

COOPER: And, Rob, as you have been speaking not only are we looking at your shot, we're looking at a number of scenes from across the country, from St. Louis, which was walloped and Indiana, a severe snow. Three fatalities have been recorded, prior to this incident with the plane. Of course, one fatality with that plane, but we had three snow-related fatalities earlier in the day.

Frankly, that was going to be our lead story tonight, of course, then once the plane crashed that became the lead story. We're going to take a short break. Our coverage continues in a moment. We'll tell you more about what your weather is going to be like tomorrow, what to expect when you wake up in the morning and talk about flight delays that may happen, particularly, of course in the Midwest Region. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing Breaking News coverage of the accident in Midway Airport. Flight 1248, Southwest Airlines, crashing through a barrier fence, unable to stop at the end of the runway; slamming into two vehicles, killing a child in one of those vehicles, seriously injuring four other people in that vehicle. That vehicle crushed, trapped underneath the front part of the jet.

Another car hit, pushed toward the front of the vehicle that is where it came to rest, but it got hit by side of the aircraft and by one of the engines. Four people in that car seriously hurt, but stable, taken to hospital.

Three people only onboard the plane taken to hospital, with minor injuries; 98 passengers, five crew members, all of them alive, all of them being taken care of right now by Southwest Airlines. They are being interviewed, no doubt, by investigators. All the reports that we've had thus far indicated a calm scene aboard the aircraft as they came in for a landing. There had been flight delays, of course, an hour to two hours at Midway Airport and also at O'Hare Airport.

But the snow proved too much for this aircraft. We do not know the exact details yet. That, of course, awaiting investigators from the FAA who are on the scene, as well as NTSB investigators, who will be in charge of the crash scene of the investigation. There you see the plane, as it now sits, on the street, not on a runway at all. It is on a street, 55th Street and Central Avenue. If you are familiar with this area around Midway Airport in Chicago, a residential area, there were people in bars, there were people in their homes listening to this.

All of his eerily comes exactly on the 33 year anniversary of another crash at Midway Airport, 1972, December 8, a United Air Lines flight crashed, killing 45 people in that. So it could have been worse, but as we said, for the family for the six-year-old boy who has died, who was crushed and killed in this car, by this run away aircraft, it could not be any worse tonight.

Steve Cowell has flown, he is a pilot -- former pilot, he has flown 737s. He trained with Southwest. He flew into Midway Airport.

Steve, as the investigation moves forward, what are the key points they're going to be looking at?

STEVE COWELL, RET. PILOT, TRAINED WITH SOUTHWEST: Well, first of all, they're not only going to be looking at, of course, when was the runway cleared, prior to the landing? They're going to listen to the tapes on the airplane from the pilots. They're going to listen to their decision making process, whether they followed the proper procedures. The air traffic controllers, what they advise the pilots. And in addition, what they're going to be looking at is, were the systems of the airplane operating normally?

And they're going to look at whether the conditions on the runway were such that they allowed the auto-brake system, which procedurally, the pilots would probably engage. Would that system be working properly? And they're going to be taking all of these factors into consideration before they make a determination of the cause of the accident here.

COOPER: We will, of course, follow that investigation very closely over the next hours and days. Steve Cowell, you have been with us on and off over these last three hours. Appreciate you joining us for your expertise. As a former pilot who flew, not only into this airport, but flew these planes, 737s and trained with Southwest.

Rob Marciano standing by in Pittsburgh.

Rob, as people are watching this now, we know Midway Airport is shut down, we know there have been delays all day long in Chicago. What is the weather going to be like? Where does this system go? And we have about a minute to tell what people can expect tomorrow morning when they wake up.

MARCIANO: Well, the good news with this system, Anderson, is that it is a fast-moving system. So, if it is snowing where you are tonight, specifically somewhere in the Midwest, likely when you get up tomorrow morning the snow will be gone.

It will have moved over to the East Coast, to the Northeast, where it will likely gather even more strength. Although, it will be a more of a wet snow along the coastline, but inland, parts of Upstate New York and inland parts of Massachusetts, and New England, we could see more snow than what we've seen in the Midwest.

The other point to make, Anderson, in that, you know, a lot of times if you have a morning flight and it is out of the Midwest, just because the snow is gone, doesn't mean that you're plane is even there to take off. A lot of planes have to get into position during these snow storms and they're going to be ongoing delays tomorrow morning because of that. And also the storm that will now be moving over to the East Coast.

COOPER: Absolutely. And as Rob, I appreciate all your efforts over the last several hours, to keep us informed as well. And just keep in mind that there have been dozens of flights, no doubt, perhaps even more, that have been diverted from Midway over these last several hours, that have landed in other places. So it is going to be a mess to say the least in the Midwest, traveling. Especially, if you are trying to fly out of Chicago. Stay tuned. Probably just stay away, certainly from Midway -- the Midway Airport until you can get someone on the phone to find out exactly how your flight is going.

Appreciate you joining us over these last three plus, hours of our coverage. Our coverage continues all night long, into tomorrow. "LARRY KING lIVE" is next.