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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Police Say Divers No Longer Able To Safely Navigate Crash Site After Recovering 2 Bodies: "Exhausted All Search Efforts"; NTSB: 764 Tons Of Hazmat On Ship, Some Containers Breached; NTSB: 21 Crew Members, 2 Pilots On Board Cargo Ship At Time Of Accident; 764 Tons Of Hazmat On Ship, Some Containers Breached; Former Senator And VP Candidate Joe Lieberman Dies At 82. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 27, 2024 - 20:00   ET



SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT): And we have been talking to some really exceptional candidates who can offer that choice.

I think this is a unique moment in history, where the American people are so fed up with the two parties and the two logical probable candidates that they're going to welcome a bipartisan unity third choice on the ballot.


ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Sen. Joe Lieberman was 82.

Thank you for spending some time with us tonight. AC 360 starts right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Any moment now we are expecting to hear from federal safety officials with the NTSB about what sent that 95,000-ton container ship into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, destroying the main span and killing six construction workers.

Just a short time ago, we heard from Maryland state officials, a state police colonel delivering the grim news that divers today recovered two bodies from one submerged vehicle, but that the remainder in other vehicles are likely beyond recovery.


COL. ROLAND L. BUTLER JR., MARYLAND STATE POLICE: We have exhausted all search efforts in the areas around this wreckage. And based on sonar scans, we firmly believe that the vehicles are encased in the superstructure and concrete that we tragically saw come down.


COOPER: They also went on to say that conditions for divers under the water are simply just too dangerous. So this is no longer a recovery operation, he said, but a salvage effort and without divers right now in the water. Again, we're waiting for the NTSB to start a press conference. We expect that any moment. While we're waiting, I want to bring in CNN's Brian Todd, who joins us from the scene with more on what has developed over the last 24 hours. So what are authorities saying tonight about the collapse?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, to reiterate what you just mentioned, that was the main piece of news today. The Maryland - superintendent of the Maryland State Police, Col. Roland Butler, saying that they did find these two victims inside of a red pickup truck in about 25 feet of water right by the center stanchion of the bridge at about a little before 10 o'clock AM this morning. He identified those victims as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35 years old, and Dorlian Castillo Cabrera, 26 years old.

As you mentioned, he said that this is now a salvage operation, not a recovery operation. That means that there are four people still unaccounted for and presumed dead whose bodies have not been recovered. And there's really no telling when they may be recovered because, as you just said, the recovery operation is just so dangerous. As bad as this looks above the surface of the Patapsco River, it is even worse below the surface with all the tangled metal there.

And the weather has really turned for the worse today, Anderson. It's gotten much more rainy and windy today. That means that the water has less visibility underneath. And again, there's a lot of tangled metal and concrete underwater that is extremely dangerous for those divers.

We can also tell you, Anderson, that earlier today - excuse me - Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and a top Coast Guard official gave another briefing. And Secretary Buttigieg basically said, look, we can't give you a timeline for the recovery of the Port of Baltimore and the rebuilding of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. But he said that is going to be a priority for the Biden administration.

He did say - he did warn of major disruptions in the supply chain because of this. He said that, however, the federal government has what he called multimodal freight teams that are working together with ports and terminals all over the East Coast to re-route a lot of the cargo traffic. In the meantime, one interesting thing, Anderson, again, they can't give a timeline for reconstructing the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

But Maryland senator Ben Cardin did say that they're working on building a floating bridge as a temporary replacement for the Key Bridge. So maybe at least some vehicular traffic can get over the floating bridge. But again, it's going to be problematic because the Key Bridge was the one avenue here where trucks with hazmat material could travel over going up and down the East Coast. They were not allowed in the tunnels that are under the Baltimore harbor, because that's where most of the civilian traffic is. And with the Key Bridge now, of course, destroyed, is a floating bridge going to be sufficient to move trucks with hazmat materials.

That's just one of the logistical headaches here, Anderson. So still more grim news today from both of those news conferences. COOPER: I want to - Brian, I want you to stay around. And again, anybody joining, we are awaiting this news conference from the NTSB for the latest.

I also want to bring in right now, maritime attorney and former merchant Marine Captain Klaus Luhta, also structural engineer Kit Miyamoto and CNN's Danny Freeman, who's been reporting today on the workers who died as we wait for that press conference to begin.

Danny, let me start with you. Brian talked about two of the people who were recovered today, their bodies. What more do we know about them and those who are still missing?


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, listen, we now know the identities of four of the six people who have been missing. And of course, like you said, and like Brian said, two of those people were discovered early this morning, tragically in a car that had fallen off of the bridge and that was submerged at the bottom of the water.

Brian mentioned the first gentleman was named 35-year-old Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes. And the second gentleman was 26-year-old Dorlian Castillo Cabrera. And I actually had a chance to speak with a couple of people with - from Dorlian's family earlier today. His sister in law told me that he absolutely loved this construction job that he had at Brawner Builders. His brother, when I tried to speak with him about Dorlian, and this was before we knew that he - his body had been discovered, he was in shock and he didn't want to get into a full interview, but said he is just in grief right now. That is all that he and his part of the family could think about.

Meanwhile, Dorlian's cousin said that he came to the States to follow the American dream and to help his mother as well. So these are the two men that we know were discovered at the bottom of the lake, rather of the water behind me earlier today. But Anderson, I'll just make a note of two of the other men whose identity we learned over the course of the past 24 hours.

We learned about 38-year-old Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval. He was Honduran. He was a husband. He was a father of two, his brother telling CNN that he was the breadwinner of the family. And then we also learned about Miguel Luna. He's from El Salvador, a father of three. And an organization nearby this area where he was a member of said that he'd been living in Maryland for 19 years, Anderson.

And the one thing I'll just say, just being out here, speaking with family members, is that really this whole community you can tell is rallying around these families. There have been multiple GoFundMes that have been set up.

A number of politicians have promised to make sure that they get aid. And I also spoke to the executive vice president of the company that so many of these workers worked for. And he said very clearly, make no mistake, we're going to take care of these families.

COOPER: We're told ...

FREEMAN: That's a really, really hard day as we're learning more about these people.

COOPER: Of course, we're told that this press conference may begin in about two minutes or so, so I just may have to interrupt you. But just let me ask you, Danny, is there any update on the two who survived being on the bridge?

FREEMAN: We still are waiting for more information. I do have a little bit, though, about these two survivors. The first thing is that we've been talking about all eight of the people who were on this bridge as members of the construction company. Well, the executive vice president of the construction company actually told me that seven of those people - of those eight that were on the bridge, belonged to that particular - were workers for that company.

So we're still missing a little bit of information about the eighth person. However, the seventh, one of the survivors, he told me that basically it was a miracle that he was able to get away from this incident. And also he said, I asked him, how did he survive, right. This is a huge drop, so many people obviously still missing. The EVP of this company said he didn't quite know, but he believes that he may have swum and, again, called it a miracle that he was able to survive. But he did say that he is very much in shock right now and suffering from quite a bit of stress after that incident the other day.

COOPER: Let's listen in to this NTSB press conference.

JENNIFER HOMENDY, NTSB CHAIR: Thank you for joining us. Again, my name is Jennifer Homendy and I'm the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board.

With me today is one of our newest board members, Alvin Brown. Member Alvin Brown is - this is his training launch and we have our investigator in charge who we call the IIC, Marcel Muise.

As I mentioned, we arrived on scene yesterday at about 6 AM, but the team came in from across the country throughout the day. It was really a day to get our bearings. We set up our family assistance, program and also began to develop our investigative plan and request documents that we need in order to conduct our investigation.

Today is really the first full investigative day on scene. We were able to board the vessel. I boarded the vessel around noon along with our marine safety team and our highway safety team, and I can talk about that in just a bit. But I want to take a moment before I discuss our - some of the factual information we've been able to identify and speak to the families.


On behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board, I just want to extend our deepest, deepest condolences. You are in our thoughts and prayers as the days, months, years ahead go forward. Certainly, we are focused on you. Our entire mission is to save lives, and our aim is to prevent this from reoccurring, and we are so, so very sorry for all that you are going through. It's unimaginable, and truly, we think about you throughout this investigation.

So, as I mentioned yesterday, for those who may not be familiar, the National Transportation Safety Board is an independent federal agency. We are charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States and significant events in all modes of transportation. That includes bridge collapses, and it includes marine accidents and incidents.

Our mission is to determine why something happened, how it happened, and to prevent it from reoccurring. Again, to save lives. I want to talk a little bit about how we conduct an investigation, but I think it's really important for folks to understand that we will not analyze any of the information we are collecting. We will not provide any sort of findings, conclusions, or any safety recommendations while on scene.

Our entire focus on scene is to collect the perishable evidence. That's documenting the scene, it's taking photographs, it's taking any sort of electronics or components, whatever goes away once the scene is cleaned up. We need to collect that information for our investigation. When it comes to digging through inspections, maintenance records, that can be done when we leave. Right now, it's focused on the scene itself.

So, to conduct our investigation, we work with parties to the investigation. Parties to the investigation provide us technical information. This is factual information that we use as part of our fact finding. So, if we need bridge inspection data, we would ask, say, the Federal Highway Administration or information about Coast Guard inspections, we would ask the Coast Guard.

So, parties to the investigation are the United States Coast Guard, Maryland Transportation Authority, The Association of Maryland Pilots and we've invited Grace Ocean Private Limited and Synergy Marine Private Limited.

Grace Ocean is the owner of the vessel and Synergy is the operator of the vessel. Again, these parties are part of the fact finding. They do not conduct analysis with the NTSB. The NTSB does that independently on its own and then we do our own findings, our own probable cause, and our own safety recommendations.

Now, in order to effectively carry out an investigation, we have experts throughout the NTSB in different areas. And so, we break up our investigation into groups. Those groups focus on their particular areas of expertise. In this safety investigation, we have a nautical operations group. This group gathers evidence to document the actions taken by the vessel, the procedures for the safe operation of the vessel, company oversight, waterway management, safety management, and regulatory oversight. That group would and has collected and has asked for information on, say, duty records, licensing, training. They requested the crew list.

So, we were able to confirm that there were 21 crew members on board the vessel at the time of this accident, plus two pilots. That's 21 crew members plus two pilots for a total of 23 individuals on board the vessel at the time of the accident. They also were able to obtain the cargo manifest.

Now, the cargo manifest, we did bring in one of NTSB's senior hazmat investigators today to begin to look at the cargo and the cargo manifest.


He was able to identify 56 containers of hazardous materials. That's 764 tons of hazardous materials, mostly corrosives, flammables and some miscellaneous hazardous materials, class 9 hazardous materials, which would include lithium ion batteries.

Some of the hazmat containers were breached. We have seen sheer on - or sheen - sorry, sheen on the waterway. The federal, state and local authorities are aware of that. And they will be in charge of addressing those issues. But the NTSB, as part of our safety investigation, documents that type of release, documents the damage, and documents the type of materials involved as part of our investigation.

We also have an engineering group which gathers evidence to document the design and operation of engineering systems, including the vessel propulsion, steering and power. The operations and engineering group was able to board the vessel last night, and they did a walkthrough of the vessel, including the bridge and the engine room. They were looking for other electronic components, any sort of downloadable recorders, any sort of cameras, any sort of CCTV. They did not find any of those things, but that search continues.

They've also requested document - a number of documents, including maintenance and inspection history and are - as we speak, conducting interviews on board the vessel. Those interviews began at 1 PM this afternoon and those are with the crew members on board the vessel.

And then, again, I mentioned we did board again today at 1 o'clock. That was the - and pretty much the entire team, me, plus Office of Highway Safety, Office of Marine Safety, Member Brown and looked at the damage. We were able to take a look at pier protection. We looked at some of the damage to the containers and certainly the bridge structure.

Now we have a recorders group, which is responsible for locating, retrieving and downloading any recorder or recorded information that may relate to the accident. We do have the voyage data recorder. They worked on that all day to validate that information. They also have a printout of the alarms. That's the log. They still have to go back and look at that and validate that information at a later time.

In addition to that, we - our survival factors group interviewed or discussed with the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, the timeline of events that occurred around the time of the bridge strike. Though that two sets of information we're putting together in a timeline that we will release through our social media channels. But for right now, I'm going to ask Marcel to go through the voyage data recorder information that we have to share with you, as well as some of the information that we gathered from the police.


Information from the Dali's voyage data recorder - or what we call a VDR - was successfully recovered on the morning of the accident by the U.S. Coast Guard. It was provided to the NTSB upon our arrival. Approximately six hours of VDR data was provided to the NTSB. The recording included the time period from midnight to 6 AM.

By regulation, the VDR is required to record 30 days of history and the NTSB is continuing to obtain more data. The times expressed below as recorded by the VDR and converted to local eastern daylight time. All information is preliminary and subject to final validation.

The VDR data is comprised of audio from the ship's bridge, as well as recordings from the ship's VHF or very high frequency radios. The quality of that audio varies widely because of the high levels of background noise and alarms.


Additional analysis will be performed at the NTSB's lab to filter out the audio and improve its quality. Additionally, the VDR recorded limited sensor data. An example of that data recorded includes the ship's speed, engine RPM, ship's heading and rudder angle, as well as some alarm information. NTSB engineers are working to identify and validate all of that data.

The VDR recorded the ship's departure from Seagirt Marine Terminal at approximately 12:39. It recorded the ship's transit outbound in the Fort McHenry Channel and the striking of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

By 1:07, the ship had entered the channel and by 1:24, the ship was underway on a true heading of approximately 141. In the Fort McHenry Channel at a speed of over ground of approximately 8 knots or 9.2 miles per hour. At 01:24 and 59 seconds, numerous audible alarms were recorded on the ship's audio - bridge audio. About the same time, VDR sensor data ceased recording.

However, the VDR audio continued to record using the redundant power source. At around 01:26 and 2 seconds, the VDR resumed recording sensor data, and during this time, there were steering commands and rudder orders recorded on the audio.

At around 01:26 and 39 seconds, the ship's pilot made a general VHF radio call for tugs in the vicinity to assist. About this time, the pilot association dispatcher phoned the MDTA duty officer regarding the blackout.

Around 01:27 and 4 seconds, the pilot ordered the Dali to drop the port anchor and additional - ordered additional steering commands.

Around 01:27 and 25 seconds, the pilot issued a radio call over the VHF radio reporting that the Dali had lost all power and was approaching the bridge. Around this time, MDTA data shows the following also occurred.

Their duty officer radioed two of their units that were already on scene due to construction on the bridge, one on each side of the bridge and ordered them to close traffic on the bridge. All lanes were then shut down by MDTA.

Around 01:29, the ship's speed over ground was recorded at just under 7 knots or 8 miles per hour.

From this moment until approximately 1:29 and 33 seconds, the VDR audio recorder sounds consistent with the collision of the bridge. Additionally, around this time, MDTA dash cameras show the bridge lights extinguishing. Additional analysis of the VDR audio in comparison with other time sources will be needed to determine the exact time of contact between the Dali and the bridge.

At 1:29 and 39 seconds, the pilot reported the bridge down over the VHF radio to the Coast Guard.

The NTSB will later convene a group of technical experts to review the entire VDR recording and develop a detailed transcript of the dialogue and the events - and the event alarms as recorded.

HOMENDY: A few areas that I just want to clarify. The data that we received from the Coast Guard, which was - they were able to obtain on the bridge by downloading the information from the VDR from midnight to 6 AM, that's a standard time frame. They provide that immediately so we can see that time - a timeframe around when the accident or incident occurred, knowing that we can go back and get the rest that there should be 30 days there. So this is the immediate information that they give us. But it's not, I don't want anyone to think anyone - anything was being held back. That's very standard information. I do want to thank the Coast Guard for that because that was pretty immediate. It was done right away. And then they provided us with a thumb drive that we were able to evaluate back at our lab at headquarters.

And I'm sure you will have questions on that. I do want to also say I've seen a lot of comparison between the VDR and CVRs and FDRs or black boxes on commercial airliners.


This is really a basic system. An FDR would give you a thousand parameters, that's not this.

VDR is basic. It is a snapshot of the major systems on a vessel. And we have long wanted more recording, more parameters to be recorded on a VDR. So that's hopefully something that we can provide and happy to answer more questions about that timeline. But before I do, I want to continue with what our team has done.

Our survival factors group, their whole role is to examine the response. And so they were able to obtain dispatch logs from the Maryland Transportation Authority, the Baltimore County Fire Department, the Baltimore City Fire Department to begin to put together a timeline. And they will be conducting interviews tomorrow, including with a few people in the bridge area.

Now, we also have from our Office of Highway Safety a bridge structures group. Many know that the bridge was built in 1976. It has three spans. The main span is 1,200 feet. The entire bridge is 9,090 feet in length. The average annual daily traffic on the bridge is 30,767 vehicles per day - 30,767 vehicles per day.

The bridge is fracture critical. It's a fracture critical bridge. What that means is if a member fails, that would likely cause a portion of or the entire bridge to collapse. There's no redundancy. The preferred method for building bridges today is that there is redundancy built in, whether that's transmitting loads to another member or some sort of structural redundancy. This bridge did not have redundancy.

There are 17,468 fracture critical bridges in the United States out of 615,000 bridges total. And that comes from the Federal Highway Administration.

This bridge was in satisfactory condition. The last fracture critical inspection was in May 2023. We have not been able to go through that inspection and all the documents, that - but that will occur after we leave the on-scene portion. But we've also requested all fracture critical, routine, and underwater inspections of the bridge over the last decade. Once we receive that, we will begin to go through all of those documents.

We've also requested information on pier protection on all MDTA, that's Maryland Transportation Authority-owned bridges. They have four bridges where we would have - they would have information on pier protection, and we are looking at that.

Our family assistance team continues to do their work and outreach to the families. They provide them with assistance immediately on scene, connect them with the resources that they need, but then we continue to work with the families throughout the course of the investigation leading up to the board meeting and many times for many years thereafter where many work to get our safety recommendations implemented to improve safety.

So with that, again, when it comes to analysis of any of the inspection records or the records that we are requesting, that's going to take place later. Right now, we are focused on obtaining information, getting the perishable evidence, conducting the interviews.

So I will take questions, but I will call on you and one question at a time. Please provide your name and affiliation.

SCOTT NEWMAN, ABC 7 NEWS, WASHINGTON: Hi. Scott Newman (ph) from ABC 7 News in Washington, D.C.

A question about your work here and the efforts you have to make for the recovery that you're trying to get regarding information, things that are perishable and all the challenges on top of that with the girders, the metal in the water, the difficulty of having a ship with hazardous materials. [20:30:08]

What can you compare this effort to in other scenarios you've dealt with in the past?

JENNIFER HOMENDY, NTSB CHAIR: I mean, it is a -- it's a massive undertaking for an investigation. It is a -- it is a very tragic event. It's multimodal. There is a lot of information we need to collect, a lot that we need to analyze, many interviews, many different components to the investigation. But this is not new for the NTSB. We've conducted other investigations of bridge strikes, bridge collapses. We have an amazing team of individuals who are focused on very specific areas of expertise. And so, I have no doubt that we will be able to pull this together in hopefully 12 to 24 months.

With that said, we will not hesitate, again, to issue urgent safety recommendations before that time if we need to. Pete?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You said that there was limited sensor data from the voyage data recorder, engine RPM heading right around (ph) and alarm inflammation. How upsetting is that to you knowing that there were not more parameters recorded?

HOMENDY: So this is a newer -- the question is the parameters on the VDR and the limited information that voyage data recorders provide. I'll ask Marcel to add to that, to my answer. This was a newer model, so it did have additional features. But it is very basic compared to say, a flight data recorder, where we would have 1,000 parameters. So it would be good to have that information, key to have that information for an investigation. I think Marcel can provide additional information on what might be missing.

MARCEL MUISE, MARINE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR, NTSB: So, by -- this is a voyage data recorder. It is not a ship-wide system recorder, so most of the sensors that are being recorded are from the bridge. So things like GPS, the audio, rudder feedback, rudder commands are recorded on there, but not engineering, the temperature of each cylinder, power distribution sensors, those are -- those things are not recorded on a voyage data recorder. And we are looking for other sources of data in the interim that would give us that data. The VDR also does record snapshots of the radar and the electronic chart. We do have that.

MUNTEAN: I just have one tiny follow-up which is, would have been able to tell what the source of the power outage on board the ship was?

HOMENDY: We'd have to determine that as part of our analysis in this investigation. Too early to tell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, (inaudible) here from WBAL in Baltimore. You said that there were 56 containers of hazardous materials on board that ship. How many of those are in the water? Do you know? And what is the timeline to getting those out of the water and the rest of the containers that are sitting on that ship in the (inaudible)?

HOMENDY: Yeah, I did see some containers in the water and some breached significantly on the vessel itself. I don't have an exact number, but it is something that we can provide an update. And certainly in our preliminary report, which should be out into two to four weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The timeline for getting those out of the water?

HOMENDY: That is not something that the NTSB does as part of our safety investigation, but that is something that I would refer to the federal, state, and local authorities. Yep.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) question, sticky leonel (ph) of WTOP. Could you characterize the level of concern about this hazardous material leak, the sheen on the water and should people be concerned about this right now? Is there anything being done to mitigate that?

HOMENDY: The authorities are aware. It's of the materials themselves and I would just direct you to them for those sorts of questions. Tom?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma'm, sure. Can you -- can I ask you to give me again the time that the pilot called for the tugs? I didn't get that as quickly as you happen to mention it. And the second of all, when the pilot called for the tugs, confirming the ship had no tugs at all helping it navigate through the waters before it hit the bridge?

HOMENDY: That's correct. The tugs help it -- help the vessel leave the dock and leave the port, and then get into the main ship channel. And then they leave. Once it is on its way, it is a straight shot through the channel. So there are no tugs with the vessel at that time. So they were calling for tugs. Do you have the timeframe?

MUISE: Sure. The pilot made that call that 1:26:39.



MUISE: According to the VDR.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) Two things. One can you update us on the status of the ship workers? What is the food and water situation like and how long can they expect to be there? And then two, did the ship have signs of power problems before the mayday call?

HOMENDY: We have heard -- there was a question on the concerns about power or reports of concerns of power outages on the vessel prior to that moment of the bridge striking. We have seen reports of that. We've read reports of that. We've heard reports of that. That's all part of our investigation that we'll have to look into and verify. With respect, there was a question on the food situation with the workers on board. They cook -- was cooking when I got on board, it smelled very good and I was very hungry. So, I don't have any other information other than that. But we were able to engage with some of the crew members and others are part of the interviews that are ongoing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No information on how long they will be there?

HOMENDY: Information on how long they will be there, that is not information I have at this time. Sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible). You said there are reports of potential outages. Are we talking about days, weeks, months? Can you give us any kind of like, what time reference?

HOMENDY: For the outages on the vessel, you are asking about outages on the vessel prior to this moment of striking the bridge. We don't have any information of outages on board the vessel prior to that time. Certainly, we are going to look at what we can get from the VDR data, because there should be 30 days. So hopefully, we'll be able to find something in that data if the entire 30 days is there. But we are aware of the reports and that's something that we need to look into. Chris?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Can you sort of -- you mentioned --


COOPER: You've just been listening to the NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy and two other officials on the shipwreck and the bridge collapse in Baltimore. I just want to quickly give you a sense of what she has said over the last 37 or so minutes. She pointed this out and just clarifying that the NTSB's entire focus right now is on collecting what she described as anything perishable evidence, anything photographs, sonar data, any information from the electronics onboard the ship, anything that may dissipate over time or that they can't -- that is time sensitive. So that's what they are getting.

They haven't analyzed anything. She didn't come up with any analysis of anything that they have already received. She was simply giving out information. 21 crew members on board, they have confirmed at the time of the of the ship hitting the bridge, with two pilots, 56 containers of hazardous materials were onboard that ship. That's 764 tons of hazardous materials. She described it as corrosive, flammables, lithium-ion batteries. She said, some of those containers were breached.

She said she saw a number of them breached on the deck of the ship, also some signs of sheen on the water which would indicate something from those containers is in the water. Didn't seem to have any answers about how concerned people should be. She referred the reporters' questions to other officials. That's really not the NTSB job right now. She also talked about the voyage data recorder, which is the ship equivalent of the flight data recorder, which we are all very familiar with.

Difference as she pointed out is that there are what she said were about 1,000 parameters on a flight data recorder that you would find after an accident on board or an incident on board plane with the voice -- the voyage data recorder, it is very basic. She called it a snapshot of major systems on a vessel, nothing to do with engineering. They certainly -- she has urged for over the -- in the past for more what she terms as parameters on the VDR to mandate more recordings.

I want to bring in CNN's Pete Muntean, who is at a briefing site. CNN's Brian Todd and Danny Freeman are at the scene. Also with this us is Maritime Attorney and Former Merchant Marine Captain Klaus Luhta and Structural Engineer Kit Miyamoto. Captain Luhta, first of all, let me just ask you what stood out to you from what you heard?

KLAUS LUHTA, FORMER MERCHANT MARINE CAPTAIN: One of the things that jumped out to me is the timeline as they were stating minute by minute, the decisions that were being made and the calls that were going out. If there's any silver lining in this at all is the immediate response to those distress calls.


LUHTA: There was no time to get a tug there. That's obvious. But there was time to shut down traffic on the bridge, possibly limiting loss of life and the time of day when this occurred. If there is a silver lining in all of that, I think lives were saved.

COOPER: Yeah. I mean, the TikTok was it was -- it was minute by minute in some cases involving seconds (inaudible) at 01:26 a.m., pilot made a call for tugs. 1:27:40 a.m., the pilot ordered the port anchor to drop. What does that indicate to you that the pilot ordered the port anchor to drop and they are obviously trying to slow down the vessel or stop that.

LUHTA: Sure. Yeah. I've been on vessels just like this in and out of the Port of Baltimore dozens of times, sailed all around the world. And that's an immediate typical response to a distress situation where you don't have control over the vessel. Letting go of the anchor is a manual function. There's a break. You just crank the wheel and you can let it go and tighten it back up and that's one of the initial emergency responses that is required in order to hopefully slow the forward progress of the vessel

COOPER: Kit, you are a structural engineer. She talked also about the type of bridge this was. Built in 1976 with three spans.


COOPER: And that the design, essentially it is an older design that it doesn't have -- it is not a fracture -- is a fracture critical bridge. Can you explain what that is? That it doesn't have structural redundancies, if I assume -- if one part of the bridge is weakened, that the load could be carried by other parts of the bridge. Is that right?

MIYAMOTO: That's right, Anderson. Essentially, the way the structural system is actually pretty simple. There is the piers and there's the bridge on top of it. So if the one of piers come down, then everything come. Just there is no redundancy that at all. And also this bridge built in 1976 and it stopped (ph) seismic area, so it is a little bit different. Like, for example, if you see the modern side (ph) bridge construction in California, it does has more redundancy because the seismic area. So that (ph) structural system tend to become bigger and also more ductile, which means can take the impact per se.



COOPER: So, if there were more -- if there were structural redundancies on a bridge like this, how different would it look? I mean, what -- if there is three pillar, three spans, how would you deal with the weight of those three spans?

MIYAMOTO: I think what is going to happen -- OK, after all, this is 100,000 ton of a ship. OK? And it is 1,000 feet long. It is a massive thing. It is bigger than the bridge by itself (ph). So even the moving at nine miles per hour, the momentums are huge. So, no structure can take that such a brutal force. However, there's many ways of doing it. For example, if you see the Tampa Bay the bridge, which collapsed by the way in the 1980s, that provide island system around the pier. So therefore, they will slow down the process of the hitting, you know, stuff like that. And also, you can make the structural system into much more redundant as of the day (ph) they are talking about.

COOPER: So essentially, those were -- those islands which I've seen around the pillars --


COOPER: -- on bridges, that is a -- that is just for helping the pillar stand. That is for, if -- stopping, slowing down anything that might be coming to hit the bridge?

MIYAMOTO: That's right, Anderson. Essentially, that's going to end (ph) the energy coming through anything at the barrier, it is going to slow the momentum down. That's a very important aspect of it. If you follow the amount (ph) on the bridge design code, the chance of a collapse of this nature happening one in 10,000. So it is a really rare event. And but there is -- even the order bridges, there are ways to make a protection like protection to never happen this kind of things again.

COOPER: And Captain Luhta, the -- it is always frustrating to hear after an incident like this about voyage data recorder, is that one that could have more information, but I assume it is just a -- I don't know. I'm not sure what the holdup is, if the NTSB has been calling for, wishing they would have more parameters built in or mandated into these. Who decides that sort of thing?

LUHTA: That would be something dictated ultimately by regulation promulgated by the Coast Guard. But, when she says that the voyage data recorder information is basic, that's because ship operations are basic. There aren't a lot of parameters on these vessels to be able to track. You have the propulsion, you have the steering, and a lot of the external factors like winds and currents and atmospheric conditions, those things can all be measured and you can capture those outside of what the ship has. So, it is not really so necessary for these systems to be very complex and record that much information. I understand the Chair, she would like to have more information and that's the NTSB's job, of course. But ships for the most part are pretty basic in their operation.


COOPER: Kit, was there -- was there -- are there other aspects of this press conference that stood out to you from an engineering standpoint?

MIYAMOTO: I think that it's definitely good (ph) to just looking at pictures and how it's collapsed. It just those piers are so week, so little compared to the -- what this, just this whole this mass scale of a ship. So, there is no way to just avoid a collapse here. So, it is definitely to (ph) think the building, the production system around the piers, especially for order bridges, I think that's a really critical things we got to do.

COOPER: Kit Miyamoto, I really appreciate talking to you. I'm sorry (inaudible) these circumstances. Captain Klaus Luhta as well. And thanks to all our correspondents. Tonight and ever since the accident, we have been talking about how difficult it is to maneuver and control an enormous vessel even under the best circumstances, let alone with power, steering problems. You watch video of the MV Dali heading toward that bridge would seemingly looks like it is in slow motion and in fact, it is unable to steer or stop. It only underscores even what everything -- everything when it goes right, it is the shear physics of steering enormous vessels through narrow channels around major obstacles, which is why we sent our Randi Kaye to South Florida in a simulator built to approximate what that is actually like.



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Flanagan is an instructor with maritime professional training in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He set up this ship simulator to help us visualize what the Dali and its crew may have been doing moments before the ship crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

FLANAGAN: We are on a -- about 90,000, almost 100,000 ton container ship and we are outbound the Port of Baltimore, and we have the Key Bridge about less than half-mile away.

KAYE (voice-over): The screen displays tell us our simulated ship is moving at about 8.7 knots.

KAYE: What is the protocol as you are heading out? Is there anyone out there in the front of the container ship?

FLANAGAN: Yeah. Very common on a ship of this size, typically have something called an anchor detail, where there is a couple of people up on the fore deck, up on the bow by the anchor gear.

KAYE: That person, obviously, when they saw they were about to hit the bridge, what --

FLANAGAN: If that were me, I would start running. KAYE (voice-over): Just before hitting the bridge, officials say the Dali had a total blackout and lost all engine and electrical power.

KAYE: They know they are in trouble. What is the checklist that they go through? That the training requires?

FLANAGAN: I need to sound the general alarm and get the crew to their emergency stations. Are we going to have to fight a fire or send them to get dressed out in firefighting gear simultaneously. They're communicating with the engineer saying, hey, why did the power go out right? Can we get the power back online? What are -- what are the issues? What is going on with the backup systems?

KAYE (voice-over): The American Pilots Association said the Dali's pilot also ordered the ship's anchor be dropped, which Flanagan says was the right move, even though it didn't stop the ship's forward momentum. And according to officials, the pilot in a last-ditch effort also gave a rudder command to the helms men.

KAYE: The pilot apparently called for a hard rudder report (ph). What does that mean?

FLANAGAN: So that means they are taking the wheel and turning it to left or port as far as it will go, which tells the rudder to actually turn the vessel as far to port has as you can turn it.

KAYE: So when this incident happened, it was about 01:30 in the morning. So clearly, it was dark out. Can we simulate that?

FLANAGAN: Yeah, sure, we can. OK. Go ahead and make it night.

KAYE: Wow, so obviously, it is pretty dark. But you can still see those are the lights that would have been on the bridge. So it is hard to even see the columns.

FLANAGAN: Right. Yeah. And that's where we would use the vessel's radar to help us out with that a little bit. That's the radar here. On this simulator, we have two, which is very similar to a ship like the Dali. They would certainly have two.

KAYE: So that would be able to pick up the columns that are under the bridge?

FLANAGAN: Right. Yeah. So the columns are right here. These two, main support.


KAYE (on camera): And Anderson, based on what we know right now, of course, the investigation is still ongoing, but Instructor Flanagan says the crew on board the Dali did a lot of things right. Certainly, dropping the anchor was one of them. Anderson?

COOPER: Randi, it is incredible to see it from that perspective. Thank you for that. Next, remembering a political maverick, former Democratic then independent Senator and vice presidential running mate Joe Lieberman, who died today.



COOPER: Former Senator and Vice Presidential Candidate Joe Lieberman died today here in New York, according to his family, of complications from a fall. He was 82 years old.

The Connecticut native was first elected to the Senate in 1989 as a Democrat. Then in 2000, there was this historic moment.


JOE LIEBERMAN, (D) FORMER SENATOR AND VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight, I am so proud to stand as your candidate for vice president of the United States.


LIEBERMAN: I am humbled by this nomination. And so grateful to Al Gore for choosing me.


COOPER: Senator Lieberman made history as the first Jewish vice presidential nominee of a major party. You'll likely remember that Gore conceded the race after the Supreme Court ordered the Florida vote recount stopped. Few years later, Senator Lieberman's relationship with Democrats became strained over the war in Iraq and the U.S. troop surge that doomed his 2004 presidential run. Then two years later, after losing his Democratic senatorial primary, he ran and won as an independent. In 2008, he surprised a lot of Democrats again by supporting his friend John McCain's 2008 presidential race over Barack Obama. And more recently, Lieberman said this in 2021 to CNN's Pamela Brown about Former President Trump refusing to accept defeat in the last election.


LIEBERMAN: Basically, Al Gore put the interests of the country first. President Trump on the other hand lost the election by over 7 million votes. He contested in court more than 50 times, lost them all. And still he refuses to give up. And I think he is really hurting our constitutional democracy by what he is doing. And frankly, he's hurting himself.


COOPER: For more on Senator Lieberman's life and legacy, I am joined by Former Obama Senior Adviser David Axelrod and CNN's John King, who covered the Gore-Lieberman campaign.


COOPER: David, I mean, Senator Lieberman obviously, a complicated history with Democratic Party, even going --


COOPER: -- so far as, you know, back to Senator John McCain and then Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign. President Obama released a statement tonight saying in part, Joe Lieberman, I didn't know (ph) we see eye to eye, but he had an extraordinary career in public service. How do you remember him tonight?

AXELROD: Look, he clearly was a significant figure in the United States Senate for a long period of time. He was a guy who could work across party lines. Every time there was an effort across party lines to address problems, he was in the middle of it. He was very progressive on some things, the environment and abortion rights. Basically, he was a scoop jet (ph). What we used to call a Scoop Jackson Democrat. He was progressive on economic and social issues. He was conservative on national security issues and that led him away from the Democratic Party around the Iraq war. He was a little, I think, angry when the party voters dismissed him in Connecticut. He won as an independent and it took a while to repair that rupture. He didn't caucus with Democrats for a couple of years. But look, just the fact that he was selected as the first and only Jewish American as a candidate on the Democratic ticket earned him a place in history. And so he'll -- he will be remembered.

COOPER: John, you covered him. How do you remember him?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (inaudible) today was point about the history. Senator Lieberman, first and foremost, that proved the magic of America, that a Jew could be on a major party ticket, that America has such amazing diversity. It was very important to him. He loved taking questions about it on the campaign trail from voters who were like I've never voted for a Jewish person. What's it like or what does it mean? How are you different?


KING: People will ask questions. He loved the questions. It was frustrating at first, but then became a huge challenge that the campaign staff loved because he was observant. He would go down for Shabbat and so they had to schedule his events up to Friday afternoon and then shut them down. And then they would come back up and he would tell the staff, I know this might I frustrate. I work 24/7 the other days, but I need to be with my family. I need to be with my faith. I need to recharge. And one of the quirks I was texting with the former staffer tonight, as they traveled, the orthodox community would somehow always know where he was. And when they showed up, there would be kosher food in his holding room.

So, he was a very funny man. I converted to Judaism in 2008 when we were on the road a lot with Senator John McCain and he used to joke with McCain about, if King can do it, you could do it. And McCain will just wave him off.


KING: It's time to go. But he had a great sense of humor, but he also did become estranged from the Democratic Party.

COOPER: It's also true -- I mean, his relationship with John McCain and the loyalty he had to John McCain, choosing him rather than Barack Obama in the race.

KING: Right. And so there is some lingering tensions with that and a lot of the people who were loyal to him were willing to sort of forgive and forget there, because it was a great personal friendship and they knew that. He was genuinely incredibly close with McCain and his family. The no labels thing later in life that was a lot of Democrats sort of lost their patients with Senator Lieberman over that one and it was kind of sad that that was the last piece of his legacy.

COOPER: And David, I mean, Lieberman, he was close in age to President Biden. They served in the Senate for a long time. He has, as John mentioned, been involved that no labels group to potentially put forward a third-party presidential candidate this year. Do you think that factors into his legacy much?

AXELROD: Well, look, you know, the last time I saw him was last week on television promoting the no labels ticket. And I don't think that is perceived as a friendly gesture by supporters -- or was by supporters of President Biden. So that will be a coda (ph) on his legacy and but it doesn't wash away everything that came before. Joe Lieberman was a really significant figure in history. And he will be remembered as such.

COOPER: John, the -- there was a sense of humor about him, which you mentioned, which is rare. He seemed to be kind of in on the joke in many times.

KING: He was comfortable in his skin, I think in part because of some of the challenges he faced. He was very comfortable in his skin. He was like this is who I am. This is what I am going to do. This is who I support, take it or leave it. That was comfortable. He (ph) also just think about now, how many -- like look at the Republican Party now mostly. They just follow Trump no matter what. That he was willing to break with his party and do things that got him in trouble and stand up and explain it. And look you in the eye and say, this is why I am doing it, he believed it (inaudible). John McCain was known as the maverick. Joel Lieberman was kind of a maverick. He was not afraid of going outside of orthodoxy and taking heat for it and taking flack for it. But he kept most of his friends, which is interesting, even the friends who are mad at him. Why are you with McCain? Why did you go to no labels? He kept most of them which tells you something about the man more than the politician.

COOPER: Yeah. His -- the -- I mean, in terms of politics, is there one, like event you think he will be most remembered? I mean, I guess the vice president --

KING: The history-making as the vice presidential candidate and also the big divide in the country and the Democratic Party, he supported the surge in Iraq and thought it was the right policy. And of course, you know, Barack Obama became president because Axelrod ran a great campaign.