Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Six People Unaccounted For After Bridge Collapse; Major Baltimore Bridge Collapses After Being Hit By Cargo Ship; Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Announces Nicole Shanahan As Running Mate. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 26, 2024 - 15:00   ET



JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: Like the overarching takeaway is that they are still very much focused on the rescue, the recovery efforts that they're trying very hard not to impede anything that would get in the way of those.

We have CNN's Danny Freeman there on the scene along with Brian Todd. We also have Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general for the Department of Transportation.

Gabe, let's start with you. You've been there for several hours this morning - I believe it's actually Danny - you've been there for several hours this morning, Danny. And I know you've talked to family members of those six people who are still missing you were describing just how understandably emotional they are with so many questions. Not a lot of information, in fact really none, out of that press conference. What are they saying to you now?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're not wrong Jessica especially about the still lack of information from the press conference that just concluded. But Boris highlighted that line that the main focus is still on the family and the people. And they did emphasize that while it's not the NTSB's priority, we are hearing and seeing the Coast Guard helicopters up there, they're still at this point searching for some of those people believed to be missing in the area behind me.

But you're right, Jessica, I had a chance to speak with a number of people who say that they had immediate family members on that bridge behind me earlier this morning when it ultimately collapsed. Those family members very distressed, very upset as you can imagine and still hoping for more information.

Let me tell you a little bit about what they told me. They said that their family members worked at Brawner Builders. That's a local construction company. It's only about five miles down the road from where we are at this spot. And before I go on, I want to note that Brawner Builders, they did not comment. They decline to comment I should say when we reached out to them.

Now the first woman I spoke with said that she has at least two family members still missing who are working on that bridge behind me. Obviously, she's incredibly worried she did not want to reveal her name or her family members name at this time. But she said that her uncle had worked at this construction company for many, many years. Loved the job, loved being out there with the team.

I also spoke with two other women who said that one of their family members actually was one of the people who survived the collapse and was able to get out of the hospital. But frankly they told me that he's still not doing well. You can imagine just the emotional and mental stress after witnessing and being a part of something like that. His wife was actually sitting in the car when I was having the conversation with these family members and she, as I described to you the other hour, Jessica, just sat really stone-faced, tears in her eyes, clearly this is just tremendously difficult for this entire family.

And the one last thing I'll note, Jessica, is the Secretary of Transportation for Maryland noted that these workers were out here not doing major repairs not doing major infrastructure changes on this bridge they were just doing normal maintenance filling potholes to make drivers rides on this bridge easier day in and day out. So again, a tremendously difficult day for this particular community and for the family members still hoping for some answers here. Jessica? Boris?

DEAN: Yes, no doubt about it. We're certainly thinking of them. And Boris worth noting too that the ship was able to get that Mayday call out.


DEAN: Which did allow them to shut down the majority of traffic which - and the hour, it was in the middle of the night really, probably saved a lot of lives.

SANCHEZ: Yes, notably the chairwoman was asked a question about the timing of the vessel dropping anchor. She was asked why they didn't drop anchor as soon as they started having power issues. As you saw in that footage, the lights were flickering on and off. She was unable to give an answer, obviously, still very early in the investigation. Let's ask Mary Schiavo about the process of investigating an incident like this.

As Jennifer Homendy said, Mary, she said, "The NTSB doesn't speculate. We provide facts." This is an enormous scene with a lot of folks that they have to interview. A lot of information to process. What is that going to be like?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: Well, that's a really good point that she made, because one of the criticisms of investigators be the NTSB or the FBI or anyone conducting an investigation is investigator bias. And if you speculate early on, they say that could cause you to see facts certain ways.

And so this is how the NTSB operates. They do try to stick to the facts. They will have opinions at the end of the investigation. At the end of the investigation they make recommendations and they really do put forth a lot of opinions, et cetera. But at this stage, it's all about the facts.

And so then the next thing she mentioned which they're forming tonight are the various operational groups and these are really important because that's how the NTSB finishes a huge investigation like this and they do it by dividing up the subject matter. She said they're going to have an operations group, how was this ship and this crew operated. They will have a performance group, how were they doing their jobs, how were they trained, they'll have an engineering group. They're putting together the highway group and the bridge group to look at the highways and bridges.


They have a recorder group just like on a plane crash or a train crash, there are recorders.

And there's a group at the NTSB that is - that specializes in downloading and evaluating the data recording information. And she was careful, I mean, the one thing that that everyone wants to know is, of course, what about the anchor, what about those crucial two minutes and she did not speculate. She did mention that they had been in contact with their counterparts, the MOT.

It's the Ministry of Transport in Singapore and they function like the NTSB. They investigate various accidents and they're very important, because they're going to have to help the NTSB get the records out of Singapore. And the records of the safety of their manager group which is a called Synergy group out of Singapore, whether this vessel had any prior problems, how their safety management was handled, all those records are going to need to get out of Singapore and she's going to need the Ministry of Transport to help her.

So all in all it was a good start, there's so much work to be done. And the other question that she could not answer which is also in everyone's mind is in addition to the road workers are there any other vehicles, private vehicles down there that were on the bridge that we don't know about yet. Obviously, she couldn't speculate on that, but that's terribly tragic and everyone wonders about that.

DEAN: Of course - I mean, that's the first thing that I think a lot of people thought about, how many cars went into the water. Mary, I just want to ask you too, while we have you, she said that they have not talked with the people on that ship, on that vessel. Her explanation was we didn't want to get out there and again impede anything about this rescue effort. But does it surprise you they haven't spoken to them yet because they're going to have so much information to fill in a lot of these holes.

SCHIAVO: They are, because the NTSB has pretty powerful investigative strength and the NTSB goes to hospital beds, they go to - wherever they have to, to get their witness statements. And so, I mean, her explanation of they do not want to get in the way of the Coast Guard, which is still a rescue operation it has not been switched to what they call a recovery operation and that is when they don't think anyone could survive. So no one would ever want to get in the way where there's a hope of bringing people back alive. So that was a reasonable explanation, but there was someone who is - was on the bridge, was on the shore and there's someone in the hospital. But so much would be answered by talking to those harbor pilots.

And I understand the crew is international but sometimes, depending upon your work group, your union, your insurer, this vessel is insured by a group out of London. They do sometimes bring their counsel or their lawyers in and they insist that their lawyers be present, so there are a lot of moving parts here. And maritime law is extremely complicated, there are so many interests here that it's possible they want representatives present.

But the NTSB is pretty powerful when it comes to getting their person, they will get their interviews.

SANCHEZ: Yes, a lot to consider when you look at a scenario like this. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

Because, Brian, you have a unique vantage point into this crash. And one of the things that we've heard from officials over and over again is just how challenging a search-and-rescue like this is going to be. You have frigid waters, you have the tide and then you have what I imagine are just massive amounts of gnarled steel in the water potentially impeding divers from getting to where they need to go.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Boris. And we can actually show you that gnarled steel, that twisted metal and the concrete there. We have two cameras that we can - with which we can zoom in and you can see the point of impact. This is really where we have a unique angle on this accident.

You can see the point of impact from here. We're a few hundred yards away, but you can see the twisted metal and the concrete from the bridge support that was that was just basically crushed and collapsed underneath the weight of this vessel.

You can also see the twisted metal on top that's part of the stanchion of the bridge that is still lying over the bow of this ship. And you can see again that with the force with which this hit, this is a ship that's a little under a thousand feet long, about a hundred and forty feet wide, about a hundred and sixteen thousand tons.

And you can literally see the force of impact there, look at that. Look at the twisted metal and the devastation there. And the fact that more than half of this bridge in the entire middle section is gone. We can also kind of illustrate for you with this visual, it's about a hundred and eighty-five foot drop from the top part of the bridge into the water.

We do know that they are searching for, of course, six people unaccounted for.

[15:10:04] We were told by officials that they tracked a few vehicles that were on top of the bridge that may have gone into the water, but it's unclear whether there were any people inside those vehicles. We were told also that one of the vehicles was observed with its lights on in the water but again not clear whether there were any people inside those vehicles that plummeted into the water.

And again, we can just - again giving you this visual here, you can see rescue boats helicopters other vehicles in the water, moving around again searching for any sign of life, any people that might still be in the water. But we have told you all day about the conditions here, between 46 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit in the water, very dangerously cold conditions for anyone to survive more than a couple of hours.

Those conditions I have to say also make it dangerous for the dive teams that are in here, about 50 divers have been in and out of the water all day long and of course they're alternating in and out of the water there. But again just the angle of this and you can see it much better now with the angle of the sun now hitting the Dali, this - that's the name of this vessel that that crashed into the bridge here on its way out of Baltimore harbor, it was fully loaded with containers that are still there and you can see just the devastation of this bridge.

As we kind of pan over to your left and my right, our photojournalist Andrew Crispin (ph) can kind of show you the fact that everything is shut down here in the Port of Baltimore. These are some of the terminals over there that green vessel is called the Carmen (ph). It's a vessel that brings cars in and out of the Port of Baltimore and that has been completely stranded as have other vehicles, other vessels that have come in and out of the - usually come in and out of the harbor/

Everything is now trapped inside the harbor. You cannot get out it's a major, major economic disruption. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes. This is one of many issues created by this bridge collapse.

Brian Todd, Mary Schiavo, Danny Freeman thanks to all of you.

We want to bring in Phylicia Porter now. She's a Baltimore City Council member who represents the area where the bridge collapsed.

Phylicia, thank you so much for being with us. I'm really sad that it's under these unfortunate circumstances. I do want to get your perspective on what we just heard during that press briefing from the NTSB if you were able to listen to what officials shared there. I'm wondering what your reaction is and what questions do you have for those investigators.

PHYLICIA PORTER, BALTIMORE CITY COUNCIL: Definitely, so one of my first emotions is definitely just heartbreak. We've been here - Mayor Scott, Governor Moore and I have been here since 1 AM this morning. And hearing some of the initial discussion about this particular tragic incident, I do have a lot of questions. I do have a lot of questions as far as how the ship actually hit the bridge, but more importantly what type of protocols needed to be in place not only from the NSTB but also I'm here in the City of Baltimore and at this state level to ensure that this did not happen.

But I'm willing to hear where we are in the investigation and making sure that the investigation (inaudible) finishes, before I make a final justification.

SANCHEZ: Sure. I'm curious to get any update you might have on the search-and-rescue. The NTSB said that local officials might have an update on that, might have that sort of information. Are you hearing anything from those crews?

PORTER: So we are hearing that one body was found, but this is still an active search and recovery investigation here at the site. But we did hear that one body was found.

SANCHEZ: And I'm assuming that it was removed from the water, is that correct?

PORTER: That is correct. Yes, sir.

SANCHEZ: Got it. As far as your constituents go, how are they reacting to all this? Because it is as Brian Todd was just describing an enormous disturbance not only to traffic or to commerce but to those who call that area home and now have to deal with this influx of investigators and eventually crews to clean up and rebuild. What are you hearing from them and what's your message to the community?

PORTER: Obviously my communities are heartbroken. They are experiencing some of the tragic events firsthand. This particular community of Curtis Bay in - of Baltimore has been the site of many of the tragic issues that we see in Baltimore city not only from an environmental justice issue but just from a public safety perspective. And so obviously, with this tragic incident, they are heartbroken but I believe that they believe in the leadership of my office in the City of Baltimore to make it better.


And also to not only just make it better, but also bring the economic recovery from the port that we need from this tragic incident.

SANCHEZ: Councilwoman, there are at least six people that were unaccounted for. I did want to give you an opportunity to send a message to their loved ones who are potentially watching right now trying to get answers.

PORTER: Definitely, so to those families we are here. We're praying for you and we're making sure that we are - no stone is left unturned with regards to recovery of your family members. And my office, Mayor Scott and also Governor Moore are doing everything in our power to ensure that we recover on those family members as soon as possible.

SANCHEZ: Yes, our hearts go out to those loved ones. Councilman Phylicia Porter we very much appreciate the update thanks for joining us.

PORTER: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

We'll have much more on the bridge collapse ahead. And also there's breaking news into CNN when it comes to former president Donald Trump. A gag order has been imposed on Trump by the judge overseeing his hush money criminal trial. We have more details on that in just moments. Stay with us.


DEAN: Let's go now to Oakland California where third-party presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is announcing his vice presidential candidate in an effort to get on more ballots in more states. Let's listen in.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR., VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (Inaudible) today for putting their faith in me and they know the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe. And they know very much that this struggle for indigenous rights has consumed a lot of my life, my personal and my professional life, and that this work is going to continue when we are in the White House.


The Muwekma Ohlones are one of the many tribes that were decertified during 1950s, 1960s and these tribes need to be re-legitimized and that's something that I will do as soon as I get in the White House.

I want to say something about Oakland. My father spent a lot of time doing hearings in Oakland on the poverty issues for the Poverty Committee in 1967 when he was United States Senator. And then he came back here in 1968 on the presidential campaign. And during that presidential run, he made an unscheduled visit to Oakland's Taylor Memorial church and he went there with Willie Brown who as you know later became mayor of San Francisco, but at that time he was an assemblyman and he came to meet with a lot of local activists here in Oakland in a very, very violent and turbulent time. He met with the NAACP and it was a very rancorous meeting. (Inaudible) he attended with two of his companions John Glenn, the astronaut, one of his best friends, Rafer Johnson who had been the decathlon champion in 1960 and was one of my father's closest friends.

And the meeting was so rancorous and vitriolic that at one point Rafer and John Glenn advised my father to leave. People were insulting him, people were threatening him and my dad refused and he said this is between me and them. I need to hear them out. I need to hear what they're going to say.

The night - and he waited, he stayed throughout that meeting. And the next day all of the people who were at that meeting signed up to join his campaign and the Black Panther Party provided his security detail here in Oakland and continued to provide security for him later on in the campaign during - in his convoys.

And it was a lesson that I just wanted to share with you, because it's a lesson all of us need to learn at this point in our history and we need to start listening to each other even when it's difficult, we need to sit through the anger. We need to sit with each other and listen to the feelings and not walk away and not see each other as enemies but learn to love each other even through that anger and vitriol, we need to start coming back to each other as Americans again.

The last time I was in Oakland was when I served on the trial team in the Monsanto cases and we tried two of the three cases in this city. We won $289 million in the first and then the third one which we tried here we won - we asked the jury for a billion dollars and an Oakland jury gave us $2.2 billion. And that brought Monsanto to the negotiating table, we settled in all 40,000 cases.

But I lived here for several months during that trial and I got to really love the city. The Monsanto case was the latest in a lifetime of battles for me to get poisons out of our food, and out of our farms and to restore our soils. The effort - that effort has consumed a lot of my life and I wanted a vice president who shared my passion for a wholesome healthy foods, chemical free for regenerative agriculture, for good soils, I found exactly the right person and among other things.


She has used over the past several years cutting-edge technology including AI to calculate the catastrophic health consequences of toxins in our soil, our air, our water and our food. Technology has been a lifelong passion for my future vice president. This is important because I also wanted a vice president who shares my indignation about the participation of big tech as a partner in the censorship and their surveillance and the information warfare that our government is currently waging against the American people.

And that's why I'm bringing on someone with a deep inside knowledge about how Big Tech uses AI to manipulate the public. I want to partner with strong ideas about how to reverse those dire threats to democracy and to our freedoms. I managed to find a technologist at the forefront of AI. She has spent the last decade with artificial intelligence and cutting-edge science to identify abuses in our government.

She understands that the health of every American is a national security issue and a national security risk. Her work has proven time and again that health drives our economy that it is the foundation of our mental health, our national happiness, our ability to lead the world in innovation, and prosperity and in peace.

I also wanted someone who was an athlete, who could help me inspire Americans to heal to get them back in shape. And I'm happy to report that my vice president is an avid surfer who attended school on a softball scholarship. I want it - right here in Oakland, was battle- tested able to withstand criticism and the controversy and all the defamations, and slanders, and perjuries that are thrown against anyone who embarks on a presidential campaign.

I wanted an advocate who has seen corruption of our regulatory agencies firsthand, who shares my indignation about the way it allows regulated industries to commoditize our food, our wildlife and our children. I wanted someone who would honor the traditions of our nation as a nation of immigrants, but who also understands that to be a nation we need secure borders.

I wanted a partner who was a gifted administrator but also possesses the gift of curiosity, an open inquiring mind and the confidence to change even her strongest opinions in the face of contrary evidence. I wanted someone with a spiritual dimension, and compassion, and idealism and above all a deep love for the United States of America.

I found all of those qualities in a woman who grew up right here in Oakland. The daughter of immigrants who overcame every daunting obstacle and went on to achieve the highest levels of the American dream, so that is why I'm so proud to introduce to you the next Vice President of the United States, my fellow lawyer, a brilliant scientist, technologist, a fierce warrior mom, Nicole Shanahan.

I'm going to tell you a little bit about Nicole before we bring her out here, we're going to see a video. Nicole's personal story began in Oakland. She was the daughter of impoverished immigrants. She grew up on food stamps and welfare in the city beset by many, many other unique challenges, all of which she overcame.


Her very, very American journey took her to a career as a patent attorney and as a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and as a Stanford University.