Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

College Bus Crash Kills at Least Six; Alabama Tornado Kills Eight High School Students

Aired March 02, 2007 - 15:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live in the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

The unthinkable: A bus full of college baseball players crashes from an overpass to the highway below. We will talk with the players who risked their own lives to save others.

LEMON: And the deadly tornadoes that raked the South -- could more people have been saved? We're live in the hardest-hit towns of Enterprise, Alabama, and Americus, Georgia -- all the late-breaking details right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: A college road trip takes a tragic turn in Atlanta. A bus carrying a college baseball team from Ohio plunged off an overpass early this morning, and fell on to the interstate below. At least six people are dead, more than two dozen others injured.

The bus was carrying 35 people, most of them baseball players from Bluffton University on their way to a tournament in Sarasota, Florida.

We heard from one of the players a short time ago.


A.J. RAMTHUN, BLUFFTON BASEBALL PLAYER: my heartfelt -- to the families, to the baseball players involved, my teammates. I understand four of them are deceased, and I just wanted to say, I just wish there is something I could do to the families who lost their loved ones.

It's -- this is something that's not going to leave the guys who were on that bus this morning. This is going to be with us forever.

And we have been living together, practicing together, and just -- we have been a family for the past five months. And it's just -- something like this morning really makes you think twice about life.


WHITFIELD: Ramthun, a second baseman on the team, says his older brother was trapped underneath the bus. He didn't know, for hours, whether he had survived. We now know that he did, with injuries to his hips. LEMON: And, of course, the question on everybody's minds today, how did this happen?

Police say the bus driver may have been confused by how the lanes were divided. Here is what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is I-75, where it happened.

You can see, that's the HOV lane. One way is HOV exit-only lane to the right here. And then to the left is the HOV lane continuing south on I-75.

He came up this ramp, went through the stop sign that you see right here. And, then, once he got here, it appears he realized -- from the skid marks, he realizes from here that he is on the exit ramp and not continuing on the interstate, tries to take a sharp turn this way, but couldn't do it in time.

And, as you can see from the marks here on the wall, it appears the bus scraped up against this wall. He sheared the top of the fence, and then went over the side. There is another barricade there that carries some sort of piping from one side of the interstate to the other. He even went over that, and then back on to I-75 southbound.


LEMON: And police may have an even more difficult time figuring out what happened, because the bus driver and his wife and four students died in that crash.

WHITFIELD: Many of those hurt in today's crash are at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

Our Amanda Rosseter is there. And she joins us live with the very latest -- Amanda.


There were 29 injured. And 19 of those were brought here to Grady Memorial Hospital. It's one of the leading trauma centers here in the Southeast.

Right now, we understand there are three students that are still critical inside. We're waiting to hear their condition.

Now, the other injured were taken to other hospitals in the Atlanta area, one of which is Atlanta Medical Center. We understand that they got seven of the students that were hurt. Three of them are still in the intensive care unit there.

They are critical -- serious, rather, but stable condition. We understand they have neck and back injuries, as well as some pretty severe abrasions. We talked to one of the doctors there who treated one of these students. He's Dr. Mark Waterman. And he say that he understands from the students he talked to that almost everybody on the board was asleep. And some of them actually woke up as they were ejected from the bus, as the bus hit the -- hit the street, hit the highway below. And the others were simply ejected from -- and they -- they -- they climbed out of the emergency hatch.


DR. MARK WATERMAN, ATLANTA MEDICAL CENTER: I think every one of them said they had been sleeping at the time, like probably typical teenagers, at that time of the morning.

So -- as to whether it helped or -- or not, it's hard to say, because, as we know, there were some fatalities.

ED KAY, SON INJURED IN BUS CRASH: The response here has been great. Like I said, I mean, there were tons of doctors on the floor this morning, lots of people helping out. Social services was by. The chaplains were by. I thought it's been a great response.


ROSSETER: Now, the gentleman you were listening to is Ed Kay. He is the father of Tim Kay, who is one of the players on the Bluffton University team.

It just so happens that the Kays live in metro Atlanta in area just north of here called Alpharetta. So, Mr. Kay is the only parent that we have spoken to so far who arrived at Grady earlier to check on his son.

And other parents, we understand, are headed down from Ohio. AirTran Airways has chartered a flight for those parents. It is expected to leave about 5:30 from Ohio, arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport here at about 7:00.

At that point, they will be given a police escort to be brought over here to Grady Hospital to check on their children. Again, that is all happening this evening at about 7:00.

We will keep you updated here on developments at Grady Memorial Hospital.

I'm Amanda Rosseter -- back to you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And, so, Amanda, how now is the hospital ready to accommodate so many parents and loved ones who are going to be coming in to visit with their injured kids?

ROSSETER: You know, Grady is one of the leading trauma centers in the Southeast. And it's why they -- they got literally the busload. They -- the Atlanta Police Department, they arrived on the scene. They put most of the injured on a MARTA bus, which is the -- which is the city bus system. They put them all on a -- they -- on a MARTA bus, and they brought them over here, so that the injured would be taken care of here at Grady.

So, they -- they are completely able to accommodate the parents. And they also, of course, have the Red Cross here on the scene to help with counseling.

WHITFIELD: All right, Amanda Rosseter, thanks so much, at Grady Hospital in Atlanta.


And, as Amanda just mentioned in that live report there, Grady Memorial Hospital is one of the nation's premier trauma centers.

What happens when the crisis call goes out on a terrible accident like this one? That's the question we another to know, we want answered.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been involved in many situations. And he joins us now.

And I know there are certain things you can't talk about, because there are privacy issues and what have you...




GUPTA: Absolutely. And I appreciate you respecting that.

But what happens typically in a situation like this, whenever there is a crisis, some sort of disaster, typically, the trauma center -- in this case, the largest trauma center in the Southeast, prepares itself.

It gets a lot of the doctors into the hospital, gets some sort of standing by, trauma surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons as well, just to basically handle things as they come in the door.

As you mentioned already -- and I know you were out there as well -- 19 patients brought into Grady. That's a lot of patients for any hospital.

LEMON: Right.

GUPTA: Several ambulance bays...

LEMON: Right.

GUPTA: ... all sort of standing by to -- to start triaging and taking care of those patients as they come in.

LEMON: So, they're told -- we're expecting a large group. Explain to us, as much as you can, what happens when they are expecting a large group, what -- what -- what they go through and what are...



LEMON: ... priorities.

GUPTA: It's -- it's -- it's a very coordinated system, and especially for trauma centers. They're sort of used to this sort of thing.

What happens, Don, at the scene, you -- you literally have people radioing in what they're seeing...

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

GUPTA: ... the types of injuries they're seeing. They may start to get some vital information, like blood pressure, heart rate, things like that, so they can start telling the doctors back at home base in the E.R. what they are expecting in a few minutes from then.

And then they get a sense, as they come in the door, who is going to need to be triaged more quickly, who is going to need to get a CAT scan, for example, of their head, of their chest, of their abdomen, and who is going to need to go to the operating room very fast.

So, they usually have a couple -- at least one operating room sort of ready to go, always standing by. The nurses are ready to go. They have a lot of blood, for example, universal blood...

LEMON: Right.

GUPTA: ... just ready to go for these patients.

LEMON: All right.

So, let's sort of stick with that. So, in these situations, the hospital notifies staff already at the hospital. Anyone else they need to be -- to be available, what have you? Are they usually loaded with people like this, being a premier trauma center in the area?


To qualify to be a level-one trauma center, which is what Grady is, they have to have physicians immediately standing by. So, at Grady, for example, they have trauma surgeons that are always on site. They are in the hospital. So, they take care of things as soon as they come in the door.

Other specialty surgeons, such as neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, will get a page, literally. It's sort of a -- a -- triage page, saying, you know, be advised.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

GUPTA: You have a crisis in this area. And you have to be within 20 minutes or so from the hospital to be able to get in there very quickly.


And I just want to say this. Thank you very much, Sanjay. In addition to working here, you are a neurosurgeon. So, it just so happens that you were called in for that to be there. And, so, thank you very much for joining us...

GUPTA: Thank you, Don. I appreciate that.

LEMON: ... and sharing -- sharing that with us, yes.

GUPTA: We will keep you posted on it. Thank you.


WHITFIELD: Other tragedy in other parts of the Southeast -- the community of Bluffton, meanwhile, is stunned, to say the very least.

They heard a prayer vigil this morning at the small Mennonite- affiliated university. Classes were canceled. And the school's athletic director, along with other officials, are on their way to Atlanta. The school's president is calling it a profound and tragic day at the university.


JAMES M. HARPER, PRESIDENT, BLUFFTON UNIVERSITY: Again, Bluffton University is profoundly grateful for the outpouring of support from the community.

We only wish to reflect on our sadness for the tragedies that has so deeply impacted the lives of so many people, friends, relatives, of course, the -- the people involved directly in the accident.

And we can only begin to imagine how, over time, this will play out. And we will hang together and support each other and try to work through this very, very difficult situation.


WHITFIELD: Bluffton's president, Harder, is calling off other sports trips planned during next week's spring break.

ANNOUNCER: You're watching, your severe weather headquarters.

WHITFIELD: And now to that savage line of storms now moving out to sea, not a second too soon.

Tornadoes that raked the Midwest and Southeast have left at least 20 people dead, including nine in Enterprise, Alabama, where a tornado hit the high school there. Nine also died in Georgia, where another tornado hit a hospital in Americus, near Jimmy Carter's hometown of Plains. The small rule town of Americus, population 17,000, took a direct hit -- and the hospital there, as I mentioned, devastated.

Our Alan Chernoff joins us now with the latest -- Alan.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, not only the hospital devastated -- an entire town simply in disbelief.

What you see right behind me had been this town's largest supermarket, a Winn-Dixie marketplace. And you can see what the tornado did to it, just ripped off the roof and destroyed virtually everything inside -- pieces of that structure all over the pace -- in fact, right here, lots of wood piled over. We have got insulation, pieces of roofing.

And this is not just right over here in front of the supermarket. Throughout the town, you see debris like this. And how strong would that wind have to be? Just look at this light tower over here. I mean, it was as if we had a saw just chop right off.

And this is not a seam. You can see exactly how it just flipped it right over. I mean, the force was simply astounding.

Let's have a look at some more devastation. And what you hear right now are some pages going off, because there is paging company right here. At least it had been right here until last night.

Propage, a Motorola dealer -- and down the street, you see a contractor just destroyed, that a contracting company. And, further down, you see the homes, the trees knocked down.

Town -- town residents tell us that the two people who did die lived (AUDIO GAP) all the way down. And we still do have plenty of people searching around, making sure that there were no others severely, severely injured.

We have also mentioned, of course, the hospital right nearby absolutely devastated. People had to be evacuated. As many as 60 patients actually had been in the hospital, three in very serious condition. They have been brought to other places, other hospitals.

And we did speak earlier -- our crew that was here earlier spoke with a nurse who arrived this morning, not realizing that a tornado had actually struck her hospital.

Let's have a listen.


DANA RYLANDER, NURSE, SUMTER REGIONAL HOSPITAL: I have never really been involved in a -- in a storm like this. I can't believe that the wind could do this much damage in such a short period of time. It's just like a big part of this community, it's destroyed. It -- I just can't believe it.


CHERNOFF: Indeed, hardly anyone here can believe it. And they are still walking along the street, staring in disbelief, many people carrying cameras.

You often see this after a tragedy, but, of course, it is just so sad to people -- for people to be walking by, walking by the supermarket, where, only yesterday, they were able to shop and buy their daily groceries -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: It is sad. And what people forget is, when we hear about the numbers of 200 homes that may have been destroyed or damaged, that means at least 200 families that are now displaced.


WHITFIELD: So, how does that town try to accommodate many of those people who don't have a home to sleep in tonight?

CHERNOFF: That -- that's right, Fredricka.

Well, there is a university only two blocks away, Georgia Southwestern University. And I spoke with a few students over there. They told me the only thing affected there, a bunch of trees were toppled over. They have set up a shelter there. There are several other shelters in town.

So, there are places for people to sleep tonight. But, in terms of homes, my goodness. Who knows how long will it take to rebuild.

WHITFIELD: It's going to be a while.

Alan Chernoff, thanks so much from Americus, Georgia.

LEMON: And from Georgia to Alabama -- nine people died in the tornado yesterday in Enterprise, Alabama. More than 50 others were hurt badly enough to seek care.

Our Susan Roesgen reports.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: The National Weather Service now believes the tornado that hit this school had 150- mile-an-hour winds.

Inside the school, the students were huddled in the hallways, the safest place they knew to be. But, when the tornado blew down some of the walls and the concrete roof, eight students were killed.

Enterprise Mayor Kenneth Boswell says that more students would have been killed if the school staff had let some of the students go home. He says no one goes knows the mind of God in a tragedy like this.

President Bush is expected to tour this area tomorrow.

Susan Roesgen, CNN, Enterprise, Alabama.


WHITFIELD: And President Bush makes that trek firsthand to see the devastation in the South beginning tomorrow -- a report on his exact travel plans coming up.

LEMON: And how do you prepare for a tornado like the one that Enterprise -- hit Enterprise High School? Tips from a severe storm specialist straight ahead, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LEMON: All right, this information just in to the CNN NEWSROOM -- that microphone and live shot you're seeing there, that is Grady Memorial Hospital in the Atlanta area. They're going to hold a press conference in just a short time to update us on the folks who were taken there after that deadly bus crash that happened on I-75 southbound in Atlanta this morning -- details coming up right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, we're still hearing some pretty terrifying stories from Enterprise, Alabama, where one of yesterday's many tornadoes hit the high school. Eight students were killed.

Mitchell Mock survived. His mother had come to the school, hoping to get him out before the storm. They spoke with CNN earlier today.


MITCHELL MOCK, ENTERPRISE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: I was in the third hall, the hall that collapsed in. I was maybe 10 feet away from the actual -- I could look over and some of my friends that were sitting there were the ones that were under the cement.

And where -- we were where all the lights went out, and everyone started making jokes. And then there was a cover on the skylight that was right above us. It shot down and glass shattered. And everyone got really quiet. we knew it was serious.

And then, no more than five seconds later, it was like a big explosion. And everything -- debris started coming and hitting us. I grabbed two of my friends that were beside me and got on top of them. And debris started hitting me in my back.

And, as soon as it quieted down, I looked up. And where all those kids where shoulder to shoulder in the hallway, it was just all debris. And it was like we were standing outdoors in a landfill. There was no sign of any kids or anything.

And we -- we immediately just started grabbing stuff and helping the kids that we could find out.

KIM LEWIS, SONS ATTEND ENTERPRISE HIGH SCHOOL: They didn't want us to leave out of the guidance counselor office, because you could look out the little window, and we could see the roof clasping in the foyer, and it was coming down. But all the parents were so worried about our kids, so, we just kind of said, you know, a joint thing. You know, we have to get out of here, and see if our kids are OK.


LEWIS: So, when we finally opened the door, there were just hundreds of kids coming down the hallway. And a lot of them were covered with blood. And I was just looking for my three boys. And I saw Mitchell first. And he said: "I have got to go back, mom. I'm OK, but those kids are trapped under all that debris."

Then, when I saw Dylan, he was covered in blood from head to toe.


LEMON: Goodness.

Well, the aftermath of a deadly tornado -- one day after a twister killed eight students at a high school in Enterprise, Alabama, many schools across the country are now reviewing their emergency precautions.

On CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," severe storm specialist Roger Edwards discussed what schools can do to protect students.


ROGER EDWARDS, SEVERE STORM SPECIALIST: This is what we call a safe room.

It's got reinforced concrete walls, steel on the inside, inside this cladding. And what this does is, it helps to protect the people inside from flying debris, glass, nails, wires, other objects that are the leading cause of death in tornadoes.

You will see in the back here that this room doesn't have any windows. It's -- there's no exposure to the outside whatsoever. This is an ideal sort of construction to bring the kids into for tornado shelters.

And, so, this school has a couple of safe rooms, as well as other interior rooms that have no doors or windows to the outside. And that is designed so that the kids can be herded into these rooms, packed together, and kept there, to be as safe as possible as quickly as possible. And, in order to do this as fast as possible, we need to have tornado drills several times a year.


LEMON: And that was severe storm specialist Roger Edwards.

Alabama Governor Bob Riley is praising Enterprise High School officials. He says that, without quick action just before the tornado struck, the death toll could have been much higher. WHITFIELD: Friends said it would be over the top -- a final farewell that was everything Anna Nicole Smith would have loved. We're in the Bahamas coming up next in the NEWSROOM.

LEMON: And we are also awaiting a press conference from Grady Memorial Hospital.

Let's take a live look now. That is coming up very shortly. Many of the injured were taken there. We're going to hear the latest update coming up a little bit later on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


LEMON: And, just as soon as it happens, we're going take you live to a press conference at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Grady Memorial is one of the nation's premier trauma centers.

Many of the injured from that deadly bus crash in Atlanta were taken there today. And we're going to get an update. As soon as it happens, we will bring it to you live here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: All right, less than an hour before one of the wildest weeks on Wall Street in years ends. The Dow was down, then turned higher, and then down again.

Carrie Lee is at the New York Stock Exchange for us, and she has details now.

Hi, Carrie.


Well, we're watching it all very closely. Right now, the Dow is off session lows, but not by very much. You know, even upbeat earnings from AIG, the insurance giant, aren't helping to lift the blue chips. AIG shares right now are up nearly 4 percent. But the Dow industrials are sliding, down another 75 points. And the Nasdaq composite is off by over 1 percent.

Now, some analysts say the market's weakness today is partly because this is Friday, and many investors don't want to go into a vulnerable position heading into the weekend -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk about Warren Buffett for a minute. I hear that the famed investor is now looking for a successor.

LEE: That's right, and big shoes to fill here, certainly. In fact, it may take two or more people to replace him.

Now, Warren Buffett, of course, is known as the oracle of Omaha. And, for years and years, he has had one of the best investment histories in all of Wall Street. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, has the highest-priced stock in the world, more than $107,000 a share. It's up 500 bucks today.

And many people flock to Nebraska each year for his annual meeting. It's sort of compared to Woodstock for investors.


LEE: But Buffett is 76 years old, and he's planning for the future of his company.

So, Berkshire's board already has three candidates to succeed Buffett as CEO. But filling the position of chief investment officer might be a little more difficult. That's because some of those most qualified to replace him on the investment side aren't exactly young enough.

And then there is also concern about retaining a new hire, because putting Berkshire Hathaway on a resume is such an achievement, it might be tempting for somebody to use it as a way to then move on to a higher-paying position somewhere else.

But Buffett is assuring investors that there is still plenty of time for changes. He says he feels terrific and that -- quote -- "It's amazing what Cherry Coke and hamburgers will do for a fellow" -- end quote.

That's the latest from Wall Street. I will be back in about 30 minutes for the closing bell.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


WHITFIELD: Bottom of the hour now in the 3:00 p.m. eastern hour. Take a look at this video now just coming in, you're looking at a swift water rescue as it is happening with firefighters trying to get to the occupants of a vehicle, you see right there and trying to rescue them. This taking place in Providence, Rhode Island. The pictures are from our affiliate WPRI. You can see at least one of the occupants there. Thankfully and much relieved being rescued from that swift water rescue. We don't know the circumstances though as to how this vehicle got into this swift water and what led to this rescue, but good news. You're seeing a very relieved one occupant of that vehicle. We don't know how many other occupants of that vehicle. When we get more information, we'll be able to bring that to you though.


LEMON: In the meantime, we've been following this developing story happening in Atlanta. A school bus ran off an interstate this morning off an overpass and crashed, flipped over. Six people died, we're awaiting a press conference at the hospital where many of those people, many of the injured were taken. Grady Memorial Hospital here in Atlanta, one of the premier trauma centers in the United States. They're going to hold a press conference to update us very shortly. As soon as that happens we'll bring it to you live. And today's crash has stunned the close knit Mennonite University Students and faculty gathered today in the school's gym to grieve and learn more about what happened. CNN's Jason Carroll is in Bluffton, Ohio. Hi Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Don and no way around it, this is a very, very difficult day for the people here at Bluffton University. A lot of folks probably aren't familiar with Bluffton University. It's located about 50 miles south of Toledo, it's a very small school Don, only about 1200 students. In fact, Bluffton the town itself is very small, only about a population of 4,000 and that includes the student population so literally when you hear someone say everyone here knows each other, they really, really mean it. And literally, everyone here practically knew someone who was on that bus earlier today. Classes here at the school have been cancelled. A prayer service was also held a little earlier this morning. That was in heavy attendance from people here, grief counselors are also here at the school. Already folks are coming forward, students and faculty and they're talking about how this tragedy has impacted them.


CARA RUFENACHT, STUDENT: It's a real small campus and it's a real small community so like even if you don't know them personally, like, you know them because you see them every day, you see them every day at lunch, you pass them every day on the sidewalk. So I mean it's going to affect the whole community not just the baseball team and just the people who know the baseball team.

JAMES HARDER, PRESIDENT, BLUFFTON UNIVERSITY: Again, Bluffton University is profoundly grateful for the outpouring of support from the community. We only wish to reflect on our sadness for the tragedies that has so deeply impacted the lives of so many people. Friends, relatives, of course, the people involved directly in the accident. We can only begin to imagine how over time this will play out. That we will hang together and support each other and try to work through this very, very difficult situation.


CARROLL: The baseball team was headed down for its first game of the season. Some of the players who didn't make it down for that game were actually working out in the weight room, saw this accident on television. Immediately recognized that these were some of their guys, started calling some of the cell phones trying to reach out to the guys to see if they were ok. But once again, Don, again, this is something that has impacted this community very, very hard. Another prayer service is scheduled for tonight at 8:00. Don?

LEMON: Jason, terrible because they're watching it unfold there on the news and concerned, I'm sure, about their friends and their loved ones. So we wish them well. Jason, thank you for your live report there in Bluffton, Ohio.

Mike Morris is a reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution who was on his way to work when that accident happened. He saw everything and called for help. Later, he told me what happened. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE MORRIS, ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTE: Traffic came to a stop. I got over to the side of the road, I called 911. Didn't know if any one had called yet and they had not gotten any calls yet. I thought at first it was a tractor-trailer and I got out of the car and as I was walking towards the vehicle then I could see the emergency hatch come open and people climbing out of it, I realized it was a charter bus. It just sort of sent cold chills over me because I work with a musical group that travels 10,000 miles every summer on charter buses.

LEMON: So you saw them coming out of the hatch, give me their condition and tell me what -- they asked you questions?

MORRIS: They didn't really ask me any thing, they all seemed kind of dazed like maybe they had been asleep, a lot of blood, a lot of bloody faces.

LEMON: They were calling for blankets you said?

MORRIS: Yes, yes. Me and everybody else that had stopped were trying to get the young people over to the side of the road or out of the road as they got off the bus. First thing that one of them asked me, said I'm freezing can you get me a blanket?


LEMON: All right. From what I understand, the bus was traveling in an HOV lane. It left the interstate in an HOV exit lane leading to the bridge. The bus apparently couldn't stop at the top of the exit ramp and went over the side. We told you about that press conference just a short while ago at Grady Memorial Hospital, it was planned live there but they held it at 3:20. They didn't hold it on camera but there is some new information we want to tell you about. The 19 people who were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, two are in critical condition, one is in serious condition and then 16 are in fair or good condition. Those are the folks that were suffering injuries from that fatal bus crash that happened on I-75 south in Atlanta. They will hold another press conference at 4:30 eastern and that one, we are told, will be on camera. That one will be live right here on CNN at 4:30 eastern. An update from the hospital where most of those people who were taken -- injured were taken to that hospital. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: In the meantime, President Bush is visiting a school in Southern Indiana today before a political fundraiser across the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky. Tomorrow, he'll tour the tornado damage in Georgia and Alabama. CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is traveling with the president from Louisville. Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred. The president is in the Midwest and he's really promoting his education plan, as well as kicking off the fundraising campaign season, earning some cold hard cash for the Republican Party. But the president also is trying to get across another message and that is he understands and is in touch with the American people suffering. It was just yesterday he was in the Gulf Coast, Mississippi, New Orleans, talking about how he understood the frustration of those impacted by hurricane Katrina that the recovery wasn't going fast enough. We have also heard from the president today who says that he will travel to Georgia as well as Alabama, those areas ravaged by the tornadoes.


BUSH: Two states, tomorrow I'm going down to Georgia and Alabama. I go down with a heavy heart. I go down knowing full well that I'll be seeing people whose lives were turned upside down by the tornadoes. I'll do my very best to comfort them. I ask our nation for those who are prayerful to give a prayer for the victims of the storms and ask for the blessings that can come upon people in the comfort necessary to deal with the recent tragedy.


MALVEAUX: Fred, the president is also trying to show that he is responding to the embarrassingly shoddy care that some U.S. soldiers got upon returning from Afghanistan and Iraq at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The White House doing something rather rare, that is lifting the embargo of the president's weekly radio address usually broadcast on Saturday to unveil what is going to be a presidential bipartisan commission essentially to follow those soldiers from the battlefield home to make sure that they get the proper care. Fred?

WHITFIELD: So, Suzanne, tomorrow, you're saying what would usually be his recorded address. Instead, he's going to reveal and give in detail what that bipartisan plan is?

MALVEAUX: Well, actually, what he's doing is that he's talking about the trip but he's also talking as well about this commission. He says that he's embarrassed by the shoddy care, the kind of care those troops got, that he appreciated the fact that already some action was taken and that he is going to announce in the coming days the members of that bipartisan commission.

WHITFIELD: Got you. All right, Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much for that report from Louisville.

LEMON: Friends said it would be over the top. A final farewell that was everything Anna Nicole Smith would have loved. We're in the Bahamas next in the CNN NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: It looks like the court battle is far from over. But for now, Anna Nicole Smith has finally been given the peace she lacked in life and certainly has not had in death. Her funeral today spared nothing. It had all the extravagance and attention she would have loved. To CNN's Susan Candiotti now standing by in the Bahamas.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): In life Anna Nicole Smith was (INAUDIBLE) in the media, the court-appointed attorney representing her daughter Dannielynn added that Anna Nicole Smith is now in her final resting place that she sought, buried next to her son Daniel. The burial came after weeks of legal wrangling. It is the lawyer representing Dannielynn who won custody of the former centerfold's body and he decided the Bahamas is where she wanted to be. Before burial next to her son, an hour and a half long church service was held up by the late arrival of Smith's mother Virgie Arthur. Her attorney told the "Associated Press" she is attempting to take legal action in the Bahamian courts to exhume her daughter's body and take her back to Texas. The father of Danny, Anna Nicole Smith's son, delivered a letter to the chief judge in the Bahamas asking that Danny be removed from his grave. The judge tells CNN he might schedule a hearing after an inquest into the death of Daniel. The burial itself and the service was elaborate and colorful. Smith's casket was draped in pink, her favorite color. There were tearful eulogies from her mother, from her longtime partner Howard K. Stern and from Larry Birkhead, who like Stern claims to be the biological father of baby Dannielynn. Two mysteries remain, who is the real father of Dannielynn and how did Anna Nicole Smith die? That answer may come next week. The medical examiner says that is when his final autopsy report will be ready. Susan Candiotti, CNN in Nassau, the Bahamas.


LEMON: Daniel Pearl's murder by terrorists in Pakistan was enough to crush many families. But after the mourning, Pearl's father made his mission to carry on his son's ideals. Ali Velshi has his story in this week's "Life after Work."


JUDEA PEARL, DANIEL PEARL'S FATHER: Our weapon is the image of Danny. The icon of an American who was decent, who gave without asking in return, who constantly stretched his hand in friendship, to the Muslim world.

ALI VELSHI (voice-over): Judea Pearl is the caretaker of that icon. His son Daniel Pearl was killed five years ago by terrorists in Pakistan. After Daniel's death Judea and his wife channeled their grief into action launching a foundation in their son's name that combats religious and cultural intolerance.

PEARL: The Daniel Pearl Foundation was founded to continue the spirits of Daniel in terms of spreading friendship and love of music and understanding among various cultures.

VELSHI: Pearl is semi-retired from his work as a professor at UCLA due to the time he spends on the foundation's programs. Touring the world to host town hall meetings on issues that divide Jews and Muslims and planning the Daniel Pearl world music day, a series of global concerts.

PEARL: It's the same message that I hear from Danny every day when he talks to me. To the Muslim people, the message is we are not your enemy. We have a common enemy that we must fight together and to the western world, the message is the world expects us to deliver hopes, humanity, pluralism, understanding and we will. VELSHI: Ali Velshi, CNN, New York.



WHITFIELD: We're learning that at the top of the hour, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is going to hold a press conference from the Pentagon and we'll be able to take that live in "THE SITUATION ROOM" at 4:00 p.m. eastern, so keep it right here.

LEMON: In a developing story today, a college road trip takes a tragic turn in Atlanta. A bus carrying a college baseball team from Ohio plunged off an overpass early this morning and fell onto the interstate below. At least six people are dead, more than two dozen others are hurt. The bus was carrying 35 people, most baseball players from Bluffton, Ohio, on their way to a tournament in Sarasota, Florida. We heard from one of the players just a short while ago.


A.J. RAMTHUN, BLUFFTON BASEBALL PLAYER: I wanted to give my heartfelt to the families, to the baseball players involved, my teammates. I understand four of them are deceased and I just wanted to say that I just wish there was something I could do to the families who lost their loved ones. This is something that is not going to leave the guys here on the bus this morning. This is going to be with us forever. And we've been living together, practicing together, and just we've been a family for the past five months and just something like this morning really makes you think twice about life.


LEMON: Ramthun, a second baseman on the team says his older brother was trapped underneath the bus. He didn't know for hours whether he had survived and we now know he did with injuries to his hips. Bluffton University will hold a briefing at the top of the hour.

WHITFIELD: Heartbreak in the southeastern Alabama town of Enterprise. Nine people died there in yesterday's storm. Eight were teenagers killed when a powerful tornado devastated their high school. Earlier today, I spoke with two Enterprise High School students, Jessica Bensen and Tricia Moga.


TRICIA MOGA, TORNADO SURVIVOR: I didn't even know what was happening. I thought it was just really windy and breaking windows. I had my eyes closed so tightly, I didn't know what was going on. But when I opened my eyes, I saw the debris right in front of me and it was -- I was really worried.

JESSICA BENSEN, TORNADO SURVIVOR: The part of the band room that I was in, like I was in the band room like right back there in that area, like it was really scary. I heard it all going around and stuff. I was actually holding this girl, Beth, because she was just crying and crying. I was telling her it would be ok, it would be over in like a few minutes. You know, the lights are flickering on and off and the pressure changes on our ears. Like we could hear the noise and as soon as I stepped outside when it got clear, I actually saw the damage.


WHITFIELD: Alabama Governor Bob Riley toured Enterprise today. He praised the teachers and the principal who took quick action before the tornado hit saying they saved a lot of lives.

LEMON: Time now to check in with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Guys, thanks very much. Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, right at the top of the hour, we're following the ongoing controversy over at the Walter Reed Army Hospital. We'll talk about it with former Democratic Senator Max Cleland who also received treatment there himself as a Vietnam War veteran. We're standing by to hear from the Defense Secretary Robert Gates, at the top of the hour he's scheduled to hold a news conference. We'll see what he has to say about all of this.

Also, many of the Republican White House hopefuls are trying to get the support of a very influential group. We'll tell you which one.

And a Democratic showdown this weekend. What can we expect when Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton all descend on the historic civil rights city of Selma, Alabama? All of that, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Back to you.

LEMON: All right, always interesting, "THE SITUATION ROOM," Wolf. We look forward to that. Thank you so much.

Shades of (INAUDIBLE), check this out home surveillance tape. Police say a couple of real life puppy nappers staged a home invasion in Los Angeles. They ordered the family on the floor, they stuffed puppies in a bag. Not Dalmatians but four purebred Yorkshire Terriers that had been advertised for sale at $2500 each. The suspects also stole the family dog. Man!

WHITFIELD: What in the world?

LEMON: No one was hurt. Neither suspects nor dog have been found. Did they kick anybody? Man!

WHITFIELD: I hope they find the dogs!

LEMON: I hope they catch those guys.

WHITFIELD: All right, the closing bell and a wrap up of the action on Wall Street is straight ahead.


WHTIFIELD: All right, in just about two minutes from now, Defense Secretary Robert Gates will be holding a press conference at the Pentagon. CNN will carry that live and it will all be surrounding the Walter Reed debacle and the criticisms that have come about, about how army veterans are being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center.

LEMON: The closing bell is about to ring on Wall Street, Carrie Lee joining us for a final check. TGIF carry.

LEE: Thank you Don and Fredricka, have a great weekend. And Don, happy birthday to you. Yes, we did get word of that in New York. Have a good one.

LEMON: Thank you.

LEE: Not such a good one for the markets today. In fact the Dow is set to finish at session lows, down about 1 percent right now and we're looking at a 4 percent loss on the Dow for the week. Ok, there is the closing bell down 1 percent exactly right now to a loss of 121, 121 points. NASDAQ down about 35 points. This marks the worst week on the Dow since March of 2003. Now let's take it to Wolf Blitzer and "THE SITUATION ROOM."