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Multiple Investigations Into Near Collision Of 2 Planes at JFK; American Jailed In Iran Launches Hunger Strike, Appeals to Biden; UGA Football Player, Staffer Killed Hours After Championship Parade. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 16, 2023 - 15:30   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: There are now several investigations to find out how two jets on a runway at New York's JFK airport nearly crashed into one another over the weekend.


The quick action by an air traffic controller prevented the accident.

CNN's Pete Muntean is with us now. Pete, I was on a plane, on a runway at JFK this weekend. What happened here?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, the good news here, Victor, is that this disaster was avoided, but really only with seconds to spare thanks to the quick action of that air traffic controller, that keen eye, and also the quick action of the flight crew on board that Delta Airlines flight. I want you to look at the animation here from flight radar 24.

It shows that Delta Airlines flight taking runway 4 left at JFK on Friday evening, when an American Airlines 777 pulled out onto the runway in front of it. That Delta flight was still accelerating for takeoff. I want you to listen now to the air traffic control recording come from live ATC where you can hear the urgency in the air traffic controller's voice. Listen.


ATC: S***! Delta 1943 cancel takeoff clearance. Delta 1943 cancel takeoff clearance.

PILOT: Rejecting.


MUNTEAN: A rejected takeoff, something that pilots often only do in the flight simulator. This time it was real life. The FAA says these planes came only within about 1,000 feet of each other in the end which is not all that big in aviation terms. Remember, these planes are hundreds of feet long. This is known as a runway incursion in technical terms and these happen hundreds of times a year according to the FAA, although rarely ever this close.

Now the FAA and the NTSB are investigating. They will, of course, want to hear the cockpit voice recorder, especially from the cockpit of that American Airlines 777. They will also be paying very close attention to the radio calls here.

Was that American Airlines 777 actually cleared to cross that runway? You need to get an explicit clearance from air traffic control to do so, or was it told to go someplace else? A lot of confusion here it seems, Victor, and the insult to injury here is that it could have been so much worse.

BLACKWELL: So, the Delta flight had the -- you know the aviation terms, you're the pilot -- had the right of way, and it was the American flight that veered into the path, yes?

MUNTEAN: This is something that investigators will have to figure out, and it's not up to us technically to say. Although there was some radio chatter at the end there where the American pilots were, like, wait, were we cleared to cross that runway? And the air traffic controller said, we'll pull the tapes and go back to the recording and listen.

So, there's going to be a lot of investigation here, and of course they'll want to talk to the pilots involved, also listen to the air traffic controller recordings and then of course, the cockpit voice recorder. Were the pilots distracted? Did they think they were going someplace where they really weren't? There are typically a lot of warning signs on the ground, but the question here is did they just simply ignore them?

BLACKWELL: Scary, came too close. Pete Muntean for us. Thank you, Pete.

Well, just hours after celebrating their team's national title win, a UGA football player and a staffer were killed in a car accident. What we're learning about what led to the crash and how the team is honoring them.



BLACKWELL: A dual American-Iranian citizen wrongfully jailed in Iran since 2015 started a 17-day hunger strike today. It's in protest of America's failure to secure freedom for himself and other dual nationals. Siamak Namazi is appealing to President Biden in an open letter asking him to spend one minute a day for the seven days of his hunger strike thinking about him and the other detainees. CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us now from the State Department. Kylie, give us the story.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Siamak Namazi was detained in Iran more than seven years ago on charges of conspiring with the hospital government, of course that's the United States. The U.S. says those are bogus claims. But he has been wrongfully detained in Iran for more than seven years. He's been in Evin prison.

He has been interrogated and tortured by the Iranians, and he is writing to President Biden this week. Because this week marks seven years since there were five other Americans who were wrongfully detained in the country that were returned to the United States, and at the time, Siamak was in an Iranian jail, and he wasn't part of that group. So, he's reminding Biden of that.

Biden was the vice president at the time during the Obama administration, and here is his ask to Biden at this time.

In this letter saying, quote: in the past, I implored you to reach for your moral compass and find the resolve to bring the U.S. hostages in Iran home. To no avail. Not only did to we remain Iran's prisoners, but you have not so much as granted our families a meeting. All I want, sir, is one minute of your days' time for the next seven days devoted to thinking about the tribulations of U.S. hostages in Iran.

Now a National Security Council spokesperson called it outrageous that Iran continues to detain Americans for political leverage, said they are working tirelessly to bring Siamak and two other Americans who are currently wrongfully detained in Iran right now, back home.

But of course, the relations between U.S. and Iran right now are quite hostile. Efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal are on the back burner. Those have been ongoing, but they haven't succeeded over the last year and a half of the Biden administration.


And of course, we've seen some very, very critical statements and actions from the Biden administration against the Iranian regime as they have violently cracked down on those protesters in the country. So not necessarily a good omen in terms of U.S./Iran relations. But Siamak's family is asking the Biden administration to look beyond that and do whatever they can to get him home.

BLACKWELL: All right, Kylie Atwood for us at the Pentagon. Thank you so much -- State Department, I should say. There at the State Department.

Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, they will face off again for another game in just a few weeks since the last time they were on the field, you know, when that happened. Damar Hamlin, he collapsed after a cardiac arrest. We'll have a preview of what is set to be an emotional matchup. That's next.



BLACKWELL: Police are investigating a single car crash that killed a University of Georgia football player and team staffer this weekend. Two others were injured when the car crashed hours after the football team celebrated their national championship win. CNN's sports anchor Coy Wire joins us now. Coy, this was supposed to be the best time of his young life, their lives, and then this happens. What more do we know?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: It certainly was and seeing the faces and the smiles during that parade there in Athens, Victor, you're absolutely right. This was a big moment, but Devin Willock, 20 years old, he was -- we now know ejected from the vehicle during Sunday's fatal single car crash.

According to Athens Clarke County Police, he was pronounced dead at the scene. The UGA staff member, Chandler LeCroy, 24 years old was driving with Willock and two other passengers near UGA's campus in Athens, Georgia here at approximately 2:45 in the morning on Sunday.

The vehicle went off the road, hit a couple of power poles, several trees, according to police. LeCroy died after being taken to the hospital. The two other passengers in the crash were identified as 21- year-old Georgia offensive lineman Warren McClendon who received minor injuries and 26-year-old Victoria Bowles who had more serious injuries, according to police.

McClendon started at right tackle for UGA this season. Declared for the NFL draft earlier that day on Saturday. Willock played in all 15 games for UGA this season. LeCroy was a recruiting analyst for the program. But Willock in his final hours, just hours before the crash, Victor, he re-tweeted a tweet of a man who was with his grandson at the parade, and he had a picture of Willock standing next to his grandson.

A young boy who luckily let him wear his championship ring, and he said a big thanks to him. He didn't have to do that. He said you went out of your way to make him feel special, and you made his day. So that was the final hours before Willock lost his life, along with LeCroy.

BLACKWELL: We've heard from Willock's family and said his grades were good, he always had a smile, he was such a good person. Such a huge loss.

Let's turn now to college basketball, University of Alabama, a player there is off the team, charged with murder of a 23-year-old woman. Tell us about that.

WIRE: Yes, please arrested University of Alabama basketball player Darius Miles, twenty-one-years-old, he is in custody charged with capital murder in connection to a shooting that took place around 1:45 in the morning. In an area about a half-mile off campus known as "the strip." Tuscaloosa authorities were called to a scene, found a young woman dead inside of a vehicle as a result of a gunshot wound.

The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office said the only motive appears to be at this time a minor altercation, they called it. The driver says two suspects opened fire after some words were exchanged. Driver fired back, police were able to identify two suspects, after talking to witnesses and checking video surveillance.

One of the two suspects was reportedly hit but has nonlife threatening injuries, Victor. Police identified the two suspects as Darius Miles and 20-year-old Michael Lynn Davis.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's turn to something uplifting now. Buffalo Bills, they play the Cincinnati Bengals, it's coming up next week. Of course, the first time since Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field. And listen, Damar Hamlin, the pictures we're seeing of him and his teammates are posting on social media, it's just fantastic that it has happened so soon after that tragedy.

WIRE: Yes, you know, and they have that huge nail biting victory over the Miami Dolphins in the wild card round of playoffs, and it looked like they were emotionally drained, because, you know, the week prior they were riding this high. They were getting those positive health updates about Damar Hamlin, their teammate. Seeing that big smile again, holding up the heart hands and flexing, showing that he's coming back.

But they did go through that emotional lull this past playoff game, and you mentioned now, in next week's divisional round, Victor, they will play those Cincinnati Bengals again, and we heard Tre'Davious White for the Buffalo Bills talking about how he still has images of that terrifying scene when he had to see his teammate's heart being resuscitated -- revived rather, on the field by paramedics, giving him CPR.

And when they look across that field and they see that opposing helmet again, when they meet in Buffalo this weekend, is definitely going to be an emotional roller coaster of a journey before even kickoff begins.

BLACKWELL: Coy Wire, thank you so much.

Now, as we've been discussing, Damar Hamlin's remarkable recovery is largely credited to the medics quick reaction there on the field. So, ahead we're going to take you behind the scenes of the NFL where first responders can turn a tent into an emergency room in just a moment.



BLACKWELL: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 94 yesterday, and the nation is paying tribute today to his life and legacy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy Martin Luther King Day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just the other day I heard an MLK day, say hey.


BLACKWELL: You see the crowds there at the 16th annual MLK D.C. Peace Walk and Parade. It's also under CNN's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in D.C., a more somber scene there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CROWD, SINGING: We shall overcome, we shall overcome.


BLACKWELL: The crowd there singing "We Shall Overcome" as they remember Dr. King's speeches and writings which are still very relevant today. Events all across the country today honoring Dr. King. Some have a tradition of volunteering at food banks or service organizations as a part of a tradition of helping others.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.