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American Morning

Ariel Sharon Rushed to Surgery; Miner Writes Letter; 'Extra Effort'

Aired January 06, 2006 - 09:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Miles O'Brien.
Ariel Sharon undergoing emergency surgery this morning. Doctors trying to stop the bleeding in his brain. We're live from Jerusalem with the latest on this developing story.


A last desperate note from underground at the Sago Mine. One victim is able to comfort his family even after he's already gone. We've got a live report just ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: And an act of heroism in the subway. We'll talk with three subway samaritans saving someone from the tracks and certain death on this AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. Lots of stories we're following this morning both in this country and overseas, too.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, let's get right to it.

We begin in Israel. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon still in surgery, been in the operating room for several hours now. Doctors trying to stop the bleeding and relieve pressure on his brain.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer is in Jerusalem.

Wolf, you've covered Israeli politics for years and years, and the fact that Mr. Sharon is so gravely ill has a tremendous impact on the political landscape, doesn't it?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does. And it's four hours now by our count, Miles, of surgery, this most recent round of surgery. The other day it was seven hours of emergency surgery to deal with the bleeding, the pressure on his brain. And it does not look good by any means.

A spokesman at the Hadassah Medical Center here in Jerusalem, Miles, said the surgery is continuing. We're watching it very closely. But it does raise all sorts of question marks on what happens here in Israel as far as the political leadership is concerned.

In the short term, meaning between now and the end of March, when Israeli elections have been scheduled, Ehud Olmert, the vice prime minister, a longtime ally of Ariel Sharon, will be the prime minister. But it's anyone's guess who will emerge as leader following the March 28 elections. It's a pretty wide open race that's go about to really get going.

M. O'BRIEN: Mr. Sharon was a man who was sort of the architect of many of the settlements that we saw, and also, in fact, presided over the dismantling of some of them this summer. Absolutely integral to this roadmap for peace we've been talking about so much. In his absence, who would carry on that -- that philosophy for peace?

BLITZER: Well, between now and the end of March, it's just going to be a status quo. And it will depend on what -- who leads the next Israeli government, which political factions are in that government. But there's no doubt that Ehud Olmert, the now acting prime minister of Israel, is a strong supporter of Sharon.

He was an early advocate of the Gaza withdrawal, the dismantling of the Jewish settlements in Gaza, small parts of the West Bank. And he would pursue that same so-called roadmap that the Bush administration, the Europeans, the United Nations and the Russians, what they call the quartet, all of them have been trying to propose.

The Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, they've expressed their wishes for recovery for Sharon. They've developed a relationship with him. But the Palestinians this month have their own scheduled elections, and Hamas and other more militant groups are vying for control.

So it's a wide open situation in the Palestinian community as well.

M. O'BRIEN: Wolf, such a long, complicated life of Sharon's with so many twists and turns. You've interviewed him several times. I've seen him on "THE SITUATION ROOM" with you. What will his legacy be and how will he be remembered personally?

BLITZER: A warrior, first and foremost. Most Israelis will recall his military role as a general, as a commanding officer in all of Israel's wars going back to 1948. But later, they'll remember him as a pragmatic prime minister who, while he was an early advocate, perhaps the most ardent advocate of dotting the West Bank and Gaza with Jewish settlements, he eventually came around to believe that Israel needed to dismantle at least a lot of those settlements if there were going to be peace talks with the Palestinians.

He showed a pragmatic, practical streak that a lot of people were surprised to see given his hard-line history. And I think they'll remember him with great affection here, at least the Israelis will.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, won't necessarily remember him with great affection. And throughout much of the Arab world he's reviled. Certainly in Iran, the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is already saying he hopes he dies painfully and quickly.

It's -- Sharon is a very controversial figure in this part of the world. I suspect, though, that the Bush administration and U.S. leaders, Democrats and Republicans, will be full of praise for the Israeli leader.

M. O'BRIEN: Wolf Blitzer, thank you very much, live from Jerusalem.

The latest from Wolf all day on CNN. And then, of course, "THE SITUATION ROOM," 4:00 and 7:00 Eastern. Make sure you tune in for that -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's turn now to the tragedy at Sago Mine. A note left by one of the miners is now giving us an idea of what it was like for the 12 men as they faced death.

Fifty-one-year-old Martin Toler tried to comfort his family about what was happening, writing, "It wasn't bad, just went to sleep."

Kimberly Osias is live at the Sago Mine in Upshur County in West Virginia.

Kimberly, good morning.

KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you Soledad.

Well, I'll tell you, when we first saw this letter, I'll tell you, it just sends chills up your spine. A very, very visceral reaction that we had. You know, your heart just truly goes out to these families that lost so much.


OSIAS: "Tell all I see them on the other side -- JR." Final words from 51-year-old Martin Toler, Jr., one of the 12 miners who died in the Sago coal mine in West Virginia.

Toler apparently wanted his family to know he wasn't suffering. He wrote, "It wasn't bad, just went to sleep." And at the bottom he wrote, "I love you."

Martin Toler was a section foreman and spent more than three decades working in the mines. We're told he was a proud father, seen here at his daughter's wedding, and a wonderful grandfather.

Toler's family received the letter after identifying his body. His nephew Randy Toler says the note was written on the back of an insurance form Martin had in his pocket.

RANDY TOLER, NEPHEW OF DECEASED MINER: It's become probably the most priceless possession our family has. That's what I'm told that carbon monoxide poisoning is, a pleasant death. But nevertheless, it's reassuring to have been told that from him.


OSIAS: Now, I actually talked to some other family members that did not get letters. They also have a peace about this. They have a peace about the fact that this actually gives credence to the way in which these men died. It gives them a sense of peace. And as far as Mr. Toler, he says that he is going to put that most cherished possession, that letter, in a jewelry box -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Kimberly, thanks. Any word if there are other notes out there, do you believe?

OSIAS: Yes, we are trying to really track all of that down. I've been working the phones, and hopefully we'll have a confirmed number for you. I do know that other sources are saying that there's about a handful of letters out there. So we are actively working this story.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Kimberly, thanks for the update -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: And now the sole survivor. Earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, Soledad talked with Randy McCloy's doctor, and the doctor said McCloy is responsive and not in a coma. He's also undergoing a special oxygen treatment this morning as doctors try to flush carbon monoxide out of his blood.

Late yesterday, Randy McCloy was moved from the University Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia, to Allegheny Hospital in Pittsburgh. CNN's Jonathan Freed is at the hospital there.

Good morning, Jonathan.


That's right, Randy McCloy, Jr. is here because this is the closest facility to where he was in West Virginia that has what's called a hyperbaric chamber. And we can give you a look at what one of these things looks like now.

This isn't the one that you're going to see that's actually here at the hospital, but I spoke to McCloy's doctor a short while ago, and he said that the large glass Case (ph) model is the kind that they do have here.

And Miles, what goes on, the patient -- they slide the patient into this. It becomes a sealed environment. And they increase the atmospheric pressure to above normal and fill the chamber with pure oxygen. And it's hoped that that will push and purge the person's system of the carbon monoxide.

Now, earlier, Miles, you had a chance to talk to McCloy's wife, and clearly a very emotional scene with her.

Let's listen to that.


ANNA MCCLOY, RANDAL MCCLOY'S WIFE: My little boy, when I took him in to see his dad, I told him that his dad was sick, he had worked very long hours, and right now he needed time to get better and to rest. And he told me that, "Mommy, my daddy's going to get better." And my little girl keeps calling, "Dad, dad."


FREED: Miles, everybody's thoughts here are with the family. Everybody knows that McCloy, even being a young man, still has two children, a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old. Everybody praying, kind of a rallying point even for those people who did not fare as well in this tragedy. And we are hoping, expecting that there will be an updated news conference here, perhaps mid-morning, to tell us more about McCloy's condition -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much. We do appreciate that. And keep us up to date there.

The president is on the road today. Kelly Wallace here with some details.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: He is, Miles. And he'll be talking dollars and cents today.

He's headed to Chicago this morning for a tour of the Board of Trade. And following that, he'll make some remarks about the economy.

He is expected to mention new data showing jobless claims at a five-year low and solid growth in the service sector of the economy. And CNN will carry the president's remarks live. Those remarks beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

Terror suspect Jose Padilla heads to federal court later today after being held without charges for more than three years. And this is the first time we're seeing video of Padilla, labeled an enemy combatant by the Bush administration.

He was transferred Thursday from a military brig to civilian custody in Miami. Padilla was indicted back in November on charges of conspiring to murder U.S. citizens and providing support to terrorists. His arraignment is set for 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

The World Health Organization is sending a team to Turkey after a third member of one family is believed to have died from the bird flu. An 11-year-old girl died today. The girl's brother and sister died earlier this week, believably from the virus. These are the first known human deaths from the strain outside of China and Southeast Asia.

And another step toward recovery from Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast. You probably remember this, that five-mile Interstate 10 bridge over Lake Pontchartrain linking Slidell, Louisiana, to New Orleans. Less than five months ago, pretty much in ruins.

Well, it's been reopened. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco among the officials on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. And it's now handling two-way traffic since about 6:00 a.m. this morning. The bridge will eventually be replaced by a six-lane span in the next three years.

Chad, that's some good news for the folks down there.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It's some good news for Tropical Depression Zeta.


S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, more on that developing story out of Israel that we are following. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon clinging to life. How's the Arab world reacting? You might be surprised. We've got an update.

M. O'BRIEN: Also, the Sago Mine tragedy. There was another team of miners that escaped death by a matter of minutes Monday morning. We'll talk to one of them.

S. O'BRIEN: And our "Extra Effort" this morning. Heroes at a New York City subway station are going to tell us how they risked their lives to save a 14-year-old girl who had fallen onto the tracks.

That story's just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: There was another crew of miners underground in Sago, West Virginia, early Monday morning, but by twist of fate they were in the right place and the wrong time to be on the job -- at the wrong time to be on the job. They were able to escape and live to tell us more of what happened there.

Ron Grall is among those survivors. He joins us now from the mine site.

Ron, good to have you with us. How have you been holding up?

RON GRALL, ESCAPED MINING ACCIDENT: I've been hanging in there. I'm kind of getting worn out from all this, but I'll be all right.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Well, we appreciate you talking with us because I know it's got to be a tough thing.

GRALL: No problem.

M. O'BRIEN: You were in what's called a mantrip, which is a car which sends you along down there, about 10 minutes behind the team that got trapped. Tell us what you saw and what you heard.

GRALL: Well, I didn't really hear too much. We got to the 10,000 -- approximately 10,000 feet in at the switch, one left switch. And we just started to get around the switch, and we was all sitting in the mantrip inside, and all of a sudden, I felt this big, loud thump.

It wasn't a real loud noise. It was just like a change in air pressure. And then all of a sudden, we was getting pelted with coal dust and rocks and dust and everything. And it lasted for about probably eight to 10 seconds. And then it got really, really hot. After it stopped...

M. O'BRIEN: At that point did you think the whole mine was collapsing or something?

GRALL: Well, we knew an explosion occurred, but we didn't know where or exactly where. But we knew we was still alive. So we -- I told them guys, "We've got to get to the main escape way and fresh air."

And we all got together. And we had to go down the tracks, say, 700 or 800 feet and found fresh air. And then after we got the fresh air we got everybody together, and we could breathe. And it wasn't 20 minutes later they came in and got us. They found us about...

M. O'BRIEN: So you -- by being 10 minutes behind, you were in a position where you weren't trapped by the blast?

GRALL: Right. Yes, we was 10 minutes late getting in, and that probably saved us from being further in and being trapped, too.

We was -- we was fortunate. We was right next to the primary -- what they call the primary escape way. It was damaged somewhat, but not enough where we couldn't get back and get to fresh air.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. So what -- so it's just a twist of fate that held you up? How did you end up getting held up? Would you have normally been with that other crew?

GRALL: Right. We'd be right behind them.

What happened, the mantrip they started in with wasn't big enough to hold everybody, so they had to go back and get a bigger mantrip to hold all the guys. And that 10 minutes that held us up probably saved us, no doubt in my mind.

M. O'BRIEN: What are your thoughts about that? I'm sure you've thought a lot about it over the past few days.

GRALL: Yes, I have. It's just a twist of fate. That's all I could say. Somebody was looking out for all of us, that's the only way I can explain it.

M. O'BRIEN: Are you going go back to mining?

GRALL: Yes, I am. That's what I love to do, and I don't do anything else. And I just like to do it. I like being under...

M. O'BRIEN: You're going to go back to that mine? Will you go back in that mine?

GRALL: Yes, no doubt.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

GRALL: Wouldn't hesitate. M. O'BRIEN: All right. All right.

Ron Grall, one of the miners that escaped on Monday morning.

Thank you for sharing some time with us. We know you're exhausted.

GRALL: No problem. Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: That's tough.

What would you do if you're at a subway station and you saw somebody fall onto the tracks? Would you jump down to help him or her? Would you jump down even if you saw another train coming on that track?

This morning we're going to talk to a couple of heroes who did just that, saved a young girl even as a train came barreling at them. That story ahead.

Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: A story we love to tell in this week's "Extra Effort," three people who truly went the extra mile to save the life of a young girl. They sprang into action this week after a teenager fell onto the tracks at a New York City subway station.

Joining us this morning, Officer Margaret Tarulli, Richard Scigarjov and David Valle.

Nice to see you guys.

And David, we introduced you last. We'll start with you first, though, because you really begin this story. What did you see and what happened?

DAVID VALLE, SUBWAY SAMARITAN: Well, I was on my way to work, (INAUDIBLE), was on the train station. Everybody was screaming on the platform, saying that a young lady had fell into the tracks.

That's when I turned to my right side and seen for myself, see the young lady on the tracks. Looked to my left-hand side to see if I see any train coming. I jumped into the tracks and ran to her aid.

S. O'BRIEN: Let me stop right there. So was there a train coming when you looked or no?

VALLE: Not yet.

S. O'BRIEN: And on the tracks, was she screaming for help? Was she crying?

VALLE: No, she was unconscious, on the second rail face.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow. So nearly to the third rail, almost.

VALLE: Right next to the third rail.

S. O'BRIEN: OK. So you -- what did you do?

VALLE: That's when I picked up from the back, grabbed a jacket, turned her around, and that's probably when he jumped in and helped me pick her up back to the platform.

S. O'BRIEN: I'll stop you there. We'll bring in Richard now, because he kind of picks up the story.

You're 16 years old, is that right?


S. O'BRIEN: And you're on your way to school.


S. O'BRIEN: And all of a sudden, you see a guy on the train tracks. Why did you jump down?

SCIGARJOV: Well, to help, basically, because there were no cops around, no police. So I figured, we'll go there. So I was ready to go, (INAUDIBLE).

I see him there, I jumped in. So he already had her by the shoulders. So I picked her up by the feet, helped her on to the platform.

S. O'BRIEN: So you were able to lift her up onto the platform. Is that the point when you noticed, oh, my god, there's a train coming?


VALLE: No, not yet. That's when I was still on the tracks...

S. O'BRIEN: Right.

VALLE: ... and everybody was pulling her up to the platform. So that's when everybody turned to the left-hand side and said the train was coming.

S. O'BRIEN: So they get the girl up safely. They're like, whoa, good job, good work. And all of a sudden, you realize there's a train coming.

VALLE: The train is coming. So they pulled me off the track. They pulled him first and pulled me second.

S. O'BRIEN: While you see this train coming -- and one can only imagine what it's like to be on the track -- I mean, what was going through you guys' minds?

SCIGARJOV: To get out.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, yes. Besides that, Richard. And that's a good first thought.

But did you think, oh, my god, I'm going to die here? I mean, what was your thought?

SCIGAROV: No, just to get out.


S. O'BRIEN: And everybody on the platform at this point is now reaching in and really helping you.

VALLE: Grabbing. Everybody was pitching in just to grab him.

S. O'BRIEN: This brings us to the officer. The young lady now is on the platform. The train has -- I guess the train really stopped just kind of in front of where you guys were.

What did you do?

OFC. MARGARET TARULLI, NEW YORK HUMAN RESOURCES ADMIN.: By the time I got to the top of the steps, me and NYPD, we seen the young lady laying on the platform. She was unconscious, to my knowledge.

I identified myself, because I was in civilian clothes. And I got -- I said I was also in the medical field, can I be of assistance. And this officer said, "Please, of course."

And I took off my jacket, I knelt next to her. I checked for a pulse and I did not get anything.

S. O'BRIEN: So what kind of shape was she in?

TARULLI: She was dead. I could not get anything from her. And I looked up at the officer and I shook my head no.

S. O'BRIEN: Like she's gone?

TARULLI: Right. And I looked back down at this young girl, and she was all of, from what I found out, 14 years old. And I said, "No," you know, I can't let her die. She's got a long life ahead of her. She's got another 80 years.

And I checked again for a pulse. I didn't get one. And I administered CPR.

S. O'BRIEN: So what did you do, exactly?

TARULLI: I listened for air first to see if she did get air in her mouth. And she -- I didn't hear no air.

So I put her head back, I opened up her jacket, because I needed her -- I needed a compression. And I gave her CPR. And I didn't get anything for two times. And then she was still unresponsive, but I did get a pulse.

S. O'BRIEN: What was that moment like? A 14-year-old girl. I mean, she's dead, for all intents and purposes, and all of a sudden you hear this little heartbeat going.

TARULLI: Yes, it was wonderful. I looked up at NYPD and I said, "Guys, it's going to be a good new year," because it was my first day back to work. And they said, "It sure is."

S. O'BRIEN: Wow.

TARULLI: And that was it.

S. O'BRIEN: Have you talked to the family at all? I mean, they must be so grateful.

You've had a chance to talk with them.

TARULLI: I did. And they did call me, they did thank me. And they were wonderful, very nice.

S. O'BRIEN: They must be so grateful.

TARULLI: Wonderful family, yes.

S. O'BRIEN: I've got to tell you, you must agree, good start to the new year, huh?


S. O'BRIEN: OK. Save a life, check that off for '06.

How are you feeling, though? I mean, are you shaky? Are you sort of really riding this high of -- you saved a human being. That's pretty...

VALLE: I feel good. I just want somebody to do the same thing for me and my family.

SCIGARJOV: I feel very relieved that she's OK.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, I bet. I bet.

TARULLI: It was all part of my training with my department, HRA (ph) Police Department. They were wonderful. And it's just -- you know, whether I was at work, going to work, it's just in a day.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, if there is ever a reason to get CPR training, I think you're the spokesperson for that, right?

TARULLI: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: I mean, you can save somebody's life.

It's good work, you guys.

VALLE: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Congratulations.

TARULLI: Thank you very much.

S. O'BRIEN: Happy New Year.

TARULLI: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: I hope you guys are around if there's ever any problems on any subways. Thanks a lot.

TARULLI: Thank you very much.

S. O'BRIEN: We're going to take a short break. We're back in just a moment.

Stay with us, everybody.