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Mass Stabbing at Pittsburgh Area High School; More, Fainter Pings Detected

Aired April 9, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much. Happening now, the breaking news, we're following, carnage at a Pennsylvania high school, at least 20 people, mostly teenagers are wounded in a mass stabbing attack. The suspect is a classmate. Some of the casualties are clinging to life. We are awaiting this news conference any moment now.

Two new underwater signals bring fresh optimism to the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Search leaders say the pings sound just like black-box beacons, but the signals have weakened, sparking an urgent effort to pin down the location.

And an exclusive from inside Beijing's Forbidden City, as two powerful global rivals cooperate in the hunt of the airliner. Can they overcome deep suspicions? CNN's Jim Sciutto speaks with the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following two breaking news stories right now as only CNN can.

There's a huge development in the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Searchers have managed to detect two more pings from deep underwater. They're now a lot more optimistic that they can locate the airliner. But the signals are weakening, suggesting dying black- box batteries. That's adding new urgency to their efforts. Full coverage coming up this hour.

But let's begin right now with the horror at a Pennsylvania high school.

Police in Pittsburgh, in a suburb there, say a teenager went on a stabbing and slashing rampage, wounding at least 20 people, most of them fellow students. We're going to bring you a live news conference any moment now.

For the very latest on what's going on, let's get the background now. Let's go to the town of Murrysville, right outside of Pittsburgh. That town in shock. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is on the scene for us with new information -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. According to a source with firsthand knowledge of the investigation, we have learned that the suspect in this stabbing spree, a 16-year-old male sophomore at the high school, has been charged as an adult with attempted homicide. We know that he appeared before a magistrate earlier this morning during his arraignment, and he has been charged as an adult with attempted homicide.

Now, this all unfolded at around 7 a.m., just before classes started at Franklin Regional High School. And we're told by authorities that a lot of students were at their lockers when, all of a sudden the suspect, the alleged attacker, wielding two kitchen knives, went through and just started stabbing people at random. We've learned that 19 of his classmates, as well as one adult, were rushed to the hospital.

And at this hour, Wolf, four are still in the ICU in critical condition, two in good condition, and five in fair condition. And several have been discharged.

But as you can imagine, there was just mass confusion and chaos as this stabbing spree was taking place. It lasted a little -- not much more than five minutes, according to authorities. And here's what witnesses had to say about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fire alarm went off. I was walking over towards the exit, and there was blood all over the floor. I thought maybe someone had a nose bleed or something. And someone yelled she got stabbed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was a normal fire drill. And I saw people running and screaming and crying. So I thought something has to be wrong. Then I saw people holding each other's hands. I saw other people getting cut. Just blood everywhere. It was very traumatizing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told my wife that one of the kids was her best friend that got stabbed, yes. And that even makes it even more difficult for what I have to say to her, you know, once I get her home.


BROWN: And Wolf, we've learned from many of the wounded victims here, they didn't know what was going on. They said they didn't even see the attacker coming toward them or going. They said all of a sudden they just felt a sharp pain. Many of the wounds went through the stomach and the torso and the back, and so everyone was just really in shock as this was unfolding this morning.

One student said she thought a fight was breaking out, only to turn around and see this student, this alleged attacker, wielding two kitchen knives.

And we've learned, Wolf, from authorities that there were three people that helped subdue the alleged attacker: a school resource officer, a school security guard and an assistant principal who helped tackle the student and end the stabbing spree.

Of course, this is an ongoing investigation. The FBI is involved. You can bet they're going to be interviewing students. There are 1,200 students, around that number, that attend this school. So they're going to be interviewing the students, interviewing the alleged attacker's family members and just trying to figure out the motive here.

According to those that knew the alleged attacker, he was a quiet student, didn't show any outward signs of trouble. So it really has been baffling for people here in this community. They're in shock. And of course, we hope to learn more at this press conference coming up just any minute now. We're going to hear from the governor of Pennsylvania, from the mayor...

BLITZER: One moment. I want to -- I want to go to the news conference right now. The very latest coming in from outside of Pittsburgh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to defer to sergeant -- I'm sorry. His previous history. Chief Seefield from the Murrysville Police Department, just to bring you up to date on what's going on with the individual that's charged with the crimes committed today -- Chief.

CHIEF THOMAS SEEFIELD, MURRYSVILLE POLICE: Thank you. Good evening. Let me begin by saying, first, I would like to thank all of our law-enforcement partners from the federal level down to the local level of municipal police, as well as all EMS services in our municipality and those from other surrounding areas, the school district for the cooperation, the governor for being here, thank you, and Mayor brooks.

About 7:13 a.m. this morning, the school resource officer, Officer William "Buzz" Yakshe, who is our school resource full time in the schools, put out a call over the radio, the police radio, stating that there was a critical incident occurring, and he needed assistance.

At that time the Murrysville Police Department responded to the scene. I can tell you that, upon my arrival, that we saw many victims in the grass area on the exterior of the building. Upon entering the building, we came into a scene in one hallway where we saw one of the security guards had been apparently stabbed.

At that time, we assisted him with help, at about the same time School Resource Officer Yakshe had the subject handcuffed and in custody.

Our concern at that time, obviously, was for the welfare and the condition of all students, faculty, EMS responders, police officers and so forth. I can tell you that, just prior to our arrival, and according to the school resource officer, Assistant Principal Sam King did a role that's very admirable. Sam was actually able to tackle the suspect, and along with the principal from the high school, Joan Mellon, was able to help with that. and pretty much momentarily after that, SRO Yakshe was able to get there and secure the suspect.

I can tell you what we saw when we got there was a hallway that was pretty much in chaos, as you can imagine. A lot of evidence of blood on the floors in the hallway. We had students running about, trying to get out of the area. So subsequently, upon checking and seeing what we had, immediate calls were put out to EMS, locally and from surrounding areas, to get there as soon as they could, that we had multiple casualties, as well information put out and requests put out to local and surrounding police departments.

Our concern at that time was for the injured and those that needed help. I think everything went in a good fashion. EMS was able to attend to the victims rather quickly, get them either life-flighted or in the ambulance and transported to a medical facility. We were able to cordon off the crime scene.

We brought in our investigators from the Westmoreland County district attorney's office, the FBI, the state police, and so forth. So from federal to local levels, we've done our investigation. It's ongoing. And I imagine that this investigation will continue over the next several days.

The information we have right now, approximately 20 victims, one being the security guard. At this time we are advised that one of the victims or two of the victims are still pretty critical. So our hearts and our prayers go out to them. So that's -- that was the scene. The suspect was taken from the scene.

And what happens after that is now the ongoing investigation with crime scene processing. And I can tell you that the cooperation with all levels, from federal down to the local, has been outstanding. And fortunately, although this matter's very horrific, and terrific, a very bad situation, I can tell you that everything, including putting the suspect in custody, occurred rather quickly.

And I would estimate that time from the time that the officer actually put out the call on the police radio to the time that the responders got there and he was secured, was probably a matter of five minutes. So fortunately, that's where we're at right now. The investigation continues. And I'll take any questions, if there are questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any word on a motive yet? What could have caused this? Anybody heard bullying rumors?

SEEFIELD: We don't have any concrete evidence on that right now, but that will be part of the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, who made the call? Were you alerted by 911 or by the fire bell? How were you alerted to the emergency?

SEEFIELD: OK, I was alerted, and the fellow Murrysville police officers were initially alerted by the call from the SRO over the police portable, that he needed help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So a 911 call? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: School resource officer.

SEEFIELD: No, school resource officer put over the radio to the Murrysville Police Department that he need assistance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about the suspect?

SEEFIELD: He's a 16-year-old sophomore. That's what I have on him right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, do you have any sense of sequence of events? Was he in the hallway? Was he running down the hallway? Was he going to a classroom? A lot of people are wondering how it that is someone can come into contact with roughly 20 or more people in a short period of time and carry out this attack.

SEEFIELD: Well, I can tell you that the crime scene is in one wing of the school. Yes, we don't know at that time, but we'll find out through the interviewing, you know, the victims and witnesses, as exactly to his movement. But I can tell you, from the end of the hallway to the beginning of the hallway, that is a crime scene area, and there's evidence of something occurring in that area.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any sense of distance that was covered? The distance that was involved?

SEEFIELD: Maybe a couple hundred feet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he say anything to the officers when they arrived, the school security officer? And prior to today's incident, any warning signs or red flags, or were you aware of this individual?

SEEFIELD: We were not aware of this individual, and any warning signs, things like that, things said, that will be part of the investigation, but I'm not aware of that right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have the weapons? What are they?

SEEFIELD: Two knives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you be more specific on the size of the knives?

SEEFIELD: Approximately 8 to 10 inches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, can you describe, based on what witnesses said, essentially what he was doing and saying as he made his way down that hallway?

SEEFIELD: We're still interviewing and processing that. We don't have anything that he had said that I can talk about right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are these kitchen knives, hunting knives?

SEEFIELD: Straight knives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more question.


SEEFIELD: We don't know that at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more question for the chief.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how long did the stabbing actually take? What was the duration of the stabbing?

SEEFIELD: Again, you know, we're kind of sort of speculating a little bit on that, but probably a matter of five minutes or so from the time it started until the time that he was secured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And is this suspect cooperating with police?

SEEFIELD: I don't know that. I have not been in contact with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, chief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... fire alarm.

SEEFIELD: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We definitely -- we want to give you the information. We're going to be here until we give you -- answer all your questions, but we want to -- the governor's schedule is kind of tight. We want to make sure he has a chance to express his concerns on this. So at this time, I'd like to ask Governor Corbett to come up and make a statement.

Thank you, Governor.


First off, let me commend the efforts of not only the individuals in the school, but the law enforcement, the first responders who came here, EMS, various police departments, as the chief has said, from the FBI to our state police, our serology people are in there, but also all the local police departments. This is not something you could ever completely plan on. You certainly work on what's going to happen in a situation. But from my discussions here for the last two-plus hours, I want to commend everybody for working on this together.

There are a number of heroes in this day. Many of them are students. And I want you to write that. Students who stayed with their friends and did not leave their friends. Cafeteria workers who automatically just reactively began caring for students who were bleeding. Teachers and teachers' aides who pulled students out of the hallways and into rooms and began applying first aid and protecting those children.

And then obviously, the school resource officer, Buzz, the sergeant who was injured in this, and Assistant Principal Joan -- I forget Joan's last name...


CORBETT: Joan Mellon. And Sam King, who actually, between the two of them, took him into custody and disarmed him.

This is, obviously, a very difficult day for this community and a very difficult day for the region of Western Pennsylvania, and a difficult day for the commonwealth. But also for the country.

It's another sad day when the good works that a region like Franklin Regional and all the good works that the school does and the school students and the excellent record that they have, attracts attention not because of the good works but because of one bad action in one very horrific five-minute period.

We have received notes of condolence, calls, most recently from the governor of Connecticut, Dan Malloy. He and I have not had a chance to connect. He's offering his assistance in any way, obviously, and you understand why with the incident that took place in Connecticut a few years ago. We have a sister relationship, sister- state relationship with the -- I'll say Rhone region of France and actually received a note...

BLITZER: All right. So the governor of Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett, expressing his deepest, deepest shock to what has happened in the suburban Pittsburgh area today, when a 16-year-old sophomore allegedly went on a stabbing spree, stabbing 19 or 20 of his fellow students, as well as a security guard. And, as you heard the police chief just tell us, Thomas Seefield, from the Murrysville Police Department, two of those people, two of those young people are in critical condition right now.

We're going to stay on top of this story. Much more on this coming up. It's a shocking development in our country at this time.

Also another story we're following right now. There's new optimism in the search for Flight 370 after two new underwater pings have been detected. There's also a new reason for urgency in the search.

And the U.S. and China, they are cooperating in the airliner search, but can they overcome some deep suspicions? And exclusive interview with the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, from inside's Beijing's Forbidden City, that's coming up, as well.


BLITZER: New underwater signals and renewed optimism in the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Here are the latest developments.

A U.S. Navy locator device has detected two fresh signals, leaving search leaders hopeful they are those pings from the plane's two black boxes. That optimism is boosted by a new analysis of earlier signals showing them to be consistent with a flight data recorder. The signals are getting weaker, though, and officials say that could mean the pinger batteries are dying. So the focus now is detecting more pings to narrow the search area.

At the same time, the hunt for debris continues. And the aircraft, they are getting ready to take off for another day of scanning the surface of the Indian Ocean.

Let's go live to CNN's Michael Holmes. He's joining us from Perth, Australia. That's the staging point for this amazing search that's been going on now.

Michael, what is the very latest?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, we're about 12 hours ahead of you on the U.S. East Coast. It is now officially the start of day 34 of the search. And as you mentioned, those recorder batteries have an estimated life of around 30 days. So, time is very tight as those batteries start to run down.


HOLMES (voice-over): After three long and frustrating days since the first pings were detected, crews on board the Ocean Shield found what they were looking for.


HOLMES: Two new sets of underwater pulses, similar to the pings detected on Saturday, all within 17 miles of one another. It was the strongest signal of hope since Flight 370 vanished a month ago.

ANGUS HOUSTON, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTRE: I'm now optimistic that we will find the aircraft, or what is left of the aircraft in the not-too-distant future.

HOLMES: Search leaders are even more confident now that the pings likely are coming from the plane's black boxes, after a new analysis of the first set of signals. But the pulses are getting weaker. The first and strongest lasted two hours and 20 minutes. The newest pings lasted 5 1/2 minutes and then 7 minutes.

HOUSTON: So that means probably we're either a long way away from it or, in my view, more likely, the batteries are starting to fade.

HOLMES: The batteries on the black boxes already have passed a guaranteed shelf life, so every second counts.

Ocean Shield continues to move back and forth over the search area, around the clock, towing the pinger locator, listening for signals, in water that is more than 2 1/2 miles deep. Searchers say they can cover more ground that way, compared to an underwater drone that will likely be launched only after they're sure the batteries powering the black-box pingers are dead.

HOUSTON: I believe we are searching in the right area, but we need to visually identify aircraft wreckage before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH-370. HOLMES: Planes have been scouting for debris most every day. CNN was on board a New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion as it flew to a remote corner of the Indian Ocean.

SQUADRON LEADER BRETT MCKENZIE, ROYAL NEW ZEALAND AIR FORCE: Which is the point that we have found the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). None of the sea craft has found anything.



HOLMES: Now, Wolf, as for if they are the flight recorders or one of them, that air chief marshal, Angus Houston, who's heading the search, said wreckage needs to be identified before they are certain that this is the resting place of MH-370. That's not certain yet.

But he did say, as you heard, that those pings were both sustained and consistent with a flight recorder, not some natural marine noise. Now, he's not a man given to hyperbole or raising hopes. For him to say he is optimistic the aircraft wreckage will be found, is really quite something -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is. The other day he said he was cautiously optimistic. Now he's simply saying he's optimistic they are onto it. Michael Holmes, we'll check back with you. Thanks very much.

Coming up, we'll have more on the search for Flight 370. We're going to get an update from the Royal New Zealand Air Force as their planes are ready to take off.

Plus, a CNN exclusive. Our own Jim Sciutto talks to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Is he optimistic about those latest pings? The full interview and a lot more coming up.


BLITZER: Air crews are getting ready right now for a new day of flights over the Indian Ocean. But even as the underwater search sparks some new optimism, the aerial hunt for debris has been a source of deep frustration.

Joining us now by phone, Wing Commander Andy Scott of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

So, Commander, thanks very much for joining us. First of all, any updates on what's going on as far as the search for debris on the surface or what's going on underwater, as far as those signals from the two black boxes are concerned?

WING CMDR. ANDY SCOTT, ROYAL NEW ZEALAND AIR FORCE: So today's search is concentrating on an area approximately 250 miles separated from each other. We have the underwater search, which is still going on in the area and the vicinity of the pings detected by vessel Ocean Shield and then the airborne assets that's concentrating, as I said, about 250 miles further to the west of that area for any possible drift and debris field.

Of course, every day the currents will go and move any potential debris as well. So that of course needs to be constantly adjusted.

BLITZER: Have you found any debris at all yet?

SCOTT: Yesterday's flight from the New Zealand aircraft detected 10 targets of interest. They were all photographed but unfortunately following post-mission analysis, there was nothing to report that would link it to MH-370 regrettably.

BLITZER: How surprised are you that they've detected pings, these signals coming -- we hope from those two black boxes, but so far despite this massive search by a lot of nations, no debris has been spotted? Is that surprising to you?

SCOTT: Certainly by this stage, I -- we were all hoping that we would have been spotting debris. It has gone on for obviously an unprecedented amount of time now. But it is just such a large area. And because of all of the assumptions at the start as to how we've got to determine the search areas, it really is still a game of time for going actually keep continuing to go and update the dialer, looking at those new leads and going to move those search areas for -- to cover all of those possible eventualities.

BLITZER: Since the four pings have been disclosed, as far as you know, Commander, have any additional signals been detected yet?

SCOTT: Not that I've -- I'm aware of, no. So the update that I had overnight was mainly focused around the airborne search. So I haven't seen anything around the underwater one.

BLITZER: The underwater one, obviously will continue as well with those towed pinger locators that the U.S. supplied to that Australian ship.

Our own Matthew Chance, he went up with one of your New Zealand P-3 teams. And they flew around for, what, maybe 10 hours between taking off from Perth, flying out, and coming back. But on that trip, apparently, no specific debris, nothing significant related to the Malaysian airliner was detected. Is that your understanding as well?

SCOTT: That is correct, yes. These are very long missions, right at the limit of range of this aircraft. Yesterday's transit was 3.6 hours each way, giving around about three and a half hours on station for the aircraft. So they're very long days. Very long missions. And unfortunately, yesterday, no new leads.

BLITZER: Wing Commander Andy Scott of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, we'll check back with you tomorrow, as we always do.

Thanks, Commander, very much.

SCOTT: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, the whole world is working to find Flight 370. But are there some secret tensions between the U.S. and China? The Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, he's in Beijing. He spoke exclusively. There you see both of them with our own Jim Sciutto. The interview coming up.

And searchers are the most optimistic yet. But far below the surface, dark challenges await the recovery teams. Just how hard will it be to find and retrieve Flight 370, possibly three miles below sea level?


BLITZER: Now to a CNN exclusive. United States and China may be cooperating to help find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visits China, there are some tensions and suspicions.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is traveling with Secretary Hagel in Beijing. He got an exclusive interview with the secretary. Let's go live to Jim right now for the very latest.

How did it go, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf. Good early morning from Beijing. We were able to speak with the secretary twice, actually, once inside the Forbidden City, another time in a sit-down. And just as this news was coming out about the reacquisition of those pings, you know, it's interesting, you speak to a lot of Chinese, and many of them are very skeptical of the search, skeptical even of U.S. involvement in the search, some conspiracy theories running around.

But Secretary Hagel much more positive about the cooperation between the U.S./China and other countries and the broader relationship. Here's what he had to say to us.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): We met Defense Secretary Hagel inside Beijing's Forbidden City just hours after search teams confirmed they had on two new occasions detected signals that could be coming from the missing jet.

(On camera): You have the head of the Australian search saying that he is, in his words, confident that the plane's wreckage will be found in the near future. I wonder if you share that confidence based on the information you now know.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, Jim, you know this region and you know the immensity of this task. It's an immense search area. We think it's been narrowed, but I can't give you a forecast on what they may come up with, what they may not. There's been some new evidence here that maybe these new and emerging sounds may lead to something. But it's important we don't lift anyone's hopes, the families of these passengers in an unfair way. And we're doing everything possible. We will continue to do everything possible to help the Malaysian Airlines and Malaysian government to locate that plane.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): But an agonizing 33 days after Flight 370 vanished, have all countries involved been doing everything possible to find the plane?

(On camera): There've also been cases and concerns about how quickly some countries have shared their radar data, for instance, and so on. And I wonder if you have concern or frustration that the search could have moved more quickly had that not happened.

HAGEL: Let's focus on doing everything we can, all of us, finding that plane, helping the victims, and the families, and everyone who is involved here. That's where our focus should be. That's where our focus should be. There'll be plenty of time to second guess and evaluate.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): The U.S. and China, though increasingly competitors in Asia, are among the countries devoting the most military assets to the search efforts.

(On camera): You've got a lot of countries involved, but also some of America's most advanced assets and some of Chinas most advanced assets. That's an interesting collaboration.

HAGEL: Jim, that's a good example of how nations can cooperate. And it's interesting why were they all cooperating, are they all cooperating. It's about people. It's about your people. On that flight there was about 150 Chinese nationals. We had three nationals from the United States.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): In Europe, however, tensions are only growing, in and around Ukraine. As shown in these satellite photos, 40,000 Russian troops remain on Ukraine's eastern border. With fears they may be poised for an invasion, and U.S. officials already blaming Russia for violence inside eastern Ukraine.

(On camera): The penalties so far have not deterred Russia. And isn't it -- hasn't the U.S. and hasn't Europe effectively accepted the annexation of Crimea?

HAGEL: No, we haven't, and we have said just the opposite that we don't accept it.

SCIUTTO: But as (INAUDIBLE) on the ground --

HAGEL: Russia's done great damage to its standing in the world, confidence and trust in its motives. There are long-term consequences. These economic sanctions will hurt Russia, there's no question about it. This isn't a matter of one or two days or one or two weeks. When Russia has taken the action that it has to violate the integrity and the sovereignty of a nation, there will be long-term consequences.

Those long-term consequences are playing out. There may be more consequences. So I don't agree that they've gotten away with this.

SCIUTTO: Are you more concerned today than you were, for instance, last week, that Russia will take the next step and go into eastern Ukraine?

HAGEL: We're always vigilant, we're always looking at the options that we need to take, as you know, General Breedlove who is our supreme allied commander, has been tasked by NATO to come up with new and additional measures and options. He will be reporting those options back to me, as well as to NATO. So we don't take anything for granted.


SCIUTTO: Those options that he's talking about are military option but not an attack. It's about moving U.S. and western assets around Ukraine, in Secretary Hagel's words, to send a strong message to Russia. And he says already that Russia is internationally isolated that that will have costs today, in the near term and also in the long term. And he believes that as that cost rises that Russia will change its behavior, will move those forces back. But, Wolf, as you know, we haven't seen that yet.

BLITZER: Not yet. Jim, you know, the U.S. and the Chinese, they're both helping look for that plane, the missing Malaysian airliner but there's also some tension, as we all know, behind the scenes. What are you hearing there in Beijing?

SCIUTTO: Well, you know, it's incredible, Wolf. You still hear so many conspiracy theories here, many of them directed at the U.S. There's talk that the U.S. is hiding information, that it really knows where this plane is. Crazy conspiracy theories about how the plane may have landed on a U.S. base in Diego Garcia, that there may have been a CIA agent on the plane who was the subject of an assassination attempt.

I mean, you have these things going around, some of which just show the desperation of the families really frustrated with the search but also some that show the tension still between the U.S. and China, tension that does exist.

That said, I will tell you one positive thing, there's a lot of praise here for the U.S. media over the Chinese media because the U.S. media pushing the limits of the story more so than Chinese state media is.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto reporting for us from Beijing. Jim, excellent work. Thanks very, very much.

Just ahead, aerial search teams are about to take off again. But the focus is now shifting to what lies beneath from darkness to unbelievable depths. So what challenges await the search teams on the ocean floor?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Searchers say the latest signals they've heard are bringing them some new hope of finding Flight 370. But finding the plane's two black boxes almost three miles below the surface will be a very, very difficult task.

Brian Todd has a closer look at what's going -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It will be a huge challenge, Wolf. The darkness, the depth of the ocean in that area, the topography all present major obstacles.


TODD (voice-over): Two more signals detected which could come from the missing plane's black boxes. Now search teams are trying it refine the location. Find more signals. Tighten the search area.

ANGUS HOUSTON, CHIEF COORDINATOR, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTRE: And hopefully in a matter of days we will be able to find something on the bottom that might confirm that this is the last resting place of MH-370.

TODD: But the challenges still enormous. After the 2009 Air France crash in the Atlantic, that search area was also narrowed down, but a veteran of that operation says it was still a difficult find.

PAUL NELSON, PROJECT MANAGER, PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL: So over a two-year period, it was probably 20 or so weeks in order to find that and they had much better information. They had much better last known position and found debris on the surface.

TODD: In the Air France search, as in this one, a towed pinger locator was used. They found that plane using a similar vehicle to the Bluefin-21 underwater drone that mapped the debris field. Remotely operated vehicles, ROVs, were then used to recover the Air France wreckage.

Has any of the technology changed since then?

NELSON: It's pretty much the same stuff. There's a few upgrades. A few electronic upgrades here and there. But it's pretty much the same equipment.

TODD: The sheer depth of the area now being searched is a huge challenge. The Titanic was about 12,000 feet down and it took searchers about seven decades to find it. The signals detected in this search area are more than 14,700 feet down, just shy of three miles. That's the maximum depth of the ocean floor in that area and the maximum depth for the Bluefin-21.

ROVs can easily make it that deep. But the ocean at that depth is completely dark. The Bluefin and ROVs will have limited visibility even with lights. And there's a potential problem with the ocean floor in that area.

PROF. RAGHU MURTUGUDDE, OCEANOGRAPHER, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: The big chunks of the plane that haven't broken up are going to crash into the silt and dig in and this silt is quite mobile because there are microbes that are eating into it. It's quite porous. It's quite possible that the jet with its own pressure and the water pressure has dug into the mud at the bottom.


TODD: Experts say ROVs will not be able to pick up wreckage if it's deeply buried in that silt, in that mud. But they say cranes and winches run from vessels on the surface would be able to pull that wreckage out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.

Let's explore a little bit more now with former U.S. Navy oceanographer Van Gurley and the Navy's deputy director for Salvage and Diving, Mike Dean.

Guys, thanks very much. This depth, Mike, how much does that concern you?

MIKE DEAN, DEPUTY SUPERVISOR OF SALVAGE AND DIVING, U.S. NAVY: The depth isn't that big of a concern to us, Wolf.

BLITZER: Why is that?

DEAN: What's more important is the topography. Operating at depth is generally challenging, but if it's relatively flat, it's easy for us to maneuver around, it's easy for us to find wreckage and the wreckage will stand out when we go to run side scan sonar.

BLITZER: But they say they haven't even done topography mapping down there so it's like you're starting from scratch.

VAL GURLEY, FORMER NAVAL OCEANOGRAPHER: A little bit, Wolf. There is some information in the area. You heard the previous commentator talking about what we know about the bottom there. And the good news is HMS Echo was nearby. She is fitted with the right type of gear to give a very sort of quick ocean bottom map expedition that could be the information that would help move this faster.

BLITZER: How deep can Navy divers go?

DEAN: Navy divers generally about 1,000 feet for man diving.

BLITZER: So there's no way there's going to be anybody down -- you have to send those unmanned vehicles down there.

DEAN: No, any kind of recovery would all be done with unmanned vehicles.

BLITZER: And how good are those unmanned vehicles in that kind of search that went almost three miles?

DEAN: Very good, Wolf. We've seen it in a number of previous expeditions. This kind of technology is proven. It operates at these depths and deeper, with different types of vehicles and it's very good at finding things sticking above ground.

BLITZER: I assume they have lights because it's totally dark down there. How will they look around for something?

DEAN: Right. So the vehicle will be outfitted with sonar and lights as well as cameras. So they'll have a good visual field on where they're working. And all you really need to light is within the field of the manipulators that you're working.

BLITZER: And somebody on the surface will be able to see what the unmanned vehicles are seeing three miles down?

DEAN: Yes, yes. Once we put an ROV in the water, remotely operated vehicle, and the operator will have a clear field of vision of where he's operating the manipulator.

BLITZER: So let's say there are no more pings, they've got four good pings, they think those pings come from the two black boxes. How long do you think it should take given the fact that -- there's about 17 miles separating these various pings?

GURLEY: Well, I was one of many people last night who said at most we're probably looking at a 10-mile circle based on what we knew. Nature is very good at keeping us humble and that's what I think happened. It's a pretty big area. It's still weeks to a month, month and a half. Mike may be able to refine that. Based on previous work, that's I think what we're looking at realistically.

BLITZER: We're going to have you both stick around. We've got more to discuss. Guys, stand by.

Coming up, a critical discovery has searchers more optimistic than ever. We're going to go live to the region to show you how teams are narrowing their search area right now.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Two more pings are heard in the hunt for Flight 370 and its black boxes. Stand by for new information on this critical discovery and what comes next.