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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Jordan: Going After ISIS With Everything That We Have; Awaiting Press Conference on Taiwan's Deadly Plane Crash; Virus Spreads to Illinois Daycare
Aired February 5, 2015 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight, Breaking news. Jordan ups the ante on ISIS vowing to go after the militants wherever they are with everything they have.
Plus, the deadly plane crash. One passenger's story of survival. Why he told others to unbuckle their seatbelts as they were crashing.
A new details on the driver killed in that horrific train crash. Why couldn't she get off the tracks in time? Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett, OUTFRONT tonight. The breaking news. Jordan's foreign minister telling CNN moments ago that his country will go after ISIS, quote, "Wherever they are with everything that we have." This as we have new video of coalition airstrikes. What you're looking at ISIS targets exploding inside Iraq and Syria. These airstrikes are the first that Jordan has participated in since the terrorists burned a Jordanian fighter pilot alive. U.S. jet fighters also hit ISIS targets today. Terrorists posting these images of exactly what happened in the aftermath of those strikes in Iraq and Syria. Earlier today President Obama did not mince words in describing the ISIS terrorists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We see ISIL, brutal, vicious death cult that in the name of religion carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Barbara Starr is OUTFRONT from the Pentagon tonight. And Barbara, we just saw some of the video of those airstrikes against ISIS. Coalition partners flying once again. What did they hit?
BARBARA STARR, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Erin. These were Jordanian airstrikes essentially lead by Jordan. The Jordanian say that they hit ISIS training areas, ammo and weapons facilities. About 20 targets in all in Eastern Syria. That's what the video is of. Those Jordanian F-16s going against ISIS targets in Syria. They were accompanies by U.S. air craft as well. But Jordan making clear to the world that they will go after ISIS. This is an extraordinary event for the Jordanian Air Force. They are capable but relatively small. And this time, they took to these guys and they were under orders from King Abdullah go after ISIS and that is what they did. They have been working with the U.S. for the last several days to develop that targets and to get the intelligence, the exact coordinates they needed so that they could carry out these strikes -- Erin.
BURNETT: And Barbara, you know, we just had the breaking news. That the foreign minister just telling CNN as I quoted, they will go after ISIS wherever they are with everything that we have. They are saying this is just the beginning. What else can they do? You talk about the Air Force being relatively small although capable.
STARR: That's right. I think what everyone understands in the next few days you will see additional Jordanian air strikes. You'll see them taking on larger role in the coalition. Jordan also putting on the table to the other Arab partners step up. This is not about Islam. This is about terrorists. They came after us, they can come after you. Jordanian officials very much making the point from Amman to Washington today that there needs to be Islamic participation from the Arab world from the region in this campaign. Now, just to be clear, the U.S. flew alongside the Jordanians today. There were U.S. aircraft up in the air. Advance Air Force F-22 fighters. U.S. aircraft jamming ISIS communications. But this is how the coalition works now. No matter what country is flying, everybody flies together. Everyone takes on a piece of the pie. Today it was Jordan's turn -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Barbara Starr. Thank you very much. And anger building in Jordan tonight. And it's coming from everywhere including the king himself who also has a very specific military background. Atika Shubert is OUTFRONT from Amman.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just the beginning. That's what Jordan is calling these images. The aftermath of airstrikes inside Syria. Jordan's King Abdullah making good on his pledge of swift and harsh retaliation for the horrific murder of Jordanian Air Force pilot Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh burned alive inside a cage. CNN has learned that Abdullah signaled the depth of his anger in a meeting with U.S. legislatures just before he rushed back to Amman reportedly quoting Clint Eastwood's character in the movie, "Unforgiven."
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Any man I see out there I'm going to kill him. Any (bleep) takes a shot at me, I'm going to kill him and I'm going to kill his wife, all his friends. Burn his house down.
SHUBERT: Abdullah was quick to act. One day after the pilot's death Jordan executed two terrorists in direct response to al- Kasasbeh's execution. The next day after those air strikes, the pilots made a symbolic flyover over above al-Kasasbeh's house as Abdullah visited with the pilot's father. The king pointed out the overhead jets as proof of his resolve. Abdullah is commander-in-chief of the Jordanian Air Force. Pictures of him in combat fatigue are posted on a Jordanian government Facebook account. Social media even had claims that Abdullah would personally fly a mission against ISIS. Reports the Jordanian government was quick to refute. But Jordan is seizing the moment to build public support for war that many Jordanians opposed before al-Kasasbeh's brutal death.
MOHAMMED AL-MOMANI, JORDAN STATE MINISTER AND GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: We hit them and hit them hard because we want to make sure they will pay for the crime they did and the atrocity they did to all pilots.
SHUBERT: King Abdullah has taken the loss of this pilot very personally, Erin. In fact, he told the pilot's father Saif al- Kasasbeh that it was like losing his own son. And almost every Jordanian I spoke too is saying the same thing. They see this is a personal insult to themselves, to Jordan, and to Islam as well -- Erin.
BURNETT: Atika, thank you very much.
And OUTFRONT now, retired Colonel Peter Mansoor. He serves as the executive officer to General David Petraeus during the surge in Iraq along with Buck Sexton, CNN political commentator and national security editor for The Blaze.
Colonel Mansoor, let me start with you. These air strike videos that we got today, and obviously it's part of the shock and awe they wanted to show this video, you know, of the Jordanian F-16s hitting these targets in Syria. The king of Jordan is vowing revenge. So far almost all the air strikes though when you look at the overall picture here have been conducted by Americans. Is the United States going to have to fight this war? When it comes to the actual practicality of who is doing it all alone.
COL. PETER MANSOOR (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Jordan brings important capabilities to the fight. But as it was mentioned, it's pretty small capability. Capable air force but not many planes. And when it comes down to it, what Jordan could really do is provide Special Forces on the ground in conjunction with aircraft and help call in air strikes if they could put those Special Forces into Syria especially if they could round up the Sunni tribes in Syria and get them turned against ISIS. So, Jordan could be a really important partner but its air capacity is dwarfed by that of the United States.
BURNETT: Right. Of course the United States has conducted 80 plus percent of the airstrikes so far. Buck, what about the point though that Colonel Mansoor is making? That you could have Jordanian, it could really on the ground with Special Forces makes sense but of course given what just happened to their pilot, given that one of the other coalition partners in the Arab world, the United Arab Emirates is not flying flights right now. Because they are worried about what might happen to their pilot, is it realistic to expect an Arab country to put troops in on the ground?
BUCK SEXTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't expect them to do that but given their rhetoric, that would actually be the next step they'll have to go with.
BURNETT: Yes. SEXTON: Because the airstrikes alone are not going to be enough.
The idea that they have essentially opened the gates now and they're taking this to a new level. They're upping the ante. Well, what is the U.S. been doing for a months now with a vastly larger and superior air force. So, the idea that they can really make a lot of headway against ISIS just by increasing their airstrikes, they're not going to be able to keep this up for too long. And it's not going to have that much of an impact without the issues that the Colonel just raised if they can actually rally the Sunni tribes. That is what defeated al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor to ISIS the last time around. It was people on the ground, tribes on the ground in Syria-Iraq corridor. Enough is enough, we're going to fight against the extremists, if Jordan can lend some voice to that, and as we know the pilot's family is from an important tribe, then you might have something of a c- change here and you would actually be able to put ISIS on the real defense.
BURNETT: It's those troops on the ground. And, you know, Colonel Mansoor, today the White House says, the President is moving ahead with sending Congress a proposal to authorize the use of force. A formal authorization. But to the point Buck is making. There's been of the airstrikes so far just over 2,000, I mean, the United States has conducted, you know, nearly 2,000 of those strikes. So, will American troops be going in also?
MANSOOR: I think eventually we'll have to if we want to defeat ISIS. There has to be a ground capability. The Iraqi army is in capable of a Kurdish Peshmerga is too small. At some point you're going to have to have U.S. advisors on the ground embedded in these forces and perhaps even joining with Jordanian Special Forces and other Special Forces to help foment another Sunni tribal uprising against ISIS. And then they could make a very capable hybrid force conventional capability and irregular forces calling an airstrikes and you could actually destroy ISIS in that manner. But until that happens all the air power in the world is going to continue to hit targets, mow the grass but the terrorists are going to remain.
BURNETT: And of course, the United States still at the highest levels, a denial of American ground troops. Buck, ISIS is currently holding an American. A 26-year-old American aid worker, we've talked about her, a woman. And the fact that she was a woman led some people to say, well, maybe her fate will be different than the other Americans and westerners who have been beheaded. Now you see a Muslim fighter pilot burned to death.
SEXTON: No barbarity is off the table for ISIS. Not much is clear. The idea that they would have some moral compunction from killing a woman I think is quite honestly unsupported by what they've already been doing. They've been executing women, they've been crucifying anybody that they feel gets in the way. They've been crucifying people, they've been beheading people. So, this captive, you have to think, this is a very precarious situation even if there is a negotiation that's opened up. We know that ISIS doesn't negotiate in good faith. In fact, they are negotiating essentially just as a propaganda tool.
BURNETT: They killed a pilot the month before.
SEXTON: Dominate the news cycle, keep it going and essentially force different governments to say, okay, we'll treat them as sort of equals for now at least in terms of the discussion when in reality the whole time, we knew that they weren't actually going to follow through. And they were saying that they weren't even going to release necessarily their captive. They weren't just going to kill them. So, they were negotiating in bad faith from the start and what we can do with that from here is going to be very tricky.
SEXTON: It's horrific and of course when you think about, you know, I mean, there are others but there is of course that woman there tonight. Thanks to both of you.
BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, there are new measles cases to report tonight, the virus is spreading to babies. Babies who are too young to be vaccinated infected by children who were not vaccinated.
Plus, the deadly plane crash. We're standing by for a live update from officials that will just going to happen in just a few moments. We're also going to hear tonight OUTFRONT from one man with an amazing survival story from that flight. And the woman at the center of the deadly train crash in New York. Who was she and what was she doing on the tracks?
BURNETT: We're standing by for a press conference on the deadly plane crash in Taiwan. This video now seen around the world of that plane that lost control rolling nearly 90 degrees as it flew over the highway clipping an overpass falling into the water below. There are reports tonight that the captain have complained of, quote, "Engine abnormalities before takeoff." But according to local reports, aviation officials insist that that is not the case. That he did not complain.
Anna Coren is OUTFRONT in Taipei. She's outside the hospital where passengers are recovering because there were survivors. And Ana, I know we're hearing from more witnesses tonight including the taxicab driver that everyone sees there who got clipped by the wing of the plane. What did he say?
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, extraordinary tales of survival that we're hearing not just from the taxi driver but some other people who managed to walk off that wreckage. It really is quite extraordinary. We saw it being lifted, you know, out of river yesterday and to think that anybody managed to get off alive is just simply extraordinary. That taxi driver, as you say, the wing of the plane clipped the top of his cab as he flew over missing a densely populated suburb of Taipei. Which, you know, the pilot who dived on the crash, he is being commended as a hero for stopping an even further disaster. But he clips this taxi before plunging into the river. And he had this communication with his dispatch operator shortly after the crash. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DRIVER: The whole thing fell into the Keelung River.
DRIVER: My passenger can't get out of the vehicle. My car's wrecked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COREN: Yes, in absolute disbelief is to what took place. And really, if we didn't have that striking video that we've been watching, I don't think anyone would really believe what took place -- Erin.
BURNETT: It is unbelievable and a miracle of course that the taxicab driver and the passenger survived even if the car was shattered. Thanks to much to you, Anna reporting live from Taipei. And of course, we're going to keep you updated. We're just awaiting any moment, a press conference with the very latest from those survivors. We are learning first-hand how some of the 14 passengers who survived may have done so. Speaking to reporters from his hospital bed, a 72-year-old passengers, 72 years old and he survived. Here is what he remembered from the crash.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CRASH SURVIVOR (through a translator): Shortly after take-off I felt something wasn't right. Something was wrong with the engine because I always take this flight. I told the girl beside me to quickly release her seat belt, hold on to the chair in front and cover her head with clothes. Not long after the plane went down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, Annette Herfkens, she was the sole survival from a Vietnam airline commercial plane that crashed into a mountain. There were 31 on board. She was seriously injured, broken bones, collapsed lung but she also survived eight days until she was rescued. And also with me, Richard Quest.
And I want to talk about the seatbelt Annette because, I know, you weren't wearing your seat belt. And that could have been very important in your survival. Richard, as we're awaiting this press conference though and hearing about survivors, we have learned tonight that there was one crew member to make it out alive. She had had prior to take off, during take-off, after take-off, constant contact with the cockpit. Obviously what she knows could be very important, right?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. Except, what she knows will be crucial but I believe in this case whatever happened happened very quickly and very suddenly. And it's unlikely that she would have been told is we've got an engine problem. But what she might know --
QUEST: -- is did the captain have a problem with the engine or was there an abnormality as we're hearing reports before the plane departed.
BURNETT: There might have been a conversation about it.
QUEST: That's right. Yes.
BURNETT: Right. So Annette, let's talk about that passenger we just heard. The 72-year-old man, he said, immediately when he felt something was wrong, he took his seat belt off. Asked the woman next to him to do the same thing, wrapped his head in clothes because he thought that might a presumed cushion any sort of impact. I know you were not wearing your seat belt as well. And you think that that could have been something that might have helped in terms of survival.
ANNETTE HERFKENS, AUTHOR, "TURBULENCE: A TRUE STORY OF SURVIVAL": I think it might have helped. But I didn't put it because I was claustrophobia in the first place, I didn't want to enter the plane the first place with small, it looked old, and actually full of -- then I sat down and it was going across my chest. So, it's a different seat belt than I was used to.
BURNETT: Right. So, not just the low lap belt.
HERFKENS: I felt already constrained. So, I didn't put it. I didn't follow that rule. But I believe it might have -- I wasn't flying around the airplane like a long piece in the dryer as I described in my book.
HERFKENS: Because everyone else got crack, their lungs got crack, and their ribs into their lungs. And I think that's what most people got killed by.
BURNETT: And you didn't have that because --
HERFKENS: And I didn't have that. I went flying and woke up on the other side of the aisle where I was originally was sitting. So, I just went flying in the plane.
BURNETT: And Richard, what do you make of the fact that the two survivors when you hear that man and the woman next to him beat the odds, survived and in that, those two cases and I don't know about the rest, I'm not trying to make this a blanket statement but they were not wearing seat belts.
QUEST: In many incidents just as you've described, exactly as you've described.
QUEST: Many incidents. What happens of course is that the plane crashes, breaks open and people are ejected. The survivors are ejected from the aircraft. And that's how they survive because they're not stuck either in the water or in the burning wreckage. They are thrown clear. So, it's a well-known syndrome. But you have to balance that with the fact that if the plane, not in this case, this place was extreme. But if the plane makes an emergency landing, bounces alone turns upside down. Are you safer strapped in or are you much greater risk rolling around like a ping-pong ball.
BURNETT: I mean, you don't know, you just don't know.
QUEST: Exactly. And did you know that the seat is built for the G-forces that you're going to feel on an emergency landing.
BURNETT: And Annette, when your plane crashed, obviously you were unconscious and then you woke up and somehow managed to get yourself off the plane. And I know that that's sort of a moment where you don't fully remember. For the survivors of this crash, at least 15 of them, what might have gone through their mind in that first moment?
HERFKENS: I felt I was screwed, that is what I felt.
HERFKENS: Okay, I was the only one. And I heard people, some moaning but that's really think that's it. Immediately you realize it's in one second. And the next thought is what do I do next. It was my thought.
BURNETT: And then you fought for survival and you did.
HERFKENS: And I did. I just did what I had to do.
BURNETT: And that has a wonderful book about her experience and her life afterwards with her wonderful daughter. Thanks so much to both of you. And the key to the investigation to what brought down that plane in Taiwan are the two dash cam videos. They are heart stopping images of the final seconds of that flight. That is what the whole world is seen again and again.
And Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT on the crucial clues that we are now able to gain from these kinds of videos.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The number of stunning, horrifying plane crashes caught on video has risen sharply in recent years given investigators a powerful new tool when planes go down.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh, my god.
FOREMAN: For example, when this Air Asiana jet crashed in San Francisco, video clearly showed it touching down way too short of the runway. When this cargo plane crashed in Afghanistan, a dash cam captured the tortured final moments as the plane went nose up then fell back to earth and exploded in ball of fire. That video quickly pointed investigators to a possible cause. Steve Chealander is a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board.
STEVE CHEALANDER, FORMER NTSB MEMBER: First thing that came to mind was, to me, the airplane was over gross weight or overloaded or the load was not, you know, balanced and because it looked like the airplane was struggling to fly.
FOREMAN: And the idea that this heavy military equipment broke loose inside the plane remains under serious consideration even as investigators continue to scrutinize that video frame by frame. Well, experts say video evidence must always be paired with other findings. Sometimes it shows what is otherwise hard to know. Did a wing break off? Did plane bank too sharply or was the crash deliberate. And if images from outside are helpful, images from inside are even more so. This video shows the final moments of a small plane in Idaho.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I remember hitting the trees and it sounded like rapid gunfire sounded like.
FOREMAN: Nobody died but it was more evidence in favor of cameras in the cockpit. Something federal authorities have wanted for 15 years.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The NTSB would like to see video recorders just like cockpit voice recorders part of a, area commercial aircraft. Still, the explosive growth in cell phone cameras has dramatically increased the chances that any incident might be recorded. After all, those same cameras account for about 200,000 new photos on Facebook every minute.
FOREMAN: And it all matters.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Something is wrong. Look at him.
FOREMAN: This is one of the earliest films of a fatal air crash from way back in 1931. And even then it was clear any images of an accident while in progress can make a huge difference in figuring out why it happened. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
Well, next, the measles outbreak hitting a day care center. As many as five infants may be infected by unvaccinated children. These infants were too young to have gotten the MMR vaccine.
And new details on the driver's struck and killed on a horrific train crash, a witness says, she could have backed off the track, so why didn't she?
BURNETT: The measles outbreak is growing tonight and infecting the most vulnerable, babies too young to be vaccinated, and we are now learning about new possible cases that an Illinois daycare, two infants have tested positive, three others believed to have been exposed. The spread of the virus which is now in 15 states has been blamed on the anti-vaccination movement.
Our Ryan Young is OUTFRONT in Palatine, Illinois. It's just outside Chicago.
And, Ryan, what are officials saying about these cases with these babies?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, you can understand the parents, of course, at first, were very upset when they heard the news about this. Officials say they have come to this day care and they made sure they did a thoroughly cleaning overnight. It was actually open this afternoon we watched as kids went in and out of this daycare. We tried to talk to a couple of parents.
In fact, one parent said she had her kids here for the last eight years and believes they handled everything very well. All kids who haven't been vaccinated -- they have been sent home for the next 21 days. Of course, everyone is thinking about the five kids with signs of the measles and they're hoping they will pull through OK.
BURNETT: So, do they have idea whether the cases here are linked to any other cases at this point or do they just not know?
YOUNG: You know, honestly, that's the big question this evening. Everybody wants to track down where this started. What we're told now, they don't have an idea where this started. They actually believe more kids may get sick from this. Right now, what they're saying is they have done a thorough cleaning and, of course, they were very cautious out here in the parking lot with us this afternoon.
BURNETT: All right. Ryan, thank you very much. It's so awful. Of course, those babies -- if they were under one, too young to have had the first of the two MMR shots that a child receives.
And tonight, we're learning new details about the deadly collision of a commuter train and SUV that killed six people just north of New York City. Investigators saying today, the driver of the SUV, a mother of three, only had be 39 seconds when the crossing lights began flashing and the crash.
Questions tonight about that driver and what she was doing on the train tracks.
Our Poppy Harlow is OUTFRONT.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ellen Brody, a beloved wife and mother of three girls.
BENJY SILVERMNA, RABBI AT CHABAD OF RIVERTOWN: Her girls really adore her. Her husband and her are very close. It's just a beautiful family unit.
HARLOW: Friends and loved ones grappling with how her life would have been cut so short. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's tragic accident. It was not her. She
was not careless person. She would not ever do anything that would put anybody at risk.
HARLOW: Just 49 years old, Brody was driving the SUV that was struck on the track in the deadliest train crash in Metro North history. She's among the six people who perished.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fire at the front of the train. One possibly trapped in the train.
HARLOW: Rick Hope was in the car directly behind Brody, and recounted the fatal moment to the "Journal News".
RICK HOPE: As we're waiting to cross the tracks the gate comes down in front of me and it comes down and hits the top of her car, unable to back up and I'm waiting for her to back up, but instead she gets out of car. She gets out and she walks around the back and looks at the arm that's on the back of the car.
She looks at me. I gestured her to come back. I back up again further to even indicate there's plenty of room to back up and she turns, walks and gets back in the car, and slight hesitation and then moves forward, and at that instant, the train came.
HARLOW: Why Brody's SUV was on the track is central to the investigation. Eyewitnesses say a separate accident backed up traffic and many drivers took an alternate route to avoid it. The NTSB is investigating if the detour played any role and is trying the recover data from the memory modules in Brody's SUV.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We found the crossing arm and the traffic signal. They both operated as designed. There were no problems found.
HARLOW: Brody worked alongside Varda Singer and Virginia Zsa Zsa (ph) at this Jewelry store for ten years.
VARDA SINGER, FRIEND & COLLEAGUE OF ELLEN BRODY: She had a million dollar smile. She, to me, was a saint because she's one of the most selfless person I've ever known.
HARLOW: She was driving home from work when she was killed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In one word, she just had a beautiful soul. She looked for the good in others.
HARLOW: Her husband Allen posting this message on Facebook, thanking all who shared their condolences.
HARLOW: And, Erin, just tonight we have learned from investigators that the train was traveling within the legal speed limit when this horrific, horrific accident happened. Also this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo saying it does not appear that Ellen Brody was trying to beat the train but rather likely just confused.
She leaves behind her husband, three beautiful girls age 15 to 22. She'll be remembered in services here tomorrow -- Erin.
BURNETT: Poppy Harlow, thank you very much. Live where that horrible accident happened.
I want to bring in rail record engineering expert Gus Ubaldi.
And, Gus, just to give people a better sense of what happened here, I want to show them the Google Street view of the railroad crossing. This is where this happened.
She drove her SUV beyond that white line that you can also see on your screen. Then the gate hit the back of her car. It's unclear if her car was actually on the tracks. It was past the gate. How far it was on the tracks, we don't know at this time.
She got out of her car and got back in and drove forward instead of backward and got struck by the train. What could she have done?
GUS UBALDI, RAILROAD ENGINEERING EXPERT: Well, if she wanted to get off the tracks, she could have backed up. The gates are designed to be frangible. That means they're breakable. So, they would have broken, or at the very least she could have run away from the car, away from the crossing in the direction the train was coming. She would have survived. The train may not have hit the SUV or may have damaged front end.
Whether the outcome would have been different for the people on the train, I don't know. That's what the investigators will find. But, certainly, backing up was an option.
BURNETT: Right. And, of course, given that we know the car was partially on the tracks, that's what the man behind her said, there was room to back up.
The NTSB is looking into this, Gus, as we know. Officials saying there were 39 seconds from the time the lights began flashing right at the crossing to when the train came through. Thirty-nine seconds sounds like a short amount of time. I'm sure that people who are waiting for crossings, it feels like a long time, people always want those times to be shorter.
But is 39 seconds when you look at the accident happening now, enough? Is it safe?
UBALDI: Well, I would have to say yes. The federal regulations say the minimum time for those lights to be flashing is 20 seconds. Each crossing is evaluated independently to determine what is sufficient time to alert the drivers that the crossing is going to be active for them to stop, and for cars, for example, at that traffic light at Taconic State Parkway for cars back up there to be able to clear so that there are no cars on the crossing when the train arrives. BURNETT: Of course, in a situation like this, you know, she
perhaps realized what happened. You know, it's dark. The guy behind her as his lights, he's saying coming up. Maybe she didn't see him. Maybe she gets in her car to back up and she's trying to be calm and she's so calm and hits the accelerator and it goes forward because the gear didn't go into reverse. I mea, we just don't know what happened.
But when you're in an emergency situation, all of a sudden, time seems a lot shorter.
UBALDI: That's right. The best thing to do for drivers is to stop so you can see those flashing lights. Then whether you can see the painted line or not, you know you are safe, if you are behind that gate arm.
BURNETT: Is there anything you can, they said the big shock they have is how it is possible that the train car itself was damaged and those people inside lost their lives, and the horrible tragedy of this. That has not happened before. They didn't understand how that could have happened.
Is there anything that makes to you about that, about how hitting a car on the track, which frankly happens frequently, actually resulted in people dying on that train?
UBALDI: I think it had to do with the fact the third rail was involved. Maybe punctured the gas tank and sparks, ignited it, and the air rushing by blew it back on the train.
BURNETT: All right, Gus --
UBALDI: The investigators will find that out.
BURNETT: Well, thank you so much for your time, we appreciate it, and your expertise. Thank you.
And OUTFRONT next, NBC's Brian Williams facing new criticism tonight. Was his apology for a false war story enough?
And the murder trial of former pro-football star Aaron Hernandez. What jurors will and won't see when they get a tour of Hernandez's home tomorrow.
BURNETT: "NBC Nightly News" anchor and managing editor, Brian Williams, facing new questions tonight after he lied about being on a U.S. military plane that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during the Iraq war. The newsman apologized to viewers but some don't think he went far enough.
Brian Stelter is OUTFRONT.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A mea culpa from one of the most trusted newsman may not be enough.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: I want to apologize. I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by RPG fire. I was instead in a following aircraft.
STELTER: NBC anchor Brian Williams is blaming a foggy memory for his embellishment of events in Iraq, telling "Stars and Stripes", quote, "I would not have chosen to make this mistake. I don't know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another."
In 2003, Williams was embedded with U.S. troops. A Chinook helicopter was forced down but not the one he was on.
Here is he how reported it at the time.
WILLIAMS: Suddenly, without knowing why, we learned we have been ordered to land in the desert. On the ground, we learned the Chinook ahead of us was almost blown out of sky.
STELTER: But over the years, the story changed. In 2013, he told David Letterman this version.
WILLIAMS: Two of our four helicopters were hit by ground fire, including the one I was in.
DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST: No kidding.
WILLIAMS: RPG and AK-47.
STELTER: And this version last Friday during a tribute to the veteran.
WILLIAMS: The helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG.
STELTER: That's when soldiers who were there started speaking up. Lance Reynolds, a flight engineer, writing on Facebook, "Sorry, dude, I don't remember you being on my aircraft. I do remember you walking up about an hour after we landed to ask me what had happened." Others called him out as well, prompting Williams to apologize on Facebook and on the "Nightly News".
WILLIAMS: This was a bungled attempt to me to thank one special veteran and, by extension, our brave military men and women, veterans ever where, those who have served while I did not. I hope they know they have my greatest respects and also now, my apology.
STELTER: Not everyone is piling on. The pilot of the helicopter Williams was in says the aircraft was hit by small arms fire.
RICHARD KRELL, CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 4, U.S. ARMY (RET): Mr. Williams was onboard my aircraft. We took small arms fire. All I know is one RPG was fired. It struck the lead aircraft. I agree he needed to apologize and get the record set straight, but I don't take offense to it personally, no. STELTER: The pilot may be shrugging it off, but media critics
are not, and neither are some employees at NBC. They are wondering what the fallout will be for Brian Williams, and whether he has damaged the network's credibility along with his own.
BURNETT: And, Brian, Brian Williams obviously had a long time, 10 years to apologize, but he did so only after the soldiers started speaking out on Facebook. As you pointed out there, the dude, I don't remember you being on my aircraft.
How is the public reacting to this?
STELTER: There is continued anger at NBC and the rank and file. But the executives are standing by Brian Williams. They are standing by him. They haven't come out publicly and said so. They don't want to inflame the situation, but they believe they can ride this out.
BURNETT: They do believe they can ride it out. And as you know, the pilots have accepted the apology from Brian Williams.
STELTER: That's right. One of the people I quoted in the piece there, Lance, come out and accepted it as well.
But what the problem is now, beyond this, is the idea this is a meme for Brian Williams. There's a hashtag on Twitter that's been trending all day, Brian Williams misremembers, showing all these pictures, all these illustrations of world events where he wasn't out, pretending he was there.
Some of these are actually pretty funny. But it's a serious problem for NBC, because it goes to a credibility gap for Brian Williams. He has been working his whole life to gain credibility and he has a lot of it, a lot of goodwill from the audience, but this threatens a lot of that. It's not going to disappear overnight. But this kind of meme threatens a lot of that. And I wonder what happens a week or month or year from now when he goes and covers a big story and people are making fun of him.
BURNETT: Yes. All right. Brian Stelter, thank you very much. A great report.
And OUTFRONT next, new developments in trial of NFL star Aaron Hernandez. Did police mishandle crucial forensic evidence?
Plus, it's throwback Thursday. Jeanne Moos on the reunion everybody is talking about.
BURNETT: The case against a former NFL star accused of murder is under attack by the player's defense. In court today, the lawyers for Aaron Hernandez accused police of mishandling crucial pieces of evidence at the crime scene. Now, obviously, this could be a potential setback and it comes as the jury is getting ready for a field trip. They're going to visit the place where Hernandez's friend was murdered.
Susan Candiotti is OUTFRONT with more on today's big development.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not long after a jogger finds the bullet-riddled body of Odin Lloyd in an industrial park in June 2013, police find evidence including --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two shell casings and a small ditch in the ground just above the victim's head.
CANDIOTTI: Also, car keys, a white towel, tire tracks, a baseball cap, $64 in cash in Lloyd's pocket, and a blunt near his body. Prosecutors say it has DNA matching both Lloyd and former New England Patriot tight end, Aaron Hernandez.
To protect evidence from an approaching rainstorm, police scoop up some things and lay down tarps, covering the body, footprints and tire tracks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't want them blowing away. And secondly, we certainly didn't want them getting wet.
CANDIOTTI: But the defense pounces on police, suggesting sloppiness, picking up some evidence before pinpointing it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You understood that there could be DNA on that towel, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you understand there could have been hair on the towel, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody measured it. No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You eyeballed it? Is that what you're telling us?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's exactly what I'm telling you, yes.
CANDIOTTI: The defense attacks police for putting two shell casings inside the same evidence bag, contrary to training.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you recall what, if anything, you said about placing two separate bags, Lieutenant?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't recall.
CANDIOTTI: But the defense shows him a report indicating shell casings were not separated.
Prosecutors argue it doesn't matter, both casings were found in the same ditch. The murder weapon that fired them is still missing.
Jurors will get a close-up look at the crime scene Friday, and victim Odin Lloyd's house. They'll also get an inside look at the former football star's home. Prosecutors tell the judge they're worried about a possible O.J. moment. During his trial, O.J.'s lawyers showed a house filled with family photos. Those jurors were later told, ignore them. This time when prosecutors balk, Hernandez's lawyers agree to remove eight family and baby photos and cover a new piece of furniture displaying other items.
CANDIOTTI: That bus tour is supposed to last 4 1/2 hours. I will be the pool reporter going along with the jurors, and, by the way, Erin, we have been instructed not to take any photographs of the jurors and we cannot get within 25 yards of them -- Erin.
BURNETT: Wow, wow. Well, I still cannot wait to see what you see tomorrow on that. Thank you so much, Susan Candiotti, and Susan will have the special report for us tomorrow night.
OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on the save by the bell reunion. How do these guys look exactly the same?
BURNETT: "Saved by the Bell" was an early '90s TV show that teens love. It wasn't easy to find a character to love, from the kid, to the jock, to the straight A student, and the girl that all the boys wanted to date. And Jeanne Moos missed every minute of it.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When I heard there was an amazing "Saved by the Bell" reunion skit on the "Tonight Show", the old '90s sitcom didn't ring a bell.
What's funny about that? Honestly, I just don't get it.
But those who do get it couldn't get enough. Hearing Jimmy Fallon's entrance to the show music, cheering Zack's entrance.
Who's this guy?
The entrance of Slater, going nuts over Jessie and Kelly, and what's his name, the principal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Belding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is going on here?
MOOS: Twenty-five years, Mr. Belding has had to let out his bell but the others look remarkably unchanged, especially Slater, still looking good in dance tights.
Two main characters were missing. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Try to forget about me.
MOOS: This is Screech's recent mug shot when he was arrested after a Christmas Day night fight outside a bar.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so excited.
MOOS: What's funny about this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a very famous scene.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so excited!
MOOS: The guy who saved by explaining "Saved by the Bell" was my producer, so steeped in the sitcom that she and her husband to be once dressed up as Zack and Kelly for Halloween, Kelly, whose current condition was worked into the skit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm pregnant.
MOOS: Practically every reference flew over my head.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like Jessie becoming a stripper.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously, a reference to show girls.
MOOS: Show girls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a stripper, don't you get it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a dancer.
MOOS: The Web site "Slate" pronounced the sketch probably the greatest '90s nostalgia porn you'll ever see -- just about the only joke I got was the signs of the mobile phone calling me back to the early '90s.
Jeanne Moos, CNN --
CROWD: Best friends forever!
MOOS: -- New York.
BURNETT: You have to say, it is truly unfair they have not changed.
Thank you for joining us.
"AC360" begins right now.