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High-Rise Crash; In His Own Words; NTSB News Conference; Crash Response

Aired October 11, 2006 - 23:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was already too close to it. And then he turned down and just hit the building and everybody started to run up the block.

COOPER (voice-over): The small plane had taken off from a New Jersey airport about 2:30 p.m. -- on board, a flight instructor and a pilot, Yankees Pitcher Cory Lidle. Twelve minutes later, the plane crashed into the 39th and 40th floors of the Belaire condominiums, a high-rise apartment building on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Two people were in one of the apartments the plane struck, but managed to escape. This man was inside the building when the plane hit.

(on camera): What kind of a -- it was a plane?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was an airplane, like two engines, something like that, a small plane. It was coming towards us, actually, you know? I -- I just stood there. I couldn't move.

COOPER (voice-over): It took about 45 minutes to control the flames shooting out of the building. Everyone, however, was evacuated safely.

Police units and more than 160 firefighters responded to the scene. Five years after the 9/11 attacks, the images of Manhattan's skyline ablaze seemed frighteningly familiar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I was just running on the street and screaming to everybody, "Call police, call police," because that is -- you know, what else you can do? I thought, it's terrorism.

COOPER: But officials quickly said the crash was not terror related.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: It was ascertained pretty quickly that this was unlikely to be anything more than what it appears to be, a small plane going into a mixed-use building at an apartment floor level.

COOPER: Still, the FAA put flight restrictions around the building, and the military scrambled fighter jets over several unnamed U.S. cities.

At least 21 people were taken to the hospital for injuries, most of them firefighters. Two people died, the flight instructor and Cory Lidle. Their bodies and Lidle's passport were found in the street, amid the wreckage.

BLOOMBERG: Two human beings' lives were snuffed out. But we also should say a prayer to say thank you that it wasn't anything more serious than this.


COOPER (on camera): And a prayer for the families of both men.

By this time tomorrow, a full team of NTSB investigators will be on the scene. They'll be looking carefully at just about everything. But already a good deal of attention is falling on the plane's flight path.

As CNN's Tom Foreman explains, it is a route where the margin of error can be very slim.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As he took off from the oldest airport serving New York, Cory Lidle's view would have been spectacular, a panorama of skyscrapers rising ahead, surrounded east, west, and south by water.

Manhattan is only six miles east of Teterboro Airport. But, as Lidle climbed, he had to be alert, with three major airports and several small airfields nearby.

Ben Berman is a former investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

BEN BERMAN, FORMER NTSB INVESTIGATOR: Well, normally, when you fly around the area, if you're not landing at an airport nearby there, you're above all the buildings. You can't go too much above them because if you go too high, then you are in the airspace that is reserved for the airliners.

FOREMAN: That would put Lidle's plane somewhere around 1,100 or 1,200 feet in the air as it approached the city, an estimated six minutes into the flight.

But regulations forbid passing directly over the buildings without special clearance. So, Lidle's plane was working its way south, following the Hudson River, according to the mayor.

BLOOMBERG: They have it on radar circling the Statue of Liberty and then heading up the East River.

FOREMAN (on camera): It is unclear whether Lidle had any idea that he was in trouble at this point, but he did continue up the east side of the island on the sightseeing trip, passing over the Brooklyn Bridge. He passed the United Nations, and a little further on, the 59th Street Bridge, actually headed toward Yankee Stadium, when witnesses say his plane suddenly turned and catastrophically dropped into the city.

(Voice-over): Why did it happen? There are only theories now.

BERMAN: If you lose control of the airplane, the whole story can end very, very quickly. An airplane can descend at thousands of feet per minute in a loss of control, and you could you could -- you could hit the ground in less than a minute.

FOREMAN: The flight took 12 minutes to reach its fatal end. And now the investigation begins.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, all of this, of course, unfolded in front of thousands of people, thousands of eyewitnesses including a well-known author who lives in the building that got hit. Take a look.


CAROL HIGGINS CLARK, RESIDENT: I was coming home I was out, and I was heading down 72nd Street. And all of a sudden a police car went racing by.

And then we saw black smoke just covering the whole view to the east on 72nd. And I said, I'm surprised there aren't more sirens. It must have just happened.

And then I got out at First Avenue because the cab had to stop. And I went running. I actually made it all the way to my building, but that's -- and I realized something had hit the building and the fire trucks pulled up. But then obviously they got everybody out of there.

COOPER (voice-over): Was there debris in the street that you saw?

CLARK: Yes, there was some debris on the street. Not too -- it was so smoky that it was hard to even see much. But I did see a little bit of debris on the street. But I think there's more debris over on 71st Street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was standing on the bridge and I was looking at the skyline of Manhattan and then I saw something falling from the sky. It was like zigzagging down. And I couldn't see what it was, a helicopter or a plane, something small. And then I saw it crashing into that building and I saw a huge flame like for about three seconds and then the flame was gone. And then it starts smoking.


COOPER (on camera): Now as I said, we are anticipating a press conference from the NTSB any moment now. It was supposed to begin at 11:00. It's now 11:05 East Coast Time. We will bring that to you as it begins.

On the baseball field, Cory Lidle was a seasoned veteran. In the air, well he was just getting started.

CNN's Jason Carroll has more now on the pitcher, the pilot, and the father.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cory Lidle spent most of nine seasons in the minor leagues, always hoping to make it in the majors. He did. He pitched for seven teams, most recently as a starter for the New York Yankees.

But his twin brother says, flying was his newest passion. Lidle got his pilot's license last February.

KEVIN LIDLE, BROTHER OF CORY LIDLE: He loved to fly. There's -- he didn't hide that. He -- he loved to learn about how the airplanes work.

CARROLL: It was a shock to Lidle's family and teammates that it was his single-engine aircraft, a Cirrus SR-20, that crashed into this Manhattan apartment building.

BRIAN CASHMAN, YANKEES GENERAL MANAGER: And we're incredibly saddened by this news today. It's -- it's a shock. And I ask everybody to keep their prayers for his family.

CARROLL: Lidle had logged 400 hours of flight time, and recently told "The New York Times" how safe he felt in the air, saying, "The whole plane has a parachute on it. Ninety-nine percent of pilots that go up never have engine failure, and the one percent that do usually land it."

Lidle's fans were stunned by the crash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been a terrible year. And the way to end it, this -- this is even worse. I mean, this puts baseball into perspective. Baseball is a game, and -- and this is real life.

CARROLL: This is not the Yankees' first aviation tragedy. In 1979, Yankee Catcher Thurman Munson was killed as he practiced taking off and landing a plane.

Yankee's First Baseman Jason Giambi, who played baseball with Lidle in high school as well, said he was devastated by his teammate's death.

Lidle, just 34 years old, leaves behind his wife, Melanie, and his 6-year-old son, Christopher.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Well, Cory's brother, his twin brother, Kevin Lidle, spoke at length by phone tonight on CNN's "Larry King Live."

Here's some of what he talked about.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST OF "LARRY KING LIVE": Were you worried, Kevin, when he took up flying?

VOICE OF K. LIDLE: Not -- I wouldn't say worried. I -- I guess I had a little concern, like you know, when he first told me, I was, like, why? But apparently he had flown in a private plane and really enjoyed it and learned to fly.

And I never questioned it. And I'm not -- I'm not one to worry, you know, I'm not going to go on worrying every day of my life because he's flying. You know, I just hoped for the best.

And today was unbelievable news to me. And I still -- it still hasn't sunk in.

KING: What kind of guy was he?

VOICE OF K. LIDLE: Cory was a normal person. And when I say that, if you were to meet him on the street, Larry, you would not know that he was a New York Yankee or a professional ballplayer. He's not one to brag and boast. He has -- had a tremendous sense of humor. He loved to laugh. And he was good at making other people laugh.

KING: He was also, I am told, very outspoken, true?

VOICE OF K. LIDLE: Yes. He was not afraid to speak his mind. And it got him in a little bit of trouble every once in a while, but that was him, you know? I'm sure -- I'm sure he wouldn't regret anything. You know, he -- he sees things level-minded. And you know, sometimes he would just speak his mind.

KING: Kevin, was he enjoying New York?

VOICE OF K. LIDLE: Oh, yes. He was loving it up there. Cory, in my opinion, was -- he liked to be on the big stage. I think when he was on the big stage, I think he -- I don't know if he concentrated more, but he seemed to get more out of himself against tougher teams and, you know, a lot was expected of the other player in New York and those are the kinds of things that Cory thrived on.


COOPER: And we're hoping to get some more answers about what happened inside that cockpit. A press conference should be start anything moment now from the NTSB. We're going to bring that to you live here in New York.

Despite the risk, a lot of Americans prefer the cockpit to the cabin. Here's the raw data. According to Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, last year there were more than 609,000 pilots. About 120,000 flew commercial planes, another 228,000 were private pilots.

A lot more coming up tonight on 360. Some haunting video of Cory Lidle in the cockpit at the controls doing what he loved.

And how safe are pilots with as little experience as Lidle had? We'll explore that with Pilot and Aviation Analyst Jim Tilmon.

And this...


CORY LIDLE, NEW YORK YANKEES PITCER: I found out that I love it. You know, one thing I'm not going to do is beg them to go with me. If they don't want to go, they're scared or they don't trust me, that's fine. It's not going to hurt my feelings. But I love it. I'm going to continue to do it.


COOPER: Cory Lidle, in the cockpit, in his own words, next on 360.



CORY LIDLE, NEW YORK YANKEES PITCHER: It's almost like you're 16, getting your license. You can go to the mall whenever you want. This is pretty much that same feeling, maybe times 100, because you can go just about anywhere you want.

And just, you know, to be up in the air looking down on everything on the ground is pretty cool, pretty cool feeling.


COOPER: That was Cory Lidle just a few months ago. Although he received his pilot's license last winter, his flight instructor said that Lidle was one of the best students he'd ever had.

The question is, what went wrong?

To talk about the possibilities, we're joined by Pilot and Aviation Analyst Jim Tilmon.

Jim, thanks very much for being with us.

Let's talk about the plane that Cory was plying today. How tough is it to fly?

JIM TILMON, PILOT/AVIATION ANALYST: well, I mean, when you're talking about how tough it is to fly an airplane, let's face it. It's all push and pull. They're all the same, whether it's a 777 or as a Piper Cub.

I don't think it's tough to fly, but it's a very sophisticate airplane. It's got some of the most state of the art equipment in avionics and radios and all kinds of other items that you can find in any kind of airplane, much less one of that size. So it, let us say, is a challenge.

COOPER: In the airspace that he was flying in, given the weather today, what are some of the problems that a relatively new pilot can come across?

TILMON: When we look at the environment he's in, as he flies further up the East River, he's flying into a canyon that gets closer and closer and tighter and tighter. He's not allowed to fly over Manhattan. So he's got to stay over the water.

And then considering the fact that the ceiling was only about 1,800 feet, he's got a very, very short space that he's got to deal with, kind of a very narrow corridor, if you will.

Anything that goes wrong in that space and under those circumstances, with the ceiling being what it was and with the wind being as strong as it was, just makes everything much more difficult to handle.

COOPER: Why do you think a plane would have veered out of the space? Because technically, he wasn't supposed to leave the -- leaving the water?

TILMON: Well, I think that's something that we're going to find out with the investigation. But you know he had to make a turn about where he did because he was going to go into (UNINTELLIGIBLE) airspace.

How tight that turn was and whether the wind affected it and whether the fuel became a problem about that time is something that I can speculate about. But I can tell you right now, these are things the investigators are certainly looking at at this moment.

COOPER: And we're anticipating a press conference any moment from the NTSB. We're going to bring that to our viewers live.

You're a pilot, you've been involved in some near-collisions, I understand, yourself. What is it like in those moments inside the cockpit?

TILMON: Well, I can tell you that you never forget those moments. I've had two occasions when I've had a near-collision in the air. And it leaves you pretty well, let us say, rattled. You know, that doesn't happen very often in the cockpit.

In my first instance I was still a student pilot. I was with an instructor pilot and we very nearly hit another student pilot flying another airplane. The instructor didn't see it until it was almost all over.

So, you know, you take immediate action and you do what you instinctively have been taught to do. But afterwards you just, you're a different person.

COOPER: Jim, let's listen in. We're getting a news conference now from the NTSB. Debbie Hersman speaking.


DEBBIE HERSMAN, NTSB MEMBER: ...R-S-M-A-N. I'm a board member with the National Transportation Safety Board. I'm accompanied by Lorinda Ward (ph), who's our investigator in charge of this accident.

I'd like to express my condolences to those who lost loved ones at this accident.

The NTSB -- if everyone can please turn off their devices. The NTSB is charged by Congress with investigating all civil aviation accidents that occur in the United States in determining probable cause. We issue reports and briefs on our accident investigations and we make recommendations so that those accidents don't occur again. Our mission is to improve transportation safety.

Shortly after the accident, we organized our go team from Washington. We left Washington about 6:30 a.m. -- or 6:30 p.m. We arrived here at 7:30 p.m. at LaGuardia.

We're investigating the crash into a high rise building of a Cirrus SR-20 aircraft, which according to the FAA, is registered and has registration pending to Cory Lidle.

The on-scene investigation is fact gathering. We began tonight, once we arrived, we immediately proceeded to the scene. We're looking at issues involving the systems, the aircraft, the aircraft structures, maintenance, power plants, operations. Our investigations are very comprehensive, and we utilize the party system.

The party system allows us to call on the expertise of others. We've established three parties to our investigation at this point. They're the Federal Aviation Administration; Cirrus, the manufacturer of the aircraft; and Teledyne Continental, who manufactured the engines.

We've been advised by the FAA that the New York temporary flight restriction has been taken down. The CAPs, or the Combat Air Patrol, stood down as well.

The crash occurred in a 40th floor apartment. I was up in the apartment this evening with the emergency responders and there's incredible fire damage in the apartment. Paint is peeling from the walls, there is a wall sized hole where one of the windows used to be. And there's a view of the New York City Skyline out of these oversized holes. It smells strongly of smoke in the building. And there's a lot of water from the firefighting efforts.

We made some observations about the aircraft. The engine is in the apartment and the majority of the rest of the aircraft is outside of the building.

We examined the propeller tonight and our engine group chairman noted that the propeller is separated from the engine. We could see two of the three propeller blades. The third one was not visible, it was underneath the engine.

The mount structure is there. The propeller blades in the engine show significant fire damage. One of the propellers is bent and the other propeller has a tip that is broken off. The aircraft impacted the 40th floor. And down on the street level I've also made some observations of what it looks like at the street scene.

The debris is scattered all over the street. And so it's a wide -- wide debris field. Most of the aircraft is outside of the building. Some of the parts and the debris are scattered on the ground.

The awning of the apartment building was significantly damaged. There are broken tree limbs from trees that were struck as the aircraft parts and the aircraft came down. There are aircraft parts on the ground, headsets. I saw a wheel from what was the landing gear. There is shattered glass all over the sidewalk and the street. And there's a large number of bricks from the building that are also on the ground.

There are char marks up the building about 10 stories. And we've also been advised that there are some parts on some neighboring buildings as well.

The emergency responders who were on scene shared some information with us. They said the fire communicated to the 41st floor. They reported that there were two fatalities, and those fatalities are presumed to be the occupants of the aircraft and they are on the outside of the building. They're on the ground.

There were two civilians that were transported to the hospital. There were seven civilians that walked themselves to the hospital. It's a couple of blocks to the Cornell Hospital.

Fourteen firefighters had minor injuries and two police officers had minor injuries.

The medical examiner is on scene. The emergency responders were trying to shore up the building to make sure that there weren't any structural concerns. And it's their job to make sure that the scene is safe. They are in charge of making sure that the scene is safe. They said most of the residents were evacuated from the 39th floor and above. And we will defer to them about the condition of the building and when it's appropriate to return.

According to the FAA, the aircraft departed Teterboro Airport at 14:21. The aircraft operated under visual flight rules, the VFR. Thus far, the FAA has found no evidence that a flight plan was filed.

From listening to the air traffic control tapes, the FAA advised us that the tower asked the pilot if they wanted to be handed off to New York Trade Con, and the pilot declined, saying that he would be flying up and down the East River, which is a VFR corridor.

The aircraft left Teterboro airspace, and the air traffic controller had no further contact with the aircraft.

We have some radar data, the radar track of the aircraft, and we're analyzing that information now. We have some information about the pilot. The pilot holds a private pilot's license for a single-engine aircraft. He received his private pilot's license on February 9th, 2006. He holds a current third-class medical certificate, which is consistent with the FAA requirements for a noncommercial pilot.

We've recovered the pilot's log book and medical certificate.

From FAA records, they have provided information that this aircraft was purchased in June of this year. The serial number is 1230. And the aircraft was manufactured in 2002.

We've only been on the scene for a few hours. We have a lot of information that we've been able to provide to you. We will release additional factual information as we have it. We'll have additional briefings. We'll advise you of those briefings.

I would like to say that the fire department of New York, the police department, the OEM, the Port Authority, the FBI, and the mayor's office have all been tremendous. We could not have done what we did this evening without their help. And we very much appreciate it.

Tomorrow we'll continue working with them. We'll be documenting the location of the wreckage. We'll conduct interviews.


COOPER: Okay, you've been listening to a press conference. Debbie Hersman from the NTSB talking about what she has seen and what other members of the NTSB have seen on the site.

No real answers to the big question, of course, which is why did this plane slam into the building.

It is early days, early hours in this investigation.

Jim Tilmon, a pilot and aviation analyst, has been listening in to the press conference with us. He joins us now from Phoenix.

Jim, what jumped out at you from that press conference?

TILMON: Well, not a whole lot is new that they revealed. I just had a chance to think more about what was going on here.

This airplane was practically a brand new airplane. I think -- in my mind right now, it's going to be rather unlikely that we find anything terribly wrong with the aircraft itself. Now, that's jumping way out there with speculation. But this is a very, very new, very sophisticated airplane.

COOPER: So pilot error is most likely?

TILMON: Well, the thing about it is, you know, let's be careful about saying pilot error. I mean, so many things get lumped under that heading. This was a pilot that had very, very low time, particularly in this airplane. He was flying under very trying, challenging conditions. Did he make some mistakes? Can we then put it in that heading of pilot error? Maybe. But I want to restrain myself and all of the viewers from going there right now. Let's take our time while we get there.

COOPER: They said that the -- when they took off from Teterboro at 2:21 p.m., we're only talking about a matter of minutes for this entire flight, less than 15 minutes. I think about 12 minutes before the impact time.

There was some communication with an air traffic controller, but then they basically indicated they were going to be flying up and down the East River, flying under visual flight rules. Didn't need to be handed over to another air traffic controller. And that's the last communication that they had. Is that normal?

TILMON: Oh, sure. I mean, for that sort of thing, a little sightseeing, a little kind of enjoying the air. I want to say this about this pilot.

You know, there's a mystique about flying that's -- that gets in your blood. It's just a marvelous experience. And anybody that hasn't done it probably doesn't understand the passion this man had for flying an airplane. And it's a passion I've shared and many, many other people do too. And you get caught up in that to the extent where that this is the best part of living for you, getting in the air and flying around and doing exactly what he did today, flying up and down the East River, and getting a look at the sights. It's a completely different world.

COOPER: And it's a world that Cory apparently just really was introduced to in the last year, but certainly, as you've indicated, has become his passion.

I was talking to a friend of his earlier who said, it's all he talked about. And you know he would want to talk about flying, want to talk about what he saw while flying to just about anyone who would listen. My sense was some of his friends kind of got tired of hearing about it, but he certainly seemed to have a real love of it.

Where does this investigation go next? I mean, what in the next, you know, 24 hours will they be looking at? What should we be anticipating?

TILMON: They'll be looking at that power plan a lot, to determine whether or not it was developing power at the time that it hit the building. Was it still in flying or was there something wrong, that -- or engine failure, or whatever else.

They'll be looking at the radar data to determine exactly where that airplane was and what it was doing prior to the time that it hit the building. Examining radar data, not only in terms of his direction of flight, but also the altitude. They may be able to give us some indication about that as well.

They'll be talking with the other pilots and other witnesses that were on the ground and in the air that may have seen this aircraft prior to the time of impact.

And they'll be looking at everything that you heard them talk about, from the power plan to the structures to -- actually, to the human factors. What was going on emotionally with this pilot, et cetera.

The NTSB is perhaps the finest investigation -- investigatory agency in the world. They won't leave a stone unturned.

COOPER: Jim Tilmon, we appreciate you joining us. We appreciate your expertise, what's been a very long day I'm sure for you as well, Jim. Thank you very much.

TILMON: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: We continue to follow this. Five years after September 11th, how well did New York respond to another plane crash? We want to look at that.

Also, "The New York Times" reporting tonight there was one owner of one of the apartments in the building in the apartment at the time the plane crashed. The owner of that apartment, according to "The New York Times," got out in time.

We're also going to look at the city's communication system, whether it's really improved.

And also other news. Iraq -- eye-popping new numbers on the civilian death toll. President Bush and the Pentagon re raising questions about the accuracy of the research. Take a look at the numbers fact check, next on 360.


COOPER: Five years after September 11, New York's first responders were once again called to the scene of a plane crash right in the city. And nationwide, planes scrambled, thought this time mainly as a precaution.

CNN's Randi Kaye reports.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The scene is eerily familiar. A plane, a tall building on fire, an emergency call for help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was like a hole in -- in the building, with flames shooting out. And you're thinking of the poor people that were in that building. I'm thinking terrorists.

KAYE: At 2:42 p.m., just 12 minutes after the plane takes off from New Jersey's Teterboro Airport, New York City police get word of the crash. Immediately, officers are dispatched to the scene.

BLOOMBERG: Massive and quick and coordinated, I think, is a good way as to phrase it. Everybody was able to get their equipment through traffic here. Response time was -- was very fast.

KAYE: Within minutes, the New York Fire Department dispatches 168 officers from 39 different units. They work side by side on the street with police. Unlike 9/11, radio communication is unnecessary.

BLOOMBERG: Fire department got lines pretty quickly up on the two floors to knock down the fire. Police department had control of the whole area. Together they went to every apartment and knocked on the door and helped anybody out.

KAYE: By 3 p.m., about 20 minutes after the crash, the FAA sets up a conference call to disseminate details to reporters.

At the same time, the White House is looped in. President Bush is briefed about the crash by Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend. White House officials begin gathering information and closely monitoring the incident. There is no change in security measures or alert status.

By 3:13 p.m., the Coast Guard begins to move small boats and a cutter to the East River near the building, just as a precaution. Five minutes later two units from the FBI's joint terrorism task force get involved in the response.

By 3:26, NORAD, North American Aerospace Defense Command, is on alert and putting fighter aircraft in the air above a number of U.S. cities in case. Same thing they did after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

ADM. TIM KEATING, U.S. NORTHERN COMMAND: We had fighters on both coasts and on our east and west borders. All within -- well, under 20 minutes fighters were airborne.

KAYE: The same city that knows what it feels like when disaster strikes and communication fails now knows what it feels like when things appear to work.

BLOOMBERG: Everything that we planned to handle an emergency like this was carried out to the book exactly the ways that we had wanted it to go.


COOPER: That was Randi Kaye reporting.

Just a moment ago we got some information, some new images of the crash as it happened. We are editing right now those images. We're going to bring them to you in a moment. They were taken from the Coast Guard's vessel traffic center in New York. Not exactly sure what the images show, but we're told that it's a wide shot of that part of Manhattan at the time of the crash. So we'll bring that to you as quickly as we can.

We're also following other news tonight, including a staggering statistic from the war in Iraq. A private group now puts the civilian death toll at more than 500,000. The Pentagon, however, they're not buying those numbers. Tonight we're covering all of the angles. Next on 360. Stay tuned.


COOPER: Joining us now on the phone is Barry Zito, a pitcher for the Oakland Athletics, and a former teammate of Cory's.

Barry, appreciate you calling in. Your reaction when you heard the news today?

BARRY ZITO, FORMER TEAMMATE OF CORY LIDLE (on the phone): Yes. I walked in the clubhouse, and a few guys on the team were staring at the TV screen. And you know, I went and took a look and just saw the building on fire, you know. And then it just kind of all panned out after that. We were all pretty shocked. I mean, it's pretty surreal for us at this point.

COOPER: Yes, it's -- surreal is a word we've heard a lot today from a lot of people who knew him. His brother, you know, was talking earlier tonight. It didn't really seem to have sunk in.

Does it seem -- does it seem real to you? I mean, does it seem like this has really happened, that he's really gone?

ZITO: It doesn't. You know, I think it's tough to have closure on a situation like this, even for the family and friends because it's not really a tangible thing where you can be at someone's bedside or, you know, be speaking to them and knowing that it's their last words. It's just -- it's a freak thing. And you know, I'm sure everyone regrets it. They never said good-bye or, you know, little things like that tend to live with you the rest of your life.

COOPER: What kind of teammate was he?

ZITO: Oh, he was a great guy. I mean, you know, just a real fun-loving guy, great spirit. He was kind of like a boy when he played the game. I mean, always having fun and goofing around. And you know, obviously took his job seriously when he was on the mound. But between all of those times, you know, just a great guy to hang out with off the field and on the field.

COOPER: How long were you guys both teammates?

ZITO: We were teammates for a year and a half. You know, we tend to have a pretty tight clubhouse here in Oakland. So you know, the relationships extend beyond the tenure of the guys, you know, being with the As. So, it's kind of like we always keep tabs on each other.

COOPER: I know there were -- I mean, other teammates who also played with Cory. The clubhouse's reaction today, I mean, it must have just been a tough day to -- and to play a game. I mean, and you guys had to play tonight.

ZITO: Yes, it is. I mean, you know, we're coming into playoff atmosphere in the clubhouse and everything and then, you know, everything comes to a halt. And it's unexpected. And you know, it was just kind of tough to pick it back up after that, because you know we had on our big screen TV and all of the TVs, really. We had on CNN and just watching the reports and, you know, hoping that it wasn't him that was in the plane, but you know, it just, it turned out for the worst.

COOPER: Did you know of his passion for flying?

ZITO: Yes. I remember -- I remember him speaking of wanting to do that back in 2001, 2002. You know, he's an avid poker player. But you know he always had that passion. I think he wanted to fulfill that and end up getting the pilot's license.

I think a positive is that he did complete that and he did is you know he did complete that and he did what he wanted to do. He went down doing something that he loved and something that he always wanted to do.

COOPER: His wife, his little son were flying home, we understand, to California today. Your thoughts tonight have got to be with them as well.

ZITO: Yes, definitely. She's a real sweetheart. You know, I knew his first son, you know, that he had when he was here. Just the cutest kid ever. I'm sure that they're going to be receiving a lot of love and support and hopefully it will make their time just a bit easier.

COOPER: I'm sure a lot of people around the country are praying for them and thinking about them.

Barry, appreciate you calling in today. Barry Zito, thank you very much.

ZITO: All right, Anderson.

COOPER: We've got some breaking news also to report now. We are just receiving this in. This videotape, taken by the Coast Guard. I have not seen this. Let's play and we will try to figure it out together.


COOPER: You can see -- all right, you can see on the right-hand side of your screen. That's a view of the East River. On the right side of the screen you just saw the fireball there. We'll try to rerack that so you can see it again.

You see smoke now rising on the right side of the screen. That's Roosevelt Island there in the middle of the East River. The clump of buildings off to the right, that is of course the Island of Manhattan.

Let's see if we can rewind that tape.

You know, I'm told on this tape you won't actually see the plane hitting because of the angle this was shot at. But it was shot by the Coast Guard's vessel traffic center in New York, which is part of what they say is the layered security -- I'm told to watch it again now on right-hand side.

There, you just see the beginnings of the explosion, right there.

There are more than 20 video monitors which monitor the harbor of New York every day. Ten people apparently are watching this video at any one time, at the Coast Guard's vessel traffic center. And again, it's not a tight enough shot where you actually see the aircraft.

This, of course, is just one of the videotapes that NTSB examiners have looked at and will be looking at.

Jim Tilmon, a pilot and aviation analyst is also looking at this tape. I guess it doesn't really get us any closer to really understanding what happened, other than you get a sense of sort of the visibility that was out there at the time of the crash.

TILMON: Yes. And this doesn't look like really bad visibility. The thing that you don't appreciate is how low the ceiling is from this shot. But you know, when I looked at this, I have to say, Anderson, you know, this aircraft flew directly into the building. It's not like it was turning or whatever else. When you look at the damage to the building it's almost like it just bore a hole right in the side of it.

And the other thing about this fuel situation, the mayday. Unless the fuel was contaminated, I can't imagine that it was a fuel problem because that's what created all of the flame and all of the fire and everything else. These were not somebody's drapes burning. This was kerosene that was burning in there as a result of this accident -- rather, gasoline.

COOPER: What's strange about -- you know, when I went down to the building today, I mean, the impact zone is on the north side of the building, facing the north of Manhattan. It's not facing the river. I mean, you would think if someone was turning off from the river and slamming into a building, it would be the apartments, you know, that were directly facing the river, but it's not. You sort of have to go around and then come back into the building.

TILMON: Well, there were some discussions from the radar track today about a tight turn that was made and there's some question in my mind as to which direction that turn was being made and why.

A tight turn on both circumstances would -- could create some real problems, just in controlling the airplane. You know there are some incredible questions here in my mind, because I'm really uncomfortable with the way the aircraft hit the building. I'm uncomfortable with the altitude that the aircraft hit the building. I'm uncomfortable about this mayday call which is puzzling to me because obviously they knew something was terribly wrong.

But I, you know, I can share with you, and don't tell anybody because this is a private thing. But the fact is I've had a couple nightmares through my flying career, being caught in a city in an airplane and not being able to climb over the buildings. That's an awful experience. And whatever was going on in that cockpit, it had to be absolutely terrible in the last few seconds.

COOPER: Jim, appreciate it again, you looking at this tape with us and sticking around with us late into the evening. Thank you very much, Jim Tilmon. Appreciate it.

TILMON: Thank you.


COOPER: Again, there is more news tonight. We're looking at some stunning and very controversial new research that says that more than 500,000 civilians have now died in Iraq.

The Pentagon isn't buying it, the president isn't buying it, do you? We'll look at numbers next on 360.


COOPER: A U.S. soldier was killed in Baghdad today, raising the U.S. death toll, since the war began to 2,750. Now, that is, of course, a sobering figure. But just a fraction of the number of civilians who have died.

Tonight, a new report says that the loss of life may be far greater than perhaps anyone could have imagined.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre now has the new findings and the fight over them.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): No one knows precisely how many Iraqis have died since the U.S. invasion in 2003, but data collected by a team of Iraqi doctors and analyzed by experts at Johns Hopkins University puts the number at a staggering 655,000. That's a big surprise to the top U.S. commander.

GENERAL GEORGE CASEY, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES-IRAQ: The 650,000 number seems way, way beyond any number that I have seen. I have not seen a number higher than 50,000. And so I don't give that much credibility at all.

MCINTYRE: It also far exceeds the 30,000 number suggested last year by President Bush, with no explanation of where he got the estimate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you stand by your figure, 30,000?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I -- you know, I stand by the figure a lot of innocent people have lost their life. 600,000, whatever they guessed at, is just -- it's not credible.

MCINTYRE: The study, published in the British medical journal "Lancet" is based on a survey of more than 12,000 Iraqis at 47 sites across the country. It found the death rate, which was 5.5 per 1,000 Iraqis before the war, has jumped to 13.3 per 1,000 now. And based on that, it projects between 400,000 and 900,000 people have died. Above what would have been expected. With the most probable total being 655,000.

Other estimates, like the one on the Web site only count confirmed deaths. While expert agree that that 48,000 toll probably undercounts deaths, they also question how the real number could be so much higher.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Their numbers are about one-tenth the kind of numbers you got in this study. So even if we were missing a lot of individual bodies, I don't think the numbers are going to grow by a factor of 10. I think the survey methodology is very suspect.

MCINTYRE (on camera): But the reports' authors and some independent experts insist the report is based on solid epidemiological methods and lends some credence to the argument that Iraq is in a full fledged civil war.

(Voice-over): The report comes as Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schumaker (ph) confirmed he's drawing up troop rotation plans to maintain the current number of troops in Iraq, roughly 150,000, for at least the next four years.

Even though Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argues no one knows how many troops will be needed for how long.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: General Schumaker (ph) and the Army does not set forth levels in Iraq. They are not the ones who determine how many will be there, until what year they'll be there.

MCINTYRE: General George Casey, the top Iraq commander, still insists he doesn't need more U.S. troops. Even though he admits over past few weeks, the violence is, quote, "as high as it's ever been."

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


COOPER: Well, and a new threat now from North Korea. We'll have that story next, coming up on 360.


COOPER: A quick look at the day's other top stories. Here's Erica Hill with a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, North Korea has threatened more nuclear tests, and said any additional sanctions will be seen as an act of war. Today, in a formal statement, Jim Jong claimed Monday's nuclear test was a success. Well today, President Bush said again, the U.S. is committed to diplomacy, but added the U.S. reserves the option to defend friends and interests in the region. An American student who is a volunteer teacher in West Bank refugee camp has been freed after being kidnapped and held for a day by a militant group. Michael Phillips was not harmed. He says he plans to stay in Nablus.

The federal deficit is at a four-year low. President Bush says the figures shows that Republicans are better at managing the economy than Democrats. The deficit dropped to just under $248 billion for the most recent budget year. Democrats, though, say, that under the president's watch, record surpluses have turned to record deficits.

To outer space now, where NASA says the little red spot on Jupiter is getting stronger and more red. Pictures from the Hubble space telescope show the earth sized spot, which is the little brother to the great red spot, has gone from pale white a year ago to red now. Both these spots are storms in Jupiter's atmosphere. The little red spot now boasts winds of 400 miles per hour. It's quite a storm.

COOPER: That is amazing. Erica, thanks.

HILL: See you later.

COOPER: And we'll have more of 360 in a moment. Stay with us.


COOPER: Thanks for watching 360 tonight. We'll see you tomorrow night.

"LARRY KING" is coming up next.


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