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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Search for Flight 370; What Can Be Found in the Indian Ocean; Other Subs for Flight 370 Search; Search For Ferry Passengers Enters Day Five, No Air Pockets Found On Third Or Fourth Floor; A 22-Year-Old Crew Member Gave Her Life Helping Dozens Of Passengers Escape Ferry; A Deadly Question; New Details Emerge About Stowaway's Flight
Aired April 23, 2014 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, it is 8:00 p.m. here on the East Coast of the United States, 8:00 a.m. in the Flight 370 search area where there is breaking news. Growing doubts about what had seemed to be en encouraging discovery. A piece of -- a metal, metallic object that washed up on a western Australia beach. Just one of several new developments in the investigation that we'll address tonight.
Also tonight is the search for the missing in the South Korean ferry continues. A remarkable story is emerging at this hour. The ferry crew member who did not abandon ship. This is her, she stayed and saved dozens of young lives, sacrificing her own. We'll tell you her remarkable feats.
And later only on 360, a report we think is truly outrageous. What our exclusive investigation tonight about a VA hospital that kept patients, veterans, waiting months for care. Forty people died waiting. And one doctor says the hospital covered up their delays with lies.
Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest."
We begin with the new discoveries, possible new direction and growing questions in the search for Flight 370. The discovery, that metallic object that washed to shore in the far southwestern corner of Australia. An early assessment of it is in tonight.
Then there is word that the Bluefin-21 has less than 10 percent more ocean bottom to cover in the search area. It may take far longer to do that than we've been previously told. Several weeks instead of a couple of days. Deepening questions about how the search is being conducted and why we haven't yet seen a single image from it.
There's also talk of widening the search area and in the words of one expert re-thinking everything, everything on the table.
And in Beijing and Malaysia, growing demands for transparency from Malaysian authorities by family members.
A lot to cover with Michael Holmes in Perth and Miguel Marquez where they found the debris.
Miguel, let's start with you. The object that washed ashore in Augusta, what do we know about it? What does it look like?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, local officials are saying that it looks like about eight feet tall, it was a couple of feet wide. It was metal attached to fiber glass with rivets. It was very promising. The local reports saying that the person held onto it for a couple of days, get it to the local airport, and then they got it to investigators. Photographs were taken of it sent to not only Canberra and to investigators here but also in the U.S. and probably to Boeing aircraft as well -- Anderson.
COOPER: And now what are authorities saying about it? I mean, there seems to be now a lot of skepticism.
MARQUEZ: Yes, this is (INAUDIBLE) a great frustration to folks because they are now heavily discounting and saying probably this is not part of MH-370. I can tell you that police and public here across the area are very, very focused. People walking up and down the beach today saying they have been looking for pieces of MH-370 just in case it came here.
Police saying all the way down in towns that we stopped on the way down here saying they knew about it, they had sent it up to the police itself up to Perth so that it could be in investigators' hands in case they needed to do -- look into it more -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Miguel, thanks very much.
Let's bring in Michael Holmes now.
Michael, the latest on the search, what is it?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Bluefin-21, Anderson, we heard just a short time ago that it has completed mission, 11 missions, 12 is under way. The search officials are telling us now 90 percent of that let's call it focused search area that we've been reporting on has now been scanned. And the news of course is saying nothing of significance seen.
A few days ago it was suggested the entire area would be covered by week's end. That seems to be looking likely by the numbers, but it was complicated a little bit yesterday when the Australian Defense minister said it could take two weeks to finish off this area. No explanation why at the moment, he believe that. Some experts saying the remaining area could involve deeper area but with 90 percent covered one imagines this focused area is going to wrap up pretty soon.
COOPER: And the next phase of the search, do we know any details about it?
HOLMES: Yes, today's consultations with Malaysia, China and the United States on what the next phase of the search for the plane might be. Details likely to be announced next week. But we can say pretty much with some certainly it's going to involve that wider arc of several 100 miles along the suspected flight path just to the north really of where they're looking right now. Also likely that more assets would be brought in. We're talking about that powerful side- scan sonar equipment.
But this time instead of going down on its own it would be towed behind a ship. There is one, for example, called the Orion, which sends back realtime data and of course being towed, it doesn't have to resurface like the Bluefin. It also has the ability to go much deeper than the Bluefin -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Michael Holmes, appreciate the update.
Joining us now is CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, CNN aviation analyst David Soucie, author of "Why Planes Crash: An Investigator's Fight for Sake Skies," and CNN analyst David Gallo, director of Special Projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, he co-led the search for Air France Flight 447.
David Gallo, what do you make of this? Let's talk about the search here. We heard from the Australian Defense minister saying that it could take another two weeks to cover this last 10 percent. Does that --
DAVID GALLO, CO-LED SEARCH FOR AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447: The only thing I could think, Anderson, is if they're going to go lower and slower for some reason, or if they're going to go back over some areas, that they are filling some gaps, maybe, so something like that. But it's hard to understand exactly why it is going to take so much more time.
COOPER: And Richard, there is a preliminary report on the plane's disappearance that's been prepared by Malaysia since the International Civil Aviation Organization. Malaysian officials, they haven't released it publicly. I understand you have some details of what's in it.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I asked at the press conference yesterday whether the report had been sent as was required by Annex 13. The Malaysian officials confirmed that yes, a report has been sent to Montreal as required.
I then asked about -- I was told about the safety recommendation in the report. Let me read you. It's been confirmed, the safety recommendation that the Malaysians are asking, it says, "It's recommended that ICAO examine the safety benefits of introducing a standard for realtime tracking of commercial air transport aircraft."
Now that's pretty much stating the obvious bearing in mind that several weeks now possibly months and more will be spent trying to find a plane that wasn't being tracked in realtime.
And, Anderson, the only issue really is why the preliminary report which tends to be non-controversial, a basic statement of facts that's already known, why that hasn't been released by the Malaysian authorities. I will be asking that today. In every case that I can remember so far the report is always pretty much released when it is sent to ICAO.
COOPER: David Soucie, you're familiar with what's typically in these kind of preliminary reports. Would the questions that the families want answered typically be cleared up by the information in that report? Because I've heard some questions being reported for the last couple of days, I mean, they have some very questions, questions which frankly I'm surprised have not already been answered for the families.
DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Yes, they're easily answered questions, I don't know why they haven't been answered. There is no explanation for that. What's in the preliminary report, Anderson, is not earth-shattering information. There is a synopsis piece, but the synopsis piece is not actually required at this phase because they haven't found any actual wreckage of the aircraft.
So what would be in there right now might be a little bit sensitive, would be the names and the certificate numbers and qualifications of the pilots, and also the air traffic control people, the people who are involved in moving the aircraft from one control center to the other, those names would be in the report as well and identifiers for who they are so they might be sensitive about that, but there's no reason not to redact that information and release it, which is typically what's done at this phase of the investigation.
COOPER: David Gallo, you know, we focus a lot on the technology, the Bluefin-21, the side-scan sonar and stuff. But I mean, let's talk about the human side of all of this. What it's like for those people who have been undertaking the search. When you were involved in the search for 447 you were given 95 certainty that the plane would be found in a particular area.
GALLO: That's right.
COOPER: And you searched aggressively in that area.
GALLO: Two months the team was out there. And In fact we talked about the benefit of air France 447 that we had floating debris and that floating debris was retro-drifted to the spot. And we were told 95 percent in this box, big box, two months of day and night, 24/7, I mean, that team worked their heart and soul out and ended up with nothing. So that does -- it's a horrible thing because you have self- doubt, you have criticism coming in from the outside.
COOPER: Fortunately for the people involved in the search like they were in the 447 --
COOPER: It's devastating.
GALLO: Absolutely positively devastating because just the fact that you've been out there putting your heart and soul into this mission and then you have people saying all these guys maybe couldn't produce after all. And so that's a tough one. And as a co-leader when you get together to talk about next steps you do have to go through self- doubt, re-thinking, did we do something wrong? Did we miss something?
COOPER: So what do you do? I mean, do you just go back to the data and just try to reanalyze -- GALLO: Yes. You have confidence, you have to fall back on your confidence and the team and the technology and the plan. Get together with -- in our case it was the BEA and Airbus. Air France. They all had confidence in us. So that was reassuring. And then it's just a matter of sitting in a room with a clean white board and going through what we know, what we don't know, what do we do next. So it took a lot of thoughts. So there was a long period, months, before we came up with the next plan or what to do -- where to go and what to do.
Richard Quest, is there anymore explanation of why the questions that the family members have asked, that they have submitted, that you've been reporting on all week, why those questions have not been answered? Has there been any attempt in the last 24 hours to even answer some of those very basic questions?
QUEST: Not that I'm aware of, Anderson, and I think we're waiting for this more senior technical team to go to Beijing to provide answers. And but in the next few hours, certainly we'll be asking again, about when these questions and -- will be. And more importantly I think why they have not been answered.
Look, there are two -- there are two distinct groups of questions. There are those family members that choose or wish to believe that the plane landed somewhere in Afghanistan or whatever. And they are to some extent dismissed in their questions.
And then there are the deep factual questions, which will require some detailed technical knowledge. And that is going to take time. What we need to understand is why that information hasn't been provided since in many cases it's not controversial.
COOPER: Those are good questions. We'll continue to try to find the answer to that.
There is a lot more to talk about shortly. First, let's return to the debris and quickly try to drill down on why there is so much skepticism about it. Simply put it, because in this part of the Indian Ocean, there is just a lot of debris, a lot of junk, it's not like the way we'd like to think of the sea as one big junkyard, but that's the reality.
As our Randi Kaye discovered that's precisely what it is in this region.
MARCUS ERICSSON, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, FIVE GYRES INSTITUTE: The debris that you might see that are in our home, all around our homes, here is a toy grenade, here is a paint brush handle. Here's a toy leg from a baby, flip-flops.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not items from a landfill but from the ocean, more specifically the Indian Ocean gyre, essentially a garbage patch swirling with trash and overflowing with plastic. The massive rotating current spins counterclockwise.
Marcus Ericsson is the director of research for the Five Gyres Institute in California. He says gyres are like plastic soup.
ERICSSON: That's typical of what the material looks like.
KAYE: In 2010, he sailed through the Indian Ocean gyre, the same area where search teams are now looking for doomed Flight 370.
ERICSSON: What we found there were things like fishing nets, multi- colored buoy, like fishing buoys like the one that's behind me. Lots of buckets and crates, other consumer goods like bottles and bottle caps and bags and forks and knives. There was so much stuff already there. So the aircraft and debris from the aircraft is blending into all that.
KAYE: Which is one reason why locating the missing plane is such a challenge. Satellite images once thought to be debris fields likely just floating garbage. Recently, a Chinese ship in search of the airplane came across trash instead. Even sea life can't tell the difference. Fish, sea lions, birds, they all ingest this junk thinking it might be food.
ERICSSON: You know, I hear this talk about there being 300-plus pieces from the aircraft. There are 300,000 plus pieces of trash already there.
KAYE: The Indian Ocean gyre isn't the only one that exists, there are also two in the Pacific and two in the Atlantic. They form when ocean currents bounce off the continents and create a vortex of swirling water, which pulls debris from the shores to the center of the ocean.
(On camera): The gyre in the Indian Ocean is thought to be about two million square miles. Now keep in mind the entire United States is just under four million square miles. And this garbage patch isn't just huge, it is on the move, traveling about half a mile per hour or about 12 miles per day and it may be carrying parts of the plane with it.
ERICSSON: It's moved away from the crash site, it's moved away maybe 50 to 150 miles by now. And it's dispersed as well. And it's joining the background of other debris.
KAYE (voice-over): Leaving the search planes to try to catch up as they try to track down Flight 370.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: We've got to take a short break. A quick reminder, set your DVR so you never miss 360. You can watch it any time.
Up next, an up close look at the new tools available to take the search farther and deeper, we'll show you what they. We'll talk about when they'll be sent into action. And later, America's veterans. We owe them everything of course. We promise them speedy health care. Well, an exclusive 360 investigation reveals tonight about how badly one VA hospital broke that promise to hundreds of patients including this woman's father-in-law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: They called you and said?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said what is this regarding? She goes, we have a primary for him. I said really? You're a little too late, sweetheart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A little too late, because her father-in-law was dead because he had to wait for care. According to one doctor, he was stuck on a secret waiting list that the hospital kept a secret list while cooking up a bogus one for public consumption. We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.
COOPER: New word from officials on bringing additional assets to bear on the flight -- in the search for Flight 370. By now you've probably seen and heard a lot about the Bluefin-21 search vehicle. Those we mentioned at the top. We've yet to see any images from it. By now you might have also be aware of the Bluefin's limitations.
Well, tonight, 360's Gary Tuchman shows us some other -- some of the other tools waiting in the wings that surpass it.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The names are intriguing, what they have potential to accomplish is amazing. The REMUS 6000, the Orion, the Triton XLS, the Dorado, they are all autonomous underwater vehicles and remotely operated vehicles. AUVs and ROVs, equipped with technology that can search deeper than the currently utilized Bluefin. Technology that could be called into service.
MARTIN STITT, ROV SUPERINTENDENT: The idea is if there is a black box, not a problem at all for an ROV to pick up, put it in a basket and recover it.
TUCHMAN: For example, there is the Orion ROV, owned by the U.S. Navy, run by a company called Phoenix International. ROVs are connected to a ship by an umbilical cord. They send sound signals to the seafloor, which paint a picture of what's on the bottom. This vehicle can go a mile deeper than the Bluefin and stay down for weeks at a time. The Bluefin only lasts about 24 hours.
Then there is the REMUS 6000, an AUV, operating without any physical connection whatsoever. Its team has also not yet been asked to help in the Malaysia Airlines search. But the team from Woods Hole, Massachusetts, has already met dramatic success locating the wreckage of Air France Flight 447 two years after it crashed in the South Atlantic Ocean. The discovery only possible because of this AUV. This is the initial shot of the Air France debris captured by the REMUS 6000.
MIKE PURCELL, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION: They can go up and down mountains that are up to 40 degrees in slope. They are very stable so you get really good data almost all the time.
TUCHMAN: Another AUV that could be used, the Dorado, based at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, where CNN's Stephanie Elam visited.
DOUG CONLIN, MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM RESEARCH INSTITUTE: This is a titanium pressure sphere, so this is good to 6,000 meters deep. And inside we have all the sonar electronics.
TUCHMAN: The other option for a new phase of the search is the manned submarines or submersibles. The British government has already sent out a sub. Others could be asked to join. This vehicle that resembles a spaceship is a man submersible called the Johnson Sea Link based in Florida. This sub located wreckage in the Atlantic Ocean after the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.
(On camera): This sub is about 24 feet long. It's also about 11 feet tall. And it weighs about 28,000 pounds. It has enough oxygen and emergency provisions aboard for the people to survive under water for up to five days.
(Voice-over): This sub is retired, though. But other subs that can go even deeper could be brought into action along with AUVs and ROVs ready to assist, if asked.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Los Angeles.
COOPER: Let's turn back to our panel, Richard Quest and David Gallo.
David Gallo, we should point out, for full disclosure, the REMUS 6,000, that's basically your pride and joy. You're from Woods Hole. That's where Gary was during his report.
COOPER: Was -- I mean, besides that, are there -- what other vehicles do you think at this search phase would work in a search like this? And was the Bluefin-21 not the right --
GALLO: No, no, I think Bluefin was -- in fact, you remember the idea that was -- what Captain Matthews, I think it was, called a tactical survey.
COOPER: Right. GALLO: Where they had the -- they had the pinger. They were going to throw the dart right into that. And Bluefin was fine for that. Immediately got the job done and still got a couple of days to go. The club that can work deep and some of the seafloor around here is pretty deep, 6,000 meters and some place is deeper. That club is very small. So there's -- but there's a -- you know, quite a menu of different vehicles that could do the trick. You saw the Orion. That's a towed sonar.
COOPER: And you can have multiple pieces going at once.
GALLO: Yes, what needs to be done now is they have to take a close look at what the potential surveys areas are. Are they deep? Are they shallow? Is it rugged terrain? Is it gentle terrain? And then you can fit these vehicles? They're all good at something, especially good at something. None of them good every place. And so -- then you need to fit the vehicle to that survey area. So the first thing is to find out where the next survey is and then pick the vehicles.
COOPER: Richard, is there consensus between the Malaysians and the Australians and other nations participating in the search that the right assets are in the water and that there are enough of them at this point?
QUEST: Well, that's the interesting part of the next part of the investigation, Anderson. What we learned yesterday from the Malaysian authorities is that they're going to have that very discussion with Angus Houston. What is the -- what are the next assets? Do they need some of these? Do they need more of them? Do they need different types? Who is going to provide them? Who is going to pay for them?
There are some deep pockets that are available. The Malaysians do have access to funds, their own and others. So that will all be -- be part of the next discussion. And what I think is really interesting is what David Gallo just said. Because everything got to where they are now in a hurry. They had 30 days to hear the pings. They had to get down afterwards to see if they could find it.
Everything you are looking at was put together very, very fast. Now you start the deep understanding of the terrain, the different types. The different assets, the payment mechanisms. The sort of thing, Anderson, that goes into a long-term search that may go down once, twice, three or four times over the next year, two or three years.
COOPER: Do you -- David Gallo, I mean, do you believe they're looking in the right place? Or is -- I mean, do you have to just kind of trust --
GALLO: Well, it's a place they had to look because they had the pings, they had the Inmarsat data, they have the fuel consumption of the aircraft. Everything pointed to this area. And, you know, I've said all along that I don't know how you leave this area if you're confident that those pingers, those pings were from the black boxes, how do you begin to leave this area and think about any place else? So maybe expanding that bull's eye to include maybe two or three times wider than they've been looking now and then just insonify the daylights out of that area with sonar so you see where every pebble is.
I just don't know how you leave this place before you really take this -- take that area, the seafloor apart completely.
COOPER: All right, David Gallo, Richard Quest, thanks very much.
For more on the story, of course, you can go to CNN.com.
Coming up tonight, fading hope of finding anybody alive certainly aboard the sunken South Korean ferry as more bodies are covered and divers find found no air pockets in the parts of the ship where most of the passengers were believed to be. We have a live update from South Korea next.
Also the remarkable story of one crew member on board that ferry. A 22-year-old woman who stayed on board to help passengers while the captain and other crew members left. She alone is credited with saving dozens of lives before she lost her own life.
COOPER: It's now been more than a week since South Korea's ferry disaster and hope is starting to fade that anyone is going to be found alive inside that sunken ship. Officials in South Korea are still calling it a search and rescue mission. But divers have not found any air pockets on the decks where most of the passengers were. 174 people were rescued when the ferry sank, no one has been found alive since then. Instead the death toll just keeps growing. So far, 159 bodies have been found, 143 people are still missing.
What caused the ferry to sink, that is still under investigation. Eleven crew members including the captain have been arrested.
Our Kyung Lah joins us now from -- on the water in South Korea with the latest. So the death toll as we said rising but for those divers behind you, they are still in on a mission to try to rescue any passengers who they hope are still alive, right?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much a rescue, and this may, Anderson, be a case of what you say versus what you know. Everyone here is calling this a rescue. It certainly does appear to be a rescue mission if you look at the number of divers in those orange boats, in those black boats they are still going under the water to look for people. But this has apparently moved beyond that given all the facts that we know that you just said, no air pockets, no survivors for a week, why are they still calling this a rescue?
The government being extraordinarily careful with what they call this, given this unbearable loss. Hundreds of families losing their children. And if you think of it this way, almost an entire sophomore class was wiped out in one single high school. So this is just an unbelievable loss -- Anderson. COOPER: And Kyung, I mean, do authorities at this point have any idea? Are they any closer to figuring out what may have caused this to happen?
LAH: They say they won't know conclusively until they get more into hull of the ship. Here's what they know. They know that it didn't hit anything so they've ruled that out. This is pretty flat sea floor. They are looking at whether or not there were problems with the ship, mechanical issues. Whether there were balance issues because this ship was retrofitted when it was purchased from Japan. It was made to be bigger, to hold 200-plus more passengers.
So there were cabins added. Did that lead to a balance issues? Was it carrying too much cargo? The coast guard telling us that they won't know the answer to that until they're able to lift the ship off the sea floor using the giant cranes that you see around this area. And then the other thing that they're looking at is the financial backing of the owner. The owner who runs the marine company.
He is a curious figure. He is known as the millionaire with no face. His company was in the red. He runs it with his sons, and there are a lot of questions of whether or not maybe it was finances before lives that happened in this case.
COOPER: Kyung Lah, appreciate the update. Thanks. Of the 174 people who survived the ferry disaster, dozens of them are alive today because thanks to the actions of one young woman. She is a crew member, who according to passengers lost her own life while she helped other people get out. Paula Hancocks has the story of this remarkable young woman.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A mother cries, I love you, I'm sorry as her daughter's coffin passes by. Park-Ji-Young was just 22, a crew member on board the ill-fated Sewol ferry. A crew member who gave up her life so others could live. These men were part of a group of 17 school friends heading to Jeju Island for their 60th birthday. Four of them are still missing.
They say they owe their lives to Park. Li Jung Jay describes how the ship listed so much the wall became the floor. An open door made the gap between them and the exit too great to step over. Her colleague was lying on the floor, he says, hanging onto the microphone telling passengers not to move. Park took the keys from him, forced her way to the door, closed it and locked it to keep it shut so that passengers could walk across.
She was right next to the exit, says Kang In Hwan, she could easily have escaped. That door saved so many lives it was like the bridge of life. I asked, how many lives? They estimate around 50 escaped through that exit. That is nearly a third of all passengers who made it out alive, helped by just one woman.
She was just a girl, says Kim Jung Keun, but she was so brave. If every crew member on that boat was as brave as she was the disaster would not have been this bad. Among the first to be rescued, Kim says the captain and other crew members were already on dry land by the time he got there. While the captain ran away to save his own life, she gave her life to save others, says this family friend. We are so proud of her.
Park's relatives don't want to talk publicly, but tell CNN they want to follow her example of thinking of others, although they say they could never do anything as courageous. Park dropped out of college two years ago when her father passed away to help support her family. She was transferred to the Sewol just six months ago, a step up within the company. Praised for her professionalism, and ultimately for her courage.
COOPER: Heroic young woman. Paula Hancocks joins us now. I heard there was a private family service for her today. What else do we know about her and her actions?
HANCOCKS: Well, Anderson, survivors say that while she was on the ship she was giving out life jackets to a number of the students that we know did manage to escape and she was doing this all the time. She didn't have a life jacket on herself, she was making sure others were OK first and also making sure they could get from one side of the ferry, which was under water and sinking fast to the other side where they could actually escape.
And all the while she was doing this according to these survivors, she was on her walkie talkie, and she was trying to get guidance from those that were higher up in power, but that guidance, as we know did not come. We also know that one of the survivors said to me that he really wished she had escaped. And that he wished he would hold onto her and help her. They say they felt very guilty that she had not managed to escape, but that she had saved dozens of lives.
COOPER: And amazing, she was handing out life jackets to others even though she herself did not have one. Incredible. Paula, appreciate the update. Thanks.
Just ahead tonight, a 360 exclusive, the V.A. Hospital that says one doctor was cooking its books to hide the fact that sick vets were waiting months for medical care, 40 patients died while waiting. We are keeping them honest tonight.
Plus, the father of the California teenager who apparently stowed away in the wheel well of the 767. He is speaking out tonight.
COOPER: Tonight, a 360 exclusive, the most disturbing example yet of an ongoing investigation of U.S. military veterans dying while they wait for medical care at the V.A. hospitals. As a result of our previous reporting, Congress launched an investigation. Now, we've uncovered just how far one V.A. hospital went to hide its outrageously long wait times. Forty veterans died while waiting for care at this hospital. That would be shocking enough. Keeping them honest though, there is more, a doctor who's left the hospital said that managers were actually keeping two waiting lists, a sham list that made the hospital look like the model of efficiency and a secret list that showed the deadly reality. Here is senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a plan by top management at this veteran's hospital in Phoenix, Arizona to hide as many as 1,600 veterans waiting many months just to get a doctor's appointment. CNN has learned at least 40 veterans left waiting for care, many who are on that secret list are now dead. And what is worse? According to multiple sources, the management's plan included shredding the evidence to hide the fact there was a waiting list at all.
(on camera): We've heard as many as 40 veterans here in Arizona in the Phoenix area could have died waiting for care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is correct. The number is actually higher.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Dr. Sam Foote just retired after spending 24 years with the V.A. health system here in Arizona. The veteran doctor says the hospital did have a list that showed the V.A. was providing timely appointments within 14 days but that was a sham.
DR. SAM FOOTE, RETIRED VA PHYSICIAN: The only record that you have ever been there requesting care was on that secret list. And they wouldn't take you off that secret list until you had an appointment time that was less than 14 days so it would give the appearance that they were improving greatly the waiting times, when in reality it had been six, nine, and in some cases 21 months.
GRIFFIN: In the case of a 71-year-old U.S. Navy veteran named Thomas Breen, the wait ended much sooner.
TEDDY BARNES-BREEN, SON OF THOMAS BREEN: He started bleeding in his urine. So I was like listen we got to get you to the doctor.
GRIFFIN: Teddy Barnes-Breen said his Brooklyn-raised father, Thomas, so proud of his military service would go nowhere but the V.A. for treatment. And on September 28th, with blood in his urine and a history of cancer, Teddy and his wife rushed him to the Phoenix VA emergency room where he was examined and send home to wait.
BREEN: All they wrote on his chart, must have primary doctor, urgent. And they sent him home.
GRIFFIN: This is a copy of Mr. Barn's V.A. medical chart, stating on the top, urgency, that he should be seen by a primary care physician or urologist within a week.
(on camera): Did anybody call? You called?
SALLY BARNES-BREEN, DAUGHTER-IN-LAW OF THOMAS BREEN: We called numerous times. I got a response, would you like to hear the response? Well, you know, we have other patients that are critical as well. It is a seven-month waiting list and you're going to have to have patience.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Sally kept calling day after day from late September through October through November and then she no longer had a reason to call. Thomas Breen died on November 30th, 2013. The bleeding was from inoperable stage four bladder cancer.
SALLY BARNES-BREEN: They called me on December 6th, he is dead already.
GRIFFIN (on camera): They called you and said?
SALLY BARNES-BREEN: I said what is this regarding? She says we have a primary for him. I said really, you're a little too late, sweetheart.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Dr. Foote says Mr. Breen is a perfect example of a veteran who needed an urgent appointment with a primary care doctor, and who was instead put on a secret waiting list where he remained hidden.
(on camera): If you died waiting for your appointment, you didn't exist?
FOOTE: Correct. They could just remove you from that list and there was no record that you ever came to the V.A. and presented for care.
GRIFFIN: Pretty convenient.
FOOTE: Pretty sad.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): CNN has obtained e-mails showing top management, including the Phoenix V.A. Director Sharon Hellman knew about the actual wait times and knew about the off the books list and defended the use to her staff, which makes this statement to CNN from Hellman all the more strange. It is disheartening to hear allegations about veterans' care being compromised, the director writes, and we are open to any collaborative discussion that assists in our goal to continually improve patient care. Sam Foote says that response is stunning.
(on camera): This was all planned and it was planned by the very highest authorities here in Phoenix.
FOOTE: Correct, this was a plan that involved the director, the associate director, the assistant director, the chief of nursing along with the medical chief of staff. In collaboration with the chief of has.
GRIFFIN: Basically, you have medical directors cooking the books?
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The Phoenix V.A's off the books waiting list has now gotten the attention of the House Veteran Affairs Committee in Washington. The chairman, Congressman Jeff Miller has been investigating delays in care at veteran hospitals across the country. In a hearing this month he later learned even the under-secretary of health for the V.A. was not being told the truth about the secret list.
REPRESENTATIVE JEFF MILLER (R), FLORIDA: Were you made aware of the unofficial list in any part of your look back?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, I was not.
GRIFFIN: Congress has now ordered all records in Phoenix, secret or not, be preserved. That would include the record of a 71-year-old Navy veteran named Thomas Breen.
COOPER: This is unbelievable, Drew, incredible reporting. This waiting list for care, secret or not, must still exist, which means vets must still be waiting to see a doctor. What is the V.A. doing about it if anything?
GRIFFIN: Anderson, late this afternoon, the Phoenix VA sent us yet another statement. They acknowledge they have been having trouble, but are improving wait times. We have no way of telling if this is true or not and the V.A. in Phoenix will simply not answer our questions about the reporting and secret lists, and the fact that they're trying to hide the fact that the veterans are on that secret list.
COOPER: No one is held accountable and the V.A. itself doesn't really seem to have an answer for any of this.
GRIFFIN: This is now the third story we've reported about veterans dying while they wait for care at V.A. Hospitals on your show, Anderson. It happened in Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, Florida. Now phoenix where the management tried to hide the true waiting list and still we get no answers from the veteran's administration. As far as we can tell absolutely no one is being held accountable for this. And one more thing, but for this committee and Congress, one committee, all of these politicians who campaign on taking care of veteran including congressmen, senators and in the White House, they don't seem to be paying much attention.
COOPER: It is incredible, as you said, this is our third report on this issue. The idea that the V.A. isn't talking to us. It's just incredible to me. We'll keep at it. Drew Griffin, great reporting as I said. Thank you.
Up next, we're hearing tonight from a California father on what may have prompted his teenage son to climb into an airplane's wheel well and fly to Hawaii.
Also ahead, a survivor of last week's deadly avalanche on Mt. Everest talks about what happened and how a sherpa, one of the mountain guides saved his life. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: The father of the 15-year-old California boy who apparently stowed away in a wheel well on a flight to Maui says he was as shocked as everybody else when he heard that his son had done that. The dad, a native of Somalia tells "Voice of America" he was so confused when he got a call from the police in Hawaii that he asked officers there to phone police in his of San Jose so they can explain to him exactly what happened.
He also said about his son, quote, "He did not receive education when he was in Africa. Since we came here he had learning challenges at school. He was not good in math and science and I think he had a lot of education problems bothering him." The father went on to say, quote, "He was always talking about going to Africa where his grandparents still lived."
The teen told investigators, though, that is not where he was going. He had a fight at home, ran away, and climbed into the first plane he saw. He is still hospitalized in Hawaii. He is expected back in California soon.
Dan Simon joins us from San Jose. So, Dan, we have this photo from Maui news showing the wheel well that allegedly held this 15-year-old stowaway. It shows a lot of footprints on it. Do we know whether the footprints are from this young man?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson. We can't say definitively those are the footprints. But I can tell you it is a picture that has been shared in awful lot on social media and that just gives you a sense in terms of the fascination people have with this story. We're here in the neighborhood were the family lives, there are media crews staking out the family's home around the clock. There is just a tremendous amount of interest about what happened here.
COOPER: The father did speak out today, as we said I just read some of his comments on the program ahead. What else did he have to say? Did he say a lot more?
SIMON: Well, he gave this interview in his native tongue of Somali to the "Voice of America" and they translated it, put it on their web site, the bottom line here is the father says this is a young man, a teenager who had some emotional problems. He was having problems learning in school. It seemed like he was homesick, the family moved to California I guess fairly recently from Africa. He doesn't say when, I guess the teenager was having problems adjusting. So when you add it all up. We have been saying this, this is a teenager who acted out in a very irrational way to say the least. And what more can you say? It is just a miracle that he survived.
COOPER: The airport manager who spoke to the teenager when he arrived also talked today. Did he have any insights?
SIMON: Well, yes, he did. I mean, he talked about the impressions that he had when he first encountered this young man, I guess security had apprehended him. I guess they asked him lengthy questions and this is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARVIN MONIZ, MAUI DISTRICT AIRPORT MANAGER: Obviously, being up 30,000 feet for that period of time would be pretty interesting. And you know, he mentioned that he blacked out. So you know he must have been out for that whole time. We did get him some food prior to the paramedics getting here. We asked him if he was hungry. He indicated, yes, he was. We got him some Maui-style teriyaki meat balls and rice, and a package of cookies and a bottle of water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: Well, in terms of what is next in this case we know that the boy is still in the hospital. He is being monitored. We're told that he is in pretty stable condition. That he is doing OK. The father said he is still being monitored by health professionals. And according to the father he will be returned to California relatively soon. We don't have a time line on that. But the word that we were given was soon.
COOPER: All right, Dan Simon, Dan, thanks very much.
Up next, American troops arrive in Poland for a show of force as the crisis in Ukraine continues.
Also ahead, an American climber describing how his sherpa saved his life on the deadly avalanche up to Mt. Everest.
COOPER: Susan Hendricks joins us for the 360 news and business bulletin -- Susan.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a contingent of U.S. Army paratroopers arrived in Poland for joint military exercises with Polish troops. The deployments is part of NATO's expanded presence in the region, a response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
The brother-in-law of Britain's Prince Charles has died in New York after suffering a head injury in a fall. Mark Shand was the younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. He was 62. In a statement, the duchess and her family said they are devastated.
On Mt. Everest, dozens of sherpa guides reportedly walked off the job today after the deaths of 16 of their colleagues in last week's avalanche. Some expedition companies have also canceled their climbs. American climber, John Rider, on the left witnessed the disaster and said his sherpa on the right saved his life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the avalanche came down, it was -- it was a bit overwhelming. And a lot of thoughts go through your head quickly. But the sherpa is so used to this situation and they have been up through that ice fall so many times he just quickly, you know, he just quickly started yelling get down, get down and just kind of pushed me behind the large block of ice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENDRICKS: Pretty amazing the climber was not hurt.
And this was tweeted, it shows the outside of the International Space Station today. He and another astronaut replaced the backup computer. He said it was a little difficult in the space suit, it was a little short, but he got it done.
COOPER: That's cool. Susan, thanks very much. That does it for us. We'll see you again at 11 p.m. Eastern for another edition of 360. I hope you join us. "CNN TONIGHT" starts now.