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Twisters Shred Midwest Towns; Pesticide Poisons Family On Vacation; From The Everglades To The Alps. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 10, 2015 - 16:30   ET


[16:30:07] JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 33- year-old was promptly fired and is now being held in isolation, only able to receive visitors over video link like this one.

MICHAEL SLAGER: I have two step children and one on the way.

CARROLL: The sheriff tells CNN suicide would be a concern in a case like this so Slager's mental health is being closely monitored as he is investigated for murder.


CARROLL: As for the Scott family, Jake, the next two days are going to be especially difficult for them emotionally. This evening at 5:00, there will be a wake for Scott. His funeral will be tomorrow at 11:00 -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Jason Carroll in North Charleston, thank you so much.

More shocking footage of police using what critics call excessive force, the sheriff in San Bernardino County, California has ordered an internal investigation after a TV crew captured deputies beating a man.

This is the view from a news chopper yesterday afternoon. It all started when deputies tried to serve Francis Cusack with a warrant for identity theft. Deputies say he took off in a car then stole a horse and tried to escape through rugged terrain near the Mojave Desert.

Deputies caught up with him and well, you can see what happens next. First one deputy tries to use a taser. Then two of them start beating the man, punching him repeatedly, even kicking him in the crotch. He ended up in the hospital as did three deputies. Two of the deputies became dehydrated. A third deputy was kicked by the horse.

In other national news, terrified residents rushing to safety as this deadly tornado ripped through Illinois, killing two people. Today, survivors are telling their stories about how they survived. That's next.


[16:35:57] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We are now learning that a second person has died after tornadoes ripped through the Midwest. Both deaths were in Fairdale, Illinois, where a twister shredded homes to pieces.

About 20 miles south, we saw this, a monster tornado on the ground headed right through Rochelle, Illinois. This system so powerful it flipped a semi-truck like it was a toy.

Today we learned people there had 27 minutes, that's almost a half hour, of warning that the tornado was on the way. That's when sirens started going off. Countless lives were likely saved as a result.

CNN's Ed Lavandera joins me from Fairdale. It will take a long time to rebuild these communities.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sure is, Jake. You know, the sun is shining today, but the wind still very fierce, but the stories of survival incredibly dramatic, including three adults and three children that were inside these two cars when the tornado struck the town of Fairdale.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): With terrifying ferociousness, tornadoes ripped through small towns west of Chicago. Residents in the storm's path looked on in fear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm scared to death of storms so I was watching everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like it's a bad dream, something I would be watching on the news somewhere else, not in my neighborhood.

LAVANDERA: One tornado cut a 22-mile path through this Illinois flatland. The town of Fairdale is a small dot on the map, but a tornado tore right through it. The town does not have tornado sirens. Two elderly women were killed here and dozens of homes destroyed. Those that survived like Andy Kettleson know how lucky they are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's such an adrenalin rush. Everything seemed like it happened in 2 seconds.

LAVANDERA: Kettleson rode the storm out while sitting inside this blue Ford Focus. You can see it here on the edge of this picture that Kettleson took just after the storm struck. They were inside an iron work shop. Kettleson was inside the car with a co-worker who had raced over with his wife and three young kids to seek shelter. Moments later the tornado made a direct hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just remember looking through the windshield and seeing the roof of the shop starting to come up and down. Next thing I know, the block's all coming down and beams are falling. Luckily nobody got hurt.

LAVANDERA: Kettleson and his friend's family managed to get out of the debris to see this. It's what's left of the building around them. Search and rescue teams have spent the day looking through miles of debris, looking for survivors, trying to make sure everyone in the storm's path is accounted for. Emergency officials say that work is now winding down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are very confident that we have covered all the areas that need special attention.


LAVANDERA: And Jake, you know, we are here in Fairdale, about 70 miles west of Chicago. Those two cars that I was telling you about, those steel beams and cinder blocks, still laying over the scene here and those two cars as the cleanup now begins here in the town of Fairdale, and that will take quite some time, but most of the residents here feeling very lucky simply to be alive here today -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ed Lavandera, live in the disaster zone, thank you so much, Ed. To think thousands of people had to run for cover when this storm hit, others ran right into disaster zones.

Let's bring in Chad Connell. He is the fire chief in Kirkland, Illinois. Chief, thanks for joining us. We understand that you saw the tornado from your house? How close were you?

CHIEF CHAD CONNELL, KIRKLAND, ILLINOIS COMMUNITY FIRE DISTRICT: I was approximately about five miles east of the scene here when the warnings were out to the public, I went out to my back deck just to see what I could see, and I could see the tornado coming in from the west. I knew it was bad.

TAPPER: Does this part of your state get a lot of tornadoes?

CONNELL: It's not. It's not. I have only lived in this area for the last 17 years. I have not seen a tornado.

TAPPER: You were among the first emergency responders on site last night. Tell us what you saw.

[16:40:09] CONNELL: Yes, I was. It was total destruction. Our main thoroughway coming into the town here was blocked with trees, downed power lines. I had to quickly adapt and reroute all incoming vehicles south and bring them into the north in the town.

TAPPER: So those sirens started blaring almost a half hour before the tornado hit. Did you think this was the real deal?

CONNELL: I knew something was up early on. The tornado was reported in Rochelle, Illinois and I was actually following that at home. Then of course, I've seen what I seen.

TAPPER: Other emergency officials are telling CNN that they have been trying to warn local residents well before now about how to prepare for situations like what just happened. Do you think that planning's been effective? CONNELL: Absolutely, absolutely. We always train for the worst. That's what we do. You never expect it, but you know, a situation like this, you can only prepare as much as possible. Our guys did a valiant effort last night on the scene and they were able to make several rescues immediately while incoming vehicles and even ambulances were still coming on to the scene.

TAPPER: Without getting too graphic, can you give us an idea of how the two individuals who died, how they were killed?

CONNELL: I really can't say other than those two victims were in an area of the town where approximately 17 to 20 homes were leveled to the foundation, nothing, nothing left, huge debris piles.

TAPPER: Chad Connell, thank you so much for speaking with us. We appreciate it.

CONNELL: No problem, Jake.

TAPPER: When we come back, two teenagers still in comas after being poisoned at a resort on spring break. We sent our own CNN investigative reporter to find out how this happened and what she uncovered is disturbing, that investigation next.

Plus, he's been to remote islands and the top of the French Alps but Bill Weir says the most surprising place he visited was right here in the U.S. He tells me about it coming up.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Our Buried Lead today, after the brutal winter this year, who wouldn't want to thaw out with an island vacation? Some cocktails, a lounge chair, sand between your toes, just good old-fashioned fun in the sun or so the Esmond family from Delaware thought when they took a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands last month.

Instead they claim they were poisoned by a powerful pesticide used by the company, Terminix, to fumigate the villa in which they were staying. It turns out that chemical is banned for indoor use in the United States which includes the island where this happened, and as CNN investigative correspondent, Sara Ganim reports, this may not be an isolated case.


SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two teenagers are still in a coma after they were exposed to a deadly pesticide while on spring break with their family. Now CNN has learned the same chemical was likely illegally used multiple times according to government officials.

Governor Ken Mapp told us that even his own condominium complex was fumigated with methyl bromide without his knowledge in 2013. GOVERNOR KEN MAPP, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS: What these companies did or appear to have been doing is clearly a violation of the law and they will be held accountable for it.

GANIM: The EPA investigation has already found evidence that Terminix may have illegally used methyl bromide at least four times, including the day before Thanksgiving on a vacation villa on St. Croix and on St. John last fall. Authorities are now tracking down the residents, who stayed at the villas, but Terminix didn't want to talk about it.

(on camera): Spoke to a government official who said you guys had used this substance inside at this resort before this incident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't understand what part you didn't understand of what I said before.

GANIM: What part?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The part that I cannot talk to you.

GANIM: I will give you a chance to respond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't. I'm afraid not. You understand.

GANIM (voice-over): Terminix issued a statement saying that it is, quote, "Committed to performing all work in a manner that is safe and is looking into this matter internally and cooperating with authorities. Pest control companies are supposed to document use of methyl bromide. The governor says that if in fact they were falsifying records --

MAPP: That's a clear and malice violation of the law.

GANIM: But federal documents and public records show on the islands there were serious management problems. The EPA oversees the local Department of Planning and Natural Resources and last year, designated it a, quote, "High risk, saying it does not meet management standards."

That came after a top official with the DPNR was convicted of using the agency to run drugs, the second high profile scandal involving the agency.

The EPA says the inspector general is also investigating the DPNR but the governor, who just took office in January, says the agency's issues have nothing to do with what happened to the Esmond family. He blames the pest control companies.

MAPP: It occurred because someone was cutting corners, thought they could enhance their profit margin and that they could get away with it. And apparently even in my own residence, someone had been getting away with it for quite some time.


GANIM: Federal authorities are now seizing all remaining canisters of methyl bromide across the U.S. Virgin Islands and shipping them off island. Sara Ganim, CNN, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Island.

[16:50:09] TAPPER: Our thanks to Sara Ganim for that report.

Turning now to other news today, victims of a terrorist attack right here on American soil, one that for years was officially labeled workplace violence by the Pentagon, finally received recognition for their ordeal.

This morning, nearly six years after then Army Major Nidal Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood, killing 13 people and wounding more than 30, the U.S. Army awarded Purple Hearts and Civilian Defense of Freedom medals for the survivors and to the families of those who were killed.

Previously, the Purple Heart was only awarded to service members who had been injured or killed in action, but legislation recently expanded the criteria. Now it includes those wounded or killed in attacks if the perpetrator had communicated with and was inspired by a foreign terrorist organization such as at Fort Hood.

For many of these victims, their fight for what they perceive to be justice is not over. They are eligible for every benefit related to receiving the Purple Heart, but as of now, these recipients from fort hood are not eligible for any benefits associated with being wounded in a combat zone such as having their income exempted from income tax. The Pentagon told CNN that Congress would need to act for that to change.

Now to some news out of Pakistan where the accused mastermind of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, is now a free man, (inaudible) was released from prison on bail last night while awaiting trial, 166 innocent people were killed in the three-day attack carried out by ten members of the Islamic militant group. It was called, quote, "an insult to victims of the massacre."

Coming up, book your travel now if you would like to see this breathtaking view from the top of the French Alps because in just a few years, this could look quite different. Our own Bill Weir went there to see for himself. He joins us next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Let's go into the weekend with some pop culture. Our Pop Culture Lead today, Greece, the Dead Sea, Venice, are fabulous destinations undoubtedly on many people's visitation bucket lists.

But also, there are parts of the world undergoing tremendous change, which is why CNN's Bill Weir set off on a journey across the globe to explore what these magical places look like now, and what they may look like in 50 or 100 years if they're still there for his show "The Wonder List."

As the old adage goes, you always save the best for last. In this Sunday's final episode, he takes us from the swamps of the everglades to soaring heights in the French Alps. Here's a little preview.


BILL WEIR, CNN HOST, "THE WONDER LIST": But providing thrills to goofballs in Gortex is far from the most important role of glaciers. These Alps are the water tower of Europe and around the globe, glaciers provide drinking water, irrigation for hundreds of millions. So the thought of losing them is what animates people like Ann.


TAPPER: Joining me live, the host of "The Wonder List," the man with the best job in television, Bill Weir. Bill, good to see you. You visited eight very distinct locations this season's "Wonder List." What made you decide to end the season with the everglades and the Alps?

WEIR: Well, I wish I could say it was calculated. It was really logistics, but it is a poetic ending because at 9:00 on Sunday, we go to the Alps that are going away at an alarming rate. When you talk about tigers or giant tortoises disappearing or whatever, those problems seem really minor when you talk about climate change.

This is the big kahuna. I have read countless scientific warnings but I wanted to see it through the eyes of people who really know their ice, mountaineers, skiers, who have been there their whole lives and I wanted to talk to people who don't believe it's a big deal.

I went to the Skeptics Convention of Heartland Institute and tried to challenge their assumptions on that. At 10:00, the Everglades is a great hopeful end because that more than anything else is an example of the folly of man and the price of redemption.

They drain that swamp in the '50s, '40s and '50s to create a paradise in Florida, but nobody realized that without that swamp and all the gators and critters that live in it, there can be no life in Florida. All the drinking water comes from there.

Now the biggest, most expensive wildlife reclamation project in history is under way. There's a lot of fighting going on, but that episode really surprised me. But also gave me plenty of hope that once people start rolling in the right direction, you can find that balance between nature and human nature.

TAPPER: Are you hopeful that the effects of climate change can be if not reversed at least slowed down?

WEIR: Well, that's the question that keeps me awake at night. I talked to scientists who say we are past the tipping point, there is going to be a lot of pain in coming generations and now it's just a matter of how much of that we can mitigate by preparing and trying to change. It's the biggest problem humanity has ever faced.

It will take an unprecedented level of cooperation not just between Republicans and Democrats but between India and Pakistan and Israel and the Palestinians and all parts of the world to come together. That's what I tried to get through in this episode.

TAPPER: Well, I will be watching. Bill Weir, thank you so much. You can catch the special two-hour series finale starting this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper and also @theleadcnn. We also have a Facebook page you can check out. That;s it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over now to Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in a place we call "THE SITUATION ROOM." Have a great weekend.