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U.S. General Says Air Strike on Hospital as Mistake; Dam Failures Add to Woes after Historic Flooding in S.C.; Search Continues for Missing from Cargo Ship; California Governor Signs Right-to-Die Legislation. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired October 6, 2015 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The bottom line is they say the Afghan forces called in, said they were under fire from the Taliban and the U.S. Made the decision to go ahead and send in an A.C.-130 gun ship to attack this area, that it was a U.S. decision. But -- and I think this is a huge but -- one of the most interesting things General Campbell said this morning is he has now order retraining for U.S. forces on the rules of engagement, when they can go in, what the rules are that allow them to engage in deadly force. This may be a big hint of where this is headed. If General Campbell feels he needs to retrain his forces on rules of engagement, is this a suggestion they violated or made a mistake on the rules of engagement going after this area? Did they know it was a hospital? Did they believe the Taliban were there? Because the Taliban were still there, they believed they could strike? That we don't know. General Campbell made it very clear, he's not satisfied his troops are up to date on the rules of engagement. That's a huge step forward. He's indicating he hopes to have some initial results on this investigation in the next 30 days. And, of course, without question, Doctors Without Borders still absolutely furious, absolutely heartbroken about all of this, saying, for the U.S. to say it was a mistake, just isn't good enough.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. Barbara, as you raised a couple of really good questions in conversations rounding this as this was all unfolding.

Colonel, I want to raise them to you. The general says it was clearly the hospital was mistakenly struck. But how was it that no one could have known this was a hospital? How could the mistake happen? Can you take us there?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's a really good question. I can only speculate. This is happening in the middle of the night. Probably wearing night vision goggles. Very difficult to see. The crew was ordered to respond to an Afghan unit in trouble. They're taking the coordinates from the Afghan unit and they respond. For whatever reason, the hospital ended up being struck. Were they trying to hit something near the hospital and they got the coordinates wrong? We don't know what happened. That will come out.

I want to reiterate Barbara's point, and I picked up on it as soon as the general said it as well. He's ordered the retraining on the rules of engagement. He's not happy with something that happened. He explained a little further because he was talking about the air support piece was one of the biggest problems they're having with Afghan forces. So, as this goes forward, we'll find out just where they are in that. I suspect that this is going to be a coordination problem between the Afghans and Americans and led to this tragic accident.

BOLDUAN: A tragic outcome. As Barbara said, Doctors Without Borders are furious. They want answers. I think a lot of folks do, too, and how this could happen because of the great work the hospital was doing in that part of Afghanistan. He's still testifying, the general right now. We'll, watching that closely.

Barbara, great to see you. Thank you.

Colonel, thank you as well.

Things will get worse before they get better. That is what the mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, is saying about this historic flooding that has just rocked that state. We're going to talk to him next.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New details about the missing cargo ship carrying so many Americans near the Bahamas. The mechanical problems we're learning it faced during hurricane Joaquin and why the ship is now so hard to find.


[11:38:00] BERMAN: This morning, dams fail in South Carolina and people forced to evacuate their homes. At least nine dams have now broken because of the historic flooding there. Hundreds of roads washed out. 11 people killed so far.

BOLDUAN: The mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, says his city isn't even close to being out of the woods yet. After a week of record rainfall, the water has nowhere to go but downhill towards South Carolina's coast.

That mayor, Steve Benjamin, is joining us now.

Mayor, thank you for joining us and taking the time.

STEVE BENJAMIN, MAYOR OF COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA: I mean, you can just see the problem, it's sitting right there behind you. It sounds like this could be a slow-moving disaster for weeks. What are you telling residents?

We're telling our folks, as we say here in the south, you have a long row to hoe. It's going to take a while. We're trying to make sure we manage expectations, keep people focused on the priorities. Number one priority is preservation of life. After that we want to make sure our people have shelter, have food, have water. And we're assessing all of our infrastructure needs. We have a long way to go. We prosecute making great progress. When we started this disaster, we had 130,000 people without water. That number is down to about 42,000. We're still engaged in significant search and rescue, almost 2,000 homes. 350 people rescued from their homes. We're still counting fatalities, missing folks. It's tough out here. It's tough out here. I'm very encouraged by the way our people have come together. How everyone, regardless of what side of aisle or what part of town or midlands you live in, people are coming together and we're seeing the very best of South Carolina, the very best of America right now.

BERMAN: What's the status of dams in your region right now? What's the area of your greatest concern, Mayor?

[11:40:57] BENJAMIN: Sure. I think so far we've had close to a dozen dams give way. They're all across the entire region. Our greatest concern is, obviously, let's make sure we're doing everything we possibly can to keep people safe. Public safety, making sure -- we've had a cuff few the last couple nights. We'll reassess it and whether or not we'll have a curfew. Protecting people, sometimes protecting people from themselves is number one. Infrastructure needs, obviously, making sure our roads are safe is a big issue and making sure people have clean, potable water.

BOLDUAN: From the point of the roadways, we have heard from our crews on the ground, reporting on all of this flooding. Folks coming up to them saying, how did you get in? How are you getting in and out? A lot of folks are simply just stuck. That gets to the roads issue. What are you telling folks about how they can get about safely?

BENJAMIN: Sure. Right now, it's road by road. We had well over 500 roads shut down. Have you to take some very different routes to get a short distance. We're asking people to be careful. Do not assume that puddle of water is just a few inches deep. You don't know what's down there. Most folks are doing a good job heeding that advice. Right now it's better to be safe than sorry. We're encouraged by the progress we're making. We're more proud of the fact that everyone's doing it together.

BOLDUAN: Road by road. That's a tough road for a lot of folks ahead. No kidding.

Mayor Benjamin, thanks for your time. We appreciate it.

BENJAMIN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

Ahead for us, where is the cargo ship carrying 28 American workers near the Bahamas? New information in about the ship and its crew, what its crew was up against as it sat in the path of Hurricane Joaquin, and what that now means for that missing crew.

BERMAN: The most populous state in the country will now allow doctor- assisted suicide. This is a groundbreaking move. It could come too late for one woman, an advocate who has been fighting for this right and is terminally ill. We'll speak to her ahead.


[11:46:32] BOLDUAN: The National Transportation Safety Board has sent a go team to investigate the missing cargo ship the "El Faro." The Coast Guard team headed out at first light this morning to resume the search for the ship. They believe that it sank during Hurricane Joaquin. They are concentrating right now all of their efforts on trying to find the 28 Americans and five Polish nationals who were on board that cargo ship. Search teams have found one body so far, though. They have not found any survivors.

BERMAN: Joining us to discuss the search is expedition specialist, Christine Dennison.

Christine, there's a lot is interesting about this search. One of the things that jumped out at me is that they did spot that body in a survival suit, which sort of indicates people on board this vessel. They knew that they were in trouble. They were preparing for the situation. What kind of a hope does that provide if they try to make those last-second preparations that there could still be people out there?

CHRISTINE DENNISON, LOGISTICS & OCEAN EXPEDITIONS SPECIALIST: Well, we're five days into it and these survival suits would allow them to survive in these temperatures which were about 82, 84 degrees at the surface for five to seven days, I would say. And so there still is hope they're looking for the second life raft, which may have survivors. I don't know what condition you can expect. They'd be dehydrated. They've been through an awful lot of battering out at sea for all these days but there still is hope.

BOLDUAN: Take us out on the water. The Coast Guard painted a pretty grim picture of what that ship was up against and what that crew would be up against as they sat in the path as the hurricane rolled through. It has hampered early on search efforts, obviously, but this crew was in this, trying to get Thursday survival suits on, trying to get into these life rafts. What are they up against?

DENNISON: You can only imagine. The ship has been battered by 40- foot waves for hours. They have no steering and you can't even hear yourself. You've got howling winds, hurricane-force conditions. They were at the top of their game. This was an excellent crew. I'm sure they were in survival mode so it was save yourself. Where everybody would have been on the ship, I don't know. I don't know if at that point they abandoned their station and they were looking for a way to get off, which again is a difficult and horrendous situation to have to leave this ship to get onto a life raft in waters that are just pounding and battering them.

BERMAN: At this point -- we talked to you so much after MH-370, which was a vast area of ocean far away from land anywhere. This is different. You're talking about not far from the Bahamas here. What are the specific challenges right now to this search where they are?

DENNISON: Well, they still are, it doesn't look that far on a map, but they really are far from land. They're in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, which the water churns up quickly with this Hurricane Joaquin. Even though the water conditions are warm, that's not a great thing for dehydration and surviving. You have Marine life. It's 15,000 feet in these areas. It's not impossible to put machines -- we do know from MH-370 we can go and look at the bottom of the ocean floor. It's a question of, you know, what will come next if we do, in fact, find survivors or additional cargo wreckage. It's still a few days out, I think, and hopefully we'll find survivors.

[11:50:06] BERMAN: They're still looking.

Christine Dennison, thanks for being with us.

DENNISON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Families still understandably holding out hope as that search continues.

Thanks so much.

Coming up for us, a groundbreaking move. The biggest state in the United States will soon allow terminally ill patients the Right-to- Die, but one woman may not get that chance to make that decision. She's fought for this, though. She's going to join us next to discuss.


BERMAN: New this morning, California just became the largest state by far to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives. Governor Jerry Brown signed he so-called Death with Dignity measure into law, which was not easy for him. The former Jesuit seminary student said his decision was based on what he would want in the face of his own death.

BOLDUAN: That's a huge question. Obviously, a difficult one. The law stipulates two doctors must approve the use of the life-ending drugs, two witnesses must be present when the drugs are taken and the patients must be capable of taking the drugs themselves and mentally capable of making medical decisions.

Now, Vermont, Oregon, Montana and Washington State have similar end of life laws in place now. The movement has really gained support in California after one terminally ill patient, Brittany Maynard, moved from California to Oregon to end her life. She was very public with her struggle before ending her life last September. Take a look.


[11:55:36] BRITTANY MAYNARD, CANCER PATIENT: I can't even tell you the amount of relief that it provides me to know that I don't have to die the way that it's been described to me that my brain tumor would take me on its own.


BOLDUAN: Christy O'Donnell is joining us now. She is a Right-to-Die advocate, diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer that she's been battling for some time now.

Christy, thank you for coming on. I think the most important question is, after the fight that you have

had, not only with cancer, but then with the law, what was your reaction when you found out that this was happening in California?

CHRISTY O'DONNELL, CANCER PATIENT & RIGHT-TO-DIE ADVOCATE: It's a very bitter sweet moment. I was first very proud of our governor to have the courage to not only look into his heart and make a decision but to accurately represent what over 75 percent of Californians want. And people like me need. So, I was very happy about that.

BERMAN: You know, there are so many parts of this debate that I think people don't fully understand or appreciate. You know, more than 30 percent of the people in the states where it is allowed who get the drugs never take them. It's about the choice itself. Christy, I heard you say, people need to understand, you don't want to die. More than anything, you want to live.

O'DONNELL: That's absolutely correct. I didn't wait until I was diagnosed with a terminal illness to start living. I've had a tremendous love you won't find a mom who doesn't dream of finding her grandchildren, and so I don't want to die, but my disease is going to kill me. That is a medical certainty, so at this point, I just don't want to die painfully or in a protracted manner in front of my daughter where she is forced to sit vigil by my days or weeks before I passed away.

BOLDUAN: I do want to -- and there is an important part of this that folks want to understand that this is going into effect. And this right might not go into effect for you. How do you make sense of that? Because if it does not go into place and time for you, and is it just a cruel irony of the fight that you have been waging?

O'DONNELL: That's a very accurate way to articulate it. When we decided to speak out in front of the legislature in California and to carry out what Brittany Maynard and her family started, we knew that we would not be able to utilize the law, but we did it so that hopefully my daughter, Bailey, and I will be the one of the last families to needlessly suffer in California. And it is clearly my hope to be alive in January and it is not like I have not given up on a medical miracle and in addition to having the legislation pass, I have brought a lawsuit against the California attorney general and the district attorney's office to ask you what you have asked me, if the law is going to pass, please let me and my family be able to utilize it so that we don't suffer personally.

BERMAN: Talk to me about your daughter, because it is one thing to make a decision about this for yourself, but talk to me about your daughter, and how she feels about it.

O'DONNELL: My daughter is my heart and I have spent 21 years putting her first, and she is the one who actually first brought up her knowledge of the law in Oregon when I became terminally ill. She has been one of those kids that is very aware and not just of what is happening in her little world, but the more global perspective as well. She was willing to move to another state, and I'm the one as a mom who vetoed that idea, because it would be extremely cruel of me to take her out of her entire support system, to do what? Put her in a house or apartment just for her to watch me die day by day? I mean, nobody should have to do that.