updated 1/3/2006 10:58:42 AM ET 2006-01-03T15:58:42

Guest: Joe Manchin, Rick Dunlap, Blaine Mayhugh, Tom Foy, Joseph Sbaffoni,

Brett Rivkind, Walter Zalisko, Steve Cohen, Stacey Honowitz

RITA COSBY, HOST:  We begin tonight with some breaking news in West Virginia.  Rescue crews are in a race against time as they try to reach 13 miners trapped underground after an explosion.  So far, they have heard no communication, had none at all with the 13 miners.  And they're praying that they are still alive deep underground, blocked by a wall of debris.

Let's go immediately to MSNBC's Lisa Daniels, who is live in West Virginia.  Lisa, I know we just got an update a few minute ago.  Bring us up to speed.

LISA DANIELS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, that's right, Rita.  In fact, we just came from that news conference.  We ran up the hill, so just bear be me as I catch my breath.  But the coal miners have been trapped for about 14-and-a-half hours, and as you said, no word from them whatsoever.  According to the owners of the mine, the people that were holding that press conference, the coal miners are two miles from the mouth of the mine.  Now, that's important because they're about 10,000 feet horizontally from the mouth of the mine.  They are 260 feet below the surface.

Now, currently, there are two teams inside the mine.  One team is only 1,000 feet inside the mine.  The other is 1,500 feet.  Now, think of it.  They still have 8,500 feet to go before they get to the site of the explosion, and we're not talking vertically there, Rita.  Right now, at their very initial spot, 1,500 feet from the mouth of the mine, the carbon monoxide levels are fine.  The methane levels are fine.  But they say once they get into the height of that mine, they'll know much better how bad the situation is.

Now, at 9:00 o'clock, we were told that the drilling will begin.  That's drilling is not to rescue the miners, at this point, it's merely to set up this air monitor device that will tell them more about the carbon monoxide levels and the methane levels and also whether water is a problem.

But again, the cause of the explosion remains a mystery, at this point.  They don't know if it was because of all the lightning that happened earlier today that continues to move through area.  But the important thing right now, according to the owners of the mine, is rescuing them, and that has not even begun.  It's important to emphasize that.  They're still doing these initial surveys, making sure that when the drilling begins, not just to set up the air monitoring device, but when the drilling begins to try to rescue the miners, they're not going to be right on top of them.  They want to make sure that they're a safe distance from where they are.

There was a little bit of Q&A at the end, Rita, and somebody did ask about those air tanks that we heard they had on their backs.  And according to the head of the—the owner of the mine, he said that even if they have the tanks and they're working properly, and best scenario, the miners are well, they are conscious, it will only give them about one or two hours' worth of oxygen.

So hope is still there, but right now, we only know such initial information because those—the rescue team is only 2,000 feet from the mouth of the mine—Not even, they're saying, 1,500 feet.  And they still have 8,500 feet to go—Rita.

COSBY:  And Lisa, give us a sense of how the families are doing.  I mean, we remember that accident that happened in Pennsylvania in 2002, when those nine miners were down, just the families were just, you know, clinging for any news, any update.  What's the reaction from the community?

DANIELS:  Well, the families are gathered at a nearby church, and they are praying.  And of course, everyone is keeping in mind the Pennsylvania incident from a couple of years ago, which ended so fortunate.  But again, remember, during that Pennsylvania incident, it was water that was primary concern.  Here, they're worried about carbon monoxide and methane.

And a little bit earlier, we did get to speak to some of the families, and here's what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We're all together, and we're praying for him and we're here for him.  We're waiting for him to come out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If he's breathing, I guarantee you he's digging, trying to get out.  I know he is.  I hope he is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  Now, right now, we don't have too much interaction with the families because the church is several miles away.  In fact, the staging area that we're broadcasting to you from is still about a mile from where the miners had this explosion.

So again, we're still getting initial reports, but the important thing to emphasize from this news conference that we just ran out of is that the drilling to rescue the workers has not begun.  At 9:00 o'clock, somewhere around right now, the drilling will begin to try to get those air devices into the mines so that they can monitor what they're dealing with in terms of dangers—Rita.

COSBY:  All right, Lisa.  Please keep us posted with anything.  Come back to us at any time during the show.  We really appreciate it.

And we turn now to a man who not only knows what life is like as a miner, but he also personally knows some of the men that are actually trapped tonight inside.  LIVE AND DIRECT is my informant, Rick Dunlap.  Rick, first of all, our prayers are with you.  What's the mood of the families and all the folks you've talked to?

RICK DUNLAP, FORMER MINER:  Mood is kind of somber in the whole county.  With a couple family members I've spoke to, it's been real somber.

COSBY:  You know, you know sort of this area.  You know these guys that are inside.  Are these experienced guys?  Are they able to handle something like this?

DUNLAP:  Oh, yes.  Some of the guys that are there have several years mining experience, and they went through training every year that is taught and is required for all coal miners to have, to know what to do in a case of an emergency like this.

COSBY:  Are they older guys, younger guys?  Give us a sense of some of their ages and levels of experience.

DUNLAP:  Some of the guys that I know, they range ages from 30 to mid-50s.

COSBY:  And what kind of training do they get prior to this?  I mean, we've just heard from Lisa Daniels, our correspondent on the scene, talking about the air purifying equipment, but saying, essentially, that it only lasts an hour or two hours of air.  What kind of training, what kind of preparation (INAUDIBLE)

DUNLAP:  Well, they'll teach the men to barricade theirself in an environment where there is good air and sit and be patient and wait for a rescue.

COSBY:  How many little areas in a mine like this?  Are you familiar with this mine, exactly?

DUNLAP:  No, I'm not familiar with this particular mine.

COSBY:  Typically, in a mine, Rick, how many sort of areas are there where you can find pockets?  I know in the case of 2002, in the case there in Pennsylvania, they found sort of a pocket where they also clung together, waiting for the waters to recede and waiting to get rescued.  They found a spot.  How many spots are there typically like that in mines?

DUNLAP:  Like I say, I don't know this particular mine.  But you know, according to where the men are and where the accident has happened at, it could be within a very short distance, or they might have to walk some distance to find it.  You know, that's just according to the area that it's happened.

COSBY:  How complicated, too?  It's dark.  I would imagine it's cold.

DUNLAP:  Yes, it's dark.  Your lights last approximately nine, ten, eleven hours, so what you would do is take turns using your lights.  You know, you share your water.  You share your food.  And you join as one big family.

COSBY:  How close are the miners, too?  I mean, those guys, you know, they depend on each other, especially when you're going thousands of feet below the earth.

DUNLAP:  Oh, yes.  You work as a team.  I mean, each miner, you respect each other.  You work with each other.  You're basically a band of brothers there.

COSBY:  What do you make of the rescue process?  They're just about to drill.  They may have even started in the last few minutes.  They said at 9:00 o'clock Eastern time, the drilling's going to begin to get those air devices in to create ventilation.  I was also hearing earlier also one hole they're hoping to sort of use as a communication to sort of see if there's any sort of word from the guys below.  How critical is this process that's about to begin or maybe did in the last few minutes?

DUNLAP:  That would be very critical, if they can set up communications and get fresh air.  I've never been through nothing like this, so I don't know exactly how the guys would feel.  It's just, you know, if they know they're (INAUDIBLE) or, you know, they—it'd have to be (INAUDIBLE) the mine, and it's very critical to get air to them.

COSBY:  What are some of the things that miners are trained to do, in

terms of when they finally—and let's pray, of course, that they're alive

·         to establish contact?  In one case, they bang on the walls, right?

DUNLAP:  Yes, you take a hammer or a hard object and you pound on the roof of the mines, and the mine rescue has devices out that can pinpoint where you are.

COSBY:  Describe for us some of the equipment that they have down there with them, you know, just as normal procedure, going in and doing their jobs.

DUNLAP:  Oh, you would take self-rescuer, which is oxygen device.  You take your light.  And you got your hard hat, and basically, you know, you got your lunch and your water.

COSBY:  Not a lot of food, right?

DUNLAP:  No, you take enough lunch for the—you know, for an eight-hour shift, or ten, whatever you're working.

COSBY:  You know, describe to us also the process of the rescue itself, Rick.  You know, we were hearing that they start the drilling.  They were saying that—we just got a briefing in the news conference a little while bit ago—four to six hours just for the drilling.  It's a pretty tedious process, right, this—I mean, it's complicated.

DUNLAP:  Oh, yes.  See, I've never been a part of the drilling, so I really don't know.  But I'm sure that it is, and it's got to be very precise drilling, where they can put it down where they actually need it at.

COSBY:  Absolutely.  Well, let's pray that your friends get out safely.  And Rick, thank you so much for being with us at a very busy time.  We appreciate it.  Rick Dunlap, thank you.

And now let's go, if we could, to the governor of West Virginia.  Governor Joe Manchin joins me now live from the scene.  Governor, we just got that briefing.  What have you been told is sort of the status of the operation right now?

GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  Rita, I've been meeting with the families, as you know, and I've been being updated really on a very rapid-type pace.  And we're trying to give them the most accurate information.  The worst that can happen right now is for the families not to know what's going on and to hear rumors.

The third rescue squad team is down.  They're moving rapidly.  The good news is, is that I've been through these situations, and any time we're able to get a rescue team in fairly quickly, which we have in the 12 hours, that means that the levels of the air are good enough so they won't be in danger.  And that's good.

We're hoping that if the air and the quality of the air inside the mine, if the miners could find that quality air, that they've been able to barricade themselves in until we can arrive with help.  And I still have hope.  And we do believe in miracles in West Virginia, and all the families are still hoping on.

COSBY:  You bet.  And you look at what happened, Governor in Pennsylvania, of course, that's good news for these folks.

MANCHIN:  Right.

COSBY:  They survived 77 hours.  What is the sense—in this case, there was an explosion.  What do we know about the ventilation system?  Do we have any sense that they may be working or not working in the mine?

MANCHIN:  Well, let me tell you—basically, when you—this—the mine was idled down for the holidays, as I understand.  And then you have a fire boss that goes in ahead of everybody to check the methane levels and things of that sort, so it makes me believe that that was fine.  Something else had to happen.  An explosion has to have an ignition some of type.  And when you power up, there's an awful lot of mechanical equipment that has to be powered up, and at that time, something probably happened.

We really don't know.  I've heard everything, you know, from lightning strikes to mechanical failures, but there was something that caused that.  I'm just praying that the men were able to survive that explosion.  If they did, then they would have put apparatus on.  I spoke to a man that came out of the mine.  He was in there, one of the men about 10 minutes behind.  He felt the blast and he felt the heat.  And he said at that time, he put his apparatus on and he was able to find good air, so they were able to get out.

That gives me hope that maybe they can find some air quality—they have indicators there, if you will, monitors, detectors, that if they can find some quality air, they can barricade themselves in, and hopefully, we'll be able to find them safe and sound.  That's our wish.  That's what we're praying for.  And that's our hopes.  And we hope the—and we know that the whole nation is praying with us on this.

COSBY:  You bet.  You bet.  You know, Governor, as we're looking at some pictures, sort of an animation of mines—you're familiar, you know, with—this is mining country.  You know, it's the number two state...

MANCHIN:  Yes.

COSBY:  ... producing, you know, coal in the country.  How many sort of crevices—are there lots in this particular mine where they could hide and could find some comfort right now?

MANCHIN:  You have a lot of sections, as we call them, Rita.  I'm from Farmington.  In 1968, we had horrific explosion and we lost 78 miners.  My uncle was one of those that we lost, and I had many friends that I played ball with and went to school with.  So I know what these families are going through, and I wanted to make sure I contacted and spoke to each one of them.  And their spirits are high.  Their hopes are high.

There are crevices, we all know.  And these are experiences miners.  If there's a bay and if there's any way possible that they could have—could find an area to where they can barricade themselves in, they know how to survive in these conditions any way humanly possible.

We're doing everything, and I want to make sure that the families know that the state of West Virginia, the entire country, Governor Rendell from Pennsylvania, Governor Voinovich from Illinois—we've had the White House call, everyone's calling to offer the help.  And we appreciate that so much.  And we are doing everything.  We have the best people in the country right now on site.  So we'll continue.  We're not giving up, and our prayers are with these gentlemen right now, and their families have an awful lot of hope.

I had a little boy 10 years old come up to me, and they wanted me to say something to him.  (INAUDIBLE) he's working so hard, helping everyone.  And then I found out his father was one of the men in there, and he says, My daddy's OK.  So we're hoping for that.

COSBY:  Well, let's hope that little boy is right.  And Governor, we're all praying for all of you there.  And please keep us posted, Governor.  Thank you very much, governor of West Virginia.

MANCHIN:  Thank you, Rita.

COSBY:  Thank you.

MANCHIN:  Thank you.

COSBY:  And of course, everybody at home, we're going to have a lot more on this developing story in West Virginia throughout this hour, updating you on anything that breaks, now that rescue crews have entered the mine itself.  You just heard from the governor, three rescue crews inside.  They probably started drilling on the hole.  Hopefully, there's good air.  Hopefully, those men are alive.

And that's not all that we're following on tonight's show.  Take a look.  Still ahead: Survivors of the Pennsylvania mining accident tell me about their frightening ordeal four years ago, stuck underground without food for more than three days.  Plus, their biggest concern about the miners trapped now in West Virginia.

Also, the family of missing honeymooner George Smith fires back after our exclusive interview with Royal Caribbean cruise line.  They'll share exclusive new evidence, which they say shows the cruise line botched the investigation.  All that and much more ahead LIVE AND DIRECT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And tonight, we continue to follow a developing story in West Virginia, as three rescue teams are trying to find 13 miners trapped in a coal mine.  Rescuers also plan to drill an air hole soon for monitoring.  There's no word on the condition of the miners.

Well, as life-and-death drama plays out in West Virginia tonight, who can forget the moment when in 2002, nine miners were pulled out alive after being trapped in a mine in Pennsylvania for 77 long hours.  I remember that moment well, watching that.

Joining us now to tell us how frightening that experience and was to tell us what the 13 miners now trapped in West Virginia could be going through, is Blaine Mayhugh, and also Tom Foy.  Both men were trapped and rescued in the Quecreek mining accident in 2002.

You know, Blaine, what'd you think when you heard about these 13 miners today?

BLAINE MAYHUGH, SURVIVED 2002 MINING ACCIDENT:  It was kind of shocking.  The 2006 year just started, and I see a—actually, someone called me on the phone and told me about it.  And then we started watching the news all day and we seen it playing over and over and over.  And you know, my heart goes out to all their families and the miners that are trapped.

COSBY:  You know, you bet.  It's just a tough situation.  Tom, do you

·         what's your sense of this situation?  Are you optimistic?

TOM FOY, SURVIVED 2002 MINING ACCIDENT:  Well, just like Blaine said there, too, (INAUDIBLE) hopes and everything's out for their families and stuff because we know what we went through, and I'm sure, sitting on this side of the television is a heck of a lot different, just trying to watch and see what's going on.  We just hope and pray that they're all right and they got through the blast or whatever happened there.

COSBY:  Let's pray they found a pocket, you know, or something.  I want to walk through—because your story is incredible.  And hopefully—hopefully, it'll be the same wonderful outcome in this case.  You know, Tom, walk us through what happened in 2002.  You know, there you were, all of a sudden, this rush of water, right?

FOY:  Yes, there was lots of water, more than you could ever expect.  I mean, water is one thing, but explosions is another thing.  I mean, water you can at least try to get away from, but once that explosion, it's...

MAYHUGH:  Too quick.  It's already there.

FOY:  It's already there.

COSBY:  How dark it, Blaine, inside?  You know, walk us through—you know, very few people have been inside, you know, a coal mine.  What is it like inside?  How dark?  How difficult to find these holes?

MAYHUGH:  As long as your headlights work, you can see well, but whenever your headlight burns out, which most (INAUDIBLE) the headlight burns 8 to 12 hours, roughly.  And if they're going to be trapped underground so long, they're going have to use their lights sparingly, so whenever they do need to get out or something, that they have light.  But it's absolute dark under there.  I mean, you can actually put your hand in front of your face an inch away and you can't see your hand.  That's how dark it is.

COSBY:  You know, Blaine, how did you get through it?  How did you guys get through it -- 77 hours.

MAYHUGH:  We got through it with each other.  All nine of us, it took all of us together to work as a team.  There were times that you were down.  There were times that you were up.  It was an emotional roller-coaster the whole 77 hours that we were down there, times we thought we was getting out and then, no, the drill bit broke, and just times when we was running out of oxygen.  And then they drilled the six-inch hole and got oxygen down to us in the nick of time.  I mean, it was just an emotional roller-coaster, and it took all nine of us to get through it.

COSBY:  Tom, what do you think the brave men that are down there now are thinking?

FOY:  Well, like I say, I just hope they all made it. and like I say, (INAUDIBLE) barricade and hope they—which they should have a lot of experience doing barricading and stuff like that, so—I just hope and pray that they (INAUDIBLE) wherever the blast was or just far enough away that they could at least try to get away from it.

COSBY:  Absolutely.  Well, both of you, it's so good to see you both safe and sound.  And let's pray there's some more good news coming in the next few hours, let's hope, from West Virginia.  Both of you, thank you so much.

FOY:  Thank you.

MAYHUGH:  You're welcome.

COSBY:  Thank you.  Now, let's bring in one of the men instrumental in saving guys like Tom and Blaine, those nine miners back in 2002.  Joining us now live on the phone is Joseph Sbaffoni.  Joseph is the director of Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety.  Joseph, is it a race against the clock right now, with time ticking?

JOSEPH SBAFFONI, BUREAU OF DEEP MINE SAFETY:  Well, there's no question that time is of the essence here.  You know, the agency (INAUDIBLE) involved down there in West Virginia in the Mine Safety and Health Administration are doing everything they can to try to get a hold of the situation.  A little bit different in Quecreek.  Quecreek involved water.  This involves an explosion.  So now the key is to try to monitor the conditions underground so that they can safely let the rescue teams go underground and do their job.

COSBY:  You know, Joe, you talked about the difference between water in the first case and this case being an explosion.  And again, we don't know what caused it.  But how much more complicated, how much more dangerous is it, you know, A, for rescuers, and also for those men down there?

SBAFFONI:  Well, you know, number one, the rescuers—they're not going to let the rescuers go into the mine until they feel that the mine atmosphere is safe for them to enter.  You know, when we were dealing with the water up there, you know, we really didn't have rescuers going into the mine.  Here, they're going to have to get rescuers into the mine to try to evaluate the situation and try locate the miners.

I'm sure they're also doing some drilling to try to get holes into the mine to monitor the atmospheres, and also in hopes of trying to get a hole somewhere where there may be miners located, so they can establish some kind of communication.

COSBY:  How long could this process take?  We heard that the drilling, which was supposed to start at 9:00 PM—we haven't gotten an update yet, but it may be under way at this point—two sort of holes, one for communication, to maybe get some sort of point of communication with the miners, the other for ventilation.  But this is a long of process, right?

SBAFFONI:  Yes.  They have a general idea of where the miners would have been located when the explosion occurred.  So they probably have a general idea of where they'd like to get down some boreholes to try to establish communications and also to identify what the atmosphere is in that area.  It's going to take time.  One thing, it doesn't sound like there's too much cover there.  It sounds like it's similar to what we had at Quecreek, between 200 and 300 feet of cover.  So to drill a smaller-size hole shouldn't take that long.

COSBY:  And let's hope that these guys get out safe and sound.  Joe Sbaffoni, thank you very much.  Of course, very instrumental in saving those guys back in 2002, and of course, we're hoping that's going to be the same result tonight.

We're going to be staying on top of this developing story in West Virginia.  We're going to bring you an update later in this hour.  And of course, if anything should break sooner, we get any developments on whether the drilling has started, what's happening, we will bring it to you right away.  So stay right here for the very latest on the 13 trapped miners.

And also ahead tonight:  Did Royal Caribbean cruises interfere with the investigation into the disappearance of honeymooner George Smith?  We're going to show you exclusive new evidence in this case.  Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And more reaction tonight to a LIVE AND DIRECT exclusive, as we continue getting new details about the mysterious honeymoon cruise of George Smith.  LIVE AND DIRECT broke months of silence from the Royal Caribbean cruise line.  We got the first response from the ship's director of safety and security.  He says his crew did everything right to help authorities find missing honeymooner George Smith.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG PURDY, ROYAL CARIBBEAN:  It's not my job to rule out who was involved or who wasn't involved or actually what happened.  We don't know what happened.  But what we do know is that our crew and our officers on board handled the situation responsibly, in a manner that follows our company policy and in a way that was compassionate and which retained our company value, having safety be the priority, above all else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Well, now the Smiths' attorney, the family for—the attorney

for the family, rather, Brett Rivkind, is here to give us his response, as

well as some exclusive new details.  Brett, I first want to ask you what's

your reaction to Royal Caribbean saying that they basically did everything

by the book, everything they should have done?

BRETT RIVKIND, SMITH FAMILY ATTORNEY:  Well, I think it's scary because I think what they're saying is, is they would repeat themselves and do the same thing.  And I think you got to ask yourself what they say and what they don't say.  You know, why is Mr. Purdy—he's the head of the security here, by the way, in the corporate offices in Miami.  Why wasn't he called first?  And why didn't he get on a plane and go there immediately to supervise the investigation, instead of the risk management department in Miami getting the first phone call, and they send their lawyers on board the ship to take a bunch of statements before the FBI gets there, take time to wash the blood off before the FBI gets there, and otherwise tamper with evidence and contaminate the evidence before the FBI comes on?  Why wasn't Purdy involved?  He just comes on TV as their corporate representative with these nice statements that, We did everything right and responsible.  But they don't way what they did, and the public needs to know the truth.

They, as we have said from the beginning, Rita, is tried to pass this off as just an unfortunate accident and cover it up.  And nothing's changed by his statements, other than it should scare the public to hear him say that they followed company policies and procedures and that they acted responsibly and compassionately.  That's a scary statement.

COSBY:  You know, Brett, you talked about statements, in fact, from the ship's captain.  I understand you have some documents that you sent us.  Tell us what, early on—it sounds like they just sort of said it's an accident and that's it, right? 

RIVKIND:  Yes, we said from the beginning, Rita, that part of the problem here is that this company wanted to pass this off as an accident, leave the port in Turkey as fast as possible, and didn't give the FBI an opportunity to investigate a probable murder. 

And what I'm giving you is—and we've obtained a report that the captain of the ship—and this is amazing.  Because the other day, Lynn Martenstein, the representative of the cruise line company, was on TV.  And she said, for the first time, six months later, if anybody ever characterized this as an accident from our company, that was a mistake.  And she said she didn't know of anybody who characterized it as an accident.

Well, you know, I've given you a casualty report filed by the captain of the ship.  She doesn't know who said it and if anybody said it, it was a mistake.  Well, it was the captain of the ship.  He filed a report shortly after this occurrence stating that, after our investigation, we assume that George Smith was just sitting on the rail of his balcony cabin and probably lost his balance and fell overboard.  And that's what we've said from day one.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite passengers in the cabin next door reporting loud noises and fighting, and despite the presence of blood in that cabin, the captain writes a report to a governmental authority saying that it was just an accident. 

And I just had a recent meeting with the FBI who's confirmed with me that their initial information was this was just simply an accident.  And it wasn't until after the ship left Turkey, which the cruise line was in a rush to get out of there, that the FBI finally had more facts known and determined it wasn't just an accident.  It had to change the focus of their investigation at that point. 

But by that time, the blood had been wiped away.  The evidence scene had been tampered with.  People had gone in and out of the cabin.  And the lawyers for the cruise line company had gotten to the witnesses and taken statements before the FBI got there. 

COSBY:  So everything was sort of erased at that point.  You know, one of the other things, Brett, real quick—I want to get to two things real quick with you.  But first, one of the things he brought up was Jennifer Hagel, the newlywed, some really interesting behavior on her part.  I want to show a comment, and I want to get your reaction. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She did not report that her husband was missing.  We found that he was missing based on our narrowing down to the cabin and make announcements for both of them, actually.  And then, after locating her in the spa, we still hadn't ruled out that he may somewhere.  And we continued to search. 

Mrs. Hagel-Smith was wearing clothes from the night before.  And we did provide her with clothes.  And again, Marie helped her get everything so that she could be ready to go for the interviews with the authorities. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  You know, Brett, it seems that the family is frustrated that a lot of people are not giving them all the information, right?

RIVKIND:  Well, you know, as we've said before, the family just wants answers.  And, of course, with an ongoing investigation, we've indicated frustration, you know, with the company.  And we're frustrated. 

But right now, we're kind of confined about what we can discuss with you also.  There's certain information I can tell you that we learned at my recent FBI meeting.  And then there's certain information we're not allowed to disclose. 

COSBY:  Well, please keep us posted.  And before we go, Brett, I want to put up on the screen—this is an e-mail address that the family has provided.  These is for other folks that are cruise ship victims, sort of starting an effort to see other victims that may be out there.  They have an e-mail address set-up, cruisevictims@cox.net

And anybody at home, please, if you have any information, be sure to e-mail that address and provide it, if you could, to help solve this case.

And now let's bring in, if we could, a passenger that was on board the same cruise as George Smith.  Joining us now is Walter Zalisko.  Walter's also a police chief in Oak Hill, Florida.

Walter, first of all, your cousin was on the ship.  And I want to show a comment first.  This is, I think, relevant, because I think you have some stunning information.

This is a comment, first of all, from Royal Caribbean cruise line.  I asked them what happened to that blood stain that we just heard from Brett Rivkind, the attorney for the family?  This is what they said happened, sort of the time line of what happened to the blood stain and how it was removed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The canopy has never been painted over.  To this day, the canopy was washed at the end of the day, after the Turkish authorities came on board, conducted a complete forensic investigation, again, taking samples, taking photographs, and taking certain items from the cabin.  They gave us express permission to clean the canopy, as well as the state room. 

We kept the—we did clean the canopy.  And that's just with a high-pressure water wash.  We kept the state room sealed for the following six days while we were in communication with the FBI.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Now, Walter, what did your cousin see?  They're saying that that blood stain was noticed early in the morning and then washed away very late, it sounds like, in the day. 

WALTER ZALISKO, CRUISE SHIP PASSENGER:  Well, yes, apparently, it was washed away later on in the day.  And we've had reports that that canopy was painted over eventually at some point.  We don't know whether it was the same day or a few days later. 

But the fact is that that scene was contaminated.  It was sanitized.  And not just the canopy, but we're talking the entire room.  I had just found out that there was a large amount of blood on the bed. 

So, you know, once these individuals came into the room from the ship security, they should have immediately walked out of that room, closed the door, and confined that room until proper authorities came on board. 

COSBY:  And, Walter, did you see somebody or did your cousin or one of your relatives see something being washed away earlier in the day or trying to be washed off? 

ZALISKO:  No, what they had seen is someone standing over—two individuals in white uniforms standing over on the canopy over the blood splatter and just looking down at it. 

COSBY:  And what time was that? 

ZALISKO:  That was about 7:00 in the morning. 

COSBY:  7:00 in the morning, because they're telling us around 8:30 or so is when they started getting notification.  It sounds like the time line is a little off.

ZALISKO:  Yes, their time lines are totally off, because I was in the dining area at about 7:30, 8:00, and they had already made the announcement over the P.A. system, “Will Mr. And Mrs. George Smith please report to the front desk?”

So they knew ahead of time.  They knew already at 7:00 that they were

·         that Mr. Smith was missing. 

COSBY:  There are a lot of unanswered questions.  And we will stay on this, everybody.  Thank you, Walter, very much. 

And still ahead, everybody, the very latest on the emergency situation in West Virginia, where 13 miners are trapped deep underground.  Rescue crews are now trying to save them. 

Also, Aruban officials were supposed to re-question, remember, the three suspects in the Natalee Holloway case before the new year?  So why have they not brought the boys back in?  We're going to find out.  That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE COHEN, SPECIAL ADVISER TO ARUBAN GOVERNMENT:  It is expected that he will be re-questioned somewhere in the next 10-day period.  I doubt that they will bring him back for questioning immediately.  But it will be in that period.  And also, it is expected that the Kalpoes will also be brought in for questioning. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Well, you just heard it.  Almost two weeks ago, LIVE & DIRECT broke the news that the three key suspects in the Natalee Holloway case would be brought back in for questioning. 

Well, here it is, 13 days later.  Joran Van Der Sloot and Deepak and Satish Kalpoe still have not answered to Aruban police and prosecutors again.  So what's the hold up? 

LIVE & DIRECT tonight is Steve Cohen.  He's a special adviser to the Aruban government.  He's the man who told us that the three suspects would be re-questioned by December 31st

Steve, before we get to you, I want to show what Natalee Holloway's stepmother, Robin Holloway, told us about her conversation that she had with the Aruban prosecutors. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBIN HOLLOWAY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S STEPMOTHER:  She said that that was misinformation, that the judge, when he released them, it was unconditional that they were unable to re-question them without them being brought in voluntarily, because they were released by the judge and they were unable to interrogate them again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)  

COSBY:  So, Steve, what's the hold up?  What's the discrepancy? 

COHEN:  Well, Ms. Holloway's right.  The voluntary nature of the Dutch

law exists because, if there's no new evidence that's presented or no new

re-arrests, the attorneys have the opportunity to voluntary decide to come

in or not. 

The truth is, at the end of the year, we were very enthusiastic that this process would not take a long time.  So what's transpired is that the prosecutors have sent letters to each of the attorneys requesting that their clients, Joran and the Kalpoes, come forward for re-questioning. 

I do want to add though, Rita, that no one really thought the re-questioning itself was going to be a break in the case.  It's only, you know, one piece of the case that the prosecutor's trying to put together.  And, of course, she's not going to reveal new evidence at this stage either.  She wants to withhold that until she gets closer. 

COSBY:  But how long could this take now?  I mean, what are we talking about time-wise?  Because as you pointed out, you know, you seemed pretty confident it was going to happen.  Are we talking months?  Are we talking weeks? 

COHEN:  Well, I have to say, I really think, you know, we all misjudged the process, that we were very enthusiastic at that stage in the investigation we'd be able to get this piece done and moved forward. 

Rita, I don't want to put a time line on it.  I don't think we want to get caught saying that it's 10 days or 13 days. 

COSBY:  Is there a possibly, Steve, that they could say, “Look, it's voluntary.”  Heck, why would they go in?  You know, I mean, are you confident that they will go in at all? 

COHEN:  No.  I'd have to say that our confidence level is not at the highest level. 

COSBY:  So what changed it?  Because there certainly seemed to be a level of confidence.  Did all of a sudden the attorneys say, “You know what?  We thought about it.  Forget it.  Why would we put our clients in that kind of jeopardy?”

COHEN:  Yes, I think what's happened here is what you would expect in any system, Dutch or U.S., which is that the attorneys have said, “Let's give this thoughtful consideration.  What do they have that we don't know about?”  We go in there thinking we're going to talk about the general scope of the case, and they're going to ask us questions that we just can't answer. 

COSBY:  But didn't they know that going in?

COHEN:  Of course, that's what we hope will happen.

COSBY:  But didn't they know that going in, Steve?  I mean, come on.

COHEN:  Well, I think they—it's plausible that they knew that going in.  But, I mean, you know, this is a cat-and-mouse game between the suspects, between their attorneys and the prosecutor's office.  This is not something that's uncommon.  The prosecutor is very skilled in this area, though, I must add, and I think that she will prevail. 

COSBY:  Let's hope so.  Steve Cohen, thank you very much.  Always good to have you on.  We appreciate it. 

COHEN:  Thank you. 

COSBY:  So what effect does this have on the Natalee Holloway case?  And also, what about the possibility of a rape charge?  Remember, Joran Van Der Sloot spoke with “El Diario” newspaper saying that he did have sex with Natalee when she was sort of going in and out of consciousness. 

LIVE & DIRECT tonight to talk about all this is sex crimes prosecutor, Stacey Honowitz. 

Stacey, let's first talk about what Steve was just saying.  You know, he seems confident that, maybe at some point, they'll come in, but boy, did this hit a roadblock. 

STACEY HONOWITZ, FL. SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR:  Yes.  You know what, Rita?  The difficult nature of this whole thing is, in the very beginning, when this investigation was screwed up, when they didn't bring these people in or they let them go too quickly, when they didn't seize the evidence, seize any kind of DNA, the computers, the cell phones, anything of that nature, now they have to look back at everything and really try to make a case. 

I mean, why would these attorneys now bring in these kids to talk to the prosecutor when they've been out all this time, they've had an opportunity to speak to the father, who's a judge...

(CROSSTALK) 

COSBY:  Do you think it'll ever happen, Stacey? 

HONOWITZ:  ... who obviously was the one who told them to...

COSBY:  Do you think it'll ever happen, or do you think they're going to dodge it?

HONOWITZ:  So I think that, no, realistically, I don't think these people are going to come in voluntarily.  I think that, if more evidence is brought forward, if somehow there is a break in the case, if maybe her body is found, if they can get a warrant issued, then they can arrest them.  But as far as the attorneys bringing them in voluntarily, I don't think it's ever going to happen. 

COSBY:  Stacey, what about the new news, too, that Joran Van Der Sloot did this interview with “El Diario,” the big newspaper there on the island, and said, yes, he had sex with Natalee Holloway when she was going in and out of consciousness.  Isn't that enough to drag him in for re-questioning?  That's a lot different than what he's told authorities.

HONOWITZ:  Well, I mean, you can drag him in because he made an inconsistent statement.  You could try to get him in and try to convince the judge that no it's not voluntary, that we have some new evidence. 

But in a rape case, Rita, it's going to be very difficult.  First of all, you didn't have her to testify that she didn't consent to the sex. 

COSBY:  But in and out of consciousness...

HONOWITZ:  You don't have that victim to talk about that.  But if you don't have that victim to talk about that, “I didn't consent, I didn't know what was going on,” then you don't have a rape case.                 

So really, from day one, from everything that has gone wrong in this case, like I said, now they're trying to backtrack and trying to make a case.  And as we all know, that's very difficult. 

Hopefully, somewhere down the road, there will be a break, but I don't think it's going to be from these kids coming back in and talking.  They've tried it before. 

COSBY:  Oh, what a frustrating process.  Stacey, thank you very much. 

We appreciate it.  Thanks a lot. 

HONOWITZ:  Thank you. 

COSBY:  And there's a lot more coming up here tonight on MSNBC.  Let's check in with Joe Scarborough now for a quick preview—Joe?

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST:  Thanks so much, Rita.  As you know, the “New York Times” blew the cover of a top-secret national security program several weeks ago that allows our government to track possible terror suspects in the United States of America. 

Well, the “Times” is catching a lot of heat right now.  The Justice Department's investigating.  And these people are starting to ask whether these type of leaks are damaging America's national security.  We're going to be debating that and much more tonight.

And of course, following the latest developments in West Virginia, in that terrible mine tragedy, tonight on “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”

COSBY:  And we'll be looking forward to it.  Thanks so much, Joe.

And, Tucker Carlson, what's the buzz on “THE SITUATION”?

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  Well, Rita, also, we're going to open up the show with, again, the latest on what's going on in West Virginia and in that mine where those 13 miners are trapped.  We'll also tell you about a new move afoot in academia, American universities, to ban Coca-Cola.  We'll tell you why that's happening. 

And the question many people are asking this New Year's, as resolutions are made, should I quit my job?  We'll tell you if you should.  We'll go out on a limb and tell you whether you should go and hand your papers to your boss. 

COSBY:  Oh, OK.  Hopefully, our bosses aren't watching that one right now.  Thanks, guys, very much. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Rita. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks. 

COSBY:  Good to see everybody back starting off the new year, everybody.  Thanks so much, Tucker and Joe.  Be sure to watch them at the top of the hour and also at 11:00. 

And still ahead, everybody, we were going to bring you—we will bring you the latest on the developing story that we're following all hour here, as you can tell, on LIVE & DIRECT.  As you heard from Joe, the 13 miners trapped underground after a dangerous explosion in West Virginia.  After the break, we're going to show what you it will take for the rescue team—there are three teams going inside—we're going to talk about how dangerous that is, how complicated that is.  We're also going to have the very latest on the situation, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And we want to get the very latest for you now on the breaking news of the day, the big story.  The mine rescue efforts are under way right now in West Virginia.  LIVE & DIRECT is NBC's Tom Costello, who is there on the scene. 

Tom, what do we know about the drilling efforts?  Did they start about an hour or not? 

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, what they're doing right now is they're trying to triangulate exactly the location that they should do some drilling, because they don't want to do the drill—make a hole, I should say, in the wrong place. 

So what they're doing is, they have several survey teams coming out triangulating what their best guess is, using GPS technology, their best guess, on where they think that they might find these trapped miners, these 13 miners.  And then what they will do is they will drill down and they will try to test the air.  And they hope, perhaps, use some sort of a listening device, a microphone to see whether they hear any signs of life inside this mine. 

Here's what's interesting.  Immediately after the explosion this morning, the mine management team up here—and, by the way, they're just right behind us—they didn't know what had happened.  They just knew there was a problem of some sort. 

So the mine management team got in.  They walked down 9,000 feet into that mine.  Well, the mine—they think the problem is at 10,000 feet.  So they know that it's possible to get 9,000 feet into that mine without any obstructions. 

So, you say, well, what's the delay?  Why aren't they already there?  Because the mine management team realized there was a problem, they thought there was a problem with gas, and they got out of there quickly. 

The mine rescue team goes through this very methodically.  Every 500 feet, they have to stop, they have to check the gas levels inside that mine, and then they get on the telephone, and they call back.  They don't use the telephone until they know the gasses are OK, because they don't want to spark an explosion. 

They get on the phone.  They call back and say, “We're OK at this level.  We want to go another 500 feet.” 

So they're methodically moving their way through there.  By they know they can get 9,000 feet into the mine.  So is the obstruction at 9,000 feet more or less?  That's what they're working towards.  They think that they can probably get there before the end of the night or before sunrise.  But that's where the obstruction is.  So, at that point, they've then got to try to break through the obstruction and try to find the people who are missing. 

COSBY:  Quite a tedious process and very dangerous and difficult process. 

COSTELLO:  Yes, it really is.

COSBY:  Tom, please keep us posted.  Anything else, please come back to us right away.  Thank you very much.

So just what could be going on underground right now?  And how does this compare to other rescues in the years past?  LIVE & DIRECT right now is NBC News analyst Robert Hager.  He's a veteran reporter who covered many mine rescues, including the most recent major one in Pennsylvania.  We talked to some of the guys who survived that back in 2002. 

You know, Bob, we just heard from Tom a little bit about the drilling. 

And this is a very difficult, very complicated process, where to drill.  You don't want to hit a spot that can be dangerous to the miners, that are hopefully alive inside.

ROBERT HAGER, NBC NEWS ANALYST:  Absolutely.  And, in this case, as Tom explained there, you don't know just where they are, so that makes it even more difficult.  I think everybody remembers that accident 3 ½ years ago in Somerset, Pennsylvania. 

And there it was a slightly different situation, because that was a flood, rather than an explosion, like this one is.  So I think we have a graphic here we can show how they went about rescuing those miners. 

In any event, they first drilled down an air hole—there it is—where they did know where the men were.  And they drilled down the air hole, then drilled down to suck the water out, then drilled in that last shaft there to bring the men out and rescue them. 

But in this case, was an explosion, you're dealing with debris rather than water.  So they first have to reach the debris and then determine whether they can get through that debris.  And then they have to find out, beyond the debris, where the men are. 

So there's—it's a grim situation.  I mean, these are really long odds here, I'm afraid to say. 

COSBY:  Yes, that's what I was going to say.  Are you wary, unfortunately, about the outcome of these guys? 

HAGER:  Yes, I think we were buoyed by what happened in Somerset, Pennsylvania, 3 ½ years ago.  And you want to hold out just as much hope as you possibly can.  But this looks to me like a much more difficult operation. 

COSBY:  You know, you've actually been inside some of the mines.  I've been in some of the old mines.  But you've been in some active coal mines.

Describe for us what it's like inside.  You know, we had some of the guys on before, dark, very little food.  But just sort of, you know, how complicated is it inside for these guys at this moment? 

HAGER:  Sure.  Well, imagine, they're in the pitch black.  I mean, if they had battery light, they don't want to use them, because they need to save all of the power they can.  They don't know how long they're going to be there. 

Most of the time, you're seeing pictures here where they're standing up in the mine shafts.  But most of them, as you get up to the head of the coal, there are only a couple of feet to stand in.  So you can't really stand.  You're crouching all the time, which gets old in a hurry. 

And then, it's cold down there.  It'd be 40 degrees, 50 degrees, damp. 

Just terrible conditions.  But the worst of it would be the pitch black.  And then breathing apparatus, which is not exactly clear what sort of breathing apparatus they had.  I think they had air purifiers rather than oxygen. 

There are sometimes oxygen canisters pre-positioned in other places around the mine.  But whether they were able to reach them or not, we still aren't clear about, because, of course, there's been no contact with these people since this happened. 

COSBY:  You know, and we're not clear on a cause.  We've heard everything.  We had the governor on earlier in the show.  I don't know if you heard, Bob.  But he was saying anything from, you know, weather, maybe a lightning strike...

HAGER:  Yes, I'm going to tell you one thing...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  ... and then mechanical.  What do you think it could be?

HAGER:  I don't believe that lightning.  I think that would be such a long shot.  If lightning—lightning could be involved, because it hit some piece of equipment outside the mine and send a jolt of electricity down some wire inside and cause an explosion, but lightening wouldn't directly cause something like this.  It would have been a secondary cause, such as I described there. 

But this mine had been idle during the holidays.  They were just reopening it.  There are a lot of pieces of equipment they've got to turn on.  So it could have been something there, and some methane buildup while the mine was shut off during the holidays.  A lot of things that could have happened with all that methane gas in there, Rita.

COSBY:  Robert Hager, thank you very much. 

HAGER:  Sure.

COSBY:  Great to have you.  And we appreciate it. 

And, of course, everybody, I want to do a programming note.  We are going to be broadcasting LIVE & DIRECT tomorrow from West Virginia with the very latest on the accident and, of course, the frantic rescue efforts.  Hopefully some good news coming overnight and into tomorrow.  And we hope to bring it to you.

We are going to be right back with more. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And again, we're going to be live in West Virginia tomorrow night.  That's LIVE & DIRECT.  I'm Rita Cosby.  “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” with Joe starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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