updated 8/3/2007 10:52:59 AM ET 2007-08-03T14:52:59

Guests: Steve Orusa, Capt. Jeff Westfall

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  There‘s new information now on that bridge collapse in Minneapolis that we learn today was actually captured on a security camera video.  Four confirmed dead, 79 injured, most significant, 30 missing.  But more than a day later, still striking uncertainty.  Today divers swam against rough currents and sharp objects and checking submerged cars for trapped bodies.  Among the hazards, tons of submerged concrete, crushed cars and an unstable bridge, rescue workers could often do little more than take down license plate numbers from the submerged cars.

NBC‘s Lee Cowan is at the scene.


LEE COWAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The mighty Mississippi was unforgiving today.  Just a few feet below its surface, in the silt and the mud, those who could not be saved yesterday lay trapped, some entombed in their cars, others their whereabouts still unknown.  As many as 30 may be missing.  Ronald Engebretsen‘s wife, Sherry, is one of them.

RONALD ENGEBRETSEN, HUSBAND OF MISSING WOMAN:  Pray for Sherry.  She would pray for you and she prayed for all the people in the disasters that have happened recently in our country, and now we ask that you pray for her.

COWAN:  The scene exploded in panic just after 6:00 PM yesterday as the I-35 bridge, a commuter favorite, collapsed and fell 60 feet into the water below.  The drivers were moms, dads, baseball fans, college students, many driving a road that they had taken hundreds of times before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We were just boom, boom, boom.  I mean, we felt this horrible—and we were falling, literally falling.

COWAN:  As you can see in this chilling surveillance video, the 40-year-old bridge didn‘t crumble.  Instead, it came down in large chunks, one after the other, a series of structural failures.  Once they started, they were impossible to stop.

The chaos was captured by those looking on in disbelief.  Some of those videos are now already making the rounds on YouTube.  Some sections remained almost intact, while others became sheer cliffs of concrete.  Cars and trucks were at the mercy of gravity as they slid uncontrollably toward the murky water.  This school bus, with more than 50 children on board, narrowly missed the water.

MAYOR R.T. RYBAK, MINNEAPOLIS:  These are horrible images, but within each of those images is a story.  That car you see tangled in the wreckage is someone‘s cousin or brother or husband.  And one story after the other unfolds as you look at them.

COWAN:  And for rescuers who were first on the scene, those stories were intensely personal.

CHIEF TIM DOLAN, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE:  People that were pinned, people that were partly crushed that were—told emergency workers to say hello, say good-bye.  So it was an amazing, amazing scene.

COWAN:  The recovery of bodies is painstakingly slow.  As one rescuer put it, imagine the search for victims at ground zero in New York, except under water.  It‘s so dangerous, only three divers were allowed in the water so far, and no bodies have been recovered today.

(on camera):  Diving in the Mississippi is treacherous, at best.  You‘ve got the current to deal with.  The visibility is near zero.  Add if you add to that concrete, sharp edges, debris, gas, oil, it makes the seven (ph) feet of the Mississippi feel more like 70 (ph) feet.

(voice-over):  Eric Herman (ph) was one of the few who dove into that tangled mess.

ERIC HERMAN, RESCUE DIVER:  A lot of particulate matter in the water, debris, pretty low visibility, maybe six inches to a foot.

COWAN:  Tonight, the Army Corps of Engineers says it‘s going to try to lower the water level of the Mississippi by two feet to give the divers a better chance, anything to help the families of the missing, who tonight are in this city‘s prayers.


ABRAMS:  As we‘ve been hearing, the biggest impediment to the recovery effort, rough currents, murky conditions in the river.  We‘re joined now by a diver who‘s been involved in many recovery situations before.  That‘s Steve Orusa from the International Association of Dive Rescue Specialists.

Thanks a lot for coming on .  We appreciate it.  All right.  Describe it for us, if you will.  They‘re saying that they‘ve got six inches to a foot of visibility down there.  What exactly does that mean?  And when you got a big light down there, I assume that still doesn‘t help, does it.

STEVE ORUSA, INTERNATIONAL ASSOC. DIVE RESCUE SPECIALISTS:  That‘s correct.  A light would help if the water was dark, but there‘s turbidity in the water.  Turbidity means that there‘s particulate matter floating in the water, and the light actually does not help at all because it reflects off that particulate matter.  And even if there is 6 inches to 12 inches of visibility, as soon as you start working to try and search, that turbidity increases and it removes all visibility.

ABRAMS:  And they‘re talking about a current, as well.  Is that going actually lead the cars to be moving into different places?

ORUSA:  It depends upon the speed of the current.  I don‘t think so.  More the current is a danger to the divers.  A diver can actually be pinned against a vehicle when there‘s current.  And you can imagine, vehicle in the water accidents are dangerous enough because there‘s sharp, razor-sharp metal.  There is leaking fluids in the water, and it‘s zero visibility.  Now combine that with a current that can pin a diver against a vehicle, and it‘s even more hazardous.  So divers need to approach the vehicle from the down-current side.

ABRAMS:  In a minute, we‘re going to show people what they can do if they ever get trapped under water.  But we‘re showing here some videotape of divers going underneath the water.  And I think it‘s instructive, Steve, because we see how murky it can get down there.  And you know, we‘re looking at water, but there‘s also the issue of the fact that there‘s concrete and all sorts of debris that‘s come off that bridge, right?

ORUSA:  You‘re absolutely right.  Vehicle in the water accidents are challenging.  Now compound that with concrete debris that‘s unstable, that can shift and pin a diver.  Not only that, these vehicles are heavily damaged, and the ability of the divers to actually open a vehicle and extricate someone is very unlikely.  The most divers can do is, if there‘s windows that are broken, which there most certainly are, they do hand sweeps inside, try to capture a victim and then bring them to the surface, and if not able to extricate them, at least secure them so they‘re not washed away by the current.  But for a diver to enter the vehicle‘s a high risk of entanglement.

ABRAMS:  Well, and that‘s one of the key factors is—people ask a lot of questions about when, the timing, what‘s taking so long.  You know, right now, there are rescue workers who need to be safe, as well.

ORUSA:  Yes, you‘re exactly right.  In recovery mode, you have to do a risk-benefit analysis, and that risk-benefit analysis is distinctly different than in rescue mode.  Remember, life safety is our highest strategic priority.


ORUSA:  And when you—in rescue mode, we‘re willing to risk our lives to save lives.

ABRAMS:  Steve...

ORUSA:  In recovery mode...

ABRAMS:  I‘m sorry, sorry to interrupt you, but I just want to take a moment here because we‘ve just gotten with us Captain Jeff Westfall with the Minneapolis Fire Department, who is actually assisting in this recovery effort.

Captain, thanks very much for taking the time.  We appreciate it.  How are things going?  Have you had to call it off for the night?

CPT. JEFF WESTFALL, MINNEAPOLIS FIRE DEPT.:  Well, they‘re still spending some time mapping the crash site, trying to find out if there are any more cars in the river, making sure that it‘s structurally sound.  And hopefully, soon we can get back in there and start the recovery effort.

ABRAMS:  Captain, is there a question as to whether there are still cars in the river?

WESTFALL:  The question I guess we need to get answered is how many of the people that are missing are in the river are able to be found.

ABRAMS:  But there are, I assume, cars that still need to be removed from the river at this time?

WESTFALL:  Yes, we have not removed any cars from the river at this time.

ABRAMS:  And you have no sense...

WESTFALL:  All the cars that went into the river are still there.

ABRAMS:  I apologize.  And you have no sense of how many...

WESTFALL:  No, that‘s...

ABRAMS:  You have no sense of how many cars are still there because you haven‘t been able to identify them all?

WESTFALL:  Right.  We have not been able to identify them all.  The divers‘ work has been slowed by the amount of water in the river.  They‘re trying to lower the pool so they can make that safer.  They‘re going to—

I think they‘ve done the work on the upstream side of the bridge, and now they‘re going to focus their effort on the south—on the downstream side of the bridge.

ABRAMS:  How are the divers holding up?

WESTFALL:  I‘ve only had the opportunity to talk to one, and he seemed to be doing fairly well.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Let me ask you to hang on.  Steve Orusa, when you‘ve been involved in these kinds of cases with this kind of debris, this kind of concrete, et cetera, what‘s the most important thing for the divers to keep in mind?

ORUSA:  Well, obviously, safety is a top priority.  Operations like this require a strong command presence because the safety of personnel depends on it.  And the no-dive decision that was made earlier today I think is a good indication that there‘s a strong command presence in the operation.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Captain, we‘ve been showing some video for people who have no sense of exactly how murky waters can be, you know, in these kinds of efforts.  I assume that when you say that it is hard to see down there, are we talking about, what, about a foot of visibility?

WESTFALL:  The—I‘ve heard from, you know, like, six inches to a foot of visibility is all they can see.

ABRAMS:  And I would assume that that‘s part of the problem and that‘s been hampering the timeframe here, huh?

WESTFALL:  Well, the—yes, the murkiness of the water and the amount of debris that is in there for them to operate safely is the big hampering.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  And again, that is file footage that we‘ve been showing, not actual footage, but it is instructive on how difficult it can be to search under water.

All right.  Captain, thank you very much for taking the time.  I know you‘re real busy today.  Good luck with everything.

WESTFALL:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Steve Orusa, thanks to you, as well.  Appreciate it.

ORUSA:  You‘re very welcome.

ABRAMS:  In the wake of this disaster, a lot of people ask themselves, What would I do if my car ended up submerged under water?  Some of the victims in Minneapolis trapped under tons of concrete—they had no way out, no matter what.  But others were able to survive after their cars plunged into the water.  Hundreds of people a year killed when their cars end up under water.

In the context of a different story, NBC‘s Kevin Tibbles found out firsthand how to try and survive if it happens to you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You are riding along and you‘re talking, and in a split second, a split second.

KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Julie (ph) Ware and her son, Alex, were driving home when an RV cut them off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I had to really turn hard in order to avoid him hitting me.

TIBBLES:  Her car flipped and plunged into a deep canal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The car was completely submerged.  I could not even see my hand in front of me.

TIBBLES:  Julie struggled to free Alex from his seatbelt but couldn‘t.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why not?  Why couldn‘t I save him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re in the woods, and there‘s water coming in the car!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My God!  My God!  Water!

TIBBLES:  Each year, some 600 people nationwide die when their vehicles go off the road into water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s only going be at the surface for anywhere from one minute to four minutes, and you need to make your escape within that period of time.

TIBBLES (on camera):  Now, you‘ve only got a couple of seconds to do this.  What do you have to do?

(voice-over):  Water safety expert Jerry Dvorkin (ph) walked me

through the steps00

JERRY DVORKIN, WATER SAFETY EXPERT:  Now we can make our escape out.

TIBBLES:  ... that can save lives, called SOS Go: Stay calm, open the window, push the seatbelt release and go.  Also, keep a rescue tool in your car.  There‘s a small blade to cut through a tangled seatbelt and a hammer or punch to smash out a jammed window.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just swing and hit, like that.

TIBBLES:  With the Palm Beach County Fire Special Operations Team close at hand...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Seatbelt on first.

TIBBLES:  ... I was put in the driver‘s seat and plunged into about 15 feet of water.  As the water splashed over the windshield, despite my training, at first, I did panic and was confused.

(on camera):  I remember they said to keep your wits about you.  So I just took a breath, and I did the window and then the seatbelt.

(voice-over):  The next attempt, I wanted to go further, to simulate being trapped when the window doesn‘t open.  I grabbed the hammer.  In a split second, the car fills and sinks.  The water is murky.  The heart races.  I take a last breath and push through the rushing water.  Surfacing is a huge relief.

(on camera):  Breaking the glass, it just (INAUDIBLE) so I couldn‘t see.  And it did freak me out (INAUDIBLE)

(voice-over):  Again, the best piece of advice: Don‘t lose your cool.  Panicking wastes energy and time.  And be prepared for what seems to be the unthinkable.


ABRAMS:  Coming up: Nationwide, the safety of bridges being reexamined.  Up next, I head to a bridge very similar to the one in Minneapolis in structure and also considered structurally deficient, maybe downright dangerous.  We drove it and examined it with an expert.  Coming up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) we must be in danger (INAUDIBLE) everybody start screaming to get off the bus.



DAN DORGAN, MINNESOTA STATE BRIDGE ENGINEER:  This particular bridge was structurally deficient initially due to corrosions of the bearings, so that they were not able to move as freely as we—as designed.



ABRAMS:  Following the reports that the Minneapolis bridge was deemed structurally deficient, we wanted to take a look at what a structurally deficient bridge looked like.  So we came here to the Pulaski Skyway in New Jersey.  It‘s considered the number one priority for repair in the entire state.  It is one of 74,0 bridges nationwide that is considered structurally deficient.  Sixty thousand people drive on this every day.  And so the question, of course: Is it safe?  How do we know?

We decided to bring along with us a renowned professor in the area, Professor Hussein Najeem (ph) from Rutgers University, who‘s been studying bridges for much of his career.  Professor, thanks a lot for taking the time.


ABRAMS:  All right.  Tell us what to look at.  What‘s significant that we‘re seeing here?

NAJEEM:  For example, here we are looking at the pier.  It‘s a concrete pier.  And what you really look for here is that make sure that the concrete, it don‘t have a lot of spoiling (ph) or pieces of concrete missing there.

ABRAMS:  It looks like there are pieces missing.

NAJEEM:  Actually, on this one, there are some pieces that are missing near the top.  And this is something you really should monitor and make sure that you have enough support there, or the required support, you know, under the bearings (ph).  So those areas probably need to be patched and attended to.  Cracking also, but you can see that a lot of these cracks are patched, but...

ABRAMS:  When you say patched, it means someone‘s actually has come in and fixed major cracks?

NAJEEM:  Yes.  They just—you know, the cracks open up, and then you don‘t want, really, those cracks to open because that allows soils and chemicals to get into the rebars, and then the rebars would corrode and lose (INAUDIBLE) section.  So here it doesn‘t look like you have exposed bars, but nevertheless, I think the concrete probably needs to be repaired to make it last longer, basically.

ABRAMS:  Let‘s take a drive across the bridge.


ABRAMS:  Professor, what‘s striking about this bridge that we‘re on is it actually has a lot of similarities to the Minneapolis bridge, right?

NAJEEM:  Yes.  Actually, this bridge is an arch truss, and with a concrete deck on top.  And many of these bridges—many of our bridges were built similar to this type of structure in the ‘40s and the ‘50s.

ABRAMS:  And this one‘s from the early 1930s.

NAJEEM:  Yes, this one actually was built in the early ‘30s, so it‘s about 70 years old now.  Yes.

These are concrete rails, reinforced concrete, but the concrete has pulled (ph) so bad that it exposed the rebars, and you can see the rust in the rebars, the corrosion.  And with time, you lose the rebar itself.

ABRAMS:  We see concrete on the side of the railing.  What does that mean?

NAJEEM:  Chunks of concrete or pieces that separate from the main deck.  And yes, that‘s is a result of deicing chemicals, deterioration of the concrete.  And once that happens, you get the exposed rebars.

ABRAMS:  A lot of rust.

NAJEEM:  Yes, this is significant rust here.  You actually lost part of the section here.  See?  All that top part, the web (ph) of that section is gone in there.  So that‘s really severe corrosion.

ABRAMS:  How big a deal is that?

NAJEEM:  It‘s critical.  And you have to take action, really.

ABRAMS:  All right, Professor, so now we‘ve been on the bridge.  We‘ve seen the bottom of the bridge.  They‘re saying it‘s the number one priority in this state.  It‘s a big deal.

NAJEEM:  Well, yes, this is a major bridge.  It‘s the most important bridge in New Jersey, so it has to be carefully attended to.  And when you say structurally deficient, it means that you really have to—you know, to probably watch, maybe have it inspected more frequent and make sure that nothing else happens or worsens.  Just you need to take action, basically, to keep it...

ABRAMS:  Do people need to be worried?

NAJEEM:  I wouldn‘t say they—they should not be worried.  But you know, you don‘t like it to have (INAUDIBLE) bridge.  You just want to bring it back out of that group or out of that category.


NAJEEM:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  All right, Professor, thank you very much for taking the time.  We appreciate it.

NAJEEM:  Sure, Dan.


ABRAMS:  And breaking news tonight, the U.S. Department of Transportation urging every state to inspect steel deck truss bridges similar to the one that collapsed in Minneapolis and the Pulaski Skyway we visited today.

Up next in “Beat the Press,” during this major news event, it seems last night one network needed a call from an executive reminding them the bridge collapse is really a big, important story.  We‘ll explain, up next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In light of what happened, you know, I would say we thought we had done all we could.  Obviously, something went terribly wrong.



ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press,” our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV.  First up, the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, the biggest story of the night, in important story.  We all covered it non-stop through this morning.  But it seems that when this broke, someone over at CNN was asleep at the wheel.  Thirty-two minutes after they first told their viewers about the story, “the most trusted name in news” broke away from the coverage.


PAULA ZAHN, “PAULA ZAHN NOW”:  We are going come back to the breaking story out of Minneapolis when we‘re able to bring you new information.  But right now, we‘re going to focus on a different drama playing out, this one on Capitol Hill.


ABRAMS:  I can just picture the person calling in, screaming, What are you doing?  A few minutes later, they were back on it.  It could have happened to us.  I‘m just glad it didn‘t.

Next up: Fox‘s Bill O‘Reilly went on another tirade against MSNBC and NBC News Tuesday night on the heels of MSNBC‘s July victor over CNN in a key rating.  We did not expect a salute from O‘Reilly, but this is almost bizarre.


BILL O‘REILLY, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  Based on ratings evidence, you would think General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt would be concerned about the left-hand turn NBC News has taken because GE is the parent company, and the cable news networks are disasters.


ABRAMS:  Little primer on the way parent company GE works.  They want to see businesses grow.  MSNBC grew more than any other cable network, more specially, 8:00, where “The O‘Reilly Factor” competes with Keith Olbermann.  Keith‘s up 40 percent in the key rating from last year.  “The O‘Reilly Factor” down 17.  We‘re up 42 percent in sales prime, from 7:00 to 2:00 AM, Fox down 19 percent.  Disaster, yes, but for whom?

Finally, over in the U.K., channel 4 news reporter Sue Turtin (ph) was reporting on recent floods.  There—well, catch the guy in the background.  This one kind of speaks for itself.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s very much a different picture, though, in the southwest of Oxford, where the swift currents have flooded out the countryside there.  People are being kept (ph) below (ph) water, and basically, the worry is here that...


ABRAMS:  The man who goosed her was caught and given a police caution.  He apologized, saying he‘d been drinking and thought it would, quote, “brighten up the situation.”

Coming up, a look back at video of some of the most significant bridge collapses in American history.  Plus, new questions about the police response tonight to that brutal home invasion in Connecticut.  A report now indicates that cops may have been outside for up to 20 minutes, not knowing the family was being murdered inside.  Also ahead, and a minister accused of beating a 14-year-old autistic boy during an alleged exorcism.  The minister has now turned himself in.  We‘ll have an update on the case, plus show you just how common exorcisms are.  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, we‘ll do a quick update on the tragedy in Minneapolis in just a few minutes.  Plus, a look at some of the worst bridge collapses in U.S. history and what caused them.  That‘s ahead.

But, first, we‘re learning more tonight about that horrible home invasion out of a small town in Connecticut where all but one member of the family was killed.  The mother apparently forced by one of the suspects to a bank to withdraw money, raped along with one of her daughters, the father badly beaten with a baseball bat, their home set on fire. 

Now a new report citing an eyewitness claims the police were outside the Petit home for as long as 20 minutes while family members may have still been inside alive.  State police initially said the first responding officers arrived just as the suspects were fleeing the home but are now backing away from that account. 

We‘re also learning tonight that the younger suspect, who was out on parole, was wearing an electronic monitoring device until just four days before the crime.  And according to reports, he called in sick to his job at a roofing company while holding the family hostage.  His explanation?  His daughter was ill. 

Joining me now is Colin Poitras, a reporter with the “Hartford Courant,” who‘s been covering the story, and Vito Colucci, a former detective for the Stamford, Connecticut, police department.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

All right, Colin, as you know, this is pretty explosive stuff that you have in the “Courant” today, the notion that a neighbor is saying that the police may have been out there.  Tell us what the neighbor said to you.

COLIN POITRAS, “HARTFORD COURANT”:  Well, I spoke to that neighbor yesterday, Dan, and he told me he was out walking his dog shortly after 9:00 a.m., and we think that the suspects had returned from the bank.  And while he was walking his dog down the block, he said that he saw a Cheshire police officer in the woods near the Petit‘s house.  And he said, as he returned to his house, other officers appeared to arrive on the scene, and then he walked around in his yard for a few minutes, and then he saw the officers confront the suspects as they left that house.  When I asked him, he said that he believed about 20 minutes transpired from the time that he first saw that officer and the time that the suspects fled from that house. 

ABRAMS:  How confident was he?  As you know, Colin, from covering these kinds of stories, eyewitness testimony can often be pretty unreliable.  How confident was he?

POITRAS:  He was very confident, Dan.  He seemed to break things down in a very minute way for me.  He remembered the officer‘s cruiser being parked by the curb.  He remembered seeing that officer walk through the woods.  He said the officer was uniformed.  The officer did not have his gun drawn, very specific details that leads me to believe that he was quite confident in what he had seen.  Obviously, you know, it was a Cheshire police judgment call here whether to go into the house right away or to set up what we imagine was some sort of perimeter in case something more happened.

ABRAMS:  Before I play a piece of sound from one of the police officers who was on this program earlier in the week talking about this, did the neighbor hear anything unusual at that time? 

POITRAS:  I talked to several neighbors in that neighborhood the day of the event, and I‘ve been talking to them almost every day since then.  And to a person, no one saw or heard anything unusual.  There has been a report out, we talked to a law enforcement source that said a police officer may have heard someone screaming inside that house.  We‘re trying to confirm that report, and that certainly would up the ante, of course, in any crisis scenario.

ABRAMS:  Wow, wow, wow.  That would be really a horrible tragedy.  All right, here is what Lieutenant Markella, who was on this program on Monday, said in response to questions about any delay time between the time that the report came in at the bank where the mother was and the time the police arrived at the scene. 


LT. JAY MARKELLA, CHESHIRE POLICE DEPARTMENT:  Any reports of a 30-minute response time are just utterly false.  People reporting that are assuming they know when the call came in.  They‘re assuming they know when the arrest was made.  And I liken it to a book critic who‘s reading the first and the last page and trying to tell someone what the story is in between.  There was absolutely no delay.


ABRAMS:  Vito Colucci, as you know, this is a serious, serious stuff here.  The authorities it sounds like may say that they were setting up a perimeter around the house.  What do you make of that?

VITO COLUCCI, PRIVATE DETECTIVE:  That‘s exactly what they were doing, Dan.  You have to understand something:  These were patrolmen on a 40-, 42-member police department.  This is a tactical situation.  A SWAT team has to handle this.  I talked to a member of the SWAT team in a neighboring town who said it would take them about an hour to get in position for this.  You know, and Dan...

ABRAMS:  So, Vito, just so we‘re clear, so for an hour, let‘s assume that someone has just said, “My family is being held hostage, right, in my house.  These guys have done awful things to us.  They‘re making me take out the money.”  You‘re saying that the authorities would wait an hour before going into the house at all? 

COLUCCI:  We don‘t even know if that‘s true, what was said.  We have no idea.  A patrolman can‘t run into this house, run into the door, two or three guys that are not SWAT-trained cannot do that.  I have a combat cross and valor citations for shootouts, but if I pulled up to that house in a squad car, even with my background, I can‘t run into that house.  You have to have a guy come there to talk to the perpetrators inside.  You have to have the SWAT team.  You know, and don‘t forget, there‘s three things that no one is talking about in this case.  Mr. Petit is OK with the police work.  Number two, those two officers could have got killed.  You showed the squad car a little bit before that.  And, number three, the bad guys were caught.  They were caught.  If they weren‘t caught up to this point, Dan, everybody would be locked in their house now. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s true.  Look, I‘ve been very supportive of the police in this.  I didn‘t buy this delay business because I had nothing to support it.  But, again, the notion here that they may have been outside and, as a result, the family may have been alive at the time, that‘s what makes this a little different. 

COLUCCI:  Now, if there was legitimately—if they heard some screams or something, if I‘m out there, then I‘ve got to do what I can to get into that house.  But if I don‘t know, you don‘t know what you‘re going into.  You can‘t bust through that door, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Vito, that‘s why we‘re having you on the show, to make sure we‘ve had some perspective here. 

All right, Colin Poitras, he‘s been all over this story, thank you very much for taking the time.  Appreciate it.  And Vito Colucci.

COLUCCI:  Thank you. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... adult male, 200-some pounds, not wearing a shirt, sitting on the bed, and he had a young child in his grasp, he had that child in what was described as a headlock, choking that child both around the neck, as well as squeezing her body, and the child was screaming, crying and at times actually gasping. 


ABRAMS:  Earlier in the week, we heard the disturbing story of an Arizona man who died after police stepped in while he was allegedly trying to perform an exorcism on his 3-year-old granddaughter.  Apparently, though, it‘s far from an isolated incident.  Tonight, we‘ve got another story of a violent exorcism, this one in Indiana, a 14-year-old boy left bruised and beaten after a, quote, “student minister” convinced his mother an exorcism could cure his autism.  For 11 hours, the pastor in training allegedly held and beat the boy until his face blew up to twice its normal size.  He claimed to be doing God‘s work, but tonight he‘s in big trouble with Indiana authorities.

Here now with us is Detective Brad Swain.  He‘s handling this case for the Monroe County sheriff‘s department.  Thanks very much for taking the time.  Appreciate it.

All right, tell us what happened. 

DET. BRAD SWAIN, MONROE CITY:  Well, a few weeks ago, a pastor in training who was doing some odd jobs at a residence where the mother of an autistic child had a conversation with him.  And he said that he could cure this boy, that this boy could be delivered, that his problems had to do with evil spirits in his body.  And he was very adamant that she bring this child home from a group home where he was receiving treatment.  He had came home on regular visits. 

And she reluctantly agreed.  Immediately after the boy arrived home, these prayers began.  The pastor in training became very boisterous.  This frightened the boy.  And as he was trying to escape and fend off this man, he was put onto a bed, struck several times in the face, choked, gagged with the pastor‘s fingers.  And as the boy would vomit, he would tell the family, who was all watching, that this was the demons coming out, and he would scream, “Come out, demons,” and make commands like that. 

ABRAMS:  How did you find out about this? 

SWAIN:  It came to me through child protective services about two weeks after the event happened.  They had learned about it and notified me immediately.

ABRAMS:  And how‘s the boy doing? 

SWAIN:  He‘s doing great.  He‘s back at home on a full-time basis. 

ABRAMS:  Are you charging the mother in connection with this case, Detective? 

SWAIN:  We‘re looking into that.  However, there are a lot of unique situations there.  It‘s something I‘ll talk about with the prosecutor. 

ABRAMS:  And I assume that this student minister is being charged? 

SWAIN:  He was charged this week with confinement in Indiana, which is a charge for holding someone against their will.  That‘s is a class-c felony here.  He was also charged with a misdemeanor, battery with injury. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Detective Brad Swain, thank you very much for taking the time. 

SWAIN:  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  This Indiana case, along with Tuesday‘s case down in Arizona, leads to the question:  How common are these exorcisms in America?  We showed you part of an “MSNBC Investigates” about exorcisms earlier this week.  Today, part two.  Apparently, ministers, student ministers, who knows, across the country performing exorcisms on an almost daily basis. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You have come out of her in the name of Jesus.  I command all thoughts of suicide, I command all thoughts of lust, and anger, and bitterness, and self-pity, I command you, come out in Jesus‘ name!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He‘s in my face, and he‘s screaming at me.  And I remember the demons telling him that I belonged to them. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You will all come out.  I‘ve called you by name. 

Yes, I‘ve called you by name, Satan.  I‘ve called you by name.  Yes..

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And then that was it.  I was calm. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There it is.  There it is. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you want to really exorcise a demon from somebody, then take your holy water, your candles, your holy books, and go to the nearest garbage can and throw it away, because you are depending on a thing to help someone.  So when we drive out a demon, we don‘t use anything except the word that comes out of our mouth. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You are going to let her go. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And so in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I command in Jesus‘ name, the spirit of fear, fear, come out!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Come on.  Come on.  There it is.  In Jesus‘ name, yes, in the name of Jesus, you will come out.  You will not torment my sister now.  Yes, you will come out.  Come out, I said, in Jesus‘ name.  Thank you, Lord.  She is going feel so liberated.  She‘s going to feel so happy.  So I command all unhappiness and depression, go, in Jesus‘ name!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  People don‘t understand the reality of Satan.  They don‘t understand the reality of demons presently at work in people‘s lives. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you ready?  Lift up your hands right now.  I take dominion right now over this spirit that has tormented my sister, that has brought this fears, these panic attacks.  In the name of Jesus, I command you, Satan, leave her alone.  Come out now!  Now!  There it is.  Let it go.  Come out!  Once and for all in the name of Jesus, there it is. 

There it is.  I said for it to come out, and it has to obey me. 


ABRAMS:  Up next, we continue our coverage of the Minneapolis bridge collapse.  We look at some of the worst bridge collapses in U.S. history and what caused them.

But before we go to break, some of the amazing photos sent into our Web site, FirstPerson.MSNBC.com.


ABRAMS:  Twenty-six hours later, still no word on just why that Minneapolis bridge suddenly collapsed.  Officials apparently warned going back to 1990 the bridge was, quote, “structurally deficient.”  In the years since, the I-35W bridge has been inspected every year.  Fatigue cracks and corrosion of its steel bridge joints among the problems found, and they said repaired. 

Tonight, federal officials calling on inspections for all what are called steel truss bridges, structures similar to the Minneapolis bridge, and the one that I visited in New Jersey earlier tonight.  The disaster is just the latest bridge collapse in the United States. 

NBC News special correspondent Robert Hager has the stunning pictures of some of America‘s worst bridge collapses. 


ROBERT HAGER, NBC NEWS ANALYST (voice-over):  The Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington, nicknamed Galloping Gertie, remains one of the most spectacular bridge collapses in U.S. history.  On November 7, 1940, a large windstorm, coupled with poor design, caused this.  The only fatality was a cocker spaniel named Tubby, but for the first time, the nation‘s attention was focused on its bridges.

The Silver Bridge, spanning the Ohio River between Ohio and West Virginia, was clogged with Christmas shoppers in December 1967 when suddenly it collapsed, after years of corrosion and structural fatigue.  Forty-six people died.  And even though that tragedy led to more rigorous inspection procedures, 16 years later, inadequate inspection was again blamed when the Mianus River Bridge in Connecticut collapsed and killed three people.

RUSSELL KOLMUS, BRIDGE EXPERT:  A lot of the bridges in the past have collapsed because of things that were unknown.  And what we do is we learn from those collapses and correct them in future designs of bridges.

HAGER:  But even the best designs can be undone by Mother Nature, as when a violent rain squall of high winds and almost zero visibility caused a freighter to slam into the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay, Florida.  Thirty-five people, most of them on a Greyhound bus headed for Miami, plunged 150 feet to their deaths.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I saw the rest of the bridge was out and applied the breaks immediately, and I stopped within about two feet of going in.

HAGER:  And a barge hit the Interstate 40 bridge spanning the Arkansas River at Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, in May of 2002.  Cars and trucks plunged into the river, killing 14 people, but truck driver Rodney Tidwell survived.

RODNEY TIDWELL, SURVIVED BRIDGE COLLAPSE:  The last thing I remember was going off the bridge.  Everything else is a blur.  Just bits and pieces is coming back to me.

HAGER:  Tidwell said at the time he‘d been wearing his seatbelt for the very first time.

TIDWELL:  I‘m very fortunate to be here.

HAGER:  And raging floodwaters ate away the Schoharie Creek Bridge in New York state, causing it to collapse, killing 10 people.  The NTSB recreated that disaster, as I reported in this broadcast back then.

To show what happened, the safety board had built a miniature seven-foot-long replica of the bridge and photographed as the current undermined the bases of the model‘s piers, just as waves at a beach undermine the sand beneath a bather‘s toes.”


ABRAMS:  That‘s Robert Hager reporting.

Up next, the day‘s “Winners and Losers,” plus the ultimate winners, everyday people thrust into extraordinary circumstances.  A tribute to the heroes of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, up next. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It just completely gave out.  The bridge started shaking, and then it was a complete freefall.




ABRAMS (voice-over):  Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 2nd day of August 2007.  Our first winner, Keshab Swain, who cracked open 72 green coconuts with his elbow in just a minute.  He claims it‘s a new world record.  Does Guinness have an elbow-busting coconut record?

Our first loser, Reverend Geoff Baron, who appears to have cracked after he caught kids skateboarding in front of his church in Australia.  The archbishop of Melbourne placed a seemingly nutty priest on indefinite leave. 

The second winner, Amir, an Anatolian shepherd who apparently saved his owner from two angry coyotes in a remote field.  Kate Mayer says she screamed, Amir dashed to her rescue and chased both coyotes away.  The heroic pooch emerged from the battle with torn muscles and broken teeth. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is our great protector right here. 

ABRAMS:  The second loser, King George, a Great Dane who accidentally shot his owner.  The 150-pound pooch knocked a 22-caliber pistol off an end table.  The gun went off.  The owner was hit in the back.  He‘s in critical condition but is expected to be OK.

But the big loser of the day, researchers at the University of Texas, who spent five years studying sex. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yo, I got to have sex tonight.

ABRAMS:  The number-one conclusion?  That people have sex because they‘re attracted to the other person.  Shocker!  A state university devoting quality time and money to figure out why people make whoopee. 


ABRAMS:  But on a more serious note, today‘s big winners, the heroes from last night‘s tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis.  These were common people in a disastrous situation who put their own lives at risk to help save the lives of others.  Here now some of the heroic stories from yesterday‘s tragedy on Interstate 35W.  Thanks to them, and thanks for watching. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We carried people from the bridge, you know, we put them on the stretchers and then carried them to the ambulance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What were you guys thinking through all this? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We were just trying to help. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, that was the first instinct, was just to try to help out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I seen this pedestrian just walk up to people that were walking up, helping, trying to lend a hand. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And right when I got there, there was a lady that was stretched or strapped to a stretcher that needed assistance with the medics getting off the bridge.  So I helped her off, and they climbed on the bridge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t even know how to describe it.  It was horrific.  I‘ve never been this horrified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was driving down the street, and I heard some sirens, so I just wanted to get a close look to see what was going on.  I had no idea that the bridge collapsed.  I went down the bank to see if there was anything that I could do, and there was a gal that was on the stretcher that needed assistance off the bridge.  So, you know, me and a few other people helped her out, and I climbed up on the bridge and helped another guy, you know, on the stretcher and off the bridge. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was on the bridge.  The bridge just completely went down, and there was about a 30- to 50-foot freefall, and my truck was completely split in half. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And one of our employees was jogging along the street there when it happened, and heard a rumble, looked up and just saw dust everywhere.  And then he actually helped out in some of the rescue efforts, pulling people out. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Way ahead of me, cars started falling.  And the ground is going out from under them, and cars were falling, and it‘s kind of like dominos.  They‘re just getting closer and closer.  And it stopped probably about five to 10 cars in front of me. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A piece went down flat, and then another part just went down in a V, and all the cars were like they were Hot Wheels, and I was screaming, “Oh, my god, there‘s kids on that bus,” because I had been behind a bus when I decided to turn and not go on that bridge. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When I looked to the right of me and I was looking down at the river, in the back of the bus where the bridge was gone, and that‘s when it hit.  My heart was beating fast.  I was just, “Everybody get off the bus.  Go out the front and the back.  Let‘s all get off the bus quick.”  And they said the front wasn‘t—we couldn‘t get out the front, so I was already at the back, opening the back door, opened the back door, and then helping kids, throwing kids off the bus. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They didn‘t have to ask.  They just came, and that‘s probably—we‘ve got some good people here.




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