Guest: Joanne Bundock, Richard Willing, Jim Moret
ALISON STEWART, HOST: It was drama at "Discovery," a nail-biting
repair job played out live for the whole world to see. The first-of-its-kind
spacewalk went perfectly. It went so well, there could be another one.
Because tonight, NASA is still not certain the shuttle is safe to come home.
Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
They talked the talk, and they did the walk. Never before in the
history of NASA, in the history of the space shuttle, in the history of the
universe, has a mission like this been attempted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE ROBINSON, "DISCOVERY" ASTRONAUT: OK. That came out very easily,
probably even (INAUDIBLE)...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: No fuss, no muss. But will there be another spacewalk to fix
another problem? The hitch just keep coming.
Twenty lost in 48 hours. Six Marines killed yesterday, today, 14 more
Marines from the same battalion killed in a roadside bombing.
And two tales of survival.
A Toronto-bound traveler who escaped the wreckage of Air France flight
358 will tell us about the landing that could have taken her life.
And then to Davenport, Iowa, where a Ferris wheel fall by a
developmentally disabled man did not end in tragedy.
And today is Martha Stewart's birthday. You know what she got? A
bracelet, an ankle bracelet, for three additional weeks.
The details are ahead.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
And good evening. I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.
Quote, "It looks like the big patient is cured." With those eight
words, an exuberant Steve Robinson secured his place in this nation's history.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, here's to you, Mr. Robinson.
The first in-orbit repair to a space shuttle ever attempted went off without a
hitch. Thanks to a camera mounted inside the 49-year-old astronaut's helmet,
the world got to follow along as Robinson easily slid the potentially dangerous
pieces of fabric from the giant grid of the shuttle's belly. As one colleague
commented, it looked like a lifesize game of Jenga (ph).
The jubilant team tempered only slightly by the possibility of one last
obstacle, a ripped thermal blanket just below the commander's window, being
analyzed tonight by engineers on the ground.
Our correspondent Tom Costello is there at the Johnson Space Center in
Houston tonight. Tom?
TOM COSTELLO, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Alison, good evening.
The engineers and the astronauts here on the ground at NASA were
watching their televisions closely this morning, holding their collective
breaths, and watching some breathtaking images. And in the end, astronaut
Steve Robinson made it look easy.
(voice-over): Perhaps never before has such a minor repair been so
risky and yet so spectacular.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we'll be asking to you stand tall and lean
COSTELLO: Astronaut Steve Robinson, riding the space station's arm to
the belly of the shuttle. His job, remove two pieces of gap filler sticking
out near the nose gear, but as the crew reminded Robinson, without damaging the
shuttle's protective tiles.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It goes without saying that we don't want to see
(INAUDIBLE) contact with (INAUDIBLE) or the belly of the orbiter.
COSTELLO: Nearly four hours into the spacewalk, Robinson reached the
first piece of filler.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's your show, Steve, take it away.
ROBINSON: (INAUDIBLE), and it's pulling, it's coming out very easily.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That resembles us in some ways a flat paint sample
from a hardware store.
COSTELLO: The forceps, scissors, and hacksaw Robinson was carrying to
cut the filler free weren't even needed. Minutes later, the second piece of
filler came into view.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE), you're go from M-2.
ROBINSON: Thank you. Here we go.
OK, that came out very easily, probably even less force. It looks like
this big patient is cured.
COSTELLO: NASA had been worried the patient could suffer real damage
if those gap fillers were allowed to drag hot air under "Discovery" on
reentry. Instead, Robinson had performed minor surgery, and enjoyed the view
of his life.
ROBINSON: Oh, my goodness. My eyes have never seen such a sight.
Thanks to the whole team for making this day actually supersmooth and easy as
well as historic.
PAUL HILL, FLIGHT DIRECTOR: With those gap fillers coming out like
that, we've got a clean vehicle for deorbit.
COSTELLO: But there is one more area NASA is concerned about, a piece
of protective blanket sticking out just below the flight deck. As ground crews
measured the mock-up, Mission Control notified the crew there could be one more
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They might have to plan for a fourth EVA.
COSTELLO (on camera): EVA is NASA lingo for spacewalk. The concern is
that that piece of blanket may actually fall off near the commander's window --
that's Commander Eileen Collins' window, by the way -- and kind of tumble down
the length of the "Discovery" on reentry and possibly cause some damage.
They're not terribly concerned about this, and actually, at the moment,
they have not decided on a fourth spacewalk. They'll decide on that tomorrow.
Tonight, they're simply celebrating a tremendous day in space, Alison.
STEWART: Thank you so much, Tom.
For an expert's take on today's triumph and the crew's latest concern,
this ripped thermal blanket, return again to James Oberg, former space shuttle
Mission Control engineer, who spent more than two decades at NASA, and he has
been an invaluable resource to us here at COUNTDOWN these past few days.
Mr. Oberg, good evening to you.
JAMES OBERG, MSNBC SPACE ANALYST: Hello, Alison.
STEWART: Let's start by addressing this latest safety concern. From
what I understand, overnight, they'll be doing some wind tunnel tests. Can you
explain specifically what they're worried about, and how they'll make the
decision about ordering that fourth spacewalk?
OBERG: Well, that's right, Alison. Samples of the, of this cloth
material have been flown out to NASA's Ames Research Center in California. And
they have wind tunnels there that can go fast enough to simulate the Mach six,
Mach eight air that will pass that window.
For most of the entry, the shuttle is pitched so far up, you're not
getting a lot of wind back by the cockpit. When you pitch over, then you get
the wind. There's a big difference between this problem and the problem with
the belly, with the items on the belly causing drag. That was at Mach 25, at
early entry. No one had any test stands. No one had any mathematics to really
show what can happen. And they couldn't be sure it was safe, so they had to
take the stuff out and fix it, which they did this morning.
This time, they can test. This time, they have mathematical models for
that speed. And what they're looking at, and what we were told tonight at a
press conference that ended about an hour ago, is that they're very unlikely
they'll have to do a spacewalk, but they want to make sure.
Meantime, according to Wayne Hale, they're going to pound this problem
STEWART: All right.
Now to the pictures that nobody around here can get enough of. Let's
talk about today's spacewalk. Anything stand out for you, surprise you?
OBERG: Well, what was most pleasurable to see, Alison, was how well
the preparation on the ground worked out, all the positioning, the steadiness
of the platform. And, of course, to reach out and with the best tool that
we've ever sent into space, a human hand, pulling the material, pulling this
little gap filler out between the tiles.
It was just a pleasure to watch, because it shows that the NASA team,
the shuttle team, knows how to prepare this when it concentrates on these
The disasters in the past couple years, the "Challenger" disaster in
'86, Alison, these were not just random failures or nature being tough or space
being hard. They were caused by human beings, team members failing to properly
be careful enough and making wrong decisions. This time, everything was
considered. Nothing was assumed. And safety was pretty well assured.
STEWART: They made it. Mr. Robinson made it look so very easy. So it
makes us all wonder, what was all the fuss about? Was it really that easy?
OBERG: Well, that's -- it was pointed out that you have to concentrate
on a whole bunch of different things at the same time. And the answer to that
was, he's trained to concentrate on a whole bunch of things at the same time.
It was made easy, it looked easy because the training was hard. That's
an old Chinese proverb, that the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in
war. And that's certainly the motto here at the space center in Houston, where
people sweated the whole last week, all last weekend. As we were talking to
you from the platform in building nine, we could see people working all around
us, preparing, first the spacewalk this morning, and today, they were measuring
windows in the different simulators, just to make sure that they know how to do
it if they have to.
STEWART: Little bit of Chinese philosophy, a little bit of space
analyst. James Oberg, we thank you so much.
OBERG: Thanks, Alison.
STEWART: Despite today's obvious success, the problems that have
plagued this mission are sparking tough questions about the future of the
shuttle program. After admitting that NASA had inadvertently been playing,
quote, "Russian roulette with the lives of astronauts," officials grounded the
rest of the fleet.
As our correspondent Mike Taibbi explains, the persisting problems with
foam debris that brought down "Columbia" and that "Discovery" dodged by luck
has some asking whether this latest grounding should be a permanent one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, one. And liftoff of space shuttle "Discovery."
MIKE TAIBBI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Problems with the
latest manned mission into space have some scientists asking again, Should the
shuttle program be scrapped altogether?
Dr. Alex Roland (ph) is a space policy expert at Duke University.
DR. ALEX ROLAND, SPACE POLICY EXPERT, DUKE UNIVERSITY: The shuttle
fleet is aging. It's becoming less safe with every passing year, every passing
flight. There's no question in my mind that it would be best policy to say,
Forget it, retire the shuttle immediately...
TAIBBI: With a growing chorus of naysayers, what keeps the shuttle
program flying? Many critics say it's old-fashioned pork barrel politics.
STEVE ELLIS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: Americans' love affair with
space combined with powerful politicians really have made a potent mix that
defies common sense and fiscal responsibility.
TAIBBI (on camera): Working with a budget of over $16 billion this
year, NASA has skillfully spread its contracts throughout the country. While
key facilities are in Maryland, Texas, Florida, and Alabama, a recent survey by
a taxpayer watchdog group identifies 148 separate contracts in 39 states.
ROLAND: If you include all the costs, all the overhead, it's in excess
of $1 billion every time we fly a shuttle...
TAIBBI (CROSSTALK): Supporters say the flexibility of manned
spaceflight, and the shuttle in particular, provide more opportunities for
learn and discovery than unmanned alternatives, whether it be through planned
experiments or a result of the sort of troubleshooting that the current shuttle
crew is experiencing.
As the debate continues, one thing remains certain. Politicians and
contractors benefit from the spending, even as some scientists ask if it's all
worth the cost.
Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.
STEWART: NASA had already planned to retire the shuttle fleet in five
years, but instead of abandoning it altogether, they may go the Frankenstein
route and take the various components from the ship and just rearrange them.
The results might look something like this. Drawings from a private space
systems developer show a vehicle closer in form to the old Apollo rockets.
The plan is to put people and cargo on top, instead of alongside the
fuel tank, distancing them as much as possible from the risk of firing engines
and loose debris. The new rockets would circumvent the foam problem altogether.
The design is set to be formally unveiled later this month.
Toronto, take two. We'll talk to a survivor about the chaos as that
Air France flight ended up in flames. It landed while the airport was under
red alert from a lightning threat. And a lot of folks want to know why.
But up next, one of the deadliest attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq,
14 Marines killed in a roadside bombing. The latest from the front lines and
the homefront. The coping mechanisms of some military families are being put
to the test.
You're watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
STEWART: The human toll from the war in Iraq continues to mount,
largely due to an insurgency that continues to adapt and appears far from
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, a brutal day for U.S. forces.
Fourteen Marines killed in western Iraq in one of the deadliest single attacks
on U.S. forces since the war began.
It happened just south of Haditha in what has become one of Iraq's most
violent areas. The U.S. military has been trying to crush a persistent
insurgency in the region for many months now.
The 14 Marines and their civilian interpreter were riding in a convoy
when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. Seven more Marines were
killed just two days ago, also near Haditha. The Pentagon says the insurgency
keeps changing its tactics, but is not attacking U.S. forces any more than it
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIG. GEN. CARTER HAM, U.S. ARMY: Is, I think, very important to
always remember that this is a very lethal and, unfortunately, adaptive enemy
that we are faced with inside Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: This loss, hitting especially hard in the Buckeye State
tonight. All 14 of the Marines killed today, and six of the Marines killed
Monday, were all part of the same battalion, the Brook Park Battalion, based in
Correspondent Carl Quintanilla has that story tonight.
CARL QUINTANILLA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rarely has so much
loss befallen such a small region of the country. In the past week and a half,
nearly two dozen from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, have been killed, many
of them from a handful of small Ohio towns.
Paul Montgomery lost his son Brian, one of his two Marine sons
remembered by two stars on the front door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He probably could have gotten out of it if he had
wanted to, and he wouldn't have any part of it.
QUINTANILLA: Corporal Jeffrey Boskovitch was from a town not far
away. He had big plans, a career in law enforcement and a wedding.
PAUL BOSKOVITCH, FALLEN MARINE'S UNCLE: I think he really was a person
that had a great deal of purpose in his life.
QUINTANILLA: The families here, who, just this January, watched the
Marines prepare to deploy, both shock and an understanding nod. These Marines
had seen combat nearly every day, many of them snipers, charged with rooting
out insurgents crossing into Iraq from Syria, dangerous work that has put
Marines on Iraq's undefined front lines.
LT. COL. KEVIN RUSH, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Every Marine is a rifleman.
And everybody knows that if you're pulling a trigger, that somebody else is
going to be pulling a trigger right back at you.
QUINTANILLA (on camera): Military officials plan a family weekend in
coming days, offering counseling for those who need it. The men of the 325 are
due back in September, but Paul Montgomery's younger son, Eric, also in Iraq,
will bring Brian's body home soon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said, If you think you're proud of him now,
you're going to be so much more proud of him after some of the things I tell
QUINTANILLA: Brian's son turns 1 year old today, too young to share
the sadness of towns where the number of the fallen is already too high.
Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, Willoughby, Ohio.
STEWART: More grim news out of Iraq tonight. An American freelance
journalist found murdered in southern Iraq. The body of Stephen Vincent was
recovered this morning on a street in Basra. Police say he had been shot
multiple times, this after and he and his Iraqi translator were abducted at
gunpoint hours earlier. His translator hospitalized in critical condition
Vincent's murder comes days after he wrote a "New York Times" opinion
piece. He suggested Basra's police force had been infiltrated by extremists.
A police source told the writer that some off-duty officers were behind many of
the assassinations taking place in Basra each month.
Quote, "He told me that there is even a sort of 'death car,' a white
Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police
officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment."
But did that death car come for Vincent himself? Reuters did report
that Vincent was abducted by five gunmen in a police vehicle.
The investigation into the airplane crash in Toronto. Weather is a
focus, but so is the fact that someone gave the green light to land in such
extreme conditions in the first place.
Another amazing story of survival. A 31-year-old developmentally
disabled man panics on a Ferris wheel and tries to get off the ride while he's
stopped at the top. Some brave souls saved the day.
But up next, they might move like the Spice Girls. But one of those
words doesn't apply. "The Crying Game" to a beat.
Oddball is next.
STEWART: Back now, and we pause the COUNTDOWN. I'm Alison Stewart,
playing the role of Keith Olbermann while he is on vacation, although he's
literally a foot taller than I am.
I'll be your tour guide tonight, taking you through the mixed-up world
of crazy flying machines, South Korean pot music, and shameless self-promotion.
Let's play Oddball.
We head to Amsterdam, the Netherlands. And oh, the humanity. It's a
Zeppelin. But this one, not on fire. It's simply attracting gawkers at
Amsterdam's Harbor Terminal. This 250-foot-long flying dinosaur docked after
its flight from Germany. So is this some sort of Robert Plant (ph) promotional
vehicle? No, it's the German-built tool of a South African diamond mining
company to help find little sparklers.
It's basically a bling finder, headed to Nambia, Africa, where its high-
tech equipment will scan for some nice ice. It's The first Zeppelin used as a
diamond scout, and if successful, the mining company has said it will be used
to help track the movements of P. Diddy.
To Seoul, South Korea, where the new pop sensation soon to be burning
up the charts is a group called Lady. Only there's something special about
Lady. And no, it's not their sweet dance moves. It's not their incredible
style or sexy songs.
How shall I put this? The members of Lady used to be another group
called Dude. Holy Arrowsmith, Batman, that's right, they're not the Fab Four,
they're the Faux Four. And they openly admit they're transgenderness. This
used-to-be boy band is said to be popular with both men, women, and the
estimated 10,000 transsexuals in South Korea.
Lady says they hope to be recognized for their talent, not their sex-
change operations. In the meantime, they are available for bar mitzvahs,
weddings, and anything fabulous.
And finally tonight, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it's the annual Mozart
Bridge dive. Over the past 400 years, brave citizens of Eastern Europe have
convened here, taking the dangerous plunge 75 feet into the Nirvetva (ph)
River. Hope I got that right. The bridge, originally built in the 16th
century, was destroyed during the Bosnian war in the early '90s and was just
reconstructed last year.
This year, about 60 competitors delighted the crowd with cannonballs
and jackknives. Not to be forgotten, though, our own COUNTDOWN-producer-slash-
daredevil, Carey Fox, who made this unforgettable leap.
From scary kicks to real-life danger, the crash of flight 358 and the
amazing survival of every single person on board. We'll talk with one of the
lucky passengers next.
And it's not so lucky for Ms. Martha Stewart, finding out today she'll
be spending an extra three weeks with her special ankle accessory, and on her
birthday, no less.
Those stories ahead.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, 24-year-old Brianna Strohl of Lincoln, Illinois. Her
mother, a former police officer, is in jail on marijuana charges. And Brianna
has been working to raise money to pay the $7,500 bail, working by selling
methamphetamine. She's been arrested now and is being held on $10,000 bail.
Number two, the master art thieves who struck the Hotel Continental in
Oslo today. The hotel has one of Norway's largest private art collections in
its main sitting room, including 12 genuine Edward Munchs. The thieves walked
in, took three paintings off the walls, jumped into a waiting car, which took
them to a waiting boat at a nearby marina, and then disappeared with three fake
Munch paintings. Enjoy them, fellows.
And number one, commissioner Joel Silverman of the Indiana Department
of Motor Vehicles. He's implemented a bold new solution for the interminably
long lines and waiting time people to have suffer through at the DMV. He hired
more people to work at counters? Nope. Beefed up the motor vehicles Web
site? Uh-uh. Streamlined the system? No.
He ordered the clocks be taken down from all the DMV locations in the
state, the idea being, the wait won't seem so long if there's no clock to stare
Well, that no-clock thing works in Vegas, pal, but the Indiana
Department of Motor Vehicles ain't no Vegas.
STEWART: The more you learn about the crash of Air France flight 358,
the more miraculous it seems that everybody on board got out alive. Our third
story on the COUNTDOWN: surviving catastrophe. In a moment, one of the
passengers shares her experience. First, the latest on the investigation.
It took firefighters 16 hours to finally douse the flames, allowing
officials to get close enough to examine the wreckage. This view from the
aerials above reveal how far the fire spread through the plane, feeding off the
combustible material in the luggage compartment and gutting the main cabin.
Safety officials say the blaze initially broke out on the left wing during the
crash. But the cabin crew was able to evacuate everyone in 90 seconds, before
the flames and fumes spread through the plane.
As for why the Airbus slid off the runway, Canadian officials say bad
weather was probably a factor. The co-pilot had already aborted one attempted
landing because of a dangerous thunderstorm before he tried again and crashed
into that ravine. But while investigators have now retrieved both slightly
charred black boxes, they don't know yet whether the weather was the only cause
of the accident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAL LEVASSEUR, CANADA TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: We will be looking
at all aspects of this accident. Weather is one of them. Aircraft performance
is another one, hydraulic pressure, brakes is another one, spoilers, thrust
reversers. We will be looking at all of those. And just for your information,
an accident normally seldom happens as a result of one cause.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: It's now up to a team of 50 different investigators,
including officials from the American NTSB and from Air France, to determine
the exact cause or causes of the crash.
I'm joined now by one of the survivors of flight 358, Joanne Bundock.
Joanne, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
JOANNE BUNDOCK, PASSENGER ON FLIGHT 358: Well, it's certainly nice to
be with you tonight.
STEWART: I can only imagine! First of all, how are you feeling?
BUNDOCK: At this point in time, more than 24 hours after, I'm coming
down from that very high adrenaline rush that has been surging through my body,
with all this extra energy. And at this point in time, I'm beginning to feel a
few of those aches and pains associated with such a hard, rough landing in that
type of a situation. But other than that, I'm doing great and glad to be here.
STEWART: And I hope you don't mind, I would like you to walk us
through what happened. As the plane was beginning to land, was there a sense
that something was wrong?
BUNDOCK: Well, for me, I -- with the amount travel that I do all the
time, looking out the window, I could tell that we were coming in very fast and
very high on the runway. And we were going down the runway at such a speed and
a height level that I could tell that this pilot was going to have to put this
plane down any second, and it was going to be a hard landing. And I even
cinched my seatbelt a little tighter, at that point, recognizing that that kind
of was going to happen.
And then when we hit, we hit really, really hard and then proceeded to
go into a situation that felt like we were running across hundreds and
thousands of potholes. And instead of kind of slowing down and coming to a
stop, the intensity increased. And we came to a very jolting, fast stop and
caused everybody to lurch forward in their seats. Hopefully, their seatbelts
STEWART: All right. Once you came to that stop, that dramatic stop,
what happened? Did you have a sense that there was a fire in the cabin, or did
you have a sense that, I need to get off this plane?
BUNDOCK: There was an announcement from one of the flight attendants
that said, Ladies and gentlemen, everything is fine. We have stopped now. But
I could smell a kind of petroleum, gasoline smell, so I certainly knew that
everything was not fine. The flight attendants kind of ran to the back of the
plane and then quickly ran up and said, We have to evacuate, and they opened
the two doors.
I was sitting in row two, so the two doors right behind the cockpit,
where you enter and exit the plane, were opened. And because I was in row two,
I was one of the first kind of people off the plane. I looked to the left, and
I could see through that open door that the chute had really not deployed
totally, but there was a tremendous amount of black, heavy, thick smoke that
was going beside that exit door.
So I did have a choice, and I went to the right side of the plane,
where the evacuation chute again was not fully deployed. It was very tangled
at the bottom. I went out that door, and kind of halfway down, had to roll off
that chute onto the ground because you didn't want to become tangled at the
bottom of the chute, with all of the rubber and stuff that was down there. So
you kind of had to roll out, like you were rolling out of a rubber boat, and
maybe dropped maybe five or six feet, seven feet onto the ground at that point.
STEWART: And Joanne, finally, as you look back -- and you've seen the
photos in the newspaper and you've seen the footage on the television. When
you see that, what do you think?
BUNDOCK: You know, I was just watching the footage right before going
on, and it's unbelievable. When we were at the highway, at the 401, and
standing there in that driving rain storm and watching the plane burn, we could
still see the whole front part of the plane. And to see now what has happened
and that -- that little kind of crispy pancake, that everybody got out of that
flight is, indeed, I think, what everybody has termed this, a miracle. I
certainly believe that and feel that.
STEWART: Well, we are so glad to be talking to you. Joanne Bundock,
one of the 309 survivors of Air France flight 358. Thank you so much for
sharing your story tonight.
BUNDOCK: Thank you.
STEWART: We'll say up to the front, it is amazing that everyone on
that plane survived. Amazing, but not necessarily unusual for at least some
passengers to survive a seemingly catastrophic airplane crash. COUNTDOWN's
Monica Novotny is here to explain -- Monica.
MONICA NOVOTNY, COUNTDOWN: Hi, there, Alison. Despite the growing
demands on our commercial aviation system, NTSB studies show the accident rate
remains about the same as it was more than 20 years ago. And today, more
people are surviving crashes. But when we see the pictures and hear from the
survivors, it's almost impossible to believe.
(voice-over): It is as difficult to believe now as it was then. In
this horrific moment, more than half of the 296 people on board survived.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have almost no controllability!
NOVOTNY: July 19, 1989, Captain Al Haynes piloting United flight 232,
when at 37,000 feet, a rear engine explodes and the plane's hydraulic system
shuts down completely.
AL HAYNES, FLIGHT 232 PILOT: We had no hydraulics, no way to steer the
aircraft, so we were only steering it by power alone. Just before touchdown,
the left wing came up on us and we hit at an angle, and that's what broke the
NOVOTNY: Incredibly, Captain Haynes manages to land the plane in Sioux
City, Iowa. This just one of countless aviation disasters from which many
passengers managed to walk away, the NTSB saying more than 50 percent of
passengers in commercial plane crashes from 1983 to 2000 survived.
Twenty years to the day of Tuesday's Air France crash, Delta flight 191
crashing short of the runway while attempting to land in Dallas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he landed on the freeway here, I thought
maybe, you know, Well, he might make it. And then he went over there, and it
was just a giant flame.
NOVOTNY: The NTSB citing atmosphere weather conditions as the cause,
163 people on board, 29 survived. Three years later, an Aloha Airlines 737
loses a third of its roof in flight due to cracks in the fuselage. One flight
attendant is lost, 94 survive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw that the plane was disintegrating. I saw
that there was absolutely no hope that they were going to land. The pilot did
something that was unbelievable in putting that airplane down. A plane like
that should not fly.
NOVOTNY: On June 1, 1999, in Little Rock, Arkansas, American Airlines
flight 1420, attempting to land during a thunderstorm, hydroplanes off the
runway, crashing into a steel light tower, 134 of the 145 on board survive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I did get out, it was like that whole
section was blown out. I was the last one out of that area that I was in.
NOVOTNY: On March 5, 2000, Southwest Airlines flight 1455 skids off
the runway in Burbank, California, stopping just short of a gas station.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything's out from the ceiling. The masks and
the electrical wiring came down and stuff. And the stewardesses were trying to
calm everybody. The only thing I kept thinking there was, God, don't let it
NOVOTNY: No fire, and everyone makes it out alive, proving survival in
the worst of situations is possible.
HAYNES: We shouldn't have been able to control the airplane. That's
fact. We just shouldn't have been able to do it. But somehow, we did. After
seeing that video, that so many people survived, I can't believe it.
NOVOTNY: In 1999, the American Psychological Association took a look
at the psychological well-being of a group of plane crash survivors, and they
found that over time, the post-traumatic stress symptoms subsided and the group
went on to live emotionally healthy lives. Now, that is some more good news.
STEWART: It is good news. COUNTDOWN's Monica Novotny, thank you.
Really interesting package.
NOVOTNY: Thanks, Alison.
STEWART: And another fortunate outcome yesterday on what could have
been a tragedy at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds. It is a favorite annual
event for hundred of visitors and some special guests with special needs. But
for one developmentally disabled man, it turned into a night of fear rather
than fun when he slipped from the top of a ferris wheel 50 feet up.
Thirty-year-old Caleb Hill (ph) panicked when the ferris wheel came to
a stop. As he slipped from his seat, his caregiver grabbed him. His arms were
slippery from sunblock, and she couldn't hold on. But her efforts bought
precious time, time for park employees to begin climbing the wheel. They were
there to rescue Mr. Hill after a fall that obviously could have been so much
worse. He was taken to a local hospital and treated for minor cuts and
bruises. There was nothing wrong with the ferris wheel, and the park has a
clean safety record. The unnamed caregiver, rattled from the whole episode,
went home for the day.
Also tonight, a tragic end and a new beginning for the family of Susan
Torres. Doctors take her off life support that kept her technically alive for
three months, but not before delivering her baby daughter. Details ahead. And
a little later: Did a tabloid photo of Martha Stewart joyriding an all-terrain
vehicle cost her three weeks more of freedom? And breaking runaway bride
news. Get out that dress, but leave the tennis shoes behind. Indications that
Jennifer Wilbanks is going to give marriage another go.
STEWART: It's been nearly three months to the day since 26-year-old
Susan Torres collapsed, stricken by an undiagnosed melanoma which ultimately
left her brain-dead, her husband, Jason, a constant presence at her bedside,
praying she could hold on long enough to give their unborn child a chance to
Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: Susan Anne Katherine
(ph) Torres was born yesterday morning. This afternoon, her mother passed
away. Doctors at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington say Mrs. Torres's
cancer was spreading, quote, "exponentially," and making the call to deliver
her baby just 27 weeks into the pregnancy, Jason Torres then making the painful
decision to remove his wife from the life support which has sustained her since
His brother summed up the events of the past 24 hours as bittersweet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN TORRES, SUSAN TORRES'S BROTHER-IN-LAW: From the beginning, we
knew that two things would get us through to the baby's birth, God's providence
and Susan's determination. Susan was always the toughest person in that ICU
room. Her passing is a testament to the truth that human life is a gift from
God and that children are always to be fought for, even if life requires, as it
did of Susan, the last full measure of devotion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Richard Willing is a reporter with "USA Today" and was
invited to spend time with the Torres family in Susan's hospital room early on
in their ordeal, and he's been following this story ever since. Richard, thank
you so much for spending some time with us.
RICHARD WILLING, "USA TODAY": Thank you, Alison.
STEWART: I know you had the opportunity to speak with Jason's brother,
Justin, earlier. How is the whole family doing?
WILLING: Well, seemingly well. That being said, I'm not quite sure
what the standard is for "well" in this case. As you noted in your intro, they
accepted a new child into the world yesterday, and today stood around a bed and
prayed and sent the mother away. It's -- I don't know what the standard is for
a situation like that.
STEWART: Certainly. The birth of the baby is unusual. Can you put it
into perspective, the various circumstances that challenged baby Susan even
WILLING: Well, it was a real long shot, from what the doctors said
then and even said today. There have been children born of women whose brain
function had ceased, also children born of women with melanoma, but no case the
doctors can find of a woman in both situations. That's to say cancer-stricken
and brain-dead, giving births. So this is kind of literally a day-by-day
STEWART: There was always the risk or the fear that the mother's
cancer would spread and jeopardize the baby's life. Do we know if the little
girl, the baby, is OK in that regard?
WILLING: So far, so good. Time will tell. There's no obvious cancer,
I'm told, in the placenta or in the child. She'll be watched carefully as time
goes on to see if some undetected cells manifest themselves. (INAUDIBLE) the
growth of the cancer I think is what brought the delivery about on Tuesday. As
you noted in your intro, doctors, I think, were somewhat concerned that various
life signs, blood pressure, and damage to the kidneys and liver were going to
begin to compromise the infant, and so they went in and took it.
STEWART: There's another child to talk about here. This family, they
have a 2-year-old son. Where has he been during this ordeal?
WILLING: Peter, or Pete, as his dad calls him. Pete's been spending a
lot of time with his very large extended family -- sets of grandparents are in
town, a lot of aunts and uncles and cousins. He's not been told, as of
tonight, that his mother is gone or that he has a baby sister. He had tumbled
very early on to the fact that something was wrong and it had to do with his
mother, who was gone. His uncle Justin tells me they've been sort of trying to
prep him, sort of broaching the idea that there might be a baby coming home.
And not surprisingly, as a 2-year-old boy, he's profoundly disinterested.
STEWART: Well, they are a beautiful looking family and he's a
beautiful looking kid. We thank you so much for sharing your reporting with
us. Richard Willing of "USA Today." We appreciate it.
WILLING: Thank you.
STEWART: OK, this is a decidedly hard left now to those stories of
celebrity news and gossip we call "Keeping Tabs," but we'll do our best.
Congress none too pleased with one Mr. Rafael Palmeiro, house Government Reform
Committee chair Representative Tom Davis saying Palmeiro now under
investigation for perjury after his emphatic denials about steroid use. That
happened back in March.
The Baltimore Orioles first baseman has already agreed to turn over all
documentation relating to his positive steroid screening, more details of which
have come out today, sources close to the baseball testing program telling the
AP that Palmeiro tested positive stenozolol (ph), the same drug that cost
Olympian Ben Johnson his gold medal in 1988, expert telling "The Baltimore Sun"
it is an extremely powerful and, quote, "very tough steroid," one unlikely to
have been taken unintentionally.
As for the timeline, Palmeiro actually took the test in May, the
arbitration hearings taking just long enough to see the potential Hall of Famer
get his 3,000th hit just two weeks ago.
Will Martha Stewart's new show make it on the air on time? Maybe not,
at the rate she's going. On this, her birthday, she was just handed a present
from law enforcement, three more weeks of home confinement. We'll get to the
bottom of it all next on COUNTDOWN.
STEWART: Before we get to our number one story, a shocking development
in one of the year's top tabloid stories, we have a shocking development in one
of the year's other top tabloid stories. The Jennifer Wilbanks wedding? Back
on! As sources, Norcross, Georgia, Pottery Barn tells MSNBC that Wilbanks and
fiance John Mason have made new visits to the store in preparation for round
two and confirms the new wedding registry is in their name on the store's Web
site, which lists a matrimonial date of August 12, 2005. So let the cable
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will she show up this time? Will he show up this
time? Will the blushing bride wear white or just throw on the old blanket?
Find out in nine days with "Wandering Eyes II: The Return of the Runaway
Bride." MSNBC's special 24/7 blow-out wall-to-wall unrelenting coverage begins
tomorrow morning in Georgia, with an unrivaled panel of experts to cover every
aspect of the story. Plus, our correspondents will be covering all the local
train stations and bus depots, just in case there's a return to flight. It's
the countdown to the return to the wedding that never happened, but it gripped
the nation because she ran away on a bus to Vegas, but now she's back, and
they're getting married on August 12 only on MSNBC. And most everywhere else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Does Roker (ph) know about that?
And speaking of the old ball and chain, it was supposed to be just one
more week before Martha Stewart shipped that ankle shackle, but word today that
the captain of industry and convicted felon has agreed to what her lawyer calls
an extension of the terms of her home confinement.
Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: Martha's got to cool it
in her crib until August 31. No specific word from probation officials as to
why, but according to the very aboveboard publication, "The New York Post,"
authorities were looking into its report that Ms. Stewart was tooling around
the grounds of her manse in an off-road vehicle and that she'd made an
appearance at a yoga class near but not in her home, where she is required to
stay. That's kind of the point of house arrest.
Did I mention it was her birthday today? Happy birthday, Martha.
Jim Moret is the chief correspondent for the syndicated TV show "Inside
Edition," as well as a legal analyst. Jim, thanks so much for being with us.
JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": Hi, Alison.
STEWART: Her lawyer said she agreed to this. Now, how do you agree to
an extension? Wouldn't it be simply imposed?
MORET: Well, you would agree if there was a possibility that it would
be even longer. And let's face it, if there's a picture of you in "The Post"
and there was also an article in "Vanity Fair," where Martha Stewart was very
outspoken, saying something like, House arrest is hideous, talking about it as
lockdown and talking about this ankle bracelet that just irritates her ankle so
much and that she was being made -- she was being an example of to scare other
people and this whole prosecution was really out to get her -- these are not
things that you really want your client saying when they're still under house
So yes, they agreed, but I suspect that there was a possibility of even
longer confinement. And one thing we know, obviously, with the Wilbanks
wedding on the 31st, we know that Martha Stewart won't be going there because
she's going to be at her home.
STEWART: All right, who has been responsible for this decision, Jim?
MORET: Who? Well, it could have been the probation officials probably
talked to her attorney, and before it went before a magistrate or a judge, they
could come to some form of agreement. But you know, Alison, I really suspect
that the timing of this article hurt Martha Stewart, that in addition to this
photograph. You don't want photos of you circulating on "The New York Post"
when you're supposed to be under house arrest.
And I can't imagine anybody of higher profile than Martha Stewart.
Let's face it, you don't want to be doing this kind of thing. Stick with the
confinement regulations, and everything will be fine. She could have been out
and walking about and doing whatever she wanted, but now she's facing three
more weeks. But that's really just a slap on the wrist.
STEWART: You do think it's a slap on the wrist? They're not making an
example of her in some way?
MORET: No, I don't think so. I mean, three weeks is a bother, but
it's not really a horrible confinement. Let face it, look where she is. She's
at a mansion that any of us would love to be in, and it's hardly cruel and
unusual punishment. So it's three weeks. I think that she's being told very
clearly, Don't blow it this time. Three weeks is your additional penalty.
Live with it. And then everything will be fine, and August 31, you're a free
STEWART: And in a black-and-white world, not a cornflower or ecru or
whatever other Martha colors are out there, she did break the rules.
MORET: It sure looks like it. If you're at a yoga class, it's hard to
imagine -- you know, she's being allowed to leave her estate for 48 hours a
week for purposes of going to church and for work, but yoga would hardly
qualify as either.
STEWART: The down dog (ph) bitter end. Jim Moret, legal analyst
for "Inside Edition." Thanks a lot for your time tonight.
MORET: Thanks, Alison.
STEWART: And that is COUNTDOWN. I'm Alison Stewart, in for the
vacationing Keith Olbermann. Thank you so much for watching.
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