April 11th, 2014
11:23 AM ET

Pistorius Accused of Hiding the Truth

Oscar Pistorius faced another day of relentless cross-examination Friday as the prosecution challenged his account of the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has accused the athlete of hiding the truth about the death of Steenkamp, whom he shot last year through a closed toilet door in his home in Pretoria, South Africa.

His questions again sought to undermine Pistorius' reliability and credibility and to portray the Olympic athlete as someone who was inventing his version of events and "tailoring" evidence to suit his story.

As Nel turned once again to the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013, he repeatedly challenged Pistorius over his actions in the moments leading up to Steenkamp's death.

The prosecution's argument is that Pistorius shot Steenkamp intentionally after a heated argument. Pistorius does not deny shooting her but insists that he mistook her for an intruder.

Pistorius said he thought he heard the toilet door opening before he fired.

"I didn't intend to shoot. My firearm was pointed at the door because that's where I believed that somebody was," he said. "When I heard a noise, I didn't have to think, and I fired - I fired my weapon. It was an accident."

Nel, known in South African legal circles for his bulldog-like approach to cross-examination, responded to Pistorius' testimony almost with scorn.

"Your version is so improbable that nobody would ever think that it was reasonably, possibly true," he said.

Nel then hammered Pistorius on whether he had known Steenkamp was in the toilet when he fired.

"You knew Reeva was behind the door, and you shot at her," Nel said more than once.

"That's not true," Pistorius replied in a low tone.

That dramatic moment was when Nel asked for the trial to be adjourned until Monday morning.

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April 11th, 2014
11:02 AM ET

Students' Journey of Hope Ends in Tragedy

A group of low-income and first-generation prospective college students were the victims of a fiery freeway crash that killed 10, including five youths.

It was a trip to open doors and possibilities for the students, but it was cut short by a horrific crash.

Three buses - two from the Los Angeles area and one from the Fresno area - were en route Thursday evening to Humboldt State University in Arcata when a FedEx truck crossed a median and slammed head-on into one of the buses.

The collision killed both drivers, five students and three chaperones, said Lt. Bruce Carpenter with the California Highway Patrol.

The crash resulted in a fire that engulfed the truck and bus, spewing black smoke.

"I went outside, and everything was in flames already," a local resident, Luis Lopez, told CNN affiliate KXTV. "There were a couple of explosions after that."

The reason the FedEx truck crossed the median remains under investigation, the Highway Patrol said. The investigation could take months.

At least 34 people were taken to local hospitals, authorities said.

The collision occurred in Orland, about 100 miles north of Sacramento.

One of the survivors chronicled his experience through Twitter.

"i was asleep and next thing you know i was jumping out for my life," Jonathan Gutierrez wrote, saying he couldn't believe what just happened.

He wrote that he suffered a bruised leg, cut eyebrow and scratches. Later, he said his left leg was injured to the point that he couldn't walk.

"All my stuff that I packed is burned. I'm beyond thankful that I'm still here," Gutierrez tweeted.

He called the experience traumatizing.

"Seeing everyone hurt was not how (I) expected my day to go," he said.

The other two buses made it to the university, and those students were placed in dorms, Humboldt officials said.

The university is offering counseling to those students.

An annual university program brings low-income and first-generation college prospects to campus each year for a two-day visit.

The students stay in residence halls, attend events and visit with staff and students from a program that helps historically underrepresented students, the university said.

The Los Angeles Unified School District confirmed that there were 19 students from the district on the trip but that many other districts had students on board as well. District officials could not confirm whether any LAUSD students were among those killed or the conditions of their students.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in the tragic accident on I-5 in California. We are cooperating fully with authorities as they investigate," FedEx spokeswoman Bonnie Kourvelas said.

The truck sideswiped another car before crashing into the bus. The two occupants of that vehicle were not seriously injured but were sent to a hospital for treatment.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Friday that it is sending a team to California to investigate as well.

"One, we're going to be investigating the human, the machine and the environment, and what's critical for us especially in highway accidents if for us to collect perishable information, the kind of information that goes away very quickly," NTSB Member Mark Rosekind said.

The NTSB's role will be to determine whether anything from the accident could have a national impact.

The agency seeks to determine not just what happened but why it happened, Rosekind said.

"And then the most important thing we can do is issue recommendations so that these kinds of accidents don't happen again," he said.

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March 31st, 2014
11:26 AM ET

U.S. Pinger Locator Heads to Search Zone

Potential leads on the missing Malaysian Airline Flight 370 keep coming. So do the setbacks and frustrations.

Monday's search ended without finding anything significant, Australian officials said. Four orange objects spotted by search aircraft and earlier described as promising turned out be nothing more than old fishing gear, they said.

Underscoring the difficulty of the search, U.S. Navy officials loaded underwater locating gear aboard an Australian naval support vessel and set out to sea Monday evening, but won't be able to make use of the equipment until searchers narrow the search zone.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. William Marks told CNN's "State of the Union" that his team needs a conclusive piece of debris to narrow down the search area before deploying the equipment.

"We have to be careful not to send it in the wrong place," he said. "But we also wanted to get it out there as close as we can to what we believe is the right place."

The gear includes a pinger locator that's towed behind a ship and scans for the sound of the locator beacon attached to the plane's flight data recorder. Also on board is a remotely operated submersible that can look for wreckage on the ocean floor.

It will take the ship, the Ocean Shield, three days just to get to the search zone, leaving precious little time to locate the plane's flight data recorders before the batteries on its locator beacon run out. The batteries are designed to last 30 days; the plane has been missing 23 days.

Under favorable sea conditions, the pingers can be heard 2 nautical miles away. But high seas, background noise, wreckage or silt can all make pingers harder to detect.

In this case, searchers barely know where to look at all.

"We are searching a vast area of ocean, and we are working on quite limited information," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters Monday. "Nevertheless, the best brains in the world are applying themselves to this task. ... If this mystery is solvable, we will solve it."

And he vowed to keep looking.

"The intensity of our search and the magnitude of our operations is increasing, not decreasing," he said.

Ten aircraft and 11 ships scouted more than 98,000 square miles (254,000 square kilometers) of Indian Ocean on Monday looking for the missing plane, Malaysia's acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Monday.

Flight 370 vanished March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

A new Australian Joint Agency Coordination Center is being formed to synchronize search efforts among Australian agencies and other countries taking part in the search, Hishammuddin said.

And Malaysia will ask the United States about the possibility of deploying more military assets, he said.

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March 31st, 2014
09:28 AM ET

Earthquakes Leave Californians Shaken

A magnitude-5.1 earthquake struck the Los Angeles area Friday night, jolting nearby communities and breaking water mains in some neighborhoods.

Its epicenter was in Orange County, one mile east of La Habra and four miles north of Fullerton, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Shortly after the earthquake, nearly two dozen aftershocks followed.

A magnitude-4.1 shake rattled the area Saturday afternoon, centered about a mile and a quarter southeast of the Los Angeles County community of Rowland Heights, the geological agency said.

After the Friday night earthquake, authorities said police and local fire departments assessed affected areas and found no damage or significant injuries. One minor injury was reported in Orange County, emergency officials said.

"Tonight's earthquake is the second in two weeks, and reminds us to be prepared," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

An hour earlier, a magnitude-3.6 tremor struck the same area, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The quakes come on the heels of a magnitude-4.4 tremor that hit near downtown Los Angeles a week ago. It shook nearby buildings but did not cause significant damage.

Southern California has experienced relatively minor tremors since 1994 when a magnitude-6.7 quake killed dozens and caused $42 billion in damage. It now stands as the second-costliest disaster in U.S. history, after Hurricane Katrina.

Earthquakes with less than magnitude 5.5 don't usually cause significant damage or casualties, though results vary by region, geophysicist Paul Caruso said.

Damage often depends on construction codes and types of rock that exist underground, he said.

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