tv Caught on Camera MSNBC August 7, 2011 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
ryñ the most dramatic moments. the biggest explosions. >> oh, my god! >> unbelievable fires. >> i truly believed we were going to die that day. >> astonishing footage. hear from those who saw it. filmed it. lived it. you won't believe your eyes. >> it shot out one of my filters in my camera. >> whoa! holy -- "caught on camera: on the edge of death." have you ever wondered what it's like to stare death in the face?
well, we are going to show you. the situations are dire, the people are real, the stakes couldn't be higher. and they're all caught on camera. it's some of the most dramatic video you'll ever see. hong kong, november 20th, 1996. the worst high-rise fire in the country's history breaks out in the 16-story office and apartment building in the downtown shopping district. thousands of people scramble over one another to flee that burning building. some are lucky enough to escape. others are not. lives dangle on the edge of death. rescue teams are pushed to the brink and beyond. >> you have to sum up the overall situation, the hazards and dangers, what is feasible, what is achievable, and what's obviously not. >> 4:49 p.m., fire is reported on the second floor. it spreads quickly.
the elevator shaftway ventilated at the top acts as an enormous chimney. it draws the fire upwards, engulfing the bottom and top floors in flames. some run to the roof to avoid the fire. hundreds of others are trapped on lower floors. in only ten minutes, the fire is upgraded to three alarm. but some fire trucks can't even get to the scene. precious minutes wasted as desperate bystanders, police and firemen struggle to clear the narrow, congested streets. it's 5:18. the fire is upgraded again. it's now four alarms. >> my urgency was that people actually started jumping off the building. >> a 15-year-old here for a dentist appointment is trapped on the 13th floor air conditioning vent. but it's too hot. he can't hold on. he lands on a canopy. rescuers race to reach him.
miraculously, he only suffers minor injuries. he will survive as do four others who jumped to escape. they are among the lucky ones. the fire that started only 46 minutes earlier is raging out of control. the crowded building is filled with flammable materials, and many of the windows are blocked, turning the inferno into a death trap. >> a rescue helicopter piloted by captain mike ellis spots people stranded on the roof engulfed by flames. >> they were waving quite madly. our priority was getting them off as quickly as we could. >> the helicopter navigates a treacherous path, through the building's tv antennas and scaffolding, not to mention the flames. >> we've got people down here, it just depends if we can get close enough to the smoke. >> several hundred feet above the ground, they drop a rescue worker into the inferno. the helicopter is now directly above the fire, less than 15
feet from the roof. it takes them 12 minutes to lift four people to safety. >> i've been doing it for 20-odd years. the feeling never really goes away. it's one of elation, having gotten those people off there, particularly in this case, nobody else could have got them out. >> but the fire burns all night. at 1:47 the following afternoon, it's finally extinguished. rescuers sifting through the rubble find 28 bodies huddled together. only one floor from the safety of the roof. the grisly discovery brings the death toll to 40. ft. wayne, indiana, august 1st, 2006. firefighters respond to a call at the national magnesium and aluminum foundry. >> we've got heavy smoke coming from the entire building. >> the fire department knows it's in for a long night, but it has no idea that a massive explosion is developing.
>> anytime you get a fire, a potential fire, at a magnesium plant, that causes a lot more concern because you know that's going to be a tough situation to deal with. >> firefighters can't use water to put out the flames because magnesium is a highly flammable metal. it burns so hot, more than 4,000 degrees fahrenheit, that it reacts violently with water and makes the fire worse. >> the number one challenge is we can't fight it like other fires. you have to use a special fire extinguishing powder. >> calling all units. i know everybody remembers, but just a reminder, no water until we figure out what's going on. >> making the situation even more dire, the auto parts foundry has 45,000 pounds of the combustible metal on hand. and it's all about to go up in flames. >> we were hopeful that, as with any fire, if you can get it in the early stage, hopefully you can knock it and you can control it. this time we weren't that lucky. >> luck is nowhere to be found. the fire department doesn't have
enough extinguishing powder on hand to control the flames. as it burns out of control, the order is given to pull back. >> my gut said get away from the building, something's going to happen. >> but before everyone clears out -- >> the smoke began to suck in, which is an indication the fire was drawing for oxygen. and i had enough time to go, "oh," and do a 180, and it was over. >> the building explodes into smithereens. >> it was incredible, incredible, but it was more worrisome. we kind of looked at each other and thought, uh-oh. did we lose somebody? >> we've got people laying everywhere. i need rescue. >> the force of the explosion blows firefighters to the ground. >> i remember hearing another one of our battalion chiefs that was near me calling for ambulances. i thought, oh, boy, this is not good. >> officials believe the massive
explosion is caused by a back draft that ignited the volatile magnesium dust. >> the degree of smoke, the color of it, the way it was puffing out of the building, it had all the right looks and the right recipe for that to just instantaneously blow. >> cameraman matt armitage is shooting the explosion for indiana's news channel. >> all of a sudden smoke started pouring out of the building all at once. that's when i started rolling on it. >> seconds later the building erupts. >> a huge boom. you could feel it, too. you could feel the boom, the noise. you could actually feel the explosion. >> the mushroom cloud is seen more than a mile away. >> it was a big explosion. the fireball, the orange-red fireball that came after it was incredible. >> but you knew that, boy, if anybody that was inside, that would have been not good at all. >> it's so bright, it damages matt's camera. >> it shot out one of my filters in my camera. and then everything after i shot that video, it was all red.
>> larry fisher is one of several firefighters injured in the blast. >> i was bleeding all down my face. i looked all bloody. of course, my helmet was off my head. but i thought -- my initial thought was that i was burned. >> fortunately, no employees are inside the foundry when the fire erupts. the fire department believes it's nothing short of a miracle that no one is killed. >> i think many of us are very lucky to be alive. >> but they can't extinguish those super hot metal flames, and the fire burns for several days until it finally runs out of fuel. coming up -- see disaster unfold as it happens. >> i truly believed i was going to die that day. >> oh, my god! >> when "caught on camera: on the edge of death" continues. in. ♪ the front-row tickets you never bought.
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new york city, july 18th, 2007. it's just before 6:00 p.m., and the evening rush is in full swing. millions of workers are making their way home after another busy day in the big city. on 41st street and lexington avenue, the heart of midtown manhattan, 21-year-old gregory mccullough, college student and part-time tow truck driver, and his passenger, judith bailey, are stopped at a traffic light. they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. >> we were just having a casual conversation about, you know, life and things, our aspirations. the next thing you know, i hear boom. >> a surveillance camera shows what happened. the top of the screen, out of nowhere, the street explodes as if a giant bomb goes off.
>> you could see absolutely a terrorized expression on all these people's faces because they didn't know what it was. they probably thought it was a bomb in the subway system. >> with september 11th never far from new yorkers' minds, many think the explosion is another terrorist attack. >> yeah, you think it's terrorism. that's the first thought that goes through anybody's mind. >> people run for cover as the dirt, rocks and asphalt blasts into the sky and rains down. and after the explosion, a nonstop gigantic geyser of steam shoots up nearly 80 stories, an incredible sight to see. so loud and powerful, workers in neighboring skyscrapers feel their buildings shake. >> it was, like, it's got to be a building falling because it keeps rumbling. >> gregory's tow truck is parked right above the epicenter of one of the biggest underground explosions the city has ever seen. >> i don't know what happened to that guy who was in the truck.
he was on top. >> his truck launches into the air and returns to earth with a jolting thud. >> this truck weighs 15,000 pounds by itself. so it had to be a powerful blast just for it to go up and come back down like that. >> the explosion leaves a huge crater in the middle of the street. it swallows the tow truck whole. but it's not caused by a bomb or bomber with evil intentions. >> the most likely thing that was the cause was cold water getting into the pipe, and cold water apparently causes these to explode. >> an 83-year-old steam pipe buried beneath the city street has exploded, sending up a plume of deadly, hot steam, temperature, 400 degrees. it roars like a jet engine on full blast. and there's concern it may be contaminated with asbestos. dazed and confused, mccullough and his passenger jump from the
truck into the scalding steam. >> and i tripped and fell. i remember rolling on the floor, screaming in agony, in pain. just steam everywhere. something told me, greg, get up and run. i don't know what it was. something said, greg, get up and run. >> more than 80% of his body is burned. >> i'm running around saying "help me" to people. and i'll never forget this one lady. as i'm running down the hallway, she's there, as i'm running, she's staring at me. and i said, "help me, help me." she just grabs her bag. she looked scared like she didn't want to touch me. i was some kind of monster or something, you know, some scary alien. >> but at least one good samaritan helps. 27-year-old junior suarez, an office worker, runs out of his building after the explosion and sees mccullough dazed and disfigured.
>> i can't get it out of my head. the whole scene just kept playing over and over and his screams and the smell that came from him, his skin burning, his flesh. it's just hard. it really is hard. >> despite the horror, suarez stays with mccullough until a paramedic comes. >> the whole time he was still screaming and screaming, and he wouldn't stop screaming. it was just really hard to hear someone scream like that. >> mccullough asks suarez for a promise. >> making the promise him he's not going to die was the hardest thing i ever had to do in my life. >> doctors aren't sure if he'll make it, but he pulls through. after spending 3 1/2 months in the hospital, much of the time in a medically-induced coma, he's on his way to recovery. >> i just know i have a long road ahead of me for rehabilitation, and the support of my friends and family and
the pastor and congregation and my faith will keep me on the straight and narrow. >> mccullough's passenger, judith bailey, suffers less severe burns and makes a recovery as well. but the steam pipe explosion is blamed for the death of 51-year-old lois bemeric, a human resources exec frif new jersey, who dies from a heart attack. more than 40 others are injured. an investigation concludes heavy rainfall and leaky pipes caused the explosion. the city orders improvements for new york's vast and aging underground steam system to prevent a similar catastrophe. coming up -- nearly 10,000 volts of electricity on the loose. caught in the crosshairs of a terrorist attack. >> it felt like the car was lifted off the ground and landed with a thump. a dance floor turns into a black hole. and a tv news helicopter becomes the lead story. >> oh, no, no, no, no!
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hinsdale, illinois, january 29th, 2008. a 72-year-old chicago man, frank treadzig, gets his minivan stuck on the tracks at a railroad crossing. a police dashboard camera records what happens as two trains race toward the vehicle. the train from the east hits first, pushing the van down the track as the driver narrowly escapes. moments later, the train coming from the west plows into it and the van bursts into flames. >> this person that was in this vehicle was literally seconds from losing their life. >> the driver would likely have died if not for the help of a passerby, dan nugent, who sees him standing next to his car on the tracks. >> you didn't have a lot of time to think. i didn't have time to think about it. >> treadzig seems disoriented and unaware that he's directly in the path of the speeding train. but nugent is able to coax him
to safety just before impact. >> one second the van was there, the next second it wasn't. >> his actions were heroic. he did what many people would not. >> this is similar to what the van looks like before, and this is what it looks like now. >> i'm just grateful that he's okay. oxnard, california, february 14th, 2005. another dramatic train accident. this time shot by a citizen who sets up two cameras to record a railroad crossing for evidence in a lawsuit. what he films is nothing short of astonishing. an amtrak passenger train carrying 80 people plows through a tractor-trailer loaded with strawberries. people in the cars lined up behind watch in horror and disbelief. the impact causes the engine to separate from the six cars it's pulling. seen from the second camera on the other side of the tracks,
the trailer of the truck is completely demolished. incredibly, the truck driver's not hurt, but two train passengers suffer minor injuries. local police say the truck driver ignores the lights and the bells and tries to beat the crossing arms that are lowering. the driver's ticketed for not stopping. urbandale, iowa, february 25th, 2007. a massive winter storm pounds the midwest with high winds, bitter cold, and more than a foot of ice and snow. >> we already have up to ten inches of snow. >> at least nine people die in traffic accidents across the plains as a result of the storm. nearly 500,000 lose power. in urbandale, just outside des moines, the state's capital, the conditions are particularly dangerous. >> the ice storm started the day before followed by snow which
led to building up on the high wires. >> the entire town is coated in ice and heavy snow. the fire department is busy responding to a variety of calls, including a report that a tree has fallen onto a section of residential power lines. >> when we arrived, it was basically just arcing. the limbs were smoldering a little bit, there was heavy snow on the limb that was touching the wire. so not a major deal thought to be at that time. >> it's routine work they've all done before, and soon a tv news crew shows up. >> power was out all over the city. and our job was just to go around and get shots of where power was out, where power lines are breaking, tree limbs snapping. >> cameraman lee roush begins recording an interview with assistant fire chief jim mitchell. >> jim mitchell, j-i-m m-i-t-c-h-e-l-l. >> okay. assistant chief? >> assistant chief. >> have you guys been busy? has it been mostly calls like these? >> haven't been too bad today. yesterday was a different story. and last night, but today's been pretty uneventful. >> but it won't be uneventful
for long. >> in this situation we had some ice on the line. the bigger problem was that snow and ice had collected on the limb. >> the firemen and news crew have no idea the tree limb above the power line is about to break. >> i was, you know, doing this shooting where you're looking through the viewfinder with your right eye and my left eye, i'm looking around, see what's going on. i see the tree branch move a little bit. i kind of looked over at it, and that's when everything let go. >> they're standing only a few feet away from live power lines charged with nearly 10,000 volts of electricity. >> the power lines. more today is medical emergencies, people are out shoveling their walks. >> the electrical explosion starts right above the assistant chief's head. >> and i can remember the loud boom, the vibration in the ground and the heat on the back of my neck.
>> holy cow! >> the high-voltage wires unleash a fury of arcing energy. >> the thing the tape doesn't show is the vibration. i mean, we were all, like -- it was, like, did we get shocked, or what was that? it just doesn't show how loud or how much energy was released when that thing let go. you could really feel it. it was like the bass at a rock concert. it was just shaking. >> everyone is stunned by the unbelievable surge of power and flames. >> the ball of fire originally started out small. and by the end it was probably the size of a full-size pickup truck. so it was enormous. it was huge. and the vibration of the ground was incredible. you know, when 7,620 volts blows up right behind you, it's tough to be prepared for that. >> the explosion continues for several hundred feet, shooting out sparks and blowing out a transformer. >> watch out, jason! >> another firefighter dives out of the way to avoid being
electrocuted. >> watch out, jason! >> went up the street. it kept going up -- there was a transformer up the block, and there was another fire department guy up there. you could see him run and jump over the snow bank to get out of the way of it. >> the bursting heat and energy vaporizes everything in its path. >> if you look at it in slow motion, there's sparks showering down. it melted all the power lines below it. >> watch out, jason! >> everyone realizes, this is a close call that could have turned tragic. >> holy cow! >> i have to point out, that's exactly why you be careful. >> very careful. >> to be honest, we were probably way too close. electricity goes through people, it kills them. and had that hit any one of us or landed on the truck we were standing on or near us, it certainly could have electrocuted everybody standing there. coming up -- >> whoa! >> it was so huge. it was unbelievable. >> holy smokes! i hope everybody's okay.
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i'm milissa rehberger. here's what's happening. in ohio, eight people are dead including a child after a family argument ended in a shooting 40 miles south of cleveland in cop lee township. the shooting is under investigation. and in london, demonstrations erupted into a riot on saturday. protesters in tottenham section of town threw molotov cocktails and later looted buildings. 26 police officers were injured in this unrest. they were protesting the shooting of a man by police. now back to "caught on camera." helicopters are invaluable for tv news organizations, helping to report on traffic and breaking news and getting reporters to the big stories quickly. these eyes in the sky are supposed to help cover the news. so what happens when they are the news?
brooklyn, new york, may 4th, 2004. a tv news helicopter is dispatched to the city's flatbush neighborhood to cover a shooting. it arrives about 6:15 p.m. and begins hovering over the police cars at the scene. it's business as usual until suddenly the helicopter's camera goes haywire and then the shot dies. bystanders look up and see the helicopter spiraling out of control. >> suddenly we heard a loud boom! when we looked up, there it was. we saw the helicopter. i said the helicopter is in distress. >> another news helicopter responding to the same story starts filming the chopper 4's wild fall from the sky. >> it suddenly started coming right down. but guess where it was coming? right down at us. we started running. it came right down coming down, i said, no, no, no, no, no. >> the helicopter with two pilots and a reporter on board twirls and twists around like a
corkscrew. the pilot, fighting for control. >> it was coming down like this, like this, coming down, coming down. >> but it's no use. the 3,000-pound aircraft slams into a chimney on a four-story apartment building, then flips over onto a lower roof next door. breaking apart into pieces. it looked like certain death for those inside. but then, amazingly, the pilot hasan kahn and reporter andrew torres managed to climb out of the wreckage on their own. pilot russ mowry, however, is stuck inside, and the engine is still running with 80 gallons of fuel on board, threatening to ignite. police officers arrive within minutes. they were already on the scene responding to the earlier shooting that the helicopter originally was sent to cover. >> he was telling us, pull the red levers, pull the red levers. >> to stop the engine. >> to stop the engine, yes. >> rescuers pulled out the pilot out of the wreckage and shut off the engine.
the three men are taken to the hospital. all survive the incredible crash. the fuselage around their seats protecting them like a cocoon. their unbelievable survival becomes a national story, and pilot russ mowry is interviewed on the "today" show. >> my last thought was i wanted to get away from the street, wanted to hit a rooftop, get on the rooftop level. i saw that -- what i thought was a white chimney. i said, if i can hit that chimney and stop, that will arrest my forward motion. i'll stop when i hit the chimney and land on the roof. i thought, well, this is it. and it's over. and it was -- no flashbacks. i'm dead, and that's it. i woke up in the ambulance. >> mowry reports to the tower seconds before crashing that his tail rotor isn't working. an investigation concludes that a drive belt failed, causing the helicopter to lose all hydraulic power. >> that is the absolute worst thing to happen. that is a nightmare for pilots. and i knew it was going to be
really, really ugly. i just knew that we were not going to come out of it. >> mowry does a superhuman job to control crash the aircraft saving his life, his passengers' and innocent bystanders on the ground. jerusalem, israel, may 24th, 2001. a city that's seen its share of tragedy is about to experience another devastating blow. it begins with the most joyous of celebrations, a wedding. nothing is too good for jaime yusef, who rents one of jerusalem's finest wedding halls for his daughter's big day. the wedding begins like a dream come true. his daughter, karen, exchanges vows while the proud father of
the bride beams with joy. it's a grand affair, and heim couldn't be happier. all his friends and family have come, almost 700 invited guests in all. as the party gets going, heim dances with his daughter, a little girl is passed from shoulder to shoulder. friends hoist heim into the air. the bride and groom kiss. the two families are joined. everyone's having fun. but then a rumble. guests feel the floor begin to shake. but it isn't the beat of the music. suddenly -- everyone on the dance floor disappears into a black hole. it's a horrifying moment. their world collapses beneath
them. more than 300 people crash through three stories, the floors pancaking, the concrete smashing on top of them, burying them. people cry and scream. they are confused and terrified. no one knows what's happened. heim is on the dance floor when it gives way. his leg is crushed, but he survives the collapse. >> i thought i was dreaming, like bungee jumping. i did not understand. dead people, wounded, only my hands were free. >> he remembers dancing with his daughter right before it happened. the next thing he knows, the two of them fall 90 feet to the ground and are covered by the rubble. >> her head was leaning on me. she said, "father, it hurts." and then she lost consciousness. >> he can't move, and there's nothing he can do. >> i begged and screamed for them to rescue her.
and when they took her away, i was ready to die. >> one of israel's best rescue teams, veterans of earthquakes and terrorist attacks, arrives on the scene quickly. but it takes them two days to dig through all the debris. >> i wanted to die, and i lost consciousness. i woke up here. >> searchers use bulldozers, cranes and their bare hands. they find 24 bodies. another 300 wedding guests are injured. the country is stunned. many call it the worst nonterrorist catastrophe in israel's history. everyone asks the same question -- how? how could the floor just collapse? police quickly rule out terrorism. and with the help of the heart-stopping video, launch an investigation into how the four-story facility was built.
the wedding takes place on the top floor. no one else is on the other floors. amid the twisted wreckage, officials find evidence of unsafe construction, an inexpensive building design that was banned after the 15-year-old wedding hall was built because it was known to be unsafe. survivors of the collapse include this little girl, seen earlier on the dance floor. and the bride and groom, karen's chest is crushed, her hips injured. he escapes with cuts and bruises. both are lucky to be alive. the incredible video ensuring their wedding day is never forgotten, a wedding that is followed by a procession of tragic funerals. >> i lost all my friends this wedding. every household got either wounded or dead. but i'm a religious man. and that is why i don't ask god why.
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tacoma, washington, october 6th, 2007. the atlas casting and technology foundry, home to hundreds of workers, is taking a routine delivery of propane from an 8,000-gallon delivery truck. but this delivery doesn't go as smoothly as planned. a security camera captures what happens. >> what it shows is the driver trying to make the connection with his hoses from his truck to the plant.
and you can see suddenly something went wrong. what that was, i don't know that we'll ever know for sure. >> the truck and driver become surrounded by an ominous and dangerous cloud of extremely flammable propane. >> it's very explosive, plus, that leak happened at a very remarkable speed. it was literally, i believe, under 20 seconds. >> the driver, fearing something isn't right, tries to shut down the gas. but he's not in time. suddenly, the propane ignites. >> unfortunately, at that point, you know, it enveloped the driver, too. he was in that cloud. the driver of the truck, you can see it explode. that's horrible. >> the explosion rocks nearby buildings and businesses across the street, just a few hundred feet away. >> the whole building shook. the whole building shook. you could definitely tell that something was not right. it definitely sounded like maybe a car had crashed through the building next door. >> the explosion ignites a huge fire at the foundry. >> there's this huge billowing black cloud of smoke. it was just amazing.
>> we knew it was going to be a very big fire. it was a huge column of smoke, huge. >> we have flames shooting over the roof. we've got a report from the plant personnel that their propane tank has gone up. >> several bystanders and nearby residents begin filming the flames. >> it was pretty impressive and it was noisy. you could really hear the flames. it was like a jet engine almost. >> first responders find the propane-filled tanker truck engulfed in flames when they arrive. >> tanker full of propane and a bunch of tires and fire shooting out 30 feet on each side. this is an 8,000-gallon semitruck you see on the freeway. as far as we know, it's full of propane. >> it's only a matter of time until the truck explodes. >> it's a huge bomb. we needed to, number one, get away from the back of that propane tank. if that thing was going to blow, we were dead right there. 200 feet away. >> the noise from the pressure building inside the tanker is deafening. >> there was the hissing of the
fire, just kind of started building and building and building. >> firefighters back away from the flaming tanker. >> all units evacuate to at least 10,000 feet. 10,000 feet evacuation for engine two. imminent explosion. >> we got about 200 feet of it out, and unbelievably, it got louder. it got so loud. >> before firefighters were able to get to a safe distance, the propane truck erupts into the biggest explosion many have ever seen. >> whoa! holy smokes. i hope everybody's okay. >> i thought to myself, i'm going to die today. the second thing right after that was, did i kiss my boys this morning? >> oh, my god! >> it made me feel like my whole chest just got socked in the chest, like i got socked in the chest really hard, like just powerful, so powerful. >> get down!
get down! >> it was incredibly bright and forceful. it was almost like somebody shoving you off your feet. >> oh, my god! >> oh, my god! >> people see, hear and feel the blast for miles. >> whoa! >> it was so huge. it was unbelievable. >> you can feel the heat wave and the shock wave. >> holy smokes, i hope everybody's okay! >> the axle from the propane truck launches hundreds of feet into the air and lands on a busy street, narrowly missing cars. >> i look up in the air, and i don't know. it's 100, 150 feet maybe, i see something flying through the air. we're looking, thinking, wow, that looks really big. well, then i quick snapped back to reality and i think, well, that was a big explosion. >> even more disturbing, two propane storage tanks pull even more gas from the tanker. they're now surrounded by flames. officials close down the interstate, shut down
surrounding air space, fearing an even bigger catastrophe is imminent. >> one, i believe, was approximately 22,000 gallons and the other was maybe 36,000 gallons. the potential was huge. we had literally just seen what 8,000 gallons could do. >> fortunately, the fire department is able to keep the other propane tanks from exploding by keeping them cool with water. eventually rescuers are able to reach the driver of the truck, who is still alive but in critical condition. he hangs on for a week, but his injuries are too severe to overcome, and he dies in the hospital. those who survive know they are the lucky ones. >> oh, my god! >> oh, my god! >> i still could not believe i saw that. after all the things you hear about, how bad these propane explosions are and the people they kill, how destructive they are, it's the worst possible scenario. coming up -- >> it felt like the bomb came from underneath the floorboards. when "caught on camera: on the edge of death" continues.
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welcome back to "caught on camera." i'm contessa brewer. anyone who watches the news knows iraq is a dangerous place. bombings and firefights are daily threats to u.s. troops and iraqi civilians. it's no surprise, then, that some of the most dramatic video we have comes from that war-torn country. hershey bypass, iraq, september 9th, 2007. a group of soldiers from the 144th military police company, a michigan army national guard unit, are traveling from tikrit to mosul. as they often do throughout the deployment, they videotape the journey. specialist ron dickinson is driving the armored humvee. it's a trip he'll never forget.
>> nobody would believe us if we didn't have it on tape. >> three other members of his unit are inside the vehicle, including sergeant jason daw. >> if you slack off and don't pay attention, that's when they get you. >> they've been in the country for several months and seen their fair share of improvised explosive devices, or ieds. >> ieds are the number one threat as far as i'm concerned because you don't know where they're going to be, what they look like or when they're going to go off. >> they're traveling a long, dusty road through the desert, eager to get back to their base. everything is going fine. then, without warning -- >> whoa! >> -- the road in front of them erupts like a volcano. >> whoa! >> when it first went off, it was like -- it was that split second we think this is probably the worst one i've been through so far and this is not looking good. >> they swerve around the explosion as the asphalt and rock that is launched into the air comes crashing down. >> i got that on tape, man. i know! i thought the cement was going to land on us. >> it was coming down all over. my gunner kept complaining.
he was, like, it's raining down on me, sergeant dawes. i'm getting trashed up here. >> they can feel the force of the blast inside their armored vehicle. >> the shock waves hit us -- it rings everybody's bell. you could definitely feel it, but it was more of a punch to your chest. >> the eruption is unlike anything the soldiers have ever seen. >> i didn't know what the hell happened. >> it's like slow motion. >> dude, i didn't know what happened. i thought the whole road was going up. i thought that was it. i thought, we're going to die now. >> just phenomenal when it went off. everybody's eyes probably got like this big, and were, liberia, oh, man, got to get away from that. >> luckily, no one's injured. >> this was the closest call as far as ieds go while i was there. >> the ground disappeared. >> i know, man. >> whoo! >> all the emotions came in at once because at first you're like, oh, no, and then you're
like, wow, look how big it is. and then, whoo, they missed. so you get a big group of emotions running at the same time. >> they have several close calls, but the unit doesn't lose anyone in its yearlong tour. but the soldiers will remember this drive through the desert for a long time to come. >> holy [ muted ]. >> i don't know how anybody could forget that who was in that vehicle. it will stick with you for a while. >> whoa! holy [ muted ]. >> everybody good? baghdad, iraq. october 24th, 2005. it's late afternoon when a surveillance camera pointed at a traffic circle captures an suv slowing down. suddenly, it explodes. nbc news bureau chief carl bostic is in the traffic circle when it happens. >> everything around me was just orange, you know, from the front window and the side window, a big bang or roar. >> he's so close to the explosion that his heavily armored suburban is launched into the air.
>> and it landed back on the four wheels. the thing about it is, you automatically knew it was a car bomb. i thought, i can't believe it. this is a car bomb. this is crazy. >> it's about to get even crazier. >> i thought the coast was clear, we were safe. we'd gotten away from this car bomb. i said, my gosh, somehow we escaped miraculously. >> but the huge explosion is just the beginning of a carefully coordinated attack on the security checkpoint at the palestine and sheraton hotels, home to western journalists and one of the most fortified compounds in baghdad. it's also where carl was heading for a meeting. >> there was a car that was behind us. and the car that was behind us swerved from behind us and kept going down that road and headed straight for that checkpoint. and that was the second suicide bomber. and we were actually about to drive right into that. >> seconds later, the car that passes them explodes. >> it felt like the bomb came from underneath the floorboards. i said to myself, i can't believe we're about to die.
i said, i -- i was just angry, and i was just incredulous, so to speak. and the tree that we were underneath was on fire. >> but the attack isn't over. and the biggest explosion is yet to come. manning a machine gun at the checkpoint is specialist darrell green. >> at that time, they -- the cement mixer was trying to come through our perimeter. >> a huge cement mixer filled with explosives tries to sneak through the breach made by the first blast and drive up to the hotels. >> their main goal with the first two explosions was to make a hole into our perimeter, which the first explosion did. the second vehicle was deterred and went into a different direction. >> guards opened fire on the cement truck using everything they have to prevent it from getting close enough to kill hundreds. >> once the dust settled, i engaged that vehicle before it got to the hotel and subsequently stopped the driver from making it in between the two hotels. >> the truck backs up as soldiers keep firing. and then it explodes, a massive
fireball. >> i honestly believe that he himself detonated it with some sort of handheld charge. >> the blast rattles buildings all over baghdad and damages both hotels. dazed guests stumble out of the smoke and rubble. less than 50 yards from the explosion in the car with its hazard lights flashing is carl bostic. >> i was thinking, jesus, we have to get out of here, get out of the car. the security guard says, no, no, no, we're not the target. we're not the target. stay in the car. don't get outside. it's a good thing we didn't get outside because there was gunfire everywhere. >> carl talks with nbc news headquarters from his car. despite the life-threatening situation, he stays professional and calm. >> right now, we're trying to stay together. we're not getting out of the car. we're trying to negotiate with the police. it's a very, very tense situation. >> but he's scared to death. >> quite frankly, i was just waiting for the fourth one to go off, because each one, it felt
like it was coming from underneath the floor. then i was thinking, gee, it keeps getting closer and closer. maybe if it's the next one, maybe i'll just be injured. so then i started thinking, well, if i had to get injured, what part of my body could i afford to lose and not miss. >> two members of his security detail are injured, but carl and his crew eventually make it back to the green zone. >> the thing about it is, i didn't really know how bad it was. he said, carl, have you seen the pictures? i said, what are you talking about? i just know everything around me was on fire and everything was orange. there were these cctv shots from the palestine hotel, overhead shots that showed the cement truck approaching it. >> no one is killed in either hotel, but more than a dozen people outside the compound die. >> i said to myself, i can't believe i'm about to die like this. i haven't even lived my life yet. >> al qaeda in iraq claimed responsibility for that terrifying, coordinated attack, which took place 2 1/2 years after coalition forces first entered iraq. that's it for this edition of "caught on me