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tv   Nightline  ABC  November 7, 2015 12:37am-1:05am EST

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[ cheers and applause ] this is "nightline." >> tonight, blood in the sand. not far from vacation paradise a violent battle being waged on the scenic beach. a dangerous region and crisis over turtle eggs? >> turtle eggs and drug dealing go hard in hand. >> we join the dark journey with those risking their lives to protect these gentle giants. it was almost a tragic accident. a toddler nearly strangled to death by a window blind cord, saved at the last second. but the parents who went through an unthinkable home horror, the fight to put safety first is deeply personal. >> i want to ask you impressions about the children who have died in window blind accidents. >> our brian ross investigates. >> do you have a comment on that at all? >> no. hello
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why this rendition of adele's smash hit going viral on youtube have many asking, is she better than the original? first the "nightline 5." >> when i act if i do this -- or if i do this -- i'm totally in control. i don't have pba. but if you're someone with pseudo bulbar affect you don't always get to choose. uncontrollable outbursts of crying or laughing in people with certain neurologic conditions. pba is treatable.
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>> number one in just 60 good evening. we begin tonight with a story
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about murder, criminal gangs and turtles. the sandy setting for this violent conflict, costa rica, where poachers with alleged links to local drug gangs or the prowl for precious good. my "nightline" coanchor dan harris found out why they want those turtle eggs while others risk everything to stop them. >> reporter: it's the middle of night. lightning, another reassuring sign. we're in the back of a police pickup heading into one of the most dangerous beaches in central america. >> you can tell it's raining really hard. >> reporter: after an hour-long downpour, the rain clears. >> whoa! look at that! >> reporter: we find what we came here for. >> look at the size of her. >> reporter: we're here to witness a treacherous game of finders keepers. >> you know for sure that there are poach others this beach right now?
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eric alguera ricking his life to protect these rare beasts. >> we may have a lot of eyes on us right now? for sure, for sure. >> reporter: poachers and conservationists are racing to claim the eggs from these animals, the leatherback turtle. at up to 2,000 pounds the largest turtles on earth. >> you can see the eggs coming out. pretty cool. it's filling up fast. wow. look at that. this gives you a sense what was a cat and mouse game this is. these are discarded eggs from poachers, they throw away the unfertilized eggs. you can tell this is a nest the poachers have hit. >> reporter: these prehistoric giants have been coming to the shores of this beach in costa rica to make their nests since before humans walked the earth. but now they are caught in the middle of a war, a war in which people are willing to kill. >> turtle eggs and drug dealing go hand in hand.
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two years ago her friend jira, a young conservationist, was brutally murdered on the beach, provoking an international outcry and widespread protests. jiro vive became a battle cry for conservationists around the world. she was among the first to patrol to save turtle eggs, a mentor to jiro, who was 26. the two off then found themselves in the crosshairs of poachers with links to local drug gangs. shooting. for me it was normal. >> you're out there trying to protect turtles and people are shooting at you? >> yes. >> chasing you with machetes? >> yes. >> reporter: for the first time since the murder conservationists are trying to take this beach back with the help of the local cops who search anyone they find out here for weapons and eggs. this is a costa rica tourists rarely see.
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dangerous cities in costa rica, has the highest crime rate. >> that bar had eggs, that one did not. >> reporter: with the help of our translator we find eggs for sale openly in local bars. rica. turtle eggs are considered a delicacy. even an afrophrodisiacaphrodisiac. >> like viagra? >> reporter: sellers claim these particular eggs are legal eggs but signs of the violent potential of the illegal turtle trade are everywhere. watch as this man, who had directed us to one of the local egg sellers, tells us it could have gotten him killed. vanessa remembers the first time she walked this beach with her murdered friend jiro, who she protection. >> let's see if you can handle be different. he's like, i'm used to people
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i'm like, okay. we went out and the first shooting, we came back, he told me, whoa, this is different, but i liked it. >> reporter: together they brave the threats, saving as many eggs as they could and bringing them to a safe place where the babies could hatch and make it to the sea. some people who knew him say jiro did not play by the rule of the beach -- whoever gets to the nest first gets the eggs. they say this may have led to his murder. murder. she found his body in the sand the next day. he'd been beaten, stripped naked, and then dragged through the sand by a vehicle. he suffocated. >> i think -- it's not fair to young. so passionate. the government i blame. us. i blame myself. >> reporter: seven men, some
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with alleged connections to drug gangs, were arrested. but then acquitted because of mishandled evidence. >> you knew jiro, you grew up with jiro? >> reporter: eric alguera says he is here despite the danger to honor his old friend jiro. >> it's a busy night on the beach, we have four more turtles. they down this way and then this one who is massive. i've taken my microphone off so we can get a sense what was she sounds like. turtle breath. it's amazing to be this close to a creature that only comes to land once a year. she could be over 100 years old. >> reporter: those flippers land hard. by the end of the night, eric has found 13 turtles and relevance cued more than 1,000 eggs.
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nests the poachers got to first. we wanted to meet some of these poachers so eric directed us to these young men. they immediately deny any involvement. >> you're saying that like a lot of people come by and take eggs but they don't. >> ah. >> yeah. >> reporter: but they do agree to show us how it's done -- by other people. >> what he's saying is that they put this up when there's a turtle so that when the police pass by this road they can't see that they're stealing the turtle eggs. >> oh. they know an awful lot about this for people who never poach eggs. >> yes. >> reporter: back at their shanty they show me pictures of them posing with their illegal bounty, although they insist they're giving the eggs to environmentalists. >> these are some pictures of them "saving" eggs. this is right here in this house? what makes this complicated is
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likeable. and they don't have any other opportunities. so you can see why they do what they do. bottom line though is it hurts the turtles. >> reporter: but the environmentalists here don't consider young men like these to be the real threat. instead they say it's the well-organized gangs, the type of men who are accused of killing jiro mora sandoval. meanwhile the turtles remain unaware of the turmoil that surrounds them. >> after nearly an hour of systematic and seemingly exhausting flipper work, our heroine seems to be done camouflaging her nest and she's heading back into the water for another year. good work. >> reporter: tonight her babies will have a shot at survival. whether future generations do is an open question. for "nightline," this is dan harris in costa rica. next, an investigation into
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tonight a home video of a toddler's near-death experience being used for good. against a silent hazard in many of our homes. hundreds have been killed or injured by window blinds with potentially dangerous cords. why are they still being sold? here's abc's chief investigative correspondent brian ross. >> stand up straight, shoulders down. >> reporter: this is the wall family of chippewa falls, wisconsin. all nine of them. they love to make videos of everything they do. >> hi! interior but interior. >> reporter: for 17-year-old gaffe advice there's one video that stands out when he was a toddler. gaffe advice's mother nicky was making a video of two of her other children, her twins. the joyful moment is about to end. as she is distracted by a phone off the hook. and will swing the camera around, catching the horrifying
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to show only because it has a happy ending. >> gavin, gavin! >> reporter: gavin hanging by the neck from the pull cords on a set of window blinds. >> he choked himself! he's blue! >> gavin! >> reporter: then the sweetest sounds gavin's parents had ever heard -- he was alive. >> he's crying, he's making noises. >> can he breathe? >> reporter: gavin was left with a welt across his neck but that was all. >> and fortunately he doesn't really remember it. and it doesn't seem to have caused any permanent damage. >> reporter: but unfortunately, since the day of gavin's accident, some 13 years ago, the consumer products safety commission estimates well over 100 american children have died, somehow caught in window blind cords. >> brian, i see decades, i'm talking decades, about children once a month getting hanged to death by these products. and it's got to stop.
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>> these are many different types of samples -- >> reporter: elliot kaye, consumer product safety commission, says he's made the elimination of window blinds with cords after a 30-year period in which both the industry and his own agency have failed to do so. kaye says cordless versions like this set solve the problem. >> it's beautiful. >> reporter: kaye's agency doesn't have the legal authority to outright ban the corded versions. and he says the industry continues to drag its feet. >> i think it's disgusting, i really do. >> reporter: most of the blinds sold in this country come from three major manufacturers. springs, hunter douglas, and newell rubber maid. none of their executives would agree to appear in our report. nor would the head of the window blind trade group, ralph vesami, outside his office in new york city. >> i wanted to ask questions about the children who have died in the window blind accidents. can you talk about that at all? >> no. >> reporter: under oath in a
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brain injury lawsuit last year against a window mind company, vesami could not avoid answer questions. >> by making the decision to not eliminate those hazards, implicitly they're making the decision to allow children to continue to be exposed to those hazards, correct? >> yes. >> reporter: the lawyer asking the questions, jim ander, has brought more than 50 death and injury lawsuits in window mind cases. >> how many have gone to trial? >> none. they've all settled. >> why? >> the documents and the testimony is too condemning. i don't think a manufacturer can afford to go to trial. >> reporter: the industry disputes the safety commission's accident numbers and has produced videos to show a range of safety features that it says have substantially cut the death rate, including breakaway cords and methods to keep cords out of a child's reach. there is no need to ban window
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>> for the 90% of american consumers who don't have small children, the corded option may make some sense. >> reporter: nancy nord is a former member of the consumer product safety commission who industry lobbyists arranged to talk with us. >> you can't have an environment, one where all risk has been eliminated. that just is a naive thing to want. >> reporter: the parents of 2-year-old matt thomas strongly disagree. >> would you like more? >> reporter: erika and steven thomas of suburban washington, d.c. initially came under investigation after their son died. even though they had done everything they could think of to make their home safe. >> i did everything that i knew to do to keep my child safe. and my son is gone. >> reporter: mack's mother found him one morning lifeless on the floor, strangled when he got caught in the blind cord.
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his window at the stars that he and his brother loved so much. >> he wouldn't wake up. and i was screaming. i was just screaming. then i ran out of the house with him. and i just sat. i sat on the front lawn in the mud. >> reporter: parents are often the first ones blamed, says linda kaiser of st. louis. in the wake of the death of her daughter in a window blind cord accident, she also came under police investigation, leading her to set up a foundation called parents for window mind safety, to help expose the problem. >> when i understood, okay, police officers don't get it. all these people in the nation don't get it. that made me want to fight. for educating people. >> reporter: the industry says it too is trying to educate the public about the hazards.
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>> many new parents may be unaware of potential cord dangers -- >> reporter: including a new best for kids campaign. yet working with our abc affiliates across the country, we found that message is not getting through, or being acted on, in many places. >> is there a safety issue or anything like that? >> no, i don't think so. >> reporter: abc reporters went to major stores, asking about minds for children's rooms, and found a confusing array of options. often not clearly labeled. in some cases, store employees were helpful. >> that's why cordless is a really good option when you have tots. >> reporter: in many others, employees seemed to have no idea or had not been trained about the danger. >> when you have the cord, you could just tie it. tie it up. >> is there a safety issue? >> no, not really. >> reporter: and our affiliate reporters also discovered that a safety warning is posted on both the corded or hazardous blinds and on the cordless blinds, which don't pose the same threat.
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put a warning label on something that is the same? >> sheer confusion. >> reporter: the last few weeks the campaign on the window blind industry has had victories. ikea and target have taken window blinds with cords off their shelves. they now only sell cordless blinds. >> we were eager to do whatever we could to increase the safety of our productions. >> reporter: since we began our reporting on the issue, home depot, walmart, and lowe's have now announced they too will stop cords. but not until the end of 2018, three years away. >> i'm thinking of not if another child is going to die but when. and i see another mother sitting in the mud. holding her lifeless child. >> reporter: for "nightline,"
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