tv NBC Nightly News NBC May 16, 2014 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT
>> we'll be tracking this for you as well. see you at 6:00. on our broadcast here tonight, getting out alive, an incredible escape through walls of fire as neighborhoods go up in flames. tonight, an extraordinary view from the fire lines in southern california. paying the price for waiting too long to sound the alarm. tonight, the feds have levelled gm with a history-making penalty. d making a difference. how one of the biggest acts in country is putting money where their music is, helping to save a lot of young lives. "nightly news" begins now. >> from nbc news world headquarters in new york, this is "nbc nightly news" with brian williams. good evening. in the state of california where the fires are given names, it's the blaze they call the cocoas fire that is tonight chewing up the most territory and getting the most attention among the
five major fires burning tonight. over 10,000 californians have been evacuated from where they live. the air war continues and so many homes have been destroyed in the past 48 hours or so. two teenagers were arrested late today for starting fires that were later put out. as tonight, the land and air forces in this fight in san diego county are looking for any edge against the encroaching blaze. we begin our coverage tonight with nbc's miguel almaguer in san marcos, california. miguel, good evening. >> reporter: brian, good evening. the damage in this burn zone, the cocoas fire will top $15 million. late tonight, we have breaking news from our nbc affiliate, this video is just into us. it shows the harmony growth spiritual retreat where at least two dozen structures and bungalows have been completely destroyed. at this hour, firefighters remain on scene.
they are mopping up hot spots, but for this community and so many others, it's a complete loss. back here, we have gotten some good news from firefighters. they are making progress on this blaze, but as they sift through the damage and the debris here, this firefighter is far from over. from the san diego foothills to the pacific ocean, fire is on the move. today flames closed in on even more homes. >> wow, there it is right there. there it is right there. >> reporter: this is what evacuation looks like when fire quickly explodes out of control, panic and chaos in carlsbad wednesday, captured on biron bowman's phone as he fled for his life. >> oh my god! oh my god! >> reporter: it's day four, 120 wildfires incinerated 30 miles, at least one person thought to be homeless died in the flames. the conditions here can change
on a dime. we are on coronado drive when this home was swallowed by the infer inferno. it was over in minutes. >> winds are just shifting too fast for us to predict anything. >> reporter: the blaze is hop scotching through this community because the fuel here is so dry. these are perfect conditions for a fire storm. this is the front lines. teams saved many communities, 1,000 firefighters on the ground, coordinating with the marines in the air. >> steady, buckets filling. >> reporter: helicopters used for war are now fighting a different battle. >> come down 100 feet. >> reporter: with military precision, these water buckets douse hot spots in seconds. with plumes of smoke visible for miles, air quality is a problem for millions, but tonight the biggest worry for firefighters remains this unpredictable blaze sweeping across this tinderbox,
ready to burn. miguel almaguer, nbc news, san marcos. >> reporter: this is joe fryer north of san diego where at least seven houses destroyed plus a complex with 18 condos, yet thousands more homes have been saved. >> that's a horrible sight to see. >> reporter: amanda and stan were hoping the odds would be in their favor, but they were not. >> just come out here every day. >> reporter: their hill top rental home at 404, the one with the priceless view is now gone. >> fireplace. patio, deck. >> reporter: it was on that patio deck and the tire swing and the play set where they made so many memories with their four children. >> seeing it is really, really difficult because it just makes you think of all the times together. >> reporter: the family had been renting this home for three years with dreams of possibly buying it. they ended up evacuating just
hours before the flames arrived. >> i just grabbed some diapers, wipes, that was it. i didn't even think about the fact i didn't have shoes on. >> reporter: soon friends and relatives watching tv were calling them because they recognized the home that was so quickly destroyed. >> we heard 404, 404. >> we went, wait a minute. >> reporter: for now, their address is a hotel room with their kids relying on clothing donations from friends and strangers. the family is expecting a fifth child in september. >> can't focus on what is gone. got to focus on what is ahead. >> reporter: tonight, they are looking beyond the rubble. >> the best didn't happen but still, we have our family and they are safe and we'll go on from here. >> reporter: they are confident better times are on the horizon. >> we don't live in the past, we can't afford to. >> reporter: joe fryer, nbc news, california. in other news tonight, the
federal government today hit general motors with the biggest fine ever leveed on an automaker. the maximum penalty for failing to sound the alarm about a serious safety defect that involves faulty ignition switches and air bags and gm now admits it knew about the problem for years. at least 13 are thought to have died in accidents as a result of these detects. tom costello is with us. good evening. >> reporter: gm discouraged employees from using terms like defect, safety related. gm agreed to pay the maximum fine and allow government oversight on a safety process the feds believe was broken. with more than 2.5 million gm cars under recall for faulty ignition switches and air bags, federal regulators demanded gm change the way it does business. >> what we will never accept is
a person or company that knows danger exists and says nothing. literally, silence can kill. >> reporter: gm has agreed to pay the $35 million fine for failing to notify customers or the government of the safety concerns. government investigators say in 2009, gm was told by a supplier, the defects were related. the ignition switch defect could prevent the air bags from deploying. >> i am extremely angry, furious. i mean, i just don't understand their way of thinking. >> reporter: marie yaes grand mo mother and sister died in 2009 after their chevy cobolt lost power and steering seconds before they were hit head-on by a drunk driver. 12 month old trenton was paralyzed. six years old he's confined to a wheelchair.
>> he'll never be that football star or that baseball player or, you know, anything like that. his life is changed forever. >> reporter: so far gm acknowledges more than 30 crashes and 13 deaths connected to the defects. in a statement today, mary barra said we learned a great deal from this recall. we'll focus on the goal of becoming an industry leader in safety. the national highway traffic safety administration is also under fire for failing to act sooner. meanwhile, industry watchdogs believe the company has gotten off easy. >> it's a slap on the wrist for gm to pay a $35 million fine when they are a $100 billion corporation. >> reporter: federal regulators are asking congress to raise the maximum fine it could levee from levy from $35 million to $300 million in the future. gm is paying a $7,000 a day penalty for failing to provide all of the documents the government demanded. meanwhile, it's facing mounting lawsuits and a justice department criminal investigation. brian? >> tom costello on the story for us this friday night, tom, thanks. cnbc will air an hour-long
dom tear called "failure to recall -- investigating gm" premiers sunday night 10:00 p.m. eastern time. more violence in turkey today. protesters angry at the government for the mine disaster that killed as many as 300 people fought in istanbul using tear gas and water cannons and fighting in the town of soma where the disaster originally took place. our chief foreign correspondent richard engel found himself in the middle of it all there today. >> reporter: grief turned to anger in soma, anger at the mining company, which admitted today there was no escape chamber in the mine. survivors say there wasn't even an alarm when the fire broke out. most of all, anger at the government for seeming not to care. the government will answer to the people they shouted, instead, the government sent in the riot police.
what do you think? >> our government say this is normal situation, but all the people not accept the situation. >> reporter: what do you want? clashes here have begun as the police have started to use water cannons and then tear gas right next to us. this was not about containing the demonstrators. they had been peaceful. this is kicking them off their own streets. what are you doing, this man shouted? but the police kept coming. those they didn't kill in the mine, they are trying to kill here a local teacher said. it was another blow to a community still burying its dead. you can't hear me a mother cried, you were my jewel. i have nothing left. many family members decided to bury the miners together.
they said they worked shoulder to shoulder, they died shoulder to shoulder, and it's only appropriate they be laid to rest the same way. they are allowed to mourn in soma, as long as they don't demand answers. richard engel, nbc news, soma, turkey. elsewhere overseas, a seismic shift tonight in india where the opposition leader and his party were swept to power in the general election. it was a crushing defeat for the ott garld, told guard of gandhi ruled india for 67 years of independence.old guard of gandh ruled india for 67 years of independence.old guard of gandhd india for 67 years of independence.old guard of gandh india for 67 years of independence.ld guard of gandhi india for 67 years of independence. the voters went along with that idea. donald sterling said he would rather fight than sell the clippers. the nba team owner, in trouble over racist comments caught on tape and banned for life now from the nba and his team has reportedly hired a high-profile anti trust lawyer who says
sterling won't pay the $2.5 million fine levelled against him, and won't go away as the league wants him to. still ahead on a friday night, our nbc news investigation into the woman at the center of a growing storm within the va. plus, extraordinary video kept hidden until now, an american icon like we've never seen before. and rascal flatts, one of the biggest names in the country, how they're making a difference and touching so many young lives.
it appears we learned of the first big casualty in the growing scandal of the treatment at the va hospitals. the top official for veterans health care robert petzel resigned at the request of veterans affairs, eric shinseki. nbc news learned more about questions involving a key management official who worked
at several va hospitals. we get our report tonight from kelly o'donald. >> reporter: the center of this va controversy is arizona with the phoenix medical center director sharon helman has been put on leave. new tonight, nbc news investigations has found complaints at other va hospitals where helman previously worked. former va social worker and now union rep tells nbc news back in 2011, fully three years before the current scandal surfaced, when helman was in charge there, records were falsified to make patient wait times appear shorter. >> this started when she was here and we're not surprised. it continues even after she has gone to arizona. >> reporter: she says employees were too afraid to speak up. >> there is a culture of fear of retaliation. employees don't speak up. they are very afraid. >> reporter: in washington state, at the va when helman was
director there. kathryn was a psychiatric nurse who filed and settled a whistle blower retaliation complaint over wrongful termination. >> the level of intimidation among the staff was unbelievable. retaliation, intimidation was the name of the game. report in phoenix, nbc news attempted to reach helman but was turned away. she denied wrongdoing and declined to be interviewed. this retired doctor is a whistleblower who claims helman's personal ambition, claiming she orders the va to falsify patient appointment records to look good to higher ups in washington. >> i think it was career advancement for sharon helman our director. she was looking to get a promotion, i believe. >> reporter: veterans affairs declined to comment publicly, pending the outcome of the inspector general's investigation. >> back in a moment with a jaw-dropping new look at an american treasure left frozen in time.
it's always been such valuable advice for employers in this country. if you have a job opening and need to get the job done, hire a command sergeant majors from the military because that's what they do. they are the senior enlisted soldiers in the unit, keep it running. it's a rare rank. there are only about 3700 of them in the army. sadly, the u.s. army lost one of its best. command sergeant major martin barreras of the first armored division died on tuesday from wounds suffered in a fire fight in afghanistan. he was a marine for five years, then moved to the army, joined the rangers. he served in haiti, panama and in iraq where he assisted in the rescue of jessica lynch. he was 49 and leaves behind a wife and four children. flags in his home state of arizona have been ordered flown at half staff. jeb magruder died.
americans will remember that name from watergate. he helped arrange the break in of the dnc. he was one of 25 people who went to jail because of watergate. for obstructing justice. the korean war veteran former cosmetics executive became an ordain minister after getting out of jail. he died at 79. it's eight seconds of old black and white film but for history buffs it offers a view of something rarely seen, fdr walking with the benefit of leg braces. this happens to be at the baseball all-star game in 1937, 16 years after he contracted polio. the film was shot by a baseball
player, brought his camera to the game. the public was rarely allowed to see the president's disability and it wasn't unusual for secret service to confiscate cameras from onlookers. sad photos from outside detroit show what happened to a place that was home to a lot of happy memories at one time. the pontiac silver dome is lying abandoned.
finally here tonight, i don't suppose it's an object on ending the week on an upbeat note. they are one of the biggest names in nashville. rascal flatts sold more than 22 million albums, we for all they have grown it seems to matter more where they came from. they made a big commitment to giving back to the place where they live and where they are raising their own children, where they decided to make a difference. the story tonight from our national correspondent kate snow. ♪ >> reporter: with the summer tour coming, rascal flats is busy rehearsing the latest in a string of hits.
♪ >> reporter: but this is the kind of performance they value most, the band is donated more than $3 million to children's hospital at vanderbilt, so much that there is now a rascal flats surgery center here helping 21,000 kids a year. >> this place is magical. this place has something so deep and so spiritual, it's a place of hope. >> thank you guys, so much. >> 18 month old zoey jones had 11 surgeries. she was born with multiple birth defects she spent most of her life in the hospital. ♪ >> for her parents, the concert is a much-needed break. >> you get to focus on something other than being in the hospital, your monitors going off, your children being sick. you kind of just get to be normal for a little bit and you don't get that very often here. >> reporter: all three members of rascal flatts are father fat.
>> as soon as i had kids, everything took on a different meaning. all i could do was see my daughter sitting there or my son sitting there and to see the bravery in these children and how they face these odds with such courage is so moving. >> reporter: college student brittany burns was home for christmas when she was diagnosed with lymphoma, stage four. >> we've been through a lot and we don't always have bright days and to have them come and sing to us makes the day and brings smiles and tears and tears of joy. ♪ >> reporter: tears of joy during one of her favorite songs, "my wish". ♪ my wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to ♪ ♪ your dreams stay big >> the words and the meaning behind that song have helped me through going through this process. i felt like they were just
singing, just the three of them and myself sitting in the room and it just really meant a lot. >> reporter: there is a line in that song, help somebody every chance you get. >> yeah. >> yup. >> we try to live by it. >> we've gotten so much from it, so much we will ever be able to give a hospital. ♪ life is a highway >> reporter: helping keep patients strong like brittany who found out two days after the concert, she is cancer free. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you so much. >> reporter: kate snow, nbc news, nashville. >> how about that? for all those interested in giving as members of the group have done, there is information on our website tonight. that is our broadcast for a friday night and for this week, thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams, lester holt will be here with you this weekend. we, of course, hope to see you right back here on monday night. and in the meantime, please have a good weekend. good night.
nbc bay area news beginning with breaking news. that breaking news is in santa clara county where firefighters are battling a brush fire. >> i'm raj mathai. this video just in to the newsroom from this fire west of gilroy and morgan hill. this is on the border of santa cruz and santa clara county. crews have this under control, about 7 acres have burned. containment at about 75%. no homes down there in this rugged terrain, but there is some kind of greenhouse. that greenhouse, though, saved from the flames.
well, it's not one anybody wants to see, fires like the one you just saw. a firebug is taunting firefighters with a string of suspicious fires in not just one but two bay area cities. novato has seen suspicious fires and walnut creek has seen suspicious fires. firefighters are looking at how and where those fires broke out in both of those cities. mark, not one but potentially two serial arsonists? >> reporter: well, we don't really know. at this point, it looks like walnut creek's fires may have been caused by children playing with matches. they are still investigating that. arsonist investigators much more positive about these fires here in novato. 11 just this morning. and it fits a pattern that they have seen for the past couple of years. all of the fires set in grass or