Soldier recalls Tillman's death
SAN FRANCISCO — As bullets flew above their heads, the young soldier at Pat Tillman's side started praying.
"I thought I was praying to myself, but I guess he heard me," Sgt. Bryan O'Neal recalled Saturday in an interview with the Associated Press. "He said something like, 'Hey, O'Neal, why are you praying? God can't help us now.' "
Mr. Tillman's intent, Sgt. O'Neal said, was to "more or less put my mind straight about what was going on at the moment."
"He said, 'I've got an idea to help get us out of this,' " said Sgt. O'Neal, who was an 18-year-old Army Ranger in Mr. Tillman's unit when the former NFL player was killed by friendly fire in April 2004 in Afghanistan.
Sgt. O'Neal said Mr. Tillman, a corporal, threw a smoke grenade to identify them to fellow soldiers who were firing at them. Mr. Tillman was waving his arms shouting "Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat [expletive] Tillman, [expletive]!" again and again when he was killed, Sgt. O'Neal said.
Helicopter, horse begin roundup
MURPHY — A helicopter and a horse specially trained to lure mustangs into a pen are being used by the Bureau of Land Management to round up wild horses in Owyhee County. The regular event reduces mustang numbers so they don't overgraze areas slated for livestock.
Officials hope to capture 296 horses by next month, when an adoption event is planned near Boise.
Town sets sights on big ketchup packet
COLLINSVILLE — First came the world's largest ketchup bottle.
Now this southern Illinois community is after the record for the world's largest ketchup packet.
Collinsville has partnered with the H.J. Heinz Co. to fill an 8-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide plastic pouch with 1,500 pounds of the tomato goop for a school fundraiser.
"That's a lot of ketchup," said Tracey Parsons, a Heinz spokeswoman.
The company donated 4,000 glass bottles of the condiment for people to buy for $1 and pour into the packet. Proceeds will go to the Collinsville Christian Academy, which was damaged by a fire last week.
Hundreds in the city, home to a 170-foot-tall water tower touted as the "World's Largest Catsup Bottle," showed up Saturday to participate in the ketchup filling and other fundraising activities. The feat is being submitted to Guinness World Records.
The giant packet will be sealed and kept in Collinsville, once home to a ketchup factory, for a few days before being taken to the Pittsburgh-based company's headquarters.
'Dead zone' in Gulf third largest ever
NEW ORLEANS — The oxygen-poor "dead zone" off the Louisiana and Texas coasts isn't quite as big as predicted this year, but it is still the third-largest ever mapped, a scientist said Saturday.
Crabs, eels and other creatures usually found on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico are swimming in crowds on the surface because there is too little oxygen in their usual habitat, said Nancy Rabalais, chief scientist for northern Gulf hypoxia studies.
"We very often see swarms of crabs, mostly blue crabs and their close relatives, swimming at the surface when the oxygen is low," she wrote in an e-mail from a research ship.
The 7,900-square-mile area with almost no oxygen, a condition called hypoxia, is about the size of Connecticut and Delaware together. The Louisiana-Texas dead zone is the world's second-largest hypoxic area, she said.
This year's is about 7.5 percent smaller than what Eugene Turner, her husband and a professor of oceanography and coastal sciences at Louisiana State University, had predicted, judging by nitrogen content in the Mississippi River watershed. More storms than normal may have reduced hypoxia by keeping the waters roiled, she said.
Badge returned after 3 decades
SAUGATUCK — More than 30 years after falling into Lake Michigan, a badge belonging to a former sheriff's deputy is back with its rightful owner thanks to a tourist who found it along the shore.
Max Elenbaas, now 61 and retired, was fishing from a boat in the mid-1970s when he bent over and accidentally dropped the badge into the water.
"You lose something in Lake Michigan a mile and a half, two miles out, it's not going to come back to you — there's no way," Mr. Elenbaas said.
The tourist found it on a beach about two weeks ago and turned it in to the sheriff's office. Deputies went to Mr. Elenbaas' home to return it.
The badge is rusty and the case's clear plastic window for the ID card has turned blue, but "it's in very good shape," Mr. Elenbaas said.
"They drove up, he handed it to me and even when I had it in my hand, I looked at it and says, 'Yeah, I can't believe this,' " he said.
Wildfire keeps guests away from lodge
HELENA — A highway near Glacier National Park reopened yesterday, just a half-mile from a wind-whipped wildfire, but a nearby lodge threatened by the flames remained evacuated.
Authorities escorted traffic on U.S. 2 through the area, along the southern edge of the park in northwest Montana. Fire managers warned that it could be closed again if the blaze flared up like it did Saturday, when wind kicked it across control lines. A 24-mile stretch of the highway was closed Saturday.
"We're expecting more of the same weather that crews had Saturday when they had problems," said Dale Warriner, a fire information officer.
Guests and 18 employees at Summit Station Lodge along the highway remained evacuated as flames were within a mile of the facility, owner Jorge Simental said. The number of guests was not immediately available.
The blaze remained active overnight and was growing toward the northeast, but no other structures were threatened, Mr. Warriner said. On Saturday, it grew rapidly — from 420 acres to about 1,000 acres, or about 1.5 square miles, he said.
Abandoned alligator found on beach
BABYLON — A peace officer for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals happened across a moving pillowcase on a beach Saturday on which someone had written: "Live Gator — Please find him a home," officials said.
The off-duty officer for the Suffolk County organization had been taking a walk on Long Island's Overlook beach, according to the group. The officer called in a response team to rescue the 30-inch-long animal.
SPCA officials are asking for donations to help them care for the alligator until it can be taken to a sanctuary. They are also seeking information on who might have dumped the gator.
2 persons die in float plane crash
PORTLAND — A small float plane crashed into the Willamette River in Oregon, killing two persons, including an accomplished flight instructor, authorities said.
David Howard Wiley, 80, a former National Seaplane Pilot of the Year, was one of two men who died shortly before noon Saturday when the vintage 1941 Taylorcraft float plane crashed just north of Willamette Falls.
The identity of the other man is being withheld pending notification of his family.
Witnesses said the two-passenger, single-engine plane took off from the river, rose about 75 feet, wobbled in the air and then began a steep turn to the left before the left wing broke off.
Clackamas County sheriff's spokesman Jim Strovink said people who saw the crash told him the plane took off in an "unstable fashion."
It was not clear whether Mr. Wiley, a certified instructor and mechanic who runs Wiley's Seaplanes, was piloting the plane.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.
Row leaves village without police
NORTH TROY — This village is without a police department after both officers quit. Chief Lenny Zenonos says he resigned because of conflicts with two of the three village trustees.
He says the village's part-time officer also resigned. Some have criticized Chief Zenonos for enforcing speeding laws. Many of the ticketed motorists were Canadians headed to the Jay Peak ski area.
Chief Zenonos told the St. Johnsbury Caledonian-Record newspaper that the trustees' "unwillingness" to stay out of police operations, and their "derogatory and inflammatory remarks" were "the main factors in my decision."
From wire dispatches and staff reports