- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2008

Coast Guard cites tug in oil spill

NEW ORLEANS | The pilot of a massive tanker involved in a collision on the Mississippi River repeatedly warned a tug boat pushing a barge to get out of the way, but no one on the smaller boat responded, according to radio transmissions released Saturday by the Coast Guard.

The July 23 wreck caused thousands of gallons of fuel to spill and shut down part of the nation’s busiest inland waterway for several days. The newly released audio recordings and radar from that day show the tug boat, Mel Oliver, crossing the river in front of the tanker, Tintamara.

“Mel Oliver - come in, [captain] - you’re crossing the bottom of a ship coming at you,” a Coast Guard traffic controller says.

As the pilot of the tanker becomes increasingly distressed, he calls out to the captain of the Mel Oliver again and again. “This ain’t good, man,” says the pilot, who was not identified.

Also Saturday, the Coast Guard released the results of its preliminary investigation. The Coast Guard found that the person operating the Mel Oliver boat had an apprentice mate’s license, but no one on the vessel was properly documented to guide it.

The Coast Guard said the captain of the tug was not aboard at the time of the collision.

4 hurt as driver plows into parade

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. | A suspected drunken driver led deputies on an 80-mph chase Saturday before barging through a parade route and injuring four people, authorities said.

The injured included two women, a 6-year-old boy and a police officer. Parade bystanders were holding the 24-year-old driver on the ground when deputies arrived, said Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Capt. David Adams.

Deputies received a call Saturday morning reporting an erratic driver on Interstate 43, Capt. Adams said.

The man’s car hit a police captain in the leg before jumping a curb and careering into the route of a parade that was part of an annual bratwurst celebration.

None of the four injured persons was seriously hurt. The suspect had not been charged.

Missile accident turns few heads

BISMARCK, N.D. | There’s plenty to talk at the weekly women’s coffee klatch in the small town of Parshall, and no one bothered to mention the unarmed booster rocket for an intercontinental ballistic missile lying in a ditch where an Air Force truck overturned.

“We talked about the oil boom, weddings - everything under the sun,” Arlene Zacher said Saturday. “But nobody ever mentioned that missile. I guess that shows that people aren’t worried about it. I’m certainly not.”

The Air Force said a truck carrying the booster for a Minuteman III overturned Thursday a few miles east of Parshall in northwest North Dakota, but there was no danger to the public. The truck and booster rocket, which is 66 feet long and weighs 75,000 pounds, were still sitting along the road Saturday, under armed guard.

Maj. Laurie A. Arellano, an Air Force spokeswoman, said the wreck would stay there for a least a few more days.

“It has to be 100 percent stable for movement. It’s not a quick process,” she said.

Shooting suspect also cited in rape

MILWAUKEE | A woman said a man suspected of opening fire on a group of young adults, killing three, had raped her the night before in the same northern Wisconsin woods where the victims were slain.

The woman said she told her parents about the assault, and they reported it to authorities. She said officers came to her home late Thursday, mentioned the shootings that occurred earlier that day along a riverbank in the town of Niagara - near the same spot where she said she had been sexually assaulted - and asked her to describe her attacker.

Scott J. Johnson, whom the woman described as a casual friend, was arrested Friday after he emerged from the woods following an all-night manhunt. He is expected to appear in court Monday or Tuesday, Marinette County Chief Deputy Jerry Sauve said Saturday.

Authorities did not return calls seeking comment on whether the reported rape was related to the shootings.

Island loses trash-can mail

SUTTON ISLAND, Maine | The Postal Service has ended a long tradition in which mail delivered to Maine’s small offshore Sutton Island by a private ferry service was left in a specially marked trash can on the island’s dock.

Postal Service higher-ups got wind of the practice that served residents of about 25 seasonal homes on Sutton Island. They decided it had to be halted because it provides no security for the mail.

Summer resident Shea Howell says residents will now have to make a two-mile ocean journey to the post office in Northeast Harbor. She says it will now take three hours to get her mail.

Sutton Island is one of five islands that make up the town of Cranberry Isles.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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