- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2008

Helicopter crash kills 3 on tour

LOS ANGELES — A tour helicopter crashed in rainy weather on an island off the Southern California coast yesterday morning, killing three people and injuring three others, a county sheriff’s deputy said.

The helicopter went down on the west end of Santa Catalina Island near Two Harbors, causing a small fire that was quickly doused, authorities said. Helicopters airlifted two women and a man to mainland hospitals.

Two of the injured were in critical condition, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said. The crash killed two men and one woman immediately, said fire officials. Their identities were not released.

Federal Aviation Administration records show the helicopter departed from Long Beach and was scheduled to return to that city. The crash occurred less than an hour after the helicopter picked up passengers on the island. The cause of the crash was not immediately known.

Mom chases down bicycle thief

SEATTLE — Pauline Goldmeier did her best imitation of an episode of the TV series “Cops” when she chased down several bicycle thieves, the Seattle mother says.

The 41-year-old legal secretary said when she saw teens apparently trying to steal her bicycle, she decided she would no longer be a victim and pursued the suspects in her car, the Seattle Times reported yesterday.

“They had no idea whose bike they were stealing,” said the mother of two. “I’ve had a lot of things happen to me, and I’m tired of it.”

Mrs. Goldmeier had been carjacked and kidnapped 13 years ago in Seattle and had only escaped that predicament by leaping from a moving car — while pregnant.

In the latest crime, Mrs. Goldmeier said she eventually caught up with the teen who was riding her stolen bicycle and took action.

“He was laughing at me,” she said. “But I floored it and literally cut him off a few feet from his face. He stopped laughing then and jumped off the bike.”

She and her husband tracked down several suspects and three were later arrested.

Craft prepares to land on Mars

PASADENA, Calif. — After a nearly 10-month journey, a NASA spacecraft will land softly today on the northern polar region of Mars, if all goes as planned.

The Phoenix Mars Lander is set to touch down in a broad, shallow valley in the Martian arctic plains thought to hold a vast supply of underground ice. Phoenix’s job during the 90-day mission is to excavate the soil and ice to study whether the site could have supported microbial life.

In keeping with tradition, Jet Propulsion Laboratory project manager Barry Goldstein plans to hand out bags of peanuts — both salted and unsalted — to his team members on landing day. Over the years, JPL found that missions with the lucky charms have better success than those without.

“I don’t tempt fate,” Mr. Goldstein said during a tour of mission control.

Fewer than half of the attempts to land on the Red Planet have succeeded. Phoenix is the first to attempt to land in Mars’ high northern latitudes. The lander will rely on its heat shield, parachute and a dozen thrusters to slow itself down from 12,000 mph to 5 mph. The risky descent takes about seven minutes.

Weather gives break in wildfire fight

GILROY, Calif. — Firefighters took advantage of cooler temperatures and calmer winds yesterday as they continued to fight a persistent wildfire in the Santa Cruz Mountains that has chewed through acres of centuries-old redwoods, destroyed at least 17 homes and displaced hundreds of people.

Fire officials said they had contained about 25 percent of the blaze, which has grown to about 5 square miles and jumped over the Santa Cruz County line, said Wayne Rhoten, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention. The fire had destroyed 28 structures. An additional 500 buildings were threatened.

Almost 2,000 residents remained under evacuation orders — more than 450 of them mandatory — while almost 2,700 firefighters and a swarm of tanker planes and helicopters continued dousing the area, said Dave Shew, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. One firefighter suffered minor heat-related injuries.

Smoke from the wildfire left a haze over the San Francisco Bay Area that was expected to linger through the Memorial Day weekend.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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