- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 24, 2009

CALIFORNIA

Commuter train, 2 cars in collision

LOS ANGELES | A Metrolink commuter train collided Wednesday with a vehicle that had been hurled onto the tracks after being struck from behind by another vehicle, authorities said. Six people were injured, including two critically.

The chain-reaction crash was reported shortly after 7 a.m. in the eastern San Fernando Valley.

Four people in the two vehicles were injured and two were taken to hospitals in critical condition, including an infant, said Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey. The infant, a man and a woman were in one of the vehicles, while a male driver, also in critical condition, was in the other, he said.

Two of the 36 train passengers were taken to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries, he said.

Fire Capt. Steve Ruda said it appeared that one vehicle was struck from behind by another vehicle, went airborne and wound up on the tracks where it was struck by the train.

The Southern California train agency has been plagued in recent years by major crashes.

LOUISIANA

2 dead, 1 hurt in office shooting

BATON ROUGE | A former employee of a Baton Rouge construction company was arrested Wednesday in the fatal shootings of two people and the wounding of a third at the company’s offices, authorities said.

The suspect, identified as Richard Matthews, 53, of Slaughter, faced two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder, said Casey Rayborn Hicks, a spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Bail information and whether Mr. Matthews had an attorney was not immediately available. Mr. Hicks said Mr. Matthews likely would appear before a judge on Thursday, but he probably would be denied bail because of the murder charges.

Mr. Matthews is a former employee of Grady Crawford Construction Co. and the victims were all company employees, Mr. Hicks said. His employment and subsequent dismissal from the company are under investigation, she said.

According to investigators, Mr. Matthews showed up at the business shortly before 2 p.m. and began firing at employees. He’s accused of shooting three employees - two of whom were pronounced dead at the scene - and fired at a fourth person, but missed, she said.

A company foreman tackled and disarmed the suspect before sheriff’s deputies arrived, Mr. Hicks said.

NEBRASKA

Winter storm moves across midsection

OMAHA | Holiday travelers battled slick, icy roads and flight cancellations and delays Wednesday as a major winter storm began to spread across much of the nation’s midsection - and the worst of the weather was still expected to come.

The slow-moving storm was likely to intensify Thursday as it continued its trek north and east, bringing heavy snow, sleet and rain to a large swath of the Plains and the Midwest. A foot or 2 of snow was possible in some areas by Christmas Day.

“It’s an usually large storm, even for the Plains,” said Scott Whitmore, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Topeka, Kan.

In northwestern Kansas, snow started falling before sunrise Wednesday, after freezing rain had already iced up roads. Part of Gove County saw 8 inches of snow, though it was far lighter elsewhere, said Albert Pietrycha, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Goodland.

A stretch of Interstate 70 in western Kansas was snowpacked by midafternoon, although it hadn’t been closed. The state Department of Transportation warned that travel would be almost impossible in northeastern Kansas by Thursday afternoon.

NEW YORK

Madoff moved to prison hospital

NEW YORK | Wall Street con man Bernard Madoff, 71, has been moved to a prison hospital from his cell where he is serving a 150-year jail sentence, U.S. prison authorities said Wednesday.

Madoff was moved Friday to the hospital in North Carolina’s Butner prison, where he has been held, said Traci Billingsley, chief public information officer of the Bureau of Prisons.

“Madoff was moved within the complex from the medium [security facility] to the medical center in Butner on Dec. 18,” Miss Billingsley said, declining to cite reasons for the transfer.

“The potential reasons for an inmate’s transfer are numerous and we don’t release those specific reasons.”

Prison authorities had rejected rumors a few weeks ago that Madoff was diagnosed with cancer.

Butner prison is said to have among the best prison medical facilities, and some experts think Madoff may have been sent there because of his age.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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