- - Thursday, April 26, 2012

FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE — A Florida Highway Patrol lieutenant who ordered the reopening of a fog- and smoke-shrouded interstate highway shortly before a series of crashes killed 11 people was unaware of the agency’s procedures and had no formal training in opening and reopening roads, a state report said Thursday.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement report concluded troopers made errors but found no criminal violations.

Highway Patrol Sgt. Bruce Simmons expressed concerns about reopening Interstate 75 in north Florida in January but Lt. John Gourley gave the order because he was worried keeping the highway closed also would be dangerous.

At least a dozen cars, pickup trucks and a van, six semi-trailer trucks and a motorhome collided in north Florida near Gainesville. Some vehicles burst into flames, making it difficult to identify the victims.

Smoke from a wildfire mixed with fog blanketed the highway where it cut through Paynes Prairie State Park.

OREGON

Boring meets Dull in international partnership

PORTLAND — Boring: Meet Dull.

That’s what happened when two small towns, one in the U.S. state of Oregon and the other in Scotland, decided to get together and become sister communities.

The Oregonian reports that the idea came from a Scottish tourist, Elizabeth Leighton, who traveled this year through the Oregon town in Clackamas County that was named after homesteader William H. Boring.

The partnership means that the towns can use their collectively descriptive names to promote tourism. Officials in the Oregon town plan to sell T-shirts that say “Boring and Dull.”

Boring has a population of 8,000. Dull has a population of 84 and possibly gets its name from a Gaelic word from centuries ago.

MICHIGAN

Wildfire burns at least 1,500 acres near lake

MENTOR TOWNSHIP — Authorities say a Michigan wildfire that’s burned at least 1,500 acres and forced the evacuation of about 50 homes has been fully contained.

WWTV/WWUP reports the fire is burning near Mack Lake in Oscoda County’s Mentor Township, in the area of the Huron National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service says the fire was 100 percent contained by midmorning Thursday.

There have been no reports of injuries or structures being burned. Officials say rain is helping firefighting efforts.

The Oscoda County sheriff’s department says the evacuated homes include some small subdivisions and most of them are seasonal homes. An American Red Cross shelter has been set up in the nearby community of Mio.

UTAH

Man accused of leaving prank hijacking note

SALT LAKE CITY — A 31-year-old man from Utah is facing a federal charge after he allegedly left an apparent prank note that included the words “hijack plane” and “kill Obama” in his co-worker’s luggage.

Jeremiah Douglas Hill, of Clinton, was charged Wednesday with one misdemeanor count of making a false alarm by intentionally circulating a false warning of a plane hijacking.

Authorities say Mr. Hill slipped the note into the luggage last summer while at Hill Air Force Base.

The note read: “1 Hijack Plane, 2 Kill Obama.” It was discovered by an airport screener as the co-worker boarded a flight from Utah to Arizona.

Investigators say Mr. Hill told them he wrote it as a joke and hoped his co-worker would see it before passing through security.

CALIFORNIA

Cheaters, beware: LA honor system in peril

LOS ANGELES — For the cheaters on LA’s subway, it may be time to pay.

After more than 20 years of using what amounted to an honor system on the region’s light rail system, the board of Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is expected to vote Thursday to begin locking the gates at its stations.

The gate-locking would begin at select stations in July, where passengers will need to “tap” a pass or ticket with a microchip in it to get inside.

Officials estimate the current system has cost them $7 million a year despite monitors writing citations at random stations.

Gate-locking experiments at 10 stations last year showed many passengers weren’t bothering to pay.

During the experiments ticket purchases rose by 68 percent, 109 percent at one Hollywood station.

IDAHO

Man accused of using gun to force ‘moonwalk’

SANDPOINT — An Idaho man has been charged with assault after authorities say he ordered another man to perform the “moonwalk” at gunpoint.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reports 30-year-old John Ernest Cross was charged with the felony Tuesday in 1st District Court and appointed a public defender.

Police say they were called Monday to Mr. Cross’ home in Clark Fork after getting a report that he pointed a rifle at another man and demanded that the man perform the dance move popularized by Michael Jackson in the 1980s.

Investigators accuse Mr. Cross of using a semiautomatic rifle during the episode, but he claimed during his initial court appearance this week that the firearm was simply a pellet gun.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports