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American Scene: Maine fire on nuclear sub at shipyard hurts 7

- - Thursday, May 24, 2012

MAINE

KITTERY — Officials are venting smoke and noxious fumes from a nuclear-powered submarine at a Maine shipyard so they can get inside to assess what a fire did to it.

Firefighters from the shipyard and coastal departments in Maine and New Hampshire spent Wednesday night and early Thursday fighting the fire on the USS Miami. Seven firefighters and crew members were hurt but not badly.

Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, commander of Submarine Group 2, on Thursday called the firefighters heroes. He said officials are hoping to assess the damage later in the day.

Adm. Breckenridge said the firefighters isolated the flames so they would not spread to nuclear propulsion spaces. He said there is nuclear fuel on the sub, but the reactor has been shut down for two months.

MASSACHUSETTS

Mom of man shot in dorm sues Harvard

CAMBRIDGE — The mother of a Massachusetts man fatally shot inside a Harvard University dormitory during a drug-related robbery has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Ivy League school.

Denise Cosby says in her suit filed in Middlesex Superior Court that Harvard negligently allowed the mastermind of the killing of her son, Justin Cosby, to operate a "criminal enterprise" in Kirkland Hall that resulted in the May 2009 killing.

Her lawyers tell the Boston Globe that Mrs. Cosby believes her son would be alive today if the school had followed its own policies.

The 21-year-old Cosby was shot by one of three men during a drug robbery. None of them was a Harvard student, but the shooter was dating a student.

A Harvard spokesman said the university isn't accountable.

OHIO

Hospital settles lawsuit over fetuses in jars

SANDUSKY — An Ohio hospital has reached a proposed settlement of about $1 million with women who say an employee stuffed miscarried or stillborn fetuses into jars for years instead of medically disposing of them.

Firelands Community Hospital, now known as Firelands Regional Medical Center, reached the agreement after years of litigation. The women filed a class-action lawsuit complaining about how the Sandusky hospital disposed of the fetuses.

Court records show a former Firelands employee placed 88 fetuses into jars from 1988 to 1996. She worked with a pathologist to use them for teaching purposes. She told the hospital she kept the fetuses in jars instead of disposing of them for personal religious reasons.

An attorney representing the women said they're happy with the settlement. The hospital declined to comment immediately.

CALIFORNIA

Police chief defends cops' search for son's iPhone

BERKELEY — The police chief of the California college town of Berkeley is defending using 10 officers - some on overtime - to search for his teenage son's stolen iPhone.

Police Chief Michael Meehan told the Oakland Tribune on Wednesday no preferential treatment was given when the officers, including three detectives and a sergeant, searched for the phone, which was taken from a school locker in January.

Chief Meehan said field supervisors decide how many officers to put on a case and he's confident the search was properly handled.

The police chief also came under scrutiny in March after ordering an officer to a reporter's home to ask for changes to an online story about a community meeting criticizing the alleged slow police response to an elderly man's beating death. Chief Meehan apologized.

ARKANSAS

Judge orders new trial in lotto ticket suit

LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas judge Thursday ordered a new trial over who can claim a $1 million scratch-off lottery ticket prize, a little more than three weeks after ruling a woman who said she bought the ticket but mistakenly discarded it was entitled to the money.

White County Circuit Judge Thomas Hughes had ruled May 1 that Sharon Duncan should get the prize money, not two other women involved in the case. Judge Hughes ordered the new trial in a one-paragraph ruling that did not elaborate on his reasoning.

"After reviewing the actions of counsel appearing in this case, the court file and the record, this court, as authorized by the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure, orders a new trial to be held on all claims in this case," Judge Hughes said in the order. A call to Judge Hughes' office was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

Sharon Jones, a customer at the store, initially claimed the prize winnings from the "Diamond Dazzler" ticket that Ms. Duncan said she purchased at a convenience store in Beebe, about 35 miles northeast of Little Rock.

Ms. Duncan said she discarded the ticket after an electronic scanner told her it was not a winner. The state's Lottery Commission has defended the machine and says its equipment functions properly. The store's manager and owner sued Ms. Jones, claiming she illegally took the ticket from the bin. Ms. Duncan joined the lawsuit after the judge determined she may be the true owner of the ticket.

Ms. Hughes ruled that the store's owner and manager weren't entitled to any of the winnings.

Attorneys for Ms. Duncan and Ms. Jones did not immediately return calls Thursday afternoon.

NEW MEXICO

Lightning-sparked wildfire destroys dozen homes

ALBUQUERQUE — Fire managers say a dozen homes and several outbuildings in a summer community in southwestern New Mexico have been destroyed by two lightning-sparked blazes that have merged.

A wind-whipped wildfire burned through the Willow Creek area Wednesday, and officials confirmed Thursday that the homes along with seven small outbuildings were destroyed. Seven Willow Creek residents evacuated earlier this week.

Fire information officer Sharma Hutchinson said the community of Mogollon is under voluntary evacuation. Authorities said many structures are still at risk.

The 110-square-mile fire has tripled in size over the past three days, racing across more than 70,500 acres of steep, rugged terrain in the Gila National Forest. There is no containment.

CALIFORNIA

101-year-old man killed by 91-year-old driver

BURBANK — Even at 101 years old, Otto Jensen showed little sign of slowing down. The former boxer from Denmark still ran a photography studio and often could be seen crossing the street in front of it to get to a senior center he frequented.

On Tuesday night, while crossing that four-lane Burbank street, Jensen was struck and killed by a car driven by a 91-year-old woman.

Jensen was a well-known figure in his hometown, where he served as grand marshal of the city's centennial parade last year. His death saddened the community just north of Los Angeles. A poster tied to a tree near the crash scene had photos of Jensen, including one taken in 1930 when he was a 19-year-old boxer nicknamed "Bonecrusher." Another was dated last year, when he turned 100.

Someone left a quote attributed to Jensen and placed it among the photos on the tree.

"I believe there is something truly beautiful beyond death that we can only glimpse but never fully understand," the quote read.

WASHINGTON

Cougar reluctant to leave cage for life in the wild

EVERETT — Wildlife agents in Washington state were ready to release a captured cougar back into the wild, but it didn't want to go.

They banged on the back of the cage, poked the cougar with a pole and tried sliding the animal out by tilting the enclosure, but the young cougar wouldn't budge.

The Daily Herald reports a puff of pepper spray finally drove the cougar into the woods near Arlington, about 50 miles north of Seattle.

Wildlife Officer Dave Jones fired bean-bag rounds to teach the female cougar to stay away from people. It had been captured after wandering too close to homes.

Wildlife officers estimated the 100-pound cat was about 2 years old - about the age when cougars are left by their mothers and have to find their own way.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports