- - Sunday, May 27, 2012

SAN DIEGO — The pilot and passenger of a banner-towing plane made an emergency landing on San Diego Bay and were plucked out of the water before the aircraft sank, authorities said Saturday.

The pilot of the single-engine Cessna 150 reported engine problems and went in the water south of the Coronado Bay Bridge at about 4:20 p.m., Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregory said.

Boaters rescued the men, who were not injured, Coast Guard spokesman Michael Haas said. They were then transferred to a Coast Guard boat.

The dramatic scene unfolded near the Hilton Bayfront Hotel.

A witness told the NBC-TV station in San Diego that he was reading a book when he heard the plane’s propeller above him.

“I also heard silence and I thought that was strange,” John McClure told the station.

He said the engine had stopped, and when he looked up he saw the banner advertising a website drop. Then the pilot rocked the aircraft before it splashed into the water.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” he said.

The plane sank, but was later located by San Diego Harbor Police divers, Mr. Haas said. He said recovery of the aircraft was being coordinated with a salvage company.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Death-row inmate awaits execution 12 years after brother

SIOUX FALLS — Rodney Berget lives in a single cell on South Dakota’s death row, rarely leaving the room where he awaits execution for killing a prison guard in April 2011.

Berget, who pleaded guilty in November, isn’t the first member of his family to be sentenced to death. In an unusual twist, his older brother was convicted in 1987 of killing a man for his car. Roger Berget spent 13 years on Oklahoma’s death row until his execution in 2000 at age 39.

The Berget brothers aren’t the first pair of siblings to be condemned. Record books reveal at least three cases of brothers who committed crimes - and got the death penalty - together.

But death row experts say the Bergets stand out because their crimes were separated by more than 600 miles and 25 years.

MICHIGAN

Rain aids battle against wildfire on Upper Peninsula

NEWBERRY — Rain lent a hand Sunday to the 230 crew members battling a wildfire that has consumed thousands of acres of forest in the eastern part of Michigan’s sparsely populated Upper Peninsula.

The fire in Luce County, near Newberry, was about 48 percent contained at midday Sunday, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The agency said it estimates the fire has covered 20,255 acres, down slightly from Saturday’s figure. Spokesman Dean Wilson said the new number is based on more accurate measurements.

Mr. Wilson said Sunday’s rain was helping efforts to control the Duck Lake Fire, which started with a lightning strike Wednesday. The blaze has burned a stretch of forest that touches Lake Superior, about 75 miles northeast of the Mackinac Bridge. The area is remote and nearly inaccessible in places.

“We’re making very good progress today,” Mr. Wilson said. About 230 people have been involved in fighting the fire, including 40 in aerial operations.

Fewer than 100 people have been evacuated and only about six structures have been destroyed. There are no reports of injuries.

“Today’s fire suppression activities will focus on holding existing secure line, fortifying established line put in yesterday, and extending fire lines north from the fire heel along both the east and west flanks,” the DNR said in a statement Sunday.

FLORIDA

Beryl brings rain and winds to southeast coast on holiday

MIAMI — Beryl became a tropical storm Sunday afternoon as it headed up the coast. Before being upgraded, it already was wrecking Memorial Day weekend plans, sending shoreline campers packing to head inland and canceling events in north Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Sunday that Beryl had gotten slightly stronger, with maximum sustained winds at 65 mph. It was heading west at 10 mph and was projected to make landfall late Sunday or early Monday, though tropical storm conditions are expected to reach the U.S. coast hours before that. Once it makes landfall, Beryl will continue dumping rain over parts of Florida and Georgia before slowly moving back out to sea.

NEW YORK

Bird-culling plan near JFK goes too far, critics say

NEW YORK — Critics are crying foul over a plan to control bird populations near New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Under a proposal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, staffers would be authorized to kill a half-dozen bird species within a five-mile radius of the airport.

The intent is to reduce the number of bird strikes on planes.

Environmentalists tell the New York Daily News that the measures need to be examined more carefully.

They say the plan conflicts with a multimillion-dollar federal effort to restore nearby wetland habitats for migratory birds.

Birds that could be killed under the plan include Canada geese, mute swans, double-crested cormorants, blackbirds, crows, rock pigeons and European starlings.

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, New York Democrat, has proposed legislation that would bypass the environmental impact review process for the plan.

COLORADO

Human remains found at camp linked to hiker

MINTURN — Authorities have discovered human remains near a campsite believed to have been used by a hiker from Chicago who has been missing since October 2010.

James Nelson was reported missing when he failed to return from a five day, 25-mile hike in the Holy Cross Wilderness area near Minturn.

The Eagle County Sheriff’s office says a hiker on Friday located the campsite near Holy Cross City, and the remains were discovered during a search of the area on Saturday.

The remains were turned over to the coroner for identification, and there was no immediate word on a cause of death.

The sheriff’s office says a notebook found at the campsite indicated that Nelson may have been suffering from altitude sickness. The office says it appears that some of the 31-year-old man’s gear is missing, including a camera and GPS unit.

COLORADO

Woman shot by homeowner faces trespassing charge

BOULDER — Prosecutors plan to file a trespassing charge against a Colorado woman who was shot in the hip after police say she drunkenly wandered into a home.

Prosecutors said they plan to file the charge this week against 21-year-old Zoey Ripple, who graduated from the University of Colorado this month, the Daily Camera reports.

Ms. Ripple’s attorney, Colette Cribari, said Friday that she is disappointed prosecutors plan to pursue charges.

Police say Ms. Ripple entered a couple’s Boulder home at about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday through an unlocked door. They told police Ms. Ripple ignored warnings that they had a gun and would use it if she didn’t leave.

Prosecutors don’t plan to file charges against the man who shot Ms. Ripple. Colorado law allows residents to use deadly force against trespassers who intend to use force.

WASHINGTON

State hopes to buy ranch in wine country for public use

BENTON COUNTY — Washington state officials are trying to find the money to buy a historic ranch that is being sold by the descendants of the man who settled it in 1903.

The McWhorter Ranch covers more than 20 square miles of arid shrub-steppe habitat in eastern Washington.

Jeff Tayer of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says the state is working with conservation groups to try to find enough money to buy the ranch for public use. But he says the ranch also neighbors the nation’s fastest growing metropolitan area and a booming wine region.

Washington’s Tri-Cities is the site of the Hanford nuclear reservation and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and it’s a key grape-growing area for the state’s booming wine industry

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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