- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003


Planes collide at airport, killing 2

WESTERLY — A plane collision that killed two men at Westerly State Airport happened as one aircraft was landing and the other was taking off, authorities said yesterday.

The Sunday afternoon crash killed both men on the Cessna 182 that was taking off. The three persons on the Piper Archer were taken to a hospital with minor injuries and released.

The airport has no air-traffic control tower, and pilots are expected to notify each other when taking off and landing, said Ted Drozdz, chief aeronautics inspector for Rhode Island Airport Corp.

It could take a year to determine the cause of the collision, said Stephen Demko, an air-safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.


Trial starts in bank robbery

AURORA — Jose Sandoval was the ringleader of a bank robbery in which five persons were killed, and he personally shot three of the victims, jurors were told yesterday at the start of his murder trial.

Mr. Sandoval, 24, facing five counts of first-degree murder, is the first man to go on trial in the Sept. 26, 2002, robbery of a U.S. Bank branch in Norfolk. If convicted, he would face life in prison or death in the electric chair.

Two other men are awaiting trial and a fourth has pleaded guilty.


Resort owner to open ice hotel

CHENA HOT SPRINGS — A honeymoon on ice might seem a little frigid, but Alaskan resort owner Bernie Karl figures his Aurora Ice Hotel, a 30-foot-high Gothic palace near Fairbanks, will be a hot tourist destination.

The ice hotel at Chena Hot Springs will measure 110 feet by 40 feet and include seven rooms. Its 8-foot-thick outer walls of snow and ice will curve together into a Gothic arch-shaped ceiling 6 feet thick, and it will be reinforced with a skeleton of laminated wood arches, metal bands, chicken wire and refrigeration lines. Mr. Karl hopes to open soon after Thanksgiving.

Sleeping on ice, however, won’t come cheap. The resort’s Web site has set rates of $878 per room for a two-night stay and $1,067 for three nights.

The fee covers survival gear, including Arctic-grade sleeping bags, and a backup heated suite in another portion of the resort for the less hardy guests.


Dog credited with saving owner

COLTON — Gardner Credle said it wasn’t easy to teach his 12-year-old black Labrador to sit or roll over, but when Mr. Credle was caught in a recent wildfire, Smokey did more than a few tricks — he saved the man’s life.

The retired aerospace worker and his family credit Smokey with getting the 85-year-old to leave his trailer last month, minutes before it went up in flames.

“He’s not a trick dog. He’s a protector,” Mr. Credle said after the two were reunited Friday at the hospital where Mr. Credle is being treated for third-degree burns suffered during the fire.

Mr. Credle didn’t think he needed to leave his hillside home in Riverside County, although he saw smoke and felt heat from a wildfire roaring through the area.

But Smokey wouldn’t take no for an answer. He put his head on Mr. Credle’s lap, gazed at his owner, then tried to jump into the back of Mr. Credle’s pickup truck. Mr. Credle got out in time to see his trailer burst into flames.


Flu season starts early, strong

ATLANTA — Flu outbreaks already are going strong in parts of the country, months before the season typically peaks, and this year’s vaccine does not exactly match the strain doctors are seeing so far, the government warned yesterday.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urged people to get an early flu shot to avoid a potentially staggering flu season nationwide.

The shot is recommended for adults older than 50, children between 6 months and 2 years, people with chronic medical conditions and people who work in health care. The vaccine is readily available this year, Dr. Gerberding said.

The outbreaks were strongest in Texas and Colorado in October and early November. Most of the country has had only sporadic flu infections so far this season.


State to borrow money for schools

DES MOINES — The state plans to borrow about $500 million to pay school districts money due in the coming weeks after determining that there is not enough money in cash reserves to cover the payments. Legislative leaders were told of the plans in a memo from the Department of Management.

Republican legislative leaders renewed their call for new limits on state spending. Democratic supporters of the governor said borrowing money to pay bills on time is nothing new. Iowa borrowed $500 million in November 2001.


Drawls thwart voice recognition

SHREVEPORT — Southern drawls have thwarted voice recognition equipment used by the Shreveport Police Department to route non-emergency calls.

A switch to a lower-tech, touch-tone system — in which callers respond to a voice recording by pressing a different number for each division — was scheduled for yesterday, spokeswoman Kacee Hargrave said.

The voice-recognition system asked people to name the person or department they wanted. More often than not, the system just didn’t understand, and they wound up at the wrong place, said Capt. John Dunn, who oversees police communications.

“In Louisiana, we have a problem with Southern drawl and what I call lazy mouth. Because of that, the system often doesn’t recognize what [callers] say,” he said.


American Indians hold conference

ALBUQUERQUE — Jewell James thinks every voice in American Indian country should be heard when tribal sovereignty is challenged.

Mr. James was one of 3,000 Indian leaders from around the nation gathered here for the start of the 60th annual National Congress of American Indians conference, which opened Sunday.

Organizers hope the meeting, “Sovereign Nations, One Enduring Voice,” will promote unity and awareness. Topics for the weeklong gathering include Indian sovereignty, trust reform and political influence in the 2004 elections.

Mr. James, who comes from the Lummi Indian Reservation in Washington state, said national tribal leaders need to incorporate efforts from grass-roots organizations.

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. and John Echohawk of the Native American Rights Fund reported on the Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative — an effort to address recent decisions handed down by the Supreme Court that tribes say threaten to erode tribal authority.


Ferry crash pilot speaks to prosecutors

NEW YORK — The man who was at the controls during last month’s fatal Staten Island ferry boat crash met with prosecutors yesterday for the first time since the accident, officials said.

Assistant captain Richard Smith was piloting the boat when it hit a pier in New York bay in windy conditions on Oct. 15 with 1,500 passengers on board. Ten persons were killed and dozens injured, many of them with amputated limbs.

Mr. Smith fled the scene and tried to commit suicide, police said. His attorneys said he was too ill to meet investigators until yesterday.

Officials did not disclose what Mr. Smith, who was released from the hospital Thursday, told federal prosecutors, who took over the criminal investigation from state prosecutors last week.

Mr. Smith was suspended without pay after the accident, the worst in the 98-year history of the commuter ferry, which is also popular among tourists for its views of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor.


Inmates say law increases prison woes

OKLAHOMA CITY — A state law that requires violent offenders to serve longer sentences may be contributing to a rise in inmate attacks on prison guards, some inmates say.

State officials say that while longer sentences may be part of the problem, the growth in Oklahoma’s prison population and understaffing also play a role in an increase in inmate attacks.

Oklahoma’s truth-in-sentencing law requires some offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before they are eligible for parole.


Fraternity pledge ill after water contest

DALLAS — A 21-year-old student at Southern Methodist University lay in critical condition yesterday after chugging water in what authorities say may have been a fraternity hazing.

Braylon Curry, a pledge with Alpha Phi Alpha, drank an unknown amount of water from a gallon container early Saturday during an off-campus competition with fraternity members and was hospitalized hours later after becoming dazed and incoherent, police said.

The fraternity, which only this spring was reinstated at SMU after a three-year suspension for hazing, has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. Jim Caswell, vice president of student affairs, refused to discuss specifics on the fraternity’s prior hazing incident.

Excessive consumption of water can be fatal, causing pulmonary edema, a condition in which water enters the lungs, and hyponatremia, a sodium imbalance. Drinking too much water too quickly can swell brain cells and cause pressure in the skull.


Cell-phone callers overwhelm system

WILLISTON — Vermont public safety officials are trying to figure out what to do about too much of a good thing. Multiple drivers with cellular phones often call 911 after an accident, tying up dispatchers or even prompting emergency personnel to respond repeatedly to the same incident.

Officials say it happened during a storm last week and made an already busy night busier. Now they are considering using yellow caution tape or some other sign to tell passing motorists that an accident already has been reported.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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