- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003

TEXAS

Niagara Falls jumper joins circus

HIDALGO — The only person to survive a plunge over Niagara Falls without a safety device has run off and joined the circus.

Kirk Jones, 40, made his debut Friday night as the “world’s greatest stuntman” with the Toby Tyler Circus. Last month, the former auto parts salesman from Michigan jumped over the Canadian side of the falls and emerged from the rushing foam with only a few broken ribs.

The troupe’s tour wrapped up for the year yesterday in Brownsville. Mr. Jones only made public appearances and signed autographs, though he may perform with the circus next year.

WASHINGTON

Two hurt in freight-train collision

LONGVIEW — Two freight trains collided Saturday as one was switching to a parallel track. Several cars derailed and two crew members were injured. One is in satisfactory condition and the other is in serious condition.

The northbound Union Pacific train apparently struck the rear two-thirds of the southbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe train outside Longview, between the Columbia River and Interstate 5, said Gus Melonas, a spokesman for Burlington Northern, which owns the tracks.

Investigators had not determined whether the BNSF train was late in moving out of the other train’s path or whether the Union Pacific train arrived early, Mr. Melonas said.

FLORIDA

Driver crashes car into DMV building

DAYTONA BEACH — A woman crashed her car into the Department of Motor Vehicles building where she intended to renew her driver’s license.

Denise G. Butterfield, 69, said she was pulling into a handicapped parking space when her car suddenly jumped the curb and smacked into the front of the building Thursday.

The car narrowly missed two persons sitting on a bench. No one was injured. Damage to the building and car was minor.

“I never hit the accelerator,” Miss Butterfield said. “The gas engaged itself.”

A police officer who performed a quick check of the car said everything seemed to be working properly. Miss Butterfield was issued a ticket for careless driving.

Because of the accident, department officials made Miss Butterfield take a new written and behind-the-wheel test. She passed both tests and was given a renewed license.

GEORGIA

Rattlesnake bites golfer retrieving ball

SAVANNAH — When Roy Williamson hit a tee shot off the fairway, the lie turned out to be rougher than he thought.

Mr. Williamson, 60, was bitten in the head by a rattlesnake when he went to retrieve his ball from a marsh.

“I saw my ball pretty much in plain view,” Mr. Williamson said Thursday, a week after the encounter. “Unfortunately, it was being tended to by a rattlesnake that I didn’t see.”

Doctors determined that the snake bit him twice, and the venom quickly spread throughout his body.

Mr. Williamson said he will play golf again but will be much more careful.

HAWAII

Pilot rescued after crash into ocean

HONOLULU — A retired Coast Guard pilot whose single-engine plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean nearly 100 miles off Maui was rescued early yesterday after more than three hours in the water, officials said.

William Swears was located 94 miles north of the island and airlifted to Maui Medical Center, where he was in stable condition, Coast Guard officials said.

Mr. Swears had reported engine trouble about 9 p.m. Saturday.

After receiving an emergency positioning indicating radio beacon signal, a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft spotted the wreckage of the Canard Pusher in the water shortly after midnight. Mr. Swears was rescued at 12:30 a.m. by the crew of a HH-65 helicopter, the same type of aircraft he operated when he was stationed at Barbers Point Air Station.

MAINE

Report shows fear among Muslims

PORTLAND — Federal antiterrorism efforts after the September 11 attacks have raised the level of fear among Muslims and other immigrants and refugees in Maine, a report shows.

The study by the University of Southern Maine’s Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence says fear has grown despite a drop in Muslim-targeted hate crimes. The most prevalent fear was the prospect of deportation.

MASSACHUSETTS

Flowers fill mental hospital

BOSTON — Only a week ago the Massachusetts Mental Health Center was busy with doctors and nurses treating the mentally ill.

Today, after 91 years in business, the hospital stands empty except for 28,000 pots of flowers — part of a farewell arts project that is filling the building’s drab hallways and examination rooms with a rainbow of color and sweet aromas.

Artist Anna Schuleit and 60 volunteers worked for three months to create the installation of more than two dozen collections of potted blooming flowers, some brought in from as far away as Florida, California and Canada.

Thousands of visitors, including many former patients of the facility and the doctors and nurses who treated them, are expected to view the exhibit amid other activities commemorating the hospital’s closing.

When the project ends today, the thousands of flowers will be hand-delivered to operating local psychiatric facilities. The building will be torn down in the months to come and replaced with a new, modern mental health facility.

OHIO

Oldest woman turns 114

NORTH LIMA — No citizen is more senior than 114-year-old Charlotte Benkner.

Mrs. Benkner, who became the world’s oldest living person last week, celebrated her 114th birthday yesterday at the northeast Ohio retirement home where she lives with her 99-year-old sister.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, she became the world’s oldest person with the death of 114-year-old Mitoyo Kawate of Japan on Thursday.

The petite woman still takes walks three times a day and goes to church every Sunday. She also gets her hair done every week.

Her physician, Dr. Charles Wilkins, said Mrs. Benkner has a sharp mind and that her outlook on life is a key to her longevity.

She was married for 56 years until her husband’s death in 1967. Mrs. Benkner still wears her wedding band.

RHODE ISLAND

Thieves swipe musical instruments

SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Musical instruments were stolen from the University of Rhode Island’s Fine Arts Center. A music student who trailed one of the suspects across campus was assaulted and suffered minor injuries, police said.

Police recovered 18 of the 25 stolen instruments. University spokesman David Lavallee said the missing instruments would cost thousands of dollars to replace.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Governor’s mansion will be removed

PIERRE — City commissioners approved the state’s request to move the governor’s mansion. The first of three sections likely will be hauled away Friday.

Bureau of Administration Commissioner Paul Kinsman said a construction company will have until Dec. 5 to get all three pieces of the home moved. Construction of a new governor’s residence starts in the spring.

UTAH

Death row inmate dies in infirmary

SALT LAKE CITY — A death row inmate whose execution by firing squad was put on hold earlier this year died in prison over the weekend, apparently of natural causes, officials said.

An autopsy was planned for Roberto Arguelles, but there was nothing suspicious about his death, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Peggy Faulkner.

Arguelles was taken to the prison infirmary late Saturday afternoon and officials were notified three hours later that he had died, said Miss Faulkner, who did not know why Arguelles was taken to the infirmary. More information on the cause of death would not be available until after the autopsy, she said.

Arguelles, 41, was on death row for kidnapping, sexually abusing and murdering a woman and three teenage girls while on parole in 1992.

WISCONSIN

Postal workers find live alligator

MILWAUKEE — A 4-foot-long alligator chewed its way out of a shipping carton before a postal worker tossed it into a hamper and called animal control officers.

Employees were sorting mail last week when they noticed the alligator chewing its way out of an Express Mail box, said JoAnne Blackburn, a Postal Service spokeswoman.

Workers tried to tape the box closed, but the alligator bit it open.

“The nose … was sticking out with its teeth hanging out,” said postal employee Jennifer Hejdak. She said a co-worker picked up the alligator by its tail and threw it into a hamper.

The alligator will remain at a shelter for a week before being shipped to a northern Illinois sanctuary, said Len Selkurt, executive director of the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control.

The sanctuary owner then will take it to Florida, he said.


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