- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003


‘Miracle Man’ survives screwy accident

TRUCKEE — Ron Hunt’s friends have good reason to call him the “Miracle Man.”

The construction worker lost an eye but survived a freak accident without brain damage after falling from a ladder and onto an 18-inch-long drill bit that impaled his skull.

“I’m very fortunate I’m not paralyzed or dead,” the 41-year-old electrician said Friday.

While drilling above his head on Aug. 15, the 6-foot ladder on which Mr. Hunt was standing started to wobble, so he tossed aside the drill. But he fell off the ladder face-first and onto the drill.

Doctors said the drill bit pushed his brain aside rather than pushing into it, which likely would have caused serious brain damage or death.

His nephew thinks he will be able to laugh about it someday. “It’s just going to be one of those stories,” Ben Hunt said. “He’ll joke around with his glass eye and pop it out.”


Couple wed down in the dumps

BETHEL — The marriage of Dave Hart and Rockie Graham began with both of them down in the dumps.

The two exchanged vows on Monday, pledging their hearts and souls to each other at the Bethel Transfer Station, where they met and love bloomed next to the piles of recycled cans and garbage.

“What a contrast. The tux and the trash,” Mr. Hart said. His bride wore a $7,000 wedding dress with sparkling sequins.

It was nearly three years ago at the transfer station that Mr. Hart met Miss Graham, a committed recycler who now works part time there. Mr. Hart is the station’s manager.

When they decided to marry, it was Mr. Hart’s idea to hold the ceremony where they first met, and where everyone knew them.


Mother sends son whale meat in Iraq

It’s a care package that will deliver a taste of Alaska to the hot Iraqi desert.

Pickled meat from one of four beluga whales that died after 46 of them got stranded last week will now whet the appetite and raise the morale of an Alaskan on duty in the Middle East.

Jared Wallace will receive a few jars of canned white whale.

He had written his mother, D.J. Blatchford, about the suffocating 110-degree heat in Iraq, where he is a team leader with the 82nd Airborne Division, she told the Anchorage Daily News.

“He said, ‘Mom, please send some of your homemade canned meat.’ … So I’ll pickle it and wrap the glass jars in bubble wrap.”


Trial opens in Sikh shooting case

MESA — A man accused of fatally shooting an Indian immigrant four days after the September 11 terrorist attacks was acting out of a rage fueled by prejudice, a prosecutor said in opening statements of the man’s trial. The man’s attorney argued mental illness was to blame.

On the day of the terrorist attacks, Frank Silva Roque was overheard saying he would shoot people whom he described with an ethnic slur, prosecutor Vince Imbordino said as the murder trial opened Tuesday.

Mr. Roque is accused of killing gas station owner Balbir Singh Sodhi, a 49-year-old who wore a beard and turban as part of his Sikh faith.

Mr. Sodhi was neither Muslim nor from the Middle East, as the terrorist hijackers had been. Yet authorities say he was targeted by Mr. Roque on Sept. 15, 2001, because of his appearance.


Assembly passes bill for alien licenses

SACRAMENTO — The California Assembly has passed a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, an issue that has worked its way into the debate surrounding the attempt to recall Gov. Gray Davis.

The measure allows undocumented immigrants to submit a federal-taxpayer identification number or some other state-approved form of identification to the Department of Motor Vehicles instead of a Social Security number.

Democrats who backed the bill said the measure will improve public safety by helping ensure that all drivers pass a driving exam and have insurance. They argued that as many as 2 million illegal immigrants are driving without proper licenses, and that fake licenses are readily available.

Mr. Davis has vetoed two similar bills since he became governor, citing law-enforcement concerns, but has said he will sign this one. After he vetoed the measure last year, the Legislature’s Hispanic caucus refused to endorse him for re-election.

After Tuesday’s 44-30 vote in the Assembly, the measure goes back to the Senate for consideration of amendments.


Stunt attempt kills man leaping from car

LITTLETON — Tyler Weikel, the 20-year-old man who died in a leap from a car early this week, had been talking about trying the stunt since middle school, his older brother said.

“To be honest, I wasn’t surprised. He mentioned it to his roommate and other friends,” said Cody Weikel, 22. “He said a couple of times that he wanted to jump from a car just so he could claim that he did something nobody else would even try.”

Apparently, the idea never left Tyler Weikel’s mind. On Monday, He was riding in the back seat of a Subaru Legacy. Erin Grubbs, 19, was at the wheel, and Oscar Swansfeger, 18, was in the front passenger seat. He announced that he wanted to do something “dramatic” and jumped out of the car as it was traveling about 40 mph, his friends told police.

“I think this [jumping from a car] was the one last big thing he wanted to do as an immature kid before accepting he had to grow up,” Donald Weikel, Tyler’s father, told the Rocky Mountain News.


Semester begins at Yale as strike continues

NEW HAVEN — Students started the semester at Yale University by making their way through noisy picket lines yesterday and searching for the handful of classes that had been moved off campus in deference to striking workers.

“I felt a little bad about it, but I have to go to class,” said Sherrise Pond, a sophomore from New York who crossed the picket line.

While most classes went on as scheduled, about 120 professors and teaching assistants said they would move future lectures to nearby churches, theaters and other locations to show solidarity with the striking clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers.

A Web site maintained by the striking unions helped match up professors with alternative class sites.

Thousands of members of Locals 34 and 35 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International went on strike a week ago, seeking new contracts with larger pensions, higher wages and improved job security.


Man jailed for selling fake lifesaving drug

MIAMI — A man who bottled bacteria-tainted water and sold it as the lifesaving medicine Procrit was sentenced to more than 3 years in prison yesterday.

Eddy Gorrin, 30, had admitted to making the counterfeit drug, complete with imitation holographic safety seals, lot numbers and stamps almost identical to those on the real thing. His sentence yesterday was part of a plea bargain reached in June.

Procrit is prescribed to people with HIV, and to cancer patients with anemia. Officials have said none of the fake drugs ever reached patients.


6-year-old killed by uncle’s pit bulls

CLAYTON — A 6-year-old boy was fatally mauled by two pit bulls owned by his uncle.

Coroner Lloyd Hunter speculated the dogs attacked Isaiah Alley on Sunday because they smelled meat Isaiah had fed to his own puppy or because the dogs tried to attack the puppy first and the boy intervened.

The dogs charged the boy’s mother when she tried to help him, Mr. Hunter said. She got into a vehicle to escape, then called 911.

The dogs were taken away by law-enforcement authorities, and a judge will decide whether they should be destroyed.


Scientist on verge of cultivating huckleberries

SANDPOINT — They call it purple gold, and people will lug heavy buckets and compete with bears to get some.

Huckleberries only grow in the wild, and picking them has long fueled an underground economy in the mountain West.

Now a University of Idaho scientist is on the cusp of cultivating huckleberries, hoping to turn this exotic fruit into just another farm product.

The nation’s leading specialist on Vaccinium membranaceum, you might call Danny Barney, the lone scientist at the University of Idaho’s Sandpoint Research and Extension Center, a huckleberry hound. After 15 years of research, he figures that within five years people will be able to buy huckleberry seeds at their local nursery and plant them at home.


Prescription drug program delayed until November

NEW ORLEANS — It’s taking a longer than expected to start a state program to help Louisiana’s poor and elderly get free or cut-rate prescription drugs from manufacturers.

The state Office of Elderly Affairs had aimed for mid-October, but officials now say it looks like the program won’t start until November.


School district runs expensive tab at eatery

ST. LOUIS — A popular midtown St. Louis eatery was also popular with the city school district. An audit by the district calculated the bill at the Salad Bowl cafeteria at $444,975 for one year.

The Salad Bowl hosted 222 separate affairs for the district. The tab, which the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported has since been closed, averaged $8,557 a week.


Tribes join university to help Indian students

LAS CRUCES — Five tribes joined New Mexico State University in an effort to increase enrollment and academic achievement among American Indian students.

The university and the tribes also will work to secure tuition waivers for tribe members and develop a system to track Indian students’ progress.

More than 400 American Indian students are enrolled at the university.


Nichols requests out-of-state trial

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols has asked a judge to move his state trial out of Oklahoma or delay it because of “extremely prejudicial publicity.”

Prosecutors argued Tuesday that the trial, scheduled to begin March 1, should be held in Oklahoma County with jurors picked from a nearby county to spare witnesses undue travel expenses and other hardships.

District Judge Steven Taylor said he would rule next week.

Nichols, 48, was convicted in a federal trial of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of eight federal agents and is serving a life sentence.

The state case focuses on the 160 others who died as a result of the 1995 attack. Nichols could get the death penalty.


Town’s prison project troubles black leaders

SALTERS — Officials in struggling Williamsburg County see the new federal prison rising behind the pines along a lonely two-lane highway as the answer to the high unemployment level.

But some black leaders wonder whether a county that is more than two-thirds black should tie its future to a system that locks up so many members of their race.

The $110 million medium-security prison will hold about 1,150 inmates and is scheduled to open at the end of the year. It will bring more than 380 jobs, most of them paying well more than double the county’s average personal income of $12,794, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

But the prison “brings in jobs for a horrendous reason,” said the Rev. Joe Darby, first vice president of the South Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “Some used to argue slavery was good for the economy, but it was bad for the slaves.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a South Carolina native, likens building a prison in the county to bringing in an industry that pollutes.


McDonald’s fights obesity in nation’s fattest city

HOUSTON — Houston, we think we know why you have a problem.

In a bid to see its residents lose weight and get fit, the nation’s fattest city turned Tuesday to an unlikely partner — McDonald’s.

The fast-food giant, which brought the world belt-busting Big Macs and Quarter Pounders, was named the official restaurant sponsor of Get Lean Houston, a civic fitness program created after Men’s Fitness magazine named the city the nation’s fattest three years in a row.

Echoing a trend in the food industry to offer healthier options, McDonald’s said it would offer a special low-fat menu of salads, chicken sandwiches and a veggie burger in its 253 Houston restaurants, as well as tips on how to get fit. It plans to distribute pedometers to encourage customers to walk off those extra pounds.


Authorities start no-idling campaign

BURLINGTON — Authorities are trying to stop folks from idling outside school.

They are asking drivers in Chittenden County to switch off their engines while waiting for their children to get out of school, a move designed to help the environment and students’ health.

The “No Idling Campaign” is co-sponsored by the American Lung Association and seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the area by 10 percent by 2010.

Schools will receive materials such as “No Idling” road signs to put next to their buildings, fliers to go home with children and a presentation to school boards.

Lyman Amsden, Burlington School District superintendent, said he is working with principals at the district’s nine schools to pinpoint what can be done, particularly getting school bus engines to shut off while waiting.

“It’s a small piece; it’s a statement. By itself it’s not going to save the world, but our nine schools have the potential to make an impact,” Mr. Amsden said.


Blizzard strands couple on Grand Teton

MOOSE — A couple who spent two nights in a late-summer blizzard near the summit of Grand Teton was rescued after they began their descent and the husband was injured in a fall.

Joe and Beth Hestick set out Thursday to climb the 13,772-foot peak, according to Grand Teton National Park officials. The Bridgeport, W.Va., couple was high on the route Friday when the storm deposited 2 feet of snow on the summit. They stayed in a cave until conditions improved Sunday.

Mountain guide Jim Williams called rangers by cellular phone after hearing cries for help and climbed to reach the Hesticks, who were at 12,100 feet. He administered first aid until rescuers arrived about an hour after his call.

Joe Hestick, 47, was flown off the mountain and taken to a Jackson hospital, where he was in fair condition Tuesday. Mr. Williams helped Beth Hestick, 48, to a lower elevation. She was flown off the mountain Monday because she was dehydrated and had swollen feet and was treated at a hospital.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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