Divers submerge for carving contest
KEY LARGO — Divers submerged in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary over the weekend for an unusual knife-based activity — a pumpkin-carving contest.
The wacky brainchild of personnel at the Amoray Dive Resort in Key Largo, the Saturday event attracted more than 30 people, some who worked individually and others in teams to carve pumpkins, creating a variety of designs amid some yellowtail snapper and even a curious grouper.
Richard Patino of Miami won for his detailed carving that produced a traditional jack-o’-lantern.
The event occurred about 25 feet below the surface at Elbow Reef, about eight miles off Key Largo.
Seven children killed in fire
TOLEDO — Joe Jaramillo climbed the staircase with smoke searing his eyes and the frightened cries of seven children ringing in his ears. But he couldn’t get any closer to the children trapped in a fire, the cause of which remains undetermined.
“They were yelling, ‘Help us,’ but I couldn’t do anything. I had to come back for air,” he said.
Five or six other persons also tried to get inside but were driven back by the smoke, said Hardy Thornton, a family friend.
The youngsters died after a fire broke out in a Toledo apartment Sunday afternoon. The victims were five sisters, their brother and a girl cousin, ages 6 months to 7 years, said an aunt, Natalie McGowan.
Jury selection begins in Blake trial
LOS ANGELES — The search for a jury to decide whether or not actor Robert Bake murdered his wife got off to a halting start yesterday with only 20 of the first 177 prospects saying they could be available to serve on a long trial.
The trial of the former “Baretta” star could last five months, and prospective jurors will face a battery of questions from lawyers on everything from their jobs to their TV-viewing habits.
Jury Commissioner Gloria Gomez read a statement from Judge Darlene Schempp that said prospects would be excused only for legitimate reasons relating to their employment or studies.
Judge Schempp has said she wants a pool of 150 to 200 pre-screened jurors ready to be quizzed Nov. 15 when lawyers take over. That could involve the screening of as many as 1,800 prospective jurors.
Weather causes blooms in October
ATLANTA — This fall’s changing climate has magnolia trees and other plants blooming at what is considered the wrong time of the year.
“Almost always, whenever we have a late-summer drought, things get stressed, and then you get wet conditions, dogwoods and magnolias come into bloom,” said Jim Midcap, a horticulturist with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. “They get revitalized. They think spring has hit us again.”
That happened when a dry spell was snapped by a series of tropical storms that brought torrents of rain to much of the region within the past six weeks. That was followed by a warm beginning to the fall.
In Georgia, for example, Japanese magnolias suddenly are in bloom, well ahead of their normal, late-winter, early-spring schedule.
Skydiver dies after chute tangles
TAYLORVILLE — A single-engine plane used by a parachuting club crashed into a field, killing a man whose parachute got tangled in the plane’s tail. The others on board, including the pilot, parachuted to safety.
Investigators were trying to determine yesterday if the tangled chute caused the crash or if the plane had stalled as club members prepared to jump.
Bill Jensen, 38, died in the crash Sunday near Taylorville Municipal Airport, southeast of Springfield in central Illinois, Police Chief Greg Brotherton said.
Train carrying methanol derails
DETROIT — A train carrying an explosive liquid derailed yesterday in a residential neighborhood, and hundreds of people and about 1,500 students from three schools were evacuated, officials said. There were no immediate reports of injuries or illness.
Nine cars of a CN freight train left the tracks and some overturned, authorities said.
At least two derailed tank cars contained flammable and potentially explosive methanol. Some liquid reportedly leaked from the train, but fire officials described the leak as minimal.
CN spokeswoman Gloria Combe said the leak quickly was contained.
Ghostbusters probe the paranormal
JACKSON — Alan Brown, like the characters in the “Ghostbusters” films, ain’t afraid of no ghosts. Only he’s never actually met one.
Mr. Brown, the author of four books about haunted places, said such encounters always seem to happen to someone else.
Among the real-life ghostbusters is Karen Lundahl, who uses scientific technology to investigate reported hauntings. Founder of the Central Arkansas Society for Paranormal Research, she said her organization uses digital and still cameras, electromagnetic field detectors and thermal scanners.
Paranormal investigators have studied places in Mississippi to chart reported hauntings, most notably at McRaven Tour Home in Vicksburg.
“They said that there was more activity in this home than any they had ever been in,” McRaven tour guide Leonard Fuller said.
He said the most frequent visitor is supposedly the ghost of Mary Elizabeth Howard, a 15-year-old who died while giving birth.
Counties halt new casino bids
RENO — In response to citizen opposition to a string of proposed neighborhood casinos, Reno and Washoe County officials decided to impose a six-month moratorium on hearing applications for unrestricted gambling licenses.
Officials want to give their staffs time to develop a regional approach to the issue of neighborhood casinos.
FBI ends dig of mob burial ground
NEW YORK — The FBI yesterday ended a three-week excavation of a vacant New York City lot suspected of being a mob cemetery after finding just two skeletons and abandoning hope of unearthing more bodies.
The skeletons are believed to be the remains of two murdered organized-crime family captains, the FBI said.
The FBI had hoped to find more victims in the lot nicknamed “Mafiaville” by local residents, based on testimony from Mafia turncoats.
Authorities had thought they might find the body of John Favara, a former neighbor of Mafia crime boss John Gotti. It is thought that Gotti ordered Mr. Favara killed after he accidentally ran over and killed Gotti’s 12-year-old son.
State offers site for black museum
NASHVILLE — Gov. Phil Bredesen yesterday approved a 3.6-acre tract of land near downtown for the development of a center for black music, history and culture.
“This museum is long overdue,” Mr. Bredesen said. “This new institution will tell the great story of how Tennesseans have helped lead the way in the march of history.”
T.B. Boyd III, a prominent Nashville publisher and chairman of the board of directors of the African American History Foundation of Nashville Inc., which spearheaded the museum project, joined Mr. Bredesen in signing a 30-year lease with an option to purchase the land for $1 when the lease is up.
Charges dropped in campaign arrest
CHARLESTON — Charges were dropped yesterday against a woman arrested last week after she entered a restaurant where Vice President Dick Cheney was appearing at a private campaign event.
Charlotte Wilkerson, 45, of Charleston was charged a week ago with disorderly conduct, obstructing an officer and carrying a concealed weapon.
She entered through a back-door entrance that the public is allowed to use. Her attorney, Jason Huber, said there were no signs or security measures to prevent her from entering. She had a box cutter in her purse that she uses at her job, Mr. Huber said.
Two employees slain at restaurant
WEST MILWAUKEE — Two employees of an Arby’s fast-food restaurant were found fatally shot in an apparent robbery, police said yesterday.
Police Chief Eugene Oldenburg said the victims were discovered at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday by an off-duty assistant manager who had passed by with a co-worker and thought the lighting appeared unusual.