Pregnant skydiver survives chute failure
SILOAM SPRINGS — Shayna Richardson was making her first solo skydiving jump when she had trouble with her parachutes and, while falling at about 50 mph, hit face first in a parking lot.
Although badly hurt, she survived. Doctors treating her injuries discovered that she was pregnant. She said she would not have jumped had she known. Four surgeries and two months later, Mrs. Richardson said, she and the unborn baby are doing fine.
Mrs. Richardson, 21, of Joplin, Mo., was skydiving in Siloam Springs on Oct. 9 when her main parachute failed.
She broke her pelvis in two places, broke her leg, lost six teeth and now has 15 steel plates.
Mrs. Richardson said her due date is June 25. She plans to make her next parachute jump in August.
Breakaway parishes ruled property owners
SANTA ANA — A judge ruled that two conservative parishes that broke away from the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles to protest the ordination of a homosexual bishop are the rightful owners of their church buildings and other property.
The diocese had argued that it held the property in trust for All Saints’ church in Long Beach and St. David’s church in North Hollywood.
Those parishes, as well as St. James Church in Newport Beach, pulled out of the Los Angeles Diocese and the 2.3-million-member national Episcopal Church in August 2004 after the consecration of a homosexual bishop in New Hampshire.
Flood wall found at specified depth
NEW ORLEANS — Eight sections of steel sheet pulled from a failed New Orleans levee yesterday appear to have been driven into the ground to the specified depth, contradicting earlier tests, engineers said.
The sheet pilings were removed as part of an investigation into why the flood wall at the 17th Street Canal failed, contributing to floods that covered 80 percent of the city when Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29.
The steel had been sunk into the ground to prevent water from saturating the soil and destabilizing the flood walls. Initial testing by sonar indicated the sheet pilings were driven to only about 10 feet below sea level, even though the design called for 17.5 feet below sea level.
If the flood wall was built to specifications, as the latest inspection indicated, the next question will be whether the design was faulty.
Saudi prince gives schools $40 million
BOSTON — A billionaire Saudi prince, ranked by Forbes magazine as the world’s fifth-richest person and wealthiest Muslim businessman, has donated $40 million to Harvard and Georgetown to expand their Islamic studies programs.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of the late Saudi King Fahd and a prominent figure both inside the Saudi kingdom and internationally, gave $20 million to each university, both schools’ Web sites said.
The gift to Harvard, one of the 25 largest in its history, will fund four new faculty positions in a new Islamic studies program and make rare Islamic textual sources available in digital format, Harvard said.
Georgetown, the country’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university, said it would expand its Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
Jordanian pleads guilty in smuggling
A Jordanian national pleaded guilty in federal court to participating in a Detroit-based conspiracy to smuggle illegal aliens from Iraq and Jordan into the United States.
Thaer Omran Ismail Asaifi, also known as Abu Harp, entered the plea late Monday in Washington before U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collier, who set sentencing for May.
Asaifi, 35, admitted to participating in a conspiracy, headed by his wife, to smuggle more than 200 Iraqi and Jordanian nationals into the country through Ecuador and Peru.
His wife, naturalized U.S. citizen Neeran Hakim Zaia, 51, of Sterling Heights, Mich., is facing trial. She is in custody at a federal medical center in Carswell, Texas, undergoing a competency examination. Authorities said the conspiracy began in 2001 and continued through 2004.
Girl’s husband pleads guilty to sex assault
FALLS CITY — A 22-year-old man pleaded guilty yesterday to a sexual assault charge filed after he impregnated and then married a 14-year-old girl, and he faces up to 50 years in prison.
Matthew Koso legally married the girl in Kansas, which has no minimum age for marriage, after she became pregnant. The girl, Crystal Koso, now 15, gave birth Aug. 24 to a 7-pound, 1-ounce girl named Samara.
Nebraska, however, requires people to be at least 17 before they can marry and prohibits people 19 or older from having sex with anyone younger than 16. Sentencing was set for Feb. 7.
Red Cross head quits amid board friction
NEW YORK — American Red Cross President Marsha J. Evans, who oversaw the charity’s vast and sometimes criticized response to Hurricane Katrina, is resigning at the end of this month because of friction with her board of governors, the organization said yesterday.
Red Cross spokesman Charles Connor said the board was not unhappy with Mrs. Evans’ handling of the hurricane response, “but had concerns about her management approach, and coordination and communication with the board.”
Jack McGuire, executive vice president of the charity’s Biomedical Services, was named to serve as interim president and chief executive officer.
Eco-terror suspect accused in other cases
EUGENE — One of six persons arrested in a string of ecoterrorism attacks in the Northwest also is suspected in a half-dozen other cases, including the 1998 firebombing of a Colorado ski resort that caused $12 million in damage, a federal prosecutor said yesterday.
Chelsea Gerlach was ordered held without bail after Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Engdahl made the accusations against her.
Miss Gerlach, 28, was among six persons arrested in five states last week on indictments accusing them of setting fires and damaging property between 1998 and 2001 in Oregon and Washington. The Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front took responsibility for the crimes.
Miss Gerlach, of Portland, is charged with helping two others topple a Bonneville Power Administration high-tension line 25 miles east of Bend in 1999.
Mr. Engdahl said he will present evidence to a grand jury today seeking indictments against Miss Gerlach in a 1999 meatpacking fire in Eugene and a 2001 firebombing at a tree farm in Clatskanie.
The prosecutor also said Miss Gerlach is suspected in the 1998 firebombing of the ski resort at Vail, Colo., and other crimes.
From wire dispatches and staff reports