- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2006

DISTRICT

Building evacuated after water-main break

Twenty-five persons were evacuated from a Northwest apartment building yesterday after a water-main break.

The people were removed from the southern side of the Kennedy-Warren Apartments in the 3100 block of Connecticut Avenue, which has about 100 units and more than 200 residents.

Structural engineers who examined the building were afraid it might collapse if there was structural damage. They ultimately determined it was safe.

However, fire departments spokesman Allan Etter said electrical equipment in the basement was damaged by the water — preventing hundreds of residents from re-entering the apartments until generator power was in place.

“Pepco is going to be there a long time,” Mr. Etter said.

Police closed both lanes of Connecticut Avenue while the workers worked on the water main but reopened one southbound lane for two-way traffic at 6:30 p.m.

MARYLAND

COLUMBIA

Howard police hit suspected coke ring

Howard County police rounded up nine persons and are looking for three more in connection with a cocaine ring in four Columbia neighborhoods.

Police said the ring transported $200,000 to $300,000 worth of cocaine per month in the past year.

Authorities used undercover detectives, confidential informants and electronic surveillance during the 10-month investigation.

Those arrested include three Baltimore men and one woman and five men from Columbia.

POTOMAC

Two workers die after trench collapse

Two workers were killed yesterday when a trench collapsed near a home under construction.

One of the men was completely buried in the 10-foot-deep trench, and the second man was buried up to his neck, Montgomery County fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said. Rescuers were trying to recover the bodies last night.

“This kind of situation puts a lot of pressure on the body,” Mr. Piringer said. “It’s very hard to survive.”

Rescuers were called to the 9200 block of Potomac School Drive in Avenel at 4:30 p.m.

Four men were working on a waterproofing project, Mr. Piringer said. A third man was trapped in the trench but was able to get himself out.

Mr. Piringer said it did not appear the trench was properly shored up.

VIRGINIA

GLOUCESTER

Father charged in fireworks death

A New Kent County man has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of his stepson in a fireworks accident on the Fourth of July.

A Gloucester County grand jury indicted Ryland Fleet, 51, on Tuesday also on counts of felony child neglect and using fireworks without a permit.

The victim, Ryan Seomin, 15, was airlifted to a Norfolk hospital, where he died the next night.

Gloucester Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert D. Hicks said Mr. Fleet was launching tennis-ball-size mortar rounds from a tube on the beach along the York River.

One of the rounds struck Ryan in the head. Mr. Hicks said he is still awaiting autopsy results to determine the cause of death.

LORTON

Dozens arrested at drag race

Fairfax County police said they arrested 61 persons who showed up for drag races Sunday.

Police said the participants were arrested as some of them were preparing to race their cars on an access road at a trash-burning facility.

Authorities, who were acting on a tip, arrested 59 adults and two juveniles and charged them with trespassing on private property.

Drag racing and other reckless driving have caused dozens of deaths in the metro area in the past few years, especially among teenagers.

The chief of the trash facility said officials might add speed bumps and install a gate to discourage drag racing.

RICHMOND

Slain officer’s wife appeals her sentence

An attorney for a Caroline County woman convicted of killing her husband told an appeals court yesterday that crucial errors were made in jury selection at her trial last year.

Donna L. Blanton was convicted of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of her husband — state police 1st Sgt. Taylor V. Blanton. She was sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Her attorney, Mark Murphy of Fredericksburg, urged a three-judge panel of the Virginia Court of Appeals to grant Blanton an appeal on two issues. The ultimate goal, Mr. Murphy told reporters after the brief hearing, is to win a new trial.

The court does not hear oral arguments from the state’s attorneys at this step in the appeals process. The panel did not immediately rule on Blanton’s petition.

At trial, prosecutors said that Blanton had amassed substantial debts, partly from gambling losses, and that she and her husband had argued about money several days before the Oct. 16, 2003, shooting.

Blanton told investigators that someone broke into their house while she and the couple’s three children were at home, fatally shot her husband with his gun and then fled.

VIRGINIA BEACH

Before fatal crash, pilot reported plane shaking

A small airplane was flying slowly and shaking violently before it crashed in the back yard of a Virginia Beach home last week, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The report, released Tuesday, did not say why the single-engine Beechcraft Sierra went down shortly after takeoff from Norfolk International Airport on July 11.

Pilot George R. Schell, 69, of Norfolk, and his girlfriend, Judy Broadway, 63, of Rockledge, Fla., died in the crash. Two dogs aboard also died.

Nobody on the ground was injured.

The plane was en route to South Carolina.

According to the report, Mr. Schell radioed the control tower shortly after takeoff at 11:28 a.m. to report that a plane door was open and he needed to return to the airport.

Over the next several minutes, the pilot and controller discussed landing preparations. The report said Mr. Schell was cleared for final approach shortly thereafter.

ROANOKE

Water heater caused carbon monoxide leak

A carbon-monoxide leak that killed a church pastor and sickened more than 100 others staying in a Roanoke College dormitory last week was caused by a failure in a natural-gas-powered water heating system, investigators said yesterday.

It was not clear which component of the complex system failed, said Pat Counts, chief of the Salem Fire Department. The system is supposed to shut down if one of its many pieces fails, he said.

Investigators determined that pressure built up in a basement room of the dormitory over about 24 hours, forcing the carbon monoxide into the rest of the building through cracks and crevices, he said.

The Rev. Walter J. Vierling, 91, was found dead Friday morning when emergency officials responded to calls that people staying in the dorms for two summer programs were experiencing nausea, dizziness, headaches and shakiness.

A total of 114 persons were taken to two Roanoke Valley hospitals. Most were attending a Lutheran conference, while others were staying in the dorm as part of a summer college-preparatory program.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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