- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2006

FLORIDA

20 seriously hurt as ship shifts

PORT CANAVERAL — In an instant, passengers aboard the Crown Princess cruise ship went from sunbathing to clutching whatever they could as the massive ship rolled heavily to its side, throwing everything not nailed down against the deck and walls.

The Crown Princess was 111/2 miles southeast of Port Canaveral en route to New York late Tuesday afternoon when its crew reported problems with the steering equipment and the 113,000-ton ship listed hard to one side, Coast Guard Petty Officer James Judge said. The ship was righted slowly, then taken to the port.

Gerald B. Brock, a surgeon from Ontario, said yesterday that he assisted ship doctors in the triage room treating “dozens of passengers” with injuries ranging from fractures and dislocated joints to shortness of breath and chest pains.

All 3,100 passengers and 1,200 crew members were accounted for, the Coast Guard said. Ninety-four persons were taken to hospitals, and at least 20 had serious injuries, cruise line and port officials said.

RHODE ISLAND

Lightning strikes dock, sparking fire

PROVIDENCE — Fire engulfed a dock area at the Port of Providence on Tuesday night when lightning struck as a tanker was unloading gasoline, sending plumes of smoke and fireballs into the air.

Officials said the ship was able to pull away safely from the dock.

Assistant Fire Chief Mark Pare said the 600-foot tanker was in the process of unloading when lightning struck nearby and set off a fire.

Truck driver John Garrett said he was resting in his truck near the port facility when the storm hit. Looking out a window, he saw a bolt of lightning hit near the dock, followed immediately by a large explosion and fireball.

Mr. Garrett said he could feel the heat from several hundred feet away. “I’ve never seen anything in the world like this,” he said.

COLORADO

Governor signs bill banning child brides

DENVER — Gov. Bill Owens signed a measure banning child brides and ending an uproar sparked by a court ruling that said 12-year-old girls could enter common-law marriages in Colorado.

The state Court of Appeals ruled June 15 that Colorado had no stated minimum age for common-law marriage but said the state has adopted English common law, which makes girls as young as 12 and boys as young as 14 eligible for marriage.

“It was imperative that Colorado change its law concerning the minimum age for common-law marriage. The age of consent for marriage should be consistent in our statutes and, most importantly, our young children must be protected,” Mr. Owens, a Republican, said as he signed the bill Tuesday.

The law raises the minimum age for common-law marriage to 18 — or 16 with parental consent and a judge’s approval — and goes into effect Sept. 1.

IDAHO

Python gulps electric blanket

KETCHUM — It took surgery to save a 12-foot Burmese python after it swallowed an entire queen-size electric blanket — with the electrical cord and control box.

The blanket must have gotten tangled up in the snake’s rabbit dinner, owner Karl Beznoska said. He kept the blanket in the cage to keep the 60-pound reptile, named Houdini, warm.

“Somehow, he was able to unplug the electric cord,” Mr. Beznoska said yesterday. “He at least wasn’t hooked up to the power. It might have been pretty warm there.”

Veterinarian Karsten Fostvedt conducted a two-hour operation on the python Tuesday and said afterward, “The prognosis is great.”

Specialists at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine said that it probably took Houdini six hours to swallow the blanket and that the snake probably would have died without the operation.

ILLINOIS

Probe finds torture of black suspects

CHICAGO — Special prosecutors investigating accusations that police tortured nearly 150 black suspects in the 1970s and ‘80s said yesterday they found evidence of abuse but that any crimes are too old to prosecute.

In three of the cases, the prosecutors said the evidence was strong enough to have warranted indictments and convictions.

“It is our judgment that the evidence in those cases would be sufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Robert D. Boyle and Edward J. Egan wrote.

The four-year investigation focused on accusations that 148 black men were tortured in Chicago police interrogation rooms in the 1970s and ‘80s. The men claimed detectives under the command of Lt. Jon Burge beat them, used electric shocks, played mock Russian roulette and started to smother at least one person to elicit a confession.

No one has ever been charged, but Mr. Burge was fired after a police board found that he had abused a suspect in custody. His attorney has said Mr. Burge never tortured anyone.

NORTH CAROLINA

Tropical storm staying offshore

KILL DEVIL HILLS — Tropical Storm Beryl gained strength yesterday as it pulled away from the North Carolina coast and headed toward New England.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami issued a tropical storm watch for southeastern Massachusetts — from Plymouth south and west to Woods Hole, including Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

Colin McAdie, a meteorologist at the hurricane center, said offshore areas of Massachusetts could get some wind in the early morning hour tomorrow as the storm passes by.

At 5 p.m., the storm was centered about 135 miles northwest of Cape Hatteras, or 390 miles south-southwest of Nantucket. It was moving north at about 8 mph, and a gradual turn to the north-northeast is expected today.

UTAH

Heat kills 3 hikers in separate trips

MOAB — Two persons have died during separate hiking trips in the rugged southern Utah desert country, one a participant in a wilderness survival course and the other a teenager who got separated from her group in 110-degree heat, officials said.

Another hiker died of apparent heat exhaustion and dehydration in South Dakota’s Badlands National Park, the park’s chief ranger said.

Dave Buschow, 29, of River Vale, N.J., died Monday night near Boulder, Utah, while taking part in a 28-day survival course offered by the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, Garfield County spokeswoman Becky Bronson said.

On Sunday, Elisa D. Santry, 16, of South Boston, Mass., died on the 16th day of a three-week Outward Bound Wilderness course near Canyonlands National Park. The temperature was about 110 degrees, San Juan County Sheriff Mike Lacy said.

In southwestern South Dakota, a woman hiking on a trail in the Badlands died Sunday, when the temperature was well over 100 degrees. Other hikers found the body of Joan Kovach, 52, of Canfield, Ohio, Chief Ranger Mark Gorman said.

VERMONT

Woman rescued from swimming hole

RICHMOND — A woman was rescued from a popular but dangerous swimming hole on Monday.

Patty Gilbert, 48, of Saint George, was floating in the river above the Huntington Gorge when she got caught in the current and was swept into the passage.

She held onto a rock for nearly an hour until rescue crews and pulled her out. More than 20 people have died at the Huntington Gorge since 1961.

WEST VIRGINIA

Blocks ‘pulverized’ in Sago Mine blast

BUCKHANNON — The 12 men who died in the Sago coal mine explosion in January would have survived if foam blocks designed to seal off an abandoned section had withstood the blast, according to an independent report released yesterday.

The 40-inch blocks were made to withstand a blast of up to 20 pounds per square inch, but the force of the explosion exceeded that.

“These blocks were pulverized,” said J. Davitt McAteer, who was asked by Gov. Joe Manchin III to conduct the investigation. Mr. McAteer headed the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) during the Clinton administration.

The report came the same day that MSHA ordered all mines to strengthen seals to withstand 50 pounds per square inch of pressure, more than double the current standard. The new requirement was part of federal mine safety legislation passed this year.

WYOMING

Students’ deaths called murder-suicide

LARAMIE — The deaths of three college students at a house near the University of Wyoming campus were the result of a murder-suicide, police said yesterday.

Justin Geiger killed Amber N. Carlson with a rifle, then killed Adam Towler with a knife before shooting himself early Sunday, police said.

Geiger, 20, of South Beloit, Ill., also stabbed another man, 19-year-old Anthony Klochak, who survived and escaped from the house, and has been assisting police.

Investigators were still trying to determine the motive, police Commander Dale A. Stalder said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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