- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

FLORIDA

Fatalities soar after helmet law repeal

MELBOURNE — Motorcycle fatalities involving riders without helmets have soared in the nearly six years since Gov. Jeb Bush repealed the state’s mandatory helmet law, a newspaper reported yesterday.

A Florida Today analysis of federal motorcycle crash statistics found “unhelmeted” deaths in Florida rose from 22 in 1998 and 1999, the years before the helmet law repeal, to 250 in 2004, the most recent year of available data.

Total motorcycle deaths in the state have increased 67 percent, from 259 in 2000 to 432 in 2004, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show.

Records, though, also show motorcycle registrations have increased 87 percent in Florida since Mr. Bush signed the helmet law repeal on July 1, 2000.

The debate over motorcycle helmet safety resurfaced last week when Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, an advocate of helmet-free riding, broke his jaw, nose and several teeth in an accident. He underwent seven hours of surgery.

GEORGIA

Red Cross chapter doubles volunteers

SAVANNAH — After more than 2,500 Hurricane Katrina evacuees fled to the Savannah area last year, the local chapter of Red Cross has doubled the number of its active volunteers.

The number of volunteers grew from 130 before Katrina to 260 entering the hurricane season that started June 1.

That is in line with what the American Red Cross has seen across the country.

Nearly 75,000 Americans rushed to volunteer at Red Cross chapters nationwide after Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast last year. Ten months later, thousands of those newcomers remain active with their local Red Cross chapters.

Nationwide, the number of volunteers trained to mobilize to disaster areas away from home has doubled in a year from 25,000 to 50,000.

ILLINOIS

Pilot killed in midair crash

PERU — Two small planes collided in midair yesterday morning before the start of the Illinois Valley Air Show, killing one of the pilots, authorities said.

Police and the Federal Aviation Administration said they thought the planes were practicing for the air show, but an official with the event’s organizer said the pilots were not part of the scheduled entertainment.

The planes were among four that left Poplar Grove to be displayed at the air show, said J. Michael Maloney, president of American Air Shows. As they were attempting to land, one plane touched another, causing a crash in a field northeast of the Illinois Valley Regional Airport, he said.

The other pilot was able to land his plane and declined medical treatment, police dispatcher Jamie Bradish said.

OREGON

Two climbers hurt in mountain fall

PORTLAND — Three climbers near the top of Oregon’s highest peak fell 500 feet, injuring two on Saturday morning.

The trio were part of a few parties climbing on the 11,240-foot Mount Hood, when something went awry. They fell backward, hitting other climbers below them, officials said.

Aaron Dunlop, 31, of Newberg, and Jeremy Hawkins, 32, of Tigard, were airlifted off the mountain by a National Guard helicopter, officials said.

The two had “head and back injuries, going in and out of consciousness, very serious,” said Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jim Strovink. They are in fair condition at Oregon Health and Science University Hospital in Portland, officials said.

A third climber, Brad Wood, walked away after his fall, officials said.

UTAH

Newborn twins weigh 17 pounds

LOGAN — Twin boys born last week at Logan Regional Hospital had a combined birth weight of more than 17 pounds. Dakota Lyon was delivered at 10 pounds, 4 ounces, while Dillan weighed 6 pounds, 13 ounces.

The average birth weight of a twin is about 5 pounds. The babies were delivered by Caesarean section nearly two weeks early because of their size.

VERMONT

WWII, Korea veterans receive diplomas

MONTPELIER — They left school decades ago to serve their country in the military, then went to work to support themselves and their families and never returned to class to earn their diplomas.

Neighbors Jim Roberts and Richard Ovitt made up for that interruption when they joined the commencement procession yesterday at Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans along with this year’s graduates.

“I’m 72 years old. If you stop and think about it, it’s kind of amazing. I told my brother and he didn’t believe it,” said Mr. Ovitt, a retired mill worker.

He and Mr. Roberts were joined by Fabio Choiniere, who left school to work and then joined the military during the Korean War.

The three participated in a four-year-old state program that awards honorary diplomas to veterans of World War II and the Korean War who didn’t finish high school.

Since Vermont’s program began in 2002, it has awarded diplomas to 136 World War II veterans and 34 Korean War veterans.

WYOMING

Yellowstone visitor dies in 500-foot fall

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — A woman lost her footing after stepping over a retaining wall to take a photograph and went over a cliff, falling 500 feet to her death in a canyon, park officials said.

Deborah Chamberlin, 52, of Rockford, Mich., was visiting the park with her husband and two children, park spokesman Al Nash said yesterday. She was vice president of the school board in her western Michigan community, the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press reported.

Her husband flagged down a passing motorist, who called 911 after the Saturday morning accident at an overlook along the Yellowstone River, park officials said.

A ranger rappelled down the canyon wall to reach the woman, but she was dead at the scene.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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