- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

CALIFORNIA

Fuel leak faulted in rocket’s failure

LOS ANGELES — Fire fed by a fuel leak led to the failure of a new commercial rocket seconds into its maiden launch, the founder of California-based Space Explorations Technologies said Saturday.

The preliminary analysis was issued a day after the loss of SpaceX’s Falcon 1 rocket during liftoff from an island in the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, which destroyed an Air Force Academy research satellite.

The fuel leak occurred 25 seconds into the launch near the top of the first-stage main engine, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on the company Web site (www.spacex.com). The fire cut a helium pneumatic system, and when pneumatic pressure fell, a safety function within the valves forced them to close, shutting down the main engine, Mr. Musk said.

The company will analyze data to try to isolate all suspected causes for the leak. Mr. Musk said he hopes for another launch in less than six months.

COLORADO

HOV mannequin sold on EBay

DENVER — A makeshift mannequin that failed to fool police monitoring the high-occupancy vehicle lane on Highway 36 fetched $15,000 in an auction on EBay, with proceeds going to charity, the buyer announced.

Denver-based Video Professor bought the Styrofoam head, coat hanger, and clothing stuffed with newspapers from HOV scofflaw Greg Pringle, 53, of Broomfield, said Brian Olson, a company spokesman.

He said the computer-tutoring company will take “Tillie” to various events and auction it off again for charity in June.

As part of his sentence handed down earlier this month, Mr. Pringle agreed to donate any profits from a Web site (freetillie.com) launched to free “Tillie” after it was impounded by police and the auction to the Alive at 25 driver safety awareness program.

Mr. Pringle also was fined $115 and ordered to hold a sign alongside the highway for four hours reading: “HOV lane not for dummies.”

He was pulled over and ticketed Jan. 26 for driving in the lane reserved for car pools, motorcycles, buses and hybrid vehicles.

FLORIDA

Alligator knocks on woman’s door

BONITA SPRINGS — So now the alligators are going door to door.

When Lori Pachelli heard someone knocking at the door of her home in a gated community in this southwest Florida community last week, she looked out to see an unwelcome visitor on her front stoop: an 8-foot alligator.

The bull gator, which had wandered up from the pond behind the house, had a bloody lip from banging its head against the door.

“He was pretty big, pretty aggressive,” Mrs. Pachelli said, adding that the gator may have followed her home from walking her cocker spaniel, Trooper.

Mrs. Pachelli’s husband, Mike, said he sped home after his wife called him in hysterics.

The animal remained at the Pachellis’ door for about an hour before going back into the lake, where trapper John French captured it later.

LOUISIANA

Protesters rally to save hospital

NEW ORLEANS — Doctors, former patients and preservationists rallied outside a public hospital that closed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, urging officials not to abandon the shuttered medical center.

Charity Hospital, the city’s only Level 1 trauma center, was closed after its basement flooded, ruining its electrical system.

Officials have said the hospital cannot be saved because of asbestos in the interior and bacteria.

“This hospital is not as damaged as they say it is,” said Dr. James Moises, a former emergency-room physician who resigned from the Louisiana State University-run Charity Hospital system so he could speak at the rally without violating a gag order imposed by hospital administrators.

The crowd of about 100 called Saturday for an independent group of architects and engineers to evaluate the building, saying they are skeptical of the findings by an LSU-hired consulting firm.

LSU is working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to build a shared medical center in New Orleans.

Hospital officials said it likely would be five years before the medical center could open.

NEW YORK

Schiavo defends refusal to divorce

NEW YORK — Despite pleas from the Vatican, U.S. lawmakers and the president, Michael Schiavo says he could not have divorced his brain-damaged wife and given up the fight to let her die.

“I was doing something that Terri wanted. And I couldn’t give it up on her,” Mr. Schiavo said in an interview recorded for the Sunday edition of NBC’s “Dateline.”

Mr. Schiavo’s book about the case, “Terri: The Truth,” is scheduled for release today, the day before a competing book by Terri Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, is released. Friday will be the first anniversary of Terri Schiavo’s death, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed.

Mr. Schiavo fought the Schindlers in court for eight years over removal of his wife’s life support, arguing she would not have wanted to be kept alive in what doctors called a persistent vegetative state. The Schindlers argued that she retained some level of consciousness.

An autopsy determined that Mrs. Schiavo suffered irreversible brain damage and blindness after she collapsed in 1990 at the age of 26.

WISCONSIN

Teen fatally beaten at bus stop

MILWAUKEE — A 15-year-old boy died after being beaten as he waited for a bus near his school, police said. Authorities on Friday were seeking four or five boys and young men they thought were involved.

The victim, identified as Raheim Patrick, was a seventh-grader at Malcolm X Academy, said officials with Milwaukee Public Schools. Officers were investigating whether he had an earlier altercation with an assailant, police said.

District spokesman Phil Harris said the boy was released early from school because of a doctor’s appointment, and that he was waiting at a bus stop nearby about 1:50 p.m. Thursday when he was attacked.

A vehicle pulled up across the street, and a youth got out, walked up to Raheim and slapped him, police spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said Friday. Then the two scuffled. Several other youths, all ages 17 to 19, got out of the vehicle and beat Raheim with their fists, police said. He died at the scene, Miss Schwartz said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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