- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2007


Faulty control blamed for Amtrak shutdown

A faulty control that improperly restricted power output was at the root of a massive power outage last year that shut down the Washington-to-Boston rail corridor for more than two hours during the morning rush hour, Amtrak said yesterday.

Nearly nine months after the May 25 incident that stranded riders on 112 trains operated by Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, Philadelphia’s SEPTA and Maryland’s MARC, Amtrak issued its final report on the incident and said procedures are in place to ensure such an incident does not occur again.

The incident was investigated by the North American Electric Reliability Corp., an independent organization certified by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

A computerized control at a substation incorrectly restricted power output when Amtrak load dispatchers were requesting more power because of a spike in demand. The other substations attempted to compensate, but were severely overloaded and shut down, Amtrak said.

The initial malfunction occurred May 23, but the system was able to keep operating during peak hours on May 24, according to a report.



‘Abraham’s Law’ passes legislature

Virginia lawmakers passed a bill dubbed “Abraham’s Law” yesterday after agreeing that 14 is the appropriate age for a teen with a life-threatening condition to have a hand in making medical decisions.

The bill is named after Starchild Abraham Cherrix, a 16-year-old Eastern Shore resident who won a court battle last summer to forgo chemotherapy and treat his lymphatic cancer with alternative medicines.

A judge had threatened to force the teen to take conventional treatments and take him away from his parents.

A judge compromised and agreed to let him be treated by an oncologist who specializes in radiation and some alternative treatments.

The legislation allows parents to refuse a certain medical treatment for a child and not face charges of neglect on four conditions: that the parents and child make the decision jointly; the child is at least 14 and sufficiently mature to have an opinion on his or her treatment; the family has considered other treatment options; and the parents believe in good faith that the decision is in the child’s best interest.

The bill now goes to the governor.


Ex-FBI analyst gets 7 years for child sex

A former FBI analyst has been sentenced to seven years in prison for having sex with a young girl in Spotsylvania County.

Anthony John Lesko, 44, entered an Alford plea Thursday in Spotsylvania County Circuit Court to nine counts of felony indecent liberties upon a child. An Alford plea means Lesko doesn’t admit guilt but thinks there is enough evidence for a conviction.

Under a plea agreement, he was sentenced to seven years in prison with another 15 years suspended. He also was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to cover the cost of the girl’s mental-health counseling.

Authorities said Lesko engaged in a sex act with her nine times, beginning when she was 9 years old.

Lesko’s attorney said he worked as an intelligence analyst at the FBI for 17 years before moving to Jacksonville, Fla.

According to the plea, Lesko said he was a victim in the case. He said the girl initiated the contact.

Escapee’s brother sentenced to 30 years

The brother of a man who escaped jail and led authorities on a manhunt in August that left two dead was sentenced yesterday to 30 years in prison on attempted theft charges.

Michael Morva, 27, of Blacksburg, Va., still faces charges that he helped his brother, William Morva, escape custody last year.

The ensuing two-day chase shut down Virginia Tech’s campus on the first day of classes and attracted national news coverage.

Michael Morva pleaded no contest in September to conspiracy to commit statutory burglary, attempted statutory burglary and attempted grand larceny.

The charges were linked to an unsuccessful July 2005 attempt to steal from Freedom First Credit Union in Blacksburg.

William Morva also was charged in the attempted theft, and remained in jail until he escaped last August.

Michael Morva had been released on bond months earlier.


3 counties, Quantico added to quarantine

Three Virginia counties and the Quantico Marine Base have been added to a horse quarantine because of a suspected infection of the neurological form of equine herpesvirus, officials said yesterday.

The quarantine involves 175 horses and includes Virginia Tech’s equine medical center in Leesburg.

Quarantined counties are Culpeper, Fauquier and Loudoun. A Northern Virginia hunt also was canceled as a precaution.

Three horses, one in Fauquier and two in Loudoun, have shown neurological signs of EHV-1.

The disease, which is highly contagious and attacks the respiratory system, has not been confirmed in any of the suspected animals.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture said it poses no known health threat to humans.



Classes disrupted by mystery substance

Classes were disrupted for about an hour at Gaithersburg High School yesterday after students complained of throat and eye irritation.

Montgomery County fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said the school was evacuated just before noon while hazardous material teams ventilated the building and worked to determine the source of the irritant.

Students returned about 1 p.m.

Mr. Piringer said the substance appeared to be similar to pepper spray.

He said most students were relocated to a nearby recreation center or placed aboard buses while the school was ventilated. He said none of the students was seriously hurt.


Poor preparation led to firefighter’s death

Baltimore city’s fire chief said a preliminary investigation showed a firefighter recruit’s trapped boot and lack of preparation are behind her death earlier this month.

Chief William Goodwin released the investigation report into the death of Racheal Wilson, 29, yesterday afternoon.

Miss Wilson died Feb. 9 after a live-burn training exercise at an abandoned row house in West Baltimore.

Chief Goodwin said the report doesn’t reveal ignorance or complacence by firefighters and training officials. He said training officials’ lack of preparation is to blame.

The investigation revealed Miss Wilson’s boot became stuck as she tried to get out of a third-floor window. Three other firefighters tried to pull her out, but weren’t able too. Another firefighter inside the structure finally freed her.

Chief Goodwin said it’s possible her foot became trapped in a hole that wasn’t patched according to national fire protection guidelines.

Mayor Sheila Dixon on Thursday announced the dismissal of training head Kenneth Hyde. Two other lieutenants responsible for training also were suspended.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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