- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2008


Nine missing in copter crash

SAN FRANCISCO | Nine people are missing and feared dead in the crash of a helicopter that was carrying firefighters over a Northern California forest, officials said Wednesday.

The helicopter was carrying 11 firefighters and two crew members when it went down Tuesday night in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Four people were taken to hospitals with severe burns, including two in critical condition, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The Sikorsky S-61 chopper was destroyed by fire after crashing “under unknown circumstances” in a remote mountain location, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor. FAA and NTSB investigators were headed to the scene, about 215 miles northwest of Sacramento.

The nine were presumably killed in the fire that destroyed the helicopter, Mr. Gregor said.

Two of the injured were flown in critical condition to the University of California at Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Forest Service spokesman Mike Odle said Wednesday. The other two were taken to Mercy Medical Center in Redding in serious condition, he said.


Copter crash-lands after refusal

DENVER | A small civilian helicopter crash-landed Wednesday after the pilot was denied permission to refuel at an Air Force base. No one was injured.

The pilot asked to land at Buckley Air Force Base in suburban Aurora but was turned away because he did not declare an emergency, Buckley spokesman John Spann said.

Freelance photographer Bill Ross said he and the pilot of the two-seat Engstrom 280FX aircraft had finished a commercial photo shoot near Denver International Airport and were returning to Centennial Airport when the engine sputtered and stopped.

The helicopter dropped about 400 feet but landed upright, with heavy damage, in a field a few miles from Buckley, Mr. Ross said.

Allen Kenitzer of the Federal Aviation Administration said the cause of the crash was under investigation.


Authorities search for agent’s killer

PEMBROKE PINES | Investigators are searching for the suspect who fatally shot a federal agent outside a busy South Florida post office.

Authorities said Donald Pettit, 52, was with his 12-year-old daughter when he was shot by a man during some sort of fight Tuesday morning in the post office’s parking lot.

The gunman took off after firing at least one shot. No one else was injured.

Mr. Pettit’s widow pleaded with the public for help Wednesday in finding the suspect. A reward for his capture has been increased to $275,000.

Authorities are looking for a man described as between 50 and 60 years old, six feet tall, medium to heavy build, with gray and white bushy hair and “distinctive sagging cheeks.”


ER wait time grows to nearly an hour

ATLANTA | The average time that hospital emergency rooms patients wait to see a doctor has grown from about 38 minutes to almost an hour over the past decade, according to new federal statistics released Wednesday.

The increase is due to supply and demand, said Dr. Stephen Pitts, the lead author of the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There are more people arriving at the ERs. And there are fewer ERs,” said Dr. Pitts, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Atlanta’s Emory University.

Overall, about 119 million visits were made to U.S. emergency rooms in 2006, up from 90 million in 1996 - a 32 percent increase.

Meanwhile, the number of hospital emergency departments dropped to fewer than 4,600, from nearly 4,900, according to American Hospital Association statistics.

Another reason for crowding is patients who are admitted to the hospital end up waiting in the ER because of the limited number of hospital beds, Dr. Pitts added.

A shortage of surgical specialists also contributes. So, too, does the difficulty many patients have in getting appointment to doctor’s offices, which causes some to turn to emergency departments, experts said.

The amount of time a patient waited before seeing a physician in an ER has been rising steadily, from 38 minutes in 1997, to 47 minutes in 2004, to 56 minutes in 2006.


Suspect in slayings pleads not guilty in 1

GALESBURG | A man suspected of a June killing spree that left eight people dead in Illinois and Missouri has pleaded not guilty to one of the Illinois slayings.

Nicholas Sheley also demanded a jury trial during his arraignment in Knox County court in western Illinois on Wednesday.

Mr. Sheley is charged with kidnapping Ronald Randall, 65, hijacking his truck, stealing his wallet and killing him on June 28 in Galesburg.

The Knox County state’s attorney’s office wouldn’t comment on when a decision might be made on whether to seek the death penalty.

Police suspect Mr. Sheley also bludgeoned seven other people to death in Illinois and Missouri in late June. He’s been charged in three of those deaths.

A pretrial hearing is set for Oct. 6.


Mustard gas leak 2nd in 2 weeks

LEXINGTON | Officials at a Kentucky Army depot have confirmed the second mustard gas leak at the site in less than two weeks.

The Blue Grass Army Depot said Wednesday that the latest leak was a low concentration of the chemical agent and poses no harm.

Officials said the leak occurred in a storage igloo similar to one where a leak was found last week.

Investigators think hot weather may be to blame for the first mustard gas leaks at the depot in three years.

Mustard gas produces blisters but usually isn’t fatal. The mustard gas weapons and other more deadly agents are to be destroyed by 2017.


Man shoots dog; bullet hits grandson

DETROIT | A grandfather shot and wounded his 9-year-old grandson in Detroit after firing at a pit bull that was attacking the boy.

Police said the bullet passed through the dog’s body, ricocheted off the sidewalk and hit the boy in the thigh Wednesday.

The boy was taken to a hospital for treatment of what authorities called non-life-threatening injuries.

Animal-control officers seized the dog. It survived.


Plea in faked suicide delayed

WHITE PLAINS | A hedge-fund swindler accused of faking his own suicide tried to plead guilty Wednesday for going on the lam, but his case was postponed for six weeks after he told the judge that his drug therapy was affecting his ability to think clearly.

If his guilty plea is ever accepted, Samuel Israel III, 49, could have as much as 10 years added to his 20-year sentence for bilking investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mr. Israel tried to plead guilty before a federal magistrate judge Wednesday morning, but she refused and an afternoon session with U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas was scheduled.

Judge Karas asked Mr. Israel several questions meant to make sure that a defendant entering a guilty plea knows what he is doing.

When Judge Karas asked about medications, Mr. Israel said he was being weaned off the painkiller fentanyl, which had been prescribed after several back surgeries, with methadone.

When the judge asked him to rank his clear-mindedness on a scale of 1 to 100, Mr. Israel, wearing an untucked brown T-shirt and a salt-and-pepper beard, said, “About 70 percent.” He professed his desire to go ahead with the plea, saying, “I certainly can understand what’s going on here.”

“I would not say I’m guilty of something because I’m drugged up if I’m not guilty,” Mr. Israel insisted. But he also said he was “a little shaky.”


Gun-toting preacher guilty in road rage

CINCINNATI | An Ohio judge said he didn’t buy a 71-year-old preacher’s insistence that he never pulled a gun on a woman during a road-rage incident.

Hamilton County Municipal Judge Brad Greenberg said it was unlikely April Evans would have known Thomas Howell was packing unless she had seen it with her own eyes, the Cincinnati Enquirer said Wednesday.

“I think that the only reason Ms. Evans would know that [Howell] had a gun in the vehicle is that he pointed it at her,” Judge Greenberg said Monday as he declared Howell guilty.

The newspaper said the two drivers nearly collided in late June. Miss Evans said Howell then pulled alongside of her and pointed a gun at her while verbally abusing her.

Howell, the founder of First Commandment Church of the Living God in East Walnut Hills, is looking at 180 days in jail when he is sentenced in September.


Man pleads guilty in fatal beating

READING | A man has pleaded guilty in Reading to third-degree murder in the beating death of a Kutztown University student.

Timothy Gearhart, 24, pleaded guilty Wednesday to beating Kyle Quinn, 19, with a large wooden chair leg in 2007.

Police have said Mr. Quinn, a sophomore from the Philadelphia suburb of Warminster, was apparently chosen at random.

It was the first homicide in the Pennsylvania Dutch County town of Kutztown since 1982.

Gearhart faces at least 30 years in prison when he is sentenced.

Two brothers - Kenneth and Terry Kline - are due to go on trial in November on third-degree murder charges in the case.


26 cheerleaders get stuck in elevator

AUSTIN | How many cheerleaders can cram into an elevator?

Apparently not 26.

A group of teenage girls attending a cheerleading camp on the University of Texas got stuck and had to be rescued after trying to squeeze into an elevator at a residence hall Tuesday night.

One girl fainted and was treated at a hospital and released. Two others were treated at the scene.

The elevator doors refused to open after the pack of 14- to 17-year-olds descended from the fourth to the first floor, police said. Responding to a few panicked cell phone calls from the group, police and firefighters summoned an elevator repairman, who spent about 25 minutes extricating them.

Campus officials weren’t amused.

“It’s dangerous, actually,” said a school police spokeswoman, Rhonda Weldon. “They’re lucky that that’s all that happened.”


Diploma mill official gets prison time

SPOKANE | A man described as the chief financial operator of a diploma mill in Washington state has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Steven Karl Randock Sr. was given the same sentence Tuesday that was imposed on his wife in July.

Both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

Prosecutors said that over six years Randock and his wife, Dixie Ellen Randock, and others sold high school and college degrees from 121 fictitious online schools they created.

They also sold counterfeit diplomas and transcripts from 66 legitimate universities. About 10,000 degrees were sold.


Man charged in river deaths

MARINETTE | A Michigan man was charged Wednesday with the fatal shooting of three teens who were among a group ambushed while hanging out at a river on the Wisconsin border.

Scott J. Johnson, 38, of Kingsford, Mich., was charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide. Authorities say he went to the Menominee River on July 31 and opened fire on a group of swimmers, killing three and injuring one.

He faces life in prison without parole if convicted. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.

His public defender, Len Kachinsky, said he plans meet with his client before a court hearing Thursday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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