- The Washington Times - Monday, June 15, 2009


‘Idol’ auditions attract thousands

FOXBOROUGH | Yes, they were singing in the rain.

Showers and unseasonable cold winds didn’t stop thousands of “American Idol” hopefuls from turning out Sunday for the show’s season nine kickoff auditions at Gillette Stadium here. Some showed up about 3 a.m. Sunday to grab their place in a line that eventually grew the length of the stadium and into the parking lot.

Contestants wore high heels, cowboy hats, and sported umbrellas declaring that they were the next big thing. But to move on in the competition, hopefuls had to convince the first-round screeners that they were worthy of a call back.

“It would mean the world to me,” said Brittany Edgett, 25, a resident of “four or five towns” in New Hampshire. “I’m just trying to make a better life for me and my daughter and my boyfriend … trying to get a little better in life than what we’ve been dealt so far.”

The kickoff auditions attracted about 7,000 contestants from all over the East Coast, including New England, New York and as far south as North Carolina.

Besides having talent, courage and perhaps a thick skin, auditioners must also be between the ages of 16 and 28 and eligible to work in the United States.

Host Ryan Seacrest said the bad weather may have been a plus for contestants since it likely reduced the number of contestants. “If you’re auditioning, you want pouring rain, you want freezing weather,” Mr. Seacrest said. “It makes the weak stay home.”

His advice to contestants: Show up, sing well, move on.


Fiery crash kills trucker

LONG BEACH | A tanker truck hauling 8,000 gallons of ethanol crashed and exploded into an inferno that sent a river of fire into storm drains, killed the driver and blocked major highways.

Witnesses said the heat from the blazing ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, was so intense it melted guardrails, and all that remained of the truck were its axles and small portions of the cab.

The truck crashed about 6 p.m. Saturday, hitting the side rail of eastbound State Route 91 at the transition to Interstate 710, the Long Beach Fire Department said. The cause of the crash was under investigation.

A huge fireball enveloped the I-710 overpasses, Long Beach Fire Department Capt. Jackawa Jackson said.

Officials worried that the fire may have weakened the elevated stretch of road, the fire department said.

However, the interstate was reopened several hours after the crash, and all but one lane of the state route were open to traffic Sunday, the California Highway Patrol said.

A stream of burning alcohol flowed from the tanker into a storm drain, shooting plumes of flame 20 feet in the air from other storm drains.

Firefighters snuffed the flames with foam, the fire department said. The driver’s name was not immediately released.


NASA fixing leak on shuttle fuel tank

CAPE CANAVERAL | NASA is repairing a leaky hydrogen gas line on Endeavour’s fuel tank in hopes of possibly launching the space shuttle Wednesday.

The leak forced mission managers to call off a launch attempt Saturday.

The repair work began Sunday and should be completed in time for Endeavour to lift off Wednesday on the space station construction mission. But that’s the same day a pair of science spacecraft are scheduled to blast off for the moon.

NASA’s top officials have yet to decide which mission takes priority.

The seven Endeavour astronauts are sticking around Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, just in case their flight gets called up first. They will deliver and install the final segment of Japan’s space station lab.


ATVs claim record for longest parade

SILVER BAY | All-terrain-vehicle riders who formed a parade along Minnesota’s North Shore are claiming a world record for their turnout.

The All-Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota tried Saturday to line up more than 2,000 ATVs in Silver Bay into the longest parade documented for Guinness World Records.

Group spokesman Les Schermerhorn said they fell short, but their count was 1,632 ATVs. They hope to have the Guinness organization verify the claim in the coming weeks.

The current record of 1,138 ATVs was set by the Harlan County Ridge Runners of Evarts, Ky., in 2006. Three-wheelers and side-by-side ATVs don’t count.

The Minnesota group’s attempt last year fell 55 four-wheelers short of the Kentucky group’s total.


Pilot of small plane dies in crash

GILFORD | Authorities say the pilot of a single-engine plane has died after crashing on the grounds of a New Hampshire resort.

Witnesses said the Cessna 177 hit two trees at the Margate Resort in Gilford, then came down in a parking lot at 4:20 p.m. Saturday, shortly after taking off from nearby Laconia.

According to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters, the pilot was taken to a local hospital and later died of his injuries. His name hasn’t been released.

The plane was registered to David Richard Kerr of Falmouth, Maine, but Mr. Peters said Mr. Kerr wasn’t flying it at the time of the crash.

Mr. Peters said no one on the ground was injured. The crash is being investigated by the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board.


Mother recovers hiker’s body

ALBUQUERQUE | The mother of a Japanese hiker killed in a helicopter crash in the northern New Mexico mountains has arrived in Albuquerque from Tokyo to collect her daughter’s body.

Junko Yamamoto was overcome by emotion upon her arrival Saturday as she read a prepared statement. A family member took over for her.

Her daughter, University of New Mexico graduate student Megumi Yamamoto, died in the mountains above Santa Fe after the helicopter that was rescuing her crashed Tuesday night.

The pilot, State Police Sgt. Andy Tingwall, also was killed.


At least 2 dead in small-plane crash

SCOTIA | A small plane plunged into the Mohawk River in eastern New York with three people aboard Sunday, and at least two were found dead after the aircraft sank in 30 feet of water, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said.

The Piper Cherokee went down near Scotia about 2:30 p.m., shortly after taking off from the nearby Mohawk Valley Airport, FAA spokesman Jim Peters said. Scotia is about 20 miles northwest of Albany.

The third person’s condition wasn’t immediately known. Mr. Peters said divers were still searching early Sunday evening to see whether anyone else was aboard.

A skydiving instructor at Mohawk Valley Airport told the Times Union of Albany that he and others who were in the small airstrip’s restaurant heard the crash, ran down the airstrip and jumped into the river to help a fisherman drop an anchor to help rescuers find the downed plane.

“There’s nothing we wanted to do more than get into that plane,” said Michael McGuire.

The aircraft was registered to Kolath Airlines LLC of Bear, Del., Mr. Peters said. A woman who identified herself as Kolath’s registered agent said she didn’t know about the crash and had been unable to contact anyone with the company.

FAA records show the plane, a PA-28R-180 model, was manufactured in 1969. The model is part of the Piper Cherokee family of small planes, made by Vero Beach, Fla.-based Piper Aircraft Inc.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Kolath is a commercial venture or a corporate name for an owner’s personal aircraft.

The telephone rang unanswered Sunday evening at the airport. State police, who were leading the emergency response, had no immediate information.


Dolly Parton surprises Girl Scouts

PIGEON FORGE | Country singer Dolly Parton delighted hundreds of Tennessee Girl Scouts when she made a surprise entrance at a ceremony to present them with a patch created in her honor.

Miss Parton appeared on stage at the Pines Theatre in Pigeon Forge, where 400 Girl Scouts were receiving the new Coat of Many Colors patch. It is named for Parton and her 1971 song of the same name.

Miss Parton is a longtime member of the Girl Scouts. She wore her own uniform, hugged and chatted with the girls Saturday.

The song tells the story of how schoolmates made fun of a coat Miss Parton’s mother made from rags. The patch requires Scouts to help others, then design a collage of what makes them special.

Miss Parton told the girls, “A person can make money, but money can’t make a person.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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