- - Friday, February 26, 2010

CALIFORNIA

Pilot who dismissed attack reports dies

SAN DIEGO — An American pilot who dismissed initial reports of what turned out to be the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has died at age 96.

Kermit Tyler was the Army Air Forces’ first lieutenant on temporary duty at Fort Shafter’s radar information center in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, when two privates reported seeing an unusually large blip on their radar screen, indicating a large number of aircraft about 132 miles away and fast approaching.

“Don’t worry about it,” Mr. Tyler famously replied, thinking it was a flight of U.S. B-17 bombers that was due in from the mainland.

The aircraft were the first wave of more than 180 Japanese fighters, torpedo bombers, dive bombers and horizontal bombers whose surprise attack on Pearl Harbor shortly before 8 a.m. plunged the U.S. into World War II.

Many questioned his decision for years, and the 1970 movie “Tora! Tora! Tora!” portrayed him in an unflattering light. Audiences watching a documentary at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center theater still groan when they hear Mr. Tyler’s response to the radar report.

Daniel Martinez, Pearl Harbor historian for the National Park Service, said Mr. Tyler’s role was misunderstood and that congressional committees and military inquiries that looked into what happened at Pearl Harbor did not find him at fault. He said a flight of B-17s flying in from Hamilton Field north of San Francisco was indeed due to land at Hickam Field.

CONNECTICUT

Gas buildup led to fatal plant blast

MIDDLETOWN — A volatile natural gas and air mixture large enough to fill a professional basketball arena had accumulated in tight quarters in a Connecticut power plant shortly before an explosion that killed six workers, a federal safety investigator said Thursday.

Donald Holmstrom of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said the practice of cleaning pipes at the under-construction power plant, known as a “gas blow,” put 400,000 cubic feet of gas mixed with air into an area close to the plant’s power block and near many ignition sources.

The Feb. 7 explosion ripped apart the nearly completed 620-megawatt Kleen Energy Systems plant as workers for O&G Industries Inc. purged the gas line. The cause of the blast has not been determined.

FLORIDA

Autopsy: Trainer likely died from drowning

ORLANDO — Trainers had to coax an aggressive whale into a smaller pool and use a platform to lift it out of the water before they could free a colleague from its jaws, officials said.

The Orange County Medical Examiner said trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, probably died from multiple traumatic injuries and drowning after the killer whale pulled her into a pool at SeaWorld Orlando on Wednesday.

The county sheriff’s office said co-workers couldn’t immediately help her because the whale was so aggressive after it grabbed her by her pony tail and pulled her in.

The office said an investigation is continuing but there are no signs of foul play and all evidence indicates it was a tragic accident.

HAWAII

Gambling proposals for island nixed

HONOLULU — Lawmakers have decided not to allow gambling on the state’s sunny isles.

Legislators killed a bill that would have allowed a casino in tourist-filled Waikiki. A second measure allowing gambling on Hawaiian homelands won’t get a vote.

Public testimony on the gambling measures was overwhelmingly negative, leading the House Finance Committee to scuttle the idea Wednesday night.

Hawaii and Utah are the only states that don’t permit any form of gambling.

NEW JERSEY

Airport cameras to include alarms

NEWARK — Cameras at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey are being fitted with alarms to alert security personnel when there is a malfunction.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said it is installing the alarms in the wake of a security breach last month that closed a terminal for several hours, causing flight delays that rippled around the world.

Authorities said a man slipped under a rope barrier and walked past a security checkpoint to say goodbye to his girlfriend.

Officials discovered that cameras at the checkpoint had not been storing images for several days. They were forced to retrieve footage from cameras operated by Continental Airlines.

Three dozen cameras at nine security checkpoints at Newark will be connected to the alarms.

NEW YORK

Two indicted in foiled bomb plot

NEW YORK — Two high school classmates of admitted terrorist Najibullah Zazi were indicted Thursday in a foiled scheme to bomb New York City subways that a prosecutor said was directed by “al Qaeda leadership.”

Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin, both 25, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and providing material support to the al Qaeda terrorist network.

Zazi, a former Colorado airport shuttle driver who attended high school in Queens, pleaded guilty to similar charges this week. Zazi was arrested in September after he drove cross-country from Denver to New York, where authorities said he abandoned the bombing plan after realizing authorities were watching him.

Mr. Ahmedzay and Mr. Medunjanin are accused of plotting “three coordinated suicide bombing attacks” on Manhattan subway lines that were timed for one of three days after the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, at the beginning of the work week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Knox said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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