- - Monday, April 4, 2011


Link sought between lab bacteria, deadly outbreak

MONTGOMERY | State health officials are trying to determine whether organisms found at a Birmingham pharmaceutical company match bacteria that’s linked to an infection outbreak in a half-dozen state hospitals.

State health department director Dr. Donald Williamson said investigators hope to have test results back by Tuesday.

Nine people died and 10 others were sickened last month after receiving intravenous feeding bags produced by Meds IV. Officials haven’t linked the deaths and illnesses directly to the infection, and they say they may never know exactly what role the contamination played.

Dr. Williamson said the type of bacteria in the IV bags was found on a sink and in a production area at Meds IV.


Border officer charged with rape

WESTMINSTER | A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer has been charged with rape in an attack in Southern California that authorities say occurred while he was off-duty.

Prosecutors expect Miguel Lerma Jr., 31, to be arraigned soon on charges of rape, forced sodomy, forced oral copulation and rape by use of drugs.

Mr. Lerma is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in November after picking her up on a Santa Ana street and driving her to a cul-de-sac.

Garden Grove police say DNA evidence also tied Mr. Lerma to a 2009 sexual assault in Long Beach.

Mr. Lerma was arrested Thursday and has been placed on administrative leave from Customs and Border Protection.


Tests performed on well device defended

METAIRIE | An investigator who examined the safety device that failed to prevent last year’s BP oil spill said Monday his firm did not skip critical tests under pressure to meet a deadline to file a report on what caused the contraption not to work.

Neil Thompson, a Det Norske Veritas vice president, told a federal investigative panel that tests that were removed would not have affected the determination of why the blowout preventer failed.

DNV’s March 23 report concluded the device failed because of faulty design and a bent piece of pipe.

The report appears to shift some blame for the disaster away from the oil giant and toward those who built and maintained the 300-ton safety device. It was built by Cameron and maintained by Transocean.

At least one outside expert has said the findings cast serious doubt on the reliability of all other blowout preventers used by the drilling industry.


Officials: Men who fell from bus ‘roughhoused’

BOSTON | Investigators say two men were roughhousing when they fell out of the bathroom window of a bus that was traveling 60 mph on a return trip from New Hampshire. One was killed and the other was injured.

Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said Monday that an autopsy shows Thomas Johnson, 31, of Gardner died of impact trauma Saturday night. A ruling on whether his death was accidental won’t be made until the conclusion of the investigation. Seth Davis, 34, of Winchendon has been hospitalized in stable condition.

Prosecutors say an initial investigation did not indicate that the men were fighting before tumbling out.

Fellow passenger Sherry Clement said more than 50 people were on the bus returning from a tour of New Hampshire brew pubs.


$7 million sought in ‘Liberty Dollars’

RALEIGH | Federal prosecutors on Monday tried to take a hoard of silver “Liberty Dollars” worth about $7 million that authorities say was invented by an Indiana man to compete with U.S. currency.

Bernard von NotHaus, 67, was convicted last month in federal court in Statesville on conspiracy and counterfeiting charges for making and selling the currency, which he promoted as inflation-proof competition for the U.S. dollar.

His Charlotte-based lawyer, Aaron Michel, is appealing that verdict. He wrote in a motion filed Thursday that Mr. von NotHaus did nothing wrong because he didn’t try to pass the Liberty Dollars off as U.S. dollars.

The case involves more than five tons of Liberty Dollars and precious metals seized from a warehouse, which the government wants to take by forfeiture, according to federal prosecutors and Mr. Michel.


Second body found after boating accident

BECKLEY | The National Park Service said searchers have found a second body after three men went missing in a fatal weekend boating accident on a West Virginia river.

Chief Ranger Jeff West said a second man’s body was pulled from the New River on Monday afternoon but his name was being held until relatives could be notified. Hours earlier, searchers reported they had recovered the body of Paul Malone, 23, of Lester.

Both bodies were found a few hundred yards from where the boat capsized Sunday afternoon. Those reported missing were Malone, Richmond, Va., resident Sam Acord, and Dean Halsey of Lester.

Jeff Acord of Sandstone and Daniel Malone of Lester swam to shore safely.

Ranger West said none of the men wore life jackets, which would have prevented the tragedy.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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