- - Sunday, September 2, 2012

NEW ORLEANS — Much of Plaquemines Parish was still covered with floodwater Sunday and more than 200,000 people across Louisiana still didn’t have any power, five days after Isaac ravaged the state. Thousands of evacuees remained at shelters or bunked with friends or relatives.

“My family is split up,” said Angela Serpas, from severely flooded Braithwaite. Mrs. Serpas and her daughter were staying with her in-laws while her husband and son were staying in Belle Chasse, a suburban area of the parish. “This is the second time we’ve lost our home. We lost it in Katrina.”

At least seven people were killed in the storm in the U.S. — five in Louisiana and two in Mississippi.

President Obama was to visit Louisiana on Monday, a day ahead of the Democratic convention. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney visited the state Friday.

Progress was evident in many places as electricity came on for hundreds of thousands of people. But as workers continued to deal with toppled trees and downed power lines, driving remained hazardous in areas without working traffic lights, and New Orleans opened two cooling shelters so those with no electricity could escape the heat.


Fatal accident provides warning about teen partying on buses

NEW YORK — It’s a familiar scene on city streets and in movies: dressed-up teenagers packed into a stretch limo, celebrating something important by jubilantly sticking their heads through the roof.

A bigger version of that is the rented party bus, which can pack in more guests. Renting such buses — some two levels high, offering such amenities as strobe lights and satellite TV — “is what kids call fun nowadays,” said Emily DaRocha of the Silver Star Limo company. “We’re talking about kids in the 21st century; that’s how it is.”

But such trips also carry more risk, as in the case this weekend of a New York teenager who poked his head through a hatch that had been opened on a double-decker bus loaded with dozens of dancing teens on their way to a party. Daniel Fernandez, 16, hit his head and died when the bus went under an overpass, according to authorities.

“No matter how many times you tell clients this is an emergency exit — it’s written on the glass — they still open it,” Ms. DaRocha said. “It happens all the time.” Her company in suburban Westchester County only offers single-level buses that rent for up to $500 an hour.

Safety precautions must be part of the package too. For a group of 40 guests, Silver Star requires two adults be aboard if the group is made up of teens or children 18 or younger.

Champion eater sets record of 191 wings in 12 minutes

BUFFALO — Organizers of the National Buffalo Wing Festival say competitive eater Joey Chestnut devoured a record 191 chicken wings in 12 minutes Sunday.

Mr. Chestnut set the record during a wing-eating contest at the annual festival in Buffalo. He beat the old record of 183 wings, set last year by Sonya Thomas, the Black Widow.

Earlier this year, the San Jose, Calif., resident won his sixth straight Fourth of July hot-dog-eating contest at Coney Island with 68 dogs in 10 minutes.

The weekend wing festival in Buffalo also included servings of 100 different styles of wings and live music.


Pilot dies in air-show crash of Soviet-era military jet

DAVENPORT — A Texas pilot was killed when his Soviet-era military jet crashed during an air show in eastern Iowa, authorities said Sunday.

Glenn A. Smith of Frisco was flying a retired L-39 jet trainer in the Quad-City Air Show in Davenport when the crash occurred, the Quad-City Times reported. Authorities said the jet, made in 1984 in Czechoslovakia, was flying in formation with other members of the HopperFlight jet team when it failed to pull out of a 45-degree bank and crashed into a field north of Interstate 80 about 1:25 p.m. Saturday.

Nobody on the ground was hurt, but crowds watching the show saw the L-39 go down and erupt in flames. A squadron of planes flew over the crash site Sunday in the “missing man” formation before the air show continued.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. Senior air-safety investigator Aaron Sauer said Sunday that a preliminary report on the crash is expected within a week, but a final report will likely take several months.


Five whales rescued out of 22 beached mammals

MIAMI — Veterinarians fed fish drinks to five rescued pilot whales Sunday and kept a close eye on them, trying to nurse the mammals back to health so they can one day return to the ocean.

The five whales were among a group of 22 whales beached in South Florida on Saturday. The rest died of natural causes or had to be euthanized.

The two calves and three juveniles were brought to Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Institute for rehabilitation. Experts said the animals were worn out but mostly doing well.

“They’ve all been through a pretty stressful ordeal. We’ve seen each of them, at one point or another, have a little bit of trouble and need a little bit of help,” said Dr. Michelle Davis, senior veterinarian for SeaWorld Orlando.


Northern Plains wildfires quickly gain in size

OMAHA — Wildfires in northwestern Nebraska tripled in size in less than 24 hours, as strong winds pushed flames through the rugged, rural terrain.

More than 285 square miles — an area more than twice the size of the state’s largest city, Omaha — had burned by Sunday afternoon, fire officials said. One fire had crossed into South Dakota this weekend and burned more than 50 square miles, including land on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

A day earlier, the fires had only burned roughly 93 square miles in the ranching territory that’s favored by hunters.

“We’ve got a very challenging situation out here because of the winds and the very dry conditions,” Gov. Dave Heineman said Sunday after touring the damage and meeting with officials.


Bipartisan group of lawmakers ask for dismissal of gay-marriage suit

CHICAGO — A bipartisan group of 11 Illinois state lawmakers have filed legal papers calling for the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s marriage law as unconstitutional.

The “proper role for the court in this case is to allow the normal legislative process to handle any claims for same-sex marriage,” state Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Republican, and state Sen. William Haine, a Democrat, and nine other lawmakers said in papers filed Aug. 27 in Cook County Circuit Court.

The combined lawsuit, Darby v. Orr and Lazaro v. Orr, was filed by 25 same-sex couples who say the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act violates their constitutional rights to equal treatment because it prohibits same-sex marriage.

State officials, who agree with the plaintiff couples, have declined to defend the law, but some county clerks and a traditional-values organization have stepped up to defend the marriage law.

Judge Sophia Hall has scheduled a hearing on the case for Sept. 27.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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