Archive for Saturday, July 22, 2000

News Briefs

July 22, 2000



Seven killed in crash of tour helicopter

A tour helicopter on a sightseeing flight crashed Friday on the island of Maui, killing all seven people aboard, the company's owner said.

The Blue Hawaiian Helicopters AS355 twin-engine aircraft was reported missing after it failed to return from a 35-minute tour of the rugged west Maui mountains.

The wreckage was found in a valley near the chopper's last known radar fix, said Wil Absher of the Coast Guard's Joint Coordination Rescue Center in Honolulu.

"We're crushed, we're devastated, and our hearts go out to the families," said Patti Chevalier, who owns the tour company with her husband, Dave, a former Vietnam scout pilot.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Jacquelyn Zettles said there were low clouds at the time of the crash. Those are normal conditions for the lush, misty valley home of Iao Needle, a narrow mountain that is a popular tourist attraction.


Earthquakes jolt Tokyo area

Two earthquakes struck Japan on Friday, temporarily cutting off water to homes but injuring no one.

A pre-dawn 6.1 magnitude earthquake shook Tokyo and nearby areas, cutting off the water supply to nearly two dozen homes.

A second quake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.5 struck at 2:16 p.m.

The second quake was centered 25 miles under the seabed in the Pacific Ocean about 85 miles southeast of Tokyo, the Meteorological Agency said.

The magnitude 6.1 quake, which hit at 3:39 a.m., was centered in waters off the coast of Ibaraki state, 70 miles northeast of Tokyo. It shook buildings for several seconds in Tokyo.

Puerto Rico

Navy takes battle of Vieques to Web

The Battle of Vieques has escalated into cyberspace.

Fed up with what it calls "untruths" and "outrageous statements," the U.S. Navy launched a bilingual Internet site Friday in an offensive to retain its 50-year-old Atlantic fleet training ground on Puerto Rico's Vieques island. The site is at

The Navy hopes to convince Vieques' 9,400 residents that it can be a good neighbor and will be 20 years down the road. Initial reaction to the Web site has been mixed, said Navy spokesman Lt. Jeff Gordon.

"You've done a great job of getting the facts out to the public!" raved one e-mail.

"Get the hell out of my country ... noooooooooooowwww!" said another.

"There have been a lot of outrageous statements and untruths made about the Navy," Gordon said. "This is the first step to correct the record."


Intruder kills four in family

An intruder apparently slipped into a home while a family was sleeping and stabbed four people to death, three of them children, police said.

A teen-ager who had been asleep in the house found her mother suffering from stab wounds about 3 a.m. Friday and ran next door to get help.

Officers who arrived at the suburban Los Angeles home found the bodies of a 42-year-old man, a 14-year-old girl and two boys, ages 10 and 17, sheriff's Lt. Marilyn Baker said. A 39-year-old woman was hospitalized with stab wounds, and three other girls in the house were unharmed.

The adults were parents of four children and were raising two nieces, neighbors said.


DNA frees convict after 14 years

A man who spent 14 years behind bars for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl was freed by DNA evidence Friday.

Jerry E. Watkins, 43, had been in prison since 1986 after being convicted of raping and stabbing to death Margaret "Peggy Sue" Altes, his sister-in-law. He was serving a 60-year sentence for the 1984 murder.

U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton overturned the murder conviction in April after the defense submitted DNA tests that it said showed Watkins could not have raped the child. Prosecutors dropped their appeal of the ruling this week, and the judge ordered Watkins freed.

"He is very eager to get out," said his lawyer, Joseph Cleary. "He lost his father and didn't get to go to his funeral. He's been in prison for 15 years for something he didn't do."

New York City

Claims against police drop over year

The number of legal claims accusing New York City police officers of using excessive force or other misconduct dropped by 26 percent over the past year, according to city statistics.

The number had increased for five consecutive years. But the 1,766 claims filed over a 12-month period ending in June was a significant drop from the 2,386 a year earlier.

The change comes in the aftermath of the police shooting of unarmed immigrant Amadou Diallo and the torture of another immigrant, Abner Louima.

Police officials credited the reductions to improvements in training and reforms in the disciplinary process that had changed attitudes and made officers wary of misconduct.

New York

Teen drowns in rescue attempt

A 14-year-old girl drowned trying to save her 3-year-old stepsister after the wake of a large boat swept the younger girl off a jetty.

Tina Johnson, 14, and Kristie Terlizzi, 3, were sitting on a rock jetty Thursday afternoon in Great Kills Park on Staten Island when the wave swept Kristie out, authorities said. The girls had been watching Kristie's father fish in the Atlantic.

Tina jumped in and tried to save the younger girl, but soon found herself in trouble, said Allen Blanchard, an uncle. Kristie's father, Richard Terlizzi, 35, then tried to save both girls, but was soon overwhelmed in the choppy water, said Sgt. Jim Foley, a police spokesman.

Three people in a small motorboat pulled the 3-year-old and her father from the water, using a fishing net to scoop the girl up.

Los Angeles

Buchanan ballots face party audit

Just three weeks before its nominating convention, the Reform Party said it will double-check the names of thousands of people who received ballots in the party's mail-in primary.

Reform leaders are investigating whether front-runner Pat Buchanan broke party rules by having ballots sent to supporters who did not ask for them. They have threatened to disqualify Buchanan, a longtime Republican, if he does not comply with the audit.

Michael Farris, president of the party's nominating committee, said he has received at least a dozen reports of ballots being mailed to former Buchanan contributors, who wondered why they received a Reform ballot. Only people who signed a petition for a candidate, belong to the Reform Party or explicitly requested a ballot are eligible to vote in the primary.


Hooters must pay waitress $275,000

A federal jury has ordered a Hooters restaurant to pay $275,000 to a former waitress who claimed she was the target of unwanted sexual advances and demeaning behavior.

Sara Steinhoff, 24, filed a sexual harassment suit against a Hooters in Newport. The restaurant is part of the Georgia-based chain known for its waitresses, whose uniforms consist of tight orange shorts and low-cut T-shirts.

Steinhoff, who worked at the Hooters between October 1996 and October 1997, testified that her managers tried to force her to go home with them, and one even threatened to tie her up.

Other former waitresses testified that managers would "discipline" waitresses by forcing them to perform in the restaurant's bikini contest.

Las Vegas

Jury recommends death for Marine

A former Marine who prosecutors said was living out his fantasies when he gunned down four supermarket employees should be sentenced to death, a jury said Friday.

The same jury found Zane Floyd, 24, guilty of four counts of first-degree murder July 13.

He also was convicted of the attempted murder of a fifth supermarket employee and of raping and kidnapping an escort service dancer just before last year's shootings at an Albertson's grocery store.

Clark County District Attorney Stewart Bell described Floyd as a "hollow soul" whose fantasies included rape and murder.


Teen charged in school shooting

A 13-year-old boy accused of firing a shot into the ceiling of a school cafeteria was charged Friday with assault, kidnapping and other offenses.

If convicted, Josh Warnock could be held until he turns 21.

The summer school student is accused of firing a shot at the Dimmitt Middle School on Monday and ordering the approximately 50 students in the lunchroom onto the stage. Instead, they scattered, and no one was hurt.

After spending a night in the woods near the school, Warnock surrendered to police Tuesday at his grandparents' home nearby.

A 12-year-old who police say helped plan the shooting was also taken into custody.

An aunt of the 12-year-old said the boys may have been copying a movie in which youngsters took people hostage and presented a list of silly demands.


Crash kills 19 aboard helicopter

A helicopter crashed Friday, minutes after takeoff from a military air field in northern Russia, killing 19 airmen, the Air Force said.

The helicopter was carrying 16 parachutists and three crewmen on a training flight in the region of Levashovo, just north of St. Petersburg, said Yuri Drobyshevsky, a spokesman for the Air Force. Everyone on board was killed, he said.

The Interfax news agency said the helicopter was an Mi-8 and belonged to the anti-aircraft defense forces of the Russian Air Force. It fell to a field four minutes after taking off, Drobyshevsky said.

The parachutists belonged to a team that was to have practiced for joint maneuvers with Canada, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. It said two officers from the Federal Search and Rescue Administration were among those killed in the crash.


Fuel depot explodes in heart of capital

Dozens of giant containers filled with fuel exploded in Afghanistan's beleaguered capital, filling the night sky with giant plumes of smoke and sending frightened residents scurrying for cover, witnesses said Friday.

There were no injuries in the explosion, which occurred late Thursday, after a nighttime curfew had taken effect in the war-ravaged capital. Kabul is under curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

The fuel burned for more than two hours. It was the second fire to ravage Kabul's fuel market in the last year.

Taliban security guards who refused to give their names said the explosion was an accident.


Thieves take entire house

An Ecuadorean merchant said he returned home from a business trip only to find his house and everything in it had been carried away by thieves, police said.

The man, identified as Fulton Porozo Quinonez, told police in the port city of Guayaquil, 165 miles southeast of the capital, Quito, that he found only a vacant lot last week where his modular home had been.

Quinonez said neighbors confirmed that four men had disassembled the house, which he had bought a year earlier, and carried it off from the northern Guayaquil neighborhood.

Quinonez has been staying in a hotel while the investigation continues, police said.


Death toll rises from mushrooms

Poisonous mushrooms killed six people over the previous 24 hours in a southern Russian region, emergency officials said Friday.

A total of 36 people, including five children, have died from eating the toxic mushrooms in the Voronezh region this month, Emergencies Ministry spokesman Alexander Zalyotov said.

More than 200 others have fallen ill from eating bad mushrooms in Voronezh, 300 miles south of Moscow. Mushroom sales have been banned at local markets, and police patrol the forests for mushroom pickers.

Poisonous mushrooms are a leading cause of death each summer in Russia, where gathering the fungi for pickling or soups is a favorite pastime. Many people can't distinguish between edible varieties and the extremely poisonous mushrooms that can cause death with a single bite.

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