Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Today's News-Wednesday, January 30th

Two young children lost their lives in a horrific fire in Ashland early Tuesday. Firefighters encountered a fully engulfed blaze at properties on the corner of North 5th and West Centre Streets in the borough before 2am.
First responders tried everything they could to get into the building to save 6-year-old Victor Klinger and 3-year-old Audrey Klinger from the raging inferno, but they succumbed to their injuries and were pronounced dead by County Coroner Joseph Lipsett. Their father, Michael, 18 month old Gunner and their mother were able to get out. Gunner Klinger was taken to Hershey Medical Center for treatment. Jeremy Klinger, Michael's brother, was not hurt. Their home was destroyed, along with the Breakfast Nook restaurant, and the American Legion Post. The apartment building at 511 West Centre Street was heavily damaged, displacing 3 people. One firefighter was injured when he fell on the ice. The exact cause has not yet been determined by state police fire marshal John Burns, but it is believed that the blaze started at the rear of Klinger’s home.

Tuesday's surprise ice storm wreaked havoc on area roadways. State and local police were kept very busy throughout the morning and afternoon responding to fender benders and more serious accidents. Schuylkill Haven resident Mary Kay Hollenbach was leaving her Schuylkill Mountain Road home yesterday morning and lost control on black ice. Her car struck a tree and suffered moderate injuries to her head and knees. She was taken to Pottsville Hospital. Christine Ratkiewicz lost control on the ice covered Aristes Road, left the shoulder of the road and hit a tree. Her car came to rest on its side in a field in Union Township.
As temperatures slowly rose to near freezing and above, and road crews were able to apply salt and cinders, normal traffic flow resumed. Several schools posted transportation delays, and Williams Valley and North Schuylkill elementary schools closed for the day.

Several fire funds have been established in the wake of yesterday's tragic fire in Ashland, where two children died and 5 others were left homeless. Patty Rader, Executive Director of Upper Schuylkill Downtown Incorporated told WPPA/T102 News yesterday morning that an Ashland Fire Victims Fund has been established at Susquehanna Bank, 735 Centre Street to help out. Checks should be made payable to "Ashland Fire Victims Fund". In addition, two funds have been set up to help the Klinger family, whose two children perished in the fire. One has been established at Wachovia Bank in Frackville, and another at the M&T Bank branch in Ashland. The American Red Cross was on the scene quickly to help those who lost nearly everything in the blaze.

Schuylkill County's efforts to get a million dollar computer system up and running appears to be seeing some early results. County officials have been frustrated by the lack of cooperation from New World Systems of Troy, Michigan to get the system working, nearly two years after it was installed. Several representatives from the county administration went to Michigan last week to give the company an ultimatum…either fix the system or give them their money back. According to the Republican and Herald, a team of technicians from New World Systems have come to Schuylkill County to try and fix the problems. A deadline of February 13th has been set to rectify the situation, or the contract will be cancelled, and legal action may be taken to recoup the monies already paid.

Five vehicles were involved in a crash on Route 61 in Butler Township during yesterday's ice storm. Jose' Montero-Rivera of Pottsville was northbound on 61 and lost control of his Chevy Blazer and struck a parked car which was pulled off the road due to icy conditions. Rivera's car continued on and hit a Jeep head on that was parked along the road. The impact pushed the Jeep into another SUV that was disabled from a previous accident. Rivera's car then spun around and hit another parked vehicle. Injuries were minor in the crash for Rivera and his passenger.

A Williamstown man is in Dauphin County Prison on sex related charges following incidents in the borough last year. State police served a warrant against 25-year-old Tony Fairburn on Monday. He is accused of statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and related offenses against a juvenile female in Williamstown. After arraignment, Fairburn was taken to Dauphin County Prison in lieu of $100-thousand-dollars bail.

Nothing is more frustrating than losing a call on your cell phone. Senator Jim Rhoades is calling for a study of the problem. In an attempt to, once and for all, identify areas where dropped cell phone calls are most frequent, Rhoades yesterday unveiled his plan to direct a comprehensive study of the problem and find lasting solutions. Rhoades said that in the technology age, dropped calls are frustrating for consumers:
Senate Resolution 206 would require the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study telecommunication "dead spot" areas within the cell phone industry and identify a broad-based set of solutions to eliminate these "dead spot" areas. The committee would be required to report their findings, conclusions and recommendations to the General Assembly.

Schuylkill Haven police are investigating a traffic incident in the borough yesterday. A UPS delivery driver, Richard Stianche of Tamaqua, was crossing West Columbia Street around noon when 32 year old Cynthia Moss of Mahanoy City struck him with her car. Stianche suffered a head injury and was taken to Pottsville Hospital. Police are looking for any eyewitnesses that could shed some light on the incident in Schuylkill Haven.

House to mull constitutional amendment on schoool taxes
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives says lawmakers will consider an amendment to the state Constitution over school taxes. The amendment would end school districts' authority to levy real estate property taxes in 2010. This comes after overwhelming approval of a plan sponsored by veteran Republican floor strategist Rep. John Perzel of Philadelphia. The Perzel plan would would dedicate the billion dollars or more a year that the slots gambling industry is projected to generate to pay the taxes of older Pennsylvanians who have incomes below $40,000 a year. Should the Perzel plan become law, it would be a big win for 600,000 seniors. But it would mean another 2.7 million homeowners
who'd get tax relief under other plans would get nothing.

NEW: Open records bill waits for a day in Pa. Senate
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The Senate plans to vote on a rewrite of Pennsylvania's open records law today.
Lawmakers made several technical changes Tuesday to the bill the House passed six weeks ago. Legislative leaders are working to overhaul Pennsylvania's 50-year-old Right-to-Know Law, which is widely regarded as one of the nation's weakest freedom-of-information laws. The bill is designed to subject more government records to public access and give citizens a better chance in court when challenging a government rejection of a records request. While the chambers have disagreed over numerous aspects of the legislation, House Democratic leader Bill DeWeese says he believes a final agreement is possible this week. A House Republican
spokesman says, however, the Senate's version still raises concerns over protection of privacy.

Body parts found along highways in northeastern Pa.
SWIFTWATER, Pa. (AP) - A woman's severed head has been found in a trash bag in northeastern Pennsylvania -- one of eight bags found with body parts. But state police Lt. Robert Bartal says it's possible that more
body parts will be found. Bartal says troopers have searched along Interstate 80 in Monroe, Carbon, Luzerne and Columbia counties, but it's possible that something was dumped down an embankment. The woman's identity was not immediately determined. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.

NEW: Police commissioner to outline crime-fighting strategy
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is to unveil his crime-fighting strategy for the city today. Ramsey says there is "nothing fancy" about his proposal, but it's expected he'll call for more patrol officers in crime-infested neighborhoods. During a series of town-hall meetings in recent weeks, the
former Washington police chief made no secret that he wants to shift more of the department's 6,600 officers into those areas and to focus on building closer bonds with the neighborhoods. Ramsey compiled the report after Mayor Michael Nutter declared a "crime emergency" during his Jan. 7 inaugural address. Ramsey is also expected to respond to the mayor's request to review the department's policy on the use of deadly force following three fatal shootings by police this year.

Wecht defense attacks cadaver-for-lab space allegations
PITTSBURGH (AP) - The defense in the fraud trial of celebrity pathologist Cyril Wecht is attacking the allegation that he traded cadavers for lab space. Wecht gave bodies to Carlow University and the university let him use its labs for his private practice. But under cross-examination, a prosecution witness acknowledged that Wecht continues to teach at Carlow even though he's no longer the coroner and isn't sending bodies there. By law, Wecht had the power as Allegheny County's coroner to donate unclaimed morgue bodies to science. Wecht is accused of using his government staff for his family and his private pathology practice. Prosecutors say Wecht illegally used county workers to cut costs in his private practice.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Exit polls in Florida show John McCain led Mitt Romney among people who said the economy is the country's most pressing issue. McCain won the GOP primary in the Sunshine State,
boosting his campaign heading into next week's coast-to-coast contests.

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Rudy Giuliani appears to be close to dropping his presidential campaign. After Giuliani finished third in the Florida primary, Republican officials say the former New York mayor will be throwing his support to John McCain today. The GOP candidates will be in California for a debate.

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (AP) - The two American astronauts on the international space station are on a spacewalk this morning. They're trying to fix one of two equipment failures that have crippled the power system and threaten to stall space station construction.

CHICAGO (AP) - One forecaster near Chicago calls it a "hard, vicious slap-in-the-face from Mother Nature." Bitter cold has settled in after severe weather sent temperatures plunging 50 degrees in a matter of hours yesterday. Hundreds of flights were canceled at O'Hare Airport.

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) - A Vermont town considering whether to indict President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against the Constitution has been barraged with nasty e-mails and phone calls. Some have accused Brattleboro town leaders of being "wackjobs" and "nuts." The petition that goes to a town-wide
vote in March has no legal standing.


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