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Sunshine Week: Group Works to Bolster TX Public Information Act

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By Public News Service Sunshine Week: Group Works to Bolster TX Public Information Act AUSTIN, Texas – It’s Sunshine Week, and Texas open government advocates are calling for greater accountability from public officials.

The Texas Public Information Act, created out of reforms made in the 1970s, was once considered a model for transparency in public institutions, but over time, its ability to provide access to government information has been watered down through legislation and court rulings.

Kelley Shannon, director of the nonprofit group Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, calls government accountability one of the most important parts of democracy. …(Read More) …read more

Source:: Texas News Service


Parents of NYC helicopter crash victim sue pilot for negligence

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By Anthony Pucik

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The parents of one of the victims killed in a helicopter crash in New York City’s East River have filed a lawsuit against the pilot, Liberty Helicopters and other operators, claiming the defendants were negligent.

Five people drowned after the tourist helicopter plunged into the frigid East River of New York City on Sunday. Officials said the passengers chartered the helicopter for a photo shoot and were tightly harnessed because the doors were left open so they could get better pictures.

Killed in the crash were Daniel Thompson, 34, and Tristian Hill, 29, both of New York; Carla Vallejos-Blanco, 29, of Argentina; Brian McDaniel, 26, a firefighter from Dallas; and Trevor Cadigan, 26, who recently moved to New York from Dallas to start a journalism career.

The helicopter pilot, Richard Vance, 33, was the only survivor. While Vance was able to immediately free himself from his harness, the passengers remained buckled in and trapped in the helicopter, which flipped over and submerged.

Nancy and Jerry Cadigan, the parents of Trevor Cadigan, filed the suit, obtained by ABC News, in New York County Court Tuesday, claiming, among other things, that Liberty Helicopters failed to prepare the passengers properly in the event of a crash and that the company did not provide adequate maintenance on its helicopter to keep it from tipping over.

The Cadigans also accused Vance of failing to give the passengers a proper safety briefing and of being ” careless in failing to take reasonable steps to extricate the passengers” after “he secured his own release.”

The other defendants named in the suit were FlyNYON, a helicopter charter, and NYONAir, an aviation services company, both of which are in the business of operating, maintaining, servicing and distributing sightseeing helicopters, according to the lawsuit. They, too, are accused of negligence.

The lawsuit claims that FlyNYON and NYONAir both allegedly “implemented a policy to cinch passengers into heavy duty harnesses which are tied to the helicopter floor with only a knife for passengers to free themselves from [frigid] waters.” The suit also states that FlyNYON and NYONAir were “negligent in that their policy of so-called helicopter ‘doors-off’ photo flights is inordinately dangerous and risky and should only be permitted for professional photographers in special situations and not for amateur tourist photographers.”

Due to the doors being open, the helicopter quickly filled up with water and began to sink, officials said.

The helicopter drifted all the way down to E. 59th Street, where rescuers were finally able to reach it and free the trapped passengers by cutting their harnesses, according to FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

Vance told New York Police Department investigators a passenger’s harness somehow got wrapped around the fuel shut-off switch, accidentally cutting off the fuel supply to the helicopter and resulting in engine failure, multiple officials briefed on the investigation told ABC News.

Gary Robb, a helicopter crash lawyer for 37 years who is representing the Cadigans, told ABC News earlier today that Vance’s explanation of the crash was an unlikely scenario.

“I find it implausible that a strap could cause that lever to be actuated because you have to pull it up and back,” Robb said.

“These open door helicopters are death traps,” Robb said. “You need to be an escape artist like Houdini if you’re upside down and in cold water.”

In a statement announcing the lawsuit this evening, Robb said: “The family wants this helicopter operator to be held fully accountable for their son’s death and to cease and desist this terribly unsafe open-door flight operation. It is their strongest desire that this should never happen again.”

In a statement Monday, Liberty Helicopters said, “We are focused on supporting the families affected by this tragic accident and on fully cooperating with the FAA and the NTSB investigations. These agencies have asked us to respect the investigative process by referring all press inquiries to them for any further comment.”

ABC News has reached out to Liberty Helicopters, FlyNYON, NYONAir and Vance for comment on the lawsuit but did not immediately hear back.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News


Solar storm set to hit Earth isn't cause for concern, expert says

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By Brittany Martinez

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A solar storm likely to hit the Earth this week might make a pretty light show in the sky, but is likely to occur without causing any of the harm that some doomsayers are warning of.

Solar storms are large eruptions of electromagnetic radiation from the sun that can last anywhere from minutes to hours, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center.

While severe solar storms have been known to knock out power stations and electrical transformers in the past, Bob Rutledge at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, told ABC News that the storm on Wednesday and Thursday is a run of the mill, no big deal G1 storm. Storms are graded from G1 through G5, with G1 being rated as minor.

He said there could be some weak power fluctuation on the grid and a minor impact on satellite operations might be seen, but advised the public to ignore the panic on the internet and not worry.

A positive impact on the storm is that the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, will likely be visible farther south than normal.

People who live in the northern tier of the U.S., like in Michigan and Maine, could be in for a treat in the skies.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News


Teacher accidentally fires gun at school

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By Brittany Martinez

iStock/Thinkstock(SEASIDE, Calif.) — A California teacher is believed to have accidentally fired his weapon in a classroom today.

Seaside police officers were summoned to Seaside High School Tuesday after the teacher, who was teaching a public safety class, discharged the weapon, police said in a statement.

Officials said one student was injured either by a bullet fragment or ceiling debris and transported to a local hospital by his parent for treatment. No one was seriously injured.

The teacher involved was identified by police as Dennis Alexander, who is a reserve police officer for the City of Sand City as well.

The incident is under investigation.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News


Cops field 265 calls in response to package bombs 'constructed by the same bombmaker'

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By Jonah Haskell

iStock / Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) — The package bombs in Austin, Texas, that killed two people over 11 days were “constructed by the same bombmaker,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday.

“There are some specific components that we won’t go into the details to protect the integrity of the investigation, but there are some specific things we have seen that make us believe all three of these packages were constructed by the same bombmaker,” Manley said this morning.

Federal and local investigators are working around the clock, but at this point, there has been no break in the case, Manley told ABC News on Tuesday.

“The fact they have not only been able to build these bombs, but then travel with them to the target location without them exploding either during construction or during deployment, shows that they do have a certain level of sophistication and they know what they are doing,” Manley said.

Austin police have urged residents to call police if they see any unexpected or suspicious packages near their homes that were left overnight and do not have labels from an official shipping source such as the U.S. Postal Service, UPS or DHL, prompting 265 such calls to authorities as of Tuesday afternoon, Manley said in a later press conference.

Investigators responded to each call but “have not found any additional package that was suspicious or involved in any way with the investigation that is going on right now,” Manley said, vowing to not “leave any stone unturned” and follow up on every lead until the case is solved.

Each package was placed in a cardboard, but Manley instructed residents to not ignore a “suspicious package” just because it is in a “different type of container.”

Austin Mayor Steve Adler reiterated the call for residents to remain aware and alert in their efforts.

“At this point what we want people to do is to be very vigilant,” he said on “Good Morning America” Tuesday morning.

“We don’t want anybody to open or pick up a package that in any way feels suspicious,” he continued.

Here’s what ABC News knows right now:

2 dead, 2 hospitalized

Two lives have been lost, and an “additional two” have been “forever changed” from three separate explosions, Manley said.

On Monday, 17-year-old Draylen Mason was killed in the blast, Manley said, describing Mason as “outstanding young man who was going places with his life.”

“It is an absolute tragedy that he is no longer with us,” Manley said.

Mason’s mother, who is in her 40s, is in stable condition.

A 75-year-old Hispanic woman, whose identity was not released, is still in critical condition with life-threatening injuries after she was injured in a separate blast on Monday, Manley said.

Another victim, Anthony Stephan House, died March 2.

Each was harmed by one of the three explosive devices received as a “box-type delivery,” Manley told reporters Monday.

In two of the explosions, the package detonated as soon as the victim picked it up, Manley said. In a third, the package was brought inside the house and exploded when it was opened.

The victims suffered “traumatic, penetrative injuries,” Manley said.

The first blast was initially thought to be an isolated incident

When the incident occurred on March 2, investigators originally believed it to be an isolated incident without “any further concern or threat” to the community because of a bust that happened at a drug stash house three days prior, Manley said.

Because police took a “significant amount of cash” from the stash house, authorities initially thought the explosion “may have been a retaliatory act,” but that the perpetrators got the wrong house, Manley said.

At the time, there was “no information to believe that it was related to a larger plan,” Manley said.

Two others were reported Monday. “Significant damage” was inflicted by at least two of the blasts.

‘Be vigilant’

The victims noticed packages left on their front porches, without any suspect ringing the doorbell or otherwise alerting them, Manley said.

“We don’t want to have people be overly alarmed,” Manley said, “but it is important that people be vigilant and be aware of things that look suspicious.”

Residents are being asked to report all suspicious packages. “If you see something that’s out of place, do not handle it, do not move it, do not touch it. Call us,” he added.

Monday’s attack

The first explosion occurred around 6:44 a.m., police said. It was “very similar” to the March 2 incident, Manley said. The device was left in front of a single-family home in the northeast part of Austin.

The second attack Monday happened around 11:50 a.m.

“The victim in this incident came outside of her residence and found a package out front and picked up that package,” Manley said.

Unknown motive

“We don’t know the motive behind these” attacks, Manley said, although two homes targeted had African-American residents and another the elderly Hispanic woman. “We cannot rule [out] that hate crime is at the core of this, but we’re not saying that’s the cause as well.”

Police are not ruling out terrorism as a motive, either, because they don’t want to “limit” what they are investigating, Manley said.

Evidence is being collected and sent to the ATF lab in Walnut Creek, California, so investigators can attempt to reconstruct what was in the explosive device, an ATF special agent said Tuesday afternoon.

$65,000 reward

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible for the explosions.

“I want to assure all Texans, and especially those in Austin, that local, state and federal law enforcement officials are working diligently to find those …read more

Source:: National News


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