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African woman removed from United flight after white passenger complained she was 'pungent': Lawsuit

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By Anthony Pucik

iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) — An African woman has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against United Airlines charging she and her two young children were removed from a flight and publicly humiliated after she had a confrontation with a white passenger.

The Nigerian woman, Queen Obioma, said she and her children suffered unnecessary embarrassment when a flight crew ordered them off a plane in Houston, Texas, in 2016 after the passenger complained to a pilot that she was “pungent” and he was uncomfortable flying on the same plane as her, according to the lawsuit.

The suit was filed on Friday in federal court in Houston and asks for damages of more than $75,000.

Obioma says she was taking her two children to Ontario, Canada, to enroll in a school and had boarded the second-leg of a three-plane flight to their destination when they were forced off the jet, according to the suit.

“United has no legitimate reason or justification to remove [Obioma] from the flight but for racial prejudice and insulted [her] by stating that Ms. Obioma stank,” according to the lawsuit.

In a statement to ABC News on Sunday, the airline said, “United does not tolerate discrimination of any kind and will investigate this matter.”

“We have not yet been served with this suit and due to the pending litigation involved, we’re unable to provide further comment,” a spokeswoman for the airline told ABC News.

Obioma’s lawyer did not return calls from ABC News seeking comment.

According to court papers, Obioma says the incident occurred on March 4, 2016, about two hours after she and her children arrived at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston part way into a 16-hour flight from Lagos, Nigeria, to Ontario.

She said when she boarded United Flight 404 from Houston to San Francisco, she found a man sitting in her business-class seat and refusing to budge.

“She politely informed the white male that he was occupying her assigned seat but he ignored her,” according to the suit.

Obioma told a member of the flight crew, who asked the man to move to his assigned seat, the suit says. But when he refused to move, Obioma was asked to take another seat in business class and she complied.

As she placed her carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment, she noticed the man who was in her original seat go into the cockpit, according to the suit.

Obioma said she went to the restroom while people were still boarding and when she came back, she found the same man blocking the aisle.

She said she asked the man, who was not identified, to let her get by, saying “excuse me” three times before he finally gave her enough room to squeeze by him, the suit claims.

As soon as she took her seat, a flight attendant “ordered her out of the aircraft stating that her attention was required because someone was waiting to speak with her outside the aircraft,” the lawsuit reads.

Once outside, Obioma was told she was being removed from the flight. She protested and showed the flight attendant her boarding pass, the suit says.

The flight attendant told her “the pilot personally requested that Ms. Obioma be ejected from the aircraft because the white man sitting around her in the business class cabin was not comfortable flying with her because she was ‘pungent,'” the suit says.

“Ms. Obioma asked [the flight attendant] what ‘pungent’ meant and he answered that she smelled,” the suit states.

“At that point, Ms. Obioma was lost, confused and disoriented. Her mind went blank and she was utterly befuddled,” according to the suit.

She argued that she had to make a connecting flight in San Francisco to Ontario, and had a meeting at her children’s school that they would miss if not allowed to take the flight.

The suit claims Obioma wasn’t allowed back on the plane to get her children seated in economy class or to retrieve her carry-on luggage.

A flight attendant, instead, escorted Obioma’s two children off the plane.

“Ms. Obioma watched her minor children marched out of the aircraft like criminals, confused and perplexed and she slumped,” according to the legal papers. “She sobbed uncontrollably for a long time.”

Obioma and her children were delayed five hours before they could catch another flight, the papers say.

The delay caused Obioma to miss the scheduled appointment at her children’s school. She had to reschedule and extend her stay, adding additional expenses to her trip, the suit claims.

Obioma alleges United “wrongfully” singled her and her children out because of their race and “punished them publicly because a white man did not want them on the plane,” according to the suit.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News

      

Caged tiger, other 'stressed' animals at prom dance sparks uproar

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By Anthony Pucik

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — A prom night for teenagers in Miami turned wild when organizers invited a surprise guest to the dance floor — a fully grown tiger.

“Welcome to the Jungle” was the theme of this year’s Christopher Columbus High School prom, held Friday night at the DoubleTree Hotel at the Miami International Airport.

But the party took a strange turn when a handler wheeled out a caged tiger.

The bizarre choice of entertainment left a sister of one of the students who attends the all-boys Roman Catholic High School aghast.

“My mom doesn’t appreciate that she spent $200 for prom and got this type of attraction,” the student’s sister, Marie-Christine Castellanos, said. “Who got down on one knee and proposed to the tiger to go to the prom?

“He’s nothing more than an object that people used to amuse themselves in exchange for money,” she added.

Castellanos, who said her brother is unwilling to come forward for fear of facing reprisals from the school, is worried that the tiger was uncomfortable being put on display as a dance sideshow.

“The body language of the tiger showed he is not happy with the situation,” the sister, a 19-year-old college student, said. “He is stressed. The tiger is pacing up and down.”

The tiger was part of an ensemble of animals that were captured on video. The footage showed the tiger, birds, a lemur, two macaws and an African fennec fox taking center stage at the event.

Afterward, the school stated that the wildlife was overseen the whole time by a Florida-licensed facility.

The school also released a statement to ABC station Local 10 defending the wild animal entertainment.

“The tiger, which was displayed for a few minutes in a cage, was never harmed or in danger, was not forced to perform, was always accompanied by his handlers, and for the great majority of the time, was laying down in a relaxed state, facing away from the audience,” it read.

But Castellanos believes the animals didn’t have to part of the prom experience.

“They’re teaching these kids there’s some satisfaction through the suffering of others,” she said. “The saddest part of it all is teaching the children that there is no merit to the life of that animal — that that animal doesn’t deserve any better.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News

      

Lawsuit: Elite prep school allowed culture of assault and harassment, sexual conquest 'point system'

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By Anthony Pucik

iStock/Thinkstock(CONCORD, N.H.) — A former student at an elite prep school in New Hampshire is suing the school, claiming that administrators did not stop a culture of sexual harassment and assault, according to the federal lawsuit obtained by ABC News.

In the lawsuit, filed against St. Paul’s Prep School, the student also claims there was a storage shed used by students to have sex, according to the lawsuit. Students also maintained a sexual conquest “point system,” the suit claims.

The plaintiff, who is identified as “Jane Doe,” claims that she was sexually assaulted beginning in the fall of 2012 by a classmate identified as M.L., with whom she’d initially intended to have a romantic non-sexual relationship, according to the lawsuit.

“Jane Doe” was in her first year at St. Paul’s School when, the suit alleges, the assaults began. The relationship became abusive when M.L. forced her to perform sex acts without her consent on multiple occasions, the suit claims.

When “Jane Doe” reported the abuse to the school’s assistant dean of students, the dean did not alert her parents or authorities, according to the lawsuit.

Instead, “Jane Doe” was ordered to see a school counselor, who confronted her about “making up a story about being raped,” the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit also alleges administrators knew about the “Senior Salute,” a “tradition” in which senior male students reportedly tried to have sex with or “score” with as many female underclass students as possible.

Some of this “scoring,” according to the lawsuit, would take place in the “Mars Hotel,” a storage shed with a sofa where the plaintiff says students reported the floor was “lined with discarded condoms.”

“Jane Doe” alleges that the “the importance of scoring” was discussed in a study project for which a school Rector, Michael Hirschfeld, was the faculty advisor. She also alleges that there was a prevalent use of alcohol and illicit drugs including heroin and cocaine by some students as young as 13, according to the lawsuit.

The school released a statement saying Hirschfeld denies failing to report the alleged sexual assault.

“Mr. Hirschfeld vehemently refutes that he ever failed in his responsibility to report an alleged sexual assault to Concord police,” the statement read. “This statement is false. He looks forward to cooperating fully with any investigation into such claims.”

“Jane Doe” states in the lawsuit that due to the trauma of attending the prep school, she had to undergo extensive psychiatric treatment. She also dropped out of the school in 2014 and had to be home-schooled.

The lawsuit is seeking a trial and compensation for “severe emotional distress.”

Archibald Cox, the school’s president of the Board of Trustees, addressed the allegations in a letter to the school community.

“We are learning about these allegations for the first time this evening as we were not contacted before the complaint was filed,” the letter read. “We take these allegations very seriously, but do not know whether they are accurate or not.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News

      

Police search for clues after finding remains of 10-year-old who disappeared in 2009

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By Anthony Pucik

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Police in Washington state launched an extensive search Saturday in the area where a girl missing since 2009 was found dead last fall.

The remains of Lindsey Baum were discovered last year by hunters in a remote region of central Washington, but they were not identified as the 10-year-old who went missing while walking to a friend’s house in 2009 until this week, Seattle ABC affiliate KOMO reported.

The case captured national attention nine years ago when Baum disappeared the night of June 26, 2009 walking just 10 minutes from her home to her friend’s to ask if she could spend the night.

“I think somebody took her,” her mother Melissa Baum told ABC News in 2009, hours after her disappearance. “I’m trying to constantly push away the bad thoughts.”

The family from McCleary, Washington, searched for about an hour after she remained missing past her 10 p.m. curfew, but found no trace of her. The family called police, who simultaneously began a search effort and criminal investigation.

Grays Harbor County Undersheriff Rick Scott told ABC News in late June 2009, “We’re not ready to give up hope.”

There were no signs of Lindsey Baum until the hunters discovered remains in September 2017 in Kittitas County near Ellensburg, which were identified by the FBI on May 9, according to KOMO. The station reports there was a delay in identifying the remains because they were not associated with a crime.

The search launched Saturday, about 20 miles west of Ellensburg, was delayed until spring by heavy snow in the mountainous area of Mount Rainier National Park.

Ellensburg is almost 200 miles east of Baum’s hometown of McCleary, Washington, which is located near Olympia.

Search crews are working in heavily forested areas with steep cliffs and ravines hoping to find new evidence in the case, which has no suspects.

“It’s humbling to see the level of support for this case,” Kittitas County Undersheriff Clayton Myers said in a release. “These search teams and investigators are among the best there are and they understand the relevance to the investigation, the family and the community. To watch them work, you would never guess they come from over 10 different agencies.”

Officials said 29 dog teams were brought in to aid in the search.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News

      

Thirty years after 27 died in worst drunk-driving crash, survivors ask if enough has changed

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By Anthony Pucik

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Karolyn Nunnallee had just gotten back from church when she got the news.

Her 10-year-old daughter Patty, was in a bus crash coming back from a church-arranged trip to an amusement park.

“My husband called and asked me where were Patty’s dental records. My logical mind knew you don’t just ask for dental records if there were survivors,” Nunnallee told ABC News.

What she didn’t know yet was that the Carrollton bus crash on May 14, 1988, was the deadliest drunk-driving accident in U.S. history. It still holds that record today.

The violent collision on an interstate outside Carrollton, Kentucky, killed 27 people — 24 of them children — and injured 34 others.

It spawned an array of new regulations for buses and, perhaps more importantly, raised awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and helped to spur a lowering of the legal threshold for blood-alcohol content across the country.

But now 30 years after the crash, some survivors lament that there weren’t still more changes to deter drunk driving.

“I know lives have been saved, but sadly too many have been lost,” Nunnallee said.

Among those lost in the years since was the son of a man killed in the Carrollton bus crash. Charlie Kytta died in an auto collision with an impaired driver just as his father, Chuck Kytta, had in the drunk-driving bus accident years before.

Charlie’s mother, Janet Kytta Hancock, said her son’s death left her with the same feeling as when her husband died.

“It’s maddening because it didn’t have to happen,” Kytta Hancock said.

The Carrollton crash

The crash occurred around 11 p.m. when a drunk driver in a pickup truck was traveling on the wrong side of the interstate and slammed into the oncoming school bus.

Ten-year-old Patty Nunnallee was among the 24 children killed, and Chuck Kytta, one of the chaperones on the trip, was one of three adults who died.

His wife, Janet Kytta Hancock, said she later learned that he had been standing in the stairwell at the front of the bus when the crash happened, and he burned to death.

At first, when she arrived at the First Assembly of God Church that night after receiving a call about a problem with the bus, there were lists of names posted that divided up the passengers into injured and missing. Her husband’s name was on the missing list.

“I couldn’t figure out why he would be missing. He was an adult, he had a wallet,” she said. “The fire was so fast, and it was so hot that Chuck actually burned to death. He didn’t die of smoke inhalation. It was horrible. It was just unimaginable.”

Don Karol, a senior highway accident investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, told ABC News that he believes that no one died as a direct result of the collision, but rather from the fire and smoke inhalation in the aftermath.

The truck “hit the bus in the right front, and it was enough to basically damage the suspension, and the whole front end of the bus got pushed rearward … The fuel tank that is right behind that area got punctured,” Karol said.

The bus was filled to capacity, Karol said, with 66 passengers and a driver, and because the front exit was inaccessible due to the crash, all 67 adults and children were trying to get out of the one rear exit.

That one rear exit was partially blocked by coolers that had been pushed toward the back of the bus, which Karol said “exacerbated the problem.”

The layout of seats was also a factor, as the bus’s “very wide” rows of seats left only left 12 inches for the aisle, Karol said.

Two other safety issues that reared their dangerous heads that night were a lack of guard frames around the fuel tank, which could have prevented it from being punctured in the crash, and the toxic, highly flammable material in the bus seats.

Autopsy reports showed Patty Nunnallee had certain toxins in her system which indicated she was the last one to die, her mother said.

“I was honestly hoping that the immense heat would have killed her instantly,” Nunnallee said. “But the autopsy showed that because of the gas in her blood … she had to have breathed it in and she was the only one” to have such toxins in her system.

The drunk driver

The pickup truck driver, Larry Mahoney, then 34, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.24 percent at the time of the crash, significantly above the 0.10 percent legal limit at the time in Kentucky.

He was convicted of 27 counts of second-degree manslaughter, 16 counts of second-degree assault and 27 counts of wanton endangerment, prompting a sentence of 16 years in prison.

According to a 2003 Cincinnati Enquirer article from the 15th anniversary of the crash, Mahoney was described as a model prisoner and had more than five years taken off his sentence due to good behavior. The paper reported he left Kentucky State Reformatory in September 1999 and has lived a quiet, isolated life ever since, never speaking publicly about the crash.

A call to action

The children and adults on the bus that day either belonged to or were friends of members of the First Assembly of God Church in Radcliff, Kentucky.

The crash rocked the town and reverberated at nearby Fort Knox, as many of the victims, including Patty Nunnallee, came from military families stationed there. A memorial service days after the crash at a football stadium drew thousands of mourners.

Karolyn Nunnallee quickly found activism as a route through her grief.

“I started my work in MADD [Mothers Against Drunk Driving] two weeks after the crash. I just knew …read more

Source:: National News

      

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