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September 29, 2008

St. Paul woman killed after being hit by SUV

A 51-year-old St. Paul woman was killed Saturday after she collided with a sport-utility vehicle traveling east, merging onto Summit Avenue, according to the Star Tribune.

Virgina Heuerbowar was riding in the area of Summit and Snelling avenues around 8:00AM, according to St. Paul police spokesperson Pete Panos.

Heuerbowar was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, according to the Pioneer Press, but was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul where she died shortly after at 3:00PM as a result of head injuries from the accident.

The driver of the vehicle, a 39-year-old Minneapolis man, told authorities he had stopped at a stop sign before entering Summit Avenue.

"He stopped and accelerated, and all of a sudden, she was in front of him," Panos said relating the driver's account.

The driver of the vehicle was released pending further investigation, said Panos.

According to the Pioneer Press, authorities are still trying to piece together the accident and determine exactly how the collision occurred.

The accident has yet to produce any independent witnesses, according to the Star Tribune, and the driver was issued no tickets as police continue their investigation.

4 killed in helicopter crash in suburban Maryland

A Maryland State Police medevac helicopter crashed early Sunday morning, killing four passengers during a transport of traffic accident victims from an earlier crash, according to CNN.

The helicopter crashed early Sunday morning, killing four of the five passengers on board, according to Col. Terrence Sheridan of the Maryland State Police.

Helicopter pilot Stephen Bunker, 59; Trooper 1st Class Mickey Lippy, 34; Tanya Mallard, 39, a medical technician; patient Ashley Younger, 17, were identified by police as those killed in Sundays crash.

Patient Jordan Wells, 18, was the lone survivor of the crash and was hospitalized in serious condition, according to Sheridan.

The medevac was responding to a Charles County, Maryland, car crash involving Younger and Wells, according to CNN. The helicopter went down in a wooded suburban community en route to Prince George's Hospital, according to Sheridan.

Helicopter pilot Bunker radioed that he was going back to Andrews Air Force Base, just before midnight, to dodge inclement weather, CNN reports, Shortly after the helicopter lost radio contact and ambulances were sent to Andrews Air Force Base to meet the helicopter and transfer the patients to a trauma center.

The helicopter never landed at Andrews Air Force Base and authorities began a two-hour search before finding the helicopter wreckage at Walker Mill Regional Park, according to CNN.

"This is a devastating tragedy," Sheridan said. "We have had crashes before but never with four dead. This is the worst."

According to the Baltimore Sun, the Maryland State Aviation Command received criticism from a recent state legislative audit for failing to document maintenance costs for its 12 twin-engine helicopters, nine of which are over 18 years old.

However, the last fatal medevac crash was in 1986 during heavy fog in West Baltimore. The helicopter involved in Sundays crash had just received an inspection on Wednesday, according to Sheridan.

The state police have vigorously defended the Maryland State Aviation Command, according to the Baltimore Sun. The state audit noted the "impeccable" record of the state's aviation command.

However, due to budget cuts, it is likely that a three-year plan to replace the medevac helicopters will be cut, according to the Baltimore Sun.,0,2710754.story

September 23, 2008

Gunman kills ten at Finland School

Violence erupted Tuesday at a Finnish college, as a masked gunman opened fire on fellow students and police, killing ten before taking his own life.

Local officials identified the assailant as Matti Juhani Saari, according to CNN.

150 students were on the campus of Kauhajoki School of Hospitality in southwestern Finland when Saari began firing in a classroom just before 11:00AM. The rampage lasted nearly 90 minutes, according to Finnish broadcaster YLE.

According YLE, a maintenance worker at the university spotted a masked individual in black walking into the school carrying a large bag.

"I heard several dozen rounds of shots," said maintenance worker Jukka Forsberg. " In other words, it was an automatic pistol. I saw some female students who were wailing and moaning, and one managed to escape out the back door."

The horrific shooting comes just one day after authorities released Saari after disturbing videos surfaced on the internet, according to MSNBC.

Postings on the popular video sharing website YouTube showed Saari firing a handgun at a firing range. Saari's profile also contained a video tribute to the two teens responsible for the Columbine High School shootings in 1999.

Although police questioned Saari Monday, according to Interior Minister Anne Holmlund, authorities were forced to release the 22-year-old having no legal reason to hold him.

MSNBC reports that Saari walked into the school carrying a .22-caliber pistol and a bag filled with explosives, according to police spokesperson Jari Neulaniemi. Police found two handwritten messages in Saari's school dormitory saying he planned the attacks since 2002.

This is the second school massacre in Finland in less than a year, a horrific trend which was not lost on Finland's elected officials.

"We have experienced a tragic day," said Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, expressing condolences to the families of the victims Wednesday.

September 22, 2008

28-year-old Anoka woman dead after apparent motorcycle crash, boyfriend arrested under suspicions of murder

In a story that began as an unfortunate motorcycle fatality, has turned into a murder investigation satiated with unanswered questions.

According to the Star Tribune, Natasha Waalen, 28, was found lying dead near a motorcycle in an Andover street, early Friday morning.

Police initially felt that the accident was just that, and that Waalen, mother of a 4-year-old daughter, simply lost control of the motorcycle and crashed on the Andover street, seven miles from her residence.

However, the Star Tribune reports that authorities, investigating the scene Saturday, determined that the evidence no longer pointed to a simple accident.

"Multiple factors," according to a news release issued Saturday, "are not consistent with a motor vehicle accident.'' Including the injuries Waalen suffered, which have yet to be disclosed by the authorities.

Suspicions of foul-play resulted in the arrest of Waalen's live-in boyfriend, Ryan Boland, 33, late Friday night, according to the Pioneer Press.

Waalen and Boland lived together with their daughter at 816 Adams St. in Anoka, a neighborhood, where residents struggle to make sense of the news.

"The neighborhood is buzzing. This sort of thing just doesn't happen. It's just very hard to take in," next-door neighbor Valorie Burke said. No evidence, as of yet, has surfaced of prior incidents of violence or disturbances between Waalen and Boland.

The cause of death is still unknown and police have yet to reveal possible motives for the murder, according to the Pioneer Press. Authorities continue to compile evidence and consider possible charges.

Clearly, numerous questions remain unanswered, but according to the Anoka County Sheriff's department, no further information will be released until a criminal complaint is filed.


South Dakota takes second-aim on abortion

According to, South Dakota is planning to place an anti-abortion referendum on their November ballot. The result, if passed, would be the prohibition of all abortions, except in the cases of rape, incest, or imminent danger to the mother's health.

South Dakota is becoming notorious for their state's efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade legislation. The November referendum will be the second effort since 2006 to ban abortions within the state.

The first effort was a 2006 bill which outlawed abortions within the state. However, a state-voted referendum overturned the bill by a vote of 56% to 44%. According to, the main contention from voters was the stringency of the bill - the legislation, unlike the proposed bill, allotted no exceptions to the ban.

Although, many say the letter of the law isn't clear to the average voter. "We need to help people understand that the exceptions are very complicated -- this is still a total ban," says Jan Nicolay, co-chairwoman of the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families. reports, the bill proposal is 2,400 words defining the intricacies of the law. However, the summation that will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot is only 249 words and critics suggest an "over-simplified" version.

Tiffany Campbell, a South Dakota resident and conservative, stated her concern over the rigidity of the proposed law due to her own experiences, according to the Washington Post.

Campbell was carrying twins, months into her pregnancy, when doctors discovered that the twins were relying on one heart. Doctors advised that if both children were carried to term then both would die, but that if the weaker fetus was aborted then the stronger one would likely survive.

"I was not going to bury two of my babies," Campbell remembers. "If I can intervene and save one of my babies, I'm going to do it."

Campbell successfully delivered her son, Brady, who is now 18 months old. However, Campbell is upset that the proposed legislation, titled Initiated Measure 11, will keep other mothers from making a similar choice.

South Dakota, according to, has been searching for an avenue to challenge the Supreme Court Ruling on Roe v. Wade. This new legislation, if passed, could create such a case within the State Supreme Court and then be set before the national Supreme Court, where a conservative panel may lean toward a pro-life stance.


September 21, 2008

Tainted Chinese milk threatens lives outside of mainland

Chinese children are being increasingly affected by the national pandemic of melamine-tainted milk products throughout China.

A Hong Kong toddler has developed a kidney stone after consuming contaminated milk, according to USA Today. The toddler's illness marks the first reports of melamine illness being contracted outside of mainland China.

The tainted milk scandal continues to grow,a s it now appears, the threat has reached outside of mainland China. Additionally, due to delayed recalls and insufficient public notice, the number of children affected continues to grow.

According to USA Today, the scandal first started with complaints over the milk powder from Sanlu Group Co., as early as Aug. 8th., however, since the initial complaints, Chinese officials have found that one-fifth of the companies producing powdered baby milk use melamine in their products.

Additionally, the Chinese public was not informed of the threat until Sept. 11, over a month removed from the first complaint.

The Chinese Health Ministry announced preliminary findings Sunday, according to CNN,com, that nearly 13,000 infants and toddlers have been affected by the tainted milk. With at least four children dying as a result of the exposure to the banned chemical. The first fatality occurred on Sept. 12, according to Chinese officials.

Recently, Hong Kong's Center for Food and Safety announced that a sample of Nestle Dairy Farm Pure Milk contained traces of melamine, which is commonly found in laminates and flame retardants.

In a statement on from Nestle, the company stated that it is "confident that none of its products in China is made from milk adulterated with melamine,"

According to USA Today, the parents of the Hong Kong girl diagnosed with kidney stones took her in for a precautionary check-up after it was learned that the families' milk was, potentially, contaminated by melamine. The child is in good condition and is expected to be released from the hospital soon.

Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, made a statement during a visit to a Beijing hospital, according to USA Today, ""What we need to do now is to ensure that nothing like this happens in the future, not only in dairy products but in all food," Wen said.

September 10, 2008

I-35 bridge set to re-open next week

The new interstate I-35 bridge is set to re-open next week according to the Star-Tribune, just over 13 months since the tragic collapse late last summer.

Gov. Pawlenty is scheduled for a news conference at 11:00am Monday morning. Pawlenty is expected to give an exact date for the bridge’s re-opening. The event will not be open to the public according to Kevin Gutknecht, “It would be great to be able to do it,? but according to the MnDOT spokesman the design elements for the new I-35 bridge do not warrant excess pedestrian traffic.

Construction crews, lead by Flatiron Construction, are finalizing efforts on the $234 million project, none of which are expected to cause delays. Area motorists will have access to the west-bound bridge sometime next week, possibly as early as Tuesday. Next week’s opening puts the bridge reconstruction ahead of the contractually-committed completion date of Dec. 24. It is still unclear whether Flatiron constructions will receive the $27 million in bonuses for finishing on Monday said Gutknecht.

The old interstate I-35 bridge collapsed Aug. 1st, 2007. Crews working round-the-clock since Nov. 1st have completed its replacement. According to MnDOT the replacement, “will be high-quality, safe and last for at least 100 years.? Tom Sorel, MnDOT Commissioner, expressed excitement over the re-opening to Minnesota motorists according to The Associated Press.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), as reported by the Star-Tribune, said it is close to identiifying the factors that caused the collapse, leaving 13 dead and 145 injured. The NTSB is set to discuss their findings in Washington at a public hearing set for Nov. 13