December 2011 Archives

by Sarah See

Computer-assisted reporting was used in a story by about the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis that revealed holes in federal data.

The records used to produce the story were from the National Bridge Inventory, the Federal Highway Administration, federal audits of the bridge inspection process, pitches from vendors of safety equipment, and inquiries from members of Congress.

The analysis used to produce the story was made by applying the Freedom of Information Act and receiving about 500 internal e-mails from officials when the investigative reporter requested information.

The computer skills that the reporter needed to do this reporting include knowledge of how to search and find the necessary records, reports, documents, etc., along with who and what types of sources to contact.

Moreover, the story shows that the reporter searched through many state records, especially those concerning federal funding and bridge data, in order to write about the specific problems in certain states.

The reporter must have had to go through the hundreds of e-mails that were released to compile them as .pdf files, so they could be posted on for the public to read and gain more information on the issue.

Five killed in helicopter crash near Las Vegas

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by Sarah See

A pilot and four passengers on a tour of the Las Vegas Strip and Hoover Dam were killed Wednesday evening in a helicopter crash, according to federal authorities.

The aircraft slammed into a mountainside about 4.5 miles west of Southern Nevada Water Authority around 5 p.m., National Park Service spokesman Andrew Munoz said.

Numerous witnesses heard the crash and reported seeing smoke near the edge of Lake Mead, Munoz said.

Recovery and investigative teams headed to the scene, a remote site in the River Mountains of Lake Mead Recreational Park, about 30 miles east from the Las Vegas Strip, according to CNN and the Associated Press.

The initial rescue was slowed and later delayed by officials until early Thursday, due to inaccessibility to the area by road, according to the Associated Press.

All five people on board were confirmed dead by the Las Vegas police search and rescue team, which reached the scene by helicopter, Munoz said.

No information about the victims' identities was released by authorities, according to the Associated Press.

The Sundance Helicopters aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said to CNN.

There were no notable weather conditions that might have caused the accident, Munoz said.

A 12-member team will investigate the crash, according to the National Transportation Board.

Sundance Helicopters has been in business since 1985 and has had previous accidents, according to state records.

Digital billboards to warn for snow emergencies

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by Sarah See

Digital billboards will warn drivers when a snow emergency is in effect in Minneapolis, according to the Star Tribune and Associated Press Wednesday.

Mayor R.T. Rybak and Clear Channel Outdoor officials announced plans for 12 digital billboards around the city to display messages for drivers to sign up for free alerts and to move their vehicles out of the way of the plows, according to the Star Tribune.

Ads will be replaced with alerts when a snow emergency is declared, and drivers are encouraged to call the hotline to find out where to park, according to the Associated Press.

"We already have many creative ways of informing residents and visitors about Snow Emergencies, and thanks to Clear Channel Outdoor, we have a great new one," Mayor R.T. Rybak said. "This partnership will help the City do its job of clearing the streets and keeping people safe during a Snow Emergency, and will help drivers keep money in their wallets by keeping their cars from being towed."

According to the news sources, the billboards are a new addition to the tools already in place that notify residents when the city is under a snow emergency: text and e-mail alerts, automated phone calls, a Snow Emergency hotline, Facebook, Twitter, and the City's website.

"With these digital billboards we have just about every method of reaching people except for skywriting or carrier pigeons," Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy said. "Our Snow Emergency Twitter account is the eighth most followed for a local government in the nation. When it comes to creative communication, Minneapolis excels."

The billboards are intended to help drivers avoid getting towed, according to the Associated Press.

The billboards "will be seen by more than 1 million people throughout the community each day during those designated snow emergencies," Clear Channel Outdoor branch president Susan Adams said.

Third body found in Yosemite is identified

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by Sarah See

The third body found in Yosemite National Park has been identified as a woman, the last of three hikers swept over a waterfall in July, according to CNN and the Associated Press Tuesday.

The body of missing 21-year-old Ramina Badal was recovered in the Merced River and identified through dental records and other means, park officials said.

The bodies of the other two hikers were previously identified, according to CNN.

Badal hiked the popular Mist Trail to the top of the 317-foot Vernal Fall with friends from church, and they stopped to pose for photos, according to the Associated Press.

Witnesses said the two men and one woman climbed over the guardrail at the top of the trail and were quickly swept over into the river of the waterfall, according to CNN.

Badal, of Manteca, Calif., was with Hormiz David, 22, of Modesto, Calif., and Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock, Calif., when they disappeared, according to CNN.

David's body was discovered about 240 feet from the base of the waterfall in August, according to both news reports.

Yacoub's body was located about half a mile below the base of the waterfall on November 29, park officials said.

Badal's body was found Saturday, days after searchers spotted Yacoub's body, park officials said.

Park rangers had stepped up search efforts in recent weeks as the water flow slowed and snow stayed at bay, according to the Associated Press.

Worker dies in gravel pit accident

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by Sarah See

A worker was killed Thursday morning in an industrial accident in Milaca, Minn., according to CBS Minnesota.

Scott Armstrong, 41, of rural Swanville was killed while working on a large gravel conveyor belt system that was to be moved, according to the Mille Lacs County sheriff's office.

Armstrong was struck in the head by a large wheel while working as a crushing operator at a Knife River Construction Company gravel pit, authorities said.

Armstrong was pronounced dead, and a medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death, according to WCCO-TV.

Authorities are investigating the fatal incident, according to the Associated Press.

The construction company plans to turn the investigation over to the Mine Safety Health Administration, a Knife River spokeswoman said to the St. Cloud Times.

Boat capsizes off Dominican coast

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by Sarah See

A boat carrying about 100 migrants capsized off the Dominican Republic's coast, authorities said Monday.

Only three bodies have been found near the site, and authorities believe at least 15 people are missing, Civil Defense officials told CNN.

Others survived, but none have spoken publicly for fear of repercussions from law enforcement, officials said.

The boat sank early Sunday when it was going to Puerto Rico, according to

Search teams have been looking for the missing passengers near Nagua, a northern coastal city in the Dominican Republic, Rep. Jose Luis Cosme said.

It is "a scene of anguish," Cosme said, as family members await word about their loved ones.

Rescue workers stopped searching Monday, due to bad weather and rising tides, but helicopters continued searching the waters from the air, according to both news sources.

The Dominican Navy will continue searching for survivors, according to

Forecasters predicted stormy conditions before the boat set sail, according to the news sources.

Boats packed with immigrants have been a common sight in the past near Nagua, about 200 miles from Puerto Rico, according to CNN and

Although illegal, immigrants have been willing to sail in any weather because Puerto Rico is so close, Cosme said.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2011 is the previous archive.

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