State Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Senator falls ill during committee hearing

JUNEAU - Sen. Ralph Seekins, a Fairbanks Republican, was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital after briefly losing consciousness during a committee hearing this morning.

Seekins appeared to slump to one side during the Senate Finance Committee hearing at about 9:25 a.m. and complained of light headedness.

Sen. Donny Olson, who is a physician, rushed to Seekins' aid and said the Fairbanks lawmaker appeared to lose consciousness for less than a minute as he was being lowered to the floor.

Seekins regained consciousness and his low pulse rate rebounded, Olson said. Witnesses said the was awake and alert when emergency medical workers took him to the hospital.

It was not immediately clear what led to Seekins' fainting episode. A spokeswoman for the hospital could not be reached for comment.

Man pleads guilty to molesting two teens

FAIRBANKS - A North Pole man arrested in August on charges of taking pornographic pictures of four minor teenage boys and molesting two of them faces a maximum of nine years in prison after agreeing to a plea deal in Fairbanks Superior Court.

Theodore Jenkins Jr., 29, who faced 41 charges ranging from sexual abuse of a minor to viewing indecent photography, pleaded no contest to six of the charges Monday. He will be sentenced on May 15.

By entering no contest pleas, Jenkins is considered formally convicted of the charges.

The plea agreement also calls for Superior Court Judge Charles Pengilly to determine whether Jenkins is guilty of one count of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor in connection with an allegation that he molested one boy, a family member, while the boy was sleeping. To render a verdict, Pengilly will review the transcript of the grand jury proceedings during which Jenkins was formally charged with the crimes as well as evidence presented to the grand jury.

Mat-Su wants ferry to sail until Knik Bridge is built

ANCHORAGE - The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is moving ahead with plans for a ferry between Anchorage and Point MacKenzie, even though U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens - once the project's most powerful advocate - has withdrawn his support.

"When I was home at Christmas, I had several meetings and I was told that the ferry concept was not feasible," Stevens said last month.

Stevens said he originally thought the ferry across Knik Arm would help Anchorage residents get to cabin sites quickly and would build demand for a bridge. But he said he became convinced the ice flowing in and out on the Cook Inlet tides would prevent ferry travel in some conditions. His spokeswoman, Melanie Alvord, said the people who changed his mind were "business and labor people."

Mat-Su Borough Manager John Duffy said he flew to Washington and met with Stevens' staff to try to dispel reports that ice could sideline the ferry.

"We addressed the ice issue," he said. "There really is no ice problem. They have ferries operating in Finland and Norway, where they have real ice." A representative from Lockheed Martin, which is working with the borough to seek funding, accompanied him to make the case, he said.

Crossing Knik Arm to make the undeveloped tracts on the other side more accessible to Anchorage has long been a dream in Alaska's largest city and in the Mat-Su Borough.

Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, says he wants a bridge. Stevens, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, says he is also committed to a bridge, which has been projected to cost $600 million to $2 billion.

Stevens and Young, though, have been split over a ferry.

Hundreds gather in Barrow for celebration

ANCHORAGE - Hundreds of people are gathering in Barrow for an Inupiaq celebration hosted by the area's whaling captains.

The three-day messenger feast celebration on Alaska's northern coast includes dancing, storytelling, games and feasting. The celebratory feast died out for many years before being resumed in the 1980s by North Slope Borough Mayor George Ahmaogak Sr.

Organizers expect nearly 20 dance troupes and 700 dancers from Alaska, Canada and possibly Russia. The festivities Monday included the ceremonial lighting of a seal oil lamp.

Volunteers continue search for kayaker

ANCHORAGE - Alaska State Troopers and the Coast Guard have ended their search for a woman missing in a kayak near Seward, but local volunteers continued to look for her Monday.

Kristin Snyder, 35, was last seen Thursday at her Anchorage home. She was reported missing Friday.

Troopers found her Toyota pickup parked at Miller's Landing in Seward. A kayak was missing from a nearby campground, kayak and boat rental business.

Troopers said a note was found inside the truck. The note stopped short of saying Snyder was going to kill herself, but said no one should search for her, according to Trooper Paul Randall.

Randall said friends reported that Snyder seemed depressed over the past few days, and had become irrational and suicidal.

A ground search was conducted Friday near Lowell Point and was expanded on Saturday to include the coastline of Caines Head on the west side of Resurrection Bay. Volunteers from Seward and Anchorage searched the area near Caines Head.

The search broadened Sunday with planes cruising the inner bay close to Seward. The Coast Guard and troopers searched the southern end of the bay.

"We have not found anything," Randall said.

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