Northwest Digest

Posted: Monday, April 25, 2005

Crewman dies after fishing vessel sinks

JUNEAU - A crewman died after a fishing vessel sank south of Sitka, Coast Guard officials said.

The Coast Guard received an emergency alert Friday evening from the 38-foot fishing vessel Tania Dee, which hit stormy seas off Cape Ommaney on the southern tip of Baranof Island.

The Coast Guard issued an urgent marine information broadcast and sent out a Jayhawk helicopter crew from Sitka.

The crew arrived within 25 minutes and found an unoccupied raft, a debris field and oil slick. Twenty minutes later the crew spotted two men in the water. Both were wearing survival suits.

The fishing vessel Christina, whose crew responded to the emergency broadcast, was on scene and able to get one of the men out of the water. A rescue swimmer aboard the Jayhawk retrieved the second man, who was unconscious.

The Jayhawk crew transported the unconscious man to Sitka, performing CPR along the way. The man was later declared dead at a Sitka hospital. The surviving crewman is reportedly in good condition.

The names of the men were not released.

Anchorage fishing derbies canceled

ANCHORAGE - Two popular salmon derbies won't be held this year in Anchorage after new sponsors failed to materialize.

Several organizations expressed interest in staging the Ship Creek king and silver salmon derbies. But no one submitted a formal proposal, according to officials with the Alaska Railroad, which owns the land along both banks of lower Ship Creek.

Railroad spokesman Tim Thompson expects the downtown derbies to return by 2006, but said it's too late for any organization to gear up to run them this year.

Alaska Community Services, an arm of the National Senior Service Corps, concluded the derbies weren't profitable enough. Seventy-six cents of every dollar the organization raised was going into organization and management, Thompson said, leaving only 24 cents for the nonprofit.

The opportunity to catch big fish has turned Ship Creek salmon fishing into a major summertime draw downtown. No one thinks the end of the derby will spell the end of Ship Creek's mob scene.

Private project built on public land

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage officials are trying to figure out what to do about a private beautification project in a pricey neighborhood that stretches across public land.

The couple who built the rock-lined pond on the Westchester Lagoon property said they thought they owned the entire project site next to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.

The work replaced a small wetlands pond full of grasses and cattails. That pond smelled, stagnated and attracted mosquitoes, said Tennys Owens, who owns the home with her husband, Thomas Owens Jr.

The city recently discovered that about half of the rebuilt, landscaped pond lies in the publicly owned Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park - about 90 acres around the lagoon.

The trees and shrubs the Owenses planted screen the pond area from the trail, and will provide a denser barrier when deciduous trees have leafed out. The pond will be visible from their property, but only glimpses will be seen from the trail.

"It has to be open to the public, available to the public," said city parks director Jeff Dillon. "It is public land."

Whether the Owenses will have to take out some or all of the landscaping hasn't been decided, Dillon said.

Man indicted in falling death of wife

KENAI - More than seven years after his wife plunged to her death from a Homer bluff, Jay Darling has been charged with killing her.

Darling, who is serving time in federal prison for insurance fraud, was indicted by a grand jury Friday on a charge of first-degree murder.

Darling, 41, has been a suspect in the 1997 death of his wife almost from the time Wanda Wood Darling fell off a Kachemak Bay bluff.

At the time, Jay Darling said his wife was taking photographs when she apparently slipped and fell.

Even though Darling is in federal custody, a warrant was issued for his arrest Friday.

According to Kenai District Attorney June Stein, the arrest will involve paperwork transferring him from federal custody to state custody for the murder trial.

In April 2003, Jay Darling was sentenced to 40 months in jail after pleading guilty to one federal charge of fraud in January of that year.

According to prosecutors, Darling told several friends he planned to get life insurance money by faking his own death in a kayaking accident so his wife could collect. His intention was to defraud life insurance companies of $3 million, authorities said.

Fairbanks borough targets black spruce

FAIRBANKS - The Fairbanks North Star Borough is planning to thin out stands of fast-burning black spruce as a way to cut down on summer wildfires.

The plan is among several efforts resulting from last year's record fire season. The borough also plans to participate in fire-monitoring and decision-making meetings.

"Our focus is protection of the borough," Dave Tyler, the director of the borough's emergency services, said during a borough assembly work session last week.

The borough's plans stem from recommendations made by the Wildland Fire Commission, formed by the assembly under borough Mayor Jim Whitaker. The commission met for two months and issued a report that called for increased air support in fire fighting, better communication and fuel management.

Lawmakers wrap up Dem-dominated session

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington lawmakers scurried toward on-time adjournment of their ambitious 15-week session Sunday night after passing a $26 billion state budget and rescuing a big gas-tax plan to fix crumbling, crowded roads and bridges.

The budget plan requires a half-billion dollar revenue package, including "sin taxes" on cigarettes and liquor. Smokes will go up by $6 a carton and the booze tax will rise by a stiff $1.33 a liter. The estate tax, called the death tax by foes, will be imposed on about 250 large estates each year.

The major drama of the final day, though, was approval of a massive 16-year, $8.5 billion transportation package that devotes billions to mega-projects like Seattle's quake-damaged Alaskan Way Viaduct, and spreads construction money across the state. Ferries, rail and mass transit aren't forgotten, and hard-pressed cities and counties get a cut.

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