Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2007

Girl recovers from accidental gunshot

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ANCHORAGE - An unattended 9-year-old girl accidentally shot in the neck by an older boy was recovering Friday at an Anchorage hospital, Alaska State Troopers said.

The incident took place Wednesday in a camper near Summit Lake, at mile 191 of the Richardson Highway, after Kariel Young's mother asked a neighbor to watch the children while she ran some errands, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

It was unclear where the neighbor was at the time of the shooting, she said.

The girl was initially listed serious condition, but an updated condition report wasn't immediately available Friday.

Officials said the 10-year-old boy took a .22-caliber pistol down from a high shelf in the camper and loaded it himself. It was not known where the boy found the ammunition, Peters said.

"They were going out to play and he said it was going to be for bear protection," Peters said.

He then cocked the weapon and attempted to place it in on the couch where he and Kariel were sitting on opposite ends. It discharged, striking Kariel in the neck. It wasn't immediately clear what made the weapon fire.

"We're investigating it, but right now it appears to be accidental," Peters said.

Plea entered in case of pizzeria murder

ANCHORAGE - A 31-year-old man has pleaded guilty to reduced charges in the 1999 murder of a pizzeria worker.

Barry Anderson entered a plea Thursday to second-degree murder for shooting Keith Dirkes, 18. Anderson was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder, plus five more years for an unrelated robbery. He also must pay the Dirkes family $10,000 in restitution.

Anderson was originally charged with first-degree murder, but the charge was reduced as part of a plea agreement.

"I think it's more than fair what they gave him," Ted Dirkes said. "Nothing is going to replace my son."

Anderson shot and killed Keith Dirkes, 18, at Godfather's Pizza in September 1999. Dirkes was a student at University of Alaska Anchorage working nights as a manager at the now-closed pizzeria chain store.

According to charging documents, Dirkes was closing the restaurant when Anderson knocked on the door and asked to use the restroom.

Anderson was a former Godfather's employee and known to Dirkes, so he opened the door. Police said Anderson pulled a gun, forced Dirkes into a walk-in freezer, robbed him, then shot him twice in the head.

Court allows work to continue at mine

ANCHORAGE - A bid to halt construction at an open-pit gold mine near Nome failed on Friday when a federal judge dismissed the case.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline rejected the argument that federal regulators issued an illegal permit for the Rock Creek Mine.

Beistline ruled that mining company NovaGold Resources Inc. put in "considerable time, effort and expense" to minimize environmental damage from the project, which covers several hundred acres of former wetlands. He ultimately dismissed the case.

The economic harm of stopping the project would outweigh any benefits to the environment, according to Beistline.

"The vast majority of wetlands have now been filled, and are technically no longer wetlands," he wrote in his court order.

The Canadian company is building the Rock Creek mine and mill complex on Alaska Native and mining company land about six miles north of Nome.

"Our workers will be able to continue to work," Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse, NovaGold's president, said after the decision.

Victoria Clark, an attorney for the Nome plaintiffs said they are disappointed and haven't decided yet whether to appeal. The lawsuit was filed in April by Bering Strait Citizens for Responsible Resource Development.

The Rock Creek mine has been controversial in Nome since last year, in part because NovaGold plans to use cyanide to extract gold.

The lawsuit claims the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated environmental laws when it approved the permit allowing the mine to remove and build on wetlands.

The corps should have done a detailed environmental review of the project, argued Clark, who works for Anchorage-based environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska .

NovaGold plans to finish construction at Rock Creek at the end of this year, and hopes to produce 100,000 ounces of gold per year, according to Doug Nicholson, the mine's general manager.

UAF hires ex-rival as hockey coach

FAIRBANKS - The University of Alaska Fairbanks has plucked a rival assistant coach to head its hockey team.

UAF on Thursday named Doc DelCastillo, 38, as the seventh head coach in the Nanooks' 27-year history as an NCAA program.

DelCastillo for five years has been an assistant coach at a Central Collegiate Hockey Association rival, the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

DelCastillo said he celebrated his hiring with his wife and five daughters.

"My daughters were jumping up and down for five to 10 minutes. We were ecstatic," DelCastillo said from his home in Omaha.

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