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Posted: Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Jet grounded after engine problem

PETERSBURG -- An Alaska Airlines jet was grounded in Petersburg on Monday evening after passengers saw a blue fireball spit from the engine prior to takeoff.

``Just as soon as we started to gain a little RPM, there was a ball of fire that came out of the port engine, on the wing,'' passenger Don Braafhart of Davenport, Iowa, told KFSK radio. ``And right away we thought that there might be a problem. Everything seemed to be fine and then apparently we had some problems with a heat indicator ... and they brought us back.''

Braafhart said passengers were on the plane for only about 10 minutes before it returned to the terminal.

A spokesman for Alaska Airlines said the carrier was not aware of reports of flame coming from the engine.

``There was an indicator light in the cockpit that showed there was high temperatures in the engine. So the problem required a mechanic be dispatched to check out the engine,'' said airline spokesman Joel Van Etta.

No mechanics were available Monday night, and weather problems kept the airline from dispatching one until Tuesday morning, he said. The problem was discovered as the plane was taking off for Wrangell shortly after 7 p.m., Van Etta said.

After the mechanic looked over the jet, it was flown to Seattle on Tuesday.

Plea change OK'd in Medicaid case

JUNEAU -- Former hearing aid dealer Kenneth Klepinger's motion to withdraw his plea was approved in Juneau District Court on Tuesday.

Klepinger has been charged with fraud for billing the state Medicaid program for services he claimed to have provided to patients at his offices in Juneau and Ketchikan. The Medicaid Fraud Unit of the attorney general's office alleged $138,278 was illegally claimed between October 1997 and January 2000.

He originally pleaded no contest to the fraud charges March 2. He later moved to withdraw that plea, a move that was not opposed by Assistant Attorney General Stephen Branchflower.

Klepinger is also changing attorneys and will now be represented by Charles Murdter of Washington state rather than Thomas Nave of Juneau. Nave requested a 30-day continuance for this transition. During the continuance, Murdter will meet with Nave and Klepinger and get up to speed on the case. Judge Patricia A. Collins granted the continuance, and scheduled a hearing for Aug. 22.

Trial is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9.

Crash sends four to hospital

JUNEAU - A two-vehicle accident this morning on the Douglas Bridge sent four people to the hospital.

Capital City Fire & Rescue responded to an emergency call at 7:51 a.m.

The two vehicles involved were a 1991 Geo Metro and a 1989 Ford Bronco II, said Juneau Police Officer James Quinto.

``The Metro was headed from North Douglas to turn onto the bridge, and the driver did not look, and turned in front of the Bronco,'' Quinto said. The Geo suffered about $7,000 damage, and the Bronco about $3,000. Both drivers and their passengers were taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital for precautionary evaluations, he said.

By 10 a.m., all four people were in the process of being discharged from the emergency room, said Bartlett regional affairs coordinator Marijo Toner. ``There are no evident injuries,'' Toner said.

Investigation continues, Quinto said.

One driver in the traffic backed up by the incident pointed out that the speed limit signs for the bridge are confusing -- 30 mph in one direction, and 40 in the other.

``There is a problem,'' said Chris Morrow, preliminary design and environmental group chief for the state Department of Transportation, after sending someone out to check the existing signs.

``In 1993 when we issued our last speed limit order (for the bridge), it was supposed to be signed at 30 in both directions. Today, at the Breeze-In, coming toward Juneau, there is a 30 mile-an-hour sign. Going the other direction, from Juneau to Douglas, the sign is missing. So people are probably assuming the speed in that direction is 40, because that is the speed limit on the Egan Drive approach.''

Morrow said DOT would consider replacing the missing sign.

90-year-old gives Haines clinic $100,000

HAINES - A 90-year-old Haines woman has donated $100,000 to the town's medical clinic.

Officials at the Haines Medical Clinic plan to use most of Dorothy Quinn's gift to buy an ultrasound machine.

``She's just real happy with the community and was real impressed with them up there at the clinic,'' said nephew Steve Brooks. Quinn moved to Haines in 1996 from upstate New York, where she spent most of her life, Brooks told the Chilkat Valley News last week.

The hassle involved in changing her will to include the clinic led Quinn to make an outright gift rather than leave the money to the clinic after her death. Quinn suffers from congestive heart failure, Brooks said.

``She's a nice woman who would like to do something nice for the community by improving health care,'' said Roger Martinez, the clinic doctor Quinn initially approached about making a gift.

Martinez said the machine will be useful in obstetrics cases, as well as diagnosing trauma patients and checking organs such as gall bladders.

``In many cases, it'll help us make a decision whether someone needs to go to Juneau or not,'' he said.

The gift is the largest charitable donation from an individual in Haines in recent history.



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