State Briefs

Posted: Sunday, December 22, 2002

One man killed, another injured in plane crash

ANCHORAGE - A federal employee was killed and another seriously injured in a plane crash in Southwest Alaska.

Searchers late Friday afternoon located the site of a crash that killed Tom O'Hara, 41, of King Salmon-Naknek, a pilot for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Passenger Corey Adler, 30, of Fairbanks, who was taking part in a Fish and Wildlife training program, suffered a broken leg and was hypothermic. He was transported to the Naknek clinic for treatment.

The crash site was eight miles east of Upper Ugashik Lake about 330 miles southwest of Anchorage. Both men were pinned in the wreckage of the aircraft, a Husky.

The men were in the third day of a moose-tracking survey when they crashed. The Husky left King Salmon on Thursday morning. At 1 p.m., the plane failed to report in and was reported overdue to the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard rescue crews assisted by federal, state and civilian aircraft began searching Thursday. A helicopter from Egli Air of King Salmon spotted the wreckage at 4:20 p.m. Friday.

Adler was employed as part of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Student Career Experience Program. He also is a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, majoring in wildlife biology.

Noisy parishioner drowns out piano, is arrested

KENAI - A Kachemak City man who said he was only trying to exercise his right to pray was arrested last weekend at St. John's Catholic Church in Homer after refusing to leave to make way for a piano recital.

Church officials say the man was given plenty of opportunity to comply with the request Sunday afternoon and could have remained to pray silently, but he insisted on reciting prayers in a loud voice in what they said was clearly a determined attempt to disrupt the recital.

Glenn Traugott declined to comment about the incident or his arrest, deferring to his attorney, Wayne Anthony Ross of Anchorage. Ross told the Peninsula Clarion that defending someone hauled out of a church for attempting to use a church for its proper purposes was an attractive legal challenge.

The arrest was unusual, said Homer Police Lt. Randy Rosencrans. Arresting officers were told church officials had the right to ask someone to leave, and once that person refused, that he would be subject to arrest for trespassing.

The Rev. Steven Moore, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Anchorage, said Traugott has made a practice of challenging the authority of church administrators.

"He will say the rosary loudly and carry on," Moore said. "He's been disruptive for quite some time."

Delayed by the confrontation, the recital finally had to be moved downstairs.

Fish plant faces fine for alleged illegal dumping

ANCHORAGE - A Valdez seafood plant is facing a fine of $137,000 for alleged illegal dumping. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has filed a complaint against Nautilus Foods, based in Bellevue, Wash.

The company's owner, Thomas Waterer, said he was shocked by the allegations.

Waterer's plant in Valdez committed numerous pollution violations, according to the EPA, including bypassing a waste-handling system and dumping fish guts, blood and slime directly into the sea.

Nautilus has allowed fish waste to pile up on an area of nearly an acre and a half, exceeding the allowed limit by almost half, the complaint said.

The EPA also says the company failed to monitor discharges, failed to conduct shoreline surveys, failed to fix a leaky outfall pipe, didn't monitor grinders and failed to have its permit on site, among other things.

Bub Loiselle, EPA's water-quality compliance manager for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, said Nautilus is a chronic, gross violator of its federal pollution discharge permit.

Waterer said he's not aware of any prior violations.

"We're a small business. We're just trying to make a living. We're a good, responsible fish processor. Our employees are paid well. With this level of fine, they could shut us down."

Nautilus employs about 200 people during peak fishing season, Waterer said. It processes up to 10 million pounds of salmon and halibut every year. About a quarter of that winds up as waste.

Fears of forced cleanup put sports complex on hold

KENAI - Plans for a 24-acre sports complex on a former landfill site are on hold because of fears that developing the area will trigger a massive cleanup effort.

The Kenai Parks and Recreation Commission has spent two years planning the complex, which would include baseball fields, soccer fields and a BMX bike track.

The area selected is in a clearing of beetle-killed trees along the Kenai Spur Highway north of the city. It was used as the city's dump 30 years ago, and that is causing concern for other city officials.

"Materials were dumped there indiscriminately," said Kenai Mayor John Williams. "... God knows what. There were no controls whatsoever in those days, going back 30 years now or so."

The city is reluctant to allow the project at the site because they fear it will trigger a massive cleanup effort.

The city council put off making a decision about the area until more information is gathered.

Homer volunteer charged with sex abuse

ANCHORAGE - A volunteer chaperone for a teen program in Homer is accused of giving prescription painkillers to teenagers under his supervision, buying alcohol for them, and having sex with a 16-year-old girl.

Timothy Whisnant, 21, is charged with third-degree sexual abuse of a minor for having intercourse with the girl when he was in a position of authority. He also is charged with several felony counts of misconduct involving controlled substances for distributing Tylenol 3 with codeine pills to several teens.

Whisnant was a volunteer chaperone and disc jockey at a teen center run by the nonprofit Choices for Teens.

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