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July 18, 2006
Update: Man ID'd who died trying to save girl off Narragansett
Journal photo / John Freidah
Gabe Imondi of Lincoln cools off today in the tidal pools at the Newton Avenue rocks in Narragansett, where a Virginia man fell, and later died, after trying to rescue a young girl swept out by waves. The popular spot has been the scene of several accidents.
NARRAGANSETT -- Local authorities have released the identity of a man who died yesterday afternoon while trying to save a girl who fell into the ocean along a scenic but treacherous stretch of cliffs and rocks near Newton Avenue.
Kenneth D. Gurnon, 48, of Newport News, Va., slipped and hit his head on the rocks at about 3 p.m. yesterday while preparing to go after the 11-year-old girl, identified as Corey A. Tewalt, of Virginia Beach, Va.
Tewalt, the granddaughter of Gurnon's girlfriend, was rescued. Though bruised and scared, she was not seriously injured. Gurnon was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.
-- With reports from Journal staff writer Randal Edgar
Posted by Steve Peoples at 7:15 PM
Update: Thunderstorms still possible for R.I. / Photo
Journal photo / Bob Thayer
"The corn is less than half the height it should be for this time of year," said Vincent Confreda today, as he walked through a field of stunted plants at his Confreda Greenhouses and Farms in Cranston. Find out more in tomorrow's Journal and on projo.com about how this summer's heavy rains and lack of sun have hurt some local farmers.
Parts of Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts are now the most likely to be hit by thunderstorms this evening, the National Weather Service says in its latest advisory.
A severe thunderstorm watch has been on since noon, but unstable atmospheric conditions have shifted predictions for where the storms may actually strike.
As of 6:30 p.m., they were expected to develop along the line of a cold front coming in from Connecticut into northern Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. The main threat is still wind gusts and possibly hail, the weather service said, and will continue into late evening.
By tomorrow, skies should turn partly cloudy, with patchy fog in the morning. While the air will stay humid, high temperatures will drop into the lower 80s, with northeast winds from 5 to 10 mph.
Check back for weather updates throughout the day, and view regional radar to see the storm approach
Posted by Andrea Panciera at 7:00 PM
Chafee, Reed help approve Senate stem cell bill
WASHINGTON -- The Senate voted today after two days of emotional debate to expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, sending the measure to President Bush for a promised veto, the first of his presidency.
The bill passed 63-37, four votes short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override Bush's veto.
Rhode Island's senators, Republican Lincoln Chafee and Democrat Jack Reed, voted to support the bill.
U.S. Rep. James Langevin, D-.R.I., who was paralyzed in a gun accident as a teenager and has supported research as a possible way to remedy spinal cord injuries and other diseases, applauded the Senate vote.
"The Senate vote is an historic bipartisan achievement," Langevin said in a statement.
"Sadly, it is rumored that H.R. 810 could be the President's first veto, despite the continued suffering of millions from devastating illnesses, and despite the severe limitations on scientific progress in the U.S."
The president left little doubt he would reject the bill despite late appeals on its behalf from several Senate Republicans and prominent supporters like Nancy Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Posted by Steve Peoples at 6:45 PM
1,611 customers lose power in Johnston
JOHNSTON -- A power outage turned off the electricity at more than 1,600 houses and businesses in the Greenville Avenue this afternoon for about an hour and 20 minutes, according to a spokesman for National Grid.
The outage was due to the failure of a piece of equipment -- a kind of circuit-breaker -- on a utility pole, said the spokesman, David D. Graves.
The problem was fixed and power was restored to the 1,611 customers at 4:19 p.m., Graves said.
The outage followed a series of smaller-scale problems yesterday.
-- Journal staff writer Mark Reynolds
Posted by Steve Peoples at 5:58 PM
Update: Utility worker badly burned in Providence / Photo
Journal photo / Andrew Dickerman
The Oxford Street area where the incident occurred was taped off this afternoon.
PROVIDENCE -- A 35-year-old utility worker was badly burned this afternoon after he caught fire when his work bucket apparently struck a high-power line on Oxford Street.
The man, whose name has not been released, suffered burns over 80 percent of his body, according to James Taylor, the Fire Department’s chief of communications.
The victim was working in the bucket of a Verizon truck at about 3 p.m. when the incident occurred. (An earlier report incorrectly identified the truck).
He was shocked by the contact, which "blew his shirt off and caught his pants on fire," according to Fire Department Deputy Assistant Chief Henry Cochrane.
Cochrane said firefighters who arrived on the scene were forced to hold off dousing the fire until another utility worker gingerly approached the truck, which they feared was electrified, and brought the bucket down.
The victim, who was still conscious, was brought to Rhode Island Hospital.
A safety investigator is on the scene, where the scorched underside of a yellow sun umbrella that had been shading the worker could be seen.
-- With reports from Journal staff writer Greg Smith
Posted by Steve Peoples at 4:46 PM
Cicilline advises seniors to escape heat in public buildings
PROVIDENCE -- Mayor David N. Cicilline this afternoon called on senior citizens without access to air conditioning to seek shelter in one of the city's 8 library branches or 13 senior centers.
“It’s critical that seniors take special precautions to avoid serious health threats associated with prolonged exposure to excessive heat,” Cicilline said in a statement released this afternoon.
And should the extremely hot weather conditions persist, the Providence Emergency Management Agency may open a shelter at the Springfield Middle School, Cicilline said.
Residents can call (401) 421-7768 or check the city's Web site to obtain a list of senior centers and library branches. The city's emergency management agency can be reached at (401) 228-8000 for those who need assistance with transportation.
Posted by Steve Peoples at 4:15 PM
State ups insurance payments for Guard members
The state now pays an additional $10 a month in life insurance premiums for mobilized Rhode Island National Guard members who are buying larger insurance policies.
The change became law when Governor Carcieri signed legislation earlier this month, but the governor held a signing ceremony this afternoon at the Guard’s Command Readiness Center in Cranston.
The event was set to coincide with an announcement that Cardi’s Furniture has been selected as one of 15 businesses around the country out of 1,500 nominated for exemplary support of their Guard and Reserve employees.
The state has budgeted $146,770 for this fiscal year to cover the insurance-premium increases for Guard members, according to Michael Maynard, a spokesman in the governor’s office.
The legislation was introduced after the federal government increased the amount of life insurance that Guard members can purchase, from $250,000 to $400,000, Maynard said. The state was already paying the $16 premiums for mobilized troops who had the smaller policy, and the new payment covers the new $26 monthly premiums, he said.
Posted by Kate Bramson at 3:07 PM
State temporarily closes stump dump in Richmond
RICHMOND -- The state Attorney General's Office this afternoon announced the temporary closure of the Skunk Hill dump, which state officials and abutters say is a a major fire hazard and a breeding ground for disease-ridden cockroaches.
Last week, Attorney General Patrick Lynch and the Department of Environmental Management filed a three-count lawsuit against Richard Romanoff, the principal owner of the realty company that owns the land where the dump is located, 2 Skunk Hill Road.
Yesterday, Superior Court Judge Allen P. Rubine granted a temporary restraining order closing the dump, pending the results of a July 26 hearing.
Lynch said in a statement that the stump dump is dangerous.
"The Skunk Hill Dump has already caught fire once, in 2003, threatening the shutdown of Interstate 95 to both northbound and southbound traffic," Lynch said. "Despite the application of nearly two million gallons of water, fire officials believe that the fire continues to smolder and could re-erupt."
Lynch also blamed the stump dump for an area cockroach infestation.
"The tree waste provides an abundant habitat for cockroaches, supplying protection, moisture, and warmth to support propagation of an immense and overwhelming insect community," he said. "These cockroaches present a direct threat to the health and welfare of area residents, in particular children with asthma or other respiratory
Posted by Steve Peoples at 2:03 PM
Four R.I. families trapped in Lebanon
Four Rhode Island families are trapped in Lebanon and are trying to get out as the battle between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas continues.
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said four large families who have contacted his office were apparently in Lebanon to visit family. There could easily be more Rhode Islanders who are trying to get out, given the large number of Lebanese Americans in this state, Reed said.
In recent days, two Rhode Islanders called Reed's office to report that they had gotten out of the country.
One of those is Melani Cammett, a Brown University faculty member who was conducting research in Lebanon, said Brown University spokeswoman Molly de Ramel.
Reed said his office has told the families seeking help that they must contact the U.S. embassy in Beirut to ensure that the government has their vital information, including passport numbers. The senator’s office has then called the U.S. State Department and the embassy in Beirut to relay any information it has about the families, he said.
Posted by Kate Bramson at 1:02 PM
Multiple wigs; multiple IDs
PROVIDENCE -- Three California women are scheduled to appear in U.S. District court today to answer multiple charges related to an identity theft scam in Rhode Island.
North Providence Police last week arrested: Debbie Jolene Tucker, 44, Renea Johnson, 54, and Zelpha Colleen Conyers, 53, all of the Los Angeles area.
According to the police, last Tuesday Tucker used a credit card and driver's license in another woman's name to try to withdraw $3,000 from a Bank of America branch in Cranston. The manager denied the woman's request and put out an alert to other branches.
But later that day, Tucker, using another identity, withdrew $1,500 from a Bank of America branch on Mineral Spring Avenue in North Providence. And later, using still another identity, Tucker withdrew $4,800 from a branch on Smithfield Road in North Providence.
--- Steve Peoples, projo.com writer
One of the branch managers, having been alerted to suspicious activity, watched Tucker leave the bank and enter a car with another woman. The bank manager told police that she saw the women exchange wigs before driving away. The bank manager noted the license plate number and called the police.
A short time later the police found the car and apprehended the women.
When searching their luggage, police found California drivers’ licenses, credit cards and social security cards in the names of 10 women. They also found Bank of America customer profiles for seven of those women and maps of Bank of America branches in Florida. And they found nine wigs.
The women face felony counts of bank fraud and identity theft.
And the Secret Service is investigating similar suspicious withdrawals at other Bank of America branches.
Posted by Steve Peoples at 12:21 PM
Soaring temps may boost electrical use to record high
New England is expected to set a new record for electricity use today as the temperature climbs into the 90s, boosting the use of air conditioning throughout the region.
Demand is expected to reach 27,750 megawatts at 5 p.m., which would beat the record of 26,885 set on July 27, 2005, according to ISO New England, which manages the region's electricity supply.
On a typical summer day, demand peaks at 22,000 to 23,000 megawatts, according to Kenneth McDonnell, a spokesman for ISO New England.
The region should have enough supply to meet demand, McDonnell says, but he added, "We will be very tight."
Home and business owners can take several steps to reduce electricity use, said David Graves, a spokesman for National Grid. For example, he said, people could run their air conditioners at a warmer setting, such as 72 to 75 degrees, rather than 68 or 70.
For more energy-saving tips, visit the National Grid Web site.
Posted by Jack Perry at 12:00 PM
Lanes reopened after fuel leak on 95, Providence
All lanes have reopened on Route 95 in Providence after a fuel spill near exit 18, the state Department of Transportation said.
The right shoulder was closed this morning because of a leaking auto fuel tank, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The Providence Fire Department and Rhode Island State Police responded, and the Department of Environmental Management was notified.
Posted by Kate Bramson at 11:57 AM
Heavy rain hurt some R.I. farmers
Some Rhode Island farmers may turn to the federal government for help this year because record rain in May and June prevented some from planting their crops and also washed away fertilizer, according to the Rhode Island Farm Bureau.
The bureau is coordinating a meeting at 12:30 p.m. today with United States Department of Agriculture officials and lawmakers to discuss help available to the farmers.
The region set a record with more than 16 inches of rain for the combined months of May and June. The heavy rain benefited some nursery operators and farmers working with sandy soil, according to the bureau.
Posted by Jack Perry at 9:52 AM
Navratilova to loan trophies to Tennis Hall of Fame
NEWPORT -- Tennis star Martina Navratilova is loaning some of her Wimbledon trophies and medals to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.
Navratilova was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000 and is scheduled to appear there this afternoon for her medal presentation.
Navratilova plans to loan to the Hall of Fame Museum the trophies that she received from winning the Wimbledon ladies' doubles championships in 1976 and 1979.
She will also loan two medals earned by finishing as a semifinalist at the 1976 Wimbledon ladies' singles tournament and at the doubles tournament in 1980.
-- The Associated Press
Posted by Kate Bramson at 9:16 AM
Save on gasoline and take free public transportation
If you can do without it, leave your car at home and take public transportation today.
Regular-route buses and trolleys operated by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority are free today because it’s an ozone-alert day. So you can save yourself the $1.50 bus fare and probably far more than that on gasoline, depending on how far you commute.
The state Department of Environmental Management yesterday afternoon declared that today would be the second ozone alert day of the year. Yesterday was the first.
A major component of smog, ozone is formed by the photochemical reaction of pollutants emitted by motor vehicles, industry and other sources in the presence of elevated temperatures and sunlight, according to the DEM.
On ozone-alert days, state departments urge residents to help reduce air-pollutant emissions by limiting the use of cars, small engines, lawn mowers and charcoal lighter fuels.
Find more tips here.
With the cold front moving in this afternoon or evening, ozone levels are expected to drop back to good levels by tomorrow, according to the DEM.
Posted by Kate Bramson at 7:19 AM
Carcieri to address conference for returning troops
EAST GREENWICH -- Governor Carcieri plans to speak at a summit this morning on the mental health and substance abuse challenges facing soldiers returning from active duty and their families.
Carcieri is scheduled to speak at 8:30 a.m. at the Varnum Memorial Armory on Main Street in East Greenwich.
The summit is being hosted by the Addiction Technology Transfer Center of New England, located at Brown University’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies.
The center also plans to use the event to unveil “The Rhode Island Blueprint,” a report outlining steps to create an easily accessible system of care for veterans.
Posted by Steve Peoples at 7:15 AM
Newport shellfish beds open today
NEWPORT -- Tonight may be a good night for eating quahogs.
The state Department of Environmental Management opened the southern portion of Easton's Bay in Middletown and Newport to shellfishing at sunrise this morning, nearly a week after raw sewage contaminated the area.
DEM water testing found that levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the bay are safe, according to a statement released yesterday.
The northern two-thirds of Easton Bay, closest to where the Wave Avenue pump station failed last week, remain closed to shellfishing.
Posted by Steve Peoples at 7:02 AM