West Virginia Archives:

CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA (BNO NEWS) — At least eight people were killed, including six children, after a house in West Virginia caught fire, local authorities said on Sunday.

The fire broke out in the early hours of Saturday morning at around 3:25 a.m. local time at a home in Charleston, West Virginia. Local police told the Charleston Gazette that two sisters, 26-year-old Lisa Carter and 24-year-old Latasha Jones Isabell, lived in the house with their seven children.

The fire killed Carter and her boyfriend, who was spending the night at the house, although he did not live there. In addition, all of the six children killed were under eight years old. A seventh infant was taken to a local hospital where he is currently on life support and not expected to live.

Isabell was outside the house when the fire began and was uninjured from the incident.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones visited the area on Saturday morning and compared the incident to a 1949 Woolworth department store fire in which seven firefighters lost their lives, the newspaper reported.

Investigations are pending in order to determine the exact cause of the fire although a candle had been lit during the evening near the place where the fire began, in the middle of the two-storey home’s main level. Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants said criminal investigations will also be conducted.

Nonetheless, authorities took note that the people inside had no chance of being alerted with no functioning smoke detectors. Charleston laws require periodic inspections once every 24 months to determine whether rental properties are under compliance.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — One of the strongest earthquakes to strike the U.S. East Coast in decades rocked buildings as far as North Carolina and Canada on early Tuesday afternoon, seismologists said, causing damage to buildings and a number of injuries.

The 5.8-magnitude earthquake at 1.51 p.m. local time (1751 GMT) was centered about 5 miles (8 kilometers) south-southwest of Mineral, a small town in Louisa County in Virginia. It struck about 3.7 miles (6 kilometer) deep, making it a very shallow earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Strong shaking was felt over a large area which included Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, and small parts of Canada.

There were reports of scattered damage throughout the region and numerous injuries, but none were believed to be serious. “Though there are no early reports of major damage or requests for assistance at this time, preliminary damage assessments are currently taking place in all affected states and we will continue to work closely with their emergency management officials,” said Rachel Racusen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“FEMA, along with the entire federal family, is closely monitoring the situation and is in close contact and coordination with our partners in the National Capital Region and our state partners,” Racusen added. “Due to overload of cell phone usage, there are reports of cell phone congestion. We request that members of the public use email or text messages if possible to communicate for the next few hours, except in cases of emergency, so that emergency officials can continue to receive and respond to urgent calls.”

VIRGINIA

The extent of the damage near the epicenter of the earthquake was not immediately clear, and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said all resources of the state have been put on alert to assist in any way necessary. “All indications are that emergency response plans and orderly evacuations have gone well today, and I thank all involved,” he said.

Photos and videos uploaded to social networking websites showed damage to some buildings. A video uploaded to YouTube showed debris which crushed destroyed several cars in Tyson’s Corner, a unincorporated census-designated place in Fairfax County, Virginia.

At Louisa High School, not far from the epicenter, six students and one staff member were injured. One of them, a teacher, suffered minor injuries when a bookcase toppled over onto her. It was not immediately clear how the students were injured.

At the North Anna nuclear power plant in central Virginia, officials declared an Alert, which is the second-lowest of the four emergency classifications. The alert was declared after the plant lost electricity from the grid following the earthquake, but onsite diesel generators and the plant’s safety systems were operating normally.

At the Surry Nuclear Power Plant, plant officials declared an Unusual Event, which indicates a potential decrease in plant safety but is lower than an Alert.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Most buildings in downtown Washington, D.C. were immediately evacuated after the earthquake, including the White House, the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, and other government buildings. Several people were injured.

Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS), said the most significant damage was reported at the Ecuadorian Embassy, Bell Multicultural School, and several other buildings. “Most of those have significant cracks in the building, chimneys fallen down in the street, things of that nature,” the spokesman said.

“As you might imagine, our crews are very busy but those who are not on call are out in various neighborhoods doing some assessments,” Piringer said. “Checking for structural damage, of course our primary focus will be hospitals, senior centers, schools, buildings of that nature will have the priority, and they are reporting some damage to some of those buildings.”

NEW YORK

In the state of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said there were no reports of damage to buildings, bridges, roads, power grids, the Indian Point nuclear power plant, or other infrastructure. “The State Office of Emergency Management continues to monitor effects in New York State from the earthquake,” he said.

In New York City, scores of buildings were also evacuated, including City Hall and the 26-story federal courthouse which is located in lower Manhattan. “Shortly before 2:00 PM, we evacuated City Hall briefly, but quickly returned to work,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg said the earthquake was felt across the city’s five boroughs. “I’ve spoken with our Police and Fire Commissioners, and we’ve activated the Office of Emergency Management’s Situation Room and spoken to other city agencies, including the Department of Buildings. Thankfully, there are no reports of significant damage or injuries in New York City at this time,” he added.

Scott Vanderhoef, County Executive of Rockland County, where the Indian Point nuclear power plant is located, said the earthquake was felt at several locations around the plant, but not inside the control room. “Both units are operating at full power. There are no issues affecting plant operation. Both units have entered the procedure for responding to a seismic event and are checking equipment around the plant,” he said.

Vanderhoef added that there were also no reports of damage elsewhere in the county.

MASSACHUSETTS

The earthquake was also felt on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, located off the coast of Massachusetts, where U.S. President Barack Obama is for his annual vacation. “The president didn’t feel the earthquake today,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

Less than an hour after the earthquake, Obama held a conference call with a number of senior government officials to discuss the event. “The President was told that there are no initial reports of major infrastructure damage, including at airports and nuclear facilities and that there were currently no requests for assistance. The President asked for regular updates on the situation,” Earnest said.

PENNSYLVANIA

Shaking could also be felt in large parts of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation bridge inspectors were doing precautionary inspections of bridges. “We have no reason to believe the Virginia earthquake caused major damage to any state roadways or bridges,” said Scott Christie, the Department’s Deputy Secretary for Highway Administration.

The department said it was first inspecting bridges which are at least 200-feet (60-meter) long or 60 feet (18 meters) high. Inspections would continue throughout the evening and on Wednesday.

In Berks County, however, police closed the Penn Street Bridge in Reading after noticing cracks in the pavement on the bridge approach but the cracks may have been there before the earthquake. “PennDOT inspectors will thoroughly assess the bridge to make sure it was not damaged,” the department said.

Unusual Events were declared at the Peach Bottom Nuclear Generating Station, the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, and the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant.

WEST VIRGINIA

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said he was ‘surprised and immediately concerned’ about the earthquake. “Within minutes of the event, I directed Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato to contact various state agencies, utilities, chemical plants and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assess and make quick determination if any of our citizens or significant infrastructure was in need of assistance,” he said. “Fortunately, there are no reports of any injuries or damage caused by the quake.”

NEW JERSEY

Plant officials declared Unusual Events at the Salem Nuclear Power Plant, the Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station, and the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station.

MARYLAND

An Unusual Event was declared at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant near Lusby in Calvert County.

NORTH CAROLINA

An Unusual Event was declared at Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant in New Hill.

MICHIGAN

An Unusual Event was declared at Donald C. Cook Nuclear Generating Station north of Bridgman.

The earthquake in Virginia was the state’s largest in intensity since a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck Giles County in 1897. It also came just hours after a 5.3-magnitude earthquake struck 4 miles (6 kilometers) south of Segundo, a small unincorporated community in Las Animas County, Colorado. There was some damage, and the USGS said it was the strongest earthquake to hit the state since a 5.3-magnitude earthquake was recorded near Denver on August 9, 1967.

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CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA (BNO NEWS) — The chief of security at Massey Energy Company’s Upper Big Branch Mine (UBB) in West Virginia has been charged with two felonies in connection with a federal investigation into the coal mine, where 29 miners were killed in April 2010.

Hughie Elbert Stover, 60, of Clear Fork, Raleigh County, West Virginia, is chief of security at UBB and at least two other Massey operations. A federal grand jury indicted Stover last week on charges of making false statements to federal agents and obstructing a federal investigation. The indictment was unsealed on Monday after Stover was arrested at his home.

According to the indictment, Stover made materially false statements to an FBI special agent and a special investigator for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). These federal agents were investigating allegations that security guards at UBB routinely notified mine personnel when MHSA inspectors arrived at the mine. Allegedly, Stover falsely denied that such a practice existed and falsely told the agents that he would have fired any security guard who provided such advance notice. According to the indictment, Stover himself instructed UBB security guards to notify mine personnel whenever MSHA inspectors arrived at the mine.

The indictment also alleges that Stover recently caused a person known to the grand jury to dispose of thousands of pages of security-related documents stored in a Massey building near the UBB mine, with the intent to impede the federal investigation.

“The conduct charged by the grand jury – obstruction of justice and false statements to federal investigators – threatens our effort to find out what happened at Upper Big Branch,” said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. “With 29 coal miners lost and thousands more waiting for answers about what caused the disaster, this inquiry is simply too important to tolerate any attempt to hinder it. My office will continue to devote every available resource to this most critical of cases.”

Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division added: “The explosion at Upper Big Branch was a national tragedy, and this investigation is a priority for the Department of Justice. The indictment unsealed shows our deep commitment to getting to the truth about what happened, including holding to account anyone who may impede this critical investigation.”

Stover is scheduled to be arraigned on March 15 in Beckley, West Virginia.

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CHARLES TOWN, WEST VIRGINIA (BNO NEWS) — The last World War I veteran Army Corporal Frank W. Buckles on Sunday died at the age of 110 in West Virginia.

Buckles, the oldest known World War I era veteran in the world, was born in Missouri in 1901, but lived in a farm in Charles Town, West Virginia, until his death.

Buckles enlisted in the army at the age of 16 and served as an ambulance driver during World War I.

During World War II, he was captured by Japanese forces in the Philippines where he was working as a civilian and was held as a prisoner of war for over three years until he was rescued in 1945.

According to historian David DeJonge, who is working on a documentary about Buckles, Buckles called his nurse on Sunday because he was not feeling well and shortly took his last breaths.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Buckles “lived the American Century,” and like so many veterans, “he returned home, continued his education, began a career, and along with his late wife Audrey, raised their daughter Susannah.”

“And just as Frank continued to serve America until his passing, as the Honorary Chairman of the World War I Memorial Foundation, our nation has a sacred obligation to always serve our veterans and their families as well as they’ve served us.” 

“We join Susannah and all those who knew and loved her father in celebrating a remarkable life that reminds us of the true meaning of patriotism and our obligations to each other as Americans,” Obama stated. 

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ELKINS, WEST VIRGINIA (BNO NEWS) — A U.S. Marshal on Wednesday was killed and two other injured while serving a warrant in Elkins, West Virginia, the Charleston Gazette reported.

The U.S. Marshals arrived to the residence of Charles E. Smith in Elkins at about 8:30 a.m. local time. The law agents were to serve a warrant for Smith for failing to appear in court on possession of drugs and firearms charges.

After announcing their arrival, the officers got into the house but Smith opened fire at the U.S. Marshals using a shotgun. One officer was shot in the neck, while the others sustained gunshots to their limbs.

The law enforcement agents returned fire and killed the suspect. Two injured officers were transported by ambulance to the Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown while another was flown by helicopter.

The U.S. Marshal’s office confirmed that three U.S. Marshals were shot and one died later, according to WHCS television. The other two are reportedly recovering from the injuries.

Smith, 50, has been wanted since 2006 for an indictment on charges of distributing cocaine and illegal gun possession. The identity of the three injured law agents was not disclosed.

West Virginia State Police troopers were also involved in the execution of the warrant. The Elkins residence has been secured by police officers and an investigation was launched.

On Aug. 16, 2006, Senior U.S. District Judge Robert E. Maxwell issued a warrant for Smith from a federal indictment charging him with possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and being an unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm.

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ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA (BNO NEWS) – Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) on Wednesday announced the signing of a cooperative agreement with United Mine Workers of America Career Centers (UMWACC).

“The UMWACC and MSHA have continued a close working relationship through various contracts and cooperative agreements established in September 2008 and 2009,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

The collaboration will include a $1.45 million award from the U.S. Department of Labor’s MSHA to develop classroom and simulated rescue training programs for mine rescue teams. Past partnerships between the two bodies developed successful training programs and competitions for mine rescue teams.

“The Sago, Aracoma and Darby mine disasters of 2006 indicated the need to better train and prepare mine rescue teams to effectively respond to mine emergencies at underground coal mines. One of the best methods for preparing miners to respond to an emergency is through simulated mine emergency training,” said Gregory Wagner, MSHA’s deputy assistant secretary for policy.

In 2006, the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act was signed after such mine disasters. The act called for improving mine rescue teams and developing updated accident response programs.

Under the latest agreement, training will be conducted in classrooms, mine simulation lab facilities or, if viable, at mine sites with mine personnel. Distance learning is also being considered among the options but the training will focus in real and simulated conditions.

Training will be given at these facilities: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Pittsburgh Research Laboratory in Bruceton, Pennsylvania; the National Mine Health and Safety Academy Mine Simulation Laboratory in Beaver, West Virginia; and the Mining Technology and Training Center in Ruff Creek, Pennsylvania.

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CHARLES TOWN, WEST VIRGINIA (BNO NEWS) — A barn fire in northeastern West Virginia killed more than 40 horses on early Monday morning, officials told local media.

The fire broke out at around 5 a.m. EDT next to Charles Town Races, a gambling facility in Charles Town, a city in Jefferson County, according to Charles Town Independent Fire Company Chief Ed Smith, who spoke to WHAG-TV.

Smith said at least 41 horses were killed in the early morning fire, including several which raced at the track.

Officials said the stable is not owned by Charles Town Races, but is near the facility. Firefighters were still putting foam and water on the smoke rising from the barn hours after the fire broke out.

An employee of Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and a firefighter were both been transported to Jefferson Memorial Hospital Monday morning with minor injuries, WHAG-TV added.

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CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA (BNO NEWS) – West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin on Thursday offered aid to the Chilean government for the rescue efforts to free 33 miners trapped in the San Jose mine.

The offer was extended through the U.S. State Department. West Virginia offered its resources and expertise in order to attend the mental and physical well-being of the 33 miners that are still alive after three weeks of captivity.

The U.S. Department of State is working closely with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in order to come up with possible solutions and also would welcome any suggestions that West Virginia officials could provide.

Manchin designated the cabinet secretary for the Department of Health and Human Resources to coordinate with the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training to determine ways in which the state can assist.

“Mining families are strong and we want to make sure that the Chilean miners’ families understand that West Virginia is hopeful for a swift recovery of these brave miners. West Virginians know how difficult and agonizing it is to wait,” Manchin said.

“The state of West Virginia has gone through difficult times with mining disasters and the world has rallied around us in the past. It is only fitting that we do the same for our friends in Chile.”

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HUNTINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA (BNO NEWS) – A Huntington, West Virginia, man pleaded guilty on Monday for using a firearm to rob a bank on three separate occasions, prosecutors said.

Toby M. Duckett, 40, pleaded guilty to armed bank robbery and to brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence during the March 2 robbery of the People’s Bank located on 20th Street in Huntington.

Duckett entered the branch and wearing a green hooded jacket, sunglasses, gloves and a mask. He handed the teller a note demanding the quick delivery of money and not to try anything heroic. The bank teller had no choice but to agree with the demands of the bank robber, who left the crime scene with $1,355.

The defendant also admitted that on March 26 and April 17, Duckett has also stolen the same bank. All three robberies were captured on the bank’s video camera.

On April 22, officers of the Huntington Police Department executed a search warrant at the defendant’s residence and seized clothing worn during the robberies as well as the firearm used in them.

Duckett faces a maximum penalty of a life in prison and a $500,000 fine. The defendant is expected to give birth on November 22.

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WASHINGTON D.C. (BNO NEWS) – Carte Goodwin, Democrat of West Virginia, was sworn in on Tuesday to replace late Senator Robert Byrd who died on June 28.

Byrd was the longest-serving member of Congress and was replaced by Goodwin, who happens to be the youngest member in history. Goodwin, 36, previously was counsel to Governor Joe Manchin III from 2005 to 2009.

Goodwin’s arrival to Congress had an immediate impact as his vote in favor of the extension of unemployment benefits for jobless Americans helped Democrats to overcome a two-month delay on the measure.

The Senate began the voting just after the conclusion Goodwin’s swearing-in ceremony. Goodwin made clear that he is not considering a re-election.

Goodwin will have a difficult task ahead of him, not only Democrats are still one member short of overcoming Republicans in Congress but he has to fill the vacant spot left by Sen. Byrd, a beloved and respected Congressman in West Virginia.

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