Montana Archives:

CLINTON, MONTANA (BNO NEWS) — Two people were killed on Sunday when a bus rolled over in the U.S. state of Montana, officials said on Monday. More than 30 others were injured, some seriously.

The accident happened at around 7:15 a.m. local time on Interstate 90, just east of the city of Missoula in the county which carries the same name. Montana Highway Patrol Captain Greg Watson told Billings Gazette that the bus had taken off from Billings and was headed toward Missoula when it slid on the icy road, rolled over and landed on its side in the median.

The bus was carrying a total of 35 people, of whom two were killed. Thirty-three others were injured, including one passenger who was reported to be in a critical condition. Seven others were seriously injured while the remaining 25 suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

A Clinton school bus was used to transport 21 people to the Community Medical Center for non-life-threatening injuries, while twelve others were either airlifted by helicopter or rushed by ambulances to the St. Patrick hospital, hospital officials told the newspaper.

The driver of the bus, a 53-year-old unidentified man, was said to be a ‘solid’ driver with a good record and no issues of reliability. The driver had previously also worked for Greyhound, according to a spokesman for the American Bus Association and Rimrock Stages.

The cause of the accident has not yet been determined, but highway conditions were extremely icy. An initial investigation also determined that the driver was driving too fast for such road conditions. A number of other accidents were also reported on the same road.

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SEATTLE, WASHINGTON (BNO NEWS) — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday proposed a $455,175 civil penalty against Corporate Air for allegedly operating a Beech 1900C airliner when it was not in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations.

The FAA alleges Corporate Air, which is based in Billings, Montana, failed to maintain the aircraft under the company’s general maintenance manual, which includes the Pratt & Whitney Canada maintenance manual for the aircraft’s turboprop engines.

According to the allegations by the FAA, that Corporate Air operated the aircraft on at least 80 flights in spite of continued evidence of excessive oil consumption by the right engine.

The FAA-approved aircraft and engine manuals call for post-flight inspection and repair of an engine experiencing excessive oil consumption. Corporate Air did not correct the oil consumption problem despite repeated inspections in which oil had to be added.

“Our aviation safety rules are designed to protect the flying public,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We expect airlines to comply with these rules and will take enforcement action when they do not.”

“The safety of the passengers and crew must be the top priority for any operator,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “All operators must comply with maintenance requirements.”

Corporate Air has 30 days from the receipt of the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

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MEETEETSE, WYOMING (BNO NEWS) – A fugitive who escaped from a prison in Arizona was captured in Wyoming on Monday by U.S. Marshals after being on the run for eleven days, police said.

Tracy Province, 42, was convicted in Arizona for murder and robbery. He was sentenced to life imprisonment but escaped from the prison eleven days ago along with two other inmates.

John Charles McCluskey, 45, and Daniel Renwick, 35, escaped with Province thanks to the aid of Casslyn Mae Welch, 43, who is the cousin and fiancée of McCluskey.

Province was captured alone in Meeteetse, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) from Yellowstone National Park. He was identified by a woman on the steps of a church. Police had earlier suspected that Province, McCluskey and Welch were hiding in Yellowstone National Park.

On the night of the prison break, Welch facilitated cutting tools to the inmates by throwing them over the prison’s fence. The three managed to get out of the facility and headed towards a car that Welch drove. However, they could not find the vehicle due to the darkness of the night.

Renwick decided to stay and look for the car but the other three chose to flee. Renwick was able to locate the car and drove towards Colorado where he was spotted by police forces and, after a shooting, he was captured.

The other three fugitives hijacked an 18-wheeler after ambushing the two truck drivers at gunpoint. They drove more than 150 miles (241 kilometers) to the Little America Truck Stop in Flagstaff, Arizona where they released the drivers.

On Wednesday, a couple, Linda and Gary Haas, was found charred in a camper in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. McCluskey and Province are suspects of this crime as there is evidence linking them to the Oklahoma couple’s truck, which was found in Albuquerque.

U.S. Marshals believe that the fugitives may seek refugee in Montana or Wyoming as both men have relatives in the area and are members of the Aryan Nations, which has cells there too.

The police believes the couple may be in Yellowstone as it sits at the northwest corner of Wyoming and extends a short distance into Montana and Idaho, both states where white supremacist groups have attempted to take root.

A team of marshals from Arizona has been working in the Yellowstone area since Sunday morning, along with marshals from Montana and Wyoming and officers from the National Parks Service. McCluskey is described as dangerous and armed.

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SHERIDAN COUNTY, MONTANA (BNO NEWS) — Two people were killed on Monday when a tornado destroyed a ranch in far northeast Montana, a coroner said.

Don Simonsen with the National Weather Service said two tornado-producing super cells in Daniels and Sheridan County merged into one storm, producing a tornado that touched down west of Reserve in Sheridan County at around 7.15 p.m. local time.

“We have had several reports of tornadoes,” Simonsen said. He added to say that the storm also produced large hail up to 3 inch in diameter, causing damage to crops in the area.

Sheridan County Coroner David Fulkerson confirmed the casualties. “Two people have died as a result of that storm,” he said.

According to Fulkerson, three people were sheltering in a farm building when the tornado struck, destroying the buildings at the ranch. “One survivor was found in the wreckage of the house,” he added. The condition of the survivor was not immediately known.

Simonsen said the storm later moved into North Dakota, where it weakened.

On June 20, a large tornado tore through the city of Billings, causing major damage to the state’s largest indoor arena and other buildings. No one was killed.

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HELENA, MONTANA (BNO NEWS) — Monica Lindeen, Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, on Friday announced a settlement with Goldman, Sachs Inc. in which it has agreed to pay a $75,000 fine.

Under the agreement, Goldman Sachs also agreed to repurchase from Montana investors the $25,650,000 in auction rate securities it sold before the market for the securities froze in February 2008.

Allegations that Goldman Sachs misled investors regarding the liquidity risks associated with auction rate securities (ARS) that the company underwrote, marketed and sold, led to a multi-state investigation, which was resolved on Friday with the settlement.

ARS are preferred shares or debt instruments such as corporate or municipal bonds, which have a long-term maturity and are sold at monthly or weekly auctions. Until recently, ARS were treated by many investors as cash investments. However, the auction-rate security market collapsed, bringing auctions to a halt and leaving investors illiquid investments.

The company disclosed that ARS were safe, but in late 2007 and early 2008, investors throughout Montana claimed that Goldman Sachs knew that the ARS market was deteriorating and began purchasing additional inventory to prevent failed auctions.

“This settlement with Goldman Sachs is my 15th auction rate settlement since I took office in January 2009, Lindeen said. “We went to bat for people who believed their investments were like cash and now, because of this settlement, they have all of their money back.”

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HELENA, MONTANA (BNO NEWS) – Montana received a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to help dislocated workers in wood products industry, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry announced on Monday.

“This is good news for impacted workers. We will continue to work hard to revitalize the sustainable timber industry in Montana,” said Governor Brian Schweitzer.

The $1.8 million in funds will provide dislocated workers from Plum Creek, Smurfit-Stone, and other companies impacted by the decline in the timber industry, with access to “wrap-around” and supportive services.

The services provided include dependent care, transportation assistance, job search assistance and other services related to workers pursuing employment and training opportunities. Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli and Sanders counties will benefit from this grant.

“This National Emergency Grant allows us to leverage additional funds in order to serve more dislocated workers in these areas than we would be able to otherwise,” said Labor Commissioner Keith Kelly.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) – The U.S. Department of Labor announced Monday that a grant was awarded to assist timber and wood products workers in Montana.

The $1.8 million grant, which will help around 450 workers affected by layoffs at Plum Creek Timber Co. Inc. and Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. in western Montana, will be operated by the Statewide Workforce Programs and Oversight Bureau.

Plum Creek laid off workers between January 8 and June 25, 2009, and Smurfit-Stone laid off workers following the facility’s closure on December 31, 2009.

The grant will provide dislocated workers from Plum Creek and Smurfit-Stone who are also certified as eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance with access to “wrap-around” and supportive services, which include dependent care and transportation assistance. The assistance helps them pursue training opportunities.

“Montana’s timber and wood products industry saw a marked downturn during the recent recession,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Today’s grant will help these workers enter training that will allow them to compete for and find jobs in new and emerging industries.”

Any workers not eligible for TAA will have access to the full array of training and employment-related services under this grant.

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HELENA, MONTANA (BNO NEWS) – The Montana Department of Labor and Industry announced free computer e-learning courses with certifications on Thursday.

An innovative public-private partnership between Microsoft’s Elevate America and Montana’s Labor Department is programmed to offer thousands of Montanans free computer e-learning courses on programs like Microsoft Office and Microsoft Windows along with certification exams and advanced IT professional courses.

“To have a strong economy, you have to have a strong workforce and ‘Elevate America’ offers a great way for our workers to ramp up their computer readiness to have an edge in the job market,” said Governor Brian Schweitzer.

“We are excited to be joining with Microsoft in this effort to give our citizens the opportunity for free computer training and certification,” Labor Commissioner Keith Kelly said. “It will help make our workers more marketable to employers.”

Montana’s Department of Labor and Industry will make voucher codes for free access to Microsoft e-learning programs available to the public starting Thursday, May 20, and there are 2500 vouchers for Microsoft e-learning courses, 2500 vouchers for Microsoft business certification courses and 625 vouchers for access to selected advanced IT professional courses.

Microsoft’s “Elevate America” program was announced in February 2009 and is expected to provide up to 1 million vouchers nationwide for Microsoft e-Learning courses and select Microsoft certification exams at no or low cost to recipients. The program, is part of Microsoft’s overall Unlimited Potential efforts to improve social and economic opportunities for people, providing technology training for up to two million people during the next three years.

“Elevate America will help to equip people in Montana with the crucial technology skills necessary to get a job in today’s competitive workplace,” said Tori Locke, Western Region General Manager, State and Local Government, Microsoft Corporation. “We believe that this type of public-private partnership will play an important role in rebuilding Montana and the nation’s economy by offering immediate access to technology literacy and skills training to improve recipients’ employment prospects.”

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SEATTLE (BNO NEWS) – A former Washington-area art dealer and two others were arrested for stealing artwork, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Kurt Lidtke, the former owner of Kurt Lidtke Galleries in Seattle, Washington, Jerry H. Christy, also known as Nick Natti, and Georgia Christy, also known as Monica Natti, both of Granite Falls, Washington, conspired to steal valuable artwork from homes in the Seattle area, and sell it to a buyer in Oregon. The buyer was actually an undercover federal agent.

During the course of the investigation, the FBI conducted surveillance of all three individuals and of possible targets. The FBI recovered numerous paintings and a sculpture that had been stolen in a Seattle burglary in November 2009. Paintings recovered in the course of the investigation include two by northwest artist Morris Graves, one by Mark Tobey, and a Rembrandt etching. Some of the recovered art was stolen as early as 2004.

On one occasion, the FBI had Seattle Police Officers contact Christy in early May while he was parked in a van outside a targeted home. He provided false identification documents in the name “Nick Natti” to the police officers.

Agents made the arrests Tuesday to prevent any additional burglaries.

Lidtke was arrested in Bozeman, Montana, and he will be appearing in federal court in that state on Tuesday. The Christy’s will make their first court appearance in Seattle on Tuesday as well. All three were charged with conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce.

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ISLAND PARK, IDAHO (BNO NEWS) — Seismologists recorded a minor earthquake on the Idaho-Montana state border on Friday afternoon. There were no reports of damage.

The 2.78-magnitude earthquake at 12.34 p.m. local time was centered in western Montana, about 22 miles (36 kilometers) north-northwest of Island Park, a city in Fremont County, Idaho. It struck about 7.8 miles (12.5 kilometers) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the Earthquake Studies Office at the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology.

There were no reports of damage from the small earthquake.

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