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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — The remains of six U.S. service members who went missing when their plane disappeared in southern Laos during the Vietnam War in 1965 have been recovered, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on late Thursday. They will be buried together next week.

The six service members went missing on December 24, 1965, during a combat strike mission in southern Laos. The men were aboard a Douglas AC-47 Spooky aircraft which disappeared after a mayday signal was sent out, and two days of search-and-rescue operations were unsuccessful.

Nearly three decades later, in 1995, a joint U.S.-Laos team investigated a site in Savannakhet Province where local villagers had reported seeing a two-propeller aircraft crash in December 1965. A local man found aircraft wreckage similar to that of an AC-47D in a nearby field while farming, and led the team to that location. The team recovered small pieces of aircraft wreckage and recommended further investigative visits.

The investigation resumed in 1999 when a joint U.S.-Laos team returned to the site, and three additional visits took place in 2000 and 2001. The team conducted additional interviews with local villagers, recovered military equipment, and began an excavation. But because no human remains could be found, the excavation was eventually suspended.

In 2010, joint U.S.-Laos teams again visited the site and continued the excavation, which led to the recovery of human remains, personal items, and military equipment. Three additional excavations in 2011 recovered additional human remains and evidence, which were taken to the United States for further investigation.

Scientists from America’s Joint Prisoners of War (POW)/Missing In Action (MIA) Command have since been able to identify the remains using dental records and circumstantial evidence. The six victims were identified as U.S. Air Force Col. Joseph Christiano of Rochester, N.Y.; Col. Derrell B. Jeffords of Florence, S.C.; Lt. Col. Dennis L. Eilers of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Chief Master Sgt. William K. Colwell of Glen Cove, N.Y.; Chief Master Sgt. Arden K. Hassenger of Lebanon, Ore.; and Chief Master Sgt. Larry C. Thornton of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

The remains of the six men have now been returned to their families, military officials said on Thursday, but the cause of the crash is unlikely to ever be determined. The victims will be buried on Monday as a group in a single casket representing the entire crew at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia with full military honors.

Since late 1973, the remains of 988 Americans killed in the Vietnam War have been accounted-for and returned to their families. With the accounting of the six men, 1,658 Americans remain missing from the conflict, which ended in April 1975 and left more than 315,000 people killed.

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SALEM, OREGON (BNO NEWS) — A family of five was found dead in the northwestern U.S. state of Oregon on early Tuesday morning, in an apparent domestic-related murder-suicide case, local authorities said. A sixth death is also being investigated.

A mother and her three children were found deceased at their house in the northeastern area of Salem, the capital of Oregon, at around 5:30 a.m. local time on Tuesday morning. They were discovered after a neighbor called 911 to report smoke coming from the residence, which is located in the 2800 block of Fisher Road Northeast.

“As firefighters were attending to the fire in the residence, they located the three young children and the woman and removed them from the house,” said Lieutenant Dave Okada, a spokesman for the Salem Police Department. “Evidence located at the scene indicated that the victims died as a result of homicidal violence and firefighters requested the Salem Police Department respond.”

Okada said an initial investigation led detectives to identify the husband of the woman, who is also the father of the deceased children, as a person of interest. He was later found deceased in a vehicle near Cottage Grove, a city about 78 miles (126 kilometers) south of Salem, in what appeared to be a suicide.

Meanwhile, detectives are also investigating the death of a man whose body was found beside the roadway on Fisher Road Northeast, just several hundred meters (yards) from the house where the mother and children were killed. Police said the body was discovered by a delivery driver who notified police at 4:23 a.m. local time.

Okada said detectives are treating the family deaths as a domestic-related murder-suicide situation. It is unclear how the sixth victim died, or if he is related to the murder-suicide case, but the scene was being treated as a separate investigation as of late Tuesday.

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COOS BAY, OREGON (BNO NEWS) — A strong earthquake struck off the coast of Oregon on early Wednesday afternoon, seismologists said, but there were no reports of damage or casualties and no tsunami warning was issued.

The 5.9-magnitude earthquake at 1:41 p.m. local time (2241 GMT) was centered about 271 kilometers (168 miles) west of Coos Bay, a city located in Coos County on the Pacific coast of the United States. It struck about 10 kilometers (6.3 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The USGS said it did not expect to see damage or casualties due to the earthquake’s distance from the coast, and there were no immediate reports of tremors being felt anywhere along the coast. No tsunami warning was issued by the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WCATWC).

Wednesday’s earthquake follows a 6.0-magnitude earthquake which struck the same area on February 14, also causing no damage. The earthquake in February was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit off the coast of Oregon in recent years.

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DJIBOUTI CITY, DJIBOUTI (BNO NEWS) — A U.S. Air Force plane crashed near an airport in the African nation of Djibouti on late Saturday evening, killing four service members, U.S. military officials said on Monday. The cause of the accident was not immediately known.

Officials at Hurlburt Field in Florida said the accident happened at around 8 p.m. local time on Saturday when a U-28A aircraft, the U.S. Air Force equivalent of the single-engine Pilatus PC-12, crashed about six miles (10 kilometers) from Camp Lemonnier at Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport.

Amy Oliver, a spokeswoman for Hurlburt Field, said the cause of the accident was not immediately known. “They were returning from a mission supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and they were returning back to the base when the accident occurred,” she said, referring to the U.S. military operation in the Horn of Africa. “I don’t have any information yet about what may have caused it. It is under investigation, we can’t speculate on that.”

The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed four U.S. airmen were killed in the crash, and there were no survivors. “U.S. military personnel were dispatched to the scene to provide immediate response assistance and secure the crash site,” a spokesperson for U.S. Africa Command said. “A safety board investigation has been initiated to determine the exact cause of the incident.”

Oliver identified those killed as 30-year-old Captain Ryan P. Hall, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, 29-year-old Captain Nicholas S. Whitlock, of Newnan, Georgia, 26-year-old 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens, of Bend, Oregon, and 26-year-old Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Hall, a U-28A pilot on his seventh deployment, had more than 1,300 combat flight hours while Whitlock, also a U-28A pilot, had more than 800 combat flight hours.

“The Hurlburt Field community expresses our deepest condolences to the family of the crew, and we share in their sorrow. Our efforts are focused on helping them through this difficult time,” said Col. Jim Slife, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing. “We will never forget the valuable contributions these brave men made to their country and community.”

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COOS BAY, OREGON (BNO NEWS) — A strong earthquake struck off the coast of Oregon on early Tuesday evening, seismologists said, but there were no reports of damage or casualties and no tsunami warning was issued.

The 6.0-magnitude earthquake at 7:31 p.m. local time (0331 GMT Wednesday) was centered about 256 kilometers (159 miles) west of Coos Bay, a city located in Coos County on the Pacific coast. It struck about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The USGS said it did not expect to see damage or casualties due to the earthquake’s distance from the coast, and there were no immediate reports of tremors being felt anywhere along the coast. No tsunami warning was issued by the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WCATWC).

Wednesday’s earthquake was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit off the coast of Oregon in recent years. In October 2011, a moderate 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck about 233 kilometers (144 miles) west of Coos Bay, also causing no damage or casualties.

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COOS BAY, OREGON (BNO NEWS) — A strong earthquake struck off the coast of Oregon on early Wednesday evening, seismologists said, but there were no reports of damage or casualties and no tsunami warning was issued.

The 5.9-magnitude earthquake at 8.13 p.m. local time (0413 GMT Thursday) was centered about 144 miles (233 kilometers) west of Coos Bay, a city located in Coos County on the Pacific coast. It struck about 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The USGS said it did not expect to see damage or casualties due to the earthquake’s distance from the coast, and there were no immediate reports of tremors being felt anywhere along the coast.

Wednesday’s earthquake was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit off the coast of Oregon in recent years, but no tsunami warning was issued by the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WCATWC).

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HILLSBORO, OREGON (BNO NEWS) — A couple from the U.S. state of Oregon has been arrested and charged in connection with the rapes of at least two young girls while they were babysitting them, police said on Thursday. Investigators fear there could be more victims.

William Paul Gaskin, 40, was arrested on April 29 for allegedly sexually abusing a three-year-old girl while he was babysitting her. Detectives were alerted after a roommate of the child’s parents came home unexpectedly and found Gaskin abusing the child.

Months later, on August 18 while Gaskin was still in jail, a father and former roommate of Gaskin reported that his five-year-old daughter had been sexually assaulted by him. “Beaverton police learned of the Sheriff’s office existing case on Mr. Gaskins and turned the new investigation over to our detectives,” said Sgt. David Thompson, a spokesman for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

According to detectives, the five-year-old girl and her father lived with Gaskin and his 23-year-old girlfriend who was identified as Desiree Chapman. “Gaskins and Chapman would babysit for the child when her father was at work,” Thompson said. “The child disclosed that Mr. Gaskin would sexually abuse her and Ms. Chapman was present while it occurred.”

As a result of the new allegations, Chapman was arrested on September 16 and charged with two counts of Rape in the First Degree, one count of Sodomy in the First Degree, two counts of Criminal Mistreatment in the First Degree, and one count of Using Child in Display of Sexually Explicit Conduct.

Gaskin, in whose apartment was found evidence of the abuse of the five-year-old girl, is facing two counts of Rape in the First Degree, four counts of Sodomy in the First Degree, two counts of Unlawful Sexual Penetration in the First Degree, and one count of Using Child in Display of Sexually Explicit Conduct.

“Sheriff’s detectives believe that Mr. Gaskin and Ms. Chapman have babysat many children in the past and that Ms. Chapman may have solicited babysitting services,” Thompson said. “Detectives are concerned that there may be more victims who have not reported the abuse because they are so young. Detectives are asking that anyone whose children have been alone with Gaskin or Chapman call Detective John Shipley at 503-846-2596.”

Under Jessica’s Law, both Gaskin and Chapman face minimum 25 year sentences.

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NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) — A teen was dismissed from a U.S. Ski Team on Friday after news reports emerged he urinated on a young girl during a JetBlue flight from Oregon to New York.

Robert “Sandy” Vietze, 18, was arrested by police at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on early Wednesday morning after an overnight flight from Portland in Oregon. He allegedly stood up during the flight and urinated on an 11-year-old girl while her father – a Stage 4 cancer patient – was in the lavatory himself.

News reports said Vietze was drunk when the incident happened, but it was not immediately clear if he had been given alcohol by JetBlue or if he was already drunk when he boarded the flight. The legal drinking age in the United States is 21.

Doug Haney, the chief press officer for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), said Vietze was previously nominated to the U.S. Development Alpine Ski Team for the 2011-12 season. He has now been dismissed from the team.

“Based on the information we have, Sandy Vietze is in violation of the USSA code of conduct and team agreement, and has been dismissed from the team,” said USSA Executive Vice President of Athletics Luke Bodensteiner.

Vietze is also facing misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure, which could result in a fine and up to one year in jail if convicted.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — The remains of a U.S. Air Force pilot who went missing in Laos during the Vietnam War in 1970 has been identified and returned to his family, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on Friday.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Richard G. Elzinga of Shedd, Oregon, went missing on March 26, 1970, when he and his co-pilot were flying a small Cessna O-1 Bird Dog aircraft on a familiarization flight over Laos. Search and rescue missions were quickly launched.

Just fifteen minutes after the last radio contact with Elzinga’s plane, a communication and visual search showed no sign of the men or their aircraft. Intensive search and rescue missions continued for two days with no results.

More than two decades later, in 1994, joint U.S.-Laos teams led by the U.S. Joint Prisoners of War (POW), Missing in Action (MIA) Accounting Command began analyzing leads, interviewing villagers, and surveyed possible crash site locations. The search continued until 2009 when, during several joint field surveys, teams recovered human remains, aircraft wreckage, and crew-related equipment.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the U.S. Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA — which matched that of his aunt and cousin — in the identification of Elzinga’s remains. It was not announced where the remains were found.

The process of identification for Elzinga’s remains was recently completed, after which his family was informed. The pilot’s remains have since been returned to his family and Elzinga will be buried on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Since late 1973, the remains of more than 930 Americans killed in the Vietnam War have been accounted-for and returned to their families. With the accounting of Elzinga, 1,686 Americans – including 32 civilians – still remain missing from the conflict.

On June 17, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that the remains of Air Force 1st Lt. David A. Thorpe of Seneca Falls, New York had been identified. Thorpe went missing in October 1966 when a C-130E aircraft carrying him and four other men went missing in South Vietnam.

And in June 2010, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that the remains of nine U.S. service members had been accounted-for and returned to their families. The nine service members went missing on May 22, 1968 when their C-130A Hercules aircraft crashed in the northern Salavan Province of Laos.

The Vietnam War between November 1955 and April 1975 left at least 315,000 people killed and nearly 1.5 million others injured. It took place in South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

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KLAMATH FALLS, OREGON (BNO NEWS) — A woman was injured on early Sunday morning after a 6-year-old boy took his mother’s van and crashed it into another vehicle, state police said.

The accident happened at around 7.15 a.m. local time in the south suburbs of Klamath Falls, located in Klamath County, when emergency responders were dispatched to a motor vehicle crash on Birstol Avenue near Fargo Street.

“Upon arriving at the scene, Trooper Sabrina Criswell discovered one of the involved drivers was a 6-year old boy who had taken his mother’s 1996 Plymouth Voyager van and left the family’s apartment westbound on Bristol Avenue,” said State Police Sergeant Robert Fenner.

Fenner said the boy was alone driving the van and crashed into several mailboxes before swerving into the eastbound lane where it crashed head-on with a 1992 Dodge Dakota pickup, which was driven by 29-year-old Tammy J. Belau.

The boy was not injured despite not wearing safety restraints, while Belau suffered minor injuries. “[The boy] said he was hungry, took a roll of pennies from home and drove the van to get some food,” Fenner said. “His name is not being released.”

State Police troopers have begun an investigation with the assistance of the Child Welfare Division of the Department of Human Services. It is unknown how the boy was able to take the vehicle.

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