Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on January 11, 1997 · Page 4
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 4

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Saturday, January 11, 1997
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A-4 PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE SATURDAY, JANUARY 1 1, 1997 NATIONAL 12 dead ih frigid, snowy Midwest Drifts block roads in Dakotas,Minn.; 3 missing inS.D. By Andrew Stern Reuters News Service CHICAGO Arctic air blew into the central United States yesterday on. the heels of a snowstorm that has been blamed for at least 12 deaths. Rescuers ventured out into subzero cold to save stranded motorists as ;snow drifts blocked roads and highways across North and South Dakota and Minnesota, where schoolchildren and many workers stayed home. One woman was found frozen in her car at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in South Dakota, add ing to the 11 deaths authorities blamed on the storm Thursday. Three other motorists in South Dakota were missing, including Karen Nelson of Webster, who had been trapped in her pickup truck since Thursday morning. Nelson was using her cellular phone to call for help, but she could not describe where she was because of white-out conditions and her telephone's battery was running low. Rescuers attempted to pinpoint her location by using global positioning satellite technology. With police cruisers and snow plows ordered off the roads, rescuers, used snowmobiles to retrieve stranded drivers. Highway truck stops were crowded with people taking refuge from the bitter weather. A motorist in Sioux Falls, S.D., whb stopped to help another driver sWck in a snowdrift was hurt when his. car was rear-ended. Scores of stranded drivers were told to stay in their vehicles and wait until they could be rescued. !!There's no sense sending rescue people out and getting them in trouble," Ray Staiger, director of the. South Dakota Emergency Management Agency, said. Police set up barricades to prevent stubborn motorists from entering closed roadways, and Marshall, Minn., was blocked off for the second time in a month to keep residents from leaving. Snow effectively blocked access to many towns, including Aberdeen, S.D., where plumber Judy Dall-mann said she was unable to respond to an increasing number of service calls. "They've called in all the snow-plows here now. Most of the roads are blocked in town and out you can't get out of town either. We're stuck," Dallmann said. Government workers in western Minnesota were told to stay home and non-essential employees in the Dakotas were told to use their discretion in venturing out. Temperatures dropped well below freezing and nigh winds snapped powerlines, temporarily cutting power to hundreds of people in South Dakota. In Minot, N.D., a temperature of minus 24 degrees felt like 70 degrees below when taking into account wind gusts of 35 mph. An Amtrak train enroute to Seattle with 176 passengers was stopped in Stanley, N.D., waiting for the tracks to be cleared of snow. Rail traffic on the line between Minot and Havre, Mont., was halted. In Montana, the Blackfeet Indian tribe sought federal assistance after their supply of firewood, their primary source of home heating, became depleted and the cold made harvesting almost impossible. Forecasters said the cold air mass that swept into the Midwest from Canada was expected to stall over the region for several days. A weaker storm spinning out of the southwest was expected to coat the Rocky Mountains and southern Plains with a few more inches of snow. Sub-freezing temperatures may seep into the deep South and combine with that moisture to produce a dangerous ice storm along the Gulf Coast. Snow squalls erupted around the Great Lakes as the center of the storm moved into eastern Canada, spilling gusts across the warmer waters to create lake effect snow. Light snow coated Chicago roadways, which crews rushed to remove before the frigid air came through to freeze it. More snow fell on Kentucky, canceling classes. Residents dug out from up to 6 inches of snow in parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York and the New England states from a separate storm that swept through Thursday. Meanwhile, Vice President Al Gore was on a visit to the storm-ravaged West Coast to pledge federal aid, but his plane had to be diverted to Seattle from Northern California because of bad weather. The region has suffered a relentless series of storms since Dec. 26 that have caused 20 deaths and more than $1.5 billion in damage. .. x v .... Jw-. -. i - V)ki:7 Firefighters carry a body yesterday from the wreckage of the twin-engine turboprop that crashed Thursday near Commuter airlines safety is improving New procedures ordered by FAA after Indiana crash By John H. Cushman Jr. The New York Times WASHINGTON - The latest deadly crash of a commuter plane occurred just as the regional airline industry is completing a major overhaul of its safety procedures imposed by the government after a series of earlier crashes. In May 1996, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered the industry to adopt new procedures to deal with icy weather, in response to a 1995 crash in icy weather in Indiana that killed 68 people on an American Eagle ATR-72 turboprop plane. In ordering the rules, which affect 29 types of turboprop planes, agency officials said they thought they had solved the problem that caused the Indiana crash. In December 1995, the agency ordered smaller airlines those that carry up to 30 passengers at a time on short flights to follow the same basic rules as the larger airlines do with their big jets. That change, ordered a year after a commuter plane crash in North Carolina, is to take full effect this March. Clinton administration officials described the elimination of a two-tier system of regulation as the most important aviation safety change in decades. Among the operating differences, some of which have already been adopted by many commuter airlines, are changes in pilot training, in how planes are equipped, and in the system of planning and dispatching flights. Eventually, the smallest of the Silanes, carrying 19 passengers or ewer, are likely to be largely Ehased out, with 30-passenger tar-oprops and jets carrying 50 or so Eassengers taking up more of the usiness. The plane that crashed on Thursday near Detroit, killing all 29 people aboard, was a 30-passenger Embraer 120 turboprop operated by Comair. Yesterday, in another incident involving a commuter airline, a smaller Beechcraft 1900 operated by USAir Express crashed while Probers find COMAIR FROM PAGE A-l Delta Connection. Many of those killed in the crash were involved in the auto industry that dominates the Detroit area. The passengers included a woman who was on the way to the funeral of her brother, who was himself killed in a cargo jet crash in Virginia; a theater professor and associate dean at the University of Michigan; a university student heading home from an interview with Procter & Gamble, and a Procter & Gamble executive who was a 1978 West Point graduate trained to fly combat helicopters. Hammerschmidt cautioned against speculating about the cause of the disaster. Investigators here faced an arduous task in piecing together clues about the crash. The harsh winter weather prevented officials from staying outdoors for more than 20 minutes at a time, and the force of the impact left parts of the engines and propellers buried. But the presence of all of the propeller blade tips at the crash site suggested that the blades had not broken in mid-air, as has happened t taking off from a slick runway in Bangor, Maine, but none of the 11 passengers were seriously injured. The cause of the Detroit crash is not yet known, so it is impossible to say whether the safety changes that have been ordered are relevant to that crash. The plane and the airline were covered by the safety measures imposed after previous crashes involving icing and propeller problems. The manufacturer of the Embraer 120 has said that it extensively tested the plane, which is built in Brazil and widely used in the United States, after the Indiana crash, but that no hardware changes were required. Pilots of the plane, like all turboprop pilots, were told to avoid flying in weather that would allow ice to build up on the wings. Comair has said it complied with all directives to inspect or repair propellers, another measure imposed after accidents involving this model of plane. Regional airlines, which fly shorter distances in smaller planes, have historically experienced relatively more accidents than larger airlines. Mike Overly, the editor of Aviation Safety Monitor, the publication of the nonprofit Aviation Safety Institute in Worthington, Ohio, said the problem was "the nature of the operation." "The planes are still allowed to go into uncontrolled airports," Overly said. "They are flying many more takeoff and landing cycles a day. Typically the takeoff and landing are the most dangerous phases of flight." In addition, he said, many commuter operations fly east of the Mississippi and are "certainly doing more than their share of flying in bad weather and a greater percentage of their time flying at altitudes where icing can occur." "I don't think we're going to change that," he added. "You can pass all rules in the world but you can't change the very nature of what makes a commuter operation a commuter operation as opposed to driving to the airport a hundred miles away and getting on a jet." Still, the safety record of commuter airlines has been improving, government data show. There was one fatal accident involving a com- black boxes in some previous accidents involving this model turboprop. Aviation accident experts said eyewitness accounts and the history of the downed aircraft, an Embraer 120, made it likely that federal investigators would pay close attention to the condition of the plane's propellers and the weather at the time of the crash. Taking special note of speculation that a buildup of ice on the aircraft might have caused the crash, Hammerschmidt said that the plane had been equipped with heated propeller tips, heated engine inlets and inflatable devices on the wings that can be used to break ice loose. The Brazilian-made plane took off from Cincinnati at 2:53 p.m. and crashed an hour later while approaching a runway at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Hammerschmidt said. The pilot, Dann Carlsen, did not mention any trouble over the radio before the crash. Other pilots in the area had reported severe icing conditions, and these warnings had been repeated by air traffic controllers on the frequency that the Delta Express flight was supposed to monitor. w y vrr. it .(f if; Hi, De-icing before foul weather flights Airlines use chemical fluids to make sure planes are free of ice, frost and snow before takeoff. Two formulas are commonly used: Type I removes ice, and Type II keeps ice off. r ::" r-:-- Tii8 I i ; Ice on the wings Wings provide an aircraft's lift. The most critical' area is the leading edge of the wing. Normal Air flows across top of wing, hugs surf ace; area of low pressure created, causes lift -. Leading edge Airflow Plane movement I D Instrument indicators, engine pressure gauges are less commonly affected by ice. D Once the plane takes off, heating systems in the wings guard against ice. SOURCE: Aviation Ground Equipment Market, Jane's Publications, Dow Chemical, Boeing Commercial Planes, National Transportation Safety Board; Research by WENDY GOVIER muter flight last year, a collision on the runway at a small airport with no air-traffic control tower. According to Aviation Week and Space Technology, a trade publication, the rate for fatal accidents among regional airlines declined for the fourth consecutive year in 1995, the most recent year for which comprehensive figures have been published. There were nine deaths that year. The accident rate was 0.003 per million miles flown, down from 0.005 the year before. Measured another way, the accident rate was 0.057 per 100,000 departures, down from 0.083 the year before. Excluding statistics from Alaska, where flying conditions are very different from those in the lower 48 states, the safety records of commuter airlines and the larger air- from Comair If investigators determine that ice is a likely cause of the crash, one of their tasks will be to determine exactly when these warnings were given and whether they came often enough. The National Transportation Safety Board has found in previous accidents that pilots sometimes do not have as much weather information as they should. But in the Midwest at this time of year, icing warnings are common. "They are just a 'heads up' for the pilot, one expert said. They may prompt a pilot to look for signs of ice on his plane, but because icing conditions can be so specific to a small area or altitude, a pilot may hear such warnings far more often than he actually encounters the iciness. Yesterday, on the brush-covered field where the plane crashed, investigators wearing bright yellow safety vests over black parkas crisscrossed carefully, looking for clues and human remains. While the snow was only 4 inches deep, temperatures were in the single digits last evening, with a wind chill down to 30 degrees below zero. The wind was so powerful that it reduced visibility to just 100 feet at times and made it difficult even A ? Dave ZapotoskyThe Blade of Toledo, Ohio Raisinville Township, Mich. Fluid is sprayed from airline de-icing trucks, repeating if necessary. Type I may be followed by Type II within 5 minutes. The procedure may be done at the gate or even on the taxiway. Protection time Type I: Two minutes Type II: Up to half hour When ice disrupts airflow, the plane won't lift off or will veer as it climbs. l5S Air hits Ice, bounces up off surface of wing; lift is lost i essmJ Airflow Plane movement I Latest developments Ice sensors on wings Q Large, stationary de-icing "car washes" KRTBlade Graphic lines are now equivalent, according to the Regional Airline Association, the industry's trade association. Although the commuter airlines expect challenges in adjusting to the new safety rules, like the requirement that smaller planes increase the distance separating them from larger planes landing and taking off ahead of them, the rules have so far not proved unduly disruptive, industry officials said. The commuter airline business continues to expand. In the first nine months of 1996, plane boardings increased by 10.1 percent, the miles traveled by paying customers rose 14.4 percent, and the percentage of available seats that were occupied increased to 53 percent from 49 percent a year earlier, according to the trade association. plane crash to walk across the stubble of an adjacent corn field. Forecasters predicted even colder weather this weekend. Theodore Rath, a farmer and truck driver, said that he saw the plane doing barrel rolls and cartwheels before hitting the ground. . Officials made plans yesterday to move the remains and the aircraft debris to hangars at tiny Custer Airport in Monroe, a town several miles east of here. But the move was delayed yesterday as surveyors had trouble setting up a grid to measure the location of each piece of the wreckage. The surveyors tried to use a pair of lasers to bounce light off reflectors mounted at each piece of debris. They then tried to use the angles of the two laser beams, the distance between the lasers and basic geometric principles to determine the exact position of each object, Johnson said. But so much snow was in the air that the surveyors had trouble obtaining accurate readings from their lasers, he said. A precise; mapping of every object could help investigators reassemble the plane and determine what happened. NATIONAL ESflfS Final vote tally i $881 million j WASHINGTON -Outdoing : themselves yet again, the national Democratic and Republi- ' can parties raised a record $881 ' million for the 1996 election, federal officials reported yesterday. That's a 73 percent increase over four years ago, when the various committees of the two parties brought in $508 million. The political price tag has been rising rapidly. Eight years ago, when George Bush was elected president, the two parties' total was only $207 million one-fourth of the 1996 figure. Republican committees, in- ! eluding those devoted to con- i gressional fund raising, brought in $549 million. Democratic com-... mittees raised $332 million. 911 call error BOULDER, Colo. Police investigating the murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey yesterday said there was no link between the child's slaying and a phone call placed to police from the residence three days before her body was found. "It appears that during a party at the home a telephone user mis-dialed while making a long-distance call," Boulder police said jn a statement. A Boulder police -officer was dispatched to the home after the call and found out about the mistaken dialing. Hair-eating doll suit - SAN DIEGO The parents : of a 9-year-old girl filed a $25.5 million lawsuit claiming their ; family will need therapy because of an "attack" on their daughter by a Cabbage Patch doll. In their state civil lawsuit, the parents of -Jessica Wells said the doll ,; gnawed the child's hair to her scalp four days after Christmas. -They said the entire family will r require psychological help for "mental and emotional injuries." '! Mattel pulled the Cabbage Patch ' Kids Snacktime Kids doll from the market this month after about 100 reports of children ; getting hair and fingers caught , in the battery-operated mouths. . ; The company offered a $40 re- : fund to doll owners. Pennies returned MIAMI A mother came to ' ' police and spilled out cash and ' quarters totaling $19.53. A pupil at a Catholic school turned in 85 ' cents. They were the first and ' so far the only people yester- day to give back money scooped 1 up from an armored truck that toppled on an overpass and rained more than $500,000 into -into one of Miami's poorest neighborhoods. Ebonics funds WASHINGTON Stepping squarely into the bitter national debate over Ebonics, Rep. Peter , King, R-N.Y., this week introduced a resolution to prohibit .' the use of federal funds for educational programs based on its use. The Republican called Ebonics "the product of radical political correctness and ridicu-. lous Afrocentrism" that will "further divide the country along racial lines and imperil the futures of black students by teach- ' ing them nonsense instead of ' teaching them English." $2.4 million found CLEVELAND - Federal au- ' thorities said yesterday they have recovered $2.4 million in ( , cash that appears to be part of , $2.5 million stolen from a Wells ' Fargo facility in Youngstown, Ohio, Nov. 29. The money, $2,445,350 in cash, was found in a , storage unit in Boardman, Ohio, a Youngstown suburb, the FBI said. Leesa Mazon, 27, of Struth-ers, Ohio, who was a Wells Far- :' go employee, and Jeffery Chicase, 33, of Poland, Ohio, have been indicted by a federal grand jury. Civil rights chief . WASHINGTON -Isabelle Katz Pinzler, an expert on worn- . en's rights, will be promoted to acting chief of the Justice Department's civil rights division Jan. 21. Dornan challenge WASHINGTON -A House panel established a task force yesterday to handle an election challenge filed by former Rep. Bob Dornan, R-Calif. Democrat Rep. Loretta Sanchez was certified the winner by California officials, and took the oath of office on Tuesday. For national ieitt LA updates call PG Link at I 261-1234; then press 2100.

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