About the author  ⁄ WFIN

Copy

U.S. Marine reservist Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, jailed in Mexico on gun charges since March, was ordered released by a judge in Mexico on Friday, according to documents released by the court.

The California native, 26, was arrested on March 31 after he says he got lost and crossed the Mexican border with three firearms in his pickup truck. Tahmooressi served two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

The family of Tahmooressi issued the following statement: “It is with an overwhelming and humbling feeling of relief that we confirm that Andrew was released today after spending 214 days in Mexican Jail.”

According to the Sixth District Court of Criminal Proceedings in the Federal State of Baja California in Tijuana, the charges against Tahmooressi were dismissed and he is free to go.

The possession of any weapon restricted for the use of the Army is a federal crime in Mexico regardless of whether visitors declare it or not upon entering the country.

“During my last visit with Andrew in a Mexican prison, I told him the next time I saw him would be during his release to America; I am grateful that I will be able to keep that promise and be with him and Mrs. Tahmooressi as he returns to the United States tonight,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Arizona. “Andrew is a brave Marine who served his country with honor, and I have long maintained that he has been held in a Mexican prison for far too long, and needed to be returned to the United States to receive proper treatment for the PTSD that he suffers from as a direct result of his heroic service to our nation.”

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office defended its decision to prosecute Tahmooressi in a statement released in June.

“In Mexico, like in the United States, ignorance of the law, error, misperceptions or misunderstandings about the consequences of violating a law, are not exemptions from responsibility,” prosecutors said in the statement.

Tahmooressi’s mother Jill in July said she was able to spent 20 minutes with her son after a court hearing, when he was ordered to be held in jail.

“He’s very strong. He’s very strong and positive. And he’s confident,” she said then.

The State Department had been actively engaged in the case. Consular officers have visited Tahmooressi numerous times, and at least 71 members of Congress have signed a bi-partisan letter asking the judge for leniency.

Unlike American law, in Mexico one is guilty until proven innocent and the decision rests solely in the judge’s hands.

With reporting by ABC’s Moseh Gains and The Associated Press.

Read More →
PHOTO: Thirty states have announced theyre halting the installation of ET-Plus guardrails.

Copy

The federal government has received, but is refusing to disclose, an urgent plan to re-test the safety of guardrails found on American highways across the country amid accusations they are dangerous to motorists.

Just under the deadline, Trinity Industries, maker of the controversial ET-Plus system, submitted plans to the government for the new tests, as 30 states have announced they’ve already banned new installations of the guardrail until it is proven safe.

“The Federal Highway Administration received Trinity’s ET-Plus test plan. The FHWA will expeditiously, but carefully, review the plan,” a statement provided today from the FHWA to ABC News reads.

The government agency says it will review what Trinity Industries sent “with a sense of urgency” but does not have a timetable in which it will respond to the company. Starting 10 days ago, Trinity had been given until today to submit plans or the government would rule the commonly-used guardrail ineligible for American roads.

ABC News

PHOTO: Thirty states have announced they’re halting the installation of ET-Plus guardrails.

The FHWA would not disclose further information about the crash test plans and directed requests for details of the “draft plan” to Trinity. A spokesperson for Trinity told ABC News it is not sharing details publicly at this time.

“The public should be able to review these materials,” said Sean Kane, founder of The Safety Institute. “We can’t tell the difference between the regulators and the regulated here. This coziness has been part of the problem since the beginning.”

Thirty states have now announced they are suspending further installation of the ET-Plus and one state, Virginia, said it is making plans to remove the guardrails from its highways entirely. Late last week, Trinity Industries said it would halt sales of the ET-Plus.

The demand from the FHWA for crash tests came a day after a Texas jury ruled that Trinity had defrauded the government by altering an approved guardrail end terminal design nearly a decade ago and then failing to tell federal or state transportation departments about the changes until questions were raised in 2012. Trinity was ordered to pay $175 million in damages — a figure expected to triple by statutory mandate.

The ET-Plus System was the subject of an ABC News “20/20” investigation in September that looked into allegations from crash victims that the modified guardrail can malfunction when struck from the front by their vehicles’. Rather than ribboning out and absorbing the impact as designed, the guardrails “locked up” and speared straight through the cars, severing the motorists’ limbs in some cases.

PHOTO: In a wreck in North Carolina, a guardrail pierced the car of N.C. man Jay Traylor, severing his legs.

Law Enforcement Officials

PHOTO: In a wreck in North Carolina, a guardrail pierced the car of N.C. man Jay Traylor, severing his legs.

Lawyers for the plaintiff in the Texas case, Josh Harman, expressed concern about any planned crash tests to the FHWA and have asked to be involved in discussions prior to the testing of the ET-Plus.

Read More →
PHOTO: Virgin Galactic White Knight Two carries SpaceShipTwo for the first rocket powered flight (PF01) since the beginning of the program that began in 2005 in Mojave, Calif., April 29, 2013.

Copy

The crash of the Virgin Galactic spacecraft that killed one pilot and injured another scattered wreckage across a large area of the Mojave desert, but it also clearly rattled the “small” community of test pilots and technicians in the field.

“Space is hard and today was a tough day,” said George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic. He added, “The future rests in many ways on hard days like this.”

Stuart Witt, the CEO of Mojave Air and Space Port, said the death of the pilot was keenly felt.

“When we have a mishap from the test community, we find the test community is very small And we are human and it hurts,” Witt said.

Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic/Getty Images

PHOTO: Virgin Galactic White Knight Two carries SpaceShipTwo for the first rocket powered flight (PF01) since the beginning of the program that began in 2005 in Mojave, Calif., April 29, 2013.

The officials confirmed that both people involved in the incident were test pilots from the Virgina Galactic partner, Scaled Composites. The pilots were not identified.

Sheriff Donnie Younblood said, “I flew around the crash site. It’s a large area. The aircraft is in several different pieces.”

Virgin founder Richard Branson is expected to arrive in Mojave by Saturday morning. Also due at the site on Saturday is a team from the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB announced that they will send a full team of investigators, led by acting chairman Christopher Hart.

Witt said the exact cause of the “anomaly” that caused the crash remains unknown.

“From my eyes and my ears, I detected nothing,” Witt said.

“I knew [something was wrong] when other things weren’t happening. It wasn’t cause something happened, it was something’s not happening,” he said.

Whitesides said that a new fuel formulation was being used in this test flight, but said that it had been “proven and tested numerous times on the ground.”

The craft dubbed SpaceShipTwo was destroyed after it separated from its mother ship, White Knight Two, the company said.

Kevin Mickey, president of Scale Composites, explained that the mother ship flies the spacecraft to 45,000 feet, “then it’s released. It’s a glider in free fall. Then the rocket is lit and you are on your way.”

Virgin Galactic, part of Branson’s group of companies, has announced plans to operate a fleet of SpaceShipTwo vehicles for private sub-orbital flights.

This is the second private space mission to end catastrophically this week.

On Tuesday, an Antares rocket produced by Orbital Sciences exploded seconds after liftoff in Virginia while on a NASA-contracted supply mission to the International Space Station.

“This hasn’t been an easy week. It certainly has been a challenge,” Witt said. “But where I’m from this is where you find out your true character.”

ABC News’ Matt Hosford and Jonah Lustig contributed to this report.

Read More →

Copy

They earned it.

U.S. Marshals and Pennsylvania State Police celebrated the capture of accused cop killer Eric Frein with drinks at a tavern near the Pocono Mountains, hours after he was finally caught a few miles away, a bar manager told ABC News today.

About 15 to 20 law enforcement officers gathered at Rudy’s Tavern in East Stroudsburg on Thursday night after catching Frein, one of FBI’s most wanted fugitives, near an abandoned airport hangar about seven miles away, manager Kelly Quaresimo said.

“It gave our community a chance to say thank you and buy them a drink, shake their hands,” she said of the celebration, adding that she and other excited patrons chipped in for most of the officers’ drinks.

Quaresimo, whose father owns the bar, said some of the officers who were there are regulars. Earlier that night, everyone was thrilled when they heard the news that Frein had been captured and was finally out of their woods, she said.

“Everyone was clapping, it gave me goosebumps,” she added. “For this whole community, it’s huge.”

Read More →

Oct 31, 2014 3:46pm

Rescuers had difficulty searching today for the victims of a crash at a Wichita, Kansas, airport, with investigators fearing the badly damaged building might collapse at any moment.

“We don’t like leaving folks who have died in a structure overnight, but we don’t want to get anybody else hurt,” said Brad Crisp, Wichita’s fire marshal.

NTSB waiting to inspect plane in Wichita airport crash.
At least 4 dead in small plane crash at Wichita airport.
Crews to begin work to recover Wichita plane crash victims.

Four people were killed, including pilot Mark Goldstein, when a Beechcraft King Air 200, full of fuel, lost power in the left engine shortly after takeoff Thursday at the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

The plane slammed into the FlightSafety Building, igniting an inferno. Today, small fires were still being put out as pieces of the building continued to break off.

Authorities said today that the three people who were killed on the ground were in flight simulators at the moment of impact. Flight simulator pods typically house a pilot, copilot and flight instructor.

Authorities did not release the names of the three victims. Heavy equipment was expected to be brought in today to help stabilize the building and enable rescuers to recover the bodies.

Five people were hospitalized after the crash Thursday, including one person in serious condition. Goldstein was flying solo.

Goldstein’s colleagues today said he knew he was in trouble right away.

“Mark was an air traffic controller and the other other controllers knew his voice,” said friend Ron Ryan. “They knew when he declared an emergency and lost the left engine. They knew who it was.”

A National Transportation Safety Board team was at the scene of the crash waiting to being its investigation.

ABC News’ Ryan Smith, John Bentley and Whitney Lloyd contributed to this story.

SHOWS:
Read More →
PHOTO: Nina Pham is hugged by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, outside NIH in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 24, 2014.

Copy

Simple beige walls and the Spartan furnishings is what Ebola patient Nina Pham lived with during the eight days she was treated at the isolation block of the National Institutes of Health.

ABC News got a look inside the specially designed unit, one of only four facilities in the country specially designed to handle a contagion of Ebola’s level. This one was designed in 2010 to cope with the threat of outbreaks for diseases such as Influenza or SARS, and then adapted for Ebola.

A small antechamber with negative air-pressure separates the corner room where Pham was treated from the rest of the block, known as the Special Clinical Studies Unit.

NIH’s infectious disease director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, demonstrated the facility and complex biohazard suits used by its clinicians.

It can take over 10 minutes to assemble the apparel known as PPE, for Personal Protective Equipment, and roughly a dozen separate pieces go into it. From multiple layers of the special repellant cloth known as Tyvek to wireless radio transmitters and a respirator, the dizzying process of donning and removing the gear – known as doffing — is designed to never expose the wearer to contaminated material.

The procedure is so complex that a specially trained observer stands by to supervise with a lengthy checklist.

“There are variations of this process,” Fauci said as two clinicians donned and doffed behind him. “So if some group doesn’t do it exactly like this it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. This is just best for us.”

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

PHOTO: Nina Pham is hugged by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, outside NIH in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 24, 2014.

“This process is not an easy process. The one thing you want to be sure of is that you are at your most fatigued when taking off your material, when you are doffing. And that’s when you are most vulnerable of being infected, so that’s why you do it very, very carefully,” he said.

Nina Pham was released last week after eight days under supervision at the center. She was diagnosed Oct. 11 after contracting the deadly virus in the process of treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the first to bring the disease to American soil, at a Dallas hospital. Duncan died from the virus.

The disease, for which is there is no proven antibiotic cure, has killed thousands since this year’s outbreak began in West Africa.

Read More →

Copy

In yet another legal seesaw, the Maine nurse who treated Ebola patients in West Africa and has fought her state’s quarantine rules can leave her home and go to public places as she awaits her hearing, according to a court order filed today in Augusta.

The order overrides a temporary order filed Thursday night, which mandated that nurse Kaci Hickox not be present in public places, not leave the town of Fort Kent and stay at least 3 feet from anyone when she does go out.

According to the new order, Hickox must agree to active monitoring and coordinate her travel with health authorities until a hearing can take place. She must also report any symptoms she experiences to public health authorities.

The restrictions fall short of the mandatory quarantine and forced Ebola blood test officials had threatened earlier in the week.

Hickox, 33, went on a bike ride Thursday after vowing Wednesday night she wasn’t willing to “stand here and have my civil rights violated.”

The nurse, who had been treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone for Doctors Without Borders, said she was fighting for her rights as well as other health care workers who will be returning from the Ebola hot zone in West Africa. She said that Doctors Without Borders told her another 20 health care workers will be coming home in the next month.

“Most aid workers who come home just want to see their family and have a sort of normal life,” she said Wednesday night. “I’m fighting for something other than myself. There are aid workers coming back every day.”

Hickox said she isn’t committed to a quarantine that isn’t “scientifically valid.” The quarantine demand goes beyond guidelines put out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicate that she can’t spread Ebola if she isn’t sick, doesn’t have symptoms and no one is in close contact with her bodily fluids.

Hickox landed in Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday and was questioned for six hours and quarantined in an isolation tent at University Hospital in Newark over the weekend. After testing negative for Ebola twice, she was allowed to travel to Maine, where the health commissioner announced that Maine would join the handful of states toughening its quarantine rules. The quarantine was voluntary, however, sending officials scrambling to find a way to legally enforce it.

Read More →
PHOTO: This Satellite image shows the Birchwood-Pocono Airpark in Pa.

The abandoned airplane hangar where accused cop killer Eric Frein was found has been closed for the past 16 years.

Frein, 31, was captured by a team of U.S. Marshals in an open field near the Birchwood-Pocono Airpark around 6 p.m. on Thursday. Pennsylvania officials announced today that the marshals were not directed to the airpark by any specific tip, but were checking the area as part of their normal search.

Google Maps

PHOTO: This Satellite image shows the Birchwood-Pocono Airpark in Pa.

The airpark is located near Tannersville about 30 miles away from where Frein allegedly shot two state troopers on Sept. 12. The airpark is just one long runway and a hangar. The facility is surrounded by thick woods and a small lake, with just a few rural roads in the area.

The landing strip was originally built in the early 1960s when the owner of the nearby Birchwood Resort wanted to drive more traffic to his hotel. USA Today reports that the tiny airport closed in 1998.

“I had been there when it was a viable resort,” a nearby resident who identified himself as Lou told ABC News. “I was there a couple times. There was a nightclub scene.”

Officials would not reveal what they found inside the hanger, which they believe Frein used as a shelter during his 48 days on the run.

Google Maps

PHOTO: This Satellite image shows the Birchwood-Pocono Airpark in Pa.

Read More →

A nurse who fought quarantine rules after returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa said she thinks a court ruling in her favor today will ensure that other health care workers returning from Africa are given “human treatment.”

“I am humbled today by the judge’s decision and even more humbled by the support that we have received by the town of Fort Kent, the state of Maine, across the United States and even across the border,” Hickox told reporters today from her home in Fort Kent.

Read More →
PHOTO: Virgin Galactic White Knight Two carries SpaceShipTwo for the first rocket powered flight (PF01) since the beginning of the program that began in 2005 in Mojave, Calif., April 29, 2013.

Copy

One person died and another suffered a major injury after Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spacecraft crashed in California’s Mojave Desert today.

California Highway patrol confirmed the fatality and the injury, but did not specify the individuals involved.

Virgin Galactic confirmed the “in-flight anomaly” and said that their first concern was the safety of their pilots but did not report their commission.

“Virgin Galactic’s partner Scaled Composites conducted a powered test flight of #SpaceShipTwo earlier today,” the company tweeted.

SpaceShipTwo was destroyed after it separated from its mother ship, White Knight Two, the company said.

Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic/Getty Images

PHOTO: Virgin Galactic White Knight Two carries SpaceShipTwo for the first rocket powered flight (PF01) since the beginning of the program that began in 2005 in Mojave, Calif., April 29, 2013.

“During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of SpaceShipTwo. WK2 landed safely,” according to the company. “Our first concern is the status of the pilots, which is unknown at this time.”

“We will work closely with relevant authorities to determine the cause of this accident and provide updates ASAP,” the company added.

Virgin Galactic, part of British billionaire Richard Branson’s group of companies, has announced plans to operate a fleet of SpaceShipTwo vehicles for private sub-orbital flights.

This is the second space mission to end catastrophically this week.

On Tuesday, an Antares rocket produced by Orbital Sciences exploded seconds after liftoff in Virginia while on a NASA-contracted supply mission to the International Space Station.

Read More →