Review Category : National News

Under the Wire: Guardrail Company Avoids Nationwide Ban With Crash Test Plan

zebra3/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — 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 Friday 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 Friday to submit plans or the government would rule the commonly-used guardrail ineligible for American roads.

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.

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.

“While we believe crash testing is important, we have several concerns about the protocol outlined by your office for testing and… we believe that testing alone would be insufficient to determine whether the ET-Plus should be eligible for federal reimbursement,” wrote attorney George Carpinello.

Dean Sicking, a renowned guardrail engineer who authored manuals for crash testing –- and who also testified against Trinity Industries in the federal trial — wrote to the agency, questioning the type of tests it may conduct, concerned that there has been an “ongoing deception of the FHWA” by Trinity Industries.

Trinity has maintained the guardrails are safe, noting that the FHWA approved the modified guardrail for use after questions about the modifications were raised in 2012. The company plans to appeal the Texas verdict and has previously told ABC News it has a “high degree of confidence in the performance and integrity” of the ET-Plus system.

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Building Stability Affecting Search for Victims of Kansas Plane Crash

Jaison Podkanowicz(WICHITA, Kan.) — Rescuers had difficulty searching on Friday 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.

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. On Friday, small fires were still being put out as pieces of the building continued to break off.

Authorities said Friday 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 on Friday 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 on Friday 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 begin its investigation.

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One Dead, One Injured in Virgin Galactic Spacecraft Crash

Virgin Galactic(MOJAVE, Calif.) — One person died and another suffered a major injury after Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spacecraft crashed in California’s Mojave Desert on Friday.

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 its first concern was the safety of its 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.

“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.

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One Dead, One Injured in Virgin Galactic Spacecraft Crash

Virgin Galactic(MOJAVE, Calif.) — One person died and another suffered a major injury after Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spacecraft crashed in California’s Mojave Desert on Friday.

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 its first concern was the safety of its 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.

“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.

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No Quarantine for Kaci Hickox While She Awaits Hearing, Judge Rules

ABC News(FORT KENT, Maine) — 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, a judge ruled Friday in Augusta.

The ruling 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 court 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.

Hickox’s attorneys said they are “pleased with the decision” because it “validates” what she has been saying since she was quarantined upon return to the United States at Newark Liberty International Airport on Oct. 24.

“An individual who is does not have Ebola symptoms does not pose a public health threat and should not be quarantined,” her lawyers Norman Siegel and Steven Hyman said in a statement.

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

“The Court is fully aware that people are acting out of fear and that fear is not entirely rational,” the order states. “However, whether that fear is rational or not, it is present and it is real. [Hickox’s] actions at this point, as a health care professional, need to demonstrate her full understanding of human nature and the real fear that exists. She should guide herself accordingly.”

Maine Gov. Paul LePage said he would not appeal.

“As Governor, I have done everything I can to protect the health and safety of Mainers,” LePage said in a statement. “The judge has eased restrictions with this ruling and I believe it is unfortunate. However, the State will abide by law.”

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 New Jersey 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.

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It’s About Time: The Clock that Keeps the Entire US Ticking

Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — You may be looking forward to catching an extra hour of shut-eye this Sunday as most of the country prepares to roll their clocks back an hour for Daylight Saving Time, but have you ever wondered where time actually comes from?

ABC News/Yahoo! News ventured to the U.S. Naval Observatory in search of answers.

Situated atop a hill overlooking much of Washington, D.C., the observatory is perhaps best known as the home of the vice president’s mansion, but it is also home to the nation’s master clock.

Every time you turn on your cellphone or plug an address into your car’s GPS, you are actually communicating with the Naval Observatory.

“Everything is tied in to the master clock here,” Naval Observatory’s Public Affairs Officer Geoff Chester explained during a recent tour. “So, if you use anything that remotely touches GPS as a timing source, then you are essentially getting your time from us.”

Chester explained how the job of keeping the nation on time is a whole lot more complicated than counting up from “one-Mississippi.”

“We now use a particular frequency of an atom,” Chester said. “It’s essentially a microwave resent frequency, and a second is now defined as the interval of 9,192,631,770 hyperfine transitions of the ground state of a neutral caesium 133 atom.”

The 9,192,631,770 atomic intervals that measure a second is the basic building block of time as it is measured today.

In addition to watching the clock, the Naval Observatory has long played a role in keeping an eye on the sky. Chester showed ABC News/Yahoo! News a telescope that was built in 1893 to observe a particular type of star called “double stars,” which appear close to each other when seen from Earth.

“Double stars make up about two-thirds of the population of all the stars that you can see in the sky,” Chester said. “So, it’s very important for us to understand how these components of these double stars move relative to each other, so we can properly get our guidance sensors pointing at the right things.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the telescope, which is not computer-controlled as many modern ones are, has nothing to do with the operation of the telescope itself.

If you stand in the middle of the domed room that houses the telescope and look up, there is no apparent way to reach the telescope, which is elevated above at the ceiling’s height — until Chester hits a button and the entire floor begins to elevate to reach the telescope above.

“We believe this is the largest elevator in the city,” Chester said, as the floor made its ascent.

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What Eric Frein Searched for on His Computer Before Manhunt

Courtesy Roman Kamensky(MILFORD, Pa.) — Accused cop killer Eric Frein had planned out his efforts to avoid capture and did research online about how police would be able to track him, an affidavit released on Friday reveals.

Investigators had Frein’s computer searched after he shot two state troopers on Sept. 12 and they were able to find specific Internet searches that showed he was plotting for months.

“SWAT raid tactics” and “police raid training” were both searched in April, according to the affidavit. “Can police track cell phones,” “police manhunt guide” and “how to escape a manhunt” were all searched in early May.

He clearly thought about the long haul as well. He looked up information about “caching food” and “tips on placing caches.” A cache is a small duffle-type bag that hunters and survivalists use to store food in hidden places, which is a tactic Frein is believed to have used.

Though the affidavit states that there were other Internet searches, the earliest one listed in the document was a search that he made on Nov. 7, 2012 — nearly two years before the shooting — for “ballistics trajectory calculator.”

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Accused Cop Killer Eric Frein Appears in Court

Kena Betancur/Getty Images(MILFORD, Pa.) — Accused cop killer Eric Frein made his first court appearance Friday, looking gaunt and his face bruised, as he was arraigned on murder charges in Milford, Pennsylvania.

Frein, who police say shot two state troopers on Sept. 12 before fleeing into the woods, had a gash on his nose and was booed outside the courthouse by locals, including one woman who yelled, “You’re lucky we didn’t get you during hunting season.”

Other angry spectators shouted “coward” and “scumbag” as Frein, 31, remained stone-faced.

He did not enter a plea.

“We have now started to find the answers that the community desires in this case,” District Attorney Raymond Tonkin said outside the courthouse. “The families in this matter…have suffered an unimaginable loss of unspeakable proportions. They will never be the same but today we find some comfort.”

Tonkin has said he will seek the death penalty for Frein.

Frein was captured by U.S. Marshals on Thursday evening outside an abandoned hangar in the Pocono Mountains, in the area where police have been hunting for the suspect for nearly seven weeks.

“A team was sweeping through the area, surprised him as he was outside of the hangar,” Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said Friday.

He said the cut on Frein’s face is not the result of a battle with police.

“That was an injury that occurred to him sometime in his flight,” Bivens said.

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Kaci Hickox Ordered to Stay at Least 3 Feet from Anyone

ABC News(FORT KENT, Maine) — The state of Maine has been granted a temporary court order restricting the movements of Kaci Hickox.

A judge in Augusta has told her she must agree to active monitoring, coordinate her travel with health authorities, not be present in public places, not leave Fort Kent and stay at least 3 feet from anyone when she does go out.

This is short of the blood test the governor had mentioned and short of a mandated quarantine, but there will be some sort of agreement or more substantive order later Friday.

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Eric Frein Shackled with Slain Trooper’s Handcuffs After Capture

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation(TANNERSVILLE, Pa.) — A self-trained survivalist was shackled in the handcuffs used by a Pennsylvania state trooper he allegedly killed in an ambush last month, the state police commissioner said during a news conference.

U.S. Marshals captured Eric Frein outside an abandoned hangar at Birchwood-Pocono Airport near Tannersville, Pennsylvania, about 6 p.m. Thursday, State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said.

“They ordered him to surrender, to get down and raise his hands,” he said.

Frein, 31, was then placed in the handcuffs used by Cpl. Bryon Dickson, who was killed in the Sept. 12 shooting at the barracks in Blooming Grove, said Noonan. He was then driven in Dickson’s police vehicle to those same barracks and held there until he was moved to the Pike County Correctional Facility overnight.

“He was definitely taken by surprise,” Noonan said, adding that Frein had no weapons on him when he was captured.

Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin said he plans to seek the death penalty against Frein, who is charged with first-degree murder, homicide of a law enforcement officer, attempted murder and possession of weapons of mass destruction.

First-degree murder and homicide of a law enforcement officer are both capital offenses. He will be arraigned at 9 a.m. Friday and may face more charges.

“This individual is no longer a threat to this community,” said Tonkin.

An unidentified woman told the Scranton Times Tribune that Frein looked exhausted as he was led out of the woods by marshals. Outside of what Noonan called a “scratch” that he suffered before he was taken into custody, Frein appeared to be in good health. “Healthier than I would have expected,” Noonan added.

For weeks, several thousand members of various departments in at least five states spent countless hours looking for Frein, who had been on the run since he allegedly killed Dickson, 38, and injured Trooper Alex Douglass during a late-night shift change at the barracks.

Douglass, 31, was discharged to a rehabilitation facility a few weeks ago, state police said.

“Eric Frein was dedicated to killing law enforcement,” said Noonan. “I can’t think of a more dangerous occupation than going out into those woods and looking for him.”

The families of Dickson and Douglass were “relieved and grateful” for Frein’s capture, said Noonan.

At times, 1,000 officers searched the rugged mountains for Frein, who police said had planned his attack and hiding for years. The lives of residents in the area were disrupted by the manhunt, including school closings and event cancellations.

Halloween celebrations were canceled because of the manhunt but local officials planned to try and salvage trick-or-treating.

Frein, from nearby Canadensis, was seen several times during the search and later added to the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

“The reason this took so long is it’s such a big wooded area that he is thoroughly familiar with,” said Noonan.

Police previously found two pipe bombs, an AK-47, ammunition and various food and supplies hidden in the woods while searching for Frein. Police haven’t said whether they found the sniper rifle they believe he used in the ambush.

Frein was linked to the shooting after a man discovered his partly submerged SUV in a swamp a few miles from the barracks. Inside, investigators found shell casings matching those found at the barracks as well as his driver’s license, camouflage face paint, two empty rifle cases and military gear.

Authorities said they later found notes in the woods, allegedly penned by Frein, which offered a “cold-blooded” and “chilling” account of the ambush and his escape into the woods.

“Got a shot around 11 p.m. and took it. He dropped. I was surprised at how quick,” State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said at a news conference on Oct. 8, reading from the note police believe Frein wrote. “I took a follow-up shot on his head-neck area. He was still and quiet after that.”

Frein’s criminal record appeared limited to a decade-old misdemeanor case involving items stolen from a World War II re-enactors event in upstate New York, for which he spent 109 days in jail.

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