Review Category : National News

Yosemite Fire Expands, Nears Popular Campgrounds

Yosemite National Park(YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif.) — The wildfire raging inside Yosemite National Park quadrupled in size Monday, scorching more than 2,500 acres and moving closer to popular campgrounds, authorities said.

On Monday evening, a plume of black smoke blanketed the Half Dome peak, a popular rock formation.

“The entire park is very dry,” said Yosemite National Park spokeswoman Kari Cobb. “The fire danger is very dry.”

More than 100 firefighters were battling the blaze, known as the Meadow Fire. The fire was sparked by lightning and has been burning for several weeks in the backcountry.

The terrain is so rugged, though, they had to fight it almost entirely by air. Firefighters did get some relief, however, from scattered showers.

Hikers trying to reach the summit of Half Dome peak were terrified — and then stranded — when the fire broke out.

“It was raging, right on the opposite side of the mountain,” one hiker said. “As soon as the wind was catching it, the flames were something like 200 feet high. It was pretty scary.”

All 85 hikers had to be airlifted to safety Sunday, including Brendan Fromm, as their families waited anxiously.

“It was nerve-wracking because we didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “It was definitely a large fire. It was not safe to be walking down through the trail.”

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Severe Rain, Flooding Hits Southwest

ABC News(PHOENIX) — Arizona has declared a state of emergency after severe rain and flooding plagued parts of the state Monday.

Phoenix saw its wettest day on record, with at least 3.29 inches of rain.

In Tucson, firefighters say a woman died when the car she was driving was swept away by water. When rescuers arrived, her car was submerged; her body was pulled out.

Heavy rains are pounding much of the Southwest. Five states, including California, were under flash flood watches Monday night – most through Tuesday evening.

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Baltimore Ravens Cut Ray Rice After Video of Elevator Punch

Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesUPDATE: The Baltimore Ravens terminated Ray Rice’s contract Monday after a video emerged of the running back punching his then fiancee in an Atlantic City, New Jersey hotel elevator.

(NEW YORK) — A video emerged Monday on a news website that allegedly shows the moment Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punched his fiancee in the face, knocking her to the floor of an elevator. The NFL said it had never seen the video before Monday.

“We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator,” the NFL said in a statement. “The video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today.”

Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the fight happened, said it released the video to police.

Atlantic City police did not respond to requests for comment by ABC News. A prosecutor told ABC News he refuses to discuss what might have been submitted, viewed or cited by the grand jury.

The video, originally posted on TMZ.com, shows Janay Palmer, now Rice’s wife, being hit in the face in the elevator. Palmer then lunges at the NFL star before he delivers a blow that knocks her out. When the elevator doors open, Rice drags Palmer’s body outside, leaving her face down on the floor, her legs still inside the elevator.

An earlier clip showed the scene from outside the elevator, but not the violent blow that earned Rice a two-game suspension. The NFL has been criticized for what some considered to be a light punishment.

Some time after hotel security arrive, Palmer gets up and she and Rice walk away.

Both Rice and Palmer were arrested after the incident. Charges against Palmer were quickly dropped. Rice, who was indicted by a grand jury, entered a pretrial diversionary program, avoiding jail time. He has apologized for the Feb. 15 incident.

The Ravens have declined to comment to ABC News.

Kyle Flood, the football coach at Rice’s alma mater, Rutgers University, called Monday a “sad day” for the school.

“The video I saw this morning was difficult to watch as a husband and as a father,” Flood said. “There is nothing that can justify what I saw on that video. This is a sad day for Ray and a sad day for Rutgers.”

After outrage from Rice’s suspension, the NFL announced last month that players accused of domestic violence would face tougher punishments. Players get six weeks of suspension for a first offense, and at least a year for a second offense, according to the new policy.

The hotel has since shut down for unrelated reasons. TMZ said it cleaned up the video to remove reverse frames and make the time frame clearer.

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University of Florida Boosts Campus Security After String of Assaults

Hemera/Thinkstock(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) — The University of Florida has stepped up campus security and released surveillance video of a possible suspect after a fourth woman was assaulted in recent weeks.

The latest incident was reported Sunday, when a woman was tackled from behind near the campus library’s parking lot. She managed to fight off the assailant and run away.

Police say the string of assaults started at about 9:30 p.m. Aug. 30, when a 21-year-old woman told police she was beaten and almost raped by an unknown man on the Gainesville campus.

A second incident was reported hours later, at 2 a.m. Aug. 31, with a victim dragged into a wooded area before witnesses were able to chase the man away.

A third woman was approached Friday by an unidentified man outside of the school library. University of Florida Police Department Maj. Brad Barber said the woman in the third incident fought back.

“The individual came up from behind her, grabbed her, they had a brief conversation, at which point she then literally punched him in the face and the suspect left on foot,” Barber said.

Police said the four victims all describe the man as white, in his late 20s or early 30s, about 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5 and weighing about 250 pounds. Police aren’t sure whether Sunday’s incident is related to the others.

Students on campus now wonder if they can defend themselves.

“I think that I could defend myself,” one student said, “but I think if I was put in this situation I would be really scared.”

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Plane That Crashed Off Jamaica with New York Couple Remains Missing

iStock/Thinkstock(KINGSTON, Jamaica) — The U.S. Coast Guard announced Sunday that the search has been suspended for a small plane with two people on board that veered wildly off course for four hours last Friday before crashing off the coast of Jamaica.

It turns out that a debris field that was initially spotted is no longer visible.

The Socata turboprop was flown by Larry Glazer accompanied by his wife, Jane Glazer, of Rochester, New York.

They were en route from their home to Naples, Florida, when Larry Glazer twice sought permission to fly at a lower altitude.

When the plane did not respond to radio calls a short time later, the Air Force scrambled two F-15 jets to shadow the aircraft. At one point, one of the military pilots could be heard saying that the pilot of the turboprop was unconscious, but he appeared to be breathing.

The plane apparently flew on its own and eventually ran out of fuel and crashed.

Aviation expert and ABC News consultant John Nance said the pilot’s requests to get to a lower altitude and his debilitation “clearly shows a progressive hypoxic situation,” a condition in which the body does not get an adequate supply of oxygen.

Nance said it wasn’t clear whether the pilot was incapacitated by the rapid depressurization of the cabin or fumes in the cockpit.

Larry Glazer was CEO and managing partner of Buckingham Properties and pioneered Rochester’s downtown development.

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Homicide Suspected After Kentucky Woman Found Dead in Chile

Courtesy Charlene Martin(TEMUCO, Chile) — A 22-year-old Kentucky woman teaching English in Chile was found dead in her apartment Saturday, with homicide suspected, her college said in a statement.

Erica Hagan had been in Chile since July, after graduating from Georgetown College in Kentucky. She was teaching English at Colegio Bautista, a private Baptist school.

“Miss Hagan, of Murray, Ky., was found, unresponsive, in her Chile apartment on the campus of Colegio Bautista, Temuco, Chile, on Saturday morning, according to Chilean authorities,” a statement from the school reads. “Officials there are investigating her death as a possible homicide.”

Her devastated family said she was following her calling.

“She loved to travel, she loved to help people,” her aunt, Charlene Martin told ABC television affiliate WSIL-TV. “She was teaching school children English. She was terribly happy.”

Hagan had been documenting her time in Chile — her second trip to the country — on her blog. In her final post Friday, she wrote about the friendliness of the Chilean people.

“God has blessed me with many people that care how I spend my time and don’t want me to be lonely while I’m here,” she wrote. “Everyday I meet more people that invite me to be social with them and I love it! The hardest part is for me to take them up on it by asking them to keep me company during my free time.”

Hagan was scheduled to return home in December.

Instead, friends and family are mourning her loss, and trying to piece together what may have happened.

“This was a phenomenal, well-loved young lady that deserved better,” Martin said. “And she had so much potential, and was going places in her life.”

The Georgetown College Office for Faith and Service will hold a memorial service this week in remembrance of Hagan.

The U.S. State Department is aware of reports of a U.S. citizen’s death in Chile, but cannot comment further, an agency official told ABC News.

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Hikers Evacuated as Yosemite National Park Fire Grows to 700 Acres

Andrés Acevedo(MARIPOSA COUNTY, Calif.) — A wildfire in Yosemite National Park grew to 700 acres Sunday, with about 100 visitors rescued by helicopter, park officials said.

Sunday’s strong winds and high temperatures fueled the fire, park spokeswoman Kari Cobb told ABC News.

Hikers were airlifted from Half Dome peak — a popular rock formation — as well as nearby campgrounds and hiking trails, Cobb said.

“We actually had a number of helicopters here in the park that were able to airlift these individuals back to Yosemite Valley so that they could be out of the way of the fire,” Cobb said.

Taken from North Dome. #yosemitefire #Yosemite pic.twitter.com/0KnAO3C9Uo

— aacevedo (@aacevedo) September 7, 2014

Other than trails near Half Dome, the park remains open, Cobb said.

No major structures were threatened Sunday.

The fire began weeks ago in the park’s backcountry. Helicopters, air tankers and hotshot crews are battling the fire.
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Storms Leave 200,000 Michigan Homes Without Power

iStock/Thinkstock(DETROIT) — Damaging storms over the weekend left 200,000 Michigan homes and businesses without power Sunday.

Utility crews from as far away as Tennessee, New York, and Pennsylvania, are trying to help restore service.

DTE Energy spokeswoman Randi Berris said the company hopes to have majority of their customers back up by Monday, but some could still be without service on Tuesday, and even into Wednesday. Many schools are without power, prompting crews to work in returning service back by Monday morning.

“I drove through my neighborhood this morning on my way into the office. There are tree limbs down everywhere. On one of the main roads, there were two utility poles just snapped in half,” Berris said Saturday.

The Detroit-area saw its last major storm only two weeks ago.

As of 11 a.m. Sunday, DTE Energy restored power to 175,000 of the 375,000 customers impacted by the weather.

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Chilling Note May Help Solve North Carolina College Student’s Murder

iStock/Thinkstock(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) — Investigators hope a note scribbled on the back of a fast food bag leads them to whomever killed a University of North Carolina Chapel Hill student two years ago.

Among the new information police released in Faith Hedgdepeth’s murder case was a note with the words, “I’m not stupid [expletive]. Jealous.” It was scribbled on the back of a fast food bag and found in her apartment near her body.

Police say that despite a 300-page case file and traces of the killer’s DNA all over her apartment, they’re still nowhere closer to finding whomever killed her.

“What we lack now is that key piece of information that can help us connect the strong case with the killer,” Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said.

The body of Hedgepeth, a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe of Hollister, North Carolina, was found at her off-campus apartment by friends who police have not identified. The biology major had spent the previous night at the library before going to a bar with a friend, police said. She was last seen at her apartment around 4:30 a.m.

Police ruled out the act as a random killing.

Hedgepeth’s father has been conducting his own investigation.

“I know that as long as I have breath, I won’t stop looking,” Roland Hedgepeth said. “I hope maybe someone saw her when they arrived back at the apartment … I’m just trying to trigger some things in people’s minds to help them think that no detail, nothing that you may have seen is too little to report.”

Police are confident that someone will come forward with a new lead.

“If the killer is out there hearing this message, we will catch you,” Blue said.

Police have asked persons of interest to provide DNA swabs to compare to the DNA left at Hedgepeth’s apartment but have found no matches. Police say it is likely that she knew her killer, who may have left the area suddenly after the crime.

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Albino Lobsters to Giant Swordfish: Fishermen’s Most Unusual Catches

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — This week a few lucky fisherman managed to snag a few unusual catches of the day.

In Fort Pierce, Fla., Steve Bargeron got more than he bargained for when he was fishing off of a dock and snagged a giant mysterious sea creature.

As another fisherman started to pull in a large odd shaped shellfish, Bargeron thought it looked like a large lobster and pulled out the crustacean, only to reveal an 18-inch shrimp-like creature.

While the creature may have been unusual looking, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it was not some unknown species from the deep ocean but likely a member of the mantis shrimp family.

That odd crustacean, wasn’t the only unusual shellfish caught in the U.S. this week.

In Maine, not one but two albino lobsters were caught by lucky fishermen. The pearly white crustaceans are exceedingly rare and the odds of catching a single albino lobster are nearly 1 in 100 million, according to the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute.

The rare ghostly lobsters were caught by fishermen from the Owls Head Lobster Company in Owls Head, Maine.

One of the lucky lobstermen, Joe Bates, told ABC News affiliate WMTW-TV in Portland, Maine, that he had named his unusual catch “Ronald” after President Ronald Regan because the odd looking lobster is a “survivor.”

But odd looking shellfish weren’t the only big catches of the week, a father and his two teenage sons out fishing for swordfish got more than they bargained for after snagging a fish weighing nearly 700 pounds.

Brian Sattar, of North Palm Beach, Fla., was with his sons Eric and Adam when they hooked the giant swordfish. For four hours the trio fought to pull the fish to the surface.

Brian Sattar said they weren’t sure if they had caught a swordfish or a shark at first and they spent a few hours concerned they were going to lose the catch altogether.

“[We] still didn’t know if it was a swordfish,” Sattar said of the hours long fight to reel in the fish. “[But we thought] it’s been this long, let’s see what’s going to happen.”

Eventually the three fishermen managed to reel in the mammoth fish, but it was so large — 14 feet long — they couldn’t fit it on the boat.

Sattar said his son Adam wanted to jump in and tie a rope around the fish’s tail so that it would be more securely attached to the boat as they drove in. But Sattar said the task was too dangerous for the 17-year-old boy, so he jumped in instead.

“I jumped in and tied the rope around the tail,” Sattar said. “When you’re fishing out the in ocean every shark in the area knows something is going on. The shark knows something is struggling.”

Once the family got back to the marina, a crowd gathered to watch the fish get pulled onto the dock and weighed. While Sattar said he thought the fish would weigh in at around 400 pounds, it actually weighed in at 693.8 pounds.

With nearly 40 to 45 people on the dock, Sattar said the fish was then filleted and handed out to anyone who wanted some. Sattar estimated that around 500 pounds of fillets were handed out.

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