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Wednesday
May272015

Flash Floods Leave Apocalyptic Scenes Across Texas

File photo. (iStock/Thinkstock)(HOUSTON) -- A flash flood warning was issued for parts of six counties in Texas that include Houston, and parts of the city remain underwater after a weekend of torrential rain.

The warning was issued by the National Weather Service at 6:14 a.m. local time and was expected to last for three hours.

City officials have confirmed Wednesday that another body was discovered near a vehicle after water pumps were brought in to drain a portion of a highway. This death marks the sixth storm-related death in Houston since last week. The statewide death toll blamed on the weather has now reached 16 people.

More rain is the last thing the region needs. In addition to the flash flood threat from rain, a dam southwest of Dallas appears on the brink of breaking.

Photos from the most-affected areas show muddy, brown water filling the streets, with the tops of cars visible in some of the most-flooded roadways.

Drivers stuck in rainwater accounted for at least two of the three deaths that Houston Mayor Annise Parker confirmed on Tuesday following a rain storm Monday night into Tuesday morning. She did not identify the victims but said one person was found inside their vehicle and another was outside and appeared to have suffered a heart attack while trying to push a car out of the flooding.

One of the grimmest discoveries came on Tuesday morning when a biker found a casket on a roadway in southwest Houston.

Walter Rubio told ABC News affiliate KTRK that he saw the casket just laying in the middle of a street, and police opened it and found a dead body inside.

Investigators believe the casket was unearthed from a nearby cemetery during the flooding and determined that it was used to bury a woman who died in 2007. Police have not yet identified the body inside the casket.

Officials have urged residents to avoid touching any objects in the water and to report debris that they find.

Wednesday's rain has already led to partial closures of I-45 because of flooding.

On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott added eight counties to the list of 13 that he had already declared disaster areas.


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Wednesday
May272015

NOAA Issues Forecast for 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season

NOAA's break down of storms for 2015 hurricane season. (ABC News)(WASHINGTON) -- The coming hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin is expected to be calmer than normal, but that doesn't mean the East Coast is off the hook, according to a forecast issued Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.

There's a 70 percent chance that the hurricane season in the Atlantic will spawn six to 11 named storms between June 1 through Nov. 30, and of those named storms, three to six could become hurricanes, including up to two major hurricanes of categories 3 to 5 during the season, forecasters said.

The main factor that is expected to suppress storms is the phenomenon known as El Niño, the cyclic warming of the ocean off the western coast of South America that is already affecting wind and pressure patterns, said forecasters, noting that it is expect to get stronger and last through the hurricane season.

A below-normal season does not mean the East Coast is off the hook, NOAA officials emphasized.

In the past, even below-normal seasons have produced catastrophic impacts to communities. For example, in 1992, there were only seven named storms, but the first storm was Andrew -- a Category 5 hurricane that devastated southern Florida.

The U.S. has not been hit with a major hurricane in nearly a decade, the longest ever since scientists began keeping official records in 1851. The last record of eight years happened from 1861 to 1868. During the current "hurricane drought," many people along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts have let their guard down, so it's a good time to review important things to know in case a tropical storm makes landfall in your area.

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Wednesday
May272015

Why the US Is Investigating FIFA

FIFA's global headquarters in Zurich. (iStock Editorial/Thinkstock)(NEW YORK) -- Soccer, the world's most popular sport, may not be the biggest game in America, but the U.S. Department of Justice wants to "send a message that enough is enough" when it comes to corruption regarding the game's international governing body, authorities said.

U.S. and South American sports marketing executives are accused of "systematically" paying and agreeing to pay more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks for media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.

FIFA, or the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. But the 47-count indictment against people associated with the global organization was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Wednesday morning. Among the reasons American authorities got involved is because the U.S. television market is among one of the biggest for the World Cup.

“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a statement Wednesday.

Most of the schemes alleged in the indictment relate to bribes and kickbacks for soccer officials from sports marketing executives related to media and marketing rights of soccer matches and tournaments, the Justice Department said.

Among the 14 defendants named were Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner, the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under the auspicious of FIFA that is headquartered in the U.S., which gives American officials jurisdiction.

A search warrant is being executed at CONCACAF headquarters in Miami Wednesday morning, the Justice Department said.

Lynch expressed her gratitude to the Swiss government for their assistance in the probe, including arresting in Zurich Wednesday morning seven of the defendants, like Webb, at the request of the U.S.

The Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement, "According to the U.S. request, these crimes were agreed and prepared in the U.S., and payments were carried out via U.S. banks."

“As charged in the indictment, the defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world,” FBI director James Comey said in a statement. “Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks, and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA.

In a statement posted on FIFA's website, the organization said it “welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football.”

“We are pleased to see that the investigation is being energetically pursued for the good of football and believe that it will help reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken,” FIFA said.

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Wednesday
May272015

DC Mansion Fire Family Remembered in Detail-Filled Obituary

Facebook(WASHINGTON) -- Savvas Savopoulos was a CEO with a passion for side projects such as the design of a martial arts studio.

His wife, Amy Savopoulos, was raised as a "citizen of the world," having grown up in a military family, and had a knack for finding four-leaf clovers.

Their 10-year-old son, Phillip, who was believed to have been home sick from school because of an injury he sustained while go-karting, had previously raced at tracks in Florida, Arizona and Indiana.

Those personal details have emerged in an obituary for the Washington, D.C., couple and their son, who were found dead alongside their housekeeper when firefighters responded to a blaze at their mansion on May 14.

The paid obituary, published this week in The Washington Post, announces the funeral for the three members of the Savopoulos family will be held Monday. Their deaths have been ruled homicides and a suspect has been arrested, though investigators believe there may have been more suspects involved.

The author of the obituary is not mentioned, though the text notes that Savvas, Amy and Phillip Savopoulos are survived by their teenage daughters, Abigail and Katerina, who were away at boarding school at the time of the attack.

Savvas Savopoulos was a Washington native, according to the obituary. Both he and his wife, nee Amy Martin, attended the University of Maryland for their undergraduate degrees and he was a member of a fraternity, while she was in a sorority.

The couple married at the St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in June 1994, and that is where their funeral will be held on Monday.

"They were a devoted couple in love," the obituary says.

Savvas Savopoulos went on to become the CEO of American Iron Works and filed a patent for a wireless tool that welders could use while at work. The obituary noted that Amy Savopoulos worked at an accounting firm but also shared a story about how her first job came at the age of 7 when she cleaned the rabbit cages for her science teacher on the weekends.

The more personal details of both parents show their love for their work outside of their jobs. The obituary notes that Savvas Savopoulos had recently been appointed the president of the International Motorsports Tribunal and listed the opera, power boats and martial arts among his passions.

Amy Savopoulos was praised for the active volunteer role she took with local charities and within her children's schools.

"Amy was a world traveler who loved gathering shells from beaches, touring monuments, visiting art galleries, and attending performing arts. Amy was extremely charismatic and had a huge heart," the obituary says.

The couple's son, Philip, known to friends as "Flip," was a big fan of basketball player Kevin Durant and participated in baseball and kart racing, according to the obituary, which added that he wanted to be a professional race car driver.

"Philip's true passion was racing and going fast," the obituary says.

Philip's sisters are staying with relatives while their home is still a major part of the investigation into the attack.

"Most recently the three [siblings] cuddled together to watch a favorite movie, 'Finding Nemo.' This was a family that maintained an unusually close bond for each other and for those less fortunate," the obituary says.

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Wednesday
May272015

Deputy Ambushed by Three Men Saved by His Dog

iStock/Thinkstock(PEARLINGTON, Miss.) -- A police K-9 came to the rescue of an officer who was being ambushed by three men and the dog most likely saved his life, authorities said Wednesday.

Deputy Todd Frazier was traveling along a remote stretch of Highway 90 in Pearlington, Mississippi, on Monday when he saw a blue Lincoln Town Car at a deserted rest stop, said Sheriff Ricky Adam of the Hancock County Sheriff's Department.

The driver of the vehicle looked as if he wasn't moving, so Frazier, a three-year veteran of the department, pulled over in order to check on him, Adam told ABC News.

"Two individuals surprised Deputy Frazier from the shadows and an altercation ensued," Adam said. "One cut him across the forehead with a razor, one choked him, and one grabbed his legs to carry him to the edge of the woods."

Frazier was able to hit a button to release his K-9, Lucas, a black Belgian Malinois, from his car, Adam said. Lucas bit the attackers, who then tried to flee in their car.

As they drove away, Lucas was still hanging onto the leg of one of the assailants, Adam said. As a result of the altercation, Lucas chipped a few teeth and bruised his shoulder.

Frazier also has bruises, including a gash on his forehead, but his injuries are not life-threatening, Adam said. Both have not been back to work since the incident, but are expected to be okay.

"Deputy Frazier is a good deputy and takes his job seriously. He is also an excellent dog handler -- he trained Lucas himself," Adam said, noting all three suspects remain at large.

It was unclear what the motive of the attack was, Adam said.

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Wednesday
May272015

Engine Photos Land Spirit Airlines Flight Attendant in Controversy

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- A Spirit Airlines flight attendant found herself in the middle of a controversy after passengers spotted her posing for photos inside a jet engine.

A passenger saw stewardess Ericka Paige Diehl posing for the photos while passengers boarded a Spirit Airlines flight at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The passenger took down the flight attendant’s name and contacted ABC News station WLS-TV, asking if the photo was part of a new pre-flight checklist.

The passenger then found out that Diehl posted the photos to her Facebook page, WLS reported.

Spirit Airlines said in a statement about the photos, “The activity portrayed in the photo absolutely goes against Spirit policy.”

But for many in the flying community, the outrage over Diehl’s photo shoot is unmerited. Sylvester Pittman, an aviation consultant with Airline Guys and a former flight attendant, said such photos are popular for flight crews.

"I have a picture in a jet engine, and pretty much everybody that I know that has been a flight attendant ... it’s just one of those things that we like to do," Pittman said.

Heather Poole, a flight attendant and author of the New York Times bestseller Cruising Attitude, also addressed the issue, writing on Twitter, “The photo of the flight attendant in the engine isn’t a problem. We all take them. The time that she decided to take it could be an issue.”

Diehl did not respond to a request for comment, but told WLS she wasn’t at liberty to discuss the photos. The photos were removed from her Facebook page and replaced with the quote, “Your wings already exist, all you have to do is fly.”

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Wednesday
May272015

Texas Floods: Man Clings to Hope After Family Swept Away

File photo. (iStock/Thinkstock)(WIMBERLEY, Texas) -- Joe McComb is grasping at little pieces of hope.

His two grandchildren and daughter-in-law have been missing since Saturday, when floodwaters washed away the Wimberley, Texas home where the family was staying.

Joe’s son, Jonathan McComb, suffered a collapsed lung, broken rib and shattered sternum, but he survived. Jonathan’s wife, Laura, and two children, Leighton, 6, and Andrew, 4, remain missing.

The family’s situation reflects a chapter of sadness for Texas. Statewide flooding has claimed at least 15 lives in recent days, including five in the Houston area. Numerous people remain missing.

The family was in Wimberley, a river town between Austin and San Antonio, when the house was swept away.

“Jonathan said [that] as they were going down the river, the house hit a bridge and it took the top part of the house off, and with the bottom gone and the top gone, the house just basically splintered,” Joe McComb said.

He added that his faith is helping to sustain him. He hopes that his missing relatives are found alive -- maybe they grabbed onto a tree limb, he suggests -- but he understands the reality of the situation and the chances of survival.

“We will get through it. It’s gonna be some dark days. There’s still that glimmer of hope. The clock is ticking. And the longer it ticks, the more percentages drop that anybody is alive,” he said.

One bright spot came Tuesday, when a helicopter search crew spotted a dog hung up on some tree branches -- Maggie, the family’s golden lab. Joe McComb still isn’t sure how the dog survived.

“To me, that was a boost of hope,” he said.

McComb spent Tuesday thinking about his grandchildren. Andrew enjoys playing baseball and is “full of energy, a lovable kid,” his grandfather said. Leighton recently had a dance recital.

The family was celebrating Memorial Day Weekend with a bigger group of friends from Corpus Christi, Texas. They knew it was going to rain, but not so consistently and powerfully.

As the water poured down, Laura McComb made a frantic phone call to her sister, Julia Shields.

"She called me, she said 'I'm in a house. I'm floating down the river. Tell mom and dad I love you and pray,'" Shields told ABC News affiliate KVUE-TV.

Search crews across Texas have been looking for survivors in flood-ravaged areas. As they do, Joe McComb will continue to hope.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
May272015

California Triplets All Accepted to MIT

KABC(NEW YORK) -- Most students leave for college without a piece of home. But for a set of triplets from Newport Beach, California, they’re getting to take their siblings.

Claire, Christopher and Edward Goul were all accepted into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and will start their college careers in the fall.

“From an early age, they showed a real interest in learning about math and science,” their father, Richard Goul, told ABC News. “They all had exceptional teachers, starting in elementary school, that helped them figure out what fields they wanted to pursue.”

Claire plans to study biology, Christopher will go into electrical engineering and Edward wants to do both math and physics.

The 18-year-old triplets went on their first college tours in February of their sophomore year on the East Coast, including a visit to MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That’s when their father said all three of them decided MIT was the goal after high school.

“They were naturally very curious and asking lots of questions about MIT’s cancer research institute,” he said.

The siblings, whom ABC News was unable to reach, took unpaid internships at the school the following summer.

Claire, Christopher and Edward look up to MIT so much partly because their grandfather taught mathematics there in the 1950s, their dad said. “They always knew it was an exceptional institution because of their grandfather,” Richard Goul, 57, said. “He would always tell them math stories and teach them equations growing up.”

Goul, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, attended the University of Southern California and Loyola Law School. His wife, Karen, attended the University of California at Irvine and Loyola Law School and works as a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney.

Claire, Christopher and Edward are graduating from Sage Hill High School the first week of June.

MIT accepted just 1,467 students for its freshman class, giving them a low acceptance rate of 8 percent, according to a report from the Office of Admissions.

“It’s gratifying to me and my wife because you never know if their hard work will ever pay off,” Goul said. “They made incredible sacrifices growing up by taking the most difficult courses and taking summer courses because they knew what their goals were.”


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Wednesday
May272015

More Rain Rocks Houston as Region Braces for New Flooding

iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- A flash flood warning was issued Wednesday for parts of six counties in Texas, including Houston. Parts of the city remain underwater after a weekend of torrential rain.

The warning was issued by the National Weather Service at 6:14 a.m. local time and was expected to last for three hours.

More rain is the last thing the region needs. Photos from the most-affected areas show muddy, brown water filling the streets, with the tops of cars visible in some of the most-flooded roadways.

Drivers stuck in rainwater accounted for at least two of the three deaths that Houston Mayor Annise Parker confirmed on Tuesday following a rain storm Monday night into Tuesday morning. She did not identify the victims but said one person was found inside their vehicle and another was outside and appeared to have suffered a heart attack while trying to push a car out of the flooding.

One of the grimmest discoveries came on Tuesday morning when a biker found a casket on a roadway in southwest Houston.

Walter Rubio told ABC News affiliate KTRK that he saw the casket just laying in the middle of a street, and police opened it and found a dead body inside.

Investigators believe the casket was unearthed from a nearby cemetery during the flooding and determined that it was used to bury a woman who died in 2007. Police have not yet identified the body inside the casket.

Officials have urged residents to avoid touching any objects in the water and to report debris that they find.

Wednesday's rain has already led to partial closures of I-45 because of flooding.

On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott added eight counties to the list of 13 that he had already declared disaster areas.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May262015

Florida Bounce House Incident Was 'Freak Act of Nature,' City Manager Says

Brandon Burchett(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) -- Fort Lauderdale City Manager called Memorial Day's beach bounce house incident "a freak act of nature that no one could have prepared for or predicted."

"The change in weather was sudden and severe," the statement from City Manager Lee Feldman said. "An intense water spout came ashore rapidly and without warning bringing forceful winds that meteorologists have estimated were between 65 and 85 miles per hour. Its powerful unpredictable path knocked down street lights and destroyed a cement basketball support structure."

After a waterspout came ashore on the Florida beach, it hit an inflated bouncy castle, tossing it into the air and injuring three children.

The video, provided to ABC News by Brandon Burchett, shows the swirling column of wind and ocean water head straight towards the amusement ride. The bouncy castle then got caught in the wind and flipped over repeatedly before it was swept even further up in the air.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department said three children, whose identities would not be released, were injured. One was held overnight for observation and two were treated for minor fractures and released, police said.

Feldman's statement added: "Under the circumstances, our Police, Public Safety and Fire-Rescue personal responded quickly and appropriately to minimize injuries and damage. While our thoughts and prayers remain with the injured children and their families for a speedy recovery, we are grateful that this act of god did not cause any more serious harm given the large number of people who were enjoying the beach on Memorial Day."

The city said it has already put the bounce house vendor, All Star Events, on notice of their responsibility as "we continue to investigate the incident."

All Star Events declined to comment to ABC News.


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