Ski Lift Derails at Maine Resort; Skiers Trapped, Injured

Photo Courtesy - Liz Hinckley/Facebook(CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine) -- A ski lift in Maine, crowded with holiday skiers, derailed Tuesday and sent more than a half-dozen skiers plunging 50 feet to the ground. A rescue effort was immediately launched to reach the skiers who fell, as well as dozens of other skiers trapped on the lift at Sugarloaf Mountain ski area in Carrabassett Valley.

The resort reported on its Facebook page that the accident occurred on the Spillway East chairlift, and that eight people were believed injured. The resort called the injuries "minor."

Franklin County Emergency Management told ABC affiliate WMTW that officials received word of a "condition yellow" which means people were injured, not critically.

A spokeswoman for Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington said two of the injured people were being taken there by ambulance.

Conditions at the time of the accident were blustery. The National Weather Service reported winds in the area gusting from 29 to 43 miles per hour. The temperature was 12 degrees at the time, resulting in a windchill of minus-nine.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


2010 Marks Dramatic Increase in Police Fatalities

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) –- After a two-year decline in the number of law enforcement fatalities in the U.S., the figure spiked nearly 40 percent in 2010.

According to data from the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), 160 federal, state and local law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2010. The number represents a 37-percent increase from 2009, which ended with 117 officer fatalities – a 50-year low.

The number of officers killed by gunfire has also risen. Fifty-nine officers died from gunshot wounds in 2010 compared to 49 in 2009.

 “A more brazen, cold-blooded criminal element is on the prowl in America, and they don’t think twice about killing a cop,” said NLEOMF Chairman Craig W. Floyd.

“Our law enforcement officers are being asked to do more today with less, and it is putting their lives at risk,” Floyd said, citing cuts in training and equipment funding due to the economic downturn. 

For the 13th consecutive year, traffic-related incidents continued to be the number-one cause of death for officers in the U.S.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Wyoming Skiers Killed in Deadly Collision; Crash Highlights Risks

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CASPER, Wyo.) -- In a tragic Christmas Eve event that could generate new awareness around the importance of ski and snowboard safety, five-year-old Elsie Johnson and 23-year-old Craig Shirley died after a collision on the slopes at Hogadon Ski Area in Casper, Wyoming.

Elsie and her mother, Kelli, were stopped in the middle of a black diamond trail when Shirley came snowboarding down the path at a high speed and crashed into the two of them, Lt. Mark Sellers of the Natrona County Sheriff's Office said.

All three were taken to Wyoming Medical Center, where Shirley and Elsie were both pronounced dead. The hospital said Kelli Johnson was in stable condition.

Officials initially said that none of the victims of the accident wore helmets, but a Wyoming coroner later reported that Elsie was in fact wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

Shirley's father told the Casper Star-Tribune that the trail was covered in ice.

Sellers said the circumstances of the collision are still under investigation.

"This is certainly a tragedy," National Ski Areas Association spokesman Troy Hawks said. "This really speaks to the idea that wearing a helmet is not the silver bullet defense, and skiing in control and being aware of others should be the first line of defense of safety on the slopes."

There are no state laws that require helmets or other safety gear when hitting the slopes, although some ski areas, like Aspen and Vail, require children who take a skiing or snowboarding lesson on the mountain to wear a helmet.

"People wearing a helmet can still have a fatal accident while skiing and riding, since there are other ways to incur a fatal injury," Hawks said. "I suppose [the steady numbers] speak to the inherent risks of the sport."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


North Carolina Third-Grader Buys $15,000 in Gifts for Sick Kids

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A precocious nine-year-old's determination to make sure sick children had gifts during the holidays paid off with stunning results.

Katie Greene, a North Carolina third-grader, went into this holiday season with dollar signs in her eyes -- not for her own gifts, but for those she would help deliver to several area hospitals using money she planned to raise from her school, family, friends and various community groups.

She ended up collecting a whopping $15,708.

"I'm really hard to turn down," Katie told ABC News of her marketing strategy.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Katie launched her own version of a speech circuit, meeting with youth and church groups and her classmates to ask for donations. She also set up shop at craft shows and sold raffle tickets.

It's a project she has undertaken for the last three years -- since she was six -- but this year topped her previous efforts by far.

"I had this idea," she said. "It's just gone off. I think I'm doing a really good job."

That first year, Katie raised $162. Three years later, she set a goal of $15,000 and raised more than $700 on top of it.

Though Katie wasn't allowed to deliver her gifts in person due to concerns over infection and privacy, she said she knew of one little boy -- named Kevin -- who liked to watch movies. So she bought him gift cards to Best Buy and Amazon so he could have his purchases shipped to him.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Florida Lottery Winners Exclude Co-Worker

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(THE VILLAGES, Fla.) -- Jeanette French wasn't at the Golf Shop the day her co-workers hit the jackpot, winning $16 million in the Florida lottery.

For nine years, French, 72, has been part of the group of employees at The Villages' Hacienda Hills Country Club that pools money each week to buy lottery tickets, each putting in a dollar.

In the past, when group members were unavailable to put their dollar in the pot, a fellow member would spot them, her lawyer, Tom Culmo, told ABC News.

Culmo said that was the case with his client.

"She had communication with one of the other employees who said he would put in a dollar for her," he said. "Employees would routinely cover for each other. She paid back the dollar Thursday morning, and she was given the ticket to check to see if they had won.

"After she realized the group won, she gave back the ticket. She wasn't worried if she handed back the ticket she wouldn't be part of the group," Culmo said.

But the group refused to split the winnings with her, claiming that French did not contribute to the pot. French has filed a lawsuit against them.

"We filed an emergency petition for an injunction to prevent the lottery from dispersing the money," Culmo said. "The court granted the injunction. However, as of late last week, the seven other winners retained a lawyer and we have worked out an agreement that will allow the seven winners to collect 1/8th of the winnings per person.

The remaining eighth will remain in a trust account until the situation is resolved or the court determines who should get the money," Culmo said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Awkward Animal Rescue: Dog’s Head Stuck in Brick Wall

Photo Courtesy -- Riverside County Animal Services(DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif.) – Animal rescue officials in Riverside County, Calif. got an odd call Monday. An eight-month-old German shepherd had somehow got his head stuck in a hole in an 18-inch brick wall.

A friend of the dog’s owner called Riverside County Animal Services after she heard the dog whimpering.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Wow, how’d he get in there?,’” said Riverside County Animal Services Sgt. James Huffman, “and why is there a hole that big in the wall?”

Huffman and another officer worked together to remove the animal without harming it. It took roughly 30 minutes for the team to free Rebel the dog from his awkward predicament.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Students Horrified by Facebook Page to ‘Honor’ Classmate's Death

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(FORT SMITH, Ark.) – A Facebook page meant to honor an Arkansas teen after he died in a car accident was suddenly diluted with inappropriate and offensive material by the creator of the page, according to local ABC News affiliate KHBS-TV.

After Southside High School student Travis McAfee died in a car accident on Christmas Eve, more than 700 people liked a Facebook page entitled “In Loving Memory of Travis McAfee.” Soon after, however, the page administrator posted offensive images – some pornographic – and sexual slurs meant to make light of MacAfee’s death.

The creator also linked a YouTube video to the page. In the video, a man wearing sunglasses and a hat claimed to be the page administrator and expressed his feelings regarding McAfee’s death. "When I first heard that Travis passed away, I just couldn't stop help but laughing,” said the man. “I mean my lungs, still to this point, hurt from all the laughing I was doing."

Students have contacted local police regarding the incident.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Pastor Accused of Robbing Parishioner's Home of Luxury Goods

Pastor Sandy McGriff. Photo Courtesy - ABC News/WFAA-TV(DALLAS) -- A Dallas pastor who is accused of climbing through a window to steal fur coats and purses from her parishioner's home on Christmas Eve claims she was just trying to protect the property from burglars.

Sandy McGriff, 52, was apprehended by Dallas police in the afternoon on Christmas Eve when she was spotted stuffing items belonging to Serita Agnew, a parishioner at the The Church of the Living God where McGriff is the pastor.

McGriff told ABC’s Dallas affiliate WFAA that she was checking on Agnew's house when she caught two men breaking in. Asked why she didn't just call the police rather than climbing through the window, McGriff told WFAA, "My mistake, I should have."

But police say that McGriff was not only caught with $12,000 worth of Agnew's possessions, but also gave a different name at the time of her arrest, which she then tried to evade. According to public records, McGriff has an extensive criminal record that includes theft and a prostitution conviction from the 1970s,

"She was caught by patrol officers breaking into a residence and a neighbor had called and said that there was a suspicious vehicle in Agnew's driveway," said Dallas Police Public Information Officer Kevin Janse. "When officers pulled up [McGriff] was walking out the back door with property in her hands."

"McGriff said the homeowner, who was a friend of hers, allowed her to go inside to get the property, but when officers contacted the homeowner she said she had not permitted anyone to enter her home," he said.

McGriff is charged with burglary and resisting arrest and transport, according to Janse -- charges that could put her in prison for as many as 20 years, if convicted.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Who Are This Year's 'Most Admired' People?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton again top a poll ranking the "most admired" living persons, a list dominated by national politicians.

In the USA Today/Gallup poll, President Obama was the most admired man for the third year in a row, followed by former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton was the most admired woman for the ninth year in a row, edging out Sarah Palin and Oprah Winfrey.

The rankings also included other figures in business, media and popular culture, including Bill Gates, Nelson Mandella, Glenn Beck, Queen Elizabeth, Angelina Jolie and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Winter Snowstorm Gives Way to Freezing Temperatures

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The brunt of a powerful snowstorm that battered the Northeast Sunday and Monday has moved on, but its lingering impact has left airports struggling to open, thousands of travelers scrambling to reach their destinations and municipalities hustling to clean up.

From North Carolina to Maine, people are digging out from more than two feet of snow in some places.  New York City received nearly two feet of snow along with 60-mile-per-hour winds.  More than 18 inches fell in Boston.

Freezing temperatures that have moved in along the East Coast are expected to remain there through the week.  A freeze warning has been issued for parts of Florida, where temperatures could reach below freezing.

Elsewhere in the country, the West Coast is bracing for snow and rain.

Forecasters predict a blast of winter weather to roll into the Northwest Tuesday night.  Chris Collins, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Portland, Ore., said there could be heavy snow in the mountains of Oregon and Washington.

Eleven states from California to North Dakota are under a flood and-or weather warning or advisory.  Southern California, which was pounded by heavy rain last week, is expected to receive wet weather again Wednesday. 

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