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Wednesday
Oct182017

Heartbreaking moment when fallen soldier's widow weeps over casket

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A heartbreaking moment unfolded on the tarmac of a Florida airport Tuesday when the widow of a fallen soldier received her husband's casket.

Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed during a mission in Niger, was on hand to receive the remains.

Footage of the moment shows a pregnant Myeshia Johnson weeping as she leaned over the flag-covered casket.

She was accompanied by the couple's 6-year-old daughter, who is seen standing by her mother's side as Myeshia Johnson sobs for several minutes.

According to local ABC affiliate WPLG, the casket was transported from Miami International Airport on an interstate closed to other traffic. WPLG reported that police officers and firefighters saluted the vehicle along the route to the funeral home in Hollywood, Florida.

Johnson was one of four soldiers killed in Niger when a joint patrol of U.S. and Nigerien forces was ambushed Oct. 4 by militants believed to be linked to ISIS. He was supporting a Green Beret unit on the mission.

The handling of Sgt. Johnson's death and the response by President Donald Trump has become a controversial flashpoint.

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Wednesday
Oct182017

'Atmospheric River' will deluge Oregon, Washington state with rain

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A 5,000-long conveyor belt of moisture called an Atmospheric River has developed in the air over the Pacific Ocean, spanning from Asia to North America.

Over the next several days, storms will move along this conveyor belt, bringing more than a foot of rain to parts of western Washington and northern Oregon and several feet of snow to the Cascade mountains. Gusty winds with these storms could be as high as 50 to 60 mph.

The National Weather Service has issued flood watches and high wind warnings for Washington state and Oregon.

A so-called Atmospheric River is a narrow but a long plume of moisture in the atmosphere, about 450 miles wide but several thousand miles long. Atmospheric rivers transport up to half of the West Coast’s precipitation each year during the rainy season, which spans from October to April.

A single Atmospheric River can carry a greater flux of water than the earth's largest river, the Amazon River.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct182017

California anticipates much-needed rain this week after catastrophic wildfires

Google Earth(NEW YORK) -- Ravaged by a slew of deadly wildfires in recent days, northern California is set to get a bit of relief this week in the form of rain.

A storm system is expected to move over the Pacific Northwest later this week and the trailing cold front will most likely bring some much-needed rain to northern California between Thursday and Friday, according to ABC meteorologists.

"It will rain a bit but not enough to fully douse the blazes," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark said in a statement Tuesday. "The biggest advantage to firefighters will be the increase in humidity and lower temperatures."

Nearly 10,000 firefighters continued to battle 13 large wildfires burning across California Wednesday that have collectively charred more than 210,000 acres of land in the past week. The fires have destroyed thousands of homes and have been blamed for the deaths of 42 people, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

While most of the remaining fires are halfway contained and many evacuation orders have been lifted in Northern California, over 22,000 people were still out of their homes because of the blazes, authorities said.

“Weather conditions this week will continue to help in the containment progress. In fact, light rain in Northern California is forecast for Thursday night," the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in its statewide fire summary Wednesday. "Residents returning home are urged to be cautious as hazardous conditions may remain."

The northern parts of the Golden State, which has borne the brunt of the fire damage, is forecast to see an influx of cloudy, cooler and wetter weather later in the week, according to AccuWeather.

But a return of dry air, heat and areas of gusty winds could once again raise the wildfire danger early next week, meteorologists said.

Separately, a band of moisture, referred to as Atmospheric River by weather experts, is currently stretching between Asia and North America. It’s expected to bring several storm systems into many parts of the Pacific Northwest through the rest of the week.

The first of these storms have already hit the Pacific Northwest with wind gusts of between 40 and 74 mph.

A number of wind warnings and flood watches are in effect in the western and northern parts of the United States as the storm approaches.

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Tuesday
Oct172017

California inmate injured battling wildfires as another escapes 

northshorefirefighters/Instagram(SANTA CRUZ, Calif.) -- A prison inmate doubling as a volunteer firefighter suffered smoke inhalation on Tuesday while battling a blaze nicknamed "The Bear Fire," fire officials in California confirmed.

A professional firefighter also suffered wrist and facial injuries after plunging 50 feet from a torched peak in the mountainous Boulder Creek region of Santa Cruz, California.

Each was digging in on a fire line to smother flames that started around 10:30 p.m. local time Monday, Cal Fire officials confirmed to ABC News.

“I don’t want to minimize the death of the water tender, but the fact is the injuries are very low for what we’re up against,” Janet Upton, CAL Fire deputy director of communications, told ABC News. “To have so few injuries is remarkable.”

The inmate was teamed up with firefighters battling a blaze in Las Cumbres, an elevated region of Santa Cruz that had been evacuated, Cal Fire officials said.

The fire has proved difficult to snuff out because of the vertical terrain and limited sunlight that grounded the air support, another Cal Fire official said.

The unidentified inmate who suffered the smoke inhalation injury is among the estimated 4,000 inmates fighting the wildfires in Northern California. They are often called the “Angels in Orange.”

They are made up of men and women -- and even some juvenile offenders -- who don orange-colored fire gear as they fight fires. They earn a daily wage ranging from $2 a day to $1 an hour.

The inmates also command a third of the Cal Fire crews tackling the deadliest cluster of fires in California history, where 41 people have died and thousands of homes have been destroyed.

The inmate program was originally put in place in the 1940s to help maintain roadways.

Today, it allows 4,000 convicts to leave electric-fenced prisons to be on a camp where a state corrections spokesman said they are paid better than other jobs behind bars, eat grilled steak dinners and get double the credit for good behavior.

As volunteer firefighters, they serve under a real fire captain and fan out in 14-member teams where they work like a mowing machine: a team leader or "sawyer" whacks brush and trees down with chainsaws, rakes and pulaskis, which are a cross between an ax and a shovel.

"They are trained to do a very specific job, by working in crews of about 14 with chainsaws and hand tools and they cut firebreaks," Bill Sessa, a spokesperson for California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told ABC News. "Their job is to slow the fire down or stop it or change its direction."

The inmates aren't conscripted.

In fact, the gig is one of the most sought after by inmates.

"They are there because they chose it as a coveted position," Sessa said. "They feel a sense of pride in doing what they do."

He went on, "You go into a camp and you would swear that except for their obvious inmate T-shirts and pants, that it's just another firefighter."

The vetting process is also very intense. Sessa said the circumstances of an inmate's conviction, the nature of the crime, their behavior in prison, and if they have taken advantage of education and rehabilitation resources are factored into the decision.

"We tell these inmates, 'You are going to be treated like firefighters. We're only going to treat you like inmates if you are out of bounds,'" Sessa said.

Sessa said that it is very rare to have inmates try to abscond from the camps, and almost unheard of for one to cut out on a fire line.

But that is exactly what happened on Monday when Armando Castillo, 31, vanished at around 4:45 p.m. near Peters Canyon Regional Park while a crew was engaged in fighting the Canyon Fire 2 in Orange County, according to a statement released by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"The people that I've talked to who have been here a long time say they never had that happen before," Sessa said.

Castillo, who was set to be released in May of this year, was originally sentenced to five years behind bars for gun possession and evading a police officer while driving recklessly, according to the statement by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Before he became a fugitive, Castillo was supposed to be released on probation in May 2018.

When fires aren't terrorizing the state, Sessa said the volunteers keep busy "doing projects everyday," like clearing brush and flood channels before heavy rains and taking down diseased trees.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct172017

Latest version of travel ban blocked by federal judge

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration's most recent attempt to ban immigration to the United States from certain foreign countries was put on hold Tuesday by a Hawaiian federal judge.

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson, responsible for blocking President Donald Trump's second travel ban in March, authored the ruling again Tuesday, which notes that the third executive order on the matter ignored the "guidance afforded" by the earlier legal proceedings related to the issue.

"EO-3 suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be 'detrimental to the interests of the United States,' a precondition that the Ninth Circuit determined must be satisfied," reads the ruling.

"And EO-3 plainly discriminates based on nationality in the manner that the Ninth Circuit has found antithetical to... the founding principles of this Nation," the ruling continues.

The court granted the plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order which will block the order from going into effect Wednesday. The order prohibited immigration to the U.S. from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

The White House responded to the ruling with a statement Tuesday afternoon, writing that the "dangerously flawed district court order undercuts the President’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States."

"The entry restrictions in the proclamation apply to countries based on their inability or unwillingness to share critical information necessary to safely vet applications, as well as a threat assessment related to terrorism, instability, and other grave national security concerns," the statement added. "These restrictions are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our Nation."

The White House further indicated that the Department of Justice will defend the action.

Doug Chin, the attorney general of Hawaii, the state which challenged the ban, issued a statement which noted that "this is the third time Hawaii has gone to court to stop President Trump from issuing a travel ban that discriminates against people based on their nation of origin or religion."

"Today is another victory for the rule of law," Chin said in the statement. "We stand ready to defend it.”

Tuesday's ruling does not impact travelers from North Korea or certain Venezuelan government officials and their families because the plaintiffs did not challenge those aspects of the executive order.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Tuesday
Oct172017

Mom-speed-dating video will leave you in stitches

ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) -- Of all the struggles of motherhood -- sleepless nights, potty training, answering what feels like a million requests a day from tiny dictators -- there's another hard aspect of motherhood that catches most women by surprise.

Making mom friends.

But as with most things in parenthood, it's easier to laugh than to cry about it and that's exactly what Tiffany Jenkins is doing.

Jenkins posted on Facebook an all-too familiar parody of what the hunt for a great mom-friend feels like in a video called, "Speed Dating: Mom Friend Edition."

"There are so many mothers out there, but finding one you can mesh with is not easy," Jenkins, a mom of three from Sarasota, Florida, told ABC News about the inspiration for her video. "We get so wrapped up in taking care of our family we forget how important it is to have a mom squad."

Jenkins, who will celebrate her fifth year of sobriety next month, said she uses her page to show others that a life after addiction is possible.

"So many moms, including myself, compare ourselves to other moms on social media who appear to have it all together. Doing this makes us feel like failures," she said. "It makes us feel alone and ashamed that we are unable to keep up with the incredible demands of motherhood."

Jenkins makes the videos on her page in "my true, honest form. No makeup, no filters, messy house, ice cream for breakfast and nervous breakdowns."

She uses her humor to draw people in and said people are "amazed" when they find out she's an addict.

"The number of moms who have come forward to thank me for making them feel OK about who they are is unbelievable," she said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct172017

Woman who fought back against carjacking suspect meets good Samaritan who came to her aid

Allen Park Police (DETROIT) -- Days after a woman fought back against an attempted carjacker at a Michigan gas station, she reunited with the good Samaritan who confronted the suspect in a dramatic encounter caught on camera.

On Oct. 12, a woman -- identified by ABC affiliate WXYZ in Detroit as Haley Lorenzen -- was standing outside of her car at a gas station when a carjacking suspect jumped into the driver's side, the Allen Park Police Department said. While the woman thought she had locked the doors and had her keys and key fab in her pocket, because the key fab was close enough to the vehicle, the door unlocked, police said.

The victim had left the car running, police said, and as the suspect started to drive away, she jumped into the passenger side and fought him.

Lorenzen told WXYZ, "I grabbed his face and I tried to do anything I could ... I scratched his face, I smashed his head against the window and I just fought."

Police said a good Samaritan in the parking lot quickly intervened.

"The victim was able to put the vehicle into park and the good Samaritan ran around to the driver’s door and tried to apprehend the suspect," police said in a statement.

After a brief struggle caught on camera, the suspect broke free and fled, police said.

Lorenzen reunited with the good Samaritan -- identified by WXYZ as Quentin Grubb -- on Monday, telling the station that Grub "did something for me that nobody else did that day.”

Grubb told WXYZ that Lorenzen was the real hero for having the courage to stand up to the suspect.

Grubb added, “I would hope that if my wife was in the situation she was in, somebody would try to help her."

The suspect was apprehended the next day, police said.

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Tuesday
Oct172017

Marine who lost both legs is running 31 marathons in 31 days to raise money for wounded veterans

Credit: Rob Jones(NEW YORK) -- Rob Jones, a Marine who lost his legs in 2010 to an explosion while overseas in Afghanistan, is traveling the country to run 31 marathons in 31 days while raising money for wounded veteran charities.

Jones' month of marathons started across the pond in London on Oct. 11. He has since made his way to North America -- running the 26.2-mile distance every day wherever he can and even inviting people to join him some days.

The journey will end in Washington, D.C. “I’m excited about the last one in D.C. because it is really poignant on Veterans Day on the National Mall,” Jones told ABC News, adding that he's "looking forward" to each day.

Jones hopes his journey will be an inspiration to other veterans. "Being a person that has successfully gone to Afghanistan and Iraq, had a traumatic experience, and reintegrated into society, I am an example and want to show I've succeeded," Jones said.

Jones' worked as a combat engineer in Afghanistan, where his job involved detecting improvised explosive devices (IEDs). “I would clear a route through that area and people would follow behind me,” said Jones.

But one day, Jones “found an IED before it found him,” he said, ultimately leading to a double above the knee amputation surgery.

After his surgery, Jones’ first goal set was to become a Paralympic medalist, so he started training in rowing, he said.

In September 2012, Jones and his partner brought home the bronze medal in their event.

"I still feel proud of it. It was refreshing because it was the first thing I wanted to do. It set me on track to achieve my goals in a physical realm," Jones said of his victory.

But that wasn't enough for Jones.

In 2013, he embarked on a solo bike ride across the country from Maine to southern California.

The 5,180-mile ride took him 181 days but he said it was worth it because of the money he raised for wounded veterans' charities, which he is doing again on his running journey.

Running is a different beast than biking, Jones said, explaining that his muscles ache, there are skin abrasions on his body, and there's "a dull ache in the background" throughout running.

"The biggest challenge is the repetitive stress every day for such a long period of time. It will add up eventually," said Jones.

But the pain won't deter him in his mission. "I am doing it for a purpose. The purpose is a lot more important than me being comfortable," added Jones.

Jones is inviting people to run with him along his marathon route.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct172017

Video captures good Samaritans rushing to rescue elderly couple from burning car trapped under tanker truck

ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) -- A witness captured the aftermath of a fiery collision on video this weekend, showing a group of motorists as they scrambled to rescue an elderly couple from a burning car trapped beneath a tanker truck.

Carmin and Alejandro Rivera Sr. were driving along Route 17 in Goshen, New York -- about an hour north of Manhattan -- Sunday when a tire blew out on their Subaru, causing them to lose control.

Their vehicle swerved to the left of the road, right under the tanker truck, and caught fire, according to witnesses.

One witness captured the aftermath of the crash as several strangers rushed to help the couple. Several people can be seen running to and from the vehicles in fear that they could explode with the couple still wedged beneath.

"Everybody just ran across the highway, even with flames coming out of the gas tank from the car," one witness, Jackie Welch, told ABC New York station WABC Tuesday. "Nobody knew if it was going to blow up, or if it was a fuel tanker and nobody cared."

At least three bystanders were seen crawling under the tanker truck in an attempt to assist the couple. One witness, Jackie Welch, said her son-in-law was one of the people who jumped into immediate action.

"[They] ran over without even thinking, even with the flames," Welch said. "Nobody really knew what the tanker was carrying."

"They got the people out of the car and next thing you know somebody was screaming, ‘Get back, get back' and the gas tank just blew up on the car," she added.

The Riveras, who’ve been married for 56 years, managed to make it out of the vehicle alive, although they suffered serious injuries.

Carmin Rivera sustained head trauma and is in intensive care, and her husband, Alejandro Rivera Sr., suffered a broken back, broken ribs and a broken ankle, according to WABC. The driver of the truck was not injured.

The couple's son, Alejandro Rivera Jr., told WABC Monday he is thankful good Samaritans jumped into action.

The tanker truck turned out to be filled with liquid sugar, not oil as some witnesses feared, but he said he's convinced his parents may have burned to death if the strangers hadn't rushed to rescue them.

"Without their help, my parents would certainly not be here today," he added, praising the strangers for their courage.


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Tuesday
Oct172017

911 calls capture unfolding crisis at Florida nursing home where patients died

John McCall, South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images(HOLLYWOOD, Fla.) --  Newly released 911 calls capture the unfolding crisis at a Florida nursing home that lost its air conditioning after Hurricane Irma, subjecting its patients to sweltering heat and ultimately leading to the deaths of 14 people.

In the first call from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills during the early hours of Sept. 13, an unidentified employee tells the dispatcher a patient is in cardiac arrest. "I saw her slouch over. I noticed she is not breathing," the employee says.

In another call, an employee sighs, "Whatta night," while describing her patient's condition. By the fourth call, an employee remarks, "Oh my God, this is crazy," as she goes back and forth with the dispatcher.

As the calls continue coming in, employees at the nursing home sound increasingly frenzied as they describe patients in various states of respiratory distress. By the sixth and final call, the dispatcher asks whether they've called already. "It's for a different patient," replies the employee.

The calls were released Monday by Hollywood Police.

Geoffrey D. Smith, an attorney for the nursing home, had no comment on the calls. "We have been asking for these records since the incidents occurred. To date, we have not had access to the 911 calls and are still waiting for responses to our multiple public record requests," he said.

Florida officials have suspended the nursing's home license in the wake of the deaths. The facility is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

More than 100 residents were evacuated from the nursing home, which is affiliated with the Larkin Community Hospital, on Sept. 13 after the facility's air conditioning system failed.

Medical staff from Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, which is near the nursing home, described a chaotic scene of evacuating the patients from the nursing home after three came into the emergency room with "extraordinarily high temperatures." Some of the patients who were admitted to the hospital had temperatures of upwards of 106 degrees, hospital officials told ABC News last month.

Nursing home administrator Jorge Carballo said in a statement shortly after the facility was evacuated in September that the home had suffered "a prolonged power failure to the transformer which powered the facility's air conditioning system as a result of the hurricane."

"Facility administration is cooperating fully with relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were affected," he added.

In a later statement, Carballo said, "The center and its medical and administrative staff diligently prepared" for the hurricane.

"We took part in emergency management preparedness calls with local and state emergency officials, other nursing homes and health regulators," he said. "While our center did not lose power during the storm, it did lose one transformer that powers the air conditioning unit. The center immediately contacted Florida Power & Light and continued to follow up with them for status updates on when repairs would be made. Outreach was also made to local emergency officials and first responders.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has vowed to hold those responsible for the deaths accountable.

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