Couple recounts drama of crash-landing hot-air balloon after losing pilot

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Tom and Shawna Stenton, of Louisville, Kentucky, were planning to enjoy a relaxing sightseeing tour of Las Vegas last week -- but the day turned into a nightmare when their hot-air balloon crash-landed in the desert, ejecting the pilot and leaving them to fend for themselves.

"It felt like a car crash. It did not feel like a hard landing ... it felt like a bad car crash," Shawna Stenton told ABC News' Good Morning America in an interview airing Thursday. "We're just fortunate we made it out alive. That's what I keep going back to every time I start to panic. My heart starts pounding and I think, 'You're alive and that's all that matters.' And then that calms me."

Sitting side-by-side in wheelchairs, the Stentons said they're still recovering from the Sept. 12 hot-air balloon crash that injured several others and left one passenger in critical condition.

Several passengers and the pilot were thrown from the gondola and others were dragged for more than a half mile, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

"When we popped up, it was, 'Where is everybody? Where's the pilot?' And then panic. 'Where's the pilot?'" Shawna Stenton said.

Thankfully, her husband was able to think quickly as the balloon drifted back into the air after hitting the ground and bouncing around for what seemed like forever, the couple said.

"Tom's a hero. He won't tell people, but I mean, he landed that balloon. We ended up on the ground and I don't know where we would have been," Shawna Stenton said.

Tom Stenton said he's still not sure of how he manged to pull it off, but he said he's glad that he paid attention to the pilot as he operated the balloon.

"There was a red rope that opens up the canopy at the top of the balloon and lets the hot air out. And you have, like, 15 seconds from when you pull that till it starts to actually drop. So I just jerked it," he said. "We got a little bit closer to the ground and I jerked it again, and that's when we just made contact."

Shawna Stenton sustained a broken ankle and femur in the crash, as well as a punctured lung. Her husband has multiple broken bones in his right hand and blood clots in his legs.

The FAA is still investigating the cause of the crash.

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Washington Monument reopens after three years of repairs

Joecho-16/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- After three years of repairs, the Washington monument will reopen to the public on Thursday.

The monument closed in 2016 after an elevator cable snapped, but the years of repairs covered far more than that broken wire.

"We were going to do a renovation on the overall elevator system," said Brian Hill, a public information officer for the National Park Service. "But then while we were doing it, then we also had the security facility that needed to be upgraded and updated."

To enter the monument, visitors will go through two vault-like doors and a security checkpoint.

The monument will reopen to the public at noon on Thursday, with first lady Melania Trump expected to appear during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

This is not the first time the monument has been closed for repairs in recent years. It closed in 1998 for restoration and in 2011 because of earthquake damage.

"We're frankly excited to get the monument back open to the public," Hill said. "We have missed having our public visiting us."

Washington's tallest structure stands 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches above the mall and was originally completed in 1884. It took 40 years to construct, with a delay for the Civil War.

When the obelisk was first completed, it was the tallest building in the world.

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After months of careful planning, a lion cub makes its debut in Denver

Courtesy Denver Zoo(DENVER) -- It's a moment of pride.

The Denver Zoo finally welcomed a new male cub to its group of lions -- a feat that was months in the making and involved an entire team of specialists working to preserve the fragile species.

The cub, born in late July, made his public debut Wednesday and already has a slew of social media fans who have fallen in love with the young lion’s playful antics.

But while the zoo’s visitors are applauding the new cub’s first steps outside his den, the zoo’s keepers are acutely aware of the meticulous planning that went in to bringing this cub to life.

“Genetics are a huge part of what we are looking at when we’re breeding animals or when we receive recommendations to move animals for breeding,” explained Matt Lenyo, the zoo’s assistant curator of predators.

Lenyo and his team work with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), a non-profit organization made up of 230 institutions from around the world that focus on conservation, education, science and recreation. In this case, the AZA helps accredited zoos determine which lions should breed with other lions, so that zoos can maintain genetic diversity.

“Most of the breeding that we do is meant to keep the population stable so that future generations have lions,” said Senior Vice President of Animal Sciences Brian Aucone.

There are fewer than 25,000 lions left in Africa, according to National Geographic, whose parent company Disney, also owns ABC News. Loss of prey, loss of habitat and poaching have all contributed to the rapid decline of the species.

The Denver Zoo currently has a bachelor pride of four male brothers, as well as three females, which includes the new cub’s mother, Neliah.

Earlier this year, Neliah and another female lion had birth control implants removed by the zoo’s vet team. While under anesthesia to remove the devices, the veterinary team performed full diagnostic work-ups which included blood work, X-rays, ultrasounds, vaccinations and a full reproductive exam.

“We wanted to do everything we could to make sure [they were] healthy before breeding [them],” said Associate Veterinarian Dr. Betsy Stringer.

Neliah was then introduced to Tobias, a new male lion the zoo had brought in to mate with her.

“It’s important as we’re doing introductions that they are off that birth control and they’re excited to see that male,” explained Lenyo.

The gestation period for a lion is around three months, and lions can have litters of one to five cubs. This new cub is the third for Neliah, who had another litter of two cubs three years ago.

“Neliah is very trusting of her keepers and of her staff, so she will actually allow us to move her away from him and she knows that she’ll see him real soon after that,” said Laura Morrell, a predator zookeeper who works with the new family behind the scenes.

The six-week-old cub has yet to be named, as the zoo is holding a naming contest where visitors can donate money in exchange for voting for their favorite choice.

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Abandoned 3-year-old found sleeping on porch nearly 1,200 miles from home

iStock(NEW YORK) -- A toddler was found sleeping on a porch of a home in New York this week amid an intense search for his missing parents.

Three-year-old Noelvin was found early Monday morning on a porch in Buffalo, New York, nearly 1,200 miles away from his home near Orlando, Florida, according to police.

"The child is in good spirits," Buffalo Police Department Captain Jeff Rinaldo told reporters on Tuesday. "He is currently in the custody of Child Protective Services and we are working with CPS and the grandmothers, to begin the process of reuniting them."

The woman who found the toddler said he told her that his family's car was on fire, investigators said. Police found a charred vehicle in a wooded area nearby later that night with evidence of human remains inside, but they said it's too early to say if the cases are related.

Rinaldo said the vehicle was completely burned out and it will take "quite some time" to trace its origin or identify the human remains inside.

After making contact with the child's grandparents, police said he may have been on a road trip with his parents -- Nicole Merced Plaud, 24, and Miguel Valentin-Colon, 31 -- and 29-year-old Dhamyl Roman-Audiffred, a family friend.

The young boy's family said they didn't know his parents had planned to go out of town, but it wasn't unusual from them to take road trips.

"We're heartbroken, we're worried, we're scared," Noelvin’s grandfather, Jorge Oquendo, told ABC affiliate WFTV-TV on Wednesday. "We're all devastated. ... We're all devastated for a lot of reasons. We have no answers, we don't know what happened, we don't know if it happened."

Officers with the Buffalo Police Department's homicide division released images of parents and Roman-Audiffred on Tuesday, saying they were "attempting to make contact with these three individuals or speak to anyone who has seen them in the past few days."

"We believe that these people may have arrived in Buffalo sometime late Sunday night and were here and possibly are still in the Buffalo area," Rinaldo told reporters Tuesday. "We will not know the identities of the people found in the vehicle for quite some time. It is requiring the services of forensic anthropologist to put together exactly what happened."

Police said they're reviewing video evidence in an effort to create a possible timeline of events. They said anyone who may have saw the vehicle on fire or should contact police immediately.

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Sheriffs raid drug house producing marijuana-infused Cheetos, Sour Patch Kids

iStock(PHOENIX) -- Authorities in Arizona busted an alleged drug house producing cannabis-infused snacks, modeled after Cheetos, Sour Patch Kids and Wheat Thins, as well as vaping cartridges and other marijuana products.

Among the items seized by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office at the alleged drug lab was 300 pounds of marijuana, as well as semi-automatic weapons, four handguns, 1,100 THC vape cartridges and $3,000 in cash. All told, the seized property was worth about $380,000, according to the sheriff's office.

The most expensive item seized: eight jars of narcotic distillate worth about $300,000.

Tucker Reese and Kolby Stevens, both 23, were arrested following the Sept. 12 bust in Phoenix. They have both been charged with sale of narcotic drugs, possession of narcotic drugs, possession of manufacturing equipment for narcotic drugs, possession of marijuana for sale and possession of a weapon in a drug offense -- all felonies.

The sheriff's office singled out the vape cartridges, especially in the wake of the current epidemic of illnesses in the country.

"These cartridges have been located throughout the country and have been associated with recent vaping deaths, were being manufactured in the residence," the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said in a statement Wednesday announcing the arrests. "Base (sic) on the equipment and the products located inside the residence, detectives believe this location was an apparent Closed Loop BHO Manufacturing Lab."

The Food and Drug Administration has specifically warned consumers against using THC-infused vaping products.

"In many cases of illness reported by the states, patients have acknowledged recent use of THC-containing vaping products while speaking to healthcare personnel, or in follow-up interviews by health department staff," according to an FDA release from Sept. 6.

In addition to the THC vaping cartridges, the pair was apparently extracting cannabis and adding it to snack food to sell. Among the products were "Weedos," "Sour Dab Kids" and "Weed Thins."

Police said they were tipped off to the drug house, and then conducted surveillance on the residence for days before getting a warrant.

"We are focused on protecting the young adults in our community,” Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said. "We will not tolerate criminal activity targeting adolescence for profit and at the expense of health."

The sheriff's office also seized a boat and an ATV from the residence.

A vote to legalize recreational use of marijuana failed in Arizona in 2016, though users would only have been able to possess an ounce legally. The 300 pounds found by authorities in the Phoenix home is 4,800 ounces.

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Woman kidnapped at gunpoint, raped by Lyft driver and two others: Lawsuit

iStock(NEW YORK) -- When Alison Turkos first noticed that her Lyft driver appeared to be going in the wrong direction, she said her first thought was that he might be trying to "scam me out of $20 or $30 dollars."

As he became more aggressive, she realized something more serious might be underway. When the car stopped at a light, she said she tried to open the door to jump out, but she realized the child lock was on. As she tried the door on the other side of the car, she said, "the driver pulled a gun on me and I put my hands up."

"That was when I realized that this was not just someone trying to scam $20 or $30 out of me,” Turkos told ABC News. "It was going to be the worst night of my life."

The driver would eventually bring her from New York to New Jersey, where he held her at gunpoint, raped her and stood by as two other men raped her, Turkos said.

On Tuesday, Turkos sued Lyft in federal court in California, where the company is based, for what she believes was their negligence and their "appallingly inadequate" response to the "sexual predator crisis amongst Lyft drivers," the suit states. Earlier this year, she also sued the New York Police Department saying that they mishandled her case.

Lyft did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on this case. They did issue a statement to other outlets, including The Verge, where a company spokesperson said "What this rider describes is awful, and something no one should have to endure. The unfortunate fact remains that one in six women will face some form of sexual violence in their lives — behavior that's unacceptable for our society and on our platform. In this case, the driver passed the New York City TLC's background check and was permitted to drive."

Meghan McCormick, one of Turkos’ attorneys from Levin Simes Abrams LLP, said that they felt the Lyft statement was "absolutely offensive."

"I think Lyft has been on notice since at least 2015 that passengers are being sexually assaulted by Lyft drivers," McCormick told ABC News.

"They were on notice of the problem and they took no meaningful action to address it," she said.

The lawsuit comes as ride share safety is at the forefront of crackdowns in other jurisdictions. On the same day that the suit was filed in California, Oregon's Portland Department of Transportation confirmed to ABC News that they suspended or revoked the permits for 168 ride-share drivers since 2015, including two Lyft drivers who were convicted felons -- one convicted of sexual assault and the other for assault with intent to murder.

Last week, Lyft shared a blog post about ways they are expanding their safety efforts, including building the ability to call 911 from within their app and a safety check feature.

McCormick and Turkos want more, however.

"Ultimately we’re seeking systemic change from Lyft," McCormick said.

The lawsuit, which includes six counts relating to negligence, three relating to employer's liability, one count of intentional misrepresentation and one of breach of contract, seeks damages and a jury trial. McCormick said that it will be amended to seek declaratory relief in addition to monetary and punitive damages. A petition has been filed to group this along with more than 32 other cases Lyft is facing in the California state court system, McCormick said.

"From the beginning, there was nothing but a robotic response from Lyft. They have never held themselves accountable they have never taken responsibility," Turkos said. "They say that the safety of their customers and riders is their number one responsibility but they charged me $12.81 to be kidnapped raped and trafficked by one of their drivers which to me proves that profit is their number one priority."

Since the alleged attack, which Turkos said took place in October 2017, Turkos has emerged as a fierce critic of how ride-share companies protect their passengers and has shared her story on social media.

The criminal investigation has been passed from the NYPD to the FBI, Turkos said, but no arrests have been made.

The ordeal, she said, began when she left a bar in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights at 2:30 a.m., and called a Lyft to make the short trip to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

She said the FBI has requested that she not reveal specific details where in New Jersey she was taken. But she said that when they arrived, "two other men are there waiting for us."

"I am instructed by the driver who’s holding a gun to take off my clothes… [and] lay down in the back of the car."

She said that over the course of "approximately 20 to 23 minutes," the three men allegedly sexually assaulted and raped her.

"They’re laughing, high-fiving each other, cheering each other on," Turkos said.

Turkos, who was 29 at the time of the alleged assault, said that she had previously been sexually assaulted twice as a teen and "one of the skills I’ve inherited from my past self" is to be able to disassociate from what was going on. The driver then told her to put her clothes back on, she said, and proceeded to take her to her original destination in Williamsburg.

Turkos said that she had "very significant memory loss" after the incident, and didn’t remember the kidnapping at gunpoint or the rape the next morning. But it was clear something was wrong.

"I remembered almost nothing, but my body was so exhausted and I physically could not lift my head from the pillow. I could not move myself from bed," she said.

She said that she saw on the Lyft app that she was charged $106 for her ride, which was originally slated to cost $12.81. She said she reported the discrepancy to Lyft through the app within 24 hours of the ride, and had a call with the company’s trust and safety department about the ride, but in neither did she mention the alleged kidnapping and sexual assault. She said that the company reimbursed her for the excessive charge but still charged her the original amount of $12.81.

According to the lawsuit, Turkos had a rape kit performed and reported the assault to police two days after the alleged attack. The kit later confirmed "evidence of semen from two men on the clothing" she wore the night of her Lyft ride.

As part of the investigation, when the NYPD's Special Victims Unit accompanied her to retrace the route taken that night. It was then that Turkos said "all of my memories came back."

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Bloodhounds find missing Florida boy with special needs in woods

iStock(SANTA ROSA COUNTY, Fla.) -- A boy with special needs was found safe after he went missing in the woods, thanks to some Florida deputies and their bloodhounds.

The missing 3-year-old child had unknowingly wandered into "an extremely wooded and muddy area" on Sunday after unlocking a door in his home, according to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.

He was reported missing, but an immediate search was unsuccessful, the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook.

The sheriffs then enlisted their bloodhounds to track the area and the animals managed to locate the boy about 200 yards into the woods.

He was huddled under a heavy brush area, the sheriff’s office said, and taken to EMS personnel to be checked out.

Boy being carried out of forest by his rescuers.

"We are glad to report the child is back home," according to the office. "Other than a few scratches and bug bites, he is doing well."

Sheriff Bob Johnson brought bloodhounds into the agency about a year ago. The hounds have since helped find nine people, including missing senior citizens, criminals on the run and missing children.

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Bikers line up at girl's lemonade stand after mom helps save them during crash

iStock(KOKOMO, Ind.) -- A group of 30 bikers visited one little girl's lemonade stand as a long-awaited thank you to her mom.

The Milwaukee Iron motorcycle group of Kokomo, Indiana, lined up at 8-year-old Bryanne's stand after her mom, Daryn Sturch, a nurse, helped them after a highway crash.

"When I pulled up, it looked like one of them had lost control and their bikes [got] tangled," Sturch of Denver, Indiana, told Good Morning America. "I parked a ways away so my daughter wouldn't see and I ran up. They had some severe injuries."

The accident, which injured five bikers, took place on Indiana's on State Road 19 in September 2018, according to ABC affiliate WRTV-TV.

Sturch said she comforted the victims -- three men and two women -- until paramedics arrived. Later, the bikers recovered and reached out to Sturch on Facebook.

"I just got a flood of messages from them, thanking me," Sturch recalled.

Sturch said she and Milwaukee Iron kept in touch, and on Sept. 7, she shared a photo of her Bryanne selling lemonade outside of their home.

One of the bikers expressed interested in stopping by, but little did Sturch know, 30 motorcycles would be revving up her block.

"I had no idea how many there would be and they were so generous," Sturch said. "She was charging $1, and I bet every one of them gave a $5 or $10 or $20. [Bryanne] was as happy as she could be."

Mary Henry, one of the bikers who was uninjured in the crash, told GMA she and her motorcycle family are grateful to Sturch.

"Seeing Daryn and her family, it turned out to be a great day," Henry said. "It was meant to be that she was there to help that day."

Sturch exchanged hugs with the injured bikers as they approached her home, she said.

"They're the nicest people. I want everyone to know how amazing they are," she said

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Former high school principal arrested for his wife's murder after reporting her missing: Police

iStock(SUMMERVILLE, S.C) -- A former high school principal in South Carolina has been arrested for his wife's murder, authorities said.

James Yarborough called 911 to report his wife missing on Tuesday, said police in Summerville, about 25 miles outside of Charleston.

He told the responding officers that his wife, Karen, had been missing since Monday night; he said when he went to bed, his wife said she was going for a walk, according to police.

Yarborough told the authorities his wife had been upset because of a recent death and because of the illness of a family friend, according to police.

Officers found one bullet on the floor of the couple's master bedroom, but Yarborough allegedly told police he did not have a gun and did not know why it was there, according to the incident report.

The former principal had a red stain on his shirt and told the officers it was likely blood from being on blood thinners, according to police.

Meanwhile, Karen Yarborough, 63, was found dead from a gunshot wound on Tuesday in an unincorporated area of Dorchester County, police and Dorchester County coroner's officials said. Her autopsy has not yet been completed.

Yarborough was arrested and charged with murder, possession of a weapon during a violent crime and obstruction of justice, said police.

Yarborough had been the principal at Summerville High School from 1994 to 1998, a spokeswoman for the school district told ABC News.

He then served as the school district's director of facilities from 1998 to 2002, according to the district. The spokeswoman declined to comment further.

The former principal has not yet entered a plea and did not immediately have an attorney listed.

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Merriam-Webster adds 'they' as nonbinary pronoun to dictionary

tacojim/iStock(SPRINGFIELD, Mass.) -- Merriam-Webster has added another definition for the word "they" that can be used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary, or someone who expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely male or entirely female.

The reference book company used the word as an example in this sentence: "They had adopted their gender-neutral name a few years ago, when they began to consciously identify as nonbinary."

In a post on its website, the company acknowledged that "they" has been used to refer to a single person since the 13th century and that the development of the singular use mirrors the development of the singular use of "you" from the plural "you."

Merriam-Webster noted that, while some may say the use of "they" in a singular form is ungrammatical, people have used it to describe someone whose gender is unknown for a "long time," although the nonbinary use of the word is "relatively new."

"Much has been written on they, and we aren’t going to attempt to cover it here," the post stated.

Merriam-Webster also announced the addition of 530 new words on Tuesday, including deep state, dad joke and escape room.

New abbreviations include "vacay," short for vacation, "sesh," short for session and "inspo," short for inspiration.

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