Monday, June 30, 2008

No injuries in train derailment in Atchison

I covered a train derailment in Kansas. Thank goodness I was smart enough to take my camera as the picture I took for fun ran with the story in the paper.

Twenty-five to 30 train cars were involved in a derailment in Atchison, Kan., Friday evening. No one was injured, but a hazardous materials response team was likely to be called in as a precaution because three cars contained radioactive materials.

St. Joseph News-Press

ATCHISON, Kan. — A train heading westbound through Atchison derailed at the U.S. Highway 59 and Fourth Street intersection at 5:55 p.m. Friday.
Between 25 and 30 train cars were involved, but no one was injured on the train or at the intersection, said Atchison Fire Chief Michael McDermed.
The Atchison Police Department quickly secured the scene. Mr. McDermed said a hazardous materials response team would more than likely be flown in as a precautionary measure because three train cars contained radioactive material. The cars were considered a low-gradeconcern because they didn’t appear to be damaged in any way.
Officials weren’t sure Friday night what caused the derailment. Mr. McDermed said BNSF Railway officials and the hazardous materials team would have to be on the scene before the determination could be made.
Train and vehicle traffic through the intersection was rerouted. The train rails and roadway at the intersection sustained heavy damage in multiple areas. The tracks involved are considered a major westward route through Atchison, and trains will probably be rerouted for several days until the tracks can be repaired, Mr. McDermed said.
An Atchison man, Robert Jacobson, witnessed the accident. He said he regularly watches the trains as they pass.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen something like this when it actually happened,” Mr. Jacobson said. “It was pretty noisy, like thunder.”
The train was carrying a variety of items, which were itemized on a list provided by the driver of the train to authorities. Many of the items were commodity type materials. One grain car did appear to have a slight leak, Mr. McDermed said.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

I was fortunate enough to get to cover one of the biggest fires in St. Joseph's history. We had multiple stories from multiple reporters. This was my take.

St. Joseph News-Press

The effects of the fire that broke out in Downtown St. Joseph Wednesday afternoon could be felt over much of the city.
As onlookers began to appear from all directions, concerns began to build. The almost 90-degree heat, combined with the smoke and water from the fire, forced many businesses nearby to shut down for the day. It also made the work of the almost 30 firefighters that much more difficult.
Joe Colwell, a Heartland Regional Medical Center paramedic, was called to the scene to help make sure the firefighters remained in good condition.
“The biggest concern with something like this is heat exhaustion and burns,” Mr. Colwell said.
Paramedics monitored each firefighter’s blood pressure and made sure they were hydrated. Two firefighters were taken to a medical clinic due to superficial facial burns that weren’t considered to be serious, said Battalion Chief Russell Moore.
Volunteers from the Salvation Army and the Red Cross also were on scene, handing out drinks and snacks to those fighting the blaze. A volunteer with the Salvation Army said more than 50 bottles of water and Gatorade were used.
The blaze was an estimated 2,000 degrees, according to Fire Chief Jack Brown.
Onlooker Brian Phillippe chose to use his break from work as a chance to witness the fire.
“We have a half hour, so we thought we’d come here,” Mr. Phillippe said.
Smoke from the fire could been seen from Country Squire, where he works, at Frederick Boulevard and Buckingham Street. Mr. Phillippe said he received several picture messages on his cell phone from other onlookers already on scene while he was still at work, so he decided to come Downtown.
Power was cut to some of the businesses in the area, including to Pony Express Bank on Felix Street. However, power was restored shortly thereafter.
Several of the buildings on Seventh Street, though unaffected by fire, smelled of smoke on the interior.
Ashley Haer showed up for work at American Family Insurance on Seventh Street just after the fire started. The five-story building was downwind from the fire.
Ms. Haer found her office filled with smoke. Her manager instructed her to evacuate the office once the power went out. She took it as an opportunity to witness the fire.
Ms. Haer returned to work about three hours later.
“I know there was some smoke and water issues with the fifth floor, but nothing other than a little smoke down here,” Ms. Haer said.
The building just received a new roof last fall, Ms. Haer said, but she was unsure of any damage at the time of the fire.
Legal Aid of Western Missouri, which is located on the fourth floor of the building, remained open through the fire, but with the help of open windows, employees managed to do some ventilating of their own.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Leap Frogs dropped over Kauffman

Yet another time I was thankful I took a camera. My photo ran with the story on the front page.
Cruising around in a C-130 with Kansas City Chiefs player Donnie Edwards wasn't a bad day either.

Photo/Megan Tilk

The U.S. Navy’s Leap Frogs jump out of a Missouri Air Guard C-130 over Kauffman Stadium on Thursday. The Leap Frogs delivered the game ball.

By MEGAN TILK St. Joseph News-Press 6/13/2008

KANSAS CITY — The sky filled with colored smoke and parachutes Thursday as the U.S. Navy’s Leap Frogs descended into Kauffman Stadium to kick off a Royals home game.
It’s an event one St. Joseph native likes to think wouldn’t happen without him on the job.
Tyler Lingerfelt, a 2003 Central High School graduate, is an aircraft loadmaster for the Missouri Air Guard. His job involves being “in charge of everything in the back,” as he put it, referring to the cargo area from where the parachutists jump.
Tethered by a single strap as the cargo door opened at 6,000 feet above land, Mr. Lingerfelt walked to the edge as if he’d done it a thousand times.
Both of Mr. Lingerfelt’s parents are in the Air Guard, as well.
“It’s a cool job, in that I show up at 11 a.m., drop Navy SEALs out of an aircraft at a baseball game and am done by 2 p.m.,” Mr. Lingerfelt said.
He remained in constant contact with the pilot through a headset as he stood on the edge. Soon, he let the Leap Frogs know it was all right for them to begin their wind tests prior to the jump.
The members of the Navy Parachute Team then took formation and soon were floating through the air
The six men come from San Diego with the goal of boosting recruiting efforts for the Navy.
For those witnessing the routine from Kauffman Stadium, the Leap Frogs meant more than a cool show. One of the members carried the opening game ball as he jumped from the aircraft.
One of the Air Guard members helping pilot the craft, a previous Missouri Western State University football player, commuted on his own dollar from Orlando, Fla., to be a part of the show.
For Lt. Col. Michael Becker, the highlight of his work day included a special passenger aboard the aircraft: Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Donnie Edwards.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever flown one of these with an NFL player,” Mr. Becker said.
Mr. Edwards chose to miss out on visiting St. Joseph for the offseason practice Thursday at MWSU when he was asked to ride along by a member of the Leap Frogs.
“I don’t serve in the military, so this is my serving,” Mr. Edwards said, “meeting these men and women and letting them know we appreciate what they do.”
Mr. Edwards plans to do more than watch as the Leap Frogs jump the next time he catches up with them. He said he wants to jump as well, after his football career.