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Controller had only two hours of sleep

Thu., Aug. 31, 2006

The lone air traffic controller on duty the morning Comair Flight 5191 crashed had only two hours of sleep before starting work on the overnight shift, a federal investigator said Wednesday.

National Transportation Safety Board member Debbie Hersman said the controller had only nine hours off between work shifts Saturday. That was just enough to meet federal rules, which require a minimum of eight hours off between shifts, Hersman said.

“He advised our team that he got approximately two hours of sleep,” Hersman said.

The controller, a 17-year veteran whose name has not been released publicly, worked from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. He came back to work at 11:30 p.m. on the same day to begin an eight-hour overnight shift.

The commuter jet crashed Sunday morning, in the final hours of the controller’s shift, while trying to take off from Blue Grass Airport.

Federal officials have been looking for explanations why Flight 5191 mistakenly tried to take off from a runway that was too short, crashing in a nearby field and killing 49 of 50 people on board.

Damascus, Syria

Chavez delivers anti-U.S. tirade

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez received a hero’s welcome in Syria, where he said Wednesday that the two countries will “build a new world” free of U.S. domination and vowed to one day “dig the grave of U.S. imperialism.”

Thousands of Syrians waved banners and Venezuelan flags along Chavez’s route to a meeting with President Bashar Assad.

His visit was the latest in a series of international stops where he has trumpeted his opposition to Washington’s global influence and advanced what he calls a “multi-polar” vision of world affairs. His trips also coincide with Venezuela’s push to win a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council, over U.S. opposition.

Fargo, N.D.

Man found guilty of student’s death

A convicted sex offender on trial in North Dakota’s first death penalty case in more than a century was found guilty Wednesday of kidnapping and killing a college student who was seized from a shopping mall parking lot.

The jury will return next week to begin hearing evidence on whether Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 53, should be executed for the slaying of 22-year-old Dru Sjodin.

North Dakota does not have capital punishment, but the case was heard in federal court, where the jury took less than four hours to reach a verdict.

Sjodin, a University of North Dakota student from Pequot Lakes, Minn., was abducted outside a Grand Forks mall in 2003. Hundreds of volunteers searched for her, but her body was not found until the following spring, in a ravine near Crookston, Minn. Rodriguez lived in Crookston at the time.


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