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Nation in brief: Passengers stuck for hours on planes

Sun., March 18, 2007

Hundreds of passengers were stranded for hours overnight on airliners that couldn’t take off from John F. Kennedy International Airport because of the storm that pummeled the Northeast with ice and snow.

The number of planes stuck on the tarmac was unclear, but irate passengers reported that the problems affected several airlines.

Pilots and officials blamed some of the problems on a shortage of deicing fluid and a new federal regulation giving pilots a narrow window to get their planes in the air once the chemicals are applied. The change has meant some jets need to get doused repeatedly if their takeoffs are delayed.

Reno, Nev.

Early wildfire forces evacuations

An early season wildfire in Reno burned at least two homes and temporarily shut down Interstate 80’s westbound lanes, officials said.

An undetermined number of people were evacuated from homes and businesses after the brush fire broke out Saturday afternoon.

No injuries were reported.

Flames were fanned by gusts of 20 mph and another day of unseasonably warm weather. Saturday’s high of 78 tied Reno’s record high for the date set in 1972.

Wilmington, Del.

Teacher sentenced for sex with teen

A sixth-grade science teacher who was accused of having sex with a 13-year-old student has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Rachel L. Holt, 35, had pleaded guilty to second-degree rape. She sobbed in court Friday as Superior Court Judge Calvin L. Scott gave her the mandatory minimum sentence.

Holt was initially charged with 28 counts of first-degree rape. Police accused her of having sex with the boy that many times during an intense weeklong affair. She was also accused of plying the boy with alcohol and allowing him to drive her car.

Salt Lake City

Airline apologizes for shut restroom

SkyWest Airlines apologized to a passenger who said he wasn’t allowed to use the restroom during a one-hour flight and ended up urinating in an air-sickness bag.

James Whipple said he had two “really big beers” at the Boise airport. While on a flight to Salt Lake City on March 7 he wanted to use the cabin restroom.

The captain had declared it off-limits during the short flight because a light wasn’t working.

Whipple said he had used the cabin restroom before the plane departed but had to go again and finally reached for the air-sickness bag. “It was like I had no choice,” Whipple told the Salt Lake Tribune.

No other passengers noticed Whipple using the bag, but a flight attendant asked him about it and told the captain, who called airport police. Whipple was questioned and took a taxi home to Sandy, a Salt Lake City suburb.

Lake City, Minn.

Ammonia leaks from railroad car

Anhydrous ammonia leaked from a railroad tank car Saturday and the fumes led authorities to evacuate more than 100 people from their homes in southern Lake City.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The leaking car was part of an Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad train operating on Canadian Pacific tracks, railroad officials said.

Anhydrous ammonia can be extremely toxic and fatal if inhaled.

The vapors are irritating and corrosive, according to the federal Emergency Response Guidebook. Symptoms of exposure include a harsh burning sensation in the nose, a bad taste or stinging in the mouth, as well as headaches, nausea and difficulty breathing.


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