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Nation in brief: Chemical fire kills 5 plant workers

A chemical fire ignited at a hydroelectric plant outside this mountain town, and five workers who were trapped in an empty water tunnel there were found dead, authorities said Tuesday.

Xcel Energy, which owns the Cabin Creek Station plant, said the workers were employed by a contractor who was performing routine maintenance.

The dead workers were among a group of nine workers who were in the tunnel when a machine used to coat the inside of the 4-foot-wide pipe with epoxy caught fire. Four workers were able to scramble out of the bottom of the tunnel.


Warner undergoes heart procedure

U.S. Sen. John Warner was admitted to Inova Fairfax Hospital Tuesday to correct an abnormal heartbeat; he is expected to be home by the weekend and back at work next week, according to his Senate office.

Warner, 80, R-Va., went to work Tuesday but checked in with the Capitol physician’s office midmorning. He left for the hospital for a procedure to correct atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat. He is scheduled to undergo a second procedure today.


Detained woman’s autopsy unclear

An autopsy conducted Tuesday on a woman who died after being handcuffed and detained at the Phoenix airport was inconclusive, and toxicology results needed to determine a cause of death will not be available for a few weeks, a county medical examiner said.

Authorities have said Carol Anne Gotbaum, who was handcuffed and shackled to a bench, may have accidentally strangled herself Friday.

Gotbaum’s family accuses police of manhandling the New York woman when they arrested her Friday. They have hired an attorney, private investigator and pathologist to monitor the police investigation into her death.

Gotbaum, 45, was on her way to an alcohol treatment program in Tucson when police stopped her. Authorities said she was late for a flight and became angry when a gate crew wouldn’t let her on the plane.

Bartow, Fla.

Girl safe after meeting offender

A teenage girl who ran away to rendezvous with a high-risk sex offender she met online was found safe at a store 400 miles from her home on Tuesday, while the search for the 46-year-old man continued, a sheriff said.

Authorities had issued an Amber Alert, blasting photographs of the two and a description of the suspect’s car across the state after the girl sneaked out of her home early Monday. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd made a direct plea in a televised news conference to William Joe Mitchell to leave the girl somewhere, and believes it worked.

“For some reason, he knew it was time to run,” Judd said. “And thankfully he didn’t murder her before he did that.”

Judd said the girl, 15, had been chatting online with Mitchell and believed him to be a young man – maybe 20 or 24.

“He truly had her convinced that he was a young man in love with her,” Judd said. “He, on the other hand, knew he was grooming a child to engage her in sexual conduct. Whether that occurred or not we don’t know and we won’t release.”


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