May 29, 2013 in City

In brief: Bioterrorism lab could shut down


A Spokane laboratory that helped crack a recent ricin-laced letters scare that targeted a federal judge could close by next year amid ongoing cuts to public health funding.

The Bioterrorism Laboratory, funded with federal dollars and run by the Spokane Regional Health District, opened in 2004 and has since tested dozens of suspicious materials to aid criminal investigations and solve disease mysteries.

The work includes testing that confirmed a patient had the plague; preliminary work on a backpack bomb found along the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March route; and processing scores of threatening letters to people and businesses as diverse as television stations and a Gonzaga University athletic director.

This month the lab tested a letter containing the deadly poison ricin and addressed to Eastern Washington federal judge Fred Van Sickle. A Spokane man is in custody in the case, accused of making a death threat.

Local politicians are pressing state and federal officials to keep the lab open with a funding pledge.

The lab runs on a $170,000 annual budget, most of which comes from the federal Centers for Disease Control.

John Stucke

Motorcyclist killed at county-owned track

A man killed Saturday during a motorcycle race at a Spokane County-owned track was identified Tuesday as 51-year-old Kevin C. Hamann.

Hamann crashed during the Washington Oldtimer’s National race hosted by the Airway Motocross Park, sheriff’s Deputy Craig Chamberlin said. The organization holds its events at the county-owned Off-road Vehicle Park, near the Spokane County Raceway Park.

During the race, Hamann apparently attempted a “double jump” when it appeared his throttle stuck open and he drove off the track during the apex of a turn.

The motorcycle went airborne and landed about 45 feet from where it left the track.

Hamann tumbled after he was ejected and suffered a broken neck, according to a news release from the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Efforts to reach organizers at Airway Motocross Park were unsuccessful.

Chamberlin said Hamann’s death was the first at the park since 2011, when 17-year-old East Valley High School Senior Austin Krum died during a similar race.

Thomas Clouse

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