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In brief: U.S. 95 three-car accident kills man, hurts another

A fatal three-car accident closed both directions of U.S. Highway 95 for about two hours Tuesday afternoon at the Spokane River Bridge in Coeur d’Alene.

The Idaho State Police reports that Stephen L. Pedersen, 60, was driving north when he crossed the centerline and collided head-on with a car driven by Leonard G. Hammrich, 74, of Hayden Lake. Pedersen, a resident of Coeur d’Alene, was killed. Hammrich was taken to Kootenai Health for treatment of his injuries.

The third vehicle involved, driven by Coeur d’Alene resident Adam Jacobson, 35, was driving north behind Pedersen. Jacobson was not injured.

East Valley ditches K-8 school structure

The East Valley School Board decided Tuesday to dismantle its K-8 configuration and return to kindergarten through sixth-grade elementary schools and a seventh- and eighth-grade middle school.

The only exception would be Continuous Curriculum School, which has always been K-8.

New school board members Mike Novakovich, Justin Voelker and Fred Helms voted yes. Mike Harris, a longtime board member, voted no, explaining that he didn’t feel there had been sufficient time to thoroughly research the issue.

Mitch Jensen, another longtime board member, voted “absolutely, unequivocally no.”

Jensen tried a parliamentary move to stop the vote “due to the financial burden it will put on the district,” he said.

The board voted 4 to 1 to proceed with the vote, exceeding the required two-thirds.

East Valley began the process of switching to K-8 in 2011 and the conversion was complete starting this school year.

Man, woman, dog put in garbage truck

A man, a woman and a dog reportedly sleeping in a trash bin downtown early Tuesday were thrown into a garbage truck that started its compactor, according to the Spokane Fire Department.

The driver was making his first stop of the day near East Second Avenue and South Sherman Street around 7 a.m. when he heard a scream and saw boxes flying from the back of his truck, according to investigators. The driver stopped and called the Fire Department for assistance.

The man was transported to the hospital in an ambulance, with the woman driven in a Fire Department vehicle to be with him, Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer said. The conditions of the couple and dog were not immediately available Tuesday.

House passes bill to raise speed limits

BOISE – Some stretches of freeway in Idaho could see speed limits rise to 80 mph, under legislation that won final passage in the Idaho House on Tuesday and headed to the governor’s desk.

The House was closely divided, approving the measure on a 34-31 vote, with opponents citing safety concerns.

Backers said the Idaho Transportation Department would only up the top speeds on sections where it determines, after engineering and traffic studies, that it would be in the public interest. Attention is aimed squarely at the southern end of the state, where Interstate 84 across the Utah state line already is limited at 80 mph while Idaho remains at 75.

Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, the bill’s House sponsor, said, “I think it can safely be done in Idaho.”

Utah did a three-year experiment with 80 mph top speeds and found that accident rates didn’t rise.

The bill also would allow ITD to raise top speeds from 65 mph to 70 mph on selected stretches of state highway, under the same conditions. If Gov. Butch Otter signs the bill into law, it would take effect July 1; ITD would then decide when, or if, any speed limits would rise.

Hit-and-run hurts 1, ends in man’s arrest

A driver who allegedly hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk and drove away Monday afternoon told police he wasn’t aware that he had hit anyone.

Ronnie L. Tate, 56, was driving a white truck south on Division Street when it hit the pedestrian at Lyons Avenue, according to court documents. A driver who witnessed the collision went after the truck and told Tate to come back to the intersection, which he did, documents state. The victim reported injuries to his head, hip and knee.

Other witnesses told police that Tate’s truck slowed after the accident, then accelerated away. Tate was arrested and charged with hit-and-run with injury.

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