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Two dead in Eastern Washington helicopter crash

Two people died in a helicopter crash Wednesday afternoon about 8 miles south of Davenport, Washington, according to Lincoln County Fire District 6.

Fire Chief Brandon Larmer said crews were called shortly before 4:30 p.m. to an aircraft down in a private field about 1 mile north of Bluestem and Linstrum roads off State Route 28.

He said they found two people dead at the scene and debris from the aircraft scattered. No one survived.

The small private helicopter crash caused about a 1 1/2 -acre wildfire, which volunteer firefighters fully contained.

Firefighters extinguished hot spots before leaving at about 7:50 p.m.

Larmer said the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office was expected to remain at the crash site until aviation investigators arrived.

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     (c)2024 The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.)

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Hunter shot grizzly after Idaho officials said it was a black bear

The hunter who killed a grizzly bear northeast of St. Maries last week did so after Idaho wildlife officials said it was a black bear.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced late Tuesday that it had finished investigating the June 10 killing of a subadult male grizzly over a bait site in the lower St. Joe River drainage, an area where the threatened species is not normally seen.

The agency also revealed for the first time since the killing that its staff played a role in allowing the bear to be killed.

Two days before the bear was shot, the hunter sent Idaho Fish and Game video of a bear at a bait site about  5 miles northeast of St. Maries. The hunter was concerned that the bear could be a grizzly, according to Idaho Fish and Game.

After seeing video of the bear, Fish and Game staffers told the hunter that it was a black bear.

The hunter, whose name has not been released, killed the bear. Shortly after, he realized it was  a grizzly and reported it to Idaho Fish and Game. The hunter was not cited.

In the release, the agency said it "regrets the mistake made by its staff, the undue stress the situation caused for the hunter and the loss of the grizzly bear." The agency also said it is "reviewing its staff's part in the incident as a personnel matter."

Telling the difference between grizzly and black bears can be challenging, and size and color aren't always reliable indicators. Grizzlies usually have prominent shoulder humps, rounded ears and a dished facial profile. Their claws are also longer than that of black bears.

The agency posted two videos from the hunter online Tuesday night. One shows two bears at the site — one a big, fat black bear, the other a skinny, brownish bear with a slight shoulder hump.

The second shows just the skinnier bear, apparently the grizzly.

Fish and Game staff misidentified it as a black bear "because it lacked some common features of a grizzly," according to the news release.

TJ Ross, an Idaho Fish and Game spokesman, said the telltale features of a grizzly aren't always as obvious in younger bears. He said the hump wasn't as prominent as they'd normally expect, and the ears didn't have the typical shape or proportion to the face.

He also said the location of the bait site played a big role in their misidentification.

"That was a big part of what happened there," Ross said. "It is not a place where grizzly bears appear very often."

It was in Idaho's big game unit six, which begins at the divide between the St. Joe and Coeur d'Alene river drainages and stretches south. The nearest established grizzly population is about 50 miles northeast, in the Cabinet Mountains of northwestern Montana.

Most of Idaho's grizzlies are much farther north in the Selkirk Mountains or in eastern Idaho near Yellowstone National Park.

Grizzlies are known to wander long distances, however, and they occasionally surface in areas where people aren't used to seeing them.

Nick Gevock, the Sierra Club's Northern Rockies field organizer, said it makes sense that one would find its way into the mountains of the lower St. Joe River drainage.

"There's a lot of wild, really good grizzly bear habitat through there," Gevock said.

He also said the incident shows "why we shouldn't be baiting black bears, period."

Three environmental groups — WildEarth Guardians, Wilderness Watch and Western Watersheds Project — filed a lawsuit over the allowance of black bear baiting in grizzly habitat in Idaho and Wyoming in 2019. A judge ruled against the groups in 2023, and they've appealed the suit to the Ninth Circuit Court.

It's the second consecutive year that a black bear hunter has shot a grizzly in North Idaho. Last June, a hunter was issued a citation for killing a grizzly north of Priest Lake.

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     (c)2024 The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.)

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Washington police officer run over, seriously injured while trying to arrest suspect

A police officer with the city of Milton, just east of Tacoma, was hospitalized with serious injuries Wednesday while trying to take a suspect into custody for an outstanding drug warrant.

When the suspect fled in his car, Officer Erik Haney was dragged through a parking lot and then run over. He suffered injuries to both legs and hands, the Milton Police Department said.

Haney, who has been with the Milton Police Department for five years, was taken to a nearby hospital where he underwent surgery.

Wednesday evening, Milton Mayor Shanna Styron Sherrell gave an update on the Police Department Facebook page, stating that Haney was "out of surgery, in good condition and is expected to make a full recovery."

The incident happened near the 400 block of Meridian Ave. East close to the Pierce/King County line.

The suspect, who was known to the Milton Police from previous encounters, drove north and was pursued by the Kent Police Department.

The suspect was subsequently run off the road, arrested and booked into Pierce County Jail on charges including felony assault of a police officer and resisting arrest.

Officer Jacob Wilcox rendered lifesaving aid to his partner Haney until East Pierce Fire and Rescue paramedics arrived, according to the department.

In a statement, Milton Police Chief Tony Hernandez commended the "courage and dedication" of both Haney and Wilcox and thanked surrounding law enforcement agencies for their quick response both in aiding Haney and apprehending the suspect.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Officer Haney and his family," Hernandez stated. "This incident underscores the bravery of our officers ... and their willingness to confront danger to protect and serve our community."

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     (c)2024 The Seattle Times

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Vehicle pursuit in Thurston County ends in discovery of possibly stolen cannabis

A Thurston County Sheriff's deputy's pursuit of a vehicle that began Wednesday morning ended in not just the arrest of two, but the discovery of cannabis that may be tied to a recent armed robbery of a dispensary, according to a post on the Sheriff's Facebook page.

The deputy attempted to stop the vehicle near Marvin Road because it was driving with no taillights, according to the Facebook post. The suspects did a U-turn and fled, and the deputy began the pursuit.

The suspects continued to flee north on Interstate 5 to Exit 122 in Pierce County, where they tried to exit the freeway but hit a sign instead, according to the post. The deputy could not take the exit but kept a visual on the suspects as other units caught up in the pursuit.

When they arrived, other deputies took custody of a male suspect near the vehicle, according to the post. The man had two warrants for his arrest: one warrant for attempting to elude in Pierce County, and a disorderly conduct felony escape warrant for second-degree assault.

Lakewood Police K9 officers located the other suspect, a woman, who had hidden in some bushes, according to the post. The woman was carrying a backpack with cannabis, oxycodone pills, a scale and a stolen gun, deputies reported.

Both suspects were arrested for possessing cannabis with intent to deliver, and the female suspect was also arrested for possessing a stolen gun, according to the post.

A search of the vehicle revealed a "large" amount of cannabis and evidence tying that cannabis to a recent armed robbery, according to the post. An investigation is ongoing, the post says.

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     (c)2024 The Olympian (Olympia, Wash.)

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Washington business fined $350K after trench cave-in buries, injures worker

TUMWATER — Stemilt Growers was fined more than $350,000 for safety violations after a worker in September 2023 was buried alive in a trench collapse last fall in Othello.

Workers under Stemilt Ag Services LLC were digging a trench more than five feet deep and about 25 to 30 feet long without any cave-in protection, according to a state Department of Labor & Industries news release.

The crew of 10 workers were repairing an irrigation pipe in the town south of Moses Lake when the trench caved in, burying one of the workers. It took 10 minutes to get the worker out of the trench, and afterward he had to be transported to the hospital with multiple injuries to his head, face and body, according to the news release.

"This could have easily ended in death, all because the employer chose to ignore rules to protect workers," said Craig Blackwood, assistant director for state Department Labor & Industries Division of Occupational Safety and Health, in the news release.

The state fined Stemilt $353,000 and cited the company in March with five willful, serious violations:

* There was no protective system inside the trench to prevent a collapse.

* There was no ladder or way for the workers to get out of the trench within 25 feet of where they were working.

* The piles of dirt dug from the trench were not set back at least two feet away from the edge. Dirt piles too close to the trench can cause the walls to collapse.

* There was no one onsite with the knowledge needed to inspect the trench before workers went into it, and no training program for trenching and excavation work.

* Stemilt also changed the scene by filling in the trench after the cave-in before L&I inspectors arrived.

A serious violation is one where there is a "substantial probability" that a worker's death or "serious physical harm" could occur due to hazardous conditions. And a willful violation means the employer knew or should have known the safety requirements but chose to ignore them, according to the news release. Stemilt is appealing the citation.

Stemilt has previously been fined for similar trenching issues. In 2021, L&I fined Stemilt $17,000 for violating the same trenching safety rules. After this latest citation in March, the company is now considered a "severe violator" which means Stemilt is subject to follow-up inspections.

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     (c)2024 The Wenatchee World (Wenatchee, Wash.)

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Disabled man died on street hours before he was reported missing from Oregon group home

The family of a 30-year-old developmentally disabled man who died after wandering away from his Portland group home on a 98-degree summer day filed a $15 million lawsuit Tuesday against the group home, Multnomah County and the state.

The lawsuit says Seth Musolf was found shortly before 6 p.m. on July 25, 2022, by an astute driver who noticed him collapsed and struggling to breathe on the sidewalk along Southeast Division Street.

The driver called 911 but paramedics couldn’t save Musolf, who was predisposed to dehydration and had been prescribed to take medication four times a day to prevent it, the suit states.

Musolf was more than three miles from the group home and was pronounced dead at 6:18 p.m., according to the suit.

The suit claims his death was preventable and faults Well Care Group Home — alleging that Musolf walked away from the home that afternoon, between noon and 4:45 p.m., and there was only one staff member on duty until 9 p.m., when another arrived and one of them went to a nearby park to look for Musolf.

The staff member didn’t find Musolf and called police after 10 p.m. to report him missing, according to the suit. He had already been dead for hours.

The suit states Well Care didn’t notify Musolf’s family that he was missing until three days later. That’s the same day the medical examiner’s office and Portland police positively identified Musolf as the man found dying on the sidewalk, according to the suit.

Well Care and the person the lawsuit names as its owner, Roba Sultessa, couldn’t be reached for comment.

The suit also faults the county and the state for allegedly failing to do their part to intervene before Musolf’s death.

The suit states Sultessa previously operated an adult care home near the old Mall 205 in Southeast Portland but shut it down in 2021 after “extensive violations.” The suit notes that Multnomah County found Sultessa had “falsified multiple documents” submitted to the county about that care home. The county regulates such homes.

Months later, Sultessa opened Well Care Group Home after obtaining a state license for it, the suit says. Musolf moved in in April 2022 and was dead less than four months later, the suit says.

The state and the county didn’t offer immediate comment Thursday, but generally don’t comment on pending litigation.

A GoFundMe page posted by Musolf’s sister, Kameko Musolf, said her brother had been living in an adult group home because previous battles with cancer had left him with developmental disabilities and he “required a guardian care of sorts 24/7.” She said his cause of death was heat stroke.

Kameko Musolf said her brother was “a dearly loved human in all the communities he has had a chance to be a part of.” The biggest donation to the page was $1,000, and the donor was listed as Sultessa, the defendant in this week’s lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court by Portland attorney Kate Glasson and Amber Kinney.

©2024 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit oregonlive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

After his ankle monitor went uncharged, sex offender assaulted girl in Oregon and two teens in Washington state, feds allege

A sex offender whose electronic ankle monitor died while on community supervision after convictions for raping a child picked up where he left off in Oregon and Washington, prosecutors said.

James Harrison Newcomer, 27, of Washington, is now accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl twice in Woodburn in April and two other girls in Washington state, ages 15 and 16, in February after meeting them on Snapchat before he was rearrested on June 7 outside a hotel in Kent, Washington, federal prosecutors allege in a federal complaint.

Newcomer appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michelle L. Peterson in Seattle on Thursday afternoon on a charge of traveling with intent to engage in sexual acts with a minor. He was appointed a lawyer and ordered to remain in custody pending trial. His defense lawyer Jesse Cantor didn’t challenge Newcomer’s detention.

Newcomer had been convicted of two counts of third-degree rape of a child in Washington in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl between July 24 and July 27 in 2020. He served two years and a half in state prison and then was placed on community supervision with an electronic ankle monitor.

The monitor died on Jan. 19 and his Washington state community corrections supervisors lost connection with it.

Case managers with the Washington Department of Corrections are supposed to install and monitor the electronic hardware and review the device tracking information, reports and notifications each business day and document the review. The electronic monitors are commonly used to help keep tabs on sex offenders, according to the department.

People who are ordered to wear the monitors are “required and instructed up front when the devices are installed, to keep the devices charged,” according to Tobby Hatley, a spokesperson for the corrections department. That involves hooking the ankle monitor to a wall charger typically for two hours every 12 hours, according to Hatley.

Washington community corrections officers are also “alerted to programmatic or potential device violations (i.e. low charge) and are expected to follow up with the supervised individual,” Hatley said by email. It’s unclear if that was done in this case. Once a connection to the electronic monitoring anklet is lost and the person under supervision can’t be located, a warrant is issued for their arrest.

Washington officers went to Newcomer’s home to try to find him, but he wasn’t there and a warrant was issued for his arrest, according to court records.

He is accused of connecting with the 14-year-old girl in Oregon using the profile “halycOn” on Snapchat.

He claimed he was 16 years old and went by “Jack,” according to the federal complaint.

Newcomer is accused of picking up the Woodburn girl from her home just before 4 a.m. on April 10, driving her to a Walmart parking lot and sexually assaulting her in his car. Two days later, the girl sneaked out of her house and Newcomer drove her to a Super 8 hotel in Woodburn and sexually assaulted her, according to the complaint.

Woodburn police and the Marion County District Attorney’s Office assisted the FBI in the investigation.

Two months prior, Newcomer is accused of assaulting two girls in Washington state.

In the first Washington case, Newcomer is accused of picking up a 16-year-old girl from her North Bend home about 1 am. on Feb. 7, giving her methamphetamine, taking her to his Seattle apartment, sexually assaulting her and driving her back home about seven hours later, according to a federal complaint.

She told investigators that the man who went by “halycOn” on Snapchat had added her as a friend, picked her up and took her to his Seattle apartment and told her to claim to his roommate and his roommate’s girlfriend that she really was 18 years old. A review of the girl’s social messages and photos revealed Newcomer had sexually assaulted her, the complaint said.

In the second Washington case, Newcomer is accused of picking up another girl he met on Snapchat sometime overnight Feb. 21 after instructing the 15-year-old that she could disable the security alarm on her bedroom window at the family’s Auburn home and advised her to wait until her parents went to sleep before sneaking out, the complaint said.

He also sent her messages, suggesting he would get her a fake ID to claim she was 18 years old and that would allow her to upload videos of their sex to online pornographic websites and charge viewers to watch, the complaint said.

In the Washington case that led to his rape conviction, Newcomer met the 15-year-old victim on Snapchat, claimed he was 17 years old and picked her up in his car less than 24 hours later .He drove from King County to Clallam County in Washington, picked her up near a bed and breakfast that she was visiting with family and drove her about five minutes away and sexually assaulted her in his car. He also gave her alcohol and marijuana before driving her to his parent’s King County home where he lived, snuck her into the home and sexually assaulted her repeatedly over several days before police found her there on July 27, 2020, according to court records.

Newcomer is originally from Black Diamond, Washington, had sex offender housing in Seattle and Burien but was not living at either location, federal officials said.

Investigators asked that anyone with further information on Newcomer contact the Seattle FBI Field Office at 206-622-0460.

©2024 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit oregonlive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Oregon deputy dies in scooter crash in Beaverton

A Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputy died Wednesday afternoon after the motorized scooter he was riding collided with a car, the sheriff’s office reported.

Richard Thompson was riding home from work just after 5:00 p.m. when the crash occurred near the intersection of Southwest 201st Avenue and West Baseline road in Beaverton, according to the sheriff’s office statement.

People nearby when the crash happened – and then sheriff deputies and first responders – attempted to save Thompson, but the husband and father of two died at the scene, the sheriff’s office reported.

Thompson, an avid outdoorsman and fisherman, had worked at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office since 2001, according to the sheriff’s office statement.

The Washington County Interagency Crash Analysis Reconstruction Team (CART), led by the Forest Grove Police Department, is investigating the crash.

©2024 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit oregonlive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

University of Oregon using AI to spot wildfires; the tech is expected to be a game-changer

Nick Maggio recalls standing at the nearly 8,000-foot peak of Beatys Butte in 2021, taking in the vast wilderness spread out for miles below. A helicopter soon roared overhead as it prepared to drop off 1,200 pounds of batteries for the camera tower he and his University of Oregon Hazards Lab team were about to build.

This would change everything, he knew. The tower, when finished, would stream video footage of the surrounding landscape, its view reaching more than 40 miles. And it would do so 24 hours a day, every day, an unblinking eye always on the lookout for the beginnings of a wildfire.

Once the tower was joined by many more in the works, and artificial intelligence was added to the process, Oregon firefighters would have eyes in wildlands near people’s homes and in the remotest regions of the state, in areas where fire-watch towers were never built. They would be able to catch the first sparks of a fire day or night, without relying on human fire-spotters straining their eyes and swatting themselves to stay awake in the loneliest stretches of Oregon.

That time has now come.

On May 3, the University of Oregon integrated the Beatys Butte camera tower — and 44 other university-owned camera towers like it on land owned by UO’s partners, including the federal Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service — with a specially-designed fire-spotting AI system created by the California-based tech company ALERTWest.

UO’s AI-integrated wildfire-detection system is one of three similar systems in the state. In addition to UO’s camera array, the Oregon Department of Forestry also operates its own AI-camera system on land under its jurisdiction, as do Portland General Electric and Pacific Power, which use a system called Pano AI. UO’s camera system is the only one that uses the artificial intelligence provided by ALERTWest.

Doug Toomey, a professor of geophysics at UO and director of the Oregon Hazards Lab, said the use of multiple systems is due to the many different agencies and organizations that manage Oregon’s public and private lands.

Maggio, now the assistant director of wildlife technologies for the lab, helped build more than a dozen of the UO camera sites. Using AI to monitor the camera’s feeds will be a game-changer, he said, giving firefighters a heads up on many wildfires well before any human would have identified them and called them in.

“This ability for the system to send out a notice that it’s spotted something that it thinks is worth a human being taking a look at – that’s going to be really transformative,” Maggio said.

The promise of having AI sentinels in the forest and near communities has been “on the horizon” for some time, he said, but he was surprised to see it happen so soon.

Since the cameras started going online in 2018, firefighters and even the general public have kept an eye on them, though not in a formalized, comprehensive way. Now AI will do the work of staying vigilant.

Crowdsourcing the video feeds was a decent, interim solution, and many people ended up watching them from home, Toomey said. But it was far from perfect, he noted.

“We realized that the best possible scenario is having a machine tell you that, ‘Oh, there’s an anomaly,’” Toomey said.

Scott Schifando, vice president of operations for ALERTWest, said that if the AI sees signs of a fire – such as wisps of smoke – it will alert a small team of detection specialists at ALERTWest’s offices in Chico, California, who will verify if the anomaly is truly a wildfire breaking out.

“That’s really where the AI comes into play,” Schifando said. “It’s able to say, ‘Hey, you’re getting all of this constant data streamed, it’s overwhelming. Just look here.’”

A SHAKY START

The expansive University of Oregon project got its start not in wildfire science, but in another discipline — seismology.

In 2015, the university began collaborating with the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Washington, Caltech and the University of California at Berkeley to develop the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System, a network of seismic sensors and processing centers that rapidly detect earthquakes and deliver alerts to people before they feel dangerous shaking.

The idea caught the attention of the Oregon Legislature.

In 2019 — a year after the Oregon Hazards Lab deployed its first camera for wildfire detection — the Legislature approved $7.5 million for the ShakeAlert program and for improvements in wireless network communications for its sensors.

But in the state of Oregon, while the potentially most damaging natural disasters are earthquakes, wildfires are the most frequent. And Toomey and his team soon realized that their real-time network could do more than just detect and alert people to earthquakes.

“We wanted to do multi-hazard (detection),” Toomey said. “It’s cost-effective to have a single platform that does multiple things.”

In 2021, state Rep. Nancy Nathanson, who had helped secure the funding for ShakeAlert, sought an additional $4.5 million from the Legislature – this time for a UO wildfire camera system. But the funding request was not included in the legislature’s final spending bill.

The following year, Nathanson wrote another request for funding, noting that only 30% of Oregon was covered by wildfire detection cameras at the time. She pointed out that many of the new cameras could be connected to existing communication systems that were also supporting the ShakeAlert program. This time, the legislature voted to approve the funding.

“That’s one of the aspects of this program that I’m most pleased about,” Nathanson said. “It’s building off of investments we’ve already made.”

In addition to the funding provided by the state of Oregon, the Oregon Hazards Lab has received $10 million in funding for its real-time monitoring network from the Bureau of Land Management, The U.S Geological Survey, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Science Foundation, Toomey said.

 

“A MORE COLLABORATIVE AND COORDINATED THING”

With three wildfire camera systems in the state, coordination among the different organizations is essential to avoid redundancy, said Jamie Paul, Oregon Department of Forestry’s wildfire detection camera coordinator.

Paul said that ODF has been installing cameras on land within its jurisdiction since 2009. They are monitored by five detection centers located throughout southern and eastern Oregon. She said the detection centers use artificial intelligence built by the South African-based tech company EnviroVision Solutions’ ForestWatch to help human detection specialists scan large numbers of computer screens for smoke.

Paul said that, in addition to the ODF-installed cameras on its land, Oregon utilities have deployed AI on land they own.

The existence of three separate camera systems instead of one unified system is due to several factors, including differences in each agency’s mission, availability of funds and the procurement processes of the different organizations that manage Oregon’s forests, she said.

In 2022, the state created the Oregon Wildfire Detection Camera Interoperability Committee to ensure the camera networks complement each other. The committee is made up of emergency professionals and representatives from UO, the governor’s office and various state and federal land agencies.

“We needed to find a way to deconflict redundancies,” Paul said.

This means avoiding redundant camera sites, sharing information and even getting the different systems’ AIs to “talk” to each other.

Paul said the state forestry department’s partnership with the University of Oregon’s AI integrated cameras have “filled that void” in the places where ODF doesn’t have jurisdiction, such as federal land.

“We partner with them (University of Oregon) in any way that we can because we believe in the system,” said Larae Guillory, fire operations specialist for the federal Bureau of Land Management. “It’s a huge part of boosting our situational awareness for wildfires.”

She said that the BLM has partnered with the UO Hazards Lab through a five-year cooperative agreement to install cameras across Oregon and Washington. She added that the five-year agreement is in its second year, and that BLM is expected to provide roughly $5 million to the project’s funding over the course of the agreement, pending available funds.

 

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE

The 2024 fire season will be the first time that the University of Oregon’s wildfire cameras will use AI to detect wildfires, and Toomey said the Oregon Hazards Lab has plans to add 30 more cameras by late 2025, bringing the total number to 75.

Maggio added that Oregon Hazards Lab sensors also could be used to assess the landscape after a fire to predict the risk of landslides in areas that have lost trees that help hold hills in place.

“It’s been really impressive how quickly the technology has moved,” Maggio said. “We’ve gone from it being something that might happen someday, to it being a reality and a valuable tool in what seems like the blink of an eye.”

©2024 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit oregonlive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Children stuck upside down at Oregon amusement park ride feared the worst as seconds -- and minutes -- ticked by

Alicia Brewer was at home on a work conference call Friday afternoon when her cellphone rang. It was her son, Grant, who was at the Oaks Amusement Park with his sister, Isabella, and about eight of her friends.

Brewer picked up the phone, knowing something had to be wrong for her 12-year-old son to call while at the amusement park.

“Is everything OK?” she asked.

“Everything is definitely not OK,” Grant said. “Bella’s upside down.”

He explained that his sister was on a ride that got stuck, leaving the riders hanging in the air, their feet pointing to the sky.

Alicia Brewer ran to her car and headed towards Oaks Amusement Park from her Northeast Portland home. Still on the phone with her son, she told him he had a critical task: He had to tell paramedics about Isabella’s medical condition.

Ultimately, nobody was severely injured during the approximately 25 minutes that 28 people — most of them children — were hanging upside down on the AtmosFEAR ride at the Southeast Portland amusement park. But it was, nonetheless, a harrowing experience, including for Isabella, who suffered a minor seizure on the ride and was taken to a hospital after the riders finally were brought back down to earth.

One family has already filed suit against Oaks Amusement Park in Multnomah County Circuit Court, seeking up to $125,000 for negligence, according to the plaintiff’s attorney, Michael Fuller. The suit claims that 14-year-old Evie Yannotta was stuck on the ride and since then has suffered physical pain and discomfort, mental suffering, terror, fright, emotional distress and other difficulties. The company had a duty to ensure the ride would be safe and failed to do so, according to the lawsuit, which was first reported by Willamette Week.

In particular, the lawsuit claims Oaks Amusement Park failed to maintain and operate the ride in a safe condition, failed to have the necessary tools at hand to fix it quickly, and didn’t know the proper procedure to repair the ride without having to call the manufacturer.

In the days since the incident, questions have swirled about the precise timeline of events and whether park employees and Portland Fire & Rescue rescuers acted fast enough to rescue the children.

Oaks Amusement Park has said the ride got stuck at 2:55 p.m. and that first responders arrived at the ride “at approximately 3:20 p.m.” — 25 minutes later. Portland Fire & Rescue, meanwhile, insisted that they arrived at the scene mere minutes after getting the call.

Both have since clarified what happened and when. Portland Fire & Rescue rescuers actually got to the AtmosFEAR ride at 3:14 p.m., 13 minutes after they said 911 received the call for help.

Three riders said they were struck by what they perceived to be the slow pace of rescuers’ work.

Daniel Allen, 17, said he saw a fire engine arrive at the park and stop, the driver step out, get back in the truck and then re-park before Portland Fire & Rescue workers started to walk — slowly, Allen felt — towards the ride.

“They were not in any rush,” Allen said. “You’re kind of wanting people to rush, get you safe. And they were just taking it very calmly.”

Portland Fire & Rescue spokesperson Rick Graves said the department actively trains people not to run in such situations but instead to stay calm in the face of stress.

“Fast running often leads to missing information on the scene and this missing information leads to accidents and injuries,” Graves said.

Soon after fire department rescuers got to the ride, Allen heard metallic cranking and, minutes after the crews started the work, the ride started coming down.

The Oaks Amusement Park’s ride engineer manually forced the ride to start coming back down using a tool borrowed from the fire department, park spokesperson Emily MacKay said. By 3:20 p.m. the ride was reported “unstuck,” Graves said in an emailed response to questions.

Once the ride returned to the ground, ambulance and fire department crews checked riders’ vital signs, which took several minutes each. All the riders were reunited with friends or family by 3:53 p.m., Graves said.

For Isabella’s family, the road to a full emotional, mental and physical recovery might take weeks, if not longer.

One year earlier, Alicia Brewer was stepping out of the house when she heard a crashing sound from inside. She went back in and found her daughter convulsing on the floor, her eyes rolled back, blood coming out of her mouth and her face turning blue.

Doctors soon diagnosed her with juvenile epilepsy.

Isabella Brewer’s active and vibrant life came to a virtual standstill for the six or so months that followed as doctors kept working on finding the right dosage to treat her. She stopped playing soccer and spending time with friends, primarily because she was afraid that she could have a seizure at any moment.

Life began to get back to normal in recent months, despite the challenges, Brewer said. It helped that the medications are, by all accounts, working — she hadn’t had a seizure since last August.

Things were going so well, in fact, that on Friday the All Saints School student was on a trip to Oaks Amusement Park with a group of friends.

Soon after the ride stopped, leaving the riders upside down, Isabella began to panic, believing she was going to die, because of her epilepsy, she told The Oregonian/OregonLive. At one point, she felt like she was losing control of her arms, a telltale sign of a seizure. Then, she decided that if she was going to die, she wanted her last moments to be good.

“I just started to think, if I am going to die up here, I want to be at least at peace. I just want to admire what’s around me instead of screaming, crying,” she said. “I just want to have at least one last good memory.”

Grant Brewer managed to get through to the paramedics and tell them Isabella had epilepsy. They took her off the ride first and over to a waiting ambulance right as their mother arrived. The girl stayed at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel about an hour-and-a-half and was diagnosed with suffering a minor seizure, Brewer said.

Isabella Brewer is now recovering at home, and won’t be going out for any active activities for several weeks, her mother said.

Alicia Brewer said she is proud of both her children: Her son was calm and acted decisively when it seemed his sister’s life could be hanging in the balance. Her daughter, meanwhile, faced the fear of death with poise and an equally calm attitude.

“I’m just so proud of her — of who she is and how strong she is and how resilient she is,” she said.

Neither the park nor the fire department reported any serious injuries after all the riders got off.

While the park reopened Saturday, the AtmosFEAR ride will remain closed until it goes through several inspections, MacKay said.

The ride was manufactured by the amusement park rides company Zamperla. The ride first opened at the Oaks Amusement Park in 2021 and has passed every annual inspection — performed by the ride’s insurance company, not the state — since then, including the most recent one, in March.

Because nobody was injured or killed in Friday’s incident and because there was no property damage, Oaks Amusement Park has not been required to report what happened to the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, which permits amusement rides in the state.

©2024 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit oregonlive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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