NW In Brief 11/23


Barge accident in Columbia River

The U.S. Coast Guard is responding to a barge accident in the Columbia River.

A barge carrying 1.8 million gallons of diesel fuel struck an underwater object at about 3 a.m. Friday near The Dalles Dam. No pollution has been reported.

The double-bottom barge Tri-City Voyager was being pushed by the tug Defiance.

After the accident, the tug and barge continued north, through the locks and safely moored at the upper basin north wall. Lock operators told the Coast Guard that they didn’t smell diesel fuel and saw no visible pollution.


Big tunnel drill almost assembled

Workers in Osaka, Japan, are nearly finished making a giant tunnel drill for Seattle’s new waterfront Highway 99 tunnel.

The Seattle Times says the world-record 57.5-foot in diameter drill is scheduled to dig below Seattle next year.

The giant cutter head will be attached to a giant machine that is longer than a football field.

The team at Hitachi-Zosen will test the machine before the Washington State Department of Transportation formally accepts it at a ceremony in December.

Then the drill will be dismantled into 41 sections and shipped to Seattle in March. Drilling of the two-mile tunnel is scheduled to start in June.

Breakthrough is scheduled at South Lake Union by October 2014, with traffic to use the four-lane toll tunnel by the start of 2016.


Black cats are free to adopt in King County

Black cats are free to adopt at the Seattle Humane Society on Black Friday.

KING-TV reports the Bellevue animal shelter is waiving all adoption fees for black cats and kittens on Friday.


71-year-old arrested after lot accident

King County authorities say a 71-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of vehicular assault after a couple was hit by an SUV in the parking lot of a Walmart Thursday afternoon.

Sgt. Cindi West of the King County Sheriff’s office says investigators suspect alcohol was involved and they took the man to a nearby hospital for a mandatory blood draw.

The Seattle Times reports the man had been driving an SUV in the parking lot of the Covington Walmart, which was crowded with shoppers.

Witnesses say the couple that was struck — a 45-year-old woman from the Covington area and her boyfriend, a man in his 40s — were walking into the Walmart when they were hit.


Few dozen displaced after apartment fire

More than 30 people have been displaced after a blaze burned through an apartment building in Skyway.

Skyway Fire spokesman Dave Nelson says firefighters responded to a call around 2:30 a.m. Thursday at the Greentree Apartment Homes. They encountered heavy smoke coming from a third-story unit.

Nelson says one unit is completely destroyed and another has heavy fire and smoke damage. Two units have water damage and three units have smoke damage.

He says an estimated 30 to 45 people are displaced. No one was injured.

The Seattle Red Cross and the City of Renton had opened the Renton Community Center as a shelter location for those displaced by the fire.

The cause of the fire is not known yet, but it does not look suspicious.

Nelson says due to the age of the building, there aren’t sprinklers required.


Kitsap to drop marijuana possession cases

The Kitsap County prosecutor is the latest law official to drop cases against defendants charged solely with marijuana possession.

Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge says he doesn’t believe juries will convict pot possession defendants after voters approved initiative 502, which will legalize up to an ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older on Dec. 6.

Hauge estimates that between 20 and 100 cases will be dropped, some of them in the form of arrest warrants for those who failed to show up for court on charges. But he says people charged with crimes beyond marijuana possession will still face prosecution.

The Kitsap Sun reports prosecutors in other counties in Washington — including King, Pierce and Clark — have decided to dump misdemeanor marijuana cases recently.


Couple accused of taking $223,000

A Tacoma couple has been charged with falsely claiming workers compensation benefits and pocketing $223,000.

The state Department of Labor & Industries says 63-year-old Jamie S. Beroth collected $100,664 in benefits between March 2009 and July 2011 for a workplace injury claim. Her husband, 67-year-old Lawrence Beroth, also received $123,094.02 in time-loss benefit payments from August 2009 to October 2011 for an industrial injury.

Both claimed they were unable to work during this period. But department investigators allege the couple continued working on their drywall business.

The couple pleaded not guilty last Thursday in Pierce County Superior Court.

The total amount of restitution the court could order them to repay is $223,758.31, which is the amount of time-loss benefits that they collected illegally.

Port Orchard

Man gets jail for punching old dog

A 25-year-old Port Orchard man has been sentenced to 45 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to punching an elderly dog with arthritis.

The Kitsap Sun reports that Daniel Joseph Heidt pleaded guilty to first-degree animal cruelty charges on Monday.

Charging documents say a vet who treated the 13-year-old animal before it was euthanized said bruising on her side and a collapsed lung were likely caused by “blunt trauma.” The dog’s heart was misplaced as well.

Heidt was caring for the dog while the owner found a permanent home for it.

The alleged assault occurred two or three days before the dog collapsed on June 30.

Heidt previously was convicted of second-degree robbery for aiding a man who robbed a Wheaton Way KeyBank in September 2010.

Stevens Pass

Some ski slopes open earlier than expected

Some people in Washington spent their Thanksgiving on the ski slopes instead of in the kitchen.

KIRO-TV reports Stevens Pass opened earlier than expected on Tuesday with nearly three feet of new snow. Other resorts opened on Wednesday.

Lake Charles, La.

2 die in Calcasieu Parish crash

An early morning crash in Calcasieu Parish has left two men dead and critically injured a third.

Louisiana State Police say it happened at 1:17 a.m. on Louisiana 109, between Vinton and Starks.

A preliminary investigation shows 34-year-old Donald Ray Richardson, or Orange, Texas, was headed north when he ran off the road and hit a tree. Richardson was pronounced dead at the scene. A rear seat passenger, 40-year-old Gregory Joseph Wilson, of Starks, was transported to an area hospital, where he died a short while later.

The front seat passenger, 29-year-old Venroy Anthony Ogle, of Brewster, Wash., was transported to a hospital in Beaumont, Texas, with critical injuries.

No one in the car was wearing a seat belt, as required by law.

The crash remains under investigation.

The Associated Press