Thursday, February 2, 2006

     

 

  Woman Dies in Crash
By Julie Vaughan
Monitor Correspondent

RODDY-Department of Public Safety Troopers are investigating a two-vehicle accident which claimed the life of an 18-year-old Mabank woman on State Highway 198 near Farm-to-Market 3080.
Kendra Copeland was the passenger in a 1966 Ford Mustang being driven by her boyfriend, Kenneth Robert Terrell, also 18, of Mabank, Sunday night, Trooper Josh Vera said 
The Mustang collided with a 2005 Chrysler 300 driven by Ismael Solis, 40, Dallas, and occupied by four other people.
"Witnesses said the Mustang was passing at a high rate of speed, and then another witness statement said the Chrysler 300 pulled out of FM 3080 to the left in front of the Mustang," Vera said. 
"This is still under investigation, because we haven't considered any contributing factors," he said.
The crash occurred three feet inside the Van Zandt County line at around 6:02 p.m.
Copeland and Terrell had recently moved to Mabank from Ore City.
Copeland was pronounced dead at the scene by Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Ronnie Daniell.
Terrell was transported by Air One to East Texas Medical Center in Tyler and is listed in stable condition.
Solis and his four passengers, all of Dallas, were transported to East Texas Medical Center in Gun Barrel City with minor injuries.
"We are going to reconstruct it (the accident) to get an exact speed and see what was going on. We are actually going to reconstruct the whole accident because ... one pulled out and the other one was traveling so fast," Vera added.
The reconstruction and investigation will take a couple of weeks before troupers will know what happened in the minutes leading up to the fatal crash, he estimated.
Vera pointed out that it is not unusual for troopers to wait before issuing a citation, even in a minor accident, until the incident has been fully investigated to determine what happened.
Terrell and Copeland were not wearing seat belts, Vera said.
Troopers Brady Lunceford and Michael Johnson, DPS Sgt. Jeff Wimberly, the Mabank Police Department and the Mabank Fire Department assisted at the scene.

 

Democracy Goes High-Tech with HAVA
Casting Ballots Similar to Working ATM Screen
Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS-Casting a ballot on an eSlate electronic voting machine isn't like working on a computer, but it does work much like an ATM.
There is a "control dial," which allows voters to scroll down the screen, and an "enter" button to cast a ballot.
"If people get used to the feel of the dial, it will be easy," Henderson County deputy county clerk Evelyn Anderson said. "Of course, we'll be here to assist with any questions."
The eSlate machine includes two sets of directions - in English at left and Spanish at right - on either side of the main screen.
Just like an ATM, the eSlate machine requires the voter to enter a four-digit code, based on the voter's precinct number, which becomes the ballot number.
Also just like an ATM, each active control is also marked with Braille lettering. Headphones are available for the hearing-impaired, and a hood folds out of the "lid" of the machine to provide privacy.
Once the voter enters the ballot code, the proper ballot will be displayed, and the voter can begin making selections, using the control dial to scroll down the ballot and highlight individual races.
When the voter presses "enter," the box to the left of the chosen candidate changes color to red, indicating the voter's choice.
Once the ballot is completed, the voter can review his/her choices on a Ballot Summary Page, and if the voter wants to make a change, he/she can make the change by selecting that line, and marking the correct candidate.
When the voter is satisfied that he/she has voted as he/she intended, the voter selects "cast ballot" on the Ballot Summary Page, and the ballot is recorded, completing the voting process.
A voter cannot overvote - marking more than one candidate in a particular race - with the eSlate, Anderson said.
If a voter desires to use a paper ballot, one will be provided, along with an ink pen (not a pencil, as before) to mark selections.
That ballot will be fed into a counter, and it won't matter if the voter puts the ballot in upside down or backwards, Anderson said.
If the voter casts an overvote, that ballot will be immediately rejected, and the voter will need to request a second ballot, Anderson said.
If a voter is confined to a wheelchair, or cannot stand, there is an eSlate machine set up for seated individuals, she added.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Henderson County deputy county clerk Evelyn Anderson demonstrates how the eSlate machine's control dial enables a voter to scroll down the ballot.

 

Burn Bans Extended in 3 Counties
VZ, HC Exempt Ag and Welding
Monitor Staff Reports
CEDAR CREEK LAKE-Commissioners from three counties extended burn bans Monday. 
Kaufman County, at the request of Fire Marshal Larry Ewing, extended its ban another 14 days. 
"If we had a big fire on the west side of the county, we couldn't get our trucks into some areas," Ewing explained.
Henderson and Van Zandt counties extended bans with two important exceptions.
Henderson rescinded the very restrictive ban it passed Dec. 29, barring all combustible materials, and reinstituted a general burn ban for the next 30 days. 
However, it made an allowance for agricultural producers to burn off their pastures in preparation for the spring planting, provided the fire department or sheriff's office is given prior notice. 
With recent rains, the wildfire danger has diminished considerably, even though almost the entire state remains under the burn ban restrictions imposed by the governor's office, Henderson County Judge David Holstein noted.
Van Zandt modified its burn ban to allow welding as long as specific precautions are strictly followed. 
Several county firefighters were in attendance urging commissioners not to lift the ban. Even with the recent rain, conditions are still extremely dangerous, they said. 
"Rain after these dry conditions make firefighting more difficult. The grass is still dead, so it will burn easily, but the ground is soft, causing problems for the trucks," Van Zandt County Emergency Management Coordinator Chuck Allen said.
Van Zandt County Fire Chiefs and Firefighters Associations are in full agreement the ban should not be lifted, with the exception of the welding exemption, he said. 
"The forestry service and other state agencies are also still suggesting that bans not be lifted," Allen said.
Citizens have pressed commissioners to lift the ban and alleviate the trash buildup problems.
"I have been called by people who want the burn ban lifted, because they have nothing to do with their trash and it is just piling up," Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Carroll said. 
After much discussion regarding the growing trash problem and increased dumping along county roads, the commissioners felt the risk for fire is still a big concern.
"I feel for these citizens, and hope they don't dump along our county roads, but I would rather pick up trash than have a family lose their home to fire," Carroll said.
Citizens are encouraged to use the county collection stations as an alternative to burning.
There are also some liability questions involved in lifting the ban.
"Anderson County recently lifted a ban and some homes were destroyed by fire. The homeowners are now considering legal action against the county. Liability has to be taken into consideration," County Judge Rita Koches said.
Monday, some surrounding counties voted to lift their bans, including Smith and Wood counties. 
Modifications to Van Zandt County's burn ban regarding welding are as follows:
* A spotter is required for each welder, cutter and grinder, and for any activity that may cause a spark.
* All grass, leaves, brush and other easily combustible materials must be cleared within a minimum twenty-five foot radius surrounding the area where the activity is to take place before any welding, cutting or grinding begins. 
* If the welding occurs ten feet off the ground, a perimeter of 30 feet must be protected, keeping a ratio of 3:1..
* If the perimeter cannot be cleared of vegetation, precautions must be taken, such as the use of fire resistant tarps.
* A minimum of 100 gallons of water must be available on site.
* A minimum of one water pressure fire extinguisher per spotter is required.
* No welding is permitted, if winds are 10 mph or greater, or relative humidity is less than 30 percent.
* Prior to welding activities, the operator must file with the Van Zandt County Sheriff's Office proof of effective liability insurance or be bonded in an amount of at least $300,000.
A phone call shall be placed by the welder or company to the Van Zandt County Sheriff's Department at (903) 567-4133 relaying the location of the project, cell phone for contact person, name of party responsible and name of welder.

 

Man Charged in Meth Lab Wildfire
Special to The Monitor
ATHENS-At 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, the Payne Springs Volunteer Fire Department responded to a structure/grass fire in the Hidden Hills Harbor subdivision.
Firemen saw items they suspected were used in the making of methamphetamine and duly reported it, Lt. Pat McWilliams, Henderson County Sheriff's office said.
Patrol Sgt. Thomas Robertson responded and briefed the Henderson County Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) .
Chemical gases injured two firefighers, who were treated and released from ETMC-Gun Barrel City.
Resident Travis Cleo Stone III, 37, was present when the fire started, McWilliams said.
Stone had burns to his legs, but at first refused to be taken to a hospital for treatment.
DEU investigators Botie Hillhouse and Jody Miller searched and seized items used in the manufacture of meth where the fire originated.
They also found $1,500 cash, believed to be proceeds from the sale of controlled substances.
Hillhouse later obtained arrest warrants for Travis Stone.
When arrested, he will face first- and second-degree felony charges.
As of 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 27, Stone had not been arrested, McWilliams said.