Ethiopian plane smoked and shuddered before deadly plunge

Ethiopian Federal policemen stand at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

By Duncan Miriri

GARA-BOKKA, Ethiopia (Reuters) – The Ethiopian Airways plane that crashed killing 157 people was making a strange rattling noise and trailed smoke and debris as it swerved above a field of panicked cows before hitting earth, according to witnesses.

Flight 302 took off from the Ethiopian capital on Sunday morning bound for Nairobi with passengers from more than 30 countries. All on board the Boeing 737 MAX 8 died.

The pilot had requested permission to return, saying he was having problems – but it was too late.

(graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2CdCVUi)

Half a dozen witnesses interviewed by Reuters in the farmland where the plane came down reported smoke billowing out behind, while four of them also described a loud sound.

“It was a loud rattling sound. Like straining and shaking metal,” said Turn Buzuna, a 26-year-old housewife and farmer who lives about 300 meters (328 yards) from the crash site.

“Everyone says they have never heard that kind of sound from a plane and they are under a flight path,” she added.

Malka Galato, 47, a barley and wheat farmer whose field the plane crashed in, also described smoke and sparks from the back. “The plane was very close to the ground and it made a turn… Cows that were grazing in the fields ran in panic,” he said.

Tamirat Abera, 25, was walking past the field at the time. He said the plane turned sharply, trailing white smoke and items like clothes and papers, then crashed about 300 meters away.

“It tried to climb but it failed and went down nose first,” he said. “There was fire and white smoke which then turned black.”

CHILDREN’S BOOKS, PERFUME AT CRASH

As the plane had only just taken off, it was loaded with fuel.

At the site, Red Cross workers in masks sifted gently through victims’ belongings. Children’s books – Dr Seuss’s “Oh The Thinks You Can Think” and “Anne of Green Gables” – lay near a French-English dictionary burnt along one edge.

A woman’s brown handbag, the bottom burnt, lay open next to an empty bottle of perfume.

The aircraft was broken into small pieces, the largest among them a wheel and a dented engine. The debris was spread over land roughly the size of two soccer fields.

“When it was hovering, fire was following its tail, then it tried to lift its nose,” said another witness, Gadisa Benti. “When it passed over our house, the nose pointed down and the tail raised up. It went straight to the ground with its nose, it then exploded.”

Local resident Nigusu Tesema helped gather victims’ scattered identity papers to hand to police.

“We are shocked and saddened,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Kumerra Gemechu and Tiksa Negeri; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

Passengers recount escape from burning Mexican plane

Firefighters douse a fire as smoke billows above the site where an Aeromexico-operated Embraer passenger jet crashed in Mexico's northern state of Durango, July 31, 2018, in this picture obtained from social media. Proteccion Civil Durango/via REUTERS

By Julia Love and Daina Beth Solomon

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Shortly after boarding her flight in the northern Mexican state of Durango afternoon on Tuesday afternoon, Ashley Garcia had a premonition that something was wrong.

The 17-year-old high school student from Northlake, a suburb of Chicago, was one of 65 U.S. citizens among the 103 passengers and crew aboard the Aeromexico passenger jet that crashed near the runway shortly after take-off.

Settling into her seat, Garcia saw a storm was gathering fast in the distance, and by the time the aircraft began preparing for takeoff it was battered by strong winds, hail and rain. Garcia captured the scene through her window with her cellphone.

“I had a gut feeling: just record it, just record it,” said Garcia. “I was like, there’s no way we are taking off, it’s too risky.”

The flight crashed moments after taking off, skidding to a halt in scrubland near the runway, a wing in flames. Passengers described how they followed escape procedures, enabling everyone to evacuate without any fatalities.

“We had been told so many times what to do,” Garcia said of the safety protocol passengers around the world are taught every time they board a plane. “No one ever thinks it’s going to happen until it happens to them. We were there for each other… That’s how we were able to get off safely.”

Investigators found the Embraer passenger jet’s recorders on Wednesday and have still to determine the cause of the crash. Aeromexico said 64 people have been released from hospitals. Two people, including the pilot, were more seriously injured.

Garcia was returning to the United States with three cousins after a two-week trip to visit relatives, traveling from Durango to Mexico City to catch a connecting flight to Chicago.

Liliana Gallarzo, Garcia’s cousin, thought the bumpy take-off was turbulence until the aircraft began skidding and panic set in.

“We were screaming,” said Gallarzo, a 19-year-old college student from Chicago. “Everyone was trying to get away from the plane, trying to get out.”

They smelled the smoke right away. But the cousins were seated in the middle of the cabin, and passengers were exiting from the front and rear doors, as the emergency exits in the middle of the plane were unused due to the fire near the wing, Garcia said.

Filing behind fellow travelers, they made their way toward the rear as the aircraft filled with smoke. Garcia grabbed her phone but left her luggage behind, losing her glasses in the shuffle.

When they reached the exit, there were no emergency slides, meaning they had to jump, Garcia said. A trampoline was there to cushion their fall, and fellow passengers helped them make the jump.

Once off the plane, Garcia coughed and vomited, choking for air. A flight attendant directed the cousins to get as far away as possible from the plane, which was soon engulfed by the fire, leaving only smoldering wreckage after firefighters extinguished the blaze. They walked through the rain, their clothes soaked.

After waiting for further direction, they headed closer to the runway, where firefighters, paramedics, and other emergency personnel sprang into action, checking passengers for injuries. Suffering from minor scratches and bruises, Garcia was taken to the hospital, where she underwent X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before returning home that night.

She said the compassion shown to her by emergency personnel affirmed her desire to be a police officer. She has a flight home booked for Friday.

“I didn’t think I would be able to get back on a flight, but I have experienced the worst,” Garcia said. “So now, whatever happens, it’s meant to happen.”

(Reporting by Julia Love and Daina Beth Solomon; writing by Julia Love; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Passengers ‘grateful to God’ after jet crashes in Mexico with no deaths

Firefigters and rescue personnel work at the site where an Aeromexico-operated Embraer passenger jet crashed in Mexico's northern state of Durango, July 31, 2018, in this picture obtained from social media. Proteccion Civil Durango/via REUTERS

By Lizbeth Diaz and Julia Love

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Dozens of people were injured when a packed Aeromexico-operated  Embraer jet crashed right after takeoff in Mexico’s state of Durango on Tuesday, but authorities said most were not seriously hurt and there were no fatalities.

The mid-sized jet was almost full, with 103 people including two infants and four crew members on board, when it crashed at about 4 p.m. local time (2100 GMT), authorities said. Passengers and crew jumped to safety before the plane was engulfed in flames.

Firefighters douse a fire as smoke billows above the site where an Aeromexico-operated Embraer passenger jet crashed in Mexico's northern state of Durango, July 31, 2018, in this picture obtained from social media. Proteccion Civil Durango/via REUTERS

Firefighters douse a fire as smoke billows above the site where an Aeromexico-operated Embraer passenger jet crashed in Mexico’s northern state of Durango, July 31, 2018, in this picture obtained from social media. Proteccion Civil Durango/via REUTERS

Passenger Jackeline Flores told reporters the plane crashed shortly after taking off in heavy rain. She and her daughter escaped from a hole in the fuselage as the aircraft filled up with smoke and flames, she said.

“A little girl who left the plane was crying because her legs were burned,” said Flores, who said she was Mexican but lived in Bogota, Colombia.

Flores said her passport and documents burned in the fire.

“I feel blessed and grateful to God,” she said.

TV images showed the severely damaged body of the plane after it came to rest in scrubland and a column of smoke rose into the sky.

The plane had barely taken off when it felt like it was hit by a strong air current, another passenger told network Televisa.

Durango Governor José Rosas Aispuro also said a gust of wind rocked the plane before it plunged suddenly, citing air traffic control at the airport. The plane’s left wing hit the ground, knocking off two engines before it came to a halt 300 meters (328 yards) from the runway, he told a news conference.

Passengers were able to escape on the plane’s emergency slides before it was engulfed in flames, he said. The pilot was the most severely hurt but was in a stable condition.

Grupo Aeroportuario Centro Norte, the airport operator, also attributed the crash to bad weather, citing preliminary reports.

Aeromexico said in a statement: “We deeply regret this accident. The families of all those affected are in our thoughts and in our hearts.”

People wait in the Durango Airport after an Aeromexico-operated Embraer passenger jet crashed right after takeoff in Mexico's state of Durango, July 31, 2018, in this picture obtained from social media. Contacto Hoy/via REUTERS

People wait in the Durango Airport after an Aeromexico-operated Embraer passenger jet crashed right after takeoff in Mexico’s state of Durango, July 31, 2018, in this picture obtained from social media. Contacto Hoy/via REUTERS

LIGHT INJURIES

Alejandro Cardoza, a spokesman for the state’s civil protection agency, said in an interview that around 85 people had suffered mostly light injuries and that the fire had been put out.

The civil protection agency said 37 people were hospitalized, while the state health department said two passengers were in a critical condition.

“Many managed to leave the plane on foot,” Cardoza said.

The head of Mexico’s civil aviation agency, Luis Gerardo Fonseca, said it could take months to know the cause of the crash. He told Televisa the plane’s voice and data recorders would be recovered once rescue efforts were completed.

The United States will send two people to assist the Mexican investigative team, a U.S aviation official said.

Flight number 2431 was an Embraer 190 bound for Mexico City when it crashed, Aeromexico said on Twitter. A spokesman for the Mexican airline declined to disclose the passenger list or the nationalities of those on board.

Among the passengers was Chicago-born priest Esequiel Sanchez of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, according to a statement by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

A U.S. embassy spokesman said he did not currently have confirmation of whether any American citizens were involved in the incident.

Aeromexico has not had any fatal crashes in the past 10 years.

A Mexican pilots association said last year there were 66 accidents and 173 incidents in Mexican aviation, saying the number was “worrying” and calling for more supervision of flying schools, more funds for maintenance and oversight of fleets, and shorter flying hours for pilots.

The Embraer 190 was involved in one fatal crash when a Henan Airlines flight overshot a Chinese runway in 2010 and another in Africa in 2013 when a LAM Airlines pilot deliberately crashed the plane during a hostage-taking incident, according to a summary by the Aviation Safety Network.

Embraer has delivered more than 1,400 E-Jets.

Aeromexico leased the 10-year-old aircraft involved in Tuesday’s incident from Republic Airlines in the United States in 2014, according to data on Planespotters.net.

Embraer said late on Tuesday it had sent a team of technicians to the scene of the accident and stood ready to support the investigation. The aircraft, the serial number of which was 190-173, was delivered in May 2008, the company said in a statement.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz, Adriana Barrera, Diego Oré, Noe Torres and Michael O’Boyle; Additional reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Writing by Julia Love; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Paul Tait))

U.S. Navy plane crashes in Philippine Sea; three missing

U.S. Navy plane crashes in Philippine Sea; three missing

TOKYO (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy transport plane carrying 11 people crashed in the Philippine Sea south of Japan on Wednesday as it flew to the aircraft carrier the Ronald Reagan, the U.S. Seventh Fleet said.

Eight people had been rescued, with the remaining three unaccounted for, it said, adding that all of the rescued personnel were transferred to the Ronald Reagan for medical evaluation and were in good condition.

“Search and rescue efforts for three personnel continue with U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships and aircraft on scene,” the U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a news release.

“The incident will be investigated.”

The aircraft was conducting a routine transport flight carrying passengers and cargo from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to the carrier, which was operating in the Philippine Sea as part of an exercise with Japanese forces, it said.

Japanese Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera told reporters the U.S. Navy had informed him that the crash in the Philippine Sea may have been a result of engine trouble.

The propeller powered transport plane, a C-2 Greyhound, carries personnel, mail and other cargo from mainland bases to carriers operating at sea.

C-2 aircraft have been in operation for more than five decades and are due to be replaced by the long-range tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Robert Birsel)

White House says Trump condemns Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis

People gather for a vigil in response to the death of a counter-demonstrator at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, outside the White House in Washington,

By Ian Simpson

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s remarks condemning violence at a white nationalist rally were meant to include the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups, the White House said on Sunday, a day after he was criticized across the political spectrum for not explicitly denouncing white supremacists.

U.S. authorities opened an investigation into the deadly violence in Virginia, which put renewed pressure on the Trump administration to take an unequivocal stand against right-wing extremists occupying a loyal segment of the Republican president’s political base.

A 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 people were injured, five critically, on Saturday when a man plowed a car into a crowd of people protesting the white nationalist rally in the Southern college town of Charlottesville. Another 15 people were injured in bloody street brawls between white nationalists and counter-demonstrators who fought each other with fists, rocks and pepper spray.

Two Virginia state police officers died in the crash of their helicopter after assisting in efforts to quell the unrest, which Mayor Mike Signer said was met by the presence of nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers.

Former U.S. Army enlistee James Alex Fields Jr., 20, a white Ohio man described by a former high school teacher as having been “infatuated” with Nazi ideology as a teenager, was due to be appear in court on murder and other charges stemming from the deadly car crash.

The federal “hate crime” investigation of the incident “is not limited to the driver,” a U.S. Justice Department official told Reuters. “We will investigate whether others may have been involved in planning the attack.”

Democrats and Republicans criticized Trump for waiting too long to address the violence – his first major crisis on the domestic front that he has faced as president – and for failing when he did speak out to explicitly condemn white-supremacist marchers who ignited the melee.

Trump on Saturday initially denounced what he called “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

On Sunday, however, the White House added: “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred, and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi, and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”

The statement was emailed to reporters covering Trump at his golf resort in New Jersey and attributed to an unidentified “White House spokesperson.”

 

SOLIDARITY WITH CHARLOTTESVILLE

Memorial vigils and other events showing solidarity with Charlottesville’s victims were planned across the country on Sunday to “honor all those under attack by congregating against hate,” a loose coalition of civil society groups said in postings on social media.

Virginia police have not yet provided a motive for the man accused of ramming his car into the crowd. But U.S. prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have opened a civil rights investigation, FBI and Justice Department officials said.

Derek Weimer, a history teacher at Fields’ high school, told Cincinnati television station WCPO-TV that he remembered Fields harboring “some very radical views on race” as a student and was “very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler.”

“I developed a good rapport with him and I used that rapport to constantly try to steer him away from those beliefs,” Weimer recounted, adding that he recalled Fields being “gung-ho” about joining the Army when he graduated.

The Army confirmed that Fields reported for basic military training in August 2015 but was “released from active duty due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015.” The Army statement did not explain in what way he failed to measure up.

Fields is being held on suspicion of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and a single count of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, authorities said.

Two people stop to comfort Joseph Culver (C) of Charlottesville as he kneels at a late night vigil to pay his respect for a friend injured in a car attack on counter protesters after the "Unite the Right" rally organized by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Two people stop to comfort Joseph Culver (C) of Charlottesville as he kneels at a late night vigil to pay his respect for a friend injured in a car attack on counter protesters after the “Unite the Right” rally organized by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

REPUBLICAN SENATORS CRITICIZE RESPONSE

On Sunday before the White House statement, U.S. Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, who chairs the Republican Party’s Senate election effort, urged the president to condemn “white supremacists” and to use that term. He was one of several Republican senators who squarely criticized Trump on Twitter on Saturday.

“Calling out people for their acts of evil – let’s do it today – white nationalist, white supremacist,” Gardner said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday. “We will not stand for their hate.”

Sunday’s White House statement elaborating on Trump’s initial comment on the Charlottesville clashes was followed hours later by even tougher rhetoric against white nationalists from Vice President Mike Pence, on a visit to Colombia.

“We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo Nazis or the KKK,” Pence said. “These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

Mayor Signer, a Democrat, blamed Trump for helping foment an atmosphere conducive to violence, starting with rhetoric as a candidate for president in 2016.

“Look at the campaign he ran, Signer said on CNN’s State of the Nation.” “There are two words that need to be said over and over again – domestic terrorism and white supremacy. That is exactly what we saw on display this weekend.”

Jason Kessler, an organizer of Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally, which was staged to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate army commander General Robert E. Lee from a park, said supporters of the event would not back down. The rally stemmed from a long debate over various public memorials and symbols honoring the pro-slavery Confederacy of the U.S. Civil War, considered an affront by African-Americans.

Kessler attempted to hold a press conference outside city hall in Charlottesville on Sunday but was quickly shouted down by counter-protesters.

 

(Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani and Mike Stone in Washington, James Oliphant in New Jersey, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Julia Cobb in Bogota; Writing by Grant McCool and Steve Gorman; Editing by Andrew Hay and Mary Milliken)

 

U.S. military searches for three Marines in sea after aircraft crashes off Australia

Two U.S. Marines MV-22 Osprey Aircraft sit on the apron of Sydney International Airport in Australia, June 29, 2017. Picture taken June 29, 2017.

By Tom Westbrook

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Rescue teams were searching for three U.S. Marines missing after their aircraft crashed into the sea off Australia’s east coast on Saturday, the U.S. Marine Corps said.

Twenty-three other personnel aboard the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft had been rescued, the III Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Okinawa, Japan, said in a statement.

In past years, Ospreys have been involved in incidents resulting in deaths or injuries.

The aircraft had launched from the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) amphibious assault ship and was on regular operations when it hit the water, the statement said. Boats and aircraft on the ship immediately began a search-and-rescue effort.

The U.S. Marine Corps said the incident was under investigation but gave no additional information.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who was on his first full day of vacation at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, was briefed on the situation by his chief of staff, retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, according to a White House official.

The incident took place off the coast of Shoalwater Bay, in Australia’s northeastern state of Queensland, the Australiandefense ministry said.

One person had been taken to Rockhampton hospital, a Queensland Ambulance spokesman said. He gave no further details.

The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group was in Australia to participate in joint training maneuvers involving more than 33,000 U.S. and Australian military personnel, which ended two weeks ago.

The exercises included the participation of MV-22 Ospreys practicing the deployment of U.S. Marine reconnaissance teams.

The Osprey, built by Boeing Co and Textron Inc’s Bell Helicopter unit, is designed to take off like a helicopter and rotate its propellers to fly like a plane.

Its development was nearly canceled after the deaths of 23 Marines during flight testing in 2000, but its speed and range have made it very popular in recent years.

In December, the U.S. military grounded its Osprey fleet in Japan after one of the aircraft ditched into the sea, injuring its crew of five when a hose connected to the aircraft broke during a refueling exercise.

Australia has sent troops to fight in the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

(Reporting by Colin Packham and Tom Westbrook in SYDNEY and Jamie Freed in SINGAPORE, Jonathan Landay in WASHINGTON and Amy Tennery in BRIDGEWATER, N.J.; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Lisa Von Ahn)

 

Man smashes Arkansas Capitol’s new Ten Commandments monument

A statue of the Ten Commandments is seen after it was installed on the grounds of the state Capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S. June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Steve Barnes

By Steve Barnes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) – A newly installed Ten Commandments monument on Arkansas state Capitol grounds was destroyed on Wednesday by a man police said drove his vehicle into the granite slab and posted the incident on Facebook.

“It was shattered into a lot of pieces,” Chris Powell, a spokesman for the Secretary of State and Capitol Police, said in an interview.

The suspect, identified as Michael Reed, 32, was arrested on three charges, including defacing an object of public interest. Police did not release Reed’s motive for toppling the monument installed in Little Rock on Tuesday.

Republican state Senator Jason Rapert, the main backer of the monument, said a replacement has been ordered.

“Frankly this guy was in a state of mind that he could very well have hurt somebody,” he said at a news conference.

A Facebook Live video posted to the account of a person named Michael Reed appears to show the slab’s destruction.

In the vehicle, a person can be heard saying: “Oh my goodness. Freedom,” and driving more than 20 mph (32 kph) until a smashing noise is heard.

“He actually was videoing it and broadcasting it live on Facebook as it happened,” police spokesman Powell said, adding an officer patrolling nearby arrested Reed.

No lawyer was listed for the suspect in online jail records.

In 2014, a person with the same name and age as the suspect used a vehicle to smash a Ten Commandments monument on Oklahoma Capitol grounds, law enforcement in Oklahoma said.

Reed then fled the scene and went into a federal building. He made threats against then President Barack Obama, they said. News reports in Oklahoma said he was never formally charged.

Arkansas has not officially confirmed whether the same Reed was involved in Wednesday’s incident, Powell said.

The 6-foot (1.8-meter) monument in Little Rock was funded with $26,000 in private donations. Legislation permitting it on the Capitol grounds was enacted in 2015, and whether that was appropriate has been debated ever since.

Courts have ordered the removal of similar religious monuments erected in Alabama and Oklahoma, which had rebuilt its monument after it was destroyed.

A civil liberties group has pledged a court challenge in Arkansas, saying the monument showed an unconstitutional government preference for a certain religion.

Since Arkansas’ Ten Commandments monument act was proposed, satanists and other groups have sought state permission to place markers on Capitol grounds, but their requests were rejected.

(Reporting by Steve Barnes in Little Rock and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Taylor Harris and Grant McCool)

Seven sailors missing after U.S. Navy destroyer collides with container ship in Japan

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, arrives at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan June 17, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

By Toru Hanai and Megumi Lim

YOKOSUKA, Japan (Reuters) – U.S. Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald sailed back to its base in Yokosuka, with seven of its sailors still missing after it collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship more than three times its size in eastern Japan early on Saturday.

The Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided missile destroyer, collided with the merchant vessel at about 2:30 a.m. local time (1730 GMT), some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, the Navy said.

Three aboard the destroyer had been medically evacuated to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, including the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who was reported to be in stable condition, the Navy said. The other two were being treated for lacerations and bruises, while other injured were being assessed aboard the ship, it said.

Search and rescue efforts by U.S. and Japanese aircraft and surface vessels were continuing for the seven missing sailors, the Navy said. Their names are being withheld until the families have been notified, it said.

Benson took command of the Fitzgerald on May 13. He had previously commanded a minesweeper based in Sasebo in western Japan.

UNCLEAR WHAT HAPPENED

It was unclear how the collision happened. “Once an investigation is complete then any legal issues can be addressed,” the 7th Fleet spokesman said.

The Fitzgerald suffered damage on her starboard side above and below the waterline, causing “significant damage” and flooding to two berthing spaces and other areas of the ship, the Navy said. The flooding was later stabilized, but it was uncertain how long it would take to gain access to those spaces once the ship is docked, to continue the search for the missing, it said.

Back in Yokosuka, divers will inspect the damage and develop a plan for repairs, the Navy said.

The ship was able to operate under its own power with limited propulsion, the Navy said. The Japanese Coast Guard said separately the Fitzgerald was towed back to Yokosuka by a tugboat at about 3 knots.

Part of an eight-ship squadron based in Yokosuka, the Fitzgerald had in February completed $21 million worth of upgrades and repairs.

Japan’s Nippon Yusen KK, which charters the container ship, ASX Crystal, said in a statement it would “cooperate fully” with the Coast Guard’s investigation of the incident. At around 29,000 tons displacement, the ship dwarfs the 8,315-ton U.S. warship, and was carrying 1,080 containers from the port of Nagoya to Tokyo.

None of the 20 crew members aboard the container ship, all Filipino, were injured, and the ship was not leaking oil, Nippon Yusen said. The ship arrived at Tokyo Bay around 5:00 p.m. (0800 GMT), sailing under its own power, the Coast Guard said.

BUSY WATERWAYS

The waterways approaching Tokyo Bay are busy with commercial vessels sailing to and from Japan’s two biggest container ports in Tokyo and Yokohama.

International maritime rules for collision avoidance do not define right of way for any one vessel, but provide common standards for signaling between ships, as well as regulations on posting lookouts.

Japan’s public broadcaster NHK showed aerial footage of the Fitzgerald, which had a large dent on its right, or starboard, side. Images broadcast by NHK showed it had been struck next to its Aegis radar arrays behind the vertical launch tubes.

Such incidents are rare.

In May, the U.S. Navy’s USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel but both ships were able to operate under their own power.

The 7th Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, thanked the Japanese Coast guard in a post on the fleet’s Facebook page, adding: “We are committed to ensuring the safe return of the ship to port in Yokosuka.”

(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali, Phil Stewart in Washington; Tim Kelly, Linda Sieg, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo, Raju Gopalakrishnan in Manila, Chizu Nomiyama in New York; Writing by Yara Bayoumy and Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

At least one dead in numerous car crashes in icy New England

connecticut state police

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) – An unexpected bout of icy weather on Wednesday morning caused scores of accidents around New England, with 55 vehicles colliding in a series of crashes outside Boston and a man killed in a separate incident.

Police in Needham, Massachusetts, said a vehicle struck and killed a 63-year-old man who had been trying to help another motorist stuck on the ice in the suburb about 18 miles (29 km) west of Boston.

“It appears as though the vehicle was sliding on the ice and was unable to stop before striking the victim, pinning him between the two vehicles,” the Needham Police Department said in a statement. It did not identify the victim.

North of Boston, some 55 cars were involved in a series of crashes in the suburb of Wakefield, Massachusetts, with multiple motorists injured, though none seriously, state police said.

It was the start of a forecast whipsaw of weather over 48 hours. Temperatures around Boston are expected to pass 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10°C) on Wednesday before dropping back below freezing overnight, when a snowstorm is expected to begin.

The National Weather Service was forecasting 8 to 14 inches (20-36 cm) of snow on Thursday.

Wednesday’s ice, the result of an overnight rainstorm, may have caught commuters off-guard since earlier forecasts had anticipated temperatures would rise above freezing before the snow begins, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson.

The result was chaos on roads around Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

Photos from the Wakefield area showed vehicles spun at strange angles and entirely blocking the roadway, with emergency responders having trouble maintaining their footing on icy roads.

The Massachusetts State Police had not yet counted the total number of traffic collisions around the state, a dispatcher said.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ordered a two-hour opening delay for state offices.

“Exercise extreme caution,” Baker said, “as driving is very difficult due to icy conditions.”

Farther north, all but one lane of a major interstate highway in Maine was closed after a tractor-trailer that ran off the road and flipped on its side due to the ice. Work crews were removing its cargo, bags of potatoes, before attempting to lift the vehicle off its side, a state police spokesman said.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Helicopter crash piles pressure on Italy avalanche region

medical emergency helicopter crash in Italy

By Sasa Kavic and and Roberto Mignucci

FARINDOLA, Italy (Reuters) – A helicopter ambulance crashed in the Italian mountains on Tuesday killing all six on board, further stretching emergency services workers who found victims but no more survivors after an avalanche buried a nearby hotel.

The discovery of the bodies of two women in the afternoon as rescuers searched through the snow and rubble brought the death toll from last Wednesday’s destruction of the Hotel Rigopiano to 17 as the first funerals of the victims were held.

The unrelated crash of the helicopter on the other side of the Gran Sasso range about 100 km (60 miles) away in the Abruzzo region put the emergency services under further strain.

Rescue workers had to climb up part of a mountain to reach the wrecked helicopter, which had been heading to a hospital in the regional capital of L’Aquila with an injured skier aboard when it plunged into a mountainside.

The cause of the crash, which happened in the fog, was not immediately known.

The new disaster hit the region as the first funerals were held for the victims of the avalanche disaster.

Family and friends of hotel worker Alessandro Giancaterino filed into a church in nearby Farindola behind the 42-year-old’s coffin, which was draped with an Inter Milan soccer club flag.

“He was a perfect person. Kind, gentle. He loved his job at the hotel,” one friend said outside the church.

His brother, former Farindola mayor Massimiliano Giancaterino, did not speak to reporters. He told Italian state TV on Monday he had signed off on permission to add an extension to the hotel while in office.

“If I had known this would happen I would have cut off my right arm rather than sign the approval,” the former mayor said. “But hindsight doesn’t solve anything. You only ever think of doing what is best for the area, giving people opportunity.”

Some of the 11 survivors spent two days under ice and rubble. Twelve people are still missing since the wall of snow razed the four-storey building last Wednesday, hours after earthquakes shook Abruzzo and the neighboring regions.

Three puppies were found alive in the hotel’s crushed boiler room on Monday. The last time surviving people were brought out was on Saturday morning.

But officials vowed to carry on with the rescue effort.

“We will not stop until we are certain that no one else is left under there,” said civil protection official Luigi D’Angelo. “We are searching in the heart of the building.”

Prosecutors in nearby Pescara have opened an investigation into the hotel disaster. Pescara prosecutor Cristina Tedeschini said her office would probe the hotel’s structure, accessibility and communications surrounding the incident.

(Additional reporting by Antonio Denti in Penne and Steve Scherer in Rome; Writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by Philip Pullella and Alison Williams)