National Digest


October 14, 2004

Bus that crashed shouldn't have been on road, NTSB says

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. - A tour bus that crashed along an Arkansas highway, killing 14 people, was in such poor condition before the accident that it would have been pulled out of service had it been inspected, investigators said yesterday. The National Transportation Safety Board said it found pre-existing cracks on frame rails that held up the motor.

The agency did not link the cracks to the crash, saying the cause remained under investigation. Authorities were still looking at whether the driver, Herbert Walters, fell asleep at the wheel and planned to subpoena his medical records.

The cracks should have been discovered during an annual inspection and resulted in an "out-of-service" order, which would have required the company to fix the problem before the bus was allowed back on the road, said Gary Van Etten, the NTSB's lead investigator. Authorities also discovered that sheet metal had been glued and riveted to the roof, adding 600 to 700 pounds to the bus's weight. Investigators would not say whether they believe the heavier roof affected the crash. Investigators have said 29 of the 30 people on the bus were thrown from the vehicle when much of the roof peeled away.

Full appeals court denies review in Moussaoui case

WASHINGTON - Terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui lost a bid yesterday to have the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals review two issues - witness access and the death penalty - that have delayed a trial.

Moussaoui's lawyers, Frank Dunham Jr. and Edward MacMahon Jr., said they have not decided whether to ask the Supreme Court to grant Moussaoui direct access to three al-Qaida prisoners and bar the government from seeking the death penalty. The Richmond, Va.-based appellate court said none of the judges requested a rehearing of those issues, which a three-judge panel ruled on.

If there is no further appeal, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Va., could resolve those issues and set a trial date for the only U.S. defendant accused of participating in the Sept. 11 attacks. Moussaoui's lawyers have argued - unsuccessfully - for direct access to the high-ranking captives who have told interrogators that Moussaoui had no role in the Sept. 11 attacks. At other times, the prisoners have made conflicting statements about Moussaoui's mission.

War re-enactor arrested over replica gun at school

PINE BUSH, N.Y. - A student who took part in a Civil War re-enactment was arrested and could be expelled after a replica musket was found in his car at school. Joshua Phelps, 17, left the gun, a bayonet, rolled cartridges with black powder and a Union soldier's uniform in the car after participating in the weekend re-enactment. He was called to the assistant principal's office Tuesday after a security guard spotted the weapon in the Pine Bush High School parking lot.

"I actually thought it was kind of stupid, at first, when I heard it was about the musket," Phelps said. "I didn't think I'd get arrested over it." Crawford town police confiscated the musket, handcuffed Phelps and charged him with misdemeanor criminal possession of a weapon, punishable by up to a year in jail. Police Chief Daniel McCann said the replica, which fires blanks, could have been used to fire a projectile. "I know this might appear to be a minor thing, but it's not," McCann said.

Jacob's mother, Valerie Michaels, said the district overreacted. "There are bigger problems at that high school than this," she said.

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