Helicopter safety worries: A helicopter “air ambulance” carrying a patient, a nurse, a paramedic, and a pilot crashed near Huntsville this week, killing all on board and prompting an urgent safety review by the Federal Aviation Administration. It’s the fourth fatal crash involving a medical helicopter since December. All four crashes occurred at night and in low-visibility conditions. After a spate of similar accidents in 2006, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that air ambulances add such safety features as night-vision goggles for pilots and sensors that warn when a helicopter is flying too low. The FAA, which directly oversees medical-helicopter safety, declined to make the safety features mandatory, but is now reconsidering that stance.
Nationwide tomato scare: Restaurants and stores around the country rushed to take tomatoes off their menus and shelves this week, after the government warned of a tomato-borne salmonella outbreak that has sickened 167 people in 17 states and killed a Houston man. The Food and Drug Administration linked the salmonella bacteria to raw Roma, plum, and round red tomatoes, most of them grown in Mexico. At least 23 people who ate contaminated tomatoes were hospitalized with fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Houston cancer patient Raul Rivera, 67, died after eating tomato salsa in a Mexican restaurant. McDonald’s, Burger King, and Outback Steakhouse temporarily stopped serving raw tomatoes, and Wal-Mart and Kroger pulled them from their grocery shelves.
Lake Delton, Wis.
Wild weather: Extreme weather this week brought flooding to the Midwest, blackouts to the Northeast, and a freak snowstorm to Washington state. In Wisconsin, Lake Delton all but emptied after a dam collapsed, releasing water that quickly gouged a new channel to the Wisconsin River. Along the Mississippi, farmers struggled to plant corn in fields flooded by torrential weekend thunderstorms. At least 15 deaths were attributed to the storms and flooding. The Northeast, meanwhile, sweltered in record heat, and many schools canceled classes or closed early. Thunderstorms knocked out power for 50,000 businesses and homes in upstate New York. In Washington state, one hiker died in a freak blizzard that dumped 2 feet of snow on Mount Rainier.
Air Force shake-up: Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week ousted the Air Force’s top general and its highest civilian official, holding them accountable for two embarrassing mishaps involving nuclear weapons. Gates demanded the resignations of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Mosley and Secretary Michael Wynne in the wake of a scathing internal review that found the Air Force’s nuclear safety standards have been allowed to decline. Gates sought the review after two widely reported incidents: In 2006, the Air Force erroneously shipped four electrical fuses for nuclear warheads to Taiwan, and last year, a B-52 on a domestic flight was mistakenly armed with six nuclear missiles.
New York City
Remains returned: Fifteen plastic boxes containing the ancient remains of 55 members of a tiny tribe from British Columbia were returned to tribe members this week, in an unusual and emotional ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History. Records unearthed in recent years showed that the remains had been removed by archaeologist Harlan Ingersoll Smith from a Tseycum First Nation burial ground on Vancouver Island in the late 19th century and sold to the museum. The Tseycums raised about $150,000 to fly 46 tribe members to New York to retrieve the remains. “These people we are taking here have knowledge, respect, wisdom,” said Tseycum Chief Vernon Jacks. “We live by today’s society, but our history walks with us.”
New York City
Ex-ref charges corruption: Referees of the National Basketball Association favored star players, called bogus fouls, and manipulated game results to boost television revenues, a disgraced NBA ref claimed this week. Lawyers for Tim Donaghy, who is awaiting sentencing following his guilty plea last year to game-fixing charges, made the allegations in a court filing. Donaghy’s most explosive charges concern two unnamed teams—believed to be the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers—that met in the 2002 playoffs. Donaghy claims that in the sixth game of the best-of-seven series, two referees charged phantom fouls against the Kings while ignoring infractions by the Lakers. Their favoritism, he said, enabled the Lakers to win game six and extend the series, boosting the league’s television ratings. NBA Commissioner David Stern called the allegations “baseless.”