Balloonist injured at S.C. festival

Authorities say a Michigan man whose hot air balloon plunged thousands of feet at an S.C. festival may have survived because the basket he was in caught a tree limb 10 feet before it hit the ground.

Great Southeast Balloon Fest officials say pilot Chuck Walz, of Munith, Mich., broke his leg and pelvis Sunday morning, but has undergone surgery, and his recovery is promising.

Anderson Fire Chief Jack Abraham says Walz's balloon may have been 9,000 feet in the air when it deflated.

“It was like a rock with a shoestring,” said Anderson fire Capt. Mike Shirley, who was watching the balloons pass by his station when he saw Walz's balloon plunge.

After the basket crashed into the tree, Walz fell from it to the ground. He was conscious when rescuers arrived, authorities said. “He's alive because he landed in that tree,” said Abraham, who added that Walz's balloon missed a home by just 20 feet.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident; a final report could take a year. Anderson County emergency officials said they received nearly 30 calls to 911 about the falling balloon in four minutes.

This was the first crash since Anderson began hosting balloon festivals in 1999. The Great Southeast Balloon Fest wrapped up Monday. Associated Press

Meck briefs


The week after school started for kids, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is ready to roll out Parent University, a series of free classes for moms and dads.

Superintendent Peter Gorman, who took CMS's top job in 2006, promised the parent-education program as part of his 10-year vision for schools. His wife, Sue Gorman, will present the plan Wednesday.

The Gormans have a daughter at Beverly Woods Elementary.

The district has rounded up private donations to pay for the classes, which will focus on parenting, helping kids learn, personal development for parents, and children's health. The first classes will run Sept. 16 to Nov. 24, according to an update sent to school board members. Ann Doss Helms

Regional briefs

New Hanover County

Kure Beach

A man drowned in heavy surf off an N.C. beach, and dozens of others had to be rescued from dangerous rip currents.

Authorities told The Star-News of Wilmington that a 47-year-old man from Rocky Point was pulled from the ocean Sunday afternoon on an unguarded stretch of beach at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. His name has not been released.

Officials say Hurricane Hanna is kicking up heavy surf and rip currents along the Southeastern coast. Lifeguards rescued about 40 people Sunday at Wrightsville and Carolina beaches. Associated Press

Rutherford County

Chimney Rock

N.C. parks officials say Chimney Rock State Park will close for several days so repairs can be made to a road damaged by heavy rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay.

The state Division of Parks and Recreation said the park will close for several days starting today.

Authorities said a retaining wall along the park's 3-mile entrance road was weakened by rainfall totaling 11 inches in two days.

The road is the only route for private passenger vehicles into the mountain park.

A mudslide also damaged a sewer line. Associated PressSouth Carolina


Beaufort County authorities say a man has died after he fell from the roof of a warehouse.

Burton Fire Department deputy chief Tom Webb told The Beaufort Gazette that the man was working on the roof of the HD Supply warehouse Sunday evening when he plunged 25 feet to the concrete floor.

Webb says firefighters had to break through a locked door to reach the man, whose name was unavailable. Associated Press

Isle of Palms

A dead whale has washed ashore on an S.C. beach, the ninth whale found off the Southeast coast in the last two weeks.

Authorities told The Post and Courier of Charleston that an Isle of Palms employee saw the nearly 12-foot pygmy sperm whale rolling in the surf Sunday morning.

Officials say nine dead whales have been found off the Atlantic coast from Florida to North Carolina in the past two weeks, an unusually high number.

Scientists are awaiting test results to determine what might be wrong. Pygmy sperm whales typically swim in the deep water of the Gulf Stream. Associated Press

Police digest

Durham County


Police say they don't believe the shooting death of a Durham businessman was prompted by an argument or long-standing dispute.

Investigators have arrested 59-year-old Barry Wayne Kaalund and charged him with murder in the killing of entrepreneur Ronnie Sturdivant.

Sturdivant was found shot to death Saturday afternoon at a former motel turned store that he owned.

The 59-year-old businessman owned several downtown properties, but received criticism by city leaders. He owned the popular “Oprah building,” which reads “We Want Oprah!!!” in an effort to bring the talk show host to Durham.

Kaalund was being held without bail at the Durham County jail. Associated Press

New Hanover County


Police say a 45-year-old woman was shot and killed during a robbery after driving to a Wilmington neighborhood to pick up a friend.

Investigators say Michelle Crutchfield stopped around 3 a.m. Monday to ask two men if they had seen the person she was to pick up.

Police say the men demanded money and shot Crutchfield in the head when she said she had none.

Authorities say a passenger in the truck ran away and called for help.

Police have made no arrests. Associated Press

Robeson County


Authorities say a man shot as he jumped from a car was able to call 911 from the side of the road, but died less than an hour after the shooting.

Robeson County Sheriff Kenneth Sealey told The Fayetteville Observer that 26-year-old Jeremy Lee Locklear told a 911 operator early Sunday morning he left a nightclub in Lumberton with a woman around 3 a.m. Sunday.

After the woman drove off, Sealey says Locklear told the operator a man appeared in the back seat and tried to rob him.

Locklear told police he was shot in the back as he jumped from the car.

He died at the hospital. Associated Press