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Nearly 3,000 DWI arrests made during campaign

N.C. officials say almost 3,000 motorists were arrested for drunken driving during a two-week law enforcement campaign.

State Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said Wednesday that 2,821 motorists were ticketed for driving while impaired between Aug. 15 and the three-day Labor Day weekend.

The checkpoints and special patrols also helped officers catch 699 fugitives and recover 140 stolen vehicles. Law enforcement also reported they wrote close to 27,000 speeding and 9,000 seat belt violation tickets.

North Carolina officials ramped up patrols in an effort to increase compliance with state laws. Last year, almost 500 North Carolinians died from alcohol-related crashes and more than 9,000 were severely injured. Associated Press

Meck briefs

Huntersville

A Huntersville man whose body was found inside his home on Cramur Drive died from a head injury, a spokesman for the medical examiner's office said Wednesday.

Police discovered Martin Joseph Murphy, 58, inside his home last week. He had been dead in the house for several days, Huntersville Capt. Mike Kee said.

The medical examiner has not ruled whether Murphy's death was accidental or a homicide. Police say they have found no evidence of foul play. But they are awaiting toxicology results before commenting further, Kee said.

Those tests could take as long as three months to complete, he said.

Anyone with information should call Kee at 704-875-6542.

Victoria Cherrie

A woman whose body was found near Interstate 77 Tuesday night apparently jumped from a bridge and was hit by a car, Huntersville police said Wednesday.

Authorities closed a five-mile stretch of northbound I-77 for three hours during their investigation, causing traffic to back up in the area of Hambright Road. The woman's name and age were not released.

Victoria Cherrie

Matthews

The N.C. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the Monday death of a man who was crushed when his forklift flipped over at Regal Cabinets and Granite in Matthews.

The man, who police have not identified, was driving a forklift down a ramp with an elevated load and he tipped over while making a right turn, OSHA spokesman Neal O'Briant said Wednesday.

O'Briant was unsure what the man was carrying or how heavy the load was. It could take several months to determine the cause of the accident at 11328 Independence Blvd. Meanwhile, police are trying to find the victim's relatives, who live in Mexico, a Matthews spokeswoman said.

Victoria Cherrie

Regional briefs

Cabarrus County Concord

The N.C. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the death of a Concord subcontractor Monday who fell off a roof and hit his head on concrete, spokesman Neal O'Briant said Wednesday. The man, whose name and age were not released, was working at a construction site at 3855 Longwood Drive when he fell. The name of the company could not be verified.

Victoria Cherrie

Catawba County

Catawba County and Newton-Conover schools will be honored for their high 2007 graduation rates next week. Both districts graduated 81 percent of the ninth-graders who entered four years earlier, putting them among North Carolina's top 10 districts.

State Superintendent June Atkinson, N.C. Board of Education Chair Howard Lee and other education officials will kick off graduation awareness week Monday with a ceremony. Other Top 10 districts are not in the Charlotte region.

Ann Doss Helms

Randolph County Asheboro

The Randolph County commissioners have voted not to give $25,000 to the struggling N.C. Pottery Center in Seagrove.

The Courier-Tribune of Asheboro reported that the commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday not to give the money to the center, which is in the midst of a $100,000 fundraising drive.

The commissioners had agreed to provide $25,000 annually if the state took over the center's operations. But that didn't happen in the last legislative session, leaving the center trying to raise money to stay open until its supporters try again to bring it under the state's wing in 2009. Associated Press

At the coast

The National Weather Service has issued a rip current warning for the North Carolina and Virginia coasts.

The weather service and the Coast Guard said Tuesday the risk of rip currents will continue throughout the week as Tropical Storm Hanna approaches. Lifeguards helped more than 40 people from the surf at Wrightsville and Carolina beaches over the weekend, according to the Star-News.

The United States Lifesaving Association says rip currents can drag swimmers away from the beach. The deadly currents cause approximately 100 deaths annually in the United States. Over 18,000 lifeguard rescues a year are the result of rip currents. Associated Press

Oconee County S.C. Long Creek

Oconee County rescue crews have found two rafters who were missing in the Chattooga River.

Emergency Management Deputy Director Scott Krein says the two brothers were found Wednesday near Highway 76. They were reported missing around 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

Authorities say drought conditions lowered water levels and made the trip along the river longer than the men expected.

The brothers spent the night on land, then continued along their path Wednesday morning and were found at their intended destination.

Krein says it's the second time in a week rescuers searched for boaters who underestimated the time needed to travel down the river. Associated Press

Transylvania County

Authorities say the Florida man who died after jumping from Looking Glass Falls in the Pisgah National Forest had a high blood alcohol level, more than three times the legal limit for driving.

Transylvania County Sheriff's Lt. Brian Kreigsman told the Asheville Citizen-Times that 49-year-old Ronald Conrad Brown had a blood-alcohol level of 0.29. The legal limit for driving in North Carolina is 0.08.

Brown died Sunday after he was airlifted to a hospital. An autopsy showed Brown died from multiple traumas, including injuries to his lungs and heart.

Witnesses said Brown had climbed to the top of the falls and jumped about 70 feet into six feet or less of water.

Brown's relatives say the Navarre, Fla., man had struggled with drug and alcohol addictions but had recently completed a rehab program. Associated Press

Police digest

Greenville County, S.C. Greenville

A second man has been arrested in the beating death of a veteran of the Iraq war.

Jail records show 30-year-old Robert James Moore of Greenville was arrested Tuesday.

He is charged with murder in the death of 30-year-old Christopher Duckett. The Marine died Aug. 28 after police say two men attacked him with chairs and a table inside a Greenville nightclub.

Also charged with murder in Duckett's death is 21-year-old Marques Anthony Durant of Greenville. Associated Press

Union County Unionville

A Union County high school student remained in critical condition Wednesday after her car was struck head-on by a man who later was charged with driving while impaired.

According to the N.C. Highway Patrol, Rachel Ann Wilson, an 18-year-old senior at Piedmont High School, was headed west on Unionville-Indian Trail Road near U.S. 601 around 3:30 p.m., following a 1998 Honda passenger car driven by Kayla Danielle Swinson, 17, of Monroe.

As the two girls were rounding a curve, they were struck by a 1992 Chevrolet pickup truck driven by Fulton Clark Rape, 54, of Monroe, said Sgt. Don Hinson.

Hinson said Rape had been driving 80 mph down a 55 mph stretch, crossing the center line at the curve and clipping Swinson's car before striking Wilson nearly head-on at 70 mph. Wilson had been going about 40 mph when she was struck, Hinson said.

Wilson was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where she was listed in critical condition Wednesday afternoon. Rape was taken by ambulance to CMC and was in fair condition. Swinson, a junior at Piedmont, was treated at the scene.

Rape was charged with one count each of driving while impaired, crossing the center line and reckless driving, Hinson said.

He did not know whether Rape had been drinking or had been under the influence of other intoxicants.

In 2005, Rape was ticketed for speeding, but a background check found no previous DWI or reckless driving charges.

Mike Torralba and Maria David
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