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Thousands lose power after truck crashes into lines

Power was cut off to thousands of residences near SouthPark Friday night after a traffic accident near Park and Fairview roads.

Rush-hour traffic backed up for miles after a propane truck rolled down an embankment and hit some power lines. The wreck happened just after 5 p.m., but the traffic delays and power outages lasted for hours.

Traffic lights were out as far as Woodlawn and Park roads and, at the peak of the outage, Duke Energy reported more than 4,000 customers were without power. That number had dwindled to just over a thousand by 9 p.m.

Some people were stuck in elevators because of the outages and police officers directed and diverted traffic streaming out of uptown for hours.

Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

Meck briefs

Charlotte

Elayne Bennett, founder of the Best Friends Foundation, will speak to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Republican Women's Club Tuesday night.

The meeting will start at 11:30 a.m. at Myers Park Country Club. All registered Republicans are invited. The luncheon costs $45 per person. For more information, check CMRW.com. RSVPs are required.

Jim Morrill

CMS will restore after-hours busing this weekend, but officials say they'll keep an eye on erratic fuel supplies.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools canceled middle-school sports and some field trips and after-school programs this week, after Hurricane Ike disrupted its supply of diesel fuel. Missed events will be rescheduled. Events such as high-school band trips set for the weekend will proceed. CMS plans another fuel update Monday.

Ann Doss Helms

Police and several other organizations will sponsor a shredding event today in southwest Charlotte.

The Better Business Bureau's “Secure Your ID Day” program is planned from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of the Target store at the Rivergate retail center, on N.C. 49 at N.C. 160, in the Steele Creek area.

The public can bring items for shredding. People are limited to three banker boxes per vehicle.

The event is sponsored by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, Target, Childress Klein, and the Mecklenburg County Consumer Fraud Task Force.

Staff Reports

Some uptown streets in the Frazier Park area may be blocked this morning, to make way for participants in the annual American Heart Association Heart Walk.

The 5K walk starts at 7:30 a.m. at Founders Hall, 100 N. Tryon St. The route will leave Founders Hall on Trade Street; take turns on Graham and 4th streets, Walnut, Litaker and Greenleaf avenues; and loop back to Trade Street via Cedar Street. All streets are expected to be clear by noon.

Money raised by will go toward battling heart disease.

Mark Price

Regional briefs

Gaston County

Gastonia

Gaston County police are offering public-release copies of reports, including vehicle accident reports, through its Web site.

At the site, www.gastoncountypolice.org, people will see an e-mail prompt, asking for the type of information they are requesting. Police say records specialists will check the e-mails every day and respond.

This service is for Gaston County Police Department records only. It does not include the county's other police departments, and records are not available for juveniles. Requests for criminal records or background checks still must be obtained through the Gaston County Clerk of Court's office.

“Considering the busy lives that we all lead, and the rising cost of gas, we've tapped existing technology to help us serve our citizens more efficiently and more conveniently,” Gaston County police Chief W.J. Farley said.

People still can pick up these reports in person at the police department headquarters, 420 West Franklin Blvd., in Gastonia (24 hours a day); or at the Bessemer City substation, 132 West Virginia Ave. (6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily). Or you can call 704-866-3320 to request fax copies of reports.

Staff Reports

Eastern N.C.

Almost two dozen civil rights groups asked for the resignation of an N.C. sheriff who has come under fire for statements about Latinos, including calling Mexicans “trashy” while driving through a neighborhood and pointing out piles of garbage.

In a letter Friday to Johnston County Commissioners, the groups contend Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell is spreading his racist views to his employees. The letter called his behavior “unbecoming” of a public official and an embarrassment to N.C. citizens.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Tammy Amaon said Bizzell wasn't immediately available for comment Friday.

In an article this month in The News & Observer of Raleigh, Bizzell was quoted as saying illegal immigrants in his county were “breeding like rabbits” and spreading a culture of drunkenness and violence.

Bizzell said he didn't intend to make broad statements that reflected on legal and law-abiding Hispanics.

But Tony Asion, executive director of nonprofit advocacy group El Pueblo Inc., said Friday that Bizzell's comments are closely tied to a growing sense of fear among the state's Latinos. He said Latinos are being pulled over by law enforcement based on the color of their skin.

Associated Press

S.C. capital

Columbia

A new special collections library at the University of South Carolina will be named for former U.S. Sen. Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings.

The $18 million addition behind the school's Thomas Cooper Library will house the rare books collection and the South Carolina Political Collections, which document the careers of many of the state's political leaders.

Hollings donated his personal papers to the university in 1989 and says the new building will help ensure the preservation of valuable research materials.

Hollings helped secure a $14 million federal appropriation for the construction, which is to be completed in early 2010. The rest comes from private donations.

Associated Press

S.C. coast

Charleston

Charleston has narrowed its search for a new fire chief.

Former Chief Rusty Thomas retired in June, a year after nine local firefighters died in a furniture store blaze.

The seven finalists include Richard Brannon, deputy chief of operations for the Mobile, Ala., fire department, as well as Chief Thomas Carr of the Montgomery County, Md., Fire Service.

Retired Dayton, Ohio, fire Chief Larry Collins is also a finalist, as is Chief Jamie Geer of Clearwater, Fla.

The others are retired Baltimore fire Chief William Goodwin, Chief Thomas Solberg of the Lee's Summit, Mo., Fire Department, and the retired public safety director in Wake County, N.C., John Rukavina.

The seven will be in Charleston Monday to meet with city officials and members of city council.

Associated Press

Police digest

Rowan County

Rockwell

A teacher from Stanly County was killed Friday when an oncoming truck crossed into her lane on U.S. 52 near Rockwell in Rowan County, the N.C. Highway Patrol said.

Marilyn Mason Webb, 50, of Shaver Road, Albemarle, was a sixth-grade science and social studies teacher at Southeast Middle School in the Rowan-Salisbury system, according to reports.

Webb was driving her 2006 Honda north on U.S. 52 before 7 a.m. when a truck swerved into her lane, the highway patrol said.

Jimmy Weatherholt, 39, of Mountain Creek Road, New London, was headed south, driving a truck owned by Paul Bost Trucking Co. of Rockwell. When southbound traffic stopped, Weatherholt attempted to steer into the northbound lane to avoid a rear-end collision but hit Webb's car, the patrol said.

Troopers said the investigation is continuing.

Gail Smith-Arrants

Wake County

Raleigh

Someone broke into Bob Sullivan's home in northern Wake County earlier this month and beat his Chihuahua, Paco, so bad the dog lost his right eye.

On Sept. 8, someone kicked in the Sullivans' glass door that led into the kitchen, where Paco usually spent his days behind a baby gate. Once inside, the thief kicked Paco in the ribs, damaging the dog's kidneys, and in the throat, leaving him unable to bark. The person also smashed a glass coffeepot across Paco's head.

“He was probably barking so much they wanted to shut him up,” said Betty Pope of Raleigh, Bob Sullivan's mother-in-law.

(Raleigh) News & Observer

South Carolina

Columbia

Police on Friday accused a Columbia fire captain of sexually assaulting a third underage girl and have asked other possible victims to report any attacks.

It was the third charge this week against Brian L. Gambrell, a 14-year veteran of the Columbia Fire Department.

The latest charge dates to 1996 and involves a 15-year-old Gambrell knew, Winnsboro police Chief Wayne Yates said. The 47-year-old is accused of second-degree assault on a minor.

Gambrell, a leader of the homeowners' association in the subdivision where at least two of the attacks allegedly occurred, is at the Fairfield County jail. Bail is set at $125,500.

On Thursday, Gambrell was charged with lewd acts on a 9-year-old sometime during the past two years at her home in the Sand Creek Hills subdivision in Winnsboro off S.C. 213, authorities said.

He initially was arrested Tuesday, accused of sexual assault on a 10-year-old girl in the pool area of the subdivision. Gambrell is suspended pending outcome of the charges, Columbia Deputy Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins has said.

The (Columbia) State
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