Breaking Local News

New River Gorge Fire Nears Containment

Firefighting crews have contained 90 percent of a fire that's burning in the New River Gorge National River. Park ranger Leah Perkowski-Sisk said the fire in the Endless Wall area of the gorge is expected to be fully contained sometime today. The Endless Wall trail is still closed. The fire was reported on Sunday and has burned about 130 acres. The cause is still under investigation, but it looks to be caused by human activity.

State High Court Reinstates Convictions

The West Virginia Supreme Court has reinstated a man's first-degree murder convictions for the 1982 slayings of two people in Marion County. The court ruled that the Ohio County Circuit Court erred when it granted Philip Reese Bush a new trial last year. Bush was convicted in 1983 of killing Charles Dale Goff and Kathleen Jane Williams. His trial was moved to Ohio County because of pretrial publicity. Bush's appeal argued that one of the trial court's jury instructions denied him due process, but the high court didn't agree. Bush is serving two life sentences. He's also a co-defendant in a separate Marion County case involving the slayings of three people in 1974.

Circus Gets Underway Today in Charleston

Elephants will be having a picnic today in Charleston. Elephants from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will dine on fruit and bread today at 2 p.m. on Clendenin Street in front of the Charleston Town Center, according to the mall's website. It's a free event, and anyone can show up to watch. The circus runs today through Sunday at the Charleston Civic Center.

Mines To Lay Off Workers

Patriot Coal plans to cut production at two mining complexes in southern West Virginia and potentially lay off workers. The company has issued 60-day layoff notices to workers at its Wells mining complex near Wharton and its Corridor G complex near Danville. A federal rule requires companies to provide notice to employees if large layoffs are possible. Patriot employs 450 workers at the Wells complex and 397 workers at the Corridor G complex. Patriot president and CEO Bennett K. Hatfield says in a news release that the company needs to align its production with expected sales. He says pricing for both metallurgical and thermal coal is well below production costs at many mines in Central Appalachia.

Ethics Charges Filed Against Kanawha County Magistrate

A county magistrate is facing ethics charges. A commission in charge of a judicial investigation claims Kanawha County Magistrate Ward Harshbarger violated the code of conduct when he denied a domestic violence petition against County Prosecutor Mark Plants. The prosecutor's ex-wife Allison Plants brought the petition in late February, and Harshbarger refused to grant it without a full and fair review. The judicial review commission also says Harshbarger discussed the petition with police officers who weren't involved in the case.

Federal Goverment Rules on Coal Dust

A decision is in and the Obama administration is cutting the amount of coal dust allowed in coal mines in an effort to help reduce black lung disease. The decision was announced Wednesday in Morgantown. Black lung is an irreversible and potentially deadly disease caused by exposure to coal dust, where the dust particles accumulate in the lungs. The rule by the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration lowers the overall dust standard from 2.0 to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air. For certain mine entries and miners with black lung disease, the standard is cut in half, from 1.0 to 0.5. The rule also increases the frequency of dust sampling, and requires coal operators to take immediate action when dust levels are high. In addition, coal mine operators will be required to use new technology to provide real-time dust levels. The requirements will be phased in over two years.

Jobless Rate Shows Improvement

Unemployment rates fell in 46 of West Virginia's 55 counties in March. WorkForce West Virginia says jobless rates were unchanged in two counties and rose in seven others last month. Monongalia County has the state's lowest unemployment rate at 4.1 percent, followed by Jefferson at 4.9 percent. Wetzel County's rate of 12.7 percent was the state's highest, followed by Mingo County at 12.2 percent. Kanawha County sits at 6 percent, just under the state rate of 6.1 percent.

Charleston's New Fire Chief is Sworn In

With Chuck Overtstreet celebrating his retirement Friday, the Charleston Fire Department has sworn in its new chief. Mike Shaffer gets the promotion from assistant chief, and takes over the reigns as Chief after being sworn in at this week's city council meeting. Overstreet had been with the department for 33 years when he retired.

Marhall University Considers Tuition Hike

Marshall students may be paying more soon. Undergraduate students would pay higher tuition and fees under proposals being considered by the school's Board of Governors, and a vote could come today. If the increases are approved, The Herald-Dispatch reports that in-state undergraduate students would pay an additional $155 per semester. Out-of-state students would pay an additional $290. Tuition and fees for metro students would increase by $325. President Stephen Kopp told the Faculty Senate last week that Marshall has lost $11 million in state appropriations during the past two years of statewide budget cuts.

NTSB Releases Preliminary Crash Report

The National Transportation Safety Board doesn't yet list a cause of the crash, but it has released some preliminary information about a Kanawha County plane crash that happened earlier this month. The pilot, 50-year old Lazarus Enoch Sommers, and his wife, Maryann Sommers, both died in the crash in Eastern Kanawha County. The NTSB report says the plane hit trees and the ground, and was destroyed. The pilot at one point told air traffic control he was deviating around weather, and a short time later radio control was lost and the plane went missing on radar. Most of the wreckage has been recovered and will still be examined as part of the investigation.

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