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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Oct. 21, 1994)
**■"“ News Digest
Friday, October 21,1994 Page 2
Gasoline ignites on flooding Texas river
HOUSTON — Two pipelines
beneath a roiling river burst Thurs
day, sending 100-foot flames of
burning gasoline snaking more
than a mile down the San Jacinto
River. At least 69 people were in
“It looked like hell opened up
on the water and the whole river
was gasoline,” said Mike Norman,
who was on the bank trying to re
trieve his sailboat when the explo
Some 11,500 people were
forced from their homes by heavy
rain that began Sunday. Skies were
clearing, the murky water had be
gun to recede in most areas, and
some people were returning to
their damaged homes when the
pipeline broke east of Houston,
sending smoke and flame hun
dreds of feet into the air. The flood
ing has claimed at least 15 lives.
The burning mixture wound 1
1/2 miles downstream, setting fire
to homes and boats along the
banks. Schools and businesses in
the path of the smoke were evacu
ated. Most of the injured were
treated for minor bums and smoke
“There were three loud booms
and then an immediate black
cloud,” witness Doug Trowbridge
said. “It just began to spread like
The first explosion, around
10:30 a m. occurred near “The
Spaghetti Bowl,” the mouth of the
nation's interstate pipeline net
work. A second pipeline ruptured
around 2 p.m.
U S. Transportation Secretary
Federico Pena surveyed scene by
helicopter and said the explosion
was likely caused by the rain-swol
“We have seen this in other
parts of the country where you have
massive flooding and pipes are hit,
tanks get loose and you have rup
tures and you have explosions,''
Pena said, adding that an investi
gation was planned.
The two pipelines, about 8 feet
apart, are buried about 3 feet be
neath the floor of the river, said
Sam Whitehead, spokesman for
Atlanta-based Colonial Pipeline.
They run beneath the river for
about 2 miles.
The first line, 40 inches in di
ameter, carries gasoline from
nearby Pasadena to New Jersey.
The second line, 36 inches in di
ameter. carries No. 2 diesel fuel.
Whitehead said the company
doesn’t know what caused the rup
tures or how many gallons of fuel
“This was a very serious flood
ing situation. That's the only thing
that we know that is unusual,
The rupture caused gasoline fu
ture prices to rise in trading on the
New York Mercantile Exchange.
Wholesale unleaded gasoline for
November delivery rose 1.95 cents
to 49.95 cents a gallon, a seven
The Coast Guard was investi
gating a possible rupture of a sec
ond line nearby. The substance
believed leaking was not immedi
Emergency crews had trouble
putting out the fire because their
boats could not handle the swirl
ing river currents and fire trucks
were blocked by flooded roads, said
Coast Guard Cmdr. Eric Nicholas.
valves on euner siae oi me z
milc section of pipeline were shut
off, but gasoline is likely to con
tinue spilling into the river, said
George Tenley, associate adminis
trator of pipeline safety for the U S.
More than 400,000 gallons of
gasoline spilled before the shutoff,
Tenley said. The 2-mile section can
hold hundreds of thousands of gal
lons, he said.
Tenley said operators of 11
other pipelines carrying hazardous
chemicals in the area were asked
to shut down their lines for fear
that the fire might spread to them.
Flames reached at least one
baree, burning foam insulation
used to seal the compartments from
water and emitting cyanide smoke.
Nicholas said. Cyanide is a foam
insulation ingredient, and the
smoke is not dangerous unless
people arc close to it, he said.
East and southwest of the city,
the water was still rising from the
Press excluded from
part of jury selection
LOS ANGELES — Overwhelmed
, by publicity so wide-ranging he's
gotten news clippings from Tibet,
O.J. Simpson’s judge barred the me
dia Thursday from part of jury selec
Superior Court Judge Lance Ito
closed the part of voir dire in which
prospective jurors will be asked
whether they can still be impartial
despite intensive coverage of the case.
Reporters will be allowed back in the
courtroom Wednesday when prospec
tive jurors are quizzed about other
Ito’s ruling drew protests from
First Amendment experts, many of
whom initially thought he was bar
ring the media from the remainder
of jury selection.
Later, Ito sent a court spokes
woman to the media center to say he
was misinterpreted and planned to
“We have a star
chamber going on
American Civil Liberties Union
ban reporters only from that part of
jury selection in which prospective
jurors are questioned about their ex
posure to media coverage of the case.
Attorneys for media organizations,
including The Associated Press, were
studying the ruling before deciding
whether to file an appeal
The motion to close jury selection
was made by both the defense and the
prosecution at the urging of the judge.
Kelli Sager, a lawyer representing
a number of news media organiza
tions. said that closing the proceed
ings violates the First Amendment.
“We have a star chamber going on
upstairs,” said American Civil Lib
erties Union attorney Douglas Mirell
after the hearing recessed and jury
selection resumed behind closed
In 1984, in Riverside Press-Enter
prise Co. vs. Superior Court, the U S.
* Supreme Court reversed a judge's
decision to close jury selection in a
rape murder case.
' Ito said the 1984 case “was not the
subject of the talk show circuit, was
not the subject of the morning shows
or jokes on the Jay Leno show, was
not a topic of conversation every
where you go.”
He noted publicity was so wide
spread he had recently received a
news clipping from Tibet.
Ito has been particularly con
cerned about a book published this
week that he says threatens
Simpson's right to a fair trial.
His ruling came just a day after
two media organizations turned down
his request to postpone plans to in
terview the co-author of the book,
“Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private
Diary of a Life interrupted.” Written
by Faye Resnick, a friend of Ms.
Simpson's, it alleges that Simpson
stalked his ex-wife arid threatened to
Earlier this week, jury selection
was halted for two days because of
the the release of the Rcsnick book.
Ito, who planned to question pro
spective jurors in-depth about the
book, cited concerns that they would
not be candid if faced with scrutiny
of their answers.
In the Press-Enterprise case, the
Supreme Court held unanimously
that trial judges must permit the press
to attend jury selection except in rare
instances where “closure is essential
to preserve higher values" and there
is no less restrictive alternative avail
“We’re not trying to get around the
public's right to know,” defense at
torney Johnnie Cochran Jr. said. “We
applaud that. But we’re in a rare, sen
Deputy District Attorney Marcia
Clark said the private questioning of
jurors would make them feel more
comfortable and increase the likeli
hood they'll give candid answers.
Korean bridge collapses
SEOUL, South Korea — A sec
tion of a major bridge collapsed
during morning rush hour Friday
in Seoul, sending a packed city
bus, a van and about 10 cars plum
meting to the river below. At least
42 people were killed.
Some of the cars fell into the
shallow water of the Han River.
Others, including the upside-down
wreckage of the bus. remained on
the fallen 150-foot section of the
Songsu bridge, which did not sink.
The bus was carrying about 60
people, including several high
Boats, divers and helicopters
rushed to the scene to rescue sur
vivors. About 30 people were res
cued, according to news reports.
Some of the injured were loaded
onto nets lowered by helicopters
and rushed to hospitals.
Rescue workers recovered at
least 42 bodies, MBC. the semi
official television network, quoted
police as saying.
The city had repaired the
Songsu bridge the day before and
investigators rushed to the scene
after the 7:30 a m. collapse (4:30
p.m. EDT Thursday) to examine
the quality of the work done, state
run KBS television said.
KBS also said the 18-ton weight
limit of the bridge was often ex
ceeded by the vehicles crossing it.
Recent news reports have said
that many of the 15 bridges cross
ing the Han River need repairs.
The Songsutaekyo bridge was built
GAITHERSBURG, Md. — A
panel of outside scientists advised the
Food and Drug Administration on
Thursday to approve the nation 's first
eye laser to correct nearsightedness,
provided the maker can meet strict
Summit Technology Inc. must
show the FDA that at least 75 per
cent of patients treated with this la
ser will have good enough vision to
abandon their glasses or contact
lenses and that only a tiny number
could have their vision worsened be
cause of the procedure.
The 13-1 vote by the panel came
after 12 1/2 hours of often-testy de
bate. At one point, the panel came
within a single vote of completely
rejecting the OmniMed laser.
State takes over city schools
EAST ST. LOUIS, III. — The state
took over the city’s school district
Thursday to relieve it of financial
problems so crushing that students
often can’t get hot lunches and hall
monitors carry whistles because the
fire alarms don’t work.
The plan to run the finances of the
14,000-student district in this desper
ately poor city was unanimously ap
proved by the state Board of Educa
tion during a meeting in Rock Island
The district is $10 million in debt
and has a severe shortage of teach
Students struggle to learn in over
crowded classrooms with equipment
that often is older than their parents.
And the district’s finances are in such
disarray that it recently discovered
that health insurance premiums were
being paid for dead employees.
“This is not a punitive action. This
is a helping action,” said state schools
Superintendent Joseph Spagnolo.
“I believe this is in the best inter
est of the children of East St. Louis.”
“There have been mistakes.... But
you have to recognize that we now
have a new team in place," said Dis
trict Superintendent Geraldine
Spagnolo cited a “six-year pattern
of financial mismanagement,
amended plans and unmet promises."
He will appoint a three-member panel
within 10 days to oversee the district's
The move lets the state board bring
in more teachers, approve contracts
and set financial policy. Since 1988,
the district has been required to get
board approval for its finances.
Times have never been easy in the
mostly black East St. Louis schools,
just across the Mississippi River from
This fall classes started with 50
fewer teachers and about half the caf
eteria staff. Atone high school, moni
tors have to walk the halls and blow
whistles if there's a fire because the
alarms don't work. At other schools,
students endure cold lunches and arc
warehoused in gyms.
“We just sit in the bleachers and
look stupid," said Dionta Heard, 16,
who doesn't have English class be
cause there's no teacher.
The city of 41,000 has itself been
in a downward slide since the 1960s,
with unemployment that some state
analysts said could be as high as 37
percent. Several years ago, the city
couldn’t afford to pay its workers or
pick up trash.
Last week, the city approved a plan
to slash its own debt from $85 mil
lion to $27 million using state-backed
The latest problems at the school
district surfaced Monday, when the
city school board learned that health
insurance premiums were still being
paid for former and even dead work
ers. The board is withholding the
$500,000 monthly premium while
trying to determine how much was
overpaid and for how long.
Figures on the district’s payroll are
hard to come by and the exact num
ber of teachers isn’t known. A dis
trict report said about 1,500 employ
ees work at the city’s two high
schools, four junior highs and 21 el
“1 am hopeful that this is the dawn
of a great, new day for the students
in this school district,” said Irl
Solomon, who has taught high school
for 22 years.
DRUNK DRIVING DOESN'T JUST KILL DRUNK DRIVERS.
US Department of Ttanaportauon
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