Around the State

Air traffic controller out after failing to respond on duty


Air traffic controller removed: The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating two alleged incidents involving an air traffic controller at Yeager Airport and has removed him from his duties.

The FAA is proposing that he be fired for failing to respond while on duty. The controller who is the focus of the investigation has not been identified.

In one alleged incident, the controller was unresponsive for 20 minutes while a HealthNet helicopter was trying to land at a local hospital. Officials said the pilot had to use alternate methods to get the patient to medical care.

That incident reportedly occurred in January.

The other alleged incident occurred March 2 when two air traffic employees said they saw the controller sleeping while he was supposed to be working in the tower.

The first reported incident involved a HealthNet helicopter coming into the Charleston area from central West Virginia with a critical patient headed for Charleston Area Medical Center’s General Hospital, said David Cross, HealthNet’s director of business development.

The pilot radioed the control tower at Yeager as he approached to notify air traffic controllers and sought permission to continue. The pilot received no response.

Cross said the pilot and flight crew made multiple attempts to contact the tower at Yeager but had no luck.

“They were obviously confused as to why nobody was answering,” Cross said.

The pilot continued in a straight line to the hospital’s landing pad, where they came down safely and delivered the critical patient, who by that time was stabilized.

“At no time was the aircraft or crew or patient in any danger,” said Clinton Burley, HealthNet’s president and chief executive officer.



Fire victims ID’d: Fire officials are investigating a Calhoun County mobile home fire that killed a grandmother and three children.

The victims have been identified as 57-year-old Darlene Gooslin and her grandchildren — 7-year-old Ryan Jackson, 6-year-old Patricia Jackson and Aryanne Jackson, 5.

They died in an early morning fire last Thursday near Chloe.

Assistant state fire marshal Mark Lambert said the children’s father, Benjamin Jackson, and uncle David Jackson remain in critical condition.

Lambert says autopsies will be done on the other victims

Big Otter Elementary School Principal Anthony Boggs said they were among his students. The youngest attended preschool at the Clay County school.



Houses to be razed: Bluefield officials plan to demolish 100 blighted houses during the next two years.

City manager Jim Ferguson said 50 structures will be torn down this year and 50 will be razed in 2014. Seven houses have been torn down so far this year.

Ferguson says that if the city achieves its goal, the demolition list would be reduced to about a dozen structures.

He says the city is looking for grant money to speed up the demolitions.



New president at Davis & Elkins: Michael P. Mihalyo Jr. has been named president of Davis & Elkins College.

Mihalyo’s appointment is effective July 1. He will replace G.T. Smith, who’s stepping down June 30 after serving as president for five years. Smith will become president-emeritus and serve as an adviser to the college.

Media outlets report that the Board of Trustees announced Mihalyo’s appointment Friday evening during a faculty dinner.

Mihalyo has served as chancellor at Davis & Elkins since March 2012. He previously was provost and chief academic officer.



Manufacturing facility: An oil and gas control systems company plans to open a manufacturing facility in Weirton.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said the $9 million Pietro Fiorentini USA plant is expected to create up to 41 jobs during the initial phase and up to 150 when fully operational.

The West Virginia plant will be the company’s first manufacturing operation in the U.S. It will produce components for the treatment of shale oil and gas.

The company plans to lease space at the former Wheeling Corrugating Plant in Brooke County to get operations under way within six months.

Construction on the new manufacturing facility is expected to start this summer.

The Italy-based parent company Pietro Fiorentini produces pressure regulators, valves, and pressure reducing and metering systems for the natural gas industry.



Coyote bounties proposed: Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick believes he has the solution to West Virginia’s coyote problem.

Helmick is looking at establishing a bounty system to encourage hunters to kill the critters.

Helmick says that coyotes are the state’s biggest predator problem. They are in all 55 counties and pose a threat to both farm animals and domestic pets.

Under Helmick’s plan, coyotes would be trapped and their ears would be marked with an identifying number. They would then be released. Hunters who kill a coyote marked with a number would receive a bounty.

Helmick said hunters likely would kill about two dozen coyotes in an attempt to bag one with an identifying number.



New clues in death: Police are pursuing fresh leads in their investigation of the 2009 death of an Elkins woman whose body was found in her burned truck in the Monongahela National Forest.

State police Cpl. K.A. Corley says the leads came from citizens after The Inter-Mountain published an article last November on the three-year anniversary of Pam Judy’s death.

Corley told the newspaper that the Elkins detachment has received numerous calls in response to the article. He encourages citizens who might have any information to contact state police.

Judy was last seen around 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2009, in her black truck at an insurance firm’s office. Ninety minutes later, a hunter called the Randolph County E-911 Center to report a burning truck in the forest.


— Compiled by Robert Smith with information from the Associated Press



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