Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson says that the rescue of two St. Helens-area men from the Columbia River happened “just seconds” before both would have been lost. Around 1:30 yesterday afternoon, the Columbia County River Patrol and aid crews from Columbia River Fire and Rescue dashed to the north end of Sand Island, where Kawai Niau, 24, and Kyle Snider, 19, were struggling in the current of the river. Witnesses directed the rescuers to the two men, who had been swimming near a wing dam in that area. Niau called out that he could no longer tread water, while Snider was about 100 yards further downstream, and was losing consciousness. Deputies quickly pulled Niau onto their boat, then sped down and got to Snider. Dickerson says that Snider was unresponsive when they arrived, and was unable to grab a rescue rope. One of the firefighters jumped into the water, got hold of Snider, and then both men were pulled on board the boat. Snider was taken to Legacy Emanuel Hospital in critical condition, but he’s listed in good condition this morning. Niau refused medical treatment on shore. Dickerson says that both men would have been beyond help in just a few more minutes, and the quick work of the Deputies and Firefighters made the difference in this event.
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The sprinkler system on Paper Machine #10 at Longview Fibre Paper and Packaging is getting credit for helping to control a fire that broke out yesterday afternoon. Longview Fire Battalion Chief Kevin Taylor says that the alarm call came in shortly after noon yesterday, with the Fibre Emergency Response Team reporting that flames were visible in the area of the machine, also going through the overhead roof vents. Taylor says light smoke was showing as fire crews arrived; once inside the building, it was discovered that the fire had spread from the machine to the roof vents, along with several spots along the assembly line. The sprinkler system contained most of the fire, while hose lines were deployed to knock down several hot spots. Taylor says that this fire could have been much more complicated, but the sprinkler system helped keep the fire in check. Firefighters were at the facility for a couple of hours; officials with Fibre say that damage was “minimal.” No injuries were reported.
Authorities in Marion County continue to investigate yesterday morning’s crash in downtown Salem, where a truck carrying more than 5,000 chickens bound for the Foster Farms plant in Kelso overturned. Salem Police say that the crash happened around 8 am, as Patricia Aguilar, 41, of Kelso was merging onto Commercial Street, one of the main routes through downtown Salem. It’s thought that she was driving too fast to make the turn, which caused the truck to tip over. A pole on the corner was broken off, along with several cars parked in a lot on the corner. They also say that chickens were strewn all over in the crash; a “considerable number” were killed outright, and many others died in the cleanup phase. Traffic in downtown Salem was snarled for more than six hours after the crash, as dead chickens were cleaned up, live chickens were rounded up, and the wreckage was removed. Aguilar was taken to a local hospital for observation. So far, no citations have been reported, but the investigation continues.
Auston Wade Jessee, 18, of Longview is facing at least two felony counts, after he tussled with law enforcement officers during an apparent escape attempt that took place yesterday morning at the Hall of Justice. Deputies say that a 17 year-old girl apparently tried to leave the facility shortly after 10 am, after it was directed that she be taken into custody. A “Code Red” was called while Jessee allegedly fought with Deputies; both he and the 17 year-old were subdued and taken into custody after just a few minutes. Jessee is now being held in the Cowlitz County Jail on felony charges of intimidating a public servant and third-degree assault. He’s also charged with obstructing an officer and resisting arrest. The girl was booked into the Juvenile Services Center; her charges haven’t been disclosed.
The Cowlitz PUD Commission is filing additional charges against ousted PUD General Manager Brian Skeahan, alleging that he was involved in other improper activities during last year’s election, in addition to the three other counts that led to his firing. Today’s Daily News reports on the 2-1 vote at yesterday’s meeting. Commission President Buz Ketcham says that these new allegations came to light after interviews with several employees, who came forward as the previous investigation continued. It’s now claimed that Skeahan directed staff to prepare reports that were used as talking points by then-incumbent PUD Commissioner Mark McCrady, that he illegally delayed retirement compensation payments to top executives until after the November election, and that he directed a public relations firm hired by the Commission to include campaign-related questions in a public survey that was conducted last summer. Contacted by phone, both Skehan and McCrady deny any wrongdoing; Skeahan also says that the Commissioners, including Ketcham, were aware of and approved of his activities. Ketcham is praising the employees that came forward, telling the paper that they were putting “loyalty to the public above loyalty to a former general manager and former commissioner.” Commissioner Ned Piper voted against the new charges, saying that he’s concerned about the “obsession” to pursue a man who’s been gone from the utility for six months. Officials with the Public Disclosure Commission say that they’ll make rulings on all of the allegations at once, which should be out later this year.
Also at yesterday’s PUD Commission meeting, it was disclosed that the Fitch Rating Service is upgrading the utility’s standing on several outstanding bonds. Fitch is raising the PUD’s outlook on the Production System Revenue Bonds from “negative” to “stable,” and will continue to give those bonds an “A” rating. In making this announcement, Fitch says that the revision to “stable” reflects the measures taken by PUD management to stabilize financial performance. They also say that the PUD is engaged in “conservative budgeting” in the face of varying hydrological conditions, and they’re projecting only “minimal” rate increases as the BPA hikes wholesale power rates later this fall. PUD officials say that this rating will have benefits for both the utility and its ratepayers, as they’ll get a better interest rate on future bonds, which means lower interest payments and more stable rates over the next 20 years. CFO Trent Martin and Internal Auditor Royce Hagelstein are getting credit for offering advice that was “instrumental” to getting this revised rating.
The Kelso School Board meets this morning at 11:30, where they’ll be holding a workshop on the budget for the upcoming school year. The public release of the budget is planned for Monday, the 22nd, at the regular School Board meeting, which will start at 5 pm. Both meetings are scheduled to be held in the Board Meeting Room at the Ruth B. Clark Administration Building on Crawford Street in Kelso.
Today is the deadline to get your entries in for the first-ever “Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle” Contest, being put on by the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. Over the past few weeks, people have been buying items at the Habitat ReStore on 11th Avenue in Longview, and then they’ve been working to convert those items into other things, like art, toys, furniture or other items. Eight prizes are being awarded in the contest; find out more by contacting the Habitat ReStore at 1145 11th Avenue, or by calling 636-6765. You can also get information on volunteering to help construct Habitat homes while you’re there.
An 18 year-old Longview man is being charged with multiple counts of child rape and molestation, accused of sexually assaulting a 13 year-old Kelso girl several times during the spring. It’s alleged that David Michael Cahill, 18, forced the autistic girl to perform oral sex on him as they walked through an alley to Vacation Bible School in April of this year. Kelso Police say that Cahill knew that the girl was severely autistic, reportedly having the mental capacity of a six year-old. Police also say that Cahill has some mental issues, but is considered to be “highly functioning,” and was aware that what he was doing was wrong. Authorities learned about the alleged abuse after several in-depth interviews with the girl, after she had told a school counselor that “a man had been touching her.” Cahill was arraigned yesterday in Superior Court, and was released on his own recognizance, with strict orders to avoid contact with the victim and other minors.
Norman Lee Jensen, 55, is listed in satisfactory condition at St. John Medical Center, after suffering a number of injuries in a motorcycle-versus-deer collision last night on Sunset Way. Deputies and aid personnel were called to the four thousand block of Sunset Way just before 9 pm, where it was reported that a motorcycle had crashed into a deer, and that the rider was down. When Deputies arrived, they found Jensen bleeding from his face and arms, and he also complained of “popping” in his back. He was transported to St. John with what they suspect is some broken ribs. Jensen’s wife, Teri, was also aboard, but she suffered only some minor injuries. They say she drove herself to the hospital for treatment. The deer did not survive the collision. The crash investigation continues.