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January 09, 2003 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-01-09

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2A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, January 9, 2003


Commuter crash kills 21 in N.C.

-:zt. .



CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - A commuter plane
taking off in clear weather yesterday veered sharply
back toward the airport and crashed into the side of
a hangar, bursting into flames and killing all 21
people aboard.
The cause of the nation's first deadly airline acci-
dent in more than a year was not immediately clear.
Aviation officials said the pilot reported an unspeci-
fied emergency to the tower just before the crash.
US Airways Express Flight 5481 hit the corner of
the hangar at full throttle moments after leaving Char-
lotte-Douglas International Airport for Greer, S.C.,
officials said. No one on the ground was injured.
Dee Addison, who works at an airport business
500 yards away, ran outside after hearing a boom.
"It was like a frenzy. People were running out of
the (hangar)," she said. "At the time we didn't know a
plane had actually crashed. It didn't even look like a
plane. It was totally demolished."
Heavy smoke poured from the wreckage for
hours, so thick "you could taste it in your mouth,"
Addison said. The US Airways hangar was
scorched and battered.
The Beech 1900 twin-engine turboprop was carry-
ing 19 passengers and two crew members. It took off
to the south, then cut back toward the airport, airport
director Jerry Orr said.
The pilot, Katie Leslie, contacted the tower to
report an emergency, said Greg Martin, a Federal
Aviation Administration spokesman. But the trans-
mission was cut short and the emergency wasn't
identified, he said.
Investigators believed they had found the flight
data recorder and were looking for the cockpit voice
recorder, said John Goglia, a National Transportation

Safety Board member. The FBI said there were no
immediate indications of terrorism.
The weather at the airport was clear at the time,
with winds of only 8 mph, said Rodney Hinson, a
National Weather Service meteorologist.
The flight originated in Lynchburg, Va., and was
bound for the Greenville-Spartanburg airport in
Greer, only 80 miles away from Charlotte. Goglia
said none of the passengers started their trip in Char-
lotte, though some may have boarded there after
transferring from other flights.
Businessman Buddy Puckett of Greenville, S.C.,
was awaiting the arrival of a friend and client, Gary
Gezzer of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He sent a co-worker
to the Greer airport to pick up Gezzer, only to learn
he had been killed.
Puckett said he would fly to Florida to be with
Gezzer's family. "He was not only a client, he was
also a very, very good friend," Puckett said.
The plane, built in 1996, was operated by Mesa
Air Lines under the US Airways Express name. It
had flown 15,000 hours and performed 21,000 take-
offs and landings.
FAA records show the aircraft was involved in five
in-flight incidents that the NTSB said could affect
safe operations. In one incident, the right engine lost
oil pressure in November 2000 and the crew had to
shut it down. The plane landed safely and the engine
was replaced.
The aircraft also reported 10 service difficulties,
most of them minor. In November, the company
reported a leaking fuel pump that was replaced. In
May, a hydraulic power pack was replaced after the left
main landing gear wouldn't retract during takeoff.
The FAA has issued nearly two dozen airworthiness

Ar PPH10
Debris is strewn across a US Airways hangar after a
commuter plane crashed into it at Charlotte/Douglas
International Airport
directives on the 1900-D since 1994, warning of prob-
lems that must be addressed if found in an aircraft.
A maintenance alert for twin-engine Beech 1900
turboprops issued in August said attachment bolts for
the vertical stabilizer had been found loose on one
plane. And a directive issued in November warned
that screws could come loose and interfere with the
horizontal stabilizer.
There have been eight fatal accidents involving
Beech 1900s in 40 years, according to NTSB records.
Three people were killed in the most recent crash of a
Beech 1900C, in Eagleton, Ark., on Dec. 9.
1 Deadline

Sharon denies alleged financial wrongdoing
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday denounced reports that he is under
investigation for receiving $1.5 million from a South Africa-based businessman,
calling it slander designed to prevent his re-election.
The Haaretz daily reported Tuesday that Sharon and his son Gilad were under
police investigation over funds received from Cyril Kern, who has been a close
friend since the 1948 war that established the Jewish state.
Israel's attorney general confirmed yesterday that Israel has asked South Africa
for assistance in the case.
On Tuesday Sharon dispatched aides to deny any wrongdoing and explain that
the money was a loan that was properly reported. But as pressure grew on the
prime minister to speak out himself, he addressed the issue during a campaign
tour in northern Israel yesterday, claiming the reports were politically motivated.
"We're talking about a vicious political slander," Sharon told reporters. "I will
disprove this slander with documents and facts. Those who are spreading this
political libel have one aim: to bring down the prime minister."
Israeli Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein, speaking to Army Radio
yesterday, confirmed the investigation but also criticized the leak as politi-
cally motivated. "The motive is the timing of the elections and the current
situation," he said.
Gunman from Syria killed by Israeli troops
Israeli troops shot and killed a gunman who infiltrated from Syria yesterday, an
unusual incident on a border that has been calm for decades.
Pressure increased on Israel, meanwhile, to reverse course and allow a Palestin-
ian delegation to attend a conference in London designed to ease tensions and pro-
mote Palestinian reform.
Israeli soldiers exchanged fire with an armed man who crossed into the
Israeli-controlled Golan Heights from Syria, killing him and capturing a sec-
ond infiltrator, who was unarmed, Israeli area commander Brig. Gen. Avi
Mizrahi said.
A third man fired from inside Syria, but "we didn't fire back because didn't
want to make the situation worse,"he said.
It was a rare occurrence on the Israel-Syria border, though the two coun-
tries are bitter enemies. The last reported infiltration was in September
2001, when Israeli soldiers found a bag of weapons and explosives on the
Israeli side of the border. The infiltrator in that incident apparently escaped
back into Syria.





y \ SO
i G ass! 1 1 1



Ior jobless
WASHINGTON (AP) - President
Bush signed hastily passed legisla-
tion yesterday extending unemploy-
ment benefits for 2.5 million victims
of a weak economy, the first accom-
plishment of a new, Republican-con-
trolled Congress.
Democrats in both the House and
Senate complained that the measure
fell short of what was needed, but Bush
said its enactment "should bring some
comfort to those of our fellow citizens
who need extra help during the time in
which they try to find a job."
The measure extends a federal pro-
gram that provides 13 weeks of bene-
fits for the unemployed who have
exhausted their 26 weeks of state aid.
The federal program lapsed on Dec.
28, but the Labor Department said the
flow of benefits would continue unin-
terrupted if legislation were signed nto
law by tomorrow.
Officials said an estimated 750,000
people are immediately affected, plus
an additional 1.6 million who are
expected to become eligible before the
extension expires on June 1.
The president placed his signature
on the $7.2 billion bill a few hours
after it cleared the House on a vote of
416-4. The Senate passed the measure
Tuesday on a voice vote.
The lopsided votes masked a politi-
cally charged debate in which Republi-
cans claimed credit for helping the
jobless as their first order of business
in the new Congress, and Democrats
accused the GOP majority of acting
"It is important to note that the first
piece of important legislation ... helps
American families by extending unem-
ployment insurance," said House
Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
Democrats failed in an attempt to
win approval for a more generous bill,
and said they were underwhelmed by
the GOP-crafted measure.
"Not just 13 weeks, we need 26
weeks at least," said Democratic Rep.
David Scott, a first-term Georgian who
was sworn into Congress on Tuesday.
Apart from the unemployment
measure, the House unanimously
approved legislation .during the day
granting a 3.1 percent pay raise to
federal judges, the same boost that
other government employees
received on Jan. 1.
GOP leaders also were working for
passage of legislation to keep the fed-
eral government in operation through
Jan. 31. Current spending authority for
many departments and agencies
expires on Saturday.
Bush signed the unemployment bill
at a meeting with top Republican and
Democratic leaders of the House and
Senate, his first since the new Con-
gress convened.
The unemployment issue was a blend
of old and new business for lawmakers.
Congress adjourned late last year
without passing an extension of the
federal program, triggering angry
protests from Democrats at the time.
At the same time, Rep. Bill Thomas,
the California Republican who chairs
the House Ways and Means Commit-
tao nn; A -Ankftt - :rn - "r -.n - t

White House open to
talks with N. Korea
The Bush administration is looking
past a bristling statement by North Korea
for a response to its offer of direct talks.
Only U.S. incentives for the North to stop
its nuclear weapons program are being
ruled out, the White House says.
"The ball is in their court," presiden-
tial spokesman Ari Fleischer said yes-
terday. "They are the ones that created
this situation by reneging on agree-
ments that they made."
But Fleischer also emphasized that
Washington's offer to hold talks was
unconditional and that the United
States was "not ruling anything else
out" apart from inducements to get the
North to again freeze its nuclear
weapons programs.
The administration was stepping up
its consultations with Asian allies and
China. President Bush's national securi-
ty adviser, Condoleezza Rice, set up a
meeting yesterday with her South Kore-
an counterpart, Yim Sung-joon.
Iraqi officials protest
U.S., British actions
Coalition warplanes struck air defense
targets in southern Iraq yesterday for the
second time this week, and a key Iraqi
official said the United States and Britain
were bent on war with Baghdad to subju-
gate the Middle East.
In Moscow, meanwhile, Iraq's ambas-
sador to Russia dismissed rumors Sad-

dam Hussein might go into exile to avoid
war and said the Iraqi leader would
"fight to the last drop of blood" to defend
his country.
Concerns war is imminent have
mounted, with the United States and
Britain announcing the dispatch of
thousands more troops and weapons to
the Persian Gulf region because of mis-
givings about Iraq's commitment to
abandon weapons of mass destruction.
Iraq insists it has no such weapons and
maintains that claims to the contrary are
simply a pretext for wa.-
CARACAS, Venezuela
Venezuelan bank
workers join strike
Venezuela's currency reached a
record low against the dollar yester-
day after banks said they will close
for two days to support a 38-day-old
strike seeking President Hugo
Chavez's ousting.
Demand for dollars soared on specu-
lation that Chavez's government, facing
a fiscal crisis because of dwindling oil
and tax revenues, would devalue the
bolivar to balance its budget. Nervous
depositors wanted dollars before the
banks closed, not knowing what the
bolivar would be worth when banks
reopen next week.
Jose Torres, president of Fetrabanca,
the umbrella group for bank workers
unions, said banks will shut down today
and tomorrow, adding weight to a strike
that has dried up oil income in the
world's fifth largest oil exporter.
- Compiled from Daily wire reports.


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