Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
ZINC PLANT FIRE
People flee airborne acid as North Carolina zinc plant burns
MOORESBORO, N.C. (AP) – Authorities in North Carolina say a fire at a zinc production plant in Mooresboro forced some residents to evacuate the area early Monday.
The American Zinc Products plant was still burning around 5 a.m. The fire started Sunday night at the plant, which lies near the border between North and South Carolina.
Deputies went door-to-door warning people to evacuate as the burning plant released sulfuric acid into the air, and the county says about a half-mile area has been evacuated.
Rutherford County Assistant Fire Marshal John Greenway tells news outlets that firefighters have been pulled away from the scene as their gear tested positive for hazardous materials.
He says this is a cautionary measure until officials determine what chemicals they’re dealing with.
Trial set for Virginia doctor accused of running pill mill
ABINGDON, Va. (AP) – A Virginia doctor accused of running an illegal pill mill is headed to trial.
Joel Smithers, who lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, is charged with illegally prescribing thousands of doses of potent and addictive painkillers from his medical practice in Martinsville, Virginia.
A federal judge last week refused to appoint a new defense attorney for Smithers or to postpone the trial, which starts Monday in Abingdon.
The judge noted that Smithers repeatedly has admitted that he has not traveled to Virginia to review materials disclosed by prosecutors or to meet with his attorney.
Smithers is charged in an 862-count indictment with possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, maintaining a place for unlawfully distributing controlled substances, and dispensing controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose.
Smithers has maintained his innocence.
North Carolina sheriff to continue agreement with ICE
HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina sheriff says he plans to continue its agreement with U.S. immigration authorities.
News sources report that in an email, Maj. Frank Stout said Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin said that after consideration, his department will renew the agreement with the Department of Homeland Security.
The statement says the 287(g) program allows for a law enforcement agency to enter an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division to quickly identify past encounters or records of an arrested criminal illegal immigrant.
During his re-election campaign last year, Griffin criticized the program but said he would evaluate it closely. He has also spoken about the intimidating effect the program has on the immigrant community, and he announced on Thursday that he will create a community liaison position to increase communication.
Another North Carolina system to close for teacher rally
(Information from: WRAL-TV, http://www.wral.com)
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – One more North Carolina school system is closing down next month for a teacher rally, raising the total to 30.
WRAL-TV in Raleigh reports that Lee County Schools announced Friday it is closing for the May 1 teacher rally in Raleigh. The rally is aimed at demand more support for public schools from state lawmakers.
The North Carolina Association of Educators held a similar rally last year. It drew an estimated 19,000 people and closed 42 school systems. NCAE President Mark Jewell has predicted this year’s event will be even larger.
North Carolina has 115 school districts.
Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson has said he can’t support protests that force schools to close and has suggested holding the rally during spring or summer break.
DUKE ENERGY-COAL ASH
N Carolina, Duke Energy contest coal ash cost, removal scope
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The country’s largest electric company says North Carolina’s environmental agency exceeded its authority by ordering it to dig up all of its coal ash and move it from sites where toxic chemicals have seeped into water supplies.
Duke Energy said Friday in its administrative challenge that the state Department of Environmental Quality didn’t consider all the scientific evidence in deciding the company couldn’t use a lower-cost option for closing some pits.
The company said the storage basins at six coal-burning power plants affected by the agency’s order are considered low risk and neighbors are already being shifted to clean drinking water supplies.
Duke Energy says the extra excavation could nearly double the more than $5 billion it’s spending to remove coal ash from eight other plant sites
Police: Cash, drugs found after fatal Kentucky plane crash
(Information from: The Gleaner, http://www.thegleaner.com/)
HENDERSON, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky State Police say a plane that crashed, killing two North Carolina men, was carrying drugs and cash.
Authorities believe the plane was stolen or used without permission from the owner. The Bellanca Viking 17-30A crashed early Wednesday or Tuesday night at the Henderson City County Airport.
The Gleaner in Henderson reports police searched the wreckage and found a duffel bag with cash and suspected cocaine.
The crash killed 47-year-old Barry Hill and 48-year-old George Tucker, of Sanford, North Carolina.
State Trooper Corey King says investigators believe Tucker was piloting the plane and they were looking for a place to stop for fuel when it crashed. Tucker was a student pilot.
The plane’s owner told authorities he had previously let Tucker test the plane because Tucker was interested in buying it.
Woman removed from plane after complaining about vomit
(Information from: WTVD-TV, http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/)
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina woman says she was taken off an airplane and handcuffed after complaining about vomit on a seat.
Rosetta Swinney tells WTVD she was boarding to return from Nevada last weekend when her 14-year-old daughter got someone’s vomit on her shirt and hands.
The Durham resident said she was taken to jail after verbal exchanges with a flight attendant who said it wasn’t her job to clean up.
Frontier Airlines says it offered to have a crew clean the vomit, but Swinney became disruptive. An airline statement says police were called after Swinney refused to deplane and take a different flight.
It wasn’t clear whether Swinney was charged. Las Vegas police spokeswoman Officer Alejandra Zambrano says the situation is under investigation, declining further comment.
GOP “seawall”? Ohio’s congressional map under fire in court
CINCINNATI (AP) – The Nagel family’s home in Cincinnati is a house divided.
That’s because the U.S. House district boundary cuts through it. Critics of Ohio’s congressional map say the Nagel home is one of many examples of problems with Republican-controlled redistricting that has confused voters and produced purely partisan results – not a single seat has changed parties since the map took effect for 2012 elections.
A three-judge panel could rule soon on arguments that Ohio’s map is unconstitutional. A panel in Michigan ruled Thursday in favor of a similar challenge to that state’s congressional and legislative maps. The cases could result in new districts for 2020 elections that would have implications for the presidential contest.
Defenders say the map shows “democracy in action,” and courts should stay out. The Supreme Court is considering similar cases from two other states.