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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Monday, November 25, 2002

Air Force says pilot's mistake led to bombing

Associated Press Writer

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. - A pilot's inattention and a breakdown in a chain of safety procedures are to blame for the accidental bombing last year of three towns in New Mexico and Texas, the U.S. Air Force said on Friday.

An F-117 nighthawk pilot flying a practice mission out of Holloman AFB on July 16, dropped three dummy bombs on Pecos and Monahans in Texas and Maljamar in New Mexico.

One bomb pierced the roof of an occupied home in Monahans while the bomb that hit Pecos fell on the edge of a yard at Fifth and Hickory streets and the bomb in New Mexico hit the edge of U.S. 82 in Maljamar. No one was injured in any of the incidents.

The pilot, who Air Force officials declined to name, did a preflight check of his aircraft but didn't notice the dummy bombs, which don't contain explosives.

"Had the pilot properly inspected both left and right internal weapons bays during his preflight inspection, he would have known the aircraft was configured with practice munitions in the right internal weapons bay," said Col. James P. Hunt, commander of the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman.

The pilot was grounded during the investigation, Hunt said. He was removed from his leadership position, counseled, and trained before being returned to flying status, he added.

"There is no doubt that this is a blemish on the absolutely excellent record of a superior officer," Hunt said. "He was completely honest about his mistake and showed a great deal of remorse for his error."

Hunt said other safety checks also failed that day.

The pilot was excused from a morning safety briefing where he would have been informed that the aircraft was loaded with dummy bombs from a previous mission.

A card with that information somehow disappeared from his briefing package. And an individual briefing by the mission commander didn't include a mention of the aircraft's weapon configuration, Hunt said.

Also, the pilot, who was part of a computer simulated mission, threw switches that allowed the bombs to be dropped.

Changes in simulation procedures now prohibit use of the switches and require that any dummy bombs from previous missions be unloaded before the aircraft leaves the ground, Hunt said.

The 25-pound practice bombs crashed through the roof in Monahans, frightening homeowner Gloria Aker and her two children and destroying a bathroom in the house. The bomb in Pecos fell in the front yard of a home owned by Evarista Mora in the 500 block of South Hickory Street.

Two lawsuits, filed by towns for damage to pavement and curbs, have been settled for about $3,000, Hunt said.

The other two, including the claim for damage to the home, are still being processed.

Hunt said no lawsuits had been filed as of Friday.

"I'd like to apologize to the citizens of Monahans and Pecos, Texas, and Maljamar New Mexico, for the July 16th incident. All involved truly regret this incident."

Franco says pact improves RCDC medical services

Staff Writer

PECOS, Mon., Nov. 25, 2002 -- Providing the appropriate medical care to inmates is harder and  should be handled differently than regular county physician services, which  is why an outside provider was acquired for services at the  Reeves County Detention Center, Reeves County Commissioners were told  this morning.

RCDC Warden Rudy Franco and Assistant Warden Tommy Duncan were on hand at the regular Commissioners Court to talk about the services currently being provided by PNA to the prison's 2,000 inmates, housed under a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

"I would like Mr. Franco and Tommy Duncan to recap the medical services over the last two years at the facility and talk about the problems that have been encountered," said County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.

He said that recruiting medical services at the facility has been a problem that was solved this past summer due to the services provided through the PNA agreement.

"When you're dealing with medical services for a facility such as ours, with 2,000 inmates and you have to meet the BOP requirements, it's a little harder than providing services for individuals out in the community," said Franco.

He said that the three main problems in a prison facility are usually food, medical and mail services.

"Out of the three, the hardest has been medical," said Franco. "It's medical, because medical in a facility is much different than regular medical services."

He said that inmates have a tendency to be more demanding. "They always want the bottom bunk and if the medical services provider doesn't know any better, he requests more bottom bunks for inmates than what we have," said Franco.

He added that a medical provider who is new and not accustomed to dealing with inmates would inadvertently provide the inmate with medication and other medical provisions that he doesn't necessarily need.

"The inmate can talk him into prescribing any medication that he wants, just by telling him what hurts and what medication he needs for it," said Franco. "Because some of these inmates have been former drug users, they just tell the medical supplier what they want and if the physician isn't used to dealing with inmates will just give them that."

Franco said that population is another problem that medical services in a facility faces. "When you have that many inmates and need to provide appropriate medical care and meet certain requirements, it's a little harder," he said. "The BOP requires that we have the right medical personnel."

Franco said that in the past they had been using FMG's (Foreign Medical Graduates), but that the BOP still required that a licensed physician see the inmate. "They would see the inmates, but still refer them to a doctor," he said.

Franco said that the BOP required that the prison be Health Commission Accredited. "This is an expensive process," said Franco.

Franco said that a time came when the inmates were not receiving the adequate care that the BOP required under their Statement of Work.

"After we got PNA, we have achieved our goals of providing the appropriate medical care to these inmates," he said.

Franco said that for the past four months the PNA contract has been in effect, compared with the first seven months of the year, the number of outside visits went down from 59 to four; the number of surgeries required from 15 to two and services from 3,148 to 222.

"The inmates are more harder to deal with, because they have no other avenue," said Franco.

Franco said that he first heard about the group at a conference held during the summer and attended by prison employees.

"I listened to them and learned that they had done an excellent job at other facilities," said Franco. "They had experience with inmates and were certified in that area."

He said that in the past it took about two weeks for an inmate to see a physician and another two weeks to receive their medication. "Now they get to see the doctor within a couple of days and the medication within a day," he said.

"I even had inmates come up to me, and tell me, I received my medication today, but my illness went away three weeks ago," said Duncan. "That's because it would take two weeks for them to see a doctor and another two to receive the medication."

"We knew this wasn't the appropriate medical services we should be providing," said Franco. "Eventually the inmate will act out and then we'll have a problem."

Franco said that over the summer, they paid a lot of attention to the medical services at the facility.

"We had 101 x-rays and now we have had four since we went with PNA," said Franco, who added that they have also eliminated a lot of office visits. "The number of inmates leaving the facility has gone down," he said.

"By the correct medical approach and medication used, we have eliminated a lot of problems. Instead of giving the inmates brand names, they can now prescribe generic and still offer the same services," said Franco.

"Can you tell us about what it was costing us to provide these services and what it is costing now?" asked Galindo.

Duncan read a part of the Statement of Work, the contract the county has with BOP about the medical services provision. "We are required to provide the appropriate medical care," he said.

"The cost of providing these services outside of the facility was $1.4 million, outside of the facility and then you have the staff required inside the facility is $2.6 million," said Duncan. "The total cost would be $3.4 million," he said.

Cost of services through PNA are $408 per inmate for each man/day, and has been estimated to be about $2.9 million, according to Duncan.

"That's a $400,000 savings," he said.

PNA provides services to 15 facilities, according to Duncan. "They have been successful in attracting special services, such as cardiac, when in the past we had trouble doing that," said Duncan. "They have years of experience.

"They also use services from the local community as much as they can," said Duncan. "Pharmaceuticals is used locally," he said.

Duncan said that he is currently working on problems that have occurred with local service providers.

"These were just human errors and we're working on them," said county auditor Lynn Owens. "Since it was new to Mr. Duncan, there were a few mistakes, but nothing that can't be corrected."

"It's a tremendous improvement from what we've had in the past," said Galindo. "I know that even the local hospitals have trouble recruiting medical personnel, so it's even harder for a facility."

Galindo said that when they first met with PNA, he took Reeves County Hospital Administrator Robert Vernor along with him. "I invited him to that meeting and asked him if the hospital could provide all those services, and he said `no'," said Galindo. "What he said was no way."

Duncan said that three months ago, the medical services department was in no shape to be seen by outsiders. ""We didn't want them to see our medical records, we were so far behind, but now we've seen a major improvement," he said.

Christmas for Kids seeking donations, taking applications

PECOS, Mon., Nov. 25, 2002 -- Christmas for the Kids is continuing to seek donations to help pay for presents for children of low income families in Reeves County this year.

Christmas for the Kids is also taking applications until Friday from families seeking help this holiday season, said Sofia Baeza, one of the organizers for the group. "If anyone feels that they qualify for this program they can come by the sheriff's department and fill out an application or call us," said Baeza.

The group is seeking to raise $8,000 to buy gifts for children this Christmas. For more information on the program call the Reeves County Sheriff's Office at 445-4901.

Weather helps make inaugural flea market a success

Staff Writer

PECOS, Mon., Nov. 25, 2002 -- Vendors and local customers could not have asked for better weather  this weekend for the First Annual Pecos Peddlers Flea Market, held at  the Buck Jackson Rodeo Grounds Saturday.

"We began planning in July and we could not have picked a more beautiful day in November," said Linda Gholson, interim Executive Director for the Pecos Chamber of Commerce.

Temperatures were mostly in the 60s and 70s on Saturday while the flea market was underway. It opened its doors to the public at 9 a.m., and remained in operation until 4 p.m., with vendors displaying their items in the area between the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena and the Reeves County Civic Center.

Debbie Thomas, member of the committee, said that they also had no idea that the flea market would be such a huge success.

According to Thomas about 600 people attended the flea market throughout the day, with most of the people coming in though the gates during its first three hours.

"We know that from 9 a.m. until noon, 482 people came in through the gates," she said.

Thomas also said that as of early Friday they had 16 vendors with three more signing up Friday afternoon for a total of 19.

Thomas said that out of the 19 vendors, several of them were not only from Pecos but also from Monahans, Odessa, and Midland.

"There were a lot of out-of-town people," Thomas said. "I sent some of them to the museum."

Gholson said that the merchants had a lot of items to choose from as well.

"We had a variety," she said. "We had some garage sales, arts and crafts and bake sales. We had a lot of novelty items."

Thomas said with 15 local merchants donating door prices they then added 15 more for a total of 30.

"We added 15 refreshment items from the concession stand as door prices," Thomas said.

Gholson said that along with the Chamber and local organizers, the vendors seemed pleased with the turnout and sales as well and some were even asking when the next one would be scheduled, though she added that the group isn't going to test their luck with the late-season temperatures any further.

"The next Peddlers Flea Market will not be till the spring or early summer," Gholson said.

Thomas added that the committee would have a meeting next week to discuss when they could have the next flea market.

"We will meet next week to discuss whether we will have it quarterly or every six months," she said.

Gholson said that she would like to thank everyone for their support.

"We definitely appreciate the venders, volunteers and the public for supporting the first Pecos Peddlers Flea Market," Gholson said, and Thomas added that they appreciated everyone from the vendors to the merchants for participating in the flea market.

She also said that the committee enjoyed the flea market as well.

"It was also exciting for those who put it on," Thomas said.


PECOS, Mon., Nov. 25, 2002 -- High Sun. 78. Low this morning 40. Forecast for tonight:  Mostly  cloudy and cold with a slight chance of light rain or freezing rain. Lows around  30. East winds 5 to 10 mph. The chance of precipitation is 20 percent. Tues.:   Mostly cloudy and continued cold with a slight chance of light rain or  freezing rain in the morning. Highs in the upper 30s. NE winds increasing to 10 to  20 mph. The chance of precipitation is 20 percent. Tues. night:   Mostly cloudy and continued cold. Lows in the upper 20s. Wed.: Mostly  cloudy. Highs near 40. Thanksgiving Day: Partly cloudy. Lows in the lower  30s. Highs in the lower 40s.


Lewis Cowart and Josephine Shultz

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