Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Monday, March 22, 2004
Officials seek cause of CareStar copter crash
By BRENDEN BRIGGS
Investigators continued to search today for the cause of the crash of a medical helicopter early Sunday morning south of Pyote that left four people dead and one other person in critical condition.
The four died when the CareStar helicopter ambulance transporting them from Alpine to Odessa crashed 25 miles east of Pecos, near the Ward-Reeves County line.
According a report from the Texas Department of Public Safety, the helicopter lost contact with its home base at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa around 2:19 a.m. Thunderstorms and high winds were in the area that night, but severe weather has not been listed as the cause of the crash as of today.
While the DPS filed the initial crash report, the National Transportation Safety Board out of Fort Worth is handling the investigation. Investigators were at the crash site, southwest of FM 1927 in Ward County, on Sunday and returned there today
Killed in the crash were the helicopter’s pilot, Mickey Price of Dumas, 46, paramedic Paul Lujan of Crane, 32, and Ana Lillia Urias, 20, of Candelaria and her infant son Pedro, according to the DPS report.
Urias was flying with her son to Medical Center Hospital to get treatment for the respiratory distress that the infant was suffering from. The mother and child sought treatment at Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine before boarding the helicopter early Sunday morning.
MCH officials originally identified the Uriases as living in Mexico, but according to the Big Bend Sentinel the two lived with Anna’s husband, Pedro Urias, Sr., in Candelaria, northwest of Presidio, after moving there from Ojinaga, Mex.
One of the helicopter’s crew, nurse Ronald Stephens, survived the flight. He was discovered in the wreckage about four hours after the crash and was flown to Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock, where he was listed in critical condition as of this morning. The other two members of the crew, and both passengers on the flight were pronounced dead at the scene.
The flight was traveling northeast from the Pecos area towards Monahans when it turned southeast from flight path near Pyote, according to Associated Press reports.
According Renee Earls, community relations director for MCH, a memorial service is planned for this afternoon, but the future of CareStar “has not been looked at as of yet. We are just trying to get through this tragedy first.”
MCH’s CareStar program is less than a year old, and served 17 counties in the Permian Basin, Trans-Pecos and Big Bend regions.
Carla Windsor-Rivas, Reeves County Hospital’s director of nursing, said in an interview today that the hospital would provide the ground transport for the patients who require it, as it had done before the inception of the CareStar program in June of last year.
Along with the CareStar flights, Reeves County Hospital is also served by AeroCare flights coming out of Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock.
CareStar pilot and Base Manager, Gary Schwulst, added that pilots are ultimately responsible for the decision on whether to continue a flight in bad weather, but “we have a policy here that basically states ‘if you have a seat, you have a voice.’ If anyone in the helicopter is uncomfortable with the current weather conditions, their opinions are taken into consideration,” with as much validity as anyone else’s, Schwulst said.
Commissioners told inmates arriving at RCDC III
By ROSIE FLORES
Lease payments totaling $1.17 million for the Reeves County Detention Center were approved, along with transportation crew mileage payments, during the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting held this morning.
Commissioners were also told the transportation department has begun bringing the first of 864 inmates to the new RCDC III unit, under the contract signed last month between the county and the state of Arizona.
The group approved the 1999 lease payment in the amount of $419,680; the 1999 maintenance reserve payment in the amount of $29,166; the 2001 lease payment in the amount of $412,207 and the 1998 lease payment in the amount of $309,212.
“The 1998 lease payments are semi-annual,” said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo. “The first one is in March and the other one is in September in the amount of $314,000.”
While approving the inmate transportation crew mileage payments, RCDC Transportation Director Tommy Duncan was on hand to update the group on the transportation department’s travels.
“I believe last month we sent a bill to BOP in the amount of about $90,000,” said Duncan.
Duncan said that now the crew is making trips to Arizona to bring in inmates to fill R-III. “This started last Friday and we brought in 55,” said Duncan. “We’ll be doing it again this Friday and bring in 55 more,” he said.
Duncan said that the following week, the crew will take two buses and bring in 110 more inmates to help fill the facility.
“BOP in the regional office, have stated that they want to increase their pickup rate,” said Duncan. “We also made a trip to Oklahoma City, that’s one we don’t usually do and they have stated that they might want us to do it again, or once a month,” he said.
Duncan said that BOP had said that they plan to use the local bus transportation as much as possible.
“I think we should look at this on a monthly basis and make sure that we at least break even,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner Herman Tarin.
He said that even though it was not on the agenda, with the general fund looking so bleak, the group should also look at terminating lobbyist Randy DeLay’s contract with the county. The county signed a 12-month, $120,000 contract with DeLay, brother of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, last September when the county was seeking inmates to fill RCDC III and meet $40 million in bond payments on the 960-bed facility.
“I feel like the general fund is diminishing rapidly,” said Tarin. “I know it’s not on the agenda, but we need to start looking at just ending this, because we’re paying him each month.”
Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo said that there were some other items that the court needed to look at, in terms of lowering costs and helping out the general fund.
“I think that’s a very good point and we’ll be discussing it more this afternoon with our meeting with GEO and their managing services,” said Galindo. “Those discussions will begin today and I’ll be working more on it throughout the week,” he said.
Commissioners were scheduled to meet again this afternoon with the GEO Group and discuss services agreement and escrow agreement between the county and GEO, which was hired in November to manage all three units of the RCDC and also to help bring inmates for the RCDC III unit.
Galindo said that they could also call a special meeting for next Monday and discuss several items that require changes.
“I think the changes on this contract be done right away,” said Tarin.
“That’s just one small part of the changes we need to look at,” said Galindo.
Galindo said he had spoken to Lynn Owens (county auditor) on Saturday and discussed several items that needed looking into.
“We need to look on down the road, where do we want to be, what do we want to do,” said Galindo.
“Maybe there are other sources, from which we can be paying DeLay,” said Tarin.
“These services need to be paid by the local community and not be federal funds,” said Galindo.
“It’s important we look at hard at the general fund and at DeLay’s contract, but not without it being an agenda item,” said Owens.
Pecos shifted into volleyball ‘mini-district’
By JON FULBRIGHT
The Pecos Eagles will be in District 3-3A next season - but for volleyball, it will be a much different district than what the Eagles have become used to the past two years, following a secondary realignment last week by the University Interscholastic League.
The UIL announced realignments for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years on Feb. 2, and under that change the Eagles were to move from District 4-3A to 3-4A, while losing Kermit and adding Lamesa and Seminole to their district. However, the new alignments left two Region I district with just two Class 3A teams playing volleyball, compared with seven teams seeking three playoff berths in District 3-3A.
To solve that problem, the UIL decided to cut 3-3A into three separate parts, but only for volleyball. Pecos will remain with Monahans, Fort Stockton and Presidio for volleyball, while Seminole will go north to play with Brownfield, Levelland and Lubbock Cooper as part of District 2-3A. Lamesa and Greenwood, meanwhile, will be paired with Snyder and Sweetwater in District 4-3A.
“This way there are no bye games in the playoffs, except for the district champions,” said Eagles’ volleyball coach Becky Granado. Pecos has lost in the bi-district round the past two seasons to Lamesa, which then earned a second-round bye, because there was no team to face out of Districts 1 and 2 in the Panhandle.
However, while the new alignment does eliminate second round playoff byes, Granado said, “Now three out of the four teams in the district are going to make the playoffs,” as opposed to three out of six, which has been the case for the Eagles’ districts in Class 4A and 3A for the past eight years.
Granado said the change would also mean redoing the regular season schedule. “We’re going to go from having 10 district games to having six, so I’ll have two weeks to fill in with non-district games.”
With Presidio not playing football, District 3-3A will have six teams in that sport, and seven in all others except for volleyball. Realignment in swimming is also different, with Class 4A Andrews and Big Spring and Class 3A Abilene Wylie a part of Pecos’ district this past season. Swimming alignments for 2004-06 have not yet been released by the UIL.
TxDOT set to start work on repairing I-20 in area
Drivers headed east and west out of Pecos on Interstate 20, as well as those traveling through town, should be seeing improvements to the road surface over the next seven months. But before then, they’ll be seeing some traffic detours and delays, as the Texas Department of Transportation prepares to begin work on a 30-mile stretch of the highway through Reeves and Ward counties.
The first work is scheduled to begin later this week, when construction begins on a 16-mile section of I-20 from just west of State Highway 115 at Pyote to the Pecos River crossing. Construction activity is expected to start near Pyote on Thursday and continue until October. Workers for Jones Bros. Dirt & Paving Contractors, Inc., of Odessa, will be working from daylight until dusk six days a week, according to a TxDOT official in Pecos.
Kelli Williams, the TxDOT engineer in charge of overseeing the project, said that the work will consist of removing and replacing about five inches of existing pavement in a series of construction zones about four miles in length.
The 16-mile stretch has been the site of several road projects over the past several year, including a minor resurfacing project two years ago. That section of the interstate has been subject to severe rutting, particularly in the westbound lanes of I-20 west of Pyote and near the FM 516 exit south of Barstow.
Drivers will be restricted to a single lane and the regular 70-mile per hour speed limit will be reduced to 60 miles per hour in construction areas. Motorists are urged to slow down, obey all warning signs, and drive carefully through construction zones. State law doubles fines for traffic violations in areas where highway work is underway.
Williams said that final surface paving will begin about May 1, depending on weather conditions. Portions of the road between the initial excavation of three inches of hot mix and final paving will be opened with motorists using a temporary driving surface.
The roadwork is part of a 30-mile section of Interstate 20 being rebuilt this summer. The work in Ward County will be followed by resurfacing of a 14-mile section in Reeves County later this spring and summer. That work will include the highway between the Pecos River Crossing and FM 869, seven miles west of Pecos.
Head Start seeks new applications for 2004-05 year
GO-Project Head Start is inviting parents to apply now for enrollment in the 2004-2005 school year.
The program will provide approved applicants with two meals and a snack each school day, high-quality preschool education, free medical screening and immunization clinics.
Qualification for the program follows income guidelines. For more information call 445-4528.
High Sunday 59. Low this morning 51. Rainfall last 24 hours. .8 inch. Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Lows near 50. South winds 10 to 15 mph. Tuesday: Partly cloudy. Highs in the mid 80s. South winds 10 to 15 mph. Tuesday night: Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 50s. South winds 10 to 15 mph. Wednesday: Partly cloudy. Highs near 90. Southwest winds near 10 mph. Wednesday night: Mostly clear. Lows in the mid 50s. Thursday: Partly cloudy. Highs in the mid 80s. Thursday night: Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 50s.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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Copyright 2003 by Pecos Enterprise