Florida interstate named most dangerous in the country according to study

Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 6:47 PM

Ultimate US Road Trip

A new study has deemed Interstate 4, which connects Tampa, Orlando and Daytona Beach, the most dangerous in the country, with more fatalities than miles. 

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Teletrac Navman compiled the list of 25 most dangerous interstates using federal data from 2011-2015 to compare the number of fatal crashes on the interstate to the total miles. 

Interstate 4, which is undergoing major renovations as part of the I-4 Ultimate project, is at the top of the list with 1.25 deaths per mile, according to the study. 

Robbie Fitts, who drives I-4 daily, said he could go on and on about his dislike of the road. 

"I've lived in Chicago, I've lived in Boston; a bunch of major cities and haven't experienced as bad driving as I do here in Orlando,” he said. “Here, you've got the curves, you've got unlevel roads, the merging, the entering and exiting."

The studied marked the section of I-4 that moves through the Orlando metro area as being the deadliest. 

"Yes, when it's accidents it's horrible. Most of my co-workers don't use it because they hate it,” said Sonya Fritz.. 

In Central Florida, there were 58 fatal crashes in 2015 and 2016, and there are already 21 this year, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. 

Florida, Orlando, City Skyline And Traffic On Interstate 4. (Photo by: Jeff Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)(Jeff Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)
Troopers attribute the number of fatal crashes to driver error, not the road, and list speed and distracted driving as the typical causes of accidents on I-4. 

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British ex-soldier gets 18 years to life for parachute plot to kill wife, who survived plunge

Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 5:04 PM

Emile Cilliers arrives at Winchester Crown Court Oct. 30, 2017, in Winchester, England. Cilliers, 38, was convicted of the attempted murder of his wife, Victoria Cilliers, who suffered near-fatal injuries after her parachute failed in a 4,000-foot fall at Netheravon Airfield, Wiltshire, in April 2015. The former Army sergeant was sentenced June 15, 2018, to 18 years to life in prison.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Emile Cilliers arrives at Winchester Crown Court Oct. 30, 2017, in Winchester, England. Cilliers, 38, was convicted of the attempted murder of his wife, Victoria Cilliers, who suffered near-fatal injuries after her parachute failed in a 4,000-foot fall at Netheravon Airfield, Wiltshire, in April 2015. The former Army sergeant was sentenced June 15, 2018, to 18 years to life in prison.(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

“Are you trying to bump me off?” Victoria Cilliers joked in a text to her husband after finding a gas leak in their U.K. home one early morning in March 2015.

It turned out, he was.

Emile Cilliers, 38, of Amesbury, Wiltshire, was sentenced Friday to life in prison, with a chance of parole after 18 years, for the nearly successful plot prosecutors said he came up with when the gas leak failed to work -- tampering with his wife’s parachute before a skydiving jump. Wiltshire police officials said Cilliers, a sergeant in the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, was also found guilty of attempted murder and criminal damage with intent to endanger life for tampering with a gas fitting in a kitchen cupboard at the home the couple shared with their two children. 

The children were home with their mother when Victoria Cilliers discovered the leak, the BBC reported. She was going to the kitchen the morning of March 30, 2015, to get milk for one of the children when she smelled gas. 

The seasoned and skilled skydiving instructor suffered a broken pelvis, broken ribs, two broken vertebrae and internal injuries just six days later -- on Easter Sunday -- when both her main parachute and her reserve chute failed at 4,000 feet, the BBC reported. A seasoned and skilled skydiving instructor, she survived when she landed in the soft earth of a recently plowed field near Salisbury.

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Justice Nigel Sweeney described Emile Cilliers’ crimes as “wicked offending of extreme gravity” when sentencing him to prison during a hearing in Winchester Crown Court. 

“That your wife recovered at all was miraculous; she undoubtedly suffered severe physical harm and she must have suffered psychological harm in the terror of the fall and since,” Sweeney said, according to The Guardian. “She appears to have recovered from the physical harm but not, having seen her in the witness box at length, from the psychological harm.”

Victoria Cilliers said in interviews after her husband’s conviction that she still has a hard time seeing her husband as a killer, the newspaper reported. Though she intended to visit him in prison to confront him about what happened, she was not planning a divorce, she said.

Victoria Cilliers, 40, arrives at Winchester Crown Court for the attempted murder trial of her husband, Emile Cilliers, Oct. 30, 2017, in Winchester, England. Emile Cilliers was convicted of attempted murder for tampering with his wife's parachute before a skydiving jump in April 2015. Victoria Cilliers suffered multiple serious injuries in the 4,000-foot fall, during which both her main and reserve parachutes failed to deploy. Emile Cilliers was sentenced Friday, June 15, 2018, to 18 years to life in prison.(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Army officials said following Emile Cilliers’ sentencing that steps would be taken to have him discharged from service, the newspaper said. 

The BBC reported that testimony at trial indicated that Emile Cilliers was having affairs with two women, including his ex-wife, at the time of the alleged murder attempts. He was also having unprotected sex with prostitutes. 

Investigators testified that they also found that Cilliers was £22,000 in debt and was hoping to use a £120,000 payout from his wife’s life insurance policy to take care of his problem.   

Detective Inspector Paul Franklin, of the Wiltshire police, on Friday described Emile Cilliers as a “cold, callous, selfish man who cares only about money and his sexual conquests.”

“From the outset, Emile Cilliers showed no remorse for what he had done,” Franklin said in a statement. “He lied all the way through two trials, but in the end justice won out with the guilty verdicts and now a long prison sentence.”

Emile and Victoria Cilliers, an Army physiotherapist, had a troubled seven-year marriage during which Victoria Cilliers occasionally doubted her husband’s fidelity, the BBC reported. When she voiced suspicions, he would blame her doubts on her experience with the infidelity of her first husband, the news station said. 

Meanwhile, Emile Cilliers had affairs and blew through money, borrowing cash from his wife, from colleagues and from loan sharks, the BBC said. He grew distant from his wife, who was thrilled when he texted her over the Easter holiday to suggest a skydiving jump together. 

At the same time, he was texting his mistress, “Have I told you lately that I am massively in love with the most amazing woman in the world? I want my life with you to start now,” The Guardian reported

The couple went to Netheravon Airfield together on April 4, 2015, the day before Easter, for the jump, which was called off due to bad weather. The BBC reported that instead of returning his wife’s parachutes to the store where they rented them, Emile Cilliers stashed them in the couple’s locker at the airfield so Victoria could use it the following day.

Prosecutors said that the defendant did so because he had taken the parachutes into a restroom and twisted the lines of the main chute to prevent it from opening, the news station reported. He also removed parts from the reserve chute.

Emile Cilliers is pictured in his April 2015 mugshot.(Wiltshire Police)

Victoria Cilliers testified at her husband’s trial that she returned, alone, to the airfield on Easter Sunday. Her excitement for the jump was gone, but her husband encouraged her to go through with it, she said. 

“I remember the pilot giving me a smile as I went out,” she said, according to The Guardian. “Usually that’s the part that I love; the cold rush, the smell. And it just did not hit me.”

Instead, what hit her was terror as her main parachute failed to open properly. A witness on the ground that day testified at Emile Cilliers’ trial that the reserve chute resembled a bag of laundry as Victoria Cilliers was thrown around “like a rag doll.”

“I could not figure how to slow it down,” Victoria Cilliers said. “It was just getting faster and faster and faster. The speed was unreal. The last thing I remember is trying to get some kind of control, then everything went black.”

The fact that both chutes failed was such a rare occurrence that the British Parachute Association launched an inquiry. The investigation found that in about 2.3 million sport parachute jumps in the U.K. over the previous 10 years, there had never been an instance of both the main and reserve parachutes failing. 

See the British Parachute Association’s report here.

In addition, the parachutes Victoria Cilliers used the day of her fall functioned properly when used just a day or two prior to the incident. 

The police also became involved in the investigation, during which detectives obtained texts and emails that showed details of his multiple affairs, The Guardian reported. They also learned about his financial problems. 

While investigating the gas leak at the couple’s home, police officials found spots of blood next to the gas fitting that was tampered with, the newspaper reported. 

Emile Cilliers was arrested on April 28, about two weeks after his wife’s fall. 

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Ohio Senators Portman, Brown criticize separating kids from parents at border

Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 12:57 PM
Updated: Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 12:57 PM

Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman
Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman

Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, and Republican Steve Stivers of Upper Arlington sharply criticized the Trump administration for separating children from parents trying to cross the border in the United States.

In a statement Tuesday, Portman, R-Ohio, repeated what he has said during the past few weeks, saying "is counter to our values. We can have strong border security without separating families at the border. They can be kept together and dealt with as a family unit.”

“The administration should change course immediately and use its executive authority to keep families together and expedite their cases,” Portman said. “If those changes aren’t made, Congress should act quickly on a legislative solution to fix this problem.”

RELATED: Hundreds of children wait in border patrol facility in Texas

“I’m working with my colleagues to develop a compassionate solution that upholds our immigration laws and keeps families together while their cases are being processed,” Portman said.

Brown, D-Ohio, who is seeking re-election against Republican Jim Renacci, said “all children should be treated with compassion. Tearing families apart is wrong and will not fix our broken immigration system.”

Stivers, who chairs the House Republican re-election effort, called on the administration “to stop needlessly separating children from their parents. If the policy is not changed, I will support other means to stop unnecessary separation of children from their parents.”

RELATED: Before Trump policy, immigrant families arrested at border were detained together

The spectacle of crying children being taken from their parents produced an avalanche of criticism and queasiness from most Democrats, a growing number of Republicans, and pro-Republican business organizations as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The House is expected to consider two competing immigration bills this week which could include language preventing the border separations. But there are deep doubts either bill can pass the House or Senate in part because Republicans are so divided on the issue and Democrats believe neither bill solves the problem.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, said what Trump “is doing to these families and children” is “abhorrent,” adding “we’re seeing faith-based communities, human rights groups, and even Republicans calling out the president for this immoral and destructive policy.”

“He can end this with a phone call but refuses to do so,” Ryan said, referring to Trump.

What You Need to Know: 'Zero Tolerance' Immigration Policy

In an appearance on MSNBC Monday night, Ohio Gov. John Kasich “this is not the America you and I have known throughout our lifetime here.”

Renacci, a House member from Wadsworth, said "protecting both American jobs and our security by securing our borders and fixing our broken immigration system must be a top priority," and urged swift passage of a bill to "enforce America's immigration laws" and prevent "the separation of children from their parents on our border."

Democrat Joyce Beatty of Columbus, called the Trump policy “immoral” and urged the House Republican leadership to “work on comprehensive solutions to fix our broken immigration system.”

Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, solidly backed Trump saying “by choosing to cross the border illegally – and often in dangerous circumstances – illegal immigrants are putting their children at risk.”

“No one likes to see the images we have seen, but it's important to remember that this is not a new policy or new phenomenon at our southern border,” Johnson said.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Cincinnati, said “our country has great compassion for those who come to our nation seeking a better life for their family and join the American way of life. Yet, we are also a nation of laws.”

“Our southern border has become a hub of drug and human traffickers, preying on Americans and immigrants alike, and the current 

President to meet members of Congress tonight

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

By DUSTIN WEAVER and ALAN FRAM, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans on Capitol Hill frantically searched on Tuesday for ways to end the administration’s policy of separating families after illegal border crossings, ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss broader immigration legislation.

Top conservatives, including key Trump allies, announced they were introducing bills to stop the practice amid a public outcry over the administration’s “zero tolerance” approach to illegal crossings.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas introduced legislation that the White House said it was reviewing, and Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus, also introduced a measure.

Both bills were offered as alternatives in case broader GOP immigration legislation heading for a vote this week fails, as is likely. “This becomes a backup proposal,” Meadows told reporters at the White House.

Trump’s meeting late Tuesday with House Republicans comes as lawmakers in both parties are up in arms after days of news reports showing images of children being held at border facilities in cages and an audio recording of a young child pleading for his “Papa.”

Watch Video from Inside the Border Protection's Processing Detention Center in Texas

The issue boiled over Tuesday at a House hearing on an unrelated subject when protesters with babies briefly shut down proceedings.

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, teared up as he pleaded with Republicans on the panel to end what he called “internment camps.”

“We need you, those children need you —and I am talking directly to my Republican colleagues— we need you to stand up to President Donald Trump,” he said.

Under the current policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution — a process that moves adults to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Under the Obama administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May.

The House is already embroiled in an election-year struggle over immigration legislation that threatens to hurt Republicans in November.

Democrats have seized on the family separation issue. And now, Republicans are increasingly joining them in their call to stop separating families.

“While cases are pending, families should stay together,” tweeted Cruz, who is in an unexpectedly tough re-election battle. He introduced his own bill to speed up court proceedings to no more than 14 days. “Children belong with their families.”

Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton called for an immediate end to the “ugly and inhumane practice” of separation. “It’s never acceptable to use kids as bargaining chips in political process.” Kansas GOP Sen. Pat Roberts said he was “against using parental separation as a deterrent to illegal immigration.”

“The time is now for the White House to end the cruel, tragic separations of families,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

From afar, ailing Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted, “The administration’s current family separation policy is an affront to the decency of the American people and contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded. The administration has the power to rescind this policy. It should do so now.”

The Trump administration insists the family separations are required under the law. But after signaling Monday that it would oppose any fix aimed solely at addressing that issue, the White House said Tuesday it was reviewing the emergency legislation being introduced by Cruz to keep migrant families together.

The senator’s bill would add more federal immigration judges, authorize new temporary shelters to house migrant families, speed the processing of asylum cases and require that families that cross the border illegally be kept together, absent criminal conduct or threats to the welfare of any children.

At a White House briefing Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen declared, “Congress alone can fix it.” That line has been echoed by others in the administration, including Trump, who has falsely blamed a law passed by Democrats for the “zero tolerance” approach to prosecutions of families crossing the border.

Two immigration bills under consideration in the House could address the separations, but the outlook for passage is dim. Conservatives say the compromise legislation that GOP leaders helped negotiate with moderates is inadequate.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a member of the Freedom Caucus, said he’s skeptical that even a full-throated endorsement from Trump will be enough to get the compromise bill through the House.

The compromise bill shifts away from the nation’s longtime preference for family immigration to a new system that prioritizes entry based on merits and skills. It beefs up border security, clamps down on illegal entries and reinforces other immigration laws.

To address the rise of families being separated at the border, the measure proposes keeping children in detention with their parents, undoing 2-decade-old rules that limit the time minors can be held in custody.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte R-Va., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is reworking the family separation provision in the compromise bill, a GOP aide said Tuesday.

Faced with the prospect of gridlock in the House, senators appear willing to take matters into their own hands.

John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican leader, said Senate Republicans are working on language to address the family separations that could receive a floor vote, potentially as part of a spending bill package.

“I don’t think the answer to family separation is to not enforce the law. I think the answer to family separation is: Don’t separate families while you’re enforcing the law,” Cornyn told reporters. “It’s all within our power, and people have to overcome their desire to preserve an issue to campaign on.”

GOP senators including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine also said they’ve been discussing family separation legislation.

The administration, meanwhile, is hoping to force Democrats to vote for the bills or bear some of the political cost in November’s midterm elections. Democrats brushed aside that pressure.

“As everyone who has looked at this agrees, this was done by the president, not Democrats. He can fix it tomorrow if he wants to, and if he doesn’t want to, he should own up to the fact that he’s doing it,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

___

Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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Coyote killing contest under fire by animal rights agencies

Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 4:51 PM

The Coyote Challenge, sponsored by Georgia's state Department of Natural Resources, encourages the killing of coyotes between March and August.
David McNew/Getty Images
The Coyote Challenge, sponsored by Georgia's state Department of Natural Resources, encourages the killing of coyotes between March and August.(David McNew/Getty Images)

On Tuesday a coalition of more than 25 wildlife and animal protection organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, delivered letters urging Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to cancel the “Georgia Coyote Challenge.”

During the six-month period from March to August the challenge offers Georgia residents the chance to win a lifetime hunting license and a new hunting rifle.

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Residents enter to win the license by providing photo evidence of having killed a coyote. Individuals are allowed to submit up to 10 entries, each representing one coyote killed. 

It’s the second year that the challenge has been offered. Last year Georgia residents killed 195 coyotes.

Contests such as these have sparked vocal protests.

“Scientific evidence does not support the notion that indiscriminately killing coyotes through events such as the Georgia Coyote Challenge is an effective wildlife management practice,” said Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote, a national organization based in Marin County, California. 

The Coyote Challenge, sponsored by Georgia’s state Department of Natural Resources, encourages the killing of coyotes between March and August.

The contest also encourages an unethical attitude, Fox said. “We are beyond killing animals for prizes and fun,” she told National Public Radio. “This should be part of our history books.”

Christopher Mowry, associate professor of biology at Berry College and director of the Atlanta Coyote Project, said, “Wildlife killing contests are antithetical to responsible hunting ethics.”

John Bowers, chief of game management for the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said population control is not the point of the Coyote Challenge.

“The purpose is to complement and highlight the existing lethal removal of coyotes by hunters and trappers,” he said. “They can do that year-round.”

Bowers said coyote removal is a part of game management.

“If I’m managing my property for wildlife, for deer or turkeys, and I’ve got an abundance of coyote on my property, then those coyote need to be managed, too,” Bowers said. “This is the time period. March though August is the best time period to lethally remove coyotes.”

Coyotes are seen more and more often in urban as well as rural areas.

Other states have sparked protests with similar contests, including Utah, which stages a yearly World Championship Coyote Calling Contest, in which participants try to kill as many coyotes as possible in 48 hours.

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Brown recluse spiders: 4 things to know as the dangerous pests become more active

Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 6:12 AM

What You Need To Know: Brown Recluse Spiders

Beware: A dangerous pest could be lurking in the shadows of your home this summer.

According to WOOD-TV, brown recluse spiders are becoming more active as the weather warms up.

Here's what you need to know to identify – and avoid – the unwelcome arachnids:

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1. What do they look like? The nocturnal spiders can be as large as a half-dollar and usually have violin-shaped markings on their upper body. 

>> ‘Very aggressive tick,’ whose bite causes red meat allergies not a hoax, CDC says

2. Where are they found? According to Live Science, brown recluses usually live in the southern and central U.S., including the following states:

  • Alabama 
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana 
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

They like "dark, secluded places," such as in closets or under garbage cans, Live Science reports. They might be lurking in boxes, shoes or clothes in your garage or basement, Holly Schwarting, who works for Kansas State University's Department of Entomology, told KFVS in 2016.

>> PHOTOS: 25 ways Florida could kill you

3. Are brown recluses dangerous? While fatalities are rare, you definitely don't want to get bitten by one.

"The brown recluse spider's bite can be kind of a nasty one," Schwarting told KFVS. "Their venom contains a material that causes our tissue to break down, so it can create a lesion and a slow-healing wound."

The bite may have a red or purple circle around it, according to MedlinePlus. Bite victims may experience discomfort, chills, itching, nausea, fever and sweating, the site says. Rarely, the bites can cause jaundice, kidney failure, blood in urine, seizures and comas. 

You should go to the nearest hospital, call 911 or contact the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 if you think you've been bitten, according to MedlinePlus.

4. How can I protect myself around the house? 

Schwarting offered the following tips to KFVS:
  • Wear leather gloves while cleaning
  • Shake out shoes and coats
  • Set up glue traps
  • Pay attention to your surroundings

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