REGIONAL BRIEFS: Family seeks new trial for sex abuse damagesELLSWORTH, Wis. -- A hearing is set for March 20 on a request for a new trial in a lawsuit seeking civil damages from a substitute teacher who sexually abused a 13-year-old boy.
Credit: Forum News Service
Oil, gas operators to review safety procedures
MINOT, N.D. – Recent fatalities in the Oil Patch have prompted oil and gas companies operating in North Dakota to meet today to review safety procedures.
A “stand-down” for safety will be led today by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the MonDaks Safety Network, a local chapter of the National Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production Safety Network.
Half of the workplace fatalities investigated by the Bismarck OSHA office come from the oil and gas industry, said Eric Brooks, area director of the Bismarck OSHA office. There were two oilfield fatalities in January.
Dustin Austin, chairman of the MonDaks Safety Network, said he expects more than 500 people to participate in the three-hour event, either by attending the event in Minot or watching a webcast online.
“We want to show North Dakota and the public that we’re serious about safety,” Austin said.
Polka-dot house fire caused by smoking
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The fire Saturday night at Grand Forks’ well-known polka-dot house was caused by smoking in an upstairs room, the fire department said Wednesday.
Injured in the fire was John Rodney Dillon Davis, 40, who was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, the department said.
The accidental fire, caused by the improper use of smoking materials in a second-floor sleeping room, left considerable damage to that floor, the department said.
The owner of the house says he plans to renovate the house on University Avenue, which garnered some notoriety last year when he painted polka dots on it. He said he plans to keep motif.
The house has five sleeping rooms and one full apartment. Smoke alarms warned most of the tenants, and they exited before the arrival of firefighters, who were dispatched at 10:48 p.m.
Davis had to be removed. He was taken to the local hospital before being transferred to the St. Paul hospital, which did not release his condition Wednesday afternoon.
Trial set in semi-motorcycle fatality
FARGO – The trial for a Long Prairie, Minn., man facing criminal charges in connection with a fatal collision between the semi he was driving and a motorcycle has been set for April 16 in Cass County District Court.
James Toner, 56, is charged with manslaughter, a Class B felony, and aggravated reckless driving, a Class A misdemeanor, in the June 4 crash in south Fargo that killed Jason Viestenz, 29, Fargo. Viestenz’ son, Elijah, 10, was riding on the back of the bike, was wearing a helmet and received minor injuries.
Toner has pleaded not guilty.
Man dies when car hits train
COTTON, Minn. -- A man was killed in northeast Minnesota Wednesday morning when his SUV hit a stopped train west of Cotton.
Adam John Sharp, 28, was on his way to work about 45 miles northwest of Duluth in St. Louis County, when he drove into the train in the dense fog.
A BNSF train with mechanical problems was stopped at a crossing when Sharp’s Ford Explorer drove into the side of the train about 6 a.m., according to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office. There were areas of dense fog at the time of the crash, and, although the crossing is marked with a stop sign, it doesn’t have flashing lights or a stop arm.
Sharp died at the scene.
Council seeks independent look into mayor’s role in sand mining
RED WING, Minn. -- The Red Wing City Council will have an independent investigator gather more facts surrounding Mayor Dennis Egan’s involvement with the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council.
City Council members voted Monday to initiate the investigation, to be done by someone outside the city organization. The issue was put before the City Council because of concerns about a conflict of interest raised by members and the community, council President Lisa Bayley said.
Sand mining has become a controversial environmental practice around Red Wing and other areas of southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. The sand is a key ingredient in the hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, process used by the oil and gas industry.
Town plans bow hunt within city limits
HALLOCK, Minn. -- Hallock, a town of 960 in the northwest corner of Minnesota, will have its own deer hunting season within city limits this fall.
City leaders recently voted to hold a bow-hunting season in an effort to reduce the population of deer inside the city. City staff and City Council members are working on the details, with the state requiring a plan to be in place before May.
“We might have 100 to 150 deer in town,” City Clerk Hank Noel said. “They’re not just in the park or near the (Two Rivers River).
“I see deer tracks in my yard and I live dead center in town.”
Family seeks new trial for sex abuse damages
ELLSWORTH, Wis. -- A hearing is set for March 20 on a request for a new trial in a lawsuit seeking civil damages from a substitute teacher who sexually abused a 13-year-old boy.
The motion for a second trial was filed Feb. 6 by attorneys Michael D. and Brandon M. Schwartz, Oakdale, Minn., on behalf of the boy and his family.
In a verdict reached Jan. 16, a 12-person Pierce County jury awarded no damages to the teen or to his father, Christopher Brekken, Prescott.
In July 2008 Ann Knopf, now 44, Ellsworth, pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault of child related to encounters with the boy in 2007 when he was a middle school student. She was sentenced to nine months in jail and five years on probation.
In October 2008, the boy’s father filed a civil suit against Knopf, asking for monetary damages for his son and himself.
According to the new-trial motion filed by the Schwartzes, the jury’s verdict is “perverse, inconsistent and fails in its inherent purpose to achieve justice.”