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Briefs: Flu epidemic hitting young people hardest

| Thursday, Feb. 13, 2003

The flu is spreading rapidly and hitting young people especially hard in Allegheny County, with the number of confirmed cases soaring in three weeks from one to 26, according to the Allegheny County Health Department.

For every confirmed case, it is estimated that several hundred to 1,000 other people have the flu.

All but one of the confirmed cases struck people 20 or younger. Schools are reporting above-average absenteeism, primarily due to sickness with symptoms consistent with the flu, according to the health department.

It is not too late to get the a shot, although it will take two weeks to be effective at preventing the flu or reducing the severity of symptoms.

Children younger than 19 who have flu-like symptoms should not be given aspirin because it may lead to Reye's Syndrome, a potentially fatal disease.

Man on way to work killed in hit-and-run

A steelworker who was walking to work at the Allegheny Ludlum works on River Avenue in Brackenridge was struck and killed in a hit-and-run accident early Wednesday, Allegheny County police said.

Daniel Hines, 44, of Brackenridge, was struck at 6:38 a.m. while walking near Gate 7 at the plant, police Lt. John Brennan said. Hines, who suffered severe chest injuries, died shortly after 8 a.m. at Alle-Kiski Medical Center in Harrison, a spokesman for the Allegheny County Coroner's Office said.

Witnesses described the vehicle as a black Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck. Brennan said the truck, owned by Dusty Hank, 27, of the Natrona area of Harrison, had not been reported stolen. Brennan said police have not determined who was driving the truck at the time of the accident and that no charges have been filed.

Harrison Police Chief Mike Klein said Hank, a manager at the Sisters Hotel, appeared to be intoxicated when police interviewed her 2 1 / 2 hours after the accident. He said a sample of her blood is being tested for alcohol content.

Suspected drugs seized in traffic stop

Pittsburgh police seized nearly $10,000 in suspected cocaine and crack during a traffic stop that turned into a car chase in the West End.

Andrew Dean, 30, of McKees Rocks, tossed a plate of what investigators suspect was freshly cooked crack cocaine out of his car after Officer Tom Jacques of the city traffic squad tried to pull over Dean shortly before 11:30 a.m. Tuesday on Noblestown Road, police said.

Jacques was watching for motorists who don't wear seat belts as part of a city police crackdown. Dean drove through one stop sign and then blew three more during the short chase before crashing his car, police said.

In addition to the suspected plate of crack — with an estimated value of $7,000 — police said they also found more suspected crack and about an ounce of suspected powder cocaine — worth $2,000 — in Dean's car.

Dean was charged with possession of cocaine and crack, possession with intent to deliver, reckless endangerment, fleeing and eluding, failure to stop at stop signs and failure to wear a seat belt.

I-279 lanes restricted at night for 3 weeks

Interstate 279 between the Carnegie and Parkway Center Mall on-ramps will be restricted to a single lane overnight for the next three weeks.

From 9 p.m to 6 a.m. traffic delays may occur while crews from Wellington Power Corp. remove and replace message signs.

The work is expected to cost $2.5 million and is expected to be completed by March 7. State police will assist in maintaining traffic.

Reward offered for bank robber details

Pittsburgh CrimeStoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the man who robbed the Citizens Bank located in the Giant Eagle at McIntyre Center in McCandless.

The clean-shaven white man entered the bank Feb. 1 and passed the teller a note saying he had a weapon and was demanding cash. The man, who has dark brown hair and acne scars on his cheek, may have fled in a blue vehicle.

The man was described as being 5-feet, 7-inches tall and between 130 and 140 pounds. He was wearing a dark blue ball cap; a light gray, long sleeved shirt; and faded blue jeans.

Anyone with information about him is asked to call CrimeStoppers at (412) 255-8477.

Judge recommended for highest court seat

The Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission has highly recommended an Allegheny County judge as a potential candidate for the state Supreme Court.

Judge Max Baer, of Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, was highly recommended Wednesday by the bar association. For the 2003 election in November, there will be one vacancy on the state Supreme Court.

Baer has not announced his candidacy.

Also highly recommended were Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge John W. Herron and Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas A. Wallitsch.

Donations to pay for K-9 dog's surgery

A police dog in Wilkinsburg didn't have to beg for money to pay for back surgery.

Less than a week after police in the financially stressed borough asked for donations to get their dog back on his feet, more than $5,000 in checks and pledges have flooded the department.

Police officials would not say how much money had been raised but said that donations were still arriving Wednesday. They ask that people stop sending contributions.

Officials learned that Faro, a 3-year-old German shepherd, has a genetic defect that causes a disk in his back to slip. The department asked the public for help in raising $5,000 for surgery and medications required to get the drug-sniffing dog back in the lineup.

University suing borough for payment

St. Francis University is suing a municipality for nearly $400,000, which the school contends it is owed for water and sewage service.

The university wants $382,032 from Loretto Borough and it wants Cambria County Court to oversee talks on future rates, billings and payments. But Loretto officials said they've been paying.

Nicholas Bentivegna, Loretto's solicitor, said St. Francis is operating a public utility without a license and that only the state Public Utility Commission has the right to unilaterally set rates.

University attorney Dennis McGlynn said St. Francis sued after learning that Loretto Council wanted to use the money it owed for other projects in the borough of about 1,100 residents.

Student editor says teacher told to censor

A student newspaper editor says administrators urged a professor to censor the newspaper after it ran articles critical of the school — as well as a photograph of a student wearing condoms on her ears.

Lance Masters, president of Thiel College in Greenville, Mercer County, said the school is not censoring the paper. He said the school did temporarily halt printing to make sure nothing libelous was in the paper when the newspaper's adviser resigned over concerns that critical stories would affect his chance for tenure.

In November, communications professor Dan West resigned as faculty adviser after administrators suggested that his performance at the paper could be factored into his chance to make tenure, said Nathan Shrader, editor of The Thielensian.

Masters said the concern was largely unfounded because he has approved tenure for every professor the school has recommended since becoming president four years ago.

Cause of man's death still being reviewed

Investigators were still trying Wednesday to determine if a man who drove his truck off a pier on Lake Erie and into a permanently moored barge was intent on harming himself or if a health or mechanical problem caused the accident.

Dennis Swab, 50, of Erie, died in an ambulance while en route the hospital Monday night.

The coroner has yet to rule on the cause and manner of death.

Family members said Swab went to the pier to watch the ice fishers.

Shoving breaks out at council meeting

Anyone who thinks all small towns are peaceful hasn't visited the Crawford County community of Venango.

Residents who attended the last borough council meeting got into a shoving match. A councilman says he's been chased by a resident with a 2-by-4. And a petition called for the ouster of the council president, who was accused of stealing from a bingo fund-raising event.

In a borough with a population of 288, snow plowing and library renovations have taken a back seat to council drama. The community is located about 25 miles south of Erie.

175 reservists called to duty in central Pa.

About 175 Army reservists in three central Pennsylvania detachments will be mobilized as the United States prepares for a possible attack on Iraq.

Reservists from the 99th Regional Support Command's 629th Transportation Company will leave their home station in Clearfield and will travel to their mobilization site at Fort Drum, N.Y., on Saturday, the 99th's headquarters said. The reservists are from detachments in Clearfield, Lock Haven and DuBois.

Water line break damages dress shop

The rupture of a century-old water line has cost a formal wear shop in Wheeling, W.Va., nearly $1 million in damage and lost merchandise, including more than 3,000 water- and mud-soaked wedding gowns.

Kaufman's, which draws brides and promgoers from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, also lost formal gowns, shoes and accessories for men when thousands of gallons of water poured into the basement over the weekend.

But brides and promgoers who already had purchased gowns can relax. Those gowns were stored on an upper floor, where there was no damage, Purpura said.

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