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'Columbia' board settles on scenario

By Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 7, 2003

HOUSTON - Turning an important corner in its three-month-old investigation, the board investigating the Columbia disaster Tuesday said it has settled on a detailed "working scenario" of what went wrong to destroy the space shuttle and kill its crew.

After sifting through a mountain of evidence from the wreckage, telemetry, data from an onboard recorder, photography, wind tunnel testing and complex analyses of aerodynamic and thermal factors, the board said the disaster began with a debris strike against the left wing during liftoff. It ended Feb. 1 as superhot gases poured through a hole in the leading edge and ate into the framework of the left wing until the shuttle ripped apart 240,000 feet over Texas.

National Guard aids tornado-torn town

PIERCE CITY, Mo. - National Guardsmen bound for Iraq returned instead to their tornado-flattened hometown of Pierce City to help clean up splintered homes and businesses and check on their loved ones Tuesday after twisters killed at least 40 people in three states.

One person was still listed as missing Tuesday in this southwestern Missouri town.

The death toll reached 18 in Missouri with the discovery of a child's body outside Pierce City, and rose to 15 in Tennessee after a man was found dead in a field near Jackson. The storms Sunday night also were blamed for at least seven deaths in Kansas.

Severe weather returned to Kansas and Missouri Tuesday afternoon, as the National Weather Service issued tornado warnings for 14 counties. There were several reports of tornadoes and some minor damage but no injuries from the new batch of storms.

President Bush on Tuesday issued federal disaster declarations for seven counties in Kansas and 39 in Missouri, an action that allows federal emergency assistance to flow to the affected areas.

Suicide note will aid arsenic investigation

PORTLAND, Maine - The man authorities say was involved in the arsenic poisonings of northern Maine churchgoers killed himself and left a suicide note that contained "important information," a police spokesman said Tuesday.

Daniel Bondeson's note has prompted police to continue their investigation into the poisoned coffee that killed one parishioner and sickened 15 others at Gustav Adolph Lutheran Church in New Sweden, state police spokesman Stephen McCausland said. At least three people remained in critical condition Tuesday at a Bangor hospital.

State police have said that Bondeson, a potato farmer, was involved, but may not have acted alone in spiking the coffee. Internal church squabbling is part of their investigation into the motive for the April 27 poisonings.

Elsewhere . . .

SNIPER CONFESSION ADMISSIBLE: A Virginia judge ruled Tuesday that Washington-area sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo's admissions to two murders and much of his six-hour confession to police can be used as evidence during his murder trial.

NICHOLS HEARING CONTINUES: A man testified Tuesday that several hundred blasting caps were stolen a few months before the Oklahoma City bombing from a quarry 25 miles from the home of conspirator Terry Nichols. Prosecutors are trying to build a case for trying Nichols on 160 state murder charges.

FARM FAMILY KILLER EXECUTED: Carl Isaacs, 49, who helped kill six members of a farm family during a burglary to fuel his escape from a Maryland prison camp was executed Tuesday night, 30 years after his crime shook a community. He was given a lethal injection at the state prison in Jackson, Ga., for orchestrating the Alday family killings at their southwest Georgia home on May 14, 1973. Appeals kept him on death row longer than anyone in the nation.

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