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Toxic gas kills three on cruise ship

By wire services
Published September 3, 2005

LOS ANGELES - Three members of a cruise ship crew were killed by toxic sewer gas Friday as they repaired a waste pipe aboard the ship that had just returned to the Port of Los Angeles.

No passengers were injured, but 19 other crew members from Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas were examined for possible exposure to the toxic gas, authorities said.

Passengers were leaving the ship at the time of the incident, the company said.

Officials first identified the gas as methane but later determined it was hydrogen sulfide, which occurs in sewage, said Barbara Yu, a supervising hazardous-materials specialist for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The three crew members probably died within 30 seconds of encountering the gas, Yu said.

The incident occurred after the ship returned from a cruise with about 2,500 passengers and 850 crew members, said city Fire Department Battalion Chief Lou Roupoli.

Royal Caribbean said crew members were replacing a section of pipe connected to the ship's sewage system. The broken line expelled about five gallons of raw sewage and an unknown amount of gas in a propeller shaft tunnel, Roupoli said.

Coalition files lawsuit to save N.J. Army post

TRENTON, N.J. - A group of politicians, unions, contractors and soldiers filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to overturn a federal panel's decision to close Fort Monmouth, making New Jersey at least the fifth state where lawsuits have been filed over the federal base closings plan.

"We're doing this for the men and women overseas whose lives depend on the work at Fort Monmouth," Rep. Rush Holt said of the lawsuit asking that Fort Monmouth be taken off the list of bases slated for closure.

A hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, two days before the deadline for the Base Realignment and Closure Commission to present a list to President Bush. Bush and Congress have veto power over the final plan.

Illegal immigrants dying in record numbers

TUCSON, Ariz. - A record 415 people have died trying to cross the border illegally from Mexico in the past 11 months, surpassing the previous high of 383 recorded in fiscal year 2000, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington said Friday.

Record numbers of deaths are being recorded in both Border Patrol sectors that cover Arizona and in south Texas, spokesman Mario Villarreal said.

Some of the increase reflects a change in the way Tucson Border Patrol officials are counting the dead. In late June, they began including some remains found by other law enforcement agencies but not previously counted.

Even accounting for the change, Arizona's 228 recorded deaths so far this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, were more than in all of fiscal 2004, said Border Patrol spokesman Luis Garza. He attributed the increase to unusual heat and an eastward shift by smugglers to a more mountainous and treacherous stretch of desert east of the Baboquivari Mountains and the Tohono O'odham Indian reservation.

Remains of missing Ohio college student found

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The skeletal remains of a college student who was last seen three weeks ago at a bar near campus were discovered near a reservoir, and authorities are investigating her death as a homicide, police said Friday.

Julie Popovich, 20, of suburban Reynoldsburg, was last seen Aug. 11 at a bar near Ohio State University, where she was enrolled.

Authorities used dental records to identify her remains. The remains were discovered in a field near a reservoir Thursday by landscape workers.

Popovich was seen leaving Ledo's Lounge with a man witnesses said they thought she knew.

Diplomat pleads not guilty to conspiracy

NEW YORK - A Russian diplomat who chairs a powerful U.N. budget committee pleaded not guilty Friday to charges alleging he conspired to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars from foreign companies seeking contracts with the world body.

The FBI arrested Vladimir Kuznetsov on Thursday, less than a month after arresting another Russian U.N. official over alleged money laundering.

Kuznetsov, 48, was held on $1.5-million bail.

According to a grand jury indictment, Kuznetsov established an offshore company in 2000 to hide criminal proceeds he received from an unidentified U.N. procurement officer who had taken secret payments from foreign companies seeking contracts with the U.N.

Marine accused of firing into crowd out on bail

LAWRENCE, Mass. - A Marine facing attempted murder charges for firing into a crowd of nightclub revelers from his apartment window was released Friday on $5,000 cash bail on condition he undergo counseling and not return to the apartment.

Sgt. Daniel Cotnoir, 33, pleaded innocent last month.

The married father of two daughters said he acted in fear for his family's safety after someone threw an empty bottle through his second-floor bedroom window. Two people were injured in the shooting.

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