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    Around the state

    Compiled from Times wires

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 14, 2000

    Tailhook convention outgrows Pensacola

    PENSACOLA -- The Tailhook Association, rocked by accusations that women, including Navy officers, were harassed and groped at the aviation group's 1991 convention in Las Vegas, has gotten too big to meet in Pensacola.

    The association has canceled a verbal commitment to hold its 2002 convention in the "Cradle of Naval Aviation" because membership increased after the Navy restored its ties with the group last January.

    The renewed ties permitted active-duty Navy and Marine Corps personnel to again become members, swelling the San Diego-based association's ranks.

    "It became apparent that we needed to reconsider our decision on Pensacola," retired Rear Adm. Fred Lewis, chairman of the association's board, told the Pensacola News Journal. The group, which most recently held its annual conventions in Reno, Nev., was invited last year to bring its 2002 event to the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

    Museum officials were prepared to handle up to 2,500 participants, but the attendance estimate has increased to between 3,000 and 4,000 and total membership is expected to reach 12,000 by 2002.

    Lewis said the association has not yet decided where to hold its 2002 convention but likely would return to Reno.

    In September 1991, female officers were groped by aviators attending parties during a three-day conference at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel. The Defense Department inspector general implicated 117 officers for sexual assault, indecent exposure and other acts, and faulted the Navy's leaders for failing to stop the behavior.

    The episode triggered the resignation of Navy Secretary H. Lawrence Garrett and the early retirement of Adm. Frank B. Kelso, then the chief of naval operations.

    Disabled man dies in mobile home fire

    HOLLY HILL -- A disabled man was killed and his wife was critically injured when their double-wide mobile home was engulfed in fire early Sunday.

    Neighbors awoke to screams from Linda Coleman, 59, in this north Volusia County city of about 10,000 people.

    Francis Coleman, 74, died in the blaze. Linda Coleman was under treatment at Orlando Regional Medical Center for third-degree burns on 50 percent of her body. She was listed in critical condition.

    After she was awakened, next-door neighbor Joan Rebola dialed 911 at about 2 a.m. Sunday.

    "The heat from the fire burned my blinds in my bedroom. I mean, it was melted," Rebola said.

    One man tried to enter the mobile home, breaking a window and cutting his hand in the process. But the fire was too intense and Francis Coleman, who was bound to a wheelchair, could not be saved.

    The home apparently had no smoke detectors. Investigators were seeking the cause of the fire.

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    From the Times state desk