Monday, August 1, 2016

4th UPDATE: Plane Crash Victims Identified

Posted By on Mon, Aug 1, 2016 at 2:07 PM

What appears to be part of a plane engine and propeller lie on an access road near the crash site. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • What appears to be part of a plane engine and propeller lie on an access road near the crash site.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office today identified the four Crescent City residents who died Friday after the medical transport plane they were in crashed in timber land north of McKinleyville.

Pilot Larry Mills, 54; flight nurse Deborah Kroon, 49; flight paramedic Michelle Tarwater, 30; and patient April Rodriquez, 35, were found inside the wreckage of the aircraft that was bound for the Bay Area.

Mills, who had 20 years of flying experience, radioed at 1 a.m. that he was returning back to Crescent City due to smoke in the cockpit. The plane went off radar about 5 miles north of Arcata shortly after the call.

The crash site was found at 10 a.m. on Friday and National Transportation Safety Board investigators were at the scene over the weekend.

A statement on the Cal-Ore Life Flight website states the company has been informed there were no survivors on the medical plane carrying four, including a patient, that crashed on timber land near McKinleyville on Friday.

“This is one of the saddest moments in our history. We have been told there were no survivors. First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the patient and our crewmembers,” a posting on the company website states. “Until we have positive confirmation from the local authorities, we cannot release the identification of those on board. We have critical incident stress management (CISM) teams in the area and we are doing all we can to help those involved. We will provide more information as soon as all family notifications have been made.”

The National Transportation Safety Board will arrive on scene at 11 a.m. tomorrow to investigate the plane crash north of McKinleyville that killed at least two people early this morning, the county of Humboldt announced in a press release.

The scene has been secured by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, the release states, and efforts continue to find the two unaccounted for passengers on the Cal-Ore Life Flight that went down after departing from Crescent City at about 12:30 a.m.

Local photographer Mark McKenna made it to the crash scene this morning and shared the following photos.


1st UPDATE: (posted 11 a.m.)
Rescue crews have located wreckage believed to be that of a missing Cal-Ore Life Flight that departed Crescent City early this morning bound for Oakland but went missing somewhere near Arcata, and two fatalities have been confirmed.

Scanner traffic indicates the wreckage was found in two debris fields on Green Diamond property north of McKinleyville, and that crews located two possibly deceased people. According to a statement released by Cal-Ore Life Flight this morning, the flight departed from Crescent City shortly before 12:30 a.m. carrying four people — a pilot, a transport medic, a flight nurse and a patient.

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Lt. Wayne Hanson said this morning that rescue crews set out early this morning looking for the plane. They gathered at the coordinates were it was last captured on radar, and fanned out from there on foot and all-terrain vehicles.

The county of Humboldt just issued a press release confirming that crews have located the wreckage site, and that two fatalities have been confirmed at this time.

PREVIOUSLY (posted at 8:33 a.m.)
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is searching for a missing airplane that was believed to be carrying three people from Crescent City to Oakland early this morning before the pilot declared an emergency and the plane disappeared from local radar.

According to a brief press release, the twin engine Piper PA31 was in the Arcata area when the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit around 1 a.m. today and reported he was returning to Crescent City. “Radar contact with the aircraft was lost about 5 miles northeast of Arcata Airport,” the press release states.

The sheriff’s office has launched a search for the plane, which carries the tail number N661TC.

The following was sent from the sheriff's office this morning:

This is all of the preliminary information we have on a missing plane in the Arcata area:

The pilot of a twin-engine Piper PA31 declared an emergency due to smoke in the cockpit around 1 a.m. Friday.

The plane was flying from Crescent City to Oakland.

The pilot indicated he was going to return to Crescent City.

Radar contact with the aircraft was lost about 5 miles northeast of Arcata Airport.

We believe there were three people on board.

The Humboldt County Sheriff is searching for the aircraft.

The tail number is N661TC.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

HumBug: Who's Your Daddy?

Posted By on Sun, Jul 31, 2016 at 3:00 PM

A daddy long legs (Opaline) on the photographer's hat brim, cleaning its, well, long leg. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A daddy long legs (Opaline) on the photographer's hat brim, cleaning its, well, long leg.
Late last night, I took the dogs out for their final walk when I noticed a small member of the arachnid family of Opiliones on a rhododendron leaf. This is what I learned as a little kid as "daddy long legs." Sometimes known as harvestmen, they look like a spider with unusually long legs and a tiny body. There is a popular rumor that they produce one of the deadliest venoms known, but their fangs are just too tiny to inject it. This is not true. No known species of this creature has venom glands and they have tiny pincer like mouthparts rather than fangs. About the only way you could get sick from them is smelling their unusual and unpleasant odor. They are harmless. Some hunt other tiny arthropods and others are scavengers. And although they might resemble spiders from a distance, their bodies are not divided into parts, but are of a single piece.
A cellar spider casts a shadow on a window frame. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A cellar spider casts a shadow on a window frame.
They are not the only animals called Daddy Longlegs. Cellar spiders and craneflies also go by that name.
Cellar spiders are a true spider of the family Pholcidae, which spin webs and hang in them vibrating wildly when disturbed. Although they have amazingly long legs and tiny bodies, they are not closely related to the Opiliones. Like all true spiders their structure is divided into two parts: a cephalothorax and abdomen separated by a constriction.
The lanky crane fly. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • The lanky crane fly.
Craneflies are a member of the insect order Diptera (having two wings), family Tipulidae and although they have extremely long thin legs, they are insects and not closely related to either of the others. They have wings.
A cluster of Opiliones. Harmless, but come on. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A cluster of Opiliones. Harmless, but come on.
My late wife hated spiders so much so she demanded I kill any found in the house. She was also justifiably afraid of yellowjackets, as she had been stung repeatedly. One day a yellowjacket was buzzing around inside the house. She demanded I kill it. It led me a merry chase until the tiny chainsaw droning stopped suddenly. Seconds later, when I looked behind my desk a cellar spider had already bundled the wasp in silk. Sally said I could leave that one alone.

And, no — the cellar spider's venom is not particularly potent and craneflies can't bite at all.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

UPDATED: Humboldt Dog Tests Positive for Rabies

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 4:56 PM

The 11-month-old dog that was euthanized after contracting rabies earlier this month had undergone its first round of rabies vaccination, which starts at around 3 months old with series of subsequent boosters, and was “legally vaccinated for its age,” said Amanda Ruddy, consumer protection supervisor with the division of Environmental Health.

“Of course, with all vaccinations, immunity does build up over time,” she said.

One of the owners told the Journal that his dog interacted with about half a dozen people in the time frame of the infection at two locations: his work and home.

Ruddy said the investigation and outreach by the health officials is still ongoing.
“The parties involved have been extremely cooperative,” she said.

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Korean War Vets, Coasties Remember the Fallen

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 9:50 AM

Korean War veteran Warren Longnickel, 83, of Carlotta and fellow veteran Don Biasca head down the dock to board the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Dorado for the commemorative wreath ceremony. U.S. involvement in the “Korean conflict” ended in 1953. - TED PEASE
  • Ted Pease
  • Korean War veteran Warren Longnickel, 83, of Carlotta and fellow veteran Don Biasca head down the dock to board the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Dorado for the commemorative wreath ceremony. U.S. involvement in the “Korean conflict” ended in 1953.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Dorado eased off Woodley Island Marina’s outermost dock Wednesday morning with valuable cargo aboard and a solemn task to perform.

It was the 63rd anniversary of the “end” of the Korean War — a war that reached a United Nations armistice on July 27,1953 but, in truth, has still not ended.

Wednesday morning, five surviving Korean War veterans, all in their 80s, came aboard the Dorado for a quiet annual ceremony, laying a wreath between the jaws of the Eureka Jetty to remember 24 Humboldt sailors, soldiers and airmen who didn’t make it back from that war. For the United States, the Korean “Conflict” lasted from 1950 into 1953, but for these men and for thousands more, the battles continue.

“I still remember them,” said 83-year-old Warren Longnickel, of Carlotta, who, after 20 years in, left the service as a master sergeant. He read the names of the 24 Humboldters who died there, as a Coast Guard sailor rang the bell after each name.

Bill Odonnell, whose father — another Bill and a Korean War vet who died last year — helped organize the ceremony with the Coast Guard.

“Let us not forget that they went to war not for conquest and not for gain, but only to protect the innocent,” Odonnell said. “They suffered greatly in 1,000 forgotten battles. They added luster to the codes we hold most dear — duty, honor and country.”

Odonnell and Korean War veterans Longnickel, Leo Sears, Don Biasca, Carl Nelson and Jack Coleman — all in their 80s — came aboard the Dorado to commemorate the official end of the Korean War. They were greeted by Dorado skipper Lt. Andrew Russo and his Crescent City crew, as well as Coast Guard Humboldt Sector Capt. Arthur Snyder and his operations officer, Cmdr. Kevin Barres.

The Dorado steamed down from its berth in Crescent City for the ceremony because Humboldt’s cutter, the Barracuda, is down for maintenance.

It was an honor to have these men aboard, Russo said. “These people fought for freedom, so it’s nice to give back and honor them for all their sacrifices,” he said. “With everything going on today — all the terror attacks — it’s a reminder that we can overcome.”

U.S. military estimates show nearly 37,000 people — Americans, allies and Koreans — killed during the three years of U.S. involvement in the war in the early 1950s; 103,284 were U.S. troops wounded in action. But other estimates place the casualties much higher — 1.2 million Korean and Chinese military, and 1.6 million civilians.

The Dorado steamed slowly out of Humboldt Bay to the mouth of the Jetty. There, Don Biasca threw a wreath overboard, and it drifted out to sea on the tide.

The Coasties, vets and observers offered a prayer for the fallen, as fishermen nearby trolled for salmon.

“We remember these men not with fear, but with love,” Odonnell said.

The fog started to lift as Dorado turned and headed back to shore. 

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Court Doc: Mom is Suspect in Fortuna Hit and Run; Showed Signs of Intoxication

Posted By on Tue, Jul 26, 2016 at 4:42 PM

Marcia Maelinda Kitchen, who also calls herself Marci Marz. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Marcia Maelinda Kitchen, who also calls herself Marci Marz.
An initial CHP investigation indicated the mother of one of two teenage girls who died after a July 12 hit and run crash was the driver and that she showed signs of intoxication shortly after the collision, according to a search warrant affidavit.

“At that point, however, there was no evidence establishing her as the driver of the Jeep and a chemical test to determine her level of intoxication was not sought,” states the document, which was made public today.

Described as one of two “parties of interest” by the CHP, the investigation also indicated Marcia “Marci” Kitchen “concealed the Jeep behind her residence immediately after the collision and has since made attempts to dissuade her son from providing a statement to law enforcement,” according to the document.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

In Celebration of National Moth Week

Posted By on Sun, Jul 24, 2016 at 4:39 PM

Strawberry crown borer, about 14 mm long. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Strawberry crown borer, about 14 mm long.
In observance of National Moth Week, I thought I'd mention a few of our unusual local mothy residents.

Together with butterflies, moths comprise the order “Lepidoptera,” roughly translating to scale wing. A good rule of thumb to distinguish between the two is that butterflies have thin antennae terminating in a club shape, while moths (with a few notable exceptions) have different types of antennae.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Eureka 'Evaluating Options' After Court Ruling

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 2:59 PM

The dash camera in a Eureka Police Department patrol car. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • The dash camera in a Eureka Police Department patrol car.

The city of Eureka is “evaluating its options” with regard to this week’s appellate court ruling that it must release a police dash camera video capturing the controversial arrest of a 14-year-old suspect.

In its published opinion released late Tuesday, the California First District Court of Appeals ruled that the video in question cannot be considered a confidential police officer personnel record as the city claimed. Consequently, the court upheld a May 21, 2015, ruling by Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Christopher Wilson, which granted a Journal petition seeking release of the video and found the public’s interest in the release of the video outweighed any privacy concerns.

In a press release issued this afternoon from the office of City Manager Greg Sparks, the city states that its interest in fighting release of the video was “not to quash transparency but to ensure that the right of privacy of police officers in their personnel records was not eroded.” The press release then quotes Eureka City Attorney Cyndy Day-Wilson lamenting the court’s ruling.

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City of Eureka: Pick Up Your Stuff

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 12:12 PM

A former camp in the PalCo Marsh. - FILE
  • File
  • A former camp in the PalCo Marsh.
On Tuesday night the Eureka City Council voted 4-0, with councilmember Kim Bergel absent, to approve a Storage of Personal Property Ordinance that will allow the police department to tag, then bag property left on city land.

The ordinance comes as a response to recent issues with people leaving items behind after staying in designated sleeping areas on Del Norte and Koster streets, where the city has stated it will not enforce its no-camping ordinance during nighttime hours. Under the ordinance, police will leave a note for people who have left items behind, then, after 24 hours, they will remove the property and store it for up to 90 days. The ordinance includes phrasing that says people who do not comply can be ticketed.

Discussion and public comment on the ordinance were relatively short, compared to that for a similar ordinance pitched in September of last year. Councilmember Natalie Arroyo expressed concern that the ordinance would add another way to "cite people with very little resources." 

"My hope is that our staff will be really thoughtful with regards to the penalty section," she said, adding that she would prefer it not to be in the ordinance at all.

The city is currently using its Shelter Crisis Resolution to create rotating sleeping areas where homeless people can pitch a tent between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., so long as they pack up their stuff and leave first thing in the morning. But according to a report delivered by Eureka Police Department Capt. Brian Stephens during the meeting, the previous designated sleeping spot at the foot of Del Norte Street became piled with personal property that was not removed during the day. 

"The property surrounding that parking lot is a public space," Stephens explained. "We had no justification to make them move out of that area. By the end of the 30 day period, we took a 40 yard dumpster out of there. We have seen an accumulation of property, above and beyond what they can move from one place to another. What we’re trying to avoid is having property stored out in Wharfinger’s field where other people might want to use that property."

Stephens referred to the Marina Way property, which will be the next site for sanctioned sleeping, beginning July 28. Currently people are sleeping in a Koster Street parking lot. 

"Each area presents a unique challenge for us," said Stephens in a phone interview yesterday. He added that there are still five Connex shipping containers containing unclaimed property removed from the PalCo Marsh when it was cleared of encampments on May 2. The city recently sent out a press release stating if said property is not claimed by Aug. 5, it will be destroyed.

To date, Stephens said his department has been contacted by two people to make appointments to recover their property, but neither showed up. The boxes are on an undisclosed city property. Stephens said the police department will work with people who don't have photo identification, but they must make an appointment and come prepared to take all of their belongings with them. Personal property removed from city land under the new ordinance will fall under the same guidelines.

When asked if people coming to pick up their property could be cited for violating the ordinance, Stephens said it was a "difficult" question to answer.

"By the letter of the law they could receive a ticket," he said. "But in the spirit of the ordinance, it's an individual officer thing.That ordinance will help the most by letting us mark the property." 

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Attorneys: Fortuna Mom Standing by to Surrender in Fatal Hit and Run Case

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 8:56 PM

Just hours after the California Highway Patrol sent out a press release asking for the public’s assistance in locating a Fortuna woman named a person of interest in last week’s hit and run crash that left two teenage girls dead — including her own daughter — her attorneys sent a letter to the CHP maintaining that she is standing by, ready to surrender when asked.

“I am troubled by the nature of CHP’s continuing press releases that state that [Marcia] Kitchen is ‘in hiding’ and, especially now, that … CHP has asked for the public’s aid to find/contact her (and Josh Pearlston),” reads the letter, penned by local attorney Ben Okin on behalf of he and Patrik Griego. “This misinformation has the potential of misleading the public and unnecessarily endangering people. … We have consistently indicated that if you desired to arrest Ms. Kitchen … we would make her immediately available for arrest. I am also aware that you had in person contacts with Josh Pearlston just yesterday and chose not to detain or arrest him.”

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UPDATE: CHP Seeking Persons of Interest in Fortuna Hit and Run

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 3:52 PM

Marcia Maelinda Kitchen, who also calls herself Marci Marz. - FACEBOOK
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  • Marcia Maelinda Kitchen, who also calls herself Marci Marz.
The California Highway Patrol has released the names of two persons of interest in last week’s fatal hit-and-run. Marcia Maelinda Kitchen, mother of one of the deceased, and Joshua Wren Pearlston, her boyfriend, are both being sought for questioning.

Kitchen is the registered owner of the Jeep involved in the collision. The CHP say they have made multiple attempts to contact the couple but they “have not made themselves to investigators and their whereabouts are unknown.”

In its press release, the CHP confirmed that Kitchen’s attorney, Benjamin Okin, made contact with law enforcement after the Jeep’s discovery. The 2015 grey Jeep Wrangler was found behind a gate in a fenced backyard in Kitchen’s home, just down the road from where her 14-year old daughter and her daughter’s friend were struck and killed.


The California Highway Patrol has located the grey Jeep believed to have been involved in a hit and run accident Tuesday night that left two teenage girls dead. The vehicle was found behind a closed fence in the backyard of the residence of one of the victim’s families when police served a search warrant on the property yesterday afternoon.

CHP officer Cy May said a suspect has been identified as the potential driver in the case but remains at large, whereabouts unknown. May said CHP is not releasing the identity of the suspect at this time, and declined to comment on whether the suspect is related to one of the victims. CHP is also declining to release the identities or ages of the victims at this time.

Eureka Attorney Ben Okin, reached by phone this morning, said he is representing the suspect in the case and that, through him, she made contact with police yesterday. "We made contact with law enforcement," Okin said. "They didn't know who she was. We made contact with them. ... As far as I know, at the time we made contact on the driver's behalf, law enforcement didn't have any information on the identity of the driver. That (call) is what led to them being able to serve the search warrant. It wasn't something they discovered, as far as I know."

"We offered to turn the driver in," Okin continued, "but law enforcement wants to do some more investigation before they make a formal arrest."

Okin declined to identify his client, saying he's "leaving it to law enforcement to decide the appropriate time to do that" as their investigation moves forward.

The accident occurred around 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, when a southbound vehicle on Eel River Drive hit two young teenagers who were skateboarding northbound in the southbound lane. The vehicle then fled the scene, reportedly heading eastbound on Drake Hill Road, according to CHP's initial press release. The vehicle CHP found and seized yesterday was in a backyard on Becker Lane, which is off Eel River Drive, south from Drake Hill Road and about a mile from the accident scene.

May said it was a combination of community tips and investigators in the field that led CHP to the Becker Lane residence. He said nobody was at the home when police arrived, but officers were able to obtain a search warrant for the property in order to seize the vehicle, which was found behind a closed fence in the backyard and had damage matching wreckage found at the accident scene.

“It’s still an active investigation and we’re still putting the pieces together,” May said, adding that he’s grateful to community members who have stepped forward to aid the investigation, both in reporting the initial crash and then helping investigators locate the vehicle involved.

Editor's note: This story was updated from a previous version to more accurately reflect where the Jeep was found on the Becker Lane property.
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