Monday, July 31, 2017

Study of NFL Brains 'Reinforcing' for Local Concussion Awareness Efforts

Posted By on Mon, Jul 31, 2017 at 11:18 AM

Trainers attend to an injured Augustana University football player in the round one playoff game at Redwood Bowl in 2015. Researchers are beginning to equate playing — and studying — with a concussion to running on a sprained ankle, and are recommending immediate rest upon signs of a brain injury. - FILE
  • File
  • Trainers attend to an injured Augustana University football player in the round one playoff game at Redwood Bowl in 2015. Researchers are beginning to equate playing — and studying — with a concussion to running on a sprained ankle, and are recommending immediate rest upon signs of a brain injury.

North Coast Concussion Program Coordinator Beth Larson said she wasn’t particularly surprised to see the groundbreaking study released last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association finding that 110 out of 111 brains of deceased NFL players were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.

The study is groundbreaking in its breadth but Larson said there’s nothing terribly surprising about the results.

North Coast Concussion Program Coordinator Beth Larson. - FILE
  • File
  • North Coast Concussion Program Coordinator Beth Larson.
“It’s reinforcing,” she said. “It’s just more evidence to what we basically already expected.”

The study dissected the brains of the deceased NFL players to look for signs of CTE and an article in the New York Times concedes there is an inherent selection bias in the study. Because CTE is only detectable through brain dissections, the study only looked at brains from players and families that wanted them studied, often because they’d noted CTE symptoms.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Goodbye MAC, Hello Waterfront Treatment Services

Posted By on Fri, Jul 28, 2017 at 2:02 PM

A sign welcoming visitors to the MAC. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • A sign welcoming visitors to the MAC.
The dramatic debate in Washington, D.C. over the fate of national healthcare policy almost scuttled plans to bring comprehensive addiction treatment to Humboldt County.

The July 18 vote by the Eureka City Council to allow City Manager Greg Sparks to negotiate a lease agreement for the property at 139 Y St. formerly known as the Multiple Assistance Center. The MAC, which has been used as a transitional facility for homeless folks, will see a new incarnation as Waterfront Treatment Services, a detox and residential treatment facility for people struggling with addiction. The facility will be managed by the Redwood Coast Action Agency and Alcohol Drug Care Services. St. Joseph Hospital, under Providence St. Joseph and the Well Being Trust, recently administered a $1.6 million grant to sponsor "the first and only dual-diagnosis, medical detoxification and residential treatment facility in the county" for its first 18 months.

John McManus, who helms ADCS, has been trying for several years to implement a medically-based detox in Eureka. ADCS's current detox center relies on St. Joseph Hospital to medically assess patients and clear them before they're admitted to treatment. Withdrawal from some drugs, including alcohol, can be fatal or life-endangering and require medical intervention. Drug MediCal, a program covered under the Affordable Care Act, offers reimbursement for these services. His efforts to get ADCS services and medical detox covered under MediCal were hampered by infrastructure problems in ADCS buildings, many of which were built in the 1930s and could not be brought up to compliance to be eligible for MediCal.

"It’s finally happened," McManus told the Journal. "The way it’s come together is better than I could have ever imagined."

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Supes Take Needed Step to Protect Our Coast

Posted By on Fri, Jul 28, 2017 at 10:01 AM

Trinidad Head. - FILE
  • File
  • Trinidad Head.

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors has joined other California lawmakers, business leaders, environmental groups and government agencies in rejecting the Trump administration’s attempts to open up the California coast to new offshore oil drilling. At its July 25 meeting, the board unanimously passed a resolution in support of the nearby Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries.

The sanctuaries, the resolution notes, “are home to some of the most diverse coastal ecosystems, which support giant kelp forests, many species of marine mammals, migrating salmon and hundreds of other forms of sea life,” before going on to confirm that, yes, the threat laid out in April’s “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” presidential order “is of deep concern.”

The Trump administration’s directive calls for a “review” of national marine sanctuaries with the goal of opening these protected areas to new and expanded oil and gas drilling that are currently prohibited within them. As the resolution notes, Humboldt County “has long supported the protection of vital coastal resources, tourism, fishing and mariculture cultivation industries, and stands with other coastal counties in their efforts to protect these very pristine coastal waters.”

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Paint the Utility Box You Want to See in the World

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 2:18 PM

One of San Luis Obispo's gussied up utility boxes. - SLOCITY.ORG
  • One of San Luis Obispo's gussied up utility boxes.
Before you tag that utility box for free, consider getting paid $500 by the city of Eureka to do a mini-mural. A new program called Eureka Box Art! (somebody loves those exclamation points) will pay individual artists or groups to paint boxes of varying sizes around town to both beautify the mundane blocks of metal and deter graffiti. In the press release, Economic Development Project Manager Alanna Powell states that the public art is meant to "give a sense of place and delightful surprise to citizens and visitors alike." So this might not be the time for your Boschian depiction of the ravages of our times. On second thought, give it a shot. Nobody gets riled up over murals, right?

San Luis Obispo has a similar program that's left the city a little more colorful. "They have been really great partners for us," says Powell, whose team has gotten quite a bit of advice on making the process run smoothly. For a look at how the boxes turned out in SLO, check out this video from the city's website.

Don't just start painting — that's still illegal until your application (with your proposed design and samples of previous work) is approved by an arts and culture commission. Even those with a sponsor — say, a business willing to shell out the $500 — will need design approval for a permit to paint. You've got until Aug. 18 to apply. Inquiries are already flowing in and staff members are reaching out to some local artists as well. Peruse the specs below and email or call 441-4160 to learn more.

From the city of Eureka:

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UPDATED: State Route 36 Crash Kills Mad River Man

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 12:53 PM

The victim of the fatal collision has been identified as Joseph Daniel Westcott, 43 years old, of Mad River, CA.


A 43-year-old Mad River resident was killed around 6 a.m. today in a head-on crash with a fully-loaded log truck while he was driving a Honda Civic in the wrong lane of State Route 36, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The man, whose name has not been released, died at the scene. He is the 23rd person to die on Humboldt County roadways this year. The CHP did not report whether he was wearing a seatbelt.

The collision caused the log truck to roll over on its side, spilling the load of logs across both lanes of traffic. The truck's driver, Bridgeville resident Brandon Barnwell, was wearing a seatbelt and suffered minor injuries.

Press release from the CHP:
At approximately 5:55 a.m., a 43 year old male, from the Mad River area, was driving a 2000 Honda Civic on SR-36 at mile post marker 10.41. At the same time Brandon Barnwell, of Bridgeville, was driving his 1994 fully loaded Peterbilt log truck westbound on SR-36. For reasons still under investigation the Honda Civic was traveling eastbound completely within the westbound lane of SR-36. The Honda and the Peterbilt collided causing the log truck to roll onto its side, spilling its load onto the roadway, blocking both lanes of traffic. The driver of the Honda succumbed to his injuries at the scene of the collision. This collision is still under investigation by the California Highway Patrol. The identity of the driver of the Honda Civic is being withheld pending family notifications.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

AG Revives Program to Seize Assets Without Charges or Convictions

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 3:27 PM

Marijuana and more than $11,000 in cash found during a traffic stop were seized for asset forfeiture proceedings. - PHOTO COURTESY OF EUREKA POLICE DEPARTMENT.
  • Photo courtesy of Eureka Police Department.
  • Marijuana and more than $11,000 in cash found during a traffic stop were seized for asset forfeiture proceedings.
Advocates of civil asset forfeiture reform had a few choice names for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions — among them “drug warrior” and “forfeiture fanatic” — when interviewed for a Journal story “The Trump Card” back in March.

There were also predictions that forfeitures would skyrocket under the influence of the former Alabama senator and one-time state attorney general who famously said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Just last week, Sessions made the move to breathe new life into the controversial legal tool that allows the federal government to permanently seize money, property and possessions suspected of being obtained through criminal activity, even without a corresponding criminal charge, let alone a conviction.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Online Fortuna Fire Comments Spark Controversy

Posted By on Sat, Jul 22, 2017 at 10:49 AM

  • Fortuna Fire Department Website
  • Capt. Lon Winburn
A local fire chief and reporter are in a bit of a standoff over comments left on a blog about the fatal fire that took the life of Martha Ann Robertson in the early hours of July 11. Robertson, 76, was a resident of Royal Crest Mobile Estates in Fortuna, CA and apparently perished due to smoke inhalation after firefighters were unable to rescue her from her mobile home, which was allegedly packed with belongings, making entry and exploration difficult. The cause of the fire is still under investigation but it is believed to have been accidental.

The comments on a local news blog, Redheaded Blackbelt, have caused a mini-controversy after Fortuna Fire Chief Lon Winburn asked that site’s owner, editor and reporter, Kym Kemp, to remove his press release regarding the fire. In an email sent July 13 (two days after the fire), Winburn wrote Kemp the following:

“Please remove our media release regarding the fire in Royal Crest from your site, we do not want any association with the comments that are being allowed to be posted.”

The comments Winburn referenced appear to be a collection of readers speculating on why the fire department was unable to save Robertson, questions as to why the crew did not have proper water pressure at the park and accusations of incompetence directed at Winburn. This kind of amateur sleuthing in comment forums is nothing new, of course, but Winburn took it to heart.

“I was not happy that she allows what was posted to be posted,” he told the Journal. “It’s because of the effect it has on my firefighters. My firefighters busted their butts to get into that house. When you have a fatality, it really hurts.”

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Friday, July 21, 2017

UPDATED: Two Killed in Fatal Wreck Near Miranda

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 10:02 AM

2nd UPDATE: The city of Fortuna released a statement yesterday afternoon saying it is “deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic loss" of longtime residents Dennis Wendt and Roger Harwood and stating that the lives of all Fortuna residents “have been forever touched in some way by their generosity and community minded commitment to making our town a better place to live, work and play.”

See the full statement copied below.

UPDATE: The CHP has released the name of the two men killed in last night's wreck. Dennis Wendt, 69, was a prominent local contractor. Roger Harwood, 67, was a Vietnam veteran honored by the city of Fortuna in 2014.


The deaths of two passengers early Friday morning has brought the year's vehicular fatality total up to 22 in Humboldt County. The California Highway Patrol reports that at 3:20 a.m. a GMC Yukon driven by Steven Murray of Fortuna left U.S. Highway 101 and struck a light pole and redwood tree. The vehicle overturned, killing two passengers. Murray was transported to St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka with moderate injuries.

The wreck is still under investigation. Garberville CHP Special Duty Officer William Wunderlich said he had no information as to whether or not intoxication was a factor.

Humboldt County has one of the highest rates of vehicle fatalities in the nation, with fatal accident rates double the national average and nearly triple those of California. The number of fatalities in 2017 is on pace to rival numbers from the previous decades, the highest of which were 2009 and 2012, which saw 31 total road deaths, a combined number of vehicle and pedestrian fatalities. So far in 2017, 15 people have been killed as the result of collisions and seven pedestrians have died after being struck by vehicles, putting the county on pace to record 40 roadway fatalities by year's end.

From the September 3, 2015 cover story, "Crash." - FILE
  • FILE
  • From the September 3, 2015 cover story, "Crash."

From the Garberville CHP:
On July 21, 2017, at approximately 0320 hours, a 2002 GMC Yukon, driven by Steven Murray of Fortuna, CA, was traveling northbound on US-101 just north of French Road. For reasons still under investigation, Murray allowed the GMC to run off the east road edge and collide with a light pole and redwood tree. The collision with the redwood tree caused the GMC to overturn as it traveled down an embankment adjacent to US-101. The GMC eventually came to rest on its left side within the lanes of Maple Hills Road. Two of the passengers in the GMC sustained fatal injuries and were pronounced deceased at the scene. Murray was transported to St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, CA with moderate injuries and at this time is in stable condition. The names of the two passengers are being withheld pending notification to the next of kin.

Maple Hills Road was closed for scene investigation.

The California Highway Patrol, Humboldt County Sheriff's Department, Phillipsville Volunteer Fire Department, Miranda Volunteer Fire Department, Cal Fire, City Ambulance of Eureka, and Cal Trans all responded to the scene. This collision remains under investigation by the Garberville CHP.
From the city of Fortuna:


Fortuna, CA – The City of Fortuna is deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of longtime residents Dennis Wendt and Roger Harwood. The lives of every citizen in the City of Fortuna have been forever touched in some way by their generosity and community minded commitment to making our town a better place to live, work and play. City staff joins the community in mourning the loss of these hard working devoted men and the enduring legacy they have made on our City. We send our deepest condolences to their families and friends. We shall miss them both.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Eureka Man, 70, Fatally Struck on Sidewalk

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 3:32 PM

A 70-year-old Eureka man died yesterday after being struck by a truck that was turning into a shopping center off of Broadway Street as he drove his motorized scooter along the sidewalk.

The pedestrian, John Edward Williams, died after being taken to the hospital. The driver of the Chevrolet Silverado was not identified by the Eureka Police Department. DUI is not considered to be a factor in the collision, which remains under investigation, according to the department’s news release.

Williams’ death marks the 20th traffic-related fatality in Humboldt County in 2017.

Release from the EPD:
On July 18, 2017 at about 10:27 a.m., officers with the Eureka Police Department responded to the 3000 block of Broadway for the report of an injury traffic collision involving a vehicle and pedestrian on a motorized scooter. The pedestrian was transported by ambulance to the hospital, but ultimately succumbed to his injuries. Next of kin has been notified and the victim has been identified as 70 year old Eureka resident, John Edward Williams.
The preliminary investigation indicates that the driver of a Chevrolet Silverado had been traveling north on Broadway. The driver made a turn into a shopping center and collided with Williams who was on the sidewalk on his scooter.
DUI does not appear to be a factor in the collision. This is an ongoing investigation; any witnesses are asked to email Sergeant Gary Whitmer at

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Eureka Appoints Watson Interim Police Chief

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 4:40 PM

Capt. Steve Watson - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Capt. Steve Watson
The city of Eureka announced this afternoon that police Capt. Steve Watson will take over as interim chief upon Andrew Mills' departure on Friday.

Watson, born and raised in Fortuna, returned to Humboldt County in 2005 after serving in the U.S. Army, working as an elementary school teacher and serving as a deputy in Santa Cruz County. After joining EPD, he helped oversee the creation of the department's Problem Oriented Policing division and was often in headlines as the department struggled to address entrenched homeless encampments within his jurisdiction as a captain, the area of Eureka north of Seventh Street.

Reached for comment on the appointment, Watson struck an upbeat and determined note. He said he will focus on moving forward with "what needs to be done, both inside and outside the department." Immediate goals include completing deescalation training for officers and improving retention of the current force, a majority of which is comprised of officers with less than five years in the department. Watson says he has seen a lot of "ups and downs" during his 12 year tenure with EPD, a time which included a string of officer-involved shootings, a departmental insurrection against a controversial former chief and prolonged budget woes.

"The last four years under Mills have been very rapid paced with a lot of changes," said Watson. "He has also been a steady hand as a leader. I am obviously very pleased with his leadership but it's time to keep moving the department forward."

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