TIME Accident

Church Van Crash in Florida Kills 8

Members of the Independent Haitian Assembly of God pray at their church in Fort Pierce, Fla., Monday, March 30, 2015. Eight people were killed and 10 injured Monday when an overloaded van from the church ran through a stop sign, crossed all four lanes of a rural highway and crashed into in a canal.
Luis M. Alvarez—AP Members of the Independent Haitian Assembly of God pray at their church in Fort Pierce, Fla., March 30, 2015.

Ten other passengers were injured

(FORT PIERCE, Fla.) — The congregants of a close-knit Haitian church gathered Monday around Nicolas Alexis, hoping to learn what happened to 18 friends and loved ones who had been expected to return that morning from a late Palm Sunday service.

Alexis described how he frantically tried to check who was alive after their overloaded church van crashed in the darkness in rural southwest Florida.

Three men who had been seated near the 57-year-old died. Alexis said he kicked out a window to escape.

“I just know there is a God,” said Alexis, sitting in a chair dragged outside the Independent Haitian Assembly of God to ease the pain in his bandaged leg and fractured ribs.

The crash early Monday in Glades County, about 60 miles from the Fort Pierce church, killed eight people. Alexis, the church’s pastor and eight others were injured.

The van crashed after the driver apparently missed a stop sign at an unlit T-intersection surrounded by farmland, sending the vehicle across four lanes and plunging through tall grasses into a shallow canal.

Eighteen people were in the 15-seat-capacity van when it crashed about 12:30 a.m. Monday, about halfway through their trip home.

“That’s a very steep embankment, and they kind of did a nosedive,” said Lt. Gregory S. Bueno of the Florida Highway Patrol.

The crash killed the male driver and seven passengers, four male and three female, troopers said. FHP has identified the victims as driver Volsaint Marsaille, 58; Jude Petit-Frere, 66; Obernise Petit-Frere, 58; Lifaite Lochard, 58; Madeleine William, 53; Wanie Larose, 60; Dazilla Joseph, 79; and Servilus Dieudonne, 71.

The agency identified 10 other passengers taken to four hospitals. Among them was a 4-year-old child who was not in a car seat, Bueno said. The child was taken to a hospital and later discharged.

The Highway Patrol spoke briefly spoke to some survivors and will conduct more in-depth interviews, Bueno said. A full investigation will assess any mechanical issues with the van, he added.

All the people in the van were from Fort Pierce. They had been returning to the Independent Haitian Assembly of God after making their usual Palm Sunday trip to another church in Fort Myers.

The church’s pastor, 57-year-old Esperant Lexine, was hospitalized in critical condition.

“He hasn’t learned of the fatalities yet,” Dina Lexine Sarver, his daughter, told The Associated Press. “He was able to tell us that somebody was able to get out of the van and flag somebody down.”

Lexine founded his church more than 35 years ago, and half the people in the van were longtime members of his congregation, Sarver said.

They had left Sunday afternoon as planned, excited to be celebrating Palm Sunday and preparing for the upcoming Easter holiday after a recent fast, she said.

Sarver said her father regularly had the van inspected before similar trips, and the driver was a school bus driver when he wasn’t driving for the church.

“The driver has been driving them for 30 years. He’s always the chauffeur, he’s done this trip numerous times,” Sarver said.

Nozaire Nore, 48, who suffered a broken leg in the crash, also returned to the church to seek solace. With his niece translating from Haitian Creole, Nore told Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers (http://bit.ly/1xsZnml ) that the driver didn’t notice a curve in the road and couldn’t stop in time.

Another motorist called 911 after being flagged down by a survivor of the crash while his friend looked for a rope to try and help people up from the ravine.

“There’s probably some dead people in there,” the unidentified motorist said on a recording of the call.

While other congregants rushed to the 150-member church to console each other in its simple wooden pews, Philippe Dorce drove to the crash site west of Lake Okeechobee. He said his father-in-law and cousin had been on the van, and he helped authorities identify the victims.

“I was there trying to be a man. But at the same time, I’m crying too,” he said.

___

Sedensky reported from Moore Haven, Florida. Associated Press writers Jennifer Kay and Freida Frisaro in Miami also contributed to this report.

TIME medicine

American Pharmacists Association Discourages Providing Execution Drugs

The American Pharmacists Association
Jonathan Oatis—Reuters The American Pharmacists Association building is seen on Constitution Avenue in Washington, July 4, 2009.

The group's new policy was approved Monday

(SAN DIEGO) — A national pharmacists’ group has adopted a policy discouraging its members from providing death-penalty drugs.

The American Pharmacists Association’s new policy could make it tough for death penalty states, like Texas, that have been looking at made-to-order execution drugs from compounding pharmacies as the answer to an execution drug shortage.

The association’s governing body approved the policy Monday at a meeting in San Diego.

The group lacks the legal authority to bar compounding pharmacies from selling the drugs. But its policies set the ethical standards followed by pharmacists, just as the American Medical Association does for doctors.

Prison departments have had to buy made-to-order execution drugs from compounding pharmacies in recent years. That’s because the pharmaceutical companies they used to buy from have refused to sell lethal-injection drugs after coming under pressure from death penalty opponents.

TIME Courts

4 Journalists Arrested During Ferguson Protests Sue Police

National Guard Called In As Unrest Continues In Ferguson
Joe Raedle—Getty Images A demonstrator raises his arms before police officers move in to arrest him on Aug. 19, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Claims include violating the reporters' civil rights and unjustifiably detaining them

(ST. LOUIS) — Four journalists arrested during last summer’s Ferguson protests over the shooting death of Michael Brown filed a federal lawsuit Monday against St. Louis County police and 20 of its officers, accusing them of violating the reporters’ civil rights and unjustifiably detaining them.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in St. Louis, alleges the arrests for the journalists’ failure to disperse as demanded by police on Aug. 18 and Aug. 19 were “undertaken with the intention of obstructing, chilling, deterring, and retaliating against (the) plaintiffs for engaging in constitutionally protected speech, newsgathering and recording of police activities.”

The plaintiffs include Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept online investigative publication, as well as Ansgar Graw — a correspondent with the conservative German daily Die Welt — and reporter Frank Herrmann, who writes for German regional papers. The other plaintiff is freelance journalist Lukas Hermsmeier.

The lawsuit, which identifies the journalists as U.S. citizens and says they spent hours in custody, seeks unspecified damages and a court order barring county police from future alleged infringements of media access “to policing activities.”

Peter Krane, the county counselor, said Monday he had not seen the lawsuit and deferred discussing it publicly until he had an opportunity to do so.

The journalists’ arrests on charges that as of Monday remained unresolved took place during often-violent protests that followed the Aug. 9 death of Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, during a confrontation.

A St. Louis County grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice later cleared Wilson of wrongdoing, though he resigned from the department in November.

The four journalists pressing Monday’s lawsuit were among at least 10 arrested or detained while covering Ferguson protests in the immediate aftermath of Brown’s death. Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, while heading security in Ferguson, said at the time that law enforcers had difficulty discerning journalist from activist.

“In the midst of chaos, when officers are running around, we’re not sure who’s a journalist and who’s not,” Johnson said at the time, when The Associated Press and dozens of other American media organizations sent a letter to law enforcement officials in Ferguson, criticizing the treatment of reporters.

Devereaux and Hermsmeier claim in the lawsuit they were wrongly arrested and hit by police-fired rubber bullets after showing officers their media credentials. Graw and Herrmann claim they were taken into custody while wearing press badges around their necks and carrying still cameras.

Monday’s lawsuit came four days after county police, their St. Louis city counterparts and the Missouri State Highway Patrol settled a federal lawsuit pressed by six Ferguson protesters, agreeing to restrict law enforcement use of tear gas and other chemical agents on crowds.

TIME Crime

Prosecution Rests Its Case Against Boston Marathon Bomber

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers will now get a chance to present theirs

(BOSTON) Prosecutors rested their case against Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Monday after jurors in his federal death penalty trial saw gruesome autopsy photos and heard a medical examiner describe the devastating injuries suffered by the three people who died in the 2013 terror attack.

Tsarnaev’s lawyer told the jury during opening statements that Tsarnaev participated in the twin bombings but that his older brother, Tamerlan, was the driving force behind the attack. Prosecutors believe the brothers were seeking retaliation against the U.S. for wars in Muslim countries.

Now that prosecutors have finished their case, Tsarnaev’s lawyers will get a chance to present theirs. The defense has made it clear since testimony began March 4 that its strategy during the two-phase trial is not to win an acquittal for Tsarnaev but to save him from the death penalty.

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line April 15, 2013.

Prosecutors presented heart-wrenching testimony from survivors who lost legs in the bombings and from the father of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest person killed in the explosions. A string of first responders described a chaotic mix of smoke, blood and screams just after the bombs went off.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers did not cross-examine any of the victims but instead focused on trying to show that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was more culpable in the attack and in the killing three days later of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean Collier.

The defense case is expected to be relatively short. Once that is complete, jurors will deliberate on whether Tsarnaev is guilty of the 30 federal charges against him in the bombing, in Collier’s killing and for his role in a violent confrontation with police in Watertown. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed during the confrontation, both by gunshots and from being run over by Dzhokhar as he escaped. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found more than 18 hours later hiding in a boat parked in a Watertown yard.

If the jury convicts Tsarnaev — an event that may be a foregone conclusion because of his admitted guilt — the trial will move on to the second phase, when the same jury will hear more evidence to decide whether Tsarnaev should be put to death or should spend the rest of his life in prison.

During this second phase of the trial, Tsarnaev’s lawyers will present evidence of factors they believe mitigate his crimes, such as his age at the time — 19— and the influence of his older brother. The Tsarnaevs — ethnic Chechens — lived in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and the volatile Dagestan region of Russia before moving to the U.S. with their parents and two sisters about a decade before the bombings. They lived in Cambridge.

Prosecutors will present evidence of aggravating factors, such as the brutality of the attack and the death of an 8-year-old boy in the bombings, to argue that Tsarnaev should be executed.

TIME Crime

2 Injured After Incident at NSA Headquarters at Fort Meade

An aerial view of a shooting scene at the National Security Agency at Fort Meade in Maryland is pictured in this still image take from video, March 30, 2015.
NBC 4 Washington—Reuters An aerial view of a shooting scene at the National Security Agency at Fort Meade in Maryland is pictured in this still image take from video, March 30, 2015.

It's not clear how they were hurt

(FORT MEADE, Md.) — A spokeswoman at Fort Meade says two people have been injured near a gate to the National Security Agency.

Mary Doyle says emergency responders were on the scene of the incident Monday morning.

It’s not clear how they were hurt.

The NSA headquarters is on the sprawling Army installation near Baltimore. An NSA spokesperson declined to comment.

Local television showed two damaged vehicles near a gate and emergency workers loading an injured uniformed man into an ambulance.

TIME Aviation

Germanwings Co-Pilot Was Treated for Suicidal Tendencies

Investigators have found no indication of a motive in the crash that killed 150 people

(MARSEILLE, France)—German prosecutors say the co-pilot of the Germanwings passenger plane that crashed in the French Alps had received treatment for suicidal tendencies.

Duesseldorf prosecutors say that Andreas Lubitz received psychotherapy “with a note about suicidal tendencies” for several years before becoming a pilot.

Prosecutors’ spokesman Ralf Herrenbrueck said Monday that investigators have found no indication of a motive so far as to why Lubitz crashed the plane, nor any sign of a physical illness.

All 150 people on board died in the crash.

TIME Aviation

Investigators Focus on Germanwings Co-pilot’s Mental State

A question of what could have "destabilized" Andreas Lubitz in Germanwings plane crash

(MARSEILLE, France)—European investigators are focusing on the psychological state of a 27-year-old German co-pilot who prosecutors say deliberately flew a plane carrying 150 people into a mountain, a French police official said Monday.

Returning from a meeting with his counterparts in Germany, judicial police investigator Jean-Pierre Michel told The Associated Press that authorities want to find out “what could have destabilized Andreas Lubitz or driven him to such an act.”

Lubitz was the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 last week that crashed into a French Alps mountain near Le Vernet en route from Barcelona, Spain, to Duesseldorf, Germany, killing everyone on board.

“To have carried out such an act, it’s clearly psychological,” Michel said.

Authorities are trying to understand what made Lubitz lock his captain out of the cockpit and ignore his pleas to open the door before manually ordering the plane to descend on what should have been a routine flight. To that end, they are speaking with people who knew and worked with Lubitz — such as co-workers, his employer, his doctors.

At the remote mountain crash site itself, French authorities were building a road to facilitate access to the site.

In the southeastern city of Marseille, Germanwings chief operating officer Oliver Wagner was meeting with victims’ relatives. A total of 325 family members have come to France, he told reporters.

French officials have refused to confirm or deny news reports suggesting that Lubitz had been on medication for the treatment of depression or other mental issues. They also refused to comment on a report in Germany’s Bild am Sontag on an alleged transcript of the cockpit voice recorder that had the captain shouting: “For God’s sake, open the door!”

Brice Robin, a state prosecutor in in the southeastern French city of Marseille, has said none of the bodies recovered so far have been identified, denying German media reports that Lubitz’s body had been found.

Tests on the body of the co-pilot may provide clues about any medical treatment he was receiving. German prosecutors said Friday that Lubitz was hiding an illness and sick notes from a doctor for the day of the crash from his employer.

Wagner recalled a meeting in Haltern, Germany, last week with the parents of 16 high school students who had died in the crash, saying it was “certainly the saddest day of my life.”

“They asked ‘Why our children?'” he said. “We don’t understand what has happened and why it has happened.”

TIME conflict

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Claims U.S. Drone Strike Kills 2 Advisers in Iraq

Iraqi security forces rest next to a damaged house in the southern entrance of the city of Tikrit on March 29, 2015.
Ahmad Al-Rubaye—AFP/Getty Images Iraqi security forces rest next to a damaged house in the southern entrance of the city of Tikrit on March 29, 2015.

The U.S. denies the claim

(BAGHDAD) — Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says a U.S. drone strike has killed two of its advisers in Iraq, though the U.S. says it has only struck militants in its campaign.

The claim comes as negotiators on Monday attempted to reach a deal on Iran’s contested nuclear program.

The Guard said on its sepahnews.ir website the strike happened March 23, just after the U.S.-led coalition began airstrikes to support Iraqi forces trying to retake the Islamic State-held city of Tikrit. It identified the dead as Ali Yazdani and Hadi Jafari, saying they were buried Sunday. It called them advisers.

Reached by The Associated Press, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said: “The international coalition is aimed at Daesh only,” using an alternate Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

TIME Aviation

Australia Mandates at Least 2 People Stay in Cockpits After Germanwings Crash

Regulation would apply to all commercial flights with a least two flight attendants or more than 50 passengers

(CANBERRA, Australia)—Australia on Monday responded to the Germanwings air disaster by mandating that at least two crew members be present at all times in cockpits of larger domestic and international airliners.

Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said airlines including Qantas and Virgin Australia would implement the changed security protocols from Monday afternoon. It would apply to all commercial flights with a least two flight attendants or more than 50 passengers. A flight attendant would enter the flight deck if one of the two pilots left it for any reason.

Previously, most Australian airlines have allowed their pilots to be alone on the flight deck.

French prosecutors blame co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, 27, for the crash of Flight 9525 that claimed 150 lives in southern France last week. The cockpit voice recorder has revealed that the pilot had been shut out of the cockpit when the Airbus A320 crashed.

Truss said there were already mental illnesses that stopped sufferers from being pilots in Australia, and that pilots’ health was regularly assessed.

“There is a need to balance the fact that people with proper treatment can recover from mental illness and be able to undertake normal careers with the critical priority of ensuring that aircraft are always safe,” he told reporters.

“So this is a challenging issue for airlines and indeed for that matter for other employers, to be fair to their employees who have mental health issues but at the time ensuring that those mental health issues do not put at risk the lives of other Australians,” he added.

Pilot suicide is one of the theories behind the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which flew far off course during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 last year and is believed to have crashed off the Australian coast with 239 passengers and crew on board.

Truss said pilot suicide was suspected behind more than a dozen plane crashes over the past 40 years.

TIME

Hometown Stands By Germanwings Co-Pilot Despite Tragedy, Pastor Says

"The co-pilot, the family belong to our community"

(MONTABAUR, Germany) — The pastor of the Lutheran church in Andreas Lubitz’s hometown said Sunday that the community stands by him and his family, despite the fact that prosecutors blame the 27-year-old co-pilot for causing the plane crash that killed 150 people in southern France.

The town of Montabaur has been rattled by the revelation that Lubitz, who first learned to fly at a nearby glider club, may have intentionally caused Tuesday’s crash of Germanwings Flight 9525.

“For us, it makes it particularly difficult that the only victim from Montabaur is suspected to have caused this tragedy, this crash — although this has not been finally confirmed, but a lot is indicating that — and we have to face this,” pastor Michael Dietrich said.

He spoke to The Associated Press after holding a church service Sunday to commemorate the crash victims and support their families.

“The co-pilot, the family belong to our community, and we stand by this, and we embrace them and will not hide this, and want to support the family in particular,” Dietrich said.

He added that there is no direct contact with the family at the moment, but that he believes they are receiving good assistance.

French prosecutors haven’t questioned the family yet “out of decency and respect for their pain,” Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said.

Authorities are trying to understand what made Lubitz lock his fellow pilot out of the cockpit and ignore his pleas to open the door before slamming the plane into a mountain on what should have been a routine flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.

French officials refused to confirm or deny a partial transcript that German newspaper Bild am Sontag said it had obtained of the cockpit recording. The paper reported Sunday that the pilot left for the toilet shortly before 10:30 a.m. and was heard trying unsuccessfully to get into the cockpit again a few minutes later, then shouting “for God’s sake open the door.”

After several more minutes in which the pilot could be heard trying to break open the door, the plane crashed into the mountainside, according to Bild am Sonntag, which didn’t say how it obtained the report.

Brice, the Marseille prosecutor said that none of the bodies recovered so far have been identified, denying German media reports that Lubitz’s body had been found.

Tests on the body of the co-pilot may provide clues on any medical treatment he was receiving. Germany prosecutors said Friday that Lubitz was hiding an illness and sick notes for the day of the crash from his employer.

Dietrich, the pastor, said he knew Lubitz as a teenager, when he attended religious education 13 years ago, and his mother, who worked as a part-time organist in the community.

“When I worked with her or talked to her, it was very good and very harmonious. We had good conversations,” Dietrich said. “I know her and her family. This does not make sense. It is incomprehensible for me, for us, for everyone who knew her and the family.”

“From what I’ve heard, there were no obvious signs that there is anything in the background that could lead to this,” he added.

In Rome, Pope Francis on Sunday prayed for the victims of the plane crash, citing in particular the 16 German students returning from an exchange trip to Spain.

Francis offered the prayer after Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the start of Holy Week.

In Le Vernet, a town near the crash site, families and friends of those killed were still coming to terms with what had happened.

“Members of the family shed tears as they went to see the site,” said Ippei Yamanaka, co-worker of Japanese passenger Junichi Sato who died in the crash. “It was particularly moving to see Mr. Sato’s father asking the leader of the Kempeitai (a Japanese military rescue team), with many tears in his eyes, for them to continue the search operation and for it to finish earlier even by just one day.”

“His wife says she still she cannot believe what has happened, saying that it almost feels like her husband is away on his business trip and that it still feels like he is going to return soon,” Yamanaka said.

___

Frank Jordans in Berlin, Philippe Sotto in Paris and Frances D’Emilio in Rome, contributed to this report.

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