March 21, 2011

Dead in plane crash were woman, kids

Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board investigate the wreckage of a Cessna 210 that crashed Sunday. A woman and her two children were killed in the crash. The plane took off from John Wayne airport and crashed near the Barstow-Dagget Airport. (KAREN JONAS, DESERT DISPATCH)

Orange County Register

BARSTOW – A woman and two children were killed in a fiery plane crash on Sunday near a San Bernardino County airport, authorities said.
The single-engine Cessna 210 departed from John Wayne Airport and was headed to Henderson Executive Airport in Las Vegas when it crashed, said Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

The woman is believed to be Katie Morrison, a Truckee, Calif., resident who is licensed as a private pilot. Officials have not identified who was aboard the plane. Her husband, Jim Morrison, confirmed his wife and two children, Wyatt and Hanna, were killed in the crash, according to Fox 40 News in Sacramento.

Coroner officials have not yet positively identified the bodies of those aboard the plane; they were described as a woman, a male child and a female child.

"The coroner's office is having to conduct extensive scientific means to identify the bodies," said Arden Wiltshire, a San Bernardino Sheriff's Department spokeswoman.

The plane crashed at 12:40 p.m., about 2.5 miles southeast of the Barstow-Dagget Airport. The Barstow Desert Dispatch newspaper reported that the crash site was about two miles south of I-40.

Witnesses told The Associated Press that the plane appeared to spiral out of the sky as it plunged into a hillside.

According to FAA records, the fixed-wing airplane is registered to Debt Free LLC.

The address registered for the 1978 airplane comes back to Jim Morrison Construction in Truckee. According to the company's website, Jim Morrison Construction builds luxury homes in premier golfing and skiing communities. Morrison is a professional skier.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. The final determination of the cause could take months, said Mike Huhn, an investigator with the NTSB. The NTSB will look more closely at the pilot — including her experience, training and health — the plane and its engine and environmental factors such as the weather to determine the final cause of the accident, said Hunh.

This is the second fatal plane crash in the area in two weeks. A plane that crashed near Ludlow on March 8 killed Anthony D’Allen, 68, of Senoia, Ga.

March 16, 2011

Historic Inland Empire cemetery receives federal funds

Leticia Juarez
KABC-TV Los Angeles

ORO GRANDE, MOJAVE DESERT (KABC) -- A historic cemetery in Oro Grande near Victorville has been called a little-known treasure. It has some 100 graves, the final resting place of mostly miners and their families. There is a much-needed facelift in its future.

A steady wind blows through the Oro Grande Cemetery where flagstones outline the final resting places and weathered white crosses mark the area for the inhabitants buried there. It is a place forgotten by time.

Joe Manners is the unofficial caretaker of the century-old cemetery, and its champion.

For more than two decades, he has been after San Bernardino County to fund its upkeep and repairs.

"Some of that history, we should have something in Oro Grande to remember that Oro Grande was a boom town when Victorville was a ranch," said Manners.

On Wednesday the county approved a $15,000 grant to build a parking lot and decorative fence to beautify the historic site. Prior to the funding approval the county used ground-penetrating radar to locate unmarked graves to ensure the area would not be disturbed by the construction.

"We were able to get some community development block-grant funding from the federal government -- a small grant, but enough to do some basic improvements," said Brad Mitzelfelt, San Bernardino County First District supervisor.

There are between 90 and 100 graves in the Oro Grande Cemetery. Many belong to the original founders of this once-booming town.

The gold-mining town is one of the earliest settlements in San Bernardino County and the final resting place for several of Oro Grande's military heroes.

"When Memorial Day comes around, the VFW in Adelanto comes and clears all the weeds and gets the place cleaned up and they do a Memorial Day service," said Manners.

The county hopes to finish its improvement project by Memorial Day in time to honor and remember the pioneers and founders of this desert community.

March 1, 2011

Pioneertown will pay for its water

A Letter from Gay Smith
Pioneertown Property Owners Association
Hi-Desert Star

I would like to set the record straight — Pioneertown water users are not going to rip off Yucca Valley.

We have a serious water problem, both quantity and quality, that the county has been trying to solve for the last 10 years. Before that time we had the best water in the whole area, but with prolonged drought, the water table dropped, which caused nitrates, arsenic and heavy metals to leach into the water line that is provided to the community by eight wells, two of which are no longer on line due to the high concentrates of cancer-producing contaminates.

In 1999, we started receiving letters along with our high water bills, warning us not to drink the water.

In 2009, the state Health Department sent the county Special Districts a letter stating that the water situation in Pioneertown must be fixed, or fines will be imposed on the water users.

Many of us, besides paying for water we cannot drink, buy bottled water and/or have reverse-osmosis systems under our sinks. The cost that was stated in a Wednesday Guest Soapbox for a reverse-osmosis system is just the tip of the iceberg. Every six months you have to hire a plumber to have the four filters changed. The filters are not cheap, ranging in price from $30 to $130 for each one.

You must remember, too, that we have to bathe in this water, and we feed it to our pets. We have had many strange illnesses and deaths to our pets that cannot be fully explained. Pioneertown residents have also experienced a high rate of cancer in its citizens for a small community.

The county has looked into dozens of ways to fix our problem. Each has its own problems and can, in many cases, cause more problems than are fixed. They have been working with the Mojave Water Agency to come to a conclusion that would be fair to all.

The people of Pioneertown are willing to pay their fair share. We will be paying for our water to the county as we now do and they in turn will pay the Mojave Water Agency for water, which will be banked in the underground holding area in Landers. The water would then be sent in Hi-Desert water pipes to another location. For the use of the pipes, Hi-Desert would also get some of the water allotted to Pioneertown.

The engineers found that the best route would be over Skyline Ranch Road, but that route was nixed by the residents on Skyline Ranch Road. They did not want the 8-inch pipe to go down the middle of the road, which would be covered and returned to its original state. This route would certainly be much cheaper to the people living in Pioneertown.

Since that route was taken off the table, the alternate route is up Pioneertown Road, which is much more expensive.

The water that we pay for and bank must then be sent to the settling pond on Pioneertown Road and then pumped up the middle of Pioneertown Road. This is a public road and would not be on a preserve or on private land. There will be a small parcel of land on the side of Pioneertown Road owned by the Conservancy that a tank will have to be situated on.…

I don’t think moving from the area is an option for any of us. This is like telling the people of Yucca Valley if they don’t like the sewer system, to move.

We are not about destroying the enviroment. The pipe will be underground and covered. But most important of all, we are not taking water from the people of Yucca Valley and we are paying for what we get.