OIL TRAINS-EMERGENCY ORDER
Feds issue emergency order on oil shipments
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Federal regulators are further tightening testing requirements for companies that transport oil by rail after a spate of explosions caused by crude train derailments in the U.S. and Canada.
Thursday's action from the U.S. Department of Transportation builds on a Feb. 25 order that targeted oil shipments for more stringent testing.
Testing has long been required to gauge the volatility of oil and other hazardous liquids. But there were no standards on how frequently that had to be done.
Transportation officials are now specifying that within the "reasonable, recent past" companies must have tested the flash point and boiling point of crude to determine how likely it is to ignite.
Officials are telling companies not to re-label crude as some other volatile product in an attempt to get around testing.
Judge orders Blixseth to appear in court
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A judge has ordered real estate developer Tim Blixseth to appear in federal court to explain why he has not complied with a court order to pay $13.8 million to creditors in a bankruptcy case.
U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon said that he would take "such actions as may be necessary and appropriate" at a March 21 hearing in Butte to make Blixseth comply.
Haddon found Blixseth in contempt in December after the Washington state resident sold a luxury property in Mexico in defiance of a prior court order.
Blixseth is blamed in the 2008 bankruptcy of the Yellowstone Club, a private ski and golf resort near Big Sky. He's been trying to fend off the club's creditors, who want Blixseth incarcerated for not abiding the payment order.
Drug firms settle with Montana for $5.9M
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Montana Attorney General Tim Fox says subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson have agreed to pay $5.9 million to settle a lawsuit with the state over the marketing of an anti-psychotic drug.
Fox said Thursday proceeds from the settlement will go to create a program to prevent prescription-drug abuse. Money also will go to the Montana Mental Health Trust, consumer protection education and to reimburse the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.
Montana's 2008 lawsuit against Janssen Ortho LLC and Janssen Pharmaceuticals claimed the companies hid the dangers of Risperdal. Attorneys for the state say the companies knew the drug had the potential to cause weight gain, diabetes and complications to the brain's blood vessels in the elderly.
The companies admit no wrongdoing in the settlement, signed Feb. 16.
GREAT FALLS FATAL
CMR student dies in crash east of Great Falls
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - A C.M. Russell High School student died in a two-vehicle crash on a frontage road along U.S. Highway 89 east of Great Falls.
Superintendent Tammi Lacey says grief counselors have been made available to CMR students and staff.
The Montana Highway Patrol says the crash happened around 7:30 a.m. Thursday when the teen driver lost control of her vehicle and hit a westbound pickup truck.
The student's name was being withheld while family members were notified.
POLSON HAMMER ASSAULT
Polson police investigating hammer assault
POLSON, Mont. (AP) - Police in Polson are investigating after a 67-year-old man was struck in the head with a hammer, suffering what Police Chief Wade Nash described as life-threatening injuries.
Assistant Police Chief Clint Cottle tells KERR-AM that the victim was flown to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery and was listed in critical condition on Thursday.
Cottle says 35-year-old Desmond Mackay was arrested and booked into the Lake County jail on suspicion of assault with a weapon.
Cottle says the son-in-law of the victim was at the scene and was able to wrestle the hammer away from the assailant and hold him until police arrived shortly after 7 p.m. Wednesday.
He would not elaborate on a motive.
Avalanche again blocks BNSF tracks near Essex
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) - For the second time in a week, BNSF Railway's main line across northwestern Montana is closed after several avalanches came down on the tracks between Essex and Marias Pass.
BNSF spokesman Matt Jones said Thursday it has ended all rail traffic in the area due to the threat of continued slides in the area south of Glacier National Park. The railroad is asking park officials for permission to use a compressed-air cannon to trigger slides and reduce future threats.
Jones says it's unclear how long the rail line will be blocked.
Beginning late Sunday, the tracks were closed for about 12 hours while a slide covered the tracks with nearly 7 feet of snow and debris.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says the railroad continues to bus passengers between stations in Shelby and Whitefish.
Missoula man may have been hit by train
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - Missoula County officials say a transient whose body was found in a train yard in Missoula died from injuries consistent with being hit or dragged by a slow-moving train.
The sheriff's office announced the findings Thursday after medical examiners at the state crime lab completed an autopsy of 34-year-old Keith Byington. Byington's body was discovered near the tracks just before noon on Tuesday.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Paige Pavalone says Byington was at least dragged by a train.
Missoula Police Sgt. Travis Welsh says foul play hasn't been ruled out and the investigation into Byington's death continues.
It's not clear when Byington died, but Welsh says police believe he was alive on Feb. 28.
Idaho highway closed by avalanche threat reopens
BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A 61-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 12 in northern Idaho near the Montana border has reopened after being closed due to avalanche danger.
The Idaho Transportation Department says the highway opened Thursday afternoon between Pete King Creek Road and Parachute Hill Road.
That's a section of road beginning about 24 miles east of Kooskia and extending to near Lolo Pass. The road closed Wednesday afternoon.
The agency says crews also cleared some snow from the highway near milepost 159 that slid from a steep hillside.
UW CAMPUS ARREST
3 years for armed man caught near Seattle campus
SEATTLE (AP) - A man who was arrested near the University of Washington in a stolen truck with stolen guns and six Molotov cocktails was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Seattle to three years in prison.
Justin Miles Jasper pleaded guilty in November to theft and weapons charges. The 22-year-old Nevada man was arrested in July by University of Washington police. The pickup truck and a shotgun and rifle had been stolen from an acquaintance in Butte, Mont.
Police said Jasper also had body armor and a video in which he said he wanted to make sure people understood protests taking place in Brazil. The U.S. attorney's office says his sentence includes mental health counseling.
Freezing rain causes hazardous driving conditions
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - Freezing rain that may be followed by snow was forecast across northern Montana east of the Continental Divide on Thursday morning, leading the Great Falls and Havre school districts to decide not to run their buses.
Great Falls planned to start its school day on time. The Havre Daily News reports Havre is starting school two hours late, while Montana State-Northern won't begin classes until 11 a.m. Hays-Lodge Pole schools delayed their buses until 9 a.m. and Rocky Boy schools are closed.
The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory calling for freezing rain until 11 a.m. Thursday.
The Montana Department of Transportation map shows roads from Great Falls north and east to the North Dakota were icy Thursday morning.
Firefighters credit public help after avalanche
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - Missoula firefighters are crediting help from the public in searching for three people buried in an avalanche that destroyed a house, sheared its natural gas line and left a still-live power line passing over the area with winds gusting up to 50 mph.
Fire Capt. Terran Lohman says 8-year-old Phoenix Scoles-Coburn was unresponsive when he was located about an hour after the slide. But the boy was not badly injured and was released from the hospital on Sunday.
Firefighters were concerned about a second slide, so scouts were posted on the hillside to keep watch.
Fire training officer Matt Kearns tells the Missoulian a community effort helped locate Fred Allendorf and Michel Colville in the remains of their house last Friday. Allendorf remained hospitalized in good condition Wednesday. Colville died of her injuries on Sunday.
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