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Wyoming News Briefs: June 11, 2018

The Star Valley Independent is a member of the Wyoming News Exchange. These stories come courtesy of the WNE.

Bison gores Yellowstone visitor

JACKSON (WNE) — A California woman was rushed to the hospital Wednesday after being gored by a bull bison near Yellowstone National Park’s Fountain Paint Pot boardwalk.

Kim Hancock, a 59-year-old from Santa Rosa, was with a crowd of people who were mobbing the hefty wild animal when it apparently decided it felt cramped. The resulting goring made for the third time in four days an elk or bison has injured a Yellowstone visitor.

“This one is concerning, because there was actually a crowd of people on the boardwalk, and at one point they were closer than 15 feet from a bull bison,” Yellowstone spokeswoman Morgan Warthin said. “These are wild animals. That’s a terrifying thought to me, being that close.”

Hancock suffered a hip injury and was driven in an ambulance to Big Sky Medical Center in Big Sky, Montana. Warthin was unclear on whether she needed to be carried out on a stretcher or was able to walk off, but she reported that the park visitor was “in good condition.”

This is the second instance of a bison attacking a Yellowstone visitor this year. The first week of May, 72-year-old Boise, Idaho, resident Virginia Junk was butted in the thigh and pushed off a trail in the Old Faithful area.

Two more recent ungulate-caused human injuries involved protective cow elk near the Mammoth Hotel. Las Vegas resident Charlene Triplett was severely injured and airlifted to Idaho Falls’ Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center on Sunday, and then on Tuesday the incident repeated when Cypress, Texas, resident Penny Allyson Behr unknowingly walked by a bedded-down calf.


Mountain View boy loses fingers to firecracker

EVANSTON (WNE) — A 10-year-old Mountain View boy is lucky to be alive after picking up a lit firecracker recently.

Keaton Titmus lost three fingers and damaged another in the accident, which occurred around 8:15 p.m. on Thursday, May 30. 

Keaton is reportedly recovering well, though, and his mother, Trisa Titmus, is grateful he is alive. In the meantime, she hopes to warn everyone to be careful when storing fireworks and to always supervise children around them. 

“My son is here and alive,” she said, “and some other parent might not be so lucky.” 

Trisa said Keaton had found a lighter in his grandfather’s junkyard and remembered where he had seen some fireworks stored some six months earlier, Trisa said. 

The 10-year-old gathered the fireworks, waited until his grandma and one of his brothers were in the house and then headed behind a car to light an M-80 (a large, powerful firecracker) he had found. 

After lighting the explosive, Keaton decided to pick it up and try to throw it — but it exploded in his hand, tearing away his right thumb and tendon and the first two fingers above the knuckles, besides severely damaging his ring finger.

His grandmother had heard the sound, so while Keaton was running toward the house, she was running toward the door. In short order his arm was wrapped in a towel and they were headed to the Lyman ambulance shack while calling 911. 

He was then taken to Evanston, then flown by AirMed to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City for surgery. Since then, Keaton has been amazing his medical team and family with his buoyancy, Trisa said, to the point that he is already learning to become left-handed.


Man sentenced as habitual criminal in stabbing

GILLETTE (WNE) — Joshua Jene Lewis, 33, will spend the rest of his life in prison after a jury found he is a habitual criminal, a status that means he has been convicted of a violent felony and also has at least two prior felony convictions from two other crimes.

Lewis was found guilty of aggravated assault and battery after a jury trial that ended Wednesday.

The jury of six men and six women also determined he previously had been convicted of three felony crimes, classifying him as a habitual criminal and mandating a mandatory life sentence.

In July 2012, he was found guilty of burglary after he stole a TV, binoculars, several other items and cash from a Gillette home. A month later, he was involved in the theft of a 2002 Chevy Silverado from Echeta Road and was charged with being an accessory after the fact. He was then convicted of felony driving while under the influence of alcohol after he rolled his car on Boxelder Road in March 2013.

The aggravated assault conviction stems from a Nov. 20 incident in which Lewis stabbed a stranger outside the Fireside Lounge at about 1 a.m., penetrating his abdomen and puncturing his small intestine.

After the stabbing, Lewis and two friends left the Fireside and were pulled over by police a short time later.

The victim reported that he had walked to the Fireside with a friend. Soon after Lewis approached him and stabbed him in the stomach. The victim, who was taken to the emergency room, later identified Lewis as the person who had stabbed him.


Jackson cable dispute that blocked Super Bowl finally resolved

JACKSON (WNE) — “Hallelujah.”

Town Councilor Jim Stanford’s succinct response to the announcement of a deal between Charter Communications and Northwest Broadcasting is one that will likely be echoed around Jackson.

On the 126th day of the spat, which resulted in Jackson customers being left without NBC since Feb. 2, the companies announced they had reached a deal and that NBC programs were planned to be restored to the Jackson area by Friday.

“Brian Brady, President/CEO of Northwest Broadcasting, announced today that an agreement has been reached with Charter Communications, parent company of Spectrum Cable,” a press release from Northwest stated. “The Northwest stations have been off the Spectrum line-up since February 2, 2018, as a result of a contract dispute.”

Charter offered little detail.

In an email, Bret Picciolo, Charter’s senior director of communications for the Northwest region, said, “We’re pleased to have reached a fair agreement with Northwest Broadcasting. We’re working to restore signals, and expect to have programming back on for customers by tomorrow.”

Subscribers missed the Super Bowl and the Olympics, along with other popular programs, from “The Voice” to “The Today Show.” Though the resolution of the fight means they will again be able to watch the shows, it will not bring back missed sporting events nor does it necessarily represent the end of the dispute.

In March, the Jackson Town Council joined three cities in filing a petition before the Federal Communications Commission accusing Charter Communications of violating federal rules that require cable companies to provide advance notice to subscribers and municipalities before deleting a channel. It further called upon the FCC to order Charter to pay penalties and refund subscribers.


Oil, gas production boost Sublette valuation by 25 percent

PINEDALE (WNE) — While still preliminary, Sublette County’s assessed value increased from $1.9 billion in 2017 to $2.4 billion in 2018. 

According to Sublette County Assessor Janess Saxton, the largest part of the increase is from oil and gas production. 

Gas production increased from $1.213 billion to $1.514 billion. Oil production increased from $200 million to $233 million. 

Property values, including homes and businesses assessed by the local assessor’s office, actually declined slightly, from $364 million to $362 million. 

The state is expected to certify that valuation in early July. 

Despite that increase, county commissioners are asking county entities and offices to “hold the line.” 

Through the week of June 4 through June 7, commissioners met with department heads and agencies to review budgets. With few exceptions, budgets have been comparable to the 2017-2018 fiscal year. 

Commission Chairman Andy Nelson said despite being up more than 24 to 25 percent, what they are hearing from the producers in the field is to expect a crash next year. 

“We’re going to tank again,” Nelson said. 


Powell council endorses publicly owned conference center

POWELL (WNE) — The Powell City Council gave its support to a planned hotel and publicly owned conference center recently. The council voted 5-1 to apply for a $2.6 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council to build the conference center.

Council members Scott Mangold, Jim Hillberry, Tim Sapp, Floyd Young and Lesli Spencer voted yes, while Eric Paul voted no. Mayor John Wetzel was absent.

The money from the grant would be used to build a 10,000 square foot conference center with a commercial kitchen. The center would have meeting space for 250 people and would be connected to a proposed 70-plus room hotel in the Gateway West business park on the western edge of Powell.

Christine Bekes, executive director of the Powell Economic Partnership, said Monday’s vote was a “gamechanger for Powell.”

“A win for the community is how I see it, and a win for the city,” Bekes said. “I think, to me, this process shows that the public is represented in the process. Economic development is not something that every local government takes part in. For the City of Powell to take part in it when it can be big and when it can carry a little bit of risk — but when they weigh the benefits over the risk, and also when the risk has been mitigated — I think that makes the project very exciting, being able to put the community first.”

Billings developer Steve Wahrlich, who is one of the driving forces in bringing the hotel and conference center to Powell, is also pleased to see the project come one step closer to fruition. He said the next steps are finding investors for the hotel and continuing the community grant process for the conference center.


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