Former Councilman Sentenced

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Former longtime Hammond City Councilman Al Salinas was sentenced Tuesday to 42 months in prison on a felony bribery and misdemeanor tax charge in Hammond Federal Court.   The 52-year-old Salinas resigned his second district seat in May after pleading guilty to not filing tax returns for several years  and to taking bribes in exchange for steering city work to a local contractor.

Read more: Former Councilman Sentenced


Gary Salvation Army ARC to do eCycling for Hobart

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electronics recycling
The Gary Salvation Army ARC announced today that they will serve as the primary recyclers for electronic items for the City of Hobart.  Residents interested in the service can have their unwanted electronics, working or not, picked up, just as long as they have an electric cord by calling 1-800-SA Truck.  The Salvation Army ARC reports you can also recycle cloths and toys at the same time you are getting rid the electronics.  You can also arrange for a pick up of your items online at

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West Nile Virus Activity Now in 35 Indiana Counties

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indiana state department of health
INDIANAPOLIS—Health officials continue to encourage Hoosiers to take steps to protect themselves from West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases after mosquito samples from 35 counties have now tested positive for the virus. There has been one human case of West Nile virus in Ripley County and one equine case in Adams County.
Counties with West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes include: Adams, Allen, Carroll, Clinton, Daviess, Delaware, DeKalb, Grant, Hamilton, Jay, Jefferson, Knox, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Lake, Marion, Marshall, Martin, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Newton, Noble, Ohio, Parke, Steuben, Sullivan, Tippecanoe, Tipton, Starke, St. Joseph, Vanderburgh, Vigo, White and Whitley.
The Indiana State Department of Health has collected and tested nearly 120,000 mosquitoes from all 92 counties for West Nile virus and Saint Louis encephalitis. There have been no positive findings for Saint Louis encephalitis at this time.
 State health officials recommend the following preventative measures:
·         Avoid places where mosquitoes are biting;
·         Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin or oil of lemon eucalyptus to clothes and exposed skin;
·         Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the home; and,
·         When possible, wear pants and long sleeves, especially if walking in wooded or marshy areas.
West Nile virus can cause West Nile fever, a mild form of the illness, which can include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph glands or a rash. Some individuals will develop a more severe form of the disease with encephalitis or meningitis and other severe syndromes, including flaccid muscle paralysis.
To reduce potential mosquito breeding grounds:
·         Discard old tires, tin cans, ceramic pots or other containers that can hold water;
·         Repair failed septic systems;
·         Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors;
·         Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed;
·         Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains;
·         Frequently replace the water in pet bowls;
·         Flush ornamental fountains and birdbaths periodically; and,
·         Aerate ornamental pools, or stock them with predatory fish.
Individuals who think they may have West Nile virus should see their health care provider. 
For more information about mosquito safety, please visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s website at Information about mosquito activity in the state can be found at
Follow the Indiana State Department of Health on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at
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Prison Produce Donations Exceed One Ton

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Prison Food Pantry Donation Photo
(Photo Courtesy of the Westville Correctional Facility) 
The gardens at Westville Correctional Facility (WCC) are producing thousands of pounds of vegetables for donation to local food pantries as the harvest hits the midway point.
Offenders can be seen carrying boxes of picked peppers, cucumbers, zucchini squash, cabbages and onions, while the tomatoes, potatoes, watermelon and others are still ripening for a banner year of produce.  It is all part of an effort throughout the Indiana Department of Correction facilities promoted by Commissioner Bruce Lemmon. 
At WCC, the inmates are in competition with each other maintaining five different gardens.   Each has a different combination of vegetables and harvest schedule.
In May, offenders began the effort by tilling the soil where grass had predominated for years.  Offenders used their backs to remove the sod and break up the soil beneath. Trucks of rich top soil and fertile loam were brought in to prepare the gardens.  The recreation department provided the seed and young plants for the first planting. 
As of this past week, 2,124 pounds of vegetables had been harvested before the gardens had even reached their peak.  An estimated 500 pounds a week should be harvested over the next several weeks.
According to Superintendent Mark Levenhagen all the produce is donated to local food pantries.   “This is truly a dividend that benefits many needy citizens throughout our communities,” he said.
Offender Damarlan Norris said, “It was great to work the garden from the start and see the fruits of my work.”  Indeed, officials note that the labor seems soothing to offenders and the gardening has a positive impact. Norris said it felt good to work the earth by hand and create something that had not existed before.
Offenders whose first wish was to simply get off the dorm or get exercise soon found themselves involved in an on-going and very satisfying endeavor.  Like Norris, they could see positive results from their work. 
This was particularly gratifying to offenders who had never done gardening before. Offender Willis Peavey said, “It has been a learning experience that has taught me a lot.”  Offender Rusty Land, proudly holding up a two feet long zucchini, said he was impressed with what he could do.
Meanwhile, nearly a dozen pantries in the community have been the beneficiaries of the garden produce.   LaPorte Fellowship and Good Shepherd Food Pantry in Westville, St. Paul Lutheran Soup Kitchen and First Presbyterian in Michigan City and other community pantries in Knox, Rolling Prairie, Valparaiso and Hanna all have been receiving regular deliveries.
For some inmates,” said Levenhagen, “the local food pantry is crucial in helping them get back on their feet when they get released.  They can relate to the need on a personal basis.”
About Westville Correctional Facility:
Westville Correctional Facility was converted from a state mental health hospital to a prison in 1977.  It is situated on over 700 acres in La Porte County, and contains minimum, medium and maximum security units.  Nearly 3400 offenders are housed at WCC, and over 2400 are retuned to the community annually from WCC. 
About the Indiana Department of Correction:
The Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) employs over 8,000 staff and houses nearly 28,000 adult and juveniles in 20 adult and 5 juvenile facilities.  About 1,000 more are housed in contracted facilities or contracted county jail beds.  An additional 10,000 adults are monitored by 9 parole districts.  IDOC collaboratively funds community corrections programs in 78 counties. Our internet home page can be found at: Our Re-entry Site can be found at:
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Read more: Prison Produce Donations Exceed One Ton


$10,000 Reward Offered for Return of Missing Coins

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canadian coins
(Photo Courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office)

A ten-thousand dollar reward is being offered for the return of 124 one-ounce platinum Canadian Maple Leaf coins, or information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in the theft.  The Lake County Sheriff's Office reports the coins were taken from a residence in Crown Point and is asking that anyone who may have seen the coins to please contact them, at (219) 755-3334.
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Read more: $10,000 Reward Offered for Return of Missing Coins


Valpo PD Earns CALEA Re-accreditation

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Valpo PD
The Valparaiso Police Department in 2010, for the first time, achieved accreditation through The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).
Every three years the department must be re-inspected and re-evaluated for it to maintain the CALEA accreditation. This past June the
department was re-evaluated and recently Chief Brickner and the department learned that the Valparaiso Police Department had earned their accreditation for the second time.
In 2010 after the department’s first accreditation Police Chief Michael Brickner explained the accreditation is not just a piece of paper, but rather means the department meets tough national standards on everything from how it uses deadly force, to whether it  pursues a fleeing vehicle to how it recruits employees to make sure it gets the best police force.
Brickner said the department, which he deemed already excellent before beginning the accreditation process, had to re-think every aspect of how it does business
and is much stronger because of it, "One of our goals was to become one of the elite police departments ... one of the most professional and innovative," Brickner said. "It (accreditation) has elevated us to the level we wanted to get
In addition, departmental policies that fall in line with national guidelines should decrease lawsuits or the department's exposure in lawsuits. "Once again, this is a wonderful accomplishment for our department," Chief Brickner said.

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Read more: Valpo PD Earns CALEA Re-accreditation


Improving School Safety Efforts in Indiana

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Gov Mike Pence
Indianapolis, IN – Governor Mike Pence today received the findings of the school safety study group regarding improved school safety efforts in Indiana.
“The safety and security of schools in Indiana remains a top priority for our administration,” said Governor Pence. “As we begin a new school year, I am grateful to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, our state agencies and local law enforcement and mental health professionals for their leadership in helping Indiana’s agencies, schools, law enforcement personnel, and organizations work collaboratively and cohesively for the good of all students. In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to work and pray for a safe and successful school year for Hoosiers across the state.”
The report recommends the State centralize, house and maintain pertinent information such as best practices, legislative updates, resource links and training opportunities in a multidisciplinary website dedicated to school safety. In an effort to provide thorough preparedness and response training, it suggests that seminars or exercises related to student safety or school security that are carried out by an agency or division be made available to all entities or individuals who regularly and directly interact with schools and Hoosier students. In addition, the Department of Child Services, Department of Mental Health and Addictions, and the Department of Correction will continue to strive toward developing a process to aid in the seamless transition for Hoosiers among agencies and service providers, as well as a parental consent form to release all pertinent information to schools.
The group endorsed the final report and accepted a report from the Department of Homeland Security on SEA 1, the Secured School Safety Grant Program passed earlier this year. The group also accepted the Safe School Active Shooter Training Overview from the Indiana State Police.
Pence serves as chair of the school safety study group. Additional members include Glenda Ritz (Department of Education), John Hill (Department of Homeland Security), Doug Carter (Indiana State Police), Mary Allen (Indiana Criminal Justice Institute), Bruce Lemmon (Department of Correction), Marty Umbarger (Indiana National Guard), Kevin Moore (Department of Mental Health & Addictions), Mary Beth Bonaventura (Department of Child Services), Chris Atkins (Office of Management and Budget), Jeff Cardwell (Office of Faith and Community Based Initiatives), Larry John (East Central Educational Services), Ben Hunter (Butler University), Steve Luce (Indiana Sheriffs Association), and Michael Ward (Indiana Chiefs of Police Association).

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Read more: Improving School Safety Efforts in Indiana


NWS: Stay Out of the Water, Dangerous Conditions

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The National Weather Service is warning people visiting beaches in Lake and Porter County today to stay out out the water until early tomorrow morning. Officials report dangerous swimming conditions are expected, with high wave action and strong rip currents along the beaches.
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LaPorte Couple Arrested for Possession of Heroin

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gabral robinson
(Photos Courtesy of the LaPorte Police Dept)

dawn robinson
LaPorte County Sheriff Michael Mollenhauer on Monday announced the third and fourth arrest in the last week that involve heroin. Sheriff Mollenhauer says the County's Metro Operations Unit will continue to actively pursue those who are involved in the heroin problems in the LaPorte area. Investigators from the Metro Operations Unit arrested a LaPorte couple on Monday related to possession of heroin, 31 year old Gabral and Dawn Robinson, who were arrested without incident Monday at their home in the three-hundred block of Jefferson Avenue.  Both had been wanted on warrants issued through LaPorte County Circuit Court

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Read more: LaPorte Couple Arrested for Possession of Heroin


Water Main Break in Munster

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Police in Munster say River Drive closed this morning between Monroe and Jefferson Avenues due to a water main break.  Repairs were being made.

Read more: Water Main Break in Munster


Gary Finalist in Hometown Host Contest

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A Lake County resident is among five finalists in the Hoosier Lottery's Hometown Host contest.  Hoosier Lottery live ball drawings will soon be back on the air throughout the state and the Hoosier Lottery and FOX59 in Indianapolis are conducting a statewide talent search to cast on-air draw talent.    Last week the public was invited to view the 20 semi-finalists' entries and vote for their favorite Hometown Host online at or  Hoosiers narrowed the list down to the top five finalists.
Those finalists are Heather Cruise of Fort Wayne, Robin La'Toya of Gary, Lisa Wright Minter of Indianapolis, Chayzee Smith of Indianapolis and Jennifer Wilkens of Anderson.  The finalists videos can be viewed at  The public is invited to watch the top five finalists audition live at the Indiana State Fair before a panel of local celebrity judges Friday, Aug. 16 at 5 p.m. in the Farm Bureau Building at the Indiana State Fair.
The Hometown Host winner will be expected to step into the role when Daily 3 and the Daily 4 live ball drawings begin airing statewide early this fall.

Read more: Gary Finalist in Hometown Host Contest


Wheelchair Vehicle Manufacturer Expanding in NWI

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A wheelchair lift and wheelchair vehicle manufacturer is expanding in Northwest Indiana.  The Braun Corporation has announced plans to expand their headquarters in Winamac, creating up to seventy new jobs by 2016.   The company will relocate production from its facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to Winamac.  The new production line, which is expected to be fully operational late next year, will allow Braun to convert additional Dodge, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota minivans into rear-entry, wheelchair accessible vehicles.   As part of the expansion, Braun will also install a new line to convert trucks and SUVs.  
"With their vision and drive, Hoosiers have a way of making the world a better place," said Governor Mike Pence. "Through Ralph Braun's ingenuity to develop new ways to expand mobility, he built a business and a legacy that helps expand opportunities for individuals around the world. I'm proud that as a state that works, Indiana provided the best business climate for Braun to build this company and help people maintain active lives, regardless of physical limitation."
"We are truly excited about what our growth plans mean for our customers, our employees, as well as the local community and the state of Indiana," said Nick Gutwein, president of Braun. "We firmly believe there is no better place to invest than Pulaski County. Here, in rural Indiana, we have been able to build a company over four decades with men and women who have a true desire to create the best products. They are skilled, possess a very strong work ethic and instinctively believe in putting customers first. This incredible workforce, combined with government policy by Indiana lawmakers who understand business and economic growth, continue to make Winamac our location of choice."
Founded in 1972 by Ralph Braun out of a desire to improve his own mobility, Braun designs and manufactures wheelchair lifts and wheelchair accessible vehicles. In addition to its Winamac headquarters, the company also has facilities located in Elkhart, Ind., Florida, Arizona and Sweden. Braun's products are distributed globally.
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered The Braun Corporation up to $500,000 in conditional tax credits and up to $100,000 in training grants based on the company's job creation plans. These incentives are performance-based, meaning until Hoosiers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives. Pulaski County approved additional tax abatement at the request of Pulaski County Economic Development.
Braun, which currently has more than 800 full-time employees in Indiana, has already begun hiring additional production line associates and will fill engineering, management, information technology, sales, marketing and aftersales positions over the next year. Interested candidates can apply in person or visit
"With Braun's longstanding history in the community and the number of residents that they employ, it is obvious what a valuable component they are to Winamac and all of Pulaski County," said Jay Sullivan, president of the Pulaski County Council. "Pulaski County and Winamac celebrate this expansion and welcome this news of new jobs for Hoosiers and continued investment in our community, and we're excited to be able to assist and encourage them, now and in the future."

Read more: Wheelchair Vehicle Manufacturer Expanding in NWI


Gas Prices Dropping

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Have you filled up your car in the last few days? Chances are it cost you less.  New government figures show prices are down 7 cents in the past week and 16 cents compared to a year ago at this time. Gas Buddy analyst Tom Kloza says expect prices to stay lower. "We're going to be producing more oil in October than we're importing," Kloza said. "We haven't seen anything like that since the 1980's".  The biggest drop in the past week has been in the Midwest... and in Indiana the statewide average for a gallon of regular unleaded is about $3.45, according to Triple-A's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. In the Gary metropolitan area, the average is about 3-dollars-57 cents, nearly twenty-cents lower than a week ago.

Read more: Gas Prices Dropping


Whiting Mayor Hosting Forum

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There's a public forum in Whiting tonight (Tue Aug 13, 2013).  Mayor Joe Stahura is hosting the get together, starting at 6-o'clock at the Whiting Community Center, to get feedback on city issues in general ... and to talk about a number of upcoming projects, including the rollout of the Stadium District plan and possible future opportunities for the Community Center on Clark Street.  Light refreshments will be served.

Read more: Whiting Mayor Hosting Forum


Police Warn of Animal Control Impersonator

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The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office and La Porte County Animal Control are warning Region residents about someone pretending to be an employee of the La Porte County Animal Shelter.   Similar incidents have recently been reported in Porter and Allen counties and the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office is asking the public to immediately call 911 if it happens again.  On August 5, police say  a white van pulled into someone's driveway in rural Galena Township and the driver started talking about the size of the enclosure for livestock and saying the resident had forty-eight (48) hours to make necessary improvements or risk having the animals removed.    The impersonator was described as approximately 5’9” and about 180 pounds and having very dark hair and a black mustache. Police say the complainant added that it appeared as though the man had hair that may have been dyed black. 

Read more: Police Warn of Animal Control Impersonator


Train Summit to Discuss Amtrak Route

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Region planners say a statewide “all aboard” is going out to draw attendance to a free Amtrak Summit, next Wednesday, August 21, in Lafayette, to discuss the pending loss of some Indiana passenger rail service.  The main focus will be the Amtrak Hoosier State Chicago to Indianapolis run, which could stop operating on October first if state funding is not secured. The Federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 requires state dollars rather than federal funding for passenger train routes of less than 750 miles.   Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) says the Indiana General Assembly’s current budget approved the Indiana Department of Transportation’s use of discretionary funds to support the Hoosier State, the department has not committed the monies. 
The Indianapolis/Chicago route, one of the busiest in the Midwest, carried 37,000 passengers in 2012. Currently both the Hoosier State and the Cardinal cover the route, together providing service seven days a week, with two local stops in Dyer, and Rensselaer, as well as Lafayette and Crawfordsville.
Registration begins with a train whistle at 8 a.m., with opening summit remarks by Indiana State Senator Brandt Hershman at 8:30 a.m., at Faith Community Center, 5526 State Road 26 East, Lafayette, Ind. The center is just east of the Interstate 65/State Road 26 interchange. Reservations are not required for the free event, but appreciated, by calling (765) 742-4044 or responding at .
“Time is running short,” said Joseph Seaman, president and chief executive officer of Greater Lafayette Commerce, an area economic development group that is spearheading a group of numerous communities and organizations involved in hosting the summit.
“This summit will bring together interested parties so the best course of action for Indiana can be determined and actions taken,” Seaman said.  
Speakers and panelists include government, community and industry representatives. Among them are Ray Lang, Amtrak’s senior director of state and local government affairs; keynote speaker Tim Hoeffner, director of the Office of Rail, Michigan Department of Transportation, and vice chair, Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission; and Randy Truitt, 26th District State Representative.
Among the industry representatives participating in a panel discussion are Eric Angermeier, Nanshan America general manager, and Fred Lanahan, Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association. Government speakers include mayors Todd Baron, Crawfordsville; John Dennis, West Lafayette; Tony Roswarski, Lafayette; and Stephen Wood, Rensselaer. Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh and others also will present.
The Indianapolis/Chicago route, one of the busiest in the Midwest, carried 37,000 passengers in 2012. Currently both the Hoosier State and the Cardinal cover the route, together providing service seven days a week, with stops in Crawfordsville, Dyer, Lafayette and Rensselaer, Ind..
If the Hoosier State is dropped, the Cardinal will be the only train on the route, running from Indianapolis to Chicago on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, and from Chicago to Indianapolis on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
“We encourage attendance from all over the state,” Seaman said. “What happens on October 1 could impact the future of high-speed rail service, quality-of-life enhancement efforts in the state, business and employee recruitment, the tax base, and state and local economies. Whatever happens, we want it to be a proactive decision, not simply an expiration of a deadline that went unaddressed.”

Read more: Train Summit to Discuss Amtrak Route


Governor Announces Trade Mission to Japan

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Gov Mike Pence
Indiana Governor Mike Pence will lead a delegation of Hoosier business leaders and elected officials on his first gubernatorial overseas jobs and economic development mission to Japan – the state's largest Asian trading partner.  Indiana is the only U.S. state that is home to three Japanese original equipment manufacturer automotive companies, Subaru, Toyota and Honda. The governor will leave September 5 and return September 14.
Nearly 44-thousand Hoosiers are employed by more than two-hundred Japanese companies statewide.  The Governor's Office say the cost of the state delegation is being covered entirely through private donations to the Indiana Economic Development Foundation.
“From leading automotive manufacturers to their diverse array of suppliers, Japan’s top companies have found homes across all corners of the Hoosier State,” said Pence.  “Our administration aims to continue to nurture and grow the strong bond between Indiana and Japan that dates back nearly 100 years and has led to more than 42,000 Hoosier jobs in recent years. I look forward to renewing our commitment to Japan, opening doors for new investment and jobs in Indiana and telling the story of Indiana as a state that works in America.”

Read more: Governor Announces Trade Mission to Japan


Vandalism Spree in Portage

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Numerous cars... including a Portage squad and an unmarked Porter County Sheriffs Department car... were damaged in a vandalism spree in Portage early Saturday, and police are asking for the public's help.  Authorities say several signs, sidewalks and garage doors were also spray-painted in the area of Olsen Park and at the Savannah Heights subdivision. Portage Police detectives are also reviewing surveillance footage.

Read more: Vandalism Spree in Portage


Investigation Begins at Mt Baldy Using EPA Equipment

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mt baldy marker
(A white rod marks the location on Mt Baldy where a 6 year old boy became trapped in the dune)

The National Park Service, in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, began an on-site investigation Monday morning at Mount Baldy, in Michigan City, using ground-penetrating radar equipment to determine why an incident occurred one month ago to-the-day when a six-year-old boy was swallowed up on the giant dune, and buried under eleven-feet of sand for three-and-a-half hours before being rescued.   Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Public Information Officer Bruce Rowe says Mt Maldy will remain closed for reasons of public safety until they understand the science behind what caused the incident to occur in the first place.  Rowe thanked the E-P-A for providing the equipment necessary to conduct this portion of their investigation, which Francisco Arcaute, EPA Region Five Spokesman, says provides a series of images up to 30 feet under the ground, much like an ultrasound. 
mt baldy park closed
Rowe says after the incident received so much publicity, they received information of two similar incidents, one from a man who stepped into a hole at Mt Baldy many years ago that went up to his knees, and another from a person in southwestern Michigan, who was on a private dune, who reported seeing a hole similar to the one on July 12th a couple of years ago, but in both cases, the incidents had not been reported until now.
mt baldy equip
Authorities say the equipment will be at the site as long as necessary, and will cover a vast majority of the 42 acre dune, but until a reason for why a hole opened up in the first place can be ascertained, Mt. Baldy remains closed to the public.   To hear the press conference, click News Audio On Demand at
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Read more: Investigation Begins at Mt Baldy Using EPA Equipment


30 Year Old EC Man May Have Had Heart Attack

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A 30 year old East Chicago man who died about an hour after being rescued in the waters of Lake Michigan Sunday may have suffered a heart attack after being thrown off the person watercraft he was operating. Indiana Conservation Police report they responded to a call of an unresponsive man at the Hammond Marina, at approximately 4:15pm.  A preliminary investigation determined Wilson was operating the vehicle in the area with two to three foot waves, when both he and his passenger were thrown off, and while struggling to stay afloat, Wilson fell unconscious.  An autopsy was conducted this morning and according to preliminary findings, Wilson died as a result of drowning with complications due to existing medical conditions. Authorities say both Wilson and his passenger were wearing Coast Guard approved person flotation devices.
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Read more: 30 Year Old EC Man May Have Had Heart Attack


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Region News Team
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