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Wyoming News Briefs


February 13, 2020

Injured ice climber rescued after fall

CODY (WNE) — Search and rescue volunteers from Park and Big Horn counties rescued a fallen ice climber Saturday from an ice waterfall up the South Fork.

The 42-year-old Billings ice climber was on the Broken Heart ice waterfall when he fell some 30 feet from the top of the third pitch. Richard James Dvorak was climbing with a party of ten when the accident happened, according to an SAR release.

The Broken Heart ice waterfall is 38 miles up the South Fork, less than a mile north of the South Fork Highway.

The initial call came into the Park County Sheriff’s 911 Communications Center at 11:35 a.m. Park County SAR was immediately mobilized and deployed two ground teams to the ice waterfall with its Argo tracked snow vehicle.

Rescuers were assisted by two members of the Cody Regional Wilderness Medical Team as well as five volunteers from the Big Horn County SAR Unit who were summoned for additional manpower. However, the Argo was only able to traverse the rough terrain halfway from the highway to the ice waterfall. Rescuers had to hike in from there.

At roughly 2:30 p.m. a PCSAR volunteer and wilderness team member were able to ascend the ice to reach Dvorak. He was complaining of pelvic pain, possible broken ribs and a fractured left femur. After his injuries were stabilized, rescue personnel prepared him for the descent by rope down two ice waterfall pitches.

He was carried down the mountain to the Argo and then transported the rest of the way out to a waiting ambulance. At 8 p.m., he was transported to West Park Hospital where his condition was not available as of press time.

Two men charged in fight at Jackson Hole Airport

JACKSON (WNE) — Two Connecticut men waiting for a delayed flight at Jackson Hole Airport were hauled off in handcuffs Saturday afternoon after an incident that one of them described as a “ridiculous” misunderstanding.

The Jackson Police Department responded at 4:22 p.m. and “removed the unruly men from the plane” after getting a report of passengers fighting with the pilot.

Marian Gajdos, 50, said he and 39-year-old Tomas Simko were drinking while waiting on a delayed flight back to the East Coast.

“We had one too many,” Gajdos told the Jackson Hole Daily.

Gajdos said he and Simko were boarding their United flight when Simko accidentally turned left into the cockpit instead of right into the passenger area.

“He went into the cockpit and accidentally brushed into a pilot or whoever was in there,” Gajdos said. “Then they pushed him around more and more.”

According to court documents, a gate agent told an officer that the men were drunk and not cooperating with airline personnel.

“When Officer [Tim] Cole went into the tarmac he heard an airline agent say that the pilots were fighting with Gajdos and Simko and that they were in the cockpit,” the probable cause affidavit states. “Officer Cole was told that both men pushed their way past the gate agent and onto the aircraft.”

Officers claim they heard Gajdos swearing loudly inside the plane. As officers escorted Gajdos and Simko off the plane, police said Simko ignored their commands and pushed his way back into the cockpit and “argued with the pilots.”

Based on their actions, police arrested Simko for public intoxication, criminal trespass for not leaving the plane when ordered to, and interference with a peace officer, a high misdemeanor.

19-year-old man ticketed after hitting, kicking 14-year-old girl

GILLETTE (WNE) — A 19-year-old man was ticketed for assault and battery after hitting and kicking a 14-year-old girl Saturday night. The man claimed it was in self-defense. 

The girl told officers that while she was at an apartment in the 2400 block of Dogwood Avenue, she got into an argument with the 19-year-old and pushed him, said Gillette Police Lt. Brent Wasson. 

The girl had swelling on her lips, nose and eyes, and one of her teeth was knocked out. She was drunk and admitted to drinking shots, but wouldn’t say where she got the alcohol.

Officers went to the apartment and met with an 18-year-old man and a 19-year-old man, both of whom said they weren’t at the apartment when the alleged assault occurred. One of the men said he walked into the apartment and saw the girl lying on the ground bleeding.

A 13-year-old girl who was with the 14-year-old backed up the 14-year-old’s story. Police called the 19-year-old suspect, who agreed to meet with them.

He said he was sleeping in the apartment when the two girls came in, looking for the two other men who live there. He woke up and started arguing with the 14-year-old girl, Wasson said. She tried to punch him, he said, and in defense he punched her several times, then kicked her in the ribs when she was down. He had a small scratch on his face and a wound on his hand when he knocked the girl’s tooth out.

Arch Coal ends 2019 on loss, still generates cash

GILLETTE (WNE) — Despite posting an $8.6 million loss for the fourth quarter of 2019, Arch Coal Inc. executives were upbeat about an overall strong financial performance for the year while navigating some choppy waters for thermal coal.

Overall, the company finished 2019 about $234 million in the black, less than the $313 million realized in 2018, but also producing more than $100 million in cash, said President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Lang. 

Since emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 2016, Arch has generated more than $600 million in cash.

“We remain confident this business [can be] long-term, efficient, stable and a cost-effective supply platform,” Lang said during a Thursday morning earnings call to announce the year-end financial results.

He also said an anticipated joint venture with Peabody Energy to merge the companies’ Wyoming and Colorado operations continues to move through the federal approval process and that “things are progressing as expected.”

For Arch’s Powder River Basin mines in Campbell County, Black Thunder and Coal Creek, the last quarter of the year was a challenge.

The mines produced less coal at 18.1 million tons — down from 22.2 million in the third quarter of 2019 and 19.5 million tons in the fourth quarter of 2018 — but were challenged by a significant jump in the cost per ton to mine that coal.

Calling the thermal coal market “increasingly challenging,” Arch CEO John Eaves said the company is “confident Arch is well-equipped to weather the current market.”

Evanston again named Great American Main Street semifinalist 

EVANSTON (WNE) — For the second year in a row, the Evanston Urban Renewal Agency/Main Street has been named a semifinalist for a Great American Main Street Award. 

Last year, ten semifinalist communities were named from across the country; this year, there are eight semifinalists. 

“The Great American Main Street Award is a top honor within the commercial district revitalization field,” said Patrice Frey, President and CEO of the National Main Street Center, in a press release. “These eight outstanding semifinalists have demonstrated the impressive economic and community growth that is possible when commercial districts harness the power of the Main Street Approach.” 

Evanston is a certified community of Wyoming Main Street, which is a program of the Wyoming Business Council. Wyoming Main Street reported 74 net new businesses, $15 million in private funds invested and 168.5 net new jobs among 17 aspiring, affiliate and certified Main Street communities in 2018.

 “We’re very proud,” said Jane Law, manager of Evanston Main Street. “This community and all the citizens, volunteers and supporters who have been involved over so many years and accomplished so much deserve this honor and recognition.” 

Over the last 12 to 14 years, Law said the city’s focus has been on rehabilitating the Strand Theatre and Hotel Evanston.

“The Historic Roundhouse and Rail yards project is another larger endeavor the city took on,” she said. “The Roundhouse was originally built in 1912-1914 and partly refurbished into a public facility in 2009. It was completed in 2016, and now stands as an impressive and useful public space for weddings, public events and celebrations like the Celtic Festival; and it lures railroad enthusiasts from across the nation.” 

Sweetwater dispatch center director and wife charged with appropriation of public property

GREEN RIVER (WNE) — The former director of the Sweetwater County Combined Communications Dispatch Center is accused of misusing an Amazon Prime account set up for the center and making nearly $7,000 in unauthorized purchases.

According to court documents released last week, Robin Etienne and his wife Laura are facing felony and misdemeanor charges related to the alleged incident.

Robin faces charges of felony theft and misdemeanor charges of wrongful appropriation of public property and unlawful use of a credit card. Laura faces a felony charge of theft and a misdemeanor charge of unlawful use of a credit card. The felony charges are punishable with a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. Misdemeanor charges are punishable through a sentence of not more than six months in jail, a maximum fine of $750, or both.

On March 29, 2018, the Sweetwater County Combined Communications Joint Powers Board reported Robin’s resignation as the center’s executive director. An investigation into his expenditures was opened as the circumstances around the resignation were suspicious to the board members and his resignation letter indicated possible criminal activity.

Robin told investigators he allegedly started charging personal purchases to the dispatch center in 2016 or 2017, making those purchases sporadically during the next two years. In 2017, he was able to set up an Amazon Prime account for the dispatch center, using his work email address as the login. Robin said he was having financial struggles and suffering from depression.

Investigators logged into Robin’s gaming account and determined he made 13 charges to the account in 2017 and 2018 using the center’s card. All of the alleged unauthorized purchases amounted to $6,943.04.

School district sued over playground injury

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Laramie County School District 1 and playground equipment companies are being sued for negligence that allegedly caused an 11-year-old Cheyenne girl to suffer a fractured spinal vertebrae.

Scott Hunter and Heather Hunter are suing California-based Universal Precast Concrete and UPC Parks, Iowa-based Miracle Recreation Equipment Company, Colorado-based Churchich Recreation Equipment and LCSD1.

The Hunters are suing the playground manufacture companies for product liability and LCSD1 for negligence. The lawsuit is asking for a jury trial, with the amount in damages to be proven at trial. However, according to court documents the amount in controversy was listed as $3 million for the alleged incident and injury.

According to the lawsuit:

On Jan. 24, 2018, the 11-year-old girl, identified as L.H. Hunter, was playing on the Meadowlark Elementary playground on the Rocks and Ropes equipment. On this equipment, a child can shuffle across the bottom rope while holding a top rope to get from rock to rock.

During a time when there was allegedly a lack of adult supervision, a boy ran up and leaped onto the ropes while L.H. was shuffling between them. This caused the ropes to “violently swing” as L.H. “hung desperately” to the ropes, according to the lawsuit.

This caused L.H.’s back to become hyperextended and her spinal vertebrae to crush together, causing an acute crushed T5 vertebrae, hematoma and potential paralysis.


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