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From Wyoming News Exchange Newspapers 

Wyoming News Briefs

 

February 4, 2021



Man charged in fatal accident

PINEDALE (WNE) — The driver of a truck involved in a fatal head-on collision on July 14, 2020, is charged with aggravated homicide by vehicle. 

That evening, Alex W. Smith, then of Hartford, Connecticut, was driving north in a white Ford F150 pickup on Highway 191 between Hoback Rim and Bondurant and a quarter of the way into a dangerous curve, collided with a blue 2006 Ford Mustang in the southbound lane driven by Gerald I. Fagerhaug. 

Fagerhaug, of Castle Rock, Colorado, died on impact, according to Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Klief Guenther. 

Smith is charged with two felony counts of aggravated homicide by vehicle – one for being under the influence of alcohol and another for driving recklessly and causing another person’s death, according to court records. 

Sublette County Attorney Mike Crosson filed the charges on Jan. 26 in Sublette County Circuit Court. Smith had not been served at press time. 

Guenther’s affidavit says Smith’s truck faced north, perpendicular to the road, blocking most of the northbound lane while Fagerhaug’s Mustang was facing south and straddling the centerline. The collision occurred in the curve, where the speed is 70 mph but flags and a sign cautions travel at 50 mph. 

Smith was life-flighted by helicopter to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center with massive internal injuries. His dog was also killed in the wreck. 

Guenther’s affidavit says a later search of Smith’s truck found an open bottle of whiskey within reach and marijuana and paraphernalia on the passenger’s side. Witnesses reported smelling alcohol in him, it says. 

Yellowstone visitation down 5% in 2020

CODY (WNE) — Yellowstone National Park reported its final 2020 numbers on Thursday, down 5% compared to 2019.

A total of 3,806,305 recreation visits took place to Yellowstone during the year. It was the fewest people who attended Yellowstone since 2014 and the first time since that year in which fewer than 4 million people entered the Park.

But it was also the year of the comeback, as the Park recorded its busiest September and October on record and second busiest August. 

The Park was closed due to health and safety reasons related to COVID-19 beginning March 24 and did not re-open until May 18 when the East Entrance outside Cody and South Entrance near Jackson opened.

All five entrances were open by June 1, but around a month of visitation was missed at some of the gates.

Man pleads no contest to charges in hidden camera case

SHERIDAN (WNE) — William Ziska pleaded no contest to 12 counts of felony voyeurism and one count of sexual exploitation of children in 4th Judicial District Court Thursday.

Ziska had been scheduled to stand trial for the crimes last week, but his attorney vacated the trial and requested a change of plea hearing. 

Ziska was charged for allegedly observing juveniles and adults in a bathroom via video recording for about one month.

Sheridan County Deputy and Prosecuting Attorney Christina White asked Judge John Fenn to schedule two hours for Ziska’s sentencing hearing in order to provide each victim an opportunity to speak and to provide evidence. 

Ziska changed his pleas without any plea agreement in place with the state. He faces up to 34 years incarceration and fines of up to $70,000 if convicted.

Pending his sentencing, Ziska’s bond was revoked, and he was remanded to the custody of the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office.

Grand Teton reservation system launched

JACKSON (WNE) — The run on 800-plus freshly reservable campsites in Grand Teton National Park was significant, but worries that all the park’s tent pads would be swooped up within hours were mostly unfounded.

Teton Park made the switch from first-come, first-served camping to reservation-only for all drive-to campsites ahead of the 2021 summer season. Those sites became available on Recreation.gov for dates between when camping opens in the spring through six months out from the present date — so into early August — starting a week ago Tuesday morning. A week later, there remained plenty of camping opportunities, although the later into the summer, the slimmer the pickings.

“There are still sites available,” Grand Teton spokeswoman Denise Germann said last week. “Every day opens up new ones, because it’s on a six-month rolling basis.”

At popular spots like Jenny Lake and Signal Mountain, it is already hard to find any July camping openings. But at the larger campgrounds, such as the Gros Ventre Campground, availability remained for almost every day, even including the most popular stretches of summer, such as over the Fourth of July weekend.

Once everything is picked over in coming weeks and months, there will still be one last shot at summer 2021 Teton camping. At an unspecified date, 30% of the Gros Ventre Campground’s 300-plus sites will release – a one-time deal to help out tourists who missed news of the switch to reservation-only.

Jackson police say tickets coming for mask violations

JACKSON (WNE) — Public health and law enforcement officials are fed up with some people and businesses that have been disregarding mask orders, and they say they’re ready to start ticketing those who can’t follow the rules.

“Up to this point, law enforcement has addressed the violations on a case-by-case basis,” Jackson Chief of Police Michelle Weber said at a recent COVID-19 community update meeting. “And we’ve used the opportunity to educate businesses, and in some circumstances customers, on the public health order.

“Because we are not getting the compliance with some businesses in particular … we are now considering issuing citations to those establishments who continue to refuse to comply with those public health orders that are in place.”

Weber said her department has been fielding complaints about two specific businesses and is communicating with managers there about the seriousness of mask compliance.

But Weber said she’s about done with verbal warnings after seeing a video of a bar packed full of maskless people watching football last week.

Teton County Director of Health Jodie Pond said she received the video in a formal complaint from a concerned community member and believed a call to the police department was necessary.

“It was a lot of people shoulder to shoulder,” Pond said. “It was very clear that the public health orders were not being followed.”

Pond said it’s frustrating to see people gathering like that, because the only way to keep valley businesses open is for people to be responsible and mindful when they’re out in public.

People urged to get COVID vaccine in home county

RIVERTON (WNE) — As efforts across the state to help prevent COVID-19 deaths and illnesses by providing free, safe and effective vaccinations continue, the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) has a request as well as a few key reminders for residents interested in receiving the vaccine. 

WDH officials are strongly encouraging most people to get their vaccines within their own counties. 

“Vaccine is being distributed largely based on population estimates. Going across county lines to receive vaccines can harm the other county’s ability to meet the needs of their own residents,” said Angie Van Houten, Community Health Section chief with WDH. “There are a few situations such as for certain workers employed in a different county from where they live that are understandable, but most people really should look to their own county’s resources.

“This is already a complicated effort for many reasons such as limited doses, specialized vaccine storage requirements and the need to target priority groups,” Van Houten continued. “When people go to other counties to get shots, it makes things tougher for everyone.” 

The currently authorized vaccines require two doses for maximum protection. 

Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said, “We want you to get both doses and part of our state and local efforts includes planning for two doses. “People will need to get their second doses in the same location where they get their first, which is another reason to stay closer to home.”

 
 

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