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Wednesday, Feb. 10, 1999

Doddridge teacher
indicted on sex charges

by James Fisher

    A Doddridge County Middle School teacher has been released on $2,000 personal recognizance bond following his arraignment before Circuit Judge Robert Holland Jr. for two attempted sexual assault charges.
John S. Trent Jr. was indicted by the Doddridge County grand jury Monday for one count of attempted sexual assault by a custodian and one count of first-degree attempted sexual assault. The indictments stem from an alleged Dec. 21 incident. It is unclear whether the incident happened within or out of school.
    The West Virginia State Police investigated the incident but declined to comment about the case.
Doddridge County Prosecutor Lou Sammons was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
    Trent, a 26-year veteran of the Doddridge County school system, teaches physical education at the middle school and is also a track and cross-country coach, according to Doddridge County Schools Superintendent Ron Nichols.
Nichols has already taken action concerning the allegations, but declined to comment about Trent's status with the school system until after his trial.
    Nichols said any permanent action concerning Trent will have to be decided by the entire school board. Nothing will be decided until after Trent's trial in circuit court, he said.
    "I haven't been here as long as he has, but he has always been a very successful teacher and coach," Nichols said.
Janice Michels, principal at the middle school, could not be reached at the school for comment Tuesday. The school was closed because of a flu outbreak, according to Nichols. Trent was unavailable for comment at his home in Salem.

Flu bug busy

by Julie R. Cryser

    If you want to know the symptoms of this year's flu, you can probably just turn around and look at the person beside you, according to local doctors and nurses. The flu season has arrived with a vengeance. It's closed down local schools and wreaked havoc on offices. "I think we've seen more cases this year than last," said Janet Mullooly, a registered nurse at Doctor's Quick Care near Anmoore. "I think it's probably a little worse."
    The symptoms are the same as usual - sore throat, headaches, nasal congestion, body aches, vomiting and a dry cough. But this year some of the symptoms seem to be hanging on for a longer time, sometimes for up to three weeks, Mullooly said.
More than 50 percent of the patient load at Doctors' Quick Care this week has been flu-related, Mullooly said. About 20 to 25 percent of the patients at Medbrook Medical Center, also an urgent care facility, have been flu patients, according to doctors there.
    Doddridge County Superintendent Ron Nichols closed the county's middle school Tuesday. About 27 percent of the students were absent Monday because of the flu. "This is the worst year that I remember in the six that I have been here," Nichols said.
    Nichols said this is the first time he's had to close a school because of a flu outbreak. Last Thursday, the county's high school had a 28 percent absence rate, so Nichols closed it Friday. The county as a whole averages a daily attendance rate of 94 to 97 percent.
    Sedalia Middle School, which experienced a 27 percent absence rate Tuesday, closed today. Nichols said he will continue to monitor all of the schools. "We're just doing everything we can in terms of making sure the facilities are as sanitary as possible," Nichols said.
    The bad news: the peak probably hasn't even hit yet. Doctors say the flu season will likely linger on for the next two to three weeks, topping out by the end of February. If you haven't gotten the flu yet, there are a few things you can do to keep from getting it. Wash your hands often at work and send those who are sick home. "If people are sick, stay at home and don't infect co-workers," Mullooly said.
    If caught in the early stages, anti-viral medications, such as Flumadine and Amantadine, can help relieve some of the symptoms. Antibiotics won't kill the flu virus, doctors and nurses say, but they will treat some of the problems associated with the virus, especially since the symptoms seem to be coming along in stages.
    First there is vomiting and aching. Then, there's a build-up of mucus that causes head congestion, which in turn can cause sinus infections or bronchitis, according to Dr. Brad Hall at Medbrook. Sinus infections and bronchitis are treatable with antibiotics.
    "A lot of people are going from one thing to another," Hall said of the move from one symptom to the next. "Mucus is like fertilizer for their gardens." Those who must be most cautious are the elderly, children, pregnant women and people with chronic illness. The flu can complicate other health problems, doctors said. The elderly and children also tend to dehydrate easily.
    Besides taking decongestants, anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications to treat the symptoms, doctors prescribe plenty of rest, lots of fluids and saltwater gargles. And, they can't stress enough for you to remember to wash your hands regularly. "Stop and think about it the grocery carts that you put your hands on," Mullooly said.

Nutter Fort has new life-saving tool

by James Fisher

    A water rescue can be just as dangerous for emergency crews as the person in trouble. The Nutter Fort Fire Department has bought a device designed to make those situations a little safer for everyone involved. The Mossberg Line Launcher is a specially modified 12-gauge shotgun designed to throw a safety line up to 1,000 feet, said Assistant Chief Scott Robinson.
The unit comes with three arrow-like pieces to which the rope attaches, he said. With the buoyant floater tip attached, the rope can be fired about 200 feet. The unit also comes with two weighted, streamlined tips that enable emergency crews to launch a line about 1,000 feet.
    "We felt this would be safer for everyone," Robinson said. "We're always trying to find easier ways to help people."
Only a few departments in the state have the device, Robinson said, but Nutter Fort is the  only department in North Central West Virginia with the line launcher.
    Fire officials decided to buy the line launcher and enlisted the aid of Nutter Fort Police Chief Ron Godwin for the purchase. The department purchased the device from Harrison County Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Haught, who has a firearms license to sell weapons.
    The department's line officers must now attend a firearms safety class taught by Godwin to be certified to use the line launcher. Not all firefighters will be  certified in the use of the line launcher. The device can be used in a variety of ways, Robinson said. "Back in the '85 flood, we had a car in the river near Walnut Hills," he said. "We had firemen in a boat, but by the time they got to the car, logs had jammed up and the boat flipped."
    The National Guard was called to help rescue not only the person in the car but the two firefighters as well, he said.
The line launcher could have  been used to send a safety line to the person in the car. The line could have been tied off at the car and the shore and then used by firefighters to stabilize the boat.
    Robinson also cited another incident in which rescue crews searched for nearly a week for a body in a river. "We were all over the river, bumping into each other, and it took us a while to find the body," he said. "We could have used the line launcher to section off the river and stabilize the boats."
    The device is used mostly as a safety back-up line. But with the floater head attached, rescue crews can also use it to pull someone out of a river or lake. "Instead of putting our firemen and other rescue crews at more risk in rescuing people, we can use the line launcher," Robinson said. "We are always looking for safer ways to rescue people."

Road ruling goes both ways

by Troy Graham

    CHARLESTON - The state conducted the proper studies when ruling out alternatives to Corridor H, but failed to properly study the impact of the road on historical landmarks, a U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
The ruling will most likely clear the way for construction to resume on a 3.5-mile section of the four-lane highway that will bypass Elkins. Other sections, for which contracts have been awarded, remain in limbo, officials said after the ruling was announced.
    Corridor H Alternatives, an opposition group, sued the state, arguing that the state did not give enough consideration to alternatives such as improving existing two-lane roads. The federal court disagreed, saying the state Department of  Transportation discussed in detail the reasons why that alternative could not adequately address issues such as roadway deficiencies, safety considerations and regional system linkage." That ruling clears the way for Corridor H to be constructed as a four-lane highway.
    The court sided with the opponents, however, on their contention that the state did not adequately study the impact of the road on historical landmarks, such as several Civil War battlefields. The state had not considered the historical impact of the entire road, which would run from Weston to the Virginia state line. The state had planned to study the impact on each segment as it is built. Opponents said this would allow the state to build up to the landmarks and then argue that it was too late to move the road.
    Rod Blackstone, a governor's spokesman, said that method was decided upon because it was more efficient and would allow construction to start sooner. The court sided with the opponents, saying the state must first determine the historical impact along the entire route.
    Corridor H is one of the only Appalachian Corridors approved by Congress in the 1960s that hasn't been built. It would run through one of the most rugged and undeveloped sections of the state.
    Proponents say it would provide a safer road for residents and tourists and would open up the region to economic development. Opponents say the road would do little for the economy and would destroy the environment of the Potomac Highlands. Both sides declared a certain amount of victory after the ruling was handed down.
    "They were seeking to stop us altogether and the good news is they have failed to do it," said Blackstone. He called the ruling on the historical studies a "minor setback." Chuck Merritt, with Corridor H Alternatives, said he was pleased with that portion of the ruling and his group will be "watchdogging the road to make sure they do the studies right."
    Merritt said the ruling will most likely end that lawsuit, but the group has another suit pending in federal court to protect Corrick's Ford, a Civil War battlefield. Blackstone said it is too early to tell if the state will file any appeals on the ruling.
Merritt and Blackstone agreed that construction on the 3.5-mile northern bypass section at Elkins will most likely continue. It is unclear if other segments will be able to continue as well, they said. The new historical impact studies could be completed by the middle of the summer, Blackstone said.

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