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Local and area briefs for Sunday, September 27, 1998

Gilmer man killed in gas explosion

PENNSBORO (AP) -- A Gilmer County man was killed in explosion at a gas drilling rig, authorities say.

James E. Robinson, 39, of Stouts Mills died Thursday in the accident near Pennsboro, Ritchie County, said a State Police spokeswoman at the Parkersburg detachment.

Police would not release additional details about the accident at S.W. Jack Drilling.

Robinson is survived by two daughters and several brothers and sisters.

Land firms want say in mountaintop suit

CHARLESTON (AP) -- Two land holding companies want their say in a federal lawsuit that seeks to curb mountaintop removal mining.

Western Pocahontas Properties Limited Partnership and the National Council of Coal Lessors Inc. filed a motion Friday to intervene in the suit.

The motion claims any further restrictions on mountaintop removal mining will have a negative impact on the companies. The motion says the companies that own coal property have "significant monetary resources at stake in this action."

The lawsuit, filed in July by the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and 10 coalfield residents, claims the state Division of Environmental Protection has issued permits for such mines without water pollution control permits required by federal law.

Va. Tech student missing in W.Va.

BLACKSBURG (AP) --Authorities are investigating the disappearance of a 24-year-old Virginia Tech graduate student whose vehicle was found abandoned on the side of a West Virginia highway.

Police said Robert Kovack was last seen leaving his apartment at about 5 p.m. Sept. 18. His car was found four days later along U.S. 19 near the New River Gorge Bridge, about halfway between Blacksburg and his parents' home in Rivesville.

Police said Kovack apparently was headed to his parents' home when he disappeared, but his mother was not so sure.

"If my son was coming, he would have called and told me he was coming," Jackie Kovack said. "He never left without calling. He always called and said 'Mom, I'm on my way.'"


Main Street in West Union to be closed

Main Street in West Union will be closed from noon-5:30 p.m. Monday and 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday for utility work.


$330,000 in equipment stolen

CHARLESTON (AP) -- More than $330,000 worth of electrical equipment has been stolen from the former state turnpike Memorial Tunnel, officials say.

Among the stolen equipment was 138 circuit breakers, worth about $3,000 each. The 400-amp breakers have a variety of industrial uses, and are commonly used in coal mines, said Billy Gavan, general manager of the state Parkways Authority.

The theft was made public Friday, but occurred Sept. 2, Gavan said.

The thieves apparently had extensive knowledge about the tunnel and about electricity, because they were able to shut off power to the site before they removed the high-voltage equipment.

"This was not three boys from the hollow," Gavan said.

State Police investigators found three sets of footprints in the tunnel. Supplies kept in the tunnel were untouched, investigators said.