<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Top Stories]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.comen-usFri, 01 Jul 2016 16:57:01 -0400Fri, 01 Jul 2016 16:57:01 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Severe Weather Moving Across Connecticut]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 16:56:14 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Tornado+Watch+July+1+new.jpg

A tornado watch has been issued for the four western counties of Connecticut -- Hartford, New Haven, Fairfield and Litchfield counties -- until 10 p.m.

Over the border in New York, just to the west of Kent, a tornado warning was issued earlier this afternoon.

A tornado watch is issued when conditions are favorable for storms that could produce a tornado, while a warning is highest level and means a tornado is imminent or has been spotted.

The strong thunderstorms are in advance of a cold front and flights are affected in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

The worst weather will continue through approximately 10 p.m. this evening.

The Storm Prediction Center has issued an enhanced risk for severe weather for most of the state.

Damaging wind is the greatest threat, followed by hail and possibly even a tornado.

The greatest threat for a tornado is in the Hudson Valley of New York.

Once the front clears after midnight, delightful weather is in store for the holiday weekend.

Saturday will be mostly sunny with temperatures near 80 degrees.

Lots of sunshine will make for a very bright Sunday, with highs in the middle 80s.

The Fourth of July will be warmest, with a blend of clouds and sunshine. Temperatures will be well into the 80s inland, but more like lower 80s at the beaches.

A heat wave is possible at the end of next week, when temperatures will soar to 90 degrees.

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<![CDATA[Police Investigating an Assault in Norwalk]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 11:56:11 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Norwalk+police+car+1200.jpg

Norwalk police officers are investigating an assault on Highland Avenue and they are searching for the assailant.

Police said they are looking for a heavy set red-faced man in his 50s with short spikey hair. He was wearing a yellow shirt, jean shorts and white sneakers.

No additional information was immediately available.


Anyone with any information is asked to call Norwalk police at 203-854-3044,

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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<![CDATA[Youth Minister Allegedly Had Sexual Relations With Juvenile]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 16:43:40 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/100110999_000001.jpg

A Hamden man who volunteers as a youth minister for a local church is being accused of having sexual relations with a minor, police said.

Charges for Lionel McFadden include second-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor.

An investigation was launched by the Hamden Police Department Special Victims Unit and an arrest warrant for McFadden was issued. 

The 27-year-old turned himself into police on June 30. 

McFadden's bond was set at $20,000 and he is expected to appear in court on July 14. 

Photo Credit: Hamden Police]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Says He Expects Congress to Move on Zika Virus]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 16:41:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ZIKA_GettyImages-537671534.jpg

About $25 million was dispensed by federal health officials Friday to help states at risk from Zika defend against its spread — cash taken from other programs because Congress has not approved fresh funding to fight the virus, NBC News reported. 

New Zika funding has been deadlocked in Congress, despite demands from President Barack Obama for increased funding to the tune of $1.9 billion. 

"I expect Congress to get this funding done before they leave for vacation, before they adjourn. That's part of their basic responsibility," Obama said.         

Republicans in the Senate presented a $1.1 billion spending plan with provisions that Democrats said were unacceptable. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there are 935 confirmed cases in at least 45 states and Washington D.C. Another 2,000 cases were reported in Puerto Rico, Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Photo Credit: Getty Images ]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Killed in Avon Mountain Crash Had Drugs, Alcohol in System]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 15:55:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/avon+mountain+crash_1200.jpg

A 33-year-old Simsbury woman who was killed in a crash on Avon Mountain in May was under the influence of alcohol and drugs, according to police.

Kelly Gregory was driving on Route 44, swerved and collided into a SUV that was going westbound on Albany Avenue, near the West Hartford town line, around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, May 4, according to police.

Police said Gregory's blood acohol level was .212, which is more than two and a half times the legal limit. She also had drugs in her system.

The man in the SUV was treated at a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, police said. 

The crash happened on the West Hartford side of the mountain and Route 44 has since reopened.

Renbrook School postponed a concert for grades 4 to 9 due to the road closure. 

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Killed in Avon Mountain Crash was Driving Drunk: Police]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 15:43:27 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/avon+mountain+crash_1200.jpg

A 33-year-old Simsbury woman was killed in a crash in Avon and West Hartford in May had a been drinking and doing drugs while driving, police said. 

Kelly Gregory was driving on Route 44, swerved and collided into a SUV that was going westbound, police said. Avon Mountain was shut down following the crash. 

The man in the SUV was treated at a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, police said. 

Both cars had total damage.

Police said on Friday that Gregory had a BAC of .212 and had drugs in her system. They concluded that Gregory was driving under the influence, unreasonable spped and reckless operation. 

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[30 Become American Citizens, Including Kerri-Lee Mayland]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 14:55:21 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Kerri-Lee+Mayland+Us+citizen.jpg

For years, 30 people patiently waiting in Middletown's City Hall have been hoping to become American citizens, waiting while their children grow, waiting for this afternoon.

PFC Wilder Diaz, of the U.S. Army, is one of them.

"It's definitely pressure to become a citizen, plus I'm in the military and I'm serving this country. Just one of my dreams come true, pretty much," he said.

"Makes me proud, double because he's from the Army. He's fighting for freedom, so it made me really proud," his wife, Grecher Pacheco, who's already a citizen, said.

Hanna Lobodzinska of Southington said with a laugh, "Very good, very nice, very happy! American people, not Polish!"

She registered to vote before the ceremony and so did NBC Connecticut’s Kerri-Lee Mayland, who is also one of the new citizens. All of them had to pass naturalization interviews and a test on American law and government.

"I was asked who is our Vice President now," Agnes Martin said. "It is Joe Biden."

Biden wasn't there, but a couple of congressmen were, as a federal magistrate presided, directing the candidates to stand, raise their right hands, renounce their past countries and pledge their allegiance to their new one, the United States of America.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Riders Stuck on Roller Coaster]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 15:57:13 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/stuck-roller-coaster.jpg

About a dozen people were on a roller coaster that became stuck on the tracks at Six Flags Over Texas Friday morning.

The New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster — formerly known as The Shockwave — stopped on the tracks during ride's initial ascent about 11 a.m.

Park officials said a sensor indicated a possible problem with the ride and stopped the train at a "safe place."

While the issue was investigated, crew members brought water to the stranded passengers. After a short wait, passengers were escorted down the emergency ramp at 11:25 a.m.

Sharon Parker, with the theme park, said the ride will be shut down for an inspection. Parker did not say when the park hoped to reopen the ride.

No further details have been released.

On Wednesday, eight people were escorted off a stuck roller coaster at Frontier City in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma riders, which included children aged 7 to 15, were stranded on the coaster for about an hour before they were safely removed.

NBC 5's Alice Barr contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[Man Shot in Head in Waterbury]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 14:24:47 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/waterbury+police+department.jpg

A man was shot in the head in Waterbury early Friday morning and police are searching for the shooter.

Police received a report at 2:51 a.m. about a man being shot in the face.

Officers responded and found a man with gunshot wounds to his right temple, right shoulder and left forearm. He was then transported to St Mary's Hospital, where he remains conscious and alert, police said.

The vehicle involved was described as a cranberry colored Chevy Impala with three men inside.

Anyone with information about the shooting should call Waterbury Police.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Clinton Maintains Edge in New NBC Battleground Map]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 14:18:55 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/split2-trump-clinton-june7.jpg

With both parties now having their presumptive nominees and with new battleground-state polling and maneuvering to chew on, NBC News updated its battleground map. The result: Hillary Clinton maintains her advantage, having 255 electoral votes in her column to Donald Trump's 190; 93 are in Tossup. Back in May, it was Clinton 253, Trump 190, Tossup 95. The big changes from two months ago: We moved Florida from Tossup to Lean Dem; Nevada and Pennsylvania from Lean Dem to Tossup; Utah from Likely GOP to Lean GOP; Mississippi and Montana from Lean GOP to Likely GOP; and New Jersey from Lean Dem to Likely Dem.

Photo Credit: AP; Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[‘It’s Thundering’: The View From a NYC Fireworks Barge on July Fourth]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 10:26:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/weehawken.jpg

As crowds pack the banks of the East River Monday for the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks display, a small group of trained professionals will be just feet from mortars as fireworks launch out of them and explode into the sky.

Pyrotechnicians dressed in life vests and wearing protective ear mufflers will be on each of the East River barges when the fireworks launch, said Gary Souza, the pyrotechnician who designed the show.

Souza, who has been on barges in the past, will be in a midtown command center this year, communicating with the barge-based pyrotechnicians via walkie-talkie as the show takes off.

The view from the barges is unique and stunning, according to Souza, a fifth-generation pyrotechnician who first worked the show from a barge when he was 18 in 1982.

"It’s very shocking; it’s thundering; it shakes your feet and rocks your head. It thumps your chest," Souza said about the barge-view of a show’s finale. "You really can’t feel it quite as well when you’re a thousand feet away."

For Souza, there are three parts of the show that are particularly striking from the barge.

The first is the beginning, when the first fireworks launch out of the strategically placed mortars, making a "thud" as they take off.

"It strikes your chest," Souza said of the first launch. "You reach a moment of euphoria because now we’re going. We’re gone."

The second is when the largest fireworks — up to 10 inches in diameter, weighing 50 pounds — blast off from the mortar.

"The barge sinks," he said.

The third is the finale, when the show reaches its crescendo and hundreds of fireworks launch from all five barges at the same time.

"It just rumbles," he said. "It echoes your ear. And to hear the crowd roar — it’s just what we do it for."

The view from the vantage point also gives a unique perspective of even the simple fireworks that make up the show.

"They wiz by. They fly right in front of you," Souza said. "They make a very crisp, sharp crackle. Even a simple red burst, you can hear each star etching its color in the sky."

And after they explode, he said, it looks like a colorful mushroom or flower in the sky directly above the river, until they "cascade down in an ephemeral waterfall type shape."

This year, Souza said, gazers will see fireworks from nine countries shoot out of the mortars. The show has it’s own soundtrack and one original song written specifically for the display.

Viewers will also see the fireworks change color 17 different times — a record number for a show designed by Souza, he said.

Kenny Chesney, 5 Seconds of Summer, Meghan Trainor, the Radio City Rockettes, Pitbull and DNCE are set to perform at this year's "Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular" on Monday. The show will air on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Man Choked, Tried to Drown Cat: Police]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 12:35:20 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/waterbury+police+cruiser+generic.jpg

Police are investigating reports of a man trying to drown a cat in the Naugatuck River in Waterbury on Thursday morning and they are trying to identify him.

Someone who heard a small animal crying from the bridge area of South Main and South Leonard streets called police just after 11 a.m. and officers responded.

Police said a man who was standing on the bridge over the river appeared to be choking a small cat, then threw the animal into the water and tossed big pieces of asphalt at it.

Then, he got into the river and pulled the cat underwater from a string around its neck, police said.

After attempting to drown the animal, he ran up the embankment and got into a blue two-door Mitsubishi or Mazda with a broken front windshield, police said.

He fled when witnesses confronted him, but one witness continued to follow for a short distance.

When the man who attacked the cat stopped on St. Jean Street, he got out of his car with a hammer, police said. After the confrontation, he got back into his car and left.

Police officers were able to find the cat in the water under the bridge and brought the animal to Mattatuck Animal Hospital.

Police are looking for a short, stocky man with a scruffy appearance. He was wearing tan cargo shorts, a gray T-shirt and a black baseball hat.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Wanted Woman Captured]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 12:16:31 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Shanika+Minor+Pics.jpg

The Milwaukee woman added to the FBI's "10 Most Wanted Fugitives" list for the killing of a pregnant woman was captured early Friday, authorities said.

Shanika Minor, 24, was taken into custody in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the FBI's Milwaukee bureau tweeted.

Minor is wanted in the March shooting death of 23-year-old Tamecca Perry. Perry's unborn child also died in the shooting.

According to NBC affiliate WTMB, Perry also had two children. 

Authorities say Minor shot Perry, who was within a week of giving birth, after a confrontation over loud music at the duplex where Minor's mother also lived.

Minor fled after the shooting and has not been found. She is described as African-American, 5-foot-6 inches tall, weighing 165 pounds, of medium build with black hair and brown eyes. She has a display of roses tattooed on her lower abdomen.

Officials said Minor might be receiving help from friends or extended family members in Missouri, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, Ohio and Georgia, NBC News reported. 

A reward of up to $100,000 is being offered.

Photo Credit: FBI]]>
<![CDATA[Driver in Stolen Car Dragged Manchester Sergeant]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 11:00:36 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/manchester+police+generic.jpg

A man in a stolen car dragged a Manchester police sergeant who tried to stop him and police are searching for the driver.

The sergeant saw the driver of a 2005 gray Ford Explorer operating erratically around 5:30 a.m. and stopped the person, who pulled into the driveway of a residence on Starkweather Street, police said.

As the sergeant was speaking with the driver, the driver pulled out of the driveway and dragged the sergeant for a short time before the sergeant fell.

The driver then fled the scene in the vehicle, which has Connecticut registration 680ZTO, police said.

The vehicle had been reported stolen earlier in the night from East Haven.

The sergeant was treated at a local hospital and has been released.

Anyone with information should call Manchester Police at (860) 645-5500.

<![CDATA[Old Lyme Man Hit by Truck, Flown to Hospital]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 09:38:55 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/police+generic3.jpg

A 52-year-old Old Lyme man was hit by a pickup when he stepped into Boston Post Road in Old Lyme early Friday morning and LifeStar responded, according to state police.

Police said Eric Powers, 52, stepped into the road near his house just after 1:30 a.m. and was struck. LifeStar brought him to Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Police are investigating and said it’s not clear why Powers stepped into the road.

Anyone with information is asked to call 860-399-2100.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[July 4: How Americans Will Celebrate 240 Years of Independence]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 10:55:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/macys+fireworks1.jpg

Every year, Americans honor the country's independence on the Fourth of July by celebrating freedom with fireworks, barbecues and beach getaways. 

July Fourth has only been a federal holiday since 1941, but Americans have celebrated Independence Day since the 18th century. During the summer of 1776 some colonists held parades and fired canons to accompany reading of the newly signed Declaration of Independence.

The following year Philadelphia hosted the first annual independence celebration on July 4. 

Here's what to know about the national holiday on the 240th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

$6.8 billion: The amount of money predicted to be spent celebrating the July 4 holiday this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

$71.34: The average amount of money Americans are expected to spend on food per household, according to the National Retail Federation.

15,000: The numbers of fireworks displays held to celebrate July 4 each year, according to Wallethub.

40: The number of years Macy's has been putting on their fireworks display in New York City. It's the biggest display in the country. This year, the viewers will see fireworks from nine countries and they will change colors 17 times.

$311.7 million: The value of fireworks imported from China in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

150 million: The approximate number of hot dogs consumed each July 4, according to Wallethub.

69: The record number of hot dogs eaten in 10 minutes at the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. Joey Chestnut set that world record in 2013. 

64: The percentage of Americans who will attend a July 4 barbecue or picnic, according to Wallethub.

$3.1 million: The value of U.S. flags exported in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

43 million: The estimated number of Americans who will be traveling this holiday weekend, according to AAA. Most will be driving. 

$2.29: The average price for a gallon of regular gas this weekend, according to AAA. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Drug Possession Case for Yale Doc Continued]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 10:52:24 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/dog+attack+new+haven_1200.jpg

A Yale University psychiatrist who was arrested on drug charges after his two dogs attacked a woman in New Haven is due in court on July 15 after the case was continued. 

Police filed the charge against Hamilton Hicks, 36, of New Haven, after responding to his home on Ella Grasso Boulevard on June 20 to investigate a dog attack.

The victim, Jocelyn Winfrey, 53, of New Haven, was rushed to Yale-New Haven Hospital and died a week later from injuries, officials said.

Hicks, who owns the dogs, was trembling and covered in dirt and blood when officers arrived. He said the dogs attacked Winfrey in the fenced in area the dogs were kept in.

Hicks said he'd been able to get one of the dogs inside his home and the other dog was contained to the yard, but not secured, according to police. 

Police found three bags of crack cocaine on him and charged him with possession of a controlled substance, police said.

Hicks was due in court on July 1, but his attorney asked the court to continue the case for two weeks. 

Hicks, who sustained dog bites, was also brought to the hospital and was issued a promise to appear on that charge because of his injuries.

Hicks lawfully owned the dogs and they were on his property, so he won't be charged in connection with the attack, police said. 

The two dogs were quarantined and are scheduled to be euthanized, according to police.

A spokesman for the mayor's office initially said the dogs were pit bulls, but New Haven's animal control officer said the dogs were American bulldog mixes.

Photo Credit: Neighbor photo]]>
<![CDATA[Intruder Barricaded Himself in Attic of Bristol Home: Police]]> Thu, 30 Jun 2016 10:43:44 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Joseph+Saluski+mug+shot.jpg

A man who broke into a home in Bristol on Wednesday night barricaded himself in the attic until officers captured him, police said.

Officers responded to a single-family home on Fairview Avenue at 8:47 p.m. after a neighbor reported a man breaking into the home.

When officers arrived, the intruder was still in the house and authorities tried to get him to come out, but he refused and went further into the house, then barricaded himself in the attic, police said.

Bristol’s Emergency Response Team was also called in because it was not clear if the man had a weapon. 

Police eventually captured the intruder and identified the suspect as Joseph Saluski, 41, of Bristol.

He has been charged with third-degree burglary, criminal attempt at larceny in the sixth degree, criminal mischief in the second degree, interfering with an officer and possession of burglary tools.

Saluski was able to post the $30,000 bond placed on him, but was released to a Hartford Police Department, which has a larceny arrest warrant for him.

Photo Credit: Bristol Police]]>
<![CDATA[Kenny Chesney, Meghan Trainor to Perform at 'Fireworks Spectacular']]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 16:42:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/fireworks-479518210.jpg

Kenny Chesney, 5 Seconds of Summer, Meghan Trainor, the Radio City Rockettes, Pitbull and DNCE are set to perform at this year's "Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular" Monday on NBC. 

"Today" co-hosts Willie Geist and Tamron Hall will return to host the two-hour Monday broadcast featuring fireworks lighting up sky over New York City.

The 2016 display, which will include more than 56,000 pyrotechnic effects, will be fired from five locations on the East River in midtown and within the Seaport district. This year, the 25-minute display will introduce pyro-writing, which uses fireworks to spell out USA in the sky.


Amy Kule, the executive producer of the event, said in a press release that this is their biggest show since the millennial display in 2000, which included more than 60,000 firework shells launched from 13 barges surrounding New York City. The is the 40th year of the annual event. 

The fireworks celebration will be choreographed to an arrangement of patriotic musical selections, including "This Land is Your Land," "The Star-Spangled Banner," "God Bless America," among others. The show will culminate with a rendition of "America the Beautiful" performed by Jennifer Holliday and the United States Air Force Band. A bell will also chime 13 times during the display to pay homage to the original 13 colonies.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Officials Work Together to Try to Battle Opioid Epidemic]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 11:57:06 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/New+Haven+opiod+roundtable.jpg

Connecticut Congress members, local officials, first responders and people who work in the community met in New Haven on Friday to work on ways to try to stop opioid addiction epidemic from taking an even tighter hold in the state than it already has.

The roundtable discussion comes on the day Connecticut’s new opioid law takes effect and a week after more than a dozen people in New Haven overdosed on the synthetic opioid, fentanyl, in a single day and several died.

Connecticut’s U.S. senators, U.S. Rep Rosa DeLauro, New Haven’s police chief, U.S. Attorney Deidre Daley and others are working on a plan to prevent something like this from happening again.

The new Connecticut law that went into effect today prohibits doctors from prescribing an opioid drug to an adult for more than seven days. If the patient is a minor, doctors can only prescribe in seven-day increments and are now required to counsel young people and their parents about the perils of the drugs.

The new law also requires first responders across the state to have access to the anti- overdose drug naloxone and be trained to administer it.

The people who gathered for the meeting Friday discussed comprehensive ways to prevent addiction in the first place, and treat it once it happens.

Ideas they brought up include more comprehensive treatment programs, regulating opioid prescriptions and solving the social problems that force some people to turn to drugs.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal called Congress “AWOL” on the issue of opioid addiction.

“The resources have to be devoted and they have to come from the federal government and they have to be now because we cannot afford to lose another generation on the streets,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal, Sen. Chris Murphy and Rep. Rosa DeLauro called on their colleagues to make emergency funding to battle the crisis a top priority.

“Two years ago with less than six cases of Ebola in the entire country, Congress allocated $4 billion in emergency funding. We haven’t allocated a dime of emergency funding to the heroin and opioid crisis,” Murphy said.

One topic everyone speaking at the meeting agreed on was that Connecticut cannot arrest its way out of this crisis.

They said more resources for police to target drug distributors are needed, as well as more treatment for the addicted and tougher prescription laws to keep people from getting addicted in the first place.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Highway Assistance Motorist Patrol to Continue in ‘Short Term’]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 08:41:12 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Connecticut+CHAMP+1200.jpg

Just hours before the start of the new fiscal year, Department of Transportation officials confirmed exclusively to NBC Connecticut that CHAMP, or the Connecticut Highway Assistance Motorist Patrol, will continue “in the short term,” while sources confirm the DOT will seek to privatize the fleet by securing corporate sponsorship for the long term.

The roadside assistance program was set to be shut down on July 1 as the new state budget takes effect. State funding for CHAMP was eliminated in a line item in that budget amid millions in cuts to the DOT. The line item reads “Eliminate the CHAMP Program.”

When NBC Connecticut reporter Heidi Voight first broke this story on June 2, the DOT said in a statement they hoped to keep the program running, but could not elaborate on how they would achieve that. Since that story aired, we heard from several CHAMP drivers who said they didn’t even know their jobs were on the line until they watched our report.

Since its creation in 1996, CHAMP has expanded to a fleet of 15 specialized vehicles that roam the state’s busiest highways during the highest volume hours. Every weekday from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., CHAMP drivers provide roadside assistance free of charge, including pushing disabled vehicles safely out of travel lanes, changing tires and providing jumpstarts or emergency fuel. They also provide shelter for drivers awaiting a tow.

Initially created primarily as a way to mitigate the impact of incidents on overall traffic congestion, CHAMP has been lauded by taxpayers and state officials alike, receiving the Governor’s Service Award in 2007 for service excellence. One CHAMP driver received a Commissioner’s Award for stopping a wrong- way driver on Interstate 95.

About 20,000 drivers a year are helped free of charge by the 30 DOT workers who operate this fleet. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, NBC Connecticut was able to obtain letters and comment cards sent to the DOT by some of these drivers.

Some examples include:

  • A family with a flat tire on Interstate 91 in Rocky Hill said the CHAMP truck rolled up before they even had a chance to call 911, and got them safely back on the road in 10 minutes.
  • A woman whose car broke down on Interstate 95 who said her CHAMP driver “kept me safe in a very dangerous spot until AAA arrived.”

The CHAMP program is funded in large part by the Federal Highway Administration, which tells NBC Connecticut they cover 80 percent of the cost, providing $3.8 million in funding every two years. The state covers the remaining costs -- $641,000 every two years.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Boy Nearly Drowns on Cruise Ship]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 09:49:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/JacobTrippin.jpg

A Caribbean-bound cruise ship that departed New Jersey on Thursday returned to shore after a boy nearly drowned in one of the boat’s pools, officials said.

The 8-year-old boy from Maryland had "an accident" in one of the ship’s pools, Royal Caribbean Cruises tweeted at about 10 p.m.

Law enforcement officials said the Anthem of the Seas cruise ship departed from Bayonne at 4:30 p.m. and was returning at 9:30 p.m. because of the medical emergency. 

The Coast Guard retrieved the child from the ship by Medivac helicopter and he was taken to Staten Island University Hospital. His family was expected to meet him there. The ship was docked in Bayonne early Friday morning. 

The boy was in critical condition Friday, The Associated Press reported, citing the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard said the boy had been in the water for eight to 10 minutes before cruise officials found him. Police described the boy as the victim of a drowning or near-drowning. 

Royal Caribbean said on Twitter the boy was being treated at the hospital and the cruise line’s care team was providing support to his family.

This isn’t the first time Anthem of the Seas made headlines this year: It sailed into a storm in the Atlantic Ocean in February, tossing passengers and furniture around the vessel. Passengers described it as "a cruise from hell."

Photo Credit: @JacobTrippin/Twitter
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<![CDATA[$52.5M Pool Not Viable Unless Large Insurers Agree to Participate ]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 14:43:31 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/photo+of+crumbling+foundation+1200.jpg

Hundreds of homeowners in eastern Connecticut who are dealing with crumbling foundations, could soon have access to a $52.5 million pool of money, but how much each homeowner would get is still unclear.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters learned the state spent months negotiating the insurance industry to create programs to provide homeowners in Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties with up to 90 percent of the cost of replacing their foundations.

Several state agencies and Governor Dannel Malloy have been directly involved in the process.

"This is a multi-pronged approach in government to reach out to the insurers as well as the folks affected to try to see if we can bring some level of relief," Malloy said.

Here's how the program would work:

The state pinpoints ground zero of the foundation problem in Stafford. Any Connecticut homeowner living within a 20 mile radius would be eligible to apply for the program. State officials acknowledge there are few homeowners with crumbling foundations just outside the 20 mile radius, but they would still be eligible to apply for the program.

In order to qualify, a licensed home inspector must verify that a home shows "map cracking", which is a telltale sign of the oxidizing iron sulfide mineral pyrrhotite, which the state says is causing the concrete to deteriorate.

Insurers can require a homeowner to get a test that shows at least 15 percent composition of reactive pyrrhotite in the concrete aggregate.

The insurance company would cover 50 percent of the cost of the test, but would reimburse a homeowner's share, if the home ultimately qualifies for the program.

Once the application process is done, the state's department of insurance would calculate of the total cost of all the verified claims.

At that point, each homeowner would be offered a minimum amount, a percentage of the cost of replacing the foundation, based on how many homeowners are in the pool.

To date, only 235 homeowners have filed claims with the state, but high ranking officials, including Malloy, expect many more would come forward if this insurance pool becomes a reality.

"Part of the problem of these discussions are, what is the scope, what is the size? So the sooner we have a better idea, the easier it is to reach a final agreement," Malloy said.

Sources tell NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters the negotiations provided several potential benefits to entice companies to participate, including the fact that the Department of Insurance assured the companies that they could make up any money spent in the foundations pool by raising rates for Connecticut homeowners in the future

Nevertheless, at this point, only four companies have agreed to take part, including Travelers and the Hartford and Amica. Some of the firms with the largest market share in the state have not joined the pool, so far.

"We have had positive conversations with a number of the companies. A number of companies are saying, 'hey, I want to know what the rest of the companies are doing'", Malloy said.

Among the insurers with the largest market share in Connecticut, Liberty Mutual, AllState and State Farm have not yet agreed to take part in the program.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reached out to all three companies. Liberty mutual and State Farm declined to comment, but in a statement to NBC Connecticut, All-State writes:

"In light of the general belief that the issue with the concrete is due to defective concrete and/or the improper mixing and installation of the concrete, we believe that the focus should be on the concrete manufacturer and the contractors involved in its installation."

The governor believes more companies will sign on once they grasp of the scope of the problem.

"To understand what their total liability might be, if not probable, but what the exposure would be and that hopefully will lead us to some discussions that will bring in other companies," Malloy said.

Sources said there is no formal deadline for more companies to come into the crumbling foundations pool, but there's a sense that if the state can't get a critical level of market share to commit by the end of the summer, the deal will be dead.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Trump's Reddit Fan Club Faces Crackdown, Civil War]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 06:46:12 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/trump-muslim-ban.jpg

Donald Trump's presidential campaign isn't the only thing being shaken up. His leading fan site on the online message board Reddit has been plagued by constant infighting among moderators, NBC News reported.

The subreddit r/the_donald, a user-created section of Reddit with no connection to Trump's actual campaign, became a grassroots sensation during the Republican primaries with more than 50 million monthly page views at its peak in March.

The subreddit, managed by a handful of mostly anonymous fans, is a breakout success. Along with the infighting, the board has suffered from infiltration by white supremacists and clashes with the site's administrators over complaints that its users game the system to make their content more visible.

Last week, its leaders announced they were kicking out moderator CisWhiteMaelstrom, widely credited with popularizing the subreddit, over allegations he planned to join forces with prominent white nationalists like Jared Taylor and Richard Spencer to coordinate support for Trump.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Blinded Coyote is Euthanized]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 04:19:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/coyote-split.jpg

A blind mother coyote rescued earlier this year after she was found shot in the head was euthanized Wednesday in Southern California.

Officials decided to euthanize Angel after a veterinarian determined she was suffering too much, said Andrew Hughan, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman. 

Rescuers pulled the coyote from an empty reservoir in February. She had been shot between the eyes and was also pregnant at the time. 

After a monthlong regimen of care, including intravenous fluids and vitamins, the coyote gave birth at an animal hospital to a litter of five healthy puppies. But she never recovered her sight. 

"She nursed her pups up to where they were healthy enough to live without her,"Hughan said. "But her health — I mean, she had a bullet through the brain and she couldn't see. Her life was not anything acceptable." 

Julia Di Sieno, of the Animal Rescue Team in Solvang, found the coyote in the reservoir after a call came into her hotline Feb. 11. The coyote, whom she named Angel, was bleeding and having trouble breathing.

Di Sieno climbed down 30 feet into the stone-and-mortar reservoir and loaded the wounded animal onto a gurney.

Examinations revealed Angel had been shot between the eyes, and the bullet blinded her. The coyote then likely wandered the Santa Ynez Valley north of Santa Barbara for days or weeks until she tumbled into the reservoir, Di Sieno said.

"What this animal endured is beyond comprehension," Di Sieno told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year. "When she had puppies, I didn't know whether to cry in sadness or for joy."

After persuading the state Department of Fish and Wildlife not to euthanize Angel, Di Sieno had hoped to keep her as a surrogate mother for young coyotes rescued by her nonprofit. In California, possession of a coyote is illegal unless permitted by the state.

But on Wednesday morning, she surrendered Angel to Fish and Wildlife for the coyote's health to be evaluated. 

"It was the right thing to do. She's out of her misery," Hughan said.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Animal Rescue Team]]>
<![CDATA[2 Brothers Attempt to Catch Burglars in Windsor Locks]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 04:59:00 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/dfsfd1.jpg

Two brothers catch burglars in the act in Windsor Locks and unfortunately, it ended up with one of the brothers suffering a painful punch to his face.

“I hear footsteps coming to my right and I just quickly turned and I get whacked in the face,” said Steven Barry.

Steven Barry is now stitched up and missing teeth after an early morning run in with burglars. His brother Johnathon was the first to hear something outside their home on Dexter Road.

“I looked out my window, right above us, and there’s two guys standing right where me and my brother are and they had flashlights and they were running down the driveway,” said Johnathon Barry.

The brothers said their cars now show signs of the thieves having tried to break in.

It’s been an issue in the neighborhood several times in the past year.

This time the brothers were fed up, raced outside, and attempted to confront the men dressed in hoodies and masks.

That’s when Steven was sucker punched.

“I was kind of in shock but I managed to grab him but at the same time I’m looking all over the place, footsteps I keep hearing,” said Steven Barry.

The brothers said the three thieves jumped in an SUV, leaving behind a second car they had driven there and also losing some clothes in the scuffle.

The pair has a funeral for their step-father on Friday.

Then it’s off to surgery to start fixing Steven’s missing and loose teeth.

The family has started an online fundraiser to pay for Steven’s surgery.

“Thank god it could have been worse. It could have been much worse,” said Georgia Barry, the mother of the brothers.

Also the family is offering a $5,000 reward to catch whoever was responsible.

Police said the car that was ditched had been reported stolen from Suffield.

Anyone with information is asked to call police.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Connecticut Drivers Should Know of New Warning About Takata Airbags]]> Thu, 30 Jun 2016 23:00:34 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/212*120/takata-airbag.JPG

There is an urgent update on those defective Takata airbags.

Thursday morning, federal safety officials issued an urgent new warning after tests found some of the air bags may be even more prone to deadly malfunctions than previously thought.

If drivers with an older car are urged to take action immediately. Brand new data has federal officials desperately trying to reach owners of older cars.

Mark Rosekind, PHD and administrator with National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said, “With this new data - we know how bad it could really be. Literally flipping a coin in a crash, you don't know if you could end up having the shrapnel coming at you."

Officials with the NHTSA estimates there are 300,000 of these older cars on the road, that that have not yet been repaired.

Notifications have been sent, but some owners haven't followed up.

New tests on these older cars with Takata air bags found that when people drove them in hot damp places like Florida along the Gulf Coast to Texas and Southern California, the inflators malfunctioned caused an explosion that sent shrapnel flying.

In lab tests the inflators ruptured 50 percent of the time.

Rosekind added, “Of the 10 united states lives that have been lost eight have been in these vehicles."

Many cars in this new warning have been recalled since 2008. Honda says 70 percent have been repaired. It's the other 30 percent they are trying to find and fix, one car at a time.

Federal officials say the higer-risk inflators are in certain 2001-2003 Honda and Acura vehicles.

2001-2002 Honda Civic

2001-2002 Honda Accord

2002-2003 Acura TL

2002 Honda CR-V

2002 Honda Odyssey

2003 Acura CL

2003 Honda Pilot

In a statement, Honda said its taking extraordinary measures to reach owners: millions of letters, phone calls, text messages, media ads. 

<![CDATA[Istanbul Victim Was Trying to Save Son From ISIS]]> Thu, 30 Jun 2016 21:04:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Fathi-Bayoudh-istanbul-attack.jpg

One of the dozens of people killed in an attack on an Istanbul airport Tuesday was a doctor on a mission to save his son from the terror group ISIS, officials and friends said.

Fathi Bayoudh, a Tunisian military doctor and head of a pediatrics unit at a hospital in the country's capital, had traveled to Turkey about two months ago to retrieve his son, Anouar, from Syria, a family friend confirmed to NBC News.

Anouar, who was in his late 20s, left to join the terror group ISIS and traveled first to Iraq and then to Syria, the friend said.

Bayoudh was working with the Tunisian Embassy in Ankara to get his son from Syria, a friend of the son said. Bayoudh called his wife, who is also a doctor, to Turkey and went to the airport to pick her up when the attack occurred, according to reports.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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<![CDATA[House to Vote on Terror Suspect Gun Measures: Source ]]> Thu, 30 Jun 2016 21:35:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/PaulRyan-AP_16161559614348.jpg

The House will move next week on an anti-terrorism package that will have a provision to stop suspected terrorists from buying guns, a source who participated in a House GOP conference call on Thursday morning told NBC News.

The specifics of the legislation are unclear, but the package will likely include measures to help prevent radicalization and recruitment of potential terrorists and a provision to prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns.

The full House also will take up Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tim Murphy's bill seeking to prevent gun violence by providing improved care for mental illness, the source said.

Republican leadership is looking to move pre-emptively to block House Democrats from holding another floor protest. Last week, civil rights icon and Georgia Rep. John Lewis led House Democrats in a 26-hour sit-in over gun policy reform in the Capitol.  

Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Silver Alert Issued for New Britain Teen With Special Needs]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 05:00:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/jose-rodriguez1.jpg

A silver alert has been issued for a 13-year-old with special needs from New Britain, the family said. 

Jose Rodriguez was last seen wearing a white shirt with designs on the front and grey jeans.

He's described as having brown hair, brown eyes, standing at 5 feet 1 inch and weighing about 110 pounds. 

The family of Jose told NBC Connecticut he is a special needs child.

Anyone with information is asked to call New Britain Police at (860) 826-3000. 

Photo Credit: New Britain Police]]>
<![CDATA[Developer Offers to Finish Dunkin' Donuts Stadium]]> Fri, 01 Jul 2016 11:52:27 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/dunkin%27-donuts-park1.jpg

Hours after the fired developer of Dunkin Donuts Park announced it would develop a deal to finish the project, Hartford's mayor said he would believe a deal when he sees it.

Bob Landino, who owns Centerplan, told Connecticut Public Radio earlier in the day that he was in the process of developing a multimillion dollar agreement to complete the stadium, without an additional cost to the city. The stadium was projected to cost $56 million bust has since ballooned to $66 million and more costs are expected.

Jason Rudnick, the man in charge of the stadium and surrounding development known as DoNo Hartford LLC, told NBC Connecticut on Thursday the company feels completing the stadium as soon as possible is the best course of action.

"We're trying to take the high road here and do what we believe is correct which is to be the adult in the room and say listen, the right thing is to finish the ballpark and we’ll figure everything else out afterwards."

Mayor Luke Bronin, however, released a statement one would expect him to release after the developer has missed multiple deadlines and not delivered on promises for completion.

He wrote, "Before terminating Centerplan, we repeatedly asked them to show us that they had a sound plan and adequate financing to finish the job, and they either couldn’t or wouldn’t."

Bronin continued by writing, "We’ve been told for weeks now that a proposal is coming, but we haven’t seen anything yet. If we get a serious proposal, we’ll take it seriously."

I. Charles Mathews, the chairman of the Hartford Stadium Authority, also released a statement. 

"If Mr. Landino spent as much time and effort building the ballpark as he is now spending rewriting history, there’d be baseball in Hartford this weekend," he wrote. "He has yet to honor any agreement he has made with the City.  Why would we enter in to another?”

Centerplan started construction on the stadium in February 2015 with a set completion date of mid-March. After delays came to light in December 2015, a new date of May 17 was set in January. Centerplan did not meet that date, the city invoked the $46 million insurance policy on the project and the city later fired Centerplan.

The developer has said that the city kept making changes to the project while the city has said the developer is to blame.

It's unclear how much completing the stadium is going to cost, when construction could begin again, or when the stadium would be ready for the Hartford Yard Goats to start playing.

Rudnick says the best solution is to complete the project and work out the impending legal matters surrounding the stadium later.

"Let’s make an agreement," Rudnick said. "We’ll get back in the ballpark, finish it. Everyone will still have the right to argue afterwards and figure out who’s right and who’s wrong but finish the ballpark first."

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[State Announces Budget 'Holdbacks' to Start New Fiscal Year]]> Thu, 30 Jun 2016 23:25:36 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/hartford_capitol.jpg

The state has announced a list of budget "holdbacks" and targeted savings to balance the fiscal 2017 budget starting on July 1. 

"Holdbacks" are defined by the Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes as "generic savings included to the adopted budget which result in funds being withheld from agencies so that they cannot be expended."

The allocation of holdbacks totals approximately $130 million, which is about 0.7 percent of the general fund spending for the new fiscal year. 

The budgeted unallocated lapse authority allows the Secretary to withhold appropriations in order to help ensure savings targets are hit and a total of $52 million from all branches will occur.

With timely and realistic plans to achieve these savings that were included in revised budget, we are taking this proactive step to adjust to our new economic reality before the fiscal year begins,” Barnes stated. “We’re going to continue to ensure balance in our budget and will continue to take the steps necessary under the authority granted to us.”

The total number of holdbacks will be about $36 million in personal services,  $7.6 million in other expenses, about $3 million in municipal aid, $17.6 million in human services, $31 million in education (including higher education), $6.5 million in grants, approximately $20 million in criminal justice, and $8.2 million in other categories.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>