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Sky King 2.0? Man steals plane in Mississippi, threatens to crash into Walmart 

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Plane circling Mississippi city threatens to crash into WALMART… Developing…

RIPLEY, Miss. (AP) — An airport worker who knew how to take off but not land stole a small airplane Saturday and threatened to crash it into a Walmart, circling for five hours over unnerved Mississippians before ending the flight safely in a soybean field where police arrested him.

Cory Wayne Patterson, 29, was uninjured after the rough landing shortly after posting a goodbye message to his parents and sister on Facebook, authorities said at a news conference. The message said he “never actually wanted to hurt anyone.”

After an anxious morning of watching the plane’s meandering path overhead, Tupelo Mayor Todd Jordan called the resolution “the best case scenario.”

No one was injured.

Patterson was employed fueling planes at the Tupelo Regional Airport, giving him access to the twin-engine Beechcraft King Air C90A, police Chief John Quaka said.

It was not immediately known why, shortly after 5 a.m., the 10-year Tupelo Aviation employee took off in the fully fueled plane. Fifteen minutes later, Patterson called a Lee County 911 dispatcher to say he planned to crash the plane into a Tupelo Walmart, Quaka said. Officers evacuated people from the Walmart and a nearby convenience store.

“This is more likely a crime of opportunity,” said Quaka, adding that the airport’s tower is not staffed until 6 a.m.

Police negotiators were able to make contact during the flight and convince Patterson to land, but he didn’t know how. He was coached by a private pilot into nearly landing at the Tupelo airport but he aborted the attempt at the last minute and resumed the flight, authorities said.

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A negotiator re-established contact around 10 a.m., and learned Patterson had landed in a field and was uninjured, Quaka said. The plane landed near Ripley, Mississippi, about about 85 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Memphis, Tennessee, and about 45 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Tupelo.

“There’s damage but believe it or not, the aircraft is intact,” the chief told reporters.

Patterson, whose Facebook page said he is from Shannon, was charged with grand larceny and making terroristic threats. Quaka said federal authorities also could bring charges. Police said Patterson is not believed to be a licensed pilot but has some flight instruction.

Jordan said Patterson contacted family members during the flight. The mayor said he hopes Patterson “will get the help he needs.”

“Sorry everyone. Never wanted to actually hurt anyone. I love my parents and sister this isn’t your fault. Goodbye,” read Patterson’s Facebook message posted at about 9:30 a.m.

Peter Goelz, former managing director at the National Transportation Safety Board, said the vulnerability of small airports, which cater to small planes and corporate jets, has worried security experts for years.

“If you’ve got a trained pilot who can get in and grab a business jet, you’ve got a pretty lethal weapon there,” he said.

Ripley resident Roxanne Ward told The Associated Press she had been tracking the plane online and went to her father-in-law’s house with plans to go into the basement for safety. She said she heard the thud as the plane hit the ground on her father-in-law’s property.

She and others got onto four-wheelers to ride over.

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“As soon as it crashed, police were there and waiting,” said Ward, who watched from a distance. “Police coaxed him out. They yelled at him, ‘Arms in the air.’” She said the pilot got out of the plane without resisting police.

Michael Canders, director of the Aviation Center at Farmingdale State College in New York, called the incident “a wake-up call” for general aviation airports and their staff.

The Transportation Security Administration requires annual training emphasizing a “see something, say something” approach to try and prevent a scenario like what police believe occurred in Tupelo — an employee with access to aircraft, Canders said.

“This very thing is discussed in the course, the potential for somebody gaining access and intent on damage,” he said. “It’s dependent on all of those who work at an airport. If you see someone you don’t recognize or some unusual activity, you’re supposed to report that.”

An online flight tracking service showed the plane’s swirling path through the sky early Saturday.

Leslie Criss, a magazine editor who lives in Tupelo, woke up early and was watching the situation on TV and social media. Several of her friends were outside watching the plane circle overhead.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in this town,” Criss told AP. “It’s a scary way to wake up on a Saturday morning.”

Goelz said the FAA and Department of Homeland Security would likely examine the incident and issue guidance focused on tightening up security, a potentially costly prospect.

“For an airport like Tupelo, for them to crank up security for Saturday morning at 5 a.m., when their tower doesn’t open until 6 — that’s expensive,” Goelz said. “They’re not going to have the funds unless the feds are going to provide it.’’

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The airplane drama unfolded as tens of thousands of college football fans were headed to north Mississippi for Saturday football games at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and Mississippi State University in Starkville. Tupelo is between those two cities.

Jane and Daniel Alsup stood out in their front yard near where the plane landed and watched it circle low over the pine and oak trees.

“He left for a while, then we heard him come back. Just a few seconds later, we heard a big old ‘flump’ and he landed out in the soybean field,” Jane Alsup said.

Daniel Alsup said the plane landed on the other side of some trees, so they did not see it hit the ground.

“This was the best place it could have happened,” he said of the rural landing site.

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Wagster Pettus reported from Jackson, Mississippi. Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in New York, Kathleen Foody in Chicago and Paul Wiseman in Martinsburg, West Virginia, contributed to this report.

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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