Archive for the ‘deaths’ Category

Death On The Rails: Text Messaging, Poor Signals Played A Role

December 3, 2008

The train engineer was text messaging just seconds before a deadly crash.  Now it seems the traffic signals he saw could have been missed too….

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Investigators find the station’s red signal was not as clear as the yellow and green ones, and continue probing whether the engineer and conductor followed communication rules.
By Rich Connell and Robert J. Lopez
The Los Angeles Times
A critical red light that a Metrolink train ran just before slamming into a freight train in Chatsworth was not as visible as green and yellow signals displayed by the same trackside warning device, investigators probing the disaster have found.

The clarity of the stop light, as well as possible violations of communication rules by the commuter train’s crew, have become key focus points in the federal inquiry into the deadliest rail accident in modern California history.

Read the rest:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-
metrolink3-2008dec03,0,1876430.story

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China: Death, Sickness from Poisoned Milk Double What First Reported

December 2, 2008

China’s Health Ministry said six babies may have died after consuming tainted milk powder, up from a previous official toll of three, and announced a six-fold increase in its tally of infants sickened in the scandal to nearly 300,000.

It was the first time since Sept. 21 that health authorities have revised the total number of babies sickened by milk powder adulterated with the industrial chemical melamine. The previous total was about 50,000.

The crisis has been met with public dismay and anger, particularly among parents who feel the government breached their trust after their children were sickened or died from drinking infant formula authorities had certified as safe.

The latest statistics show that China’s communist leaders are slowly acknowledging the breadth of China’s worst food safety scare in years. During such crises, the government often deliberately releases information piecemeal in part to keep from feeding public anger.

The ministry said in a statement late Monday that 294,000 babies across the country had suffered from urinary problems after consuming milk powder laced with melamine.

“Most of the sickened children received outpatient treatment only for small amounts of sand-like kidney stones found in their urinary systems, while some patients had to be hospitalized for the illness,” the statement said.

Thousands of parents have been clamoring for compensation for their sickened and dead children. The release of the figures raises the question of whether the Health Ministry is getting closer to finalizing a compensation scheme.

In this Oct. 19, 2008 file photo, Li Xiaoquan, right, holds ...
In this Oct. 19, 2008 file photo, Li Xiaoquan, right, holds up a photo of his twin daughters Li Xiaokai and Li Xiaoyan near his wife Li Aiqing and Li Xiaoyan at their home in Liti village, near Runan, central China’s Henan province. Nine month old Li Xiaokai who has been drinking a brand of milk formula linked to the melamine scandal died from kidney failure. China’s Health Ministry said six babies may have died after consuming tainted milk powder, up from a previous official toll of three, and announced a six-fold increase in its tally of infants sickened in the scandal to nearly 300,000.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

Read the rest from the Associated Press:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081202/ap_on_bi_ge/
as_china_tainted_milk_4

Russia’s roads most dangerous in Europe

November 29, 2008

People die at a higher rate traveling Russia’s roads than in any country in Europe, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgalieve says.

 

Nurgalieve said Thursday that 32,000-35,000 people die and about 285,000 are injured in more than 200,000 traffic accidents in Russia each year, Kommersant reported Friday. That’s the highest traffic accident mortality rate of any European state, he said.

About 70 percent of all traffic deaths occur at the accident site or en route to the hospital.

Nurgaliev said, however, accidents blamed on drunken driving are down this year, as are accidents caused by pedestrians and children.

Still, he said, there is a need for a systematic and gradual buildup of efforts to reduce traffic fatalities.

–UPI

China: Govt Trying To Make Earthquake Deaths OK, Failing Miserbaly

November 21, 2008

The news conference on Friday was meant to explain how far the government has come in helping victims of the earthquake that devastated Sichuan Province last May. More than 200,000 homes have been rebuilt, 685,000 are under reconstruction and $441 billion will be spent in the coming years to help make Sichuan whole again, Wei Hong, the provincial vice governor told reporters.

By Andrew Jacobs
The New York Times

But a garbled translation of Mr. Wei’s words ended up shifting public attention from reconstruction efforts to unresolved questions about how many children perished beneath the rubble of their poorly built schools.

Asked about the final student death toll by a foreign reporter, Mr. Wei gave a lengthy answer that ended with the figure 19,065 — more than double previous estimates and one that would suggest that a quarter of earthquake victims were children. Lest there be any doubt, the official English translation of Mr. Wei’s remarks placed the word “student” after the figure 19,065.

The news was immediately picked up by the foreign and Chinese media. Within hours it was even posted on the central government’s main Web site. In a country where official statistics are often taken with a grain of salt, the figure seemed like a stunningly frank admission that the earthquake’s toll on children had been even more horrific than anyone imagined.

Later, however, the government issued a clarification, insisting that Mr. Wei’s remarks were flubbed by his translator. The figure 19,065 applied to the number of positively identified victims, it said, not the number of dead students.

For now, the official death toll from the quake stands at 69,227, with 18,222 missing. A government spokesman said the authorities were still working on a final tally of dead students. In the past, the government has said that 7,000 classrooms were destroyed across the province.

Coming six months after the 7.9-magnitude earthquake, the episode has refocused attention on aspects of a national catastrophe that the government would rather forget. Although an investigative committee acknowledged in September that many of the schools that crumbled were shoddily constructed, the government has yet to issue a full report, and yet to hold anyone accountable.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/22
/world/asia/22quake.html?_r=1

China’s Poisoned Milk Scandal: Deaths Went Uncounted, Unreported

November 15, 2008

Li Xiaokai died of kidney failure on the old wooden bed in the family farmhouse, just before dawn on a drizzly Sept. 10.

Her grandmother wrapped the 9-month-old in a wool blanket. Her father handed the body to village men for burial by a muddy creek. The doctors and family never knew why she got sick. A day later, state media reported that the type of infant formula she drank had been adulterated with an industrial chemical.

By CHARLES HUTZLER, Associated Press Writer

Li Xiaoyan sits on the lap of her mother Li Aiqing at their ...
Li Xiaoyan sits on the lap of her mother Li Aiqing at their home in Liti village, near Runan, in China’s Henan province, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. Li Xiaoyan’s nine-month-old twin sister, Li Xiaokai who had been drinking a brand of milk formula linked to the melamine scandal died from kidney failure.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Yet the deaths of Xiaokai and at least four other babies are not included in China‘s official death toll from its worst food safety scare in years. The Health Ministry’s count stands at only three deaths.

The stories of these uncounted babies suggest that China’s tainted milk scandal has exacted a higher human toll than the government has so far acknowledged. Without an official verdict on the deaths, families worry they will be unable to bring lawsuits and refused compensation.

So far, nobody is suggesting large numbers of deaths are being concealed. But so many months passed before the scandal was exposed that it’s likely more babies fell sick or died than official figures reflect.

Beijing‘s apparent reluctance to admit a higher toll is reinforcing perceptions that the authoritarian government cares more about tamping down criticism than helping families. Lawyers, doctors and reporters have said privately that authorities pressured them to not play up the human cost or efforts to get compensation from the government or Sanlu, the formula maker.

“It’s hard to say how the government will handle this matter,” said Zhang Xinkui, a Beijing-based lawyer amassing evidence of the contamination for a possible lawsuit. “There may be many children who perhaps died from drinking Sanlu powdered milk or perhaps from a different cause. But there’s no system in place to find out.”

In the weeks since Xiaokai’s death, her father and his older brother have talked to lawyers and beseeched health officials, with no result.

“My heart is in pain,” said her father, Li Xiaoquan, a short, taciturn farmer with hooded eyes. From a corner of his farmhouse courtyard in central China’s wheat and corn flatlands, he pulls a worn green box that once held apples and is now stuffed with empty pink wrappers of the Sanlu Infant Formula Milk Powder that Xiaokai nursed on. “We think someone, the company, should compensate us.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081115/ap_on_re_as/as_
china_tainted_milk_toll;_ylt=AhcKMuAvsxWggSPLvIOf.cqs0NUE

Qaeda stung by U.S. pressure in Pakistan: CIA chief

November 14, 2008

U.S. pressure on al Qaeda near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan has put the group “off balance,” but the region remains the biggest terrorism threat to the United States, the CIA’s chief said on Thursday.

Agency Director Michael Hayden also told a Washington think tank he and the head of Pakistan‘s intelligence service, Lt.-Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha, shared in a meeting last month common views on how to contain the militant threat.

This was despite heated Pakistani protests over U.S. military strikes inside Pakistan aimed at stopping al Qaeda and Taliban cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.

By Randall Mikkelsen, Reuters

Osama bin Laden remains deeply isolated and has been forced ... 
Osama bin Laden remains deeply isolated and has been forced to devote much of his energy to his own security, CIA Director Michael Hayden, pictured in February 2008, said in a speech on Thursday.(AFP/File/Saul Loeb)

“There’s a lot more commonality on how the threat should be dealt with than many people seem to assume,” Hayden told the Atlantic Council of the United States.

There may be Taliban elements the United States could talk to, he said, to fracture its alliance with al Qaeda — a view also expressed by advisers to President-elect Barack Obama.

The United States in recent months has stepped up drone-carried missile strikes against militants inside Pakistan, and in September launched a commando ground attack across the border.

Washington has shrugged off protests from Pakistan, but some experts fear the raid may have undermined Pakistan’s fragile democracy and cooperation with the United States.

Hayden, without acknowledging the strikes or the U.S. role in them, said several veteran al Qaeda fighters and commanders had died over the past year, “by violence or natural causes.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081114/ts_nm/us_
security_usa_qaeda_3

Submarine Deaths Underscore Russian Navy Decline

November 10, 2008

An accident aboard a Russian nuclear attack submarine that killed at least 20 and injured 22 late Saturday, is the latest in a series of undersea tragedies that have struck the Russian Navy as it struggles to regain Soviet-era capacities.

The ship’s nuclear reactor was undamaged in the incident, and survivors evacuated to the naval base at Vladivostok on Sunday, Russian officials said.

This video grab from Russian NTV channel shows the Russian nuclear ...
This video grab from Russian NTV channel shows the Russian nuclear submarine. Russian officials are investigating a gas poisoning accident on a nuclear submarine due to be leased to India that killed 20 people, as local people mourned the victims.(AFP/Ntv)

“During sea trials of a nuclear-powered submarine of the Pacific Fleet the firefighting system went off unsanctioned, killing over 20 people, including servicemen and workers,” Russian naval spokesman Cpt. Igor Dyagalo told journalists.

“The submarine is not damaged, its reactor works as normal, and background radiation levels are normal,” he added.

The malfunction of the firefighting system, which spewed deadly freon gas through the forward compartments of K-152 Nerpa, an Akula-II class attack sub undergoing diving trials in the Sea of Japan, has a little-known international twist. Though neither government has officially admitted it, both Indian and Russian media have been reporting for months that the 12,000-ton Nerpa was to be handed over to the Indian Navy early next year under a 10-year lease.

The acquisition would multiply India’s military capabilities in the sensitive Indian Ocean, and raise questions about Russia’s role in proliferating nuclear technologies. Indian news agencies reported last week that a team of 40 Indian naval specialists was slated to arrive later this month in Vladivostok to learn about the ship.

“India was one of the main supporters of Russia’s defense industries after the Soviet Union collapsed, and provided funds that helped to keep our aviation and shipbuilding going,” says Vadim Kozulin, a military expert with the PIR Center, a security think tank in Moscow. “It’s only been in the past three years that Russian military procurement budgets have been greater than the earnings from exports.”

According to media reports, the deal was struck in 2004 in which India paid up to $650 million to refit the Admiral Gorshkov, a Soviet-era aircraft carrier, and assist completion of the Nerpa, which had lain on blocks at the Komsomolsk-na-Amur shipyard since its construction was largely abandoned in 1991.

The Akula-II class of nuclear subs, a late Soviet-era design, are able to dive deeper, more than 600 meters, run more silently than previous attack subs, and move at speeds up to 33 knots while fully submerged.

Russian seamen line up on an unidentified submarine believed ...
Russian seamen line up on an unidentified submarine believed to be an Akula-class submarine during a military parade training in Vladivostok in this July 25, 2008 file photo. More than 20 people were killed and another 21 injured in an accident aboard a Russian nuclear submarine in the Pacific Ocean, the navy said on Sunday, in the worst submarine disaster since the Kursk sank eight years ago. The RIA agency quoted a source in the Amur Shipbuilding Enterprise as saying the accident occurred aboard the Nerpa, a Project 971 Shchuka-B attack submarine, known inside NATO as an Akula-class submarine. Picture taken July 25, 2008.REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev (RUSSIA)

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20081110/ts_
csm/osub;_ylt=AtY6WORt6v_GyVKHZp.B1Cys0NUE

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By Sergei L. Loiko
The Los Angeles Times
November 10, 2008
Reporting from Moscow — A false alarm was responsible for setting off the emission of deadly fire-extinguishing gases on a new Russian nuclear-powered submarine in the Sea of Japan, killing 20 people and injuring 21 late Saturday, Russian navy officials said.

All but three of the dead were civilian specialists and experts on board the Shark-class submarine Nerpa for the performance test trial, according to the federal prosecutors office.

The ship’s nuclear reactor was not affected in the accident, and the submarine returned safely to port on its own, said Russian navy spokesman Igor Dygalo. The reactor was operating properly, and the radiation levels were normal, Dygalo told the Russian news agency Interfax on Sunday.

Dygalo said that, of 208 people on board, 91 were crew members and the rest were civilian specialists and experts overseeing the testing of the submarine.

Analysts said the large presence of civilians was probably a crucial factor in the high casualty count. The regular crew would have been far better prepared for the emergency situation when the gas-emission siren rang, said Igor Kurdin, a former Russian nuclear missile submarine commander and head of the St. Petersburg Submariners Club.

“Even if you are the president of the country present on a submarine,” Kurdin said, “you can’t rely on your security detail to save your life in a fire, because you need to be able to save your own life by using the rescue equipment properly and quickly.”

Read the rest:
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/
world/la-fg-russiasub10-2008nov10
,0,3939263.story?track=rss

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MOSCOW – India’s navy was supposed to lease the brand-new Russian nuclear submarine that suffered an accident over the weekend which killed 20 people, news reports said Monday.

Read the rest:
http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/081110
/world/russia_submarine_2

UK Minister blasts claim that British troops in Afghanistan are not being given proper equipment as a ‘travesty of reality’

November 2, 2008

A government minister has angrily rejected claims that British troops in Afghanistan have not been given proper equipment.

Daily Mail (London)

Defence Equipment Minister Quentin Davies said SAS commander Major Sebastian Morley’s complaints were a ‘travesty’ which he found hard to take entirely seriously.

Major Morley reportedly resigned his commission in disgust following the deaths of four his soldiers who were killed when their lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rover hit a landmine in Helmand province earlier this year.

But Mr Davies suggested that such incidents could be the result of commanders on the ground sending out their troops in the wrong vehicles with the wrong equipment.

He also challenged the suggestion that Major Morley, who commanded D Squadron, 23 SAS in Afghanistan, had repeatedly raised his concerns with the Whitehall officials and senior commanders.

A British soldier in southeast Afghanistan. The head of Britain's ... 
A British soldier in southeast Afghanistan. The head of Britain’s special forces in Afghanistan has resigned, it emerged Saturday, reportedly in disgust at equipment failures that he believes led to the death of four of his troops(AFP/File/Mandel Ngan)

‘There are a couple of things that are odd about this resignation.

‘He said that he tried to alert the Ministry of Defence to the inadequacies as he saw it of his equipment,’ Mr Davies told BBC News.

‘I have asked several questions in the ministry and no one can trace any such communication from him.

‘Maybe we will come up with it but it does seem rather surprising, the whole of that aspect.’

In his resignation letter, Major Morley was said to have blamed ‘chronic under-investment’ in equipment by the MoD for the deaths Corporal Sarah Bryant – the first female soldier to die in Afghanistan – and three male colleagues, the SAS soldiers, Corporal Sean Reeve, Lance Corporal Richard Larkin and Paul Stout.

Brit SAS chief quits over ‘negligence that killed his troops’

November 1, 2008

The commander of Britain’s SAS troops in Afghanistan has resigned in disgust, accusing the Government of “gross negligence” over the deaths of four of his soldiers.

By Thomas Harding
The Telegraph
London, UK
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Major Sebastian Morley claims that Whitehall officials and military commanders repeatedly ignored his warnings that people would be killed if they continued to allow troops to be transported in the vulnerable Snatch Land Rovers.

As a result, he says Cpl Sarah Bryant – the first female soldier to die in Afghanistan – and three male colleagues, the SAS soldiers, Cpl Sean Reeve, L/Cpl Richard Larkin and Paul Stout were killed needlessly.

All four died when their lightly armoured Snatch Land Rover split apart after hitting a landmine in Helmand province in June.

In his resignation letter, Major Morley, the commander of D Squadron, 23 SAS, said “chronic underinvestment” in equipment by the Ministry of Defence was to blame for their deaths.

The Old Etonian officer, a cousin to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, is understood to have described the MoD’s failure to buy better equipment as “cavalier at best, criminal at worst”. The resignation of Major Morley, the grandson of the newspaper tycoon Lord Beaverbrook, follows those of Col Stuart Tootal, Brig Ed Butler and a commanding officer of 22 SAS.

“We highlighted this issue saying people are going to die and now they have died,” said a soldier who served with Major Morley. “Our commanding officer and RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major) tried everything in their power to stop us using Snatch. The point of failure here lies squarely with the MoD.

“The boys nicknamed Snatch the mobile coffin.”

The resignation of Major Morley will reignite the debate on the standard of equipment for troops, with many front line soldiers believing that their lives are being put at risk.

In recent weeks the MoD has been criticised by coroners who said the right equipment could have saved lives.

The frailties of Snatch Land Rovers have been responsible for 34 British fatalities – or one in eight of the total killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are only now being replaced.

The reservists of 23 SAS were first asked to send a squadron of about 100 men to Helmand in Afghanistan because the regular soldiers of 22 SAS were severely stretched in Iraq. Their mission was to supervise elite elements of the Afghan police.

Read the rest:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/onthefrontline/33
32417/Exclusive-SAS-chief-quits-over-negligence-that-killed-his-troops.html

Snatch2.jpg
Above: Snatch vehicles

For U.S. Marines: Motorcycles Deadlier Than Iraq

November 1, 2008

More Marines have died on motorcycles than in Iraq so far this year. Just under 10 percent of Marines own high-speed sport bikes, and no one knows why the corps is so plagued by serious accidents. The military brass is so concerned that officials have scheduled a meeting to address the issue.

From Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Pentagon Producer

Twenty-five Marines have died in motorcycle crashes since last November — all but one of them involving sport bikes that can reach speeds of well over 100 mph, according to Marine officials. In that same period, 20 Marines have been killed in action in Iraq.
The 25 deaths are the highest motorcycle death toll ever for the Marine Corps.
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Gen. James Amos, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, told CNN that commanders are trying to drill down on what “we need to do to help our Marines survive on these sport bikes.”
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“The Marines are very serious about it,” he said.
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Marine Gunnery Sgt. Art Tucker knows all too well about the dangers of sport bikes. An owner of a Kawasaki Ninja, Tucker has had two crashes, and the second one nearly killed him.

Despite crashes, Gunnery Sgt. Art Tucker rides a sport motorcycle. "I enjoy it. ... It relaxes me," he says.

Above: Despite crashes, Gunnery Sgt. Art Tucker rides a sport motorcycle. “I enjoy it. … It relaxes me,” he says.
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“I sustained a broken collar bone, I tore the shoulder out of the socket, I tore three ligaments in the shoulder, the rotator cuff, I broke three vertebrae,” said Tucker, a drill instructor for new officers.
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“The worst was a head injury I received: a bruised brain. And it caused hemorrhaging, and from that I had partial paralysis of the left leg, full paralysis of the left foot and toes, and that was for approximately six months.”
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Amos said he and other top Marine officials will spend half the day Monday “focusing on nothing but motorcycle issues.” The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Conway, and other senior leadership will attend the meeting at the Quantico, Virginia, Marine base, he said.
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About 18,000 of the nearly 200,000 Marines are believed to own motorcycles, Amos said.
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The Marines have taken some measures. The Marine Corps has had a long-standing policy for all Marines who ride motorcycles to take a mandatory basic riding course. More recently, it added a second training course specifically designed to train Marines who ride sport bikes.
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Any Marine caught riding, even on leave, without going through the training courses faces Marine Corps punishment, officials say.
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On a recent day at the Quantico training track, Marines whizzed by on their bikes.