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POSTED February 5, 2012 7:20 p.m.

• CHOPPER MAKES EMERGENCY LANDING AT CA PLAYGROUND: MODESTO  (AP) — Authorities say a helicopter encountered mechanical problems before making an emergency landing at an elementary school playground in a Modesto, Calif., neighborhood.

Neighborhood resident Susanna Ballard said the helicopter was shaking badly as it flew over Sunday morning, and that she thought it was going to crash.

The aircraft had fueled at the Modesto Airport and managed to land safely in a grassy area at El Vista Elementary School after nearly hitting trees and a soccer goal. No one was injured.

Battalion Chief Hugo Patino says the two-seat helicopter made a hard landing following apparent mechanical failure.

The pilot, who didn’t give his full name, said the helicopter started having problems at 800 feet and he had no other safe place to land.



• BOY HURT WHEN CAVE HE WAS DIGGING COLLAPSES: TEMECULA (AP) — An 11-year-old boy was critically hurt when a dirt cave he and a friend were digging near a Riverside County park collapsed.

The Los Angeles Times reports the two 11-year-olds were tunneling through the side of a dry creek bed southeast of Temecula’s Long Canyon Creek Park when they were suddenly buried under a mound of dirt.

One boy was trapped, and the other boy was able to escape and go for help.

Two adults pulled out the trapped boy, whose head and chest had been buried.

The boy was flown in critical condition to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. There’s no word on his condition Sunday.



• MAN DIES WHEN CAR PLUNGES OFF CLIFF: AZUSA  (AP) — Authorities say a 20-year-old man was killed when a car he was driving plunged off a Southern California cliff.

California Highway Patrol Officer Patrick Kimball says a 16-year-old girl passenger received minor injuries when the black Honda Civic went off a winding, mountainous road in San Gabriel Canyon north of Azusa early Sunday.

City News Service reports the driver was identified as Alex Rodriguez, a 20-year-old resident of Duarte.

The CHP says Rodriguez was driving southbound on San Gabriel Canyon Road when he failed to make a turn in the roadway. The Honda plunged down an embankment, and came to rest about 100 feet below the road.

The CHP says although a cause of the crash is unknown, alcohol and drugs are being investigated as a factor.



• MARINE WIFE KILLED IN EXPLOSION WAS IOWAN, 31: COLEVILLE. (AP) — A woman killed in a propane gas explosion outside a remote Northern California training base was the 31-year-old wife of a U.S. Marine, and a mother of two from Hudson, Iowa, military officials said late Saturday.

The woman, Lori Hardin, was the wife of Gunnery Sgt. Greg G. Hardin of Tuolumne, Calif., a public works planner for the Marines, according to a statement from the Marine Corps.

Greg Hardin and the couple’s two children were not hurt in the Friday night explosion at a housing unit in the Mono County town of Coleville that serves the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, where Marines train for mountain operations.

Two other blast victims, a Navy corpsman and his wife, were flown to hospitals with serious injuries including third-degree burns.



• HUGE WAREHOUSE FIRE SENDS PLUMES OF SMOKE SKYWARD
: VALLEJO  (AP) — A four-alarm fire that engulfed a vacant warehouse at a one-time Navy shipyard is under control after sending up plumes of smoke visible across the San Francisco Bay area.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the fire erupted around 10 a.m. Sunday on Mare Island near Vallejo.

Vallejo Fire Department Chief Paige Meyer said firefighters had tamed the blaze by 12:30 p.m. No one was injured.

Meyer says firefighters will monitor the smoldering ruin to make sure the fire does not re-ignite.

The 150,000-square-foot wooden structure at the defunct Mare Island Naval Shipyard was scheduled to be demolished sometime in the next year.

The Vallejo Fire Department says homeless people sometimes stayed in the warehouse and a campfire may have started the blaze, though no cause has been determined.



• NAVY: 8 CALIF.-BASED SAILORS DISCHARGED FOR HAZING
: SAN DIEGO (AP) — Eight sailors have been discharged from the Navy after a hazing incident aboard a San Diego-based amphibious assault ship that was captured on video and included the choking of a fellow sailor, a Navy spokesman said Saturday.

The eight received general discharges following allegations they assaulted and choked the sailor aboard the ship, the Bonhomme Richard, as part of a rite to initiate the sailor into a new department, said Lt. Commander David McKinney.

McKinney said the assault, which took place Jan. 17 in the ship’s berthing area, was videotaped, and the victim treated for injuries.

“He was choked out, evidently blacked out and had bruising,” said McKinney.

The injuries were not serious, but the sailor sought treatment and reported the incident to his superiors, leading to the discharges, McKinney said.

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