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Feb. 11 - Wyoming News Exchange Briefs

Railroad faces wrongful death lawsuit

CHEYENNE (WNE) — The widow of a Union Pacific Railroad engineer who died in an October train collision west of Cheyenne has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company.

Union Pacific engineer Jason Martinez and conductor Benjamin Brozovich died Oct. 4 after their mixed-freight train’s brake system malfunctioned and they collided with another train stopped on the tracks. Nobody was in the stopped train at the time of the collision, which occurred about 18 miles west of town.

Between the two trains, 66 cars derailed, causing $2.4 million in damage, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

On the day of the accident, Martinez’s train was heading east to North Platte, Nebraska, when the train’s crew realized the brakes were malfunctioning. The crew radioed the Union Pacific dispatch center to inform dispatch the train had accelerated to 50 mph and was unable to stop.

The NTSB is still investigating the accident, but a preliminary report released by the board indicates that something in the brake system malfunctioned.

Martinez’s widow, Sheila Martinez, is suing Union Pacific for the wrongful death of her husband and claiming the company was negligent, according to a complaint filed in the First Judicial District Court of Wyoming. She is asking for a six-person jury trial.

Sheila Martinez is arguing Union Pacific had a duty to provide her husband with a safe work environment, and that the company failed to warn her husband “of the hazardous conditions existing with the … train’s brake system.” She is also claiming the company failed to enforce safety rules by failing to properly inspect or maintain the train’s brake system.


FAA fast-tracks Gillette-Campbell County Airport project

GILLETTE (WNE) —If all goes according to plan, the Gillette-Campbell County Airport will be able to complete a five-year project in only one year, thanks to the federal government.

The project involves relocating two taxiways and connecting two other taxiways to make the airport more secure. Campbell County Commissioners approved the grant application at their Tuesday meeting. If the airport gets the grant, the FAA would pay $5 million of the project’s $5.3 million cost. The state would kick in $200,000, and the county would be responsible for $133,333.

But Jay Lundell, airport director, cautioned that the project could be affected by the pending government shutdown, which would happen Feb. 15 if the White House and Congress can’t come to an agreement.

The FAA wants to increase security and reduce the probability of attacks at airports, Lundell said. One of the solutions is to limit direct access from the apron, where the planes are parked, to the runways.

At the Gillette-Campbell County Airport, one of the taxiways provides that direct access from the apron to the runway, while another taxiway doesn’t intersect the runway, which makes it difficult for airplanes to maneuver when they land. Those two taxiways will be relocated to correct the problem, and two others will be connected.


Former UW football player charged with sexual assault

LARAMIE (WNE) —The sexual assault and sexual battery charges pending against former University of Wyoming football player Carl Granderson involve two victims, according to the affidavit of probable cause filed in his case.

The University of Wyoming announced Thursday that Granderson, who had been expected to be picked in the upcoming NFL draft, has been charged with third-degree sexual assault.

Two women reported to the UW Police Department on Nov. 26 that Granderson “had touched them sexually, without their permission, while they were sleeping” that same day.

Granderson and both women had been staying at an off-campus apartment the night before.

On Thursday, the Albany County Circuit Court denied both the Laramie Boomerang and the Casper Star-Tribune access to the court documents filed in Granderson’s case.

On Friday, the court clerks reversed course, providing the Laramie Boomerang with Granderson’s records after the Albany County Attorney’s Office filed a redacted version of the affidavit and charges.

If Granderson were convicted of third-degree sexual assault, he would face up to 10 years imprisonment.


Casper bar operating since 1934 to close

CASPER (WNE) — The Wonder Bar, a downtown Casper institution for decades, is closing, its management company announced Friday afternoon.

In a brief statement, the C85 Group, which operates the Wonder Bar, said that Sunday would be the bar’s last day of business.

The statement indicated the restaurant’s 25 employees may have opportunities to transfer to other locations in the group of food and beverage establishments owned by C85.

The Wonder Bar, which originally opened in 1934, was bought by the Cercy family in the fall of 2016. After it was gutted, remodeled and expanded, it reopened in August 2017, just before the total solar eclipse that drew large crowds to Casper.

Friday’s statement from C85 gave no reason for the closure. However, the business has experienced a noticeable decline in customers. Shortly after noon Friday, a reporter saw only two people in the downstairs dining area.

Housed in a 105-year-old building near the corner of Center Street and Midwest Avenue, the Wonder Bar for decades served as a popular watering hole for the city. It was known for attracting famous guests, including John Wayne, Ernest Hemingway and Dizzy Gillespie. According to local legend, patrons in the early years could ride into the bar on horseback to order drinks.

The Wonder Bar has gone through about 10 owners over the years. Pat Sweeney, now a state lawmaker, sold the business to the Cercys.