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Wyoming News Briefs JULY 26

Crop insurance payout depends on cause of canal collapse

Crop insurance payout depends on cause of canal collapse

TORRINGTON (WNE) — The collapse of an irrigation tunnel along the Fort Laramie-Gering canal has threatened the livelihood of farmers in the Wyobraska area by cutting them off from a key irrigation resource, and red tape and small print might result in even bigger losses.

During a stakeholders meeting at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research Center, Vanessa Reishus, from Farm Credit Services of America, told several hundred producers who rely on the ditch that their insurance relies on what caused the collapse.

“The unfortunate issue with that is that you have to prove loss cause by natural occurrence,” she said. “We don’t know for sure what cause of loss was. I’m hoping they can say because of excess rains in spring, if that can be determined, that would be covered. If it’s not a covered loss, those acres are taken off policy and become uninsurable. That’s not a great thing, we don’t have an actual answer.”

Gering-Fort Laramie Supervisor Rick Preston said the exact cause of the collapse is still being investigated, but engineers do have an idea of what could have caused it. He said that wooden beams were used to reinforce the tunnel during construction, and those beams have deteriorated in the 102 years since.

“They’re thinking the cause was the timber rotting and the water that worked into the area,” he said. “That created a void, and the void become big enough that the upper soils couldn’t carry themselves.”


Green River files lawsuit against opioid manufactures

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Green River is the latest city in Wyoming to file a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers for their part in the addiction crisis that has spread across the country.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court by Green River against Purdue Pharma, Johnson and Johnson, and a long list of other pharmaceutical companies that manufacture opioid-based medications. The western Wyoming city is seeking $10 million in damages from the companies for their efforts to downplay “the serious risk of addiction” from opioid-based medications, according to the lawsuit.

Requests for comment from legal representation for Green River and city officials were not returned by press time.

The suit alleges the deceptive practices of Purdue, Johnson and Johnson and the other manufacturers “led to a public health crisis in the City of Green River, Wyoming, which faces skyrocketing opioid addiction and opioid-related overdoses and deaths, as well as devastating social and economic consequences.”

Because of the increase in opioid addiction and the resulting strain on social services, law enforcement and other government sources, Green River is seeking damages to help compensate the city for those costs.

“Tax dollars are required to maintain public safety of places where the addicted homeless attempt to congregate, including city parks, schools and public lands,” the lawsuit reads. “Tax dollars are required to fight the injections disease brought by the addicted and particularly the addicted homeless.”

Green River joins thousands of local and state governments across the country that have sued opioid manufacturers. Cheyenne filed its own lawsuit in March, and Sweetwater County filed a similar suit in January.


Man charged in hammer attack enters insanity plea

RIVERTON (WNE) — While his father looked on, 29-year-old Garrett Neal Powell was arraigned Wednesday morning in Fremont County District Court for attempted first-degree murder.

He pleaded "not guilty by reason of mental illness."

If convicted, Powell could face life in prison.

The charges are from an April 16-17 overnight incident during which Powell was witnessed to have attacked his father with a hammer while his father slept, in the family's shared home south of Lander.

The court affidavit states that Powell's mother witnessed her son striking his father in the head with a hammer repeatedly.

Powell was charged with aggravated assault last summer for an attack on his father nearly identical to the one he now faces: hitting his father in the head with a hammer.

He pleaded "not guilty by reason of mental illness" to those charges as well and was freed early this year and placed under probationary and medical supervision.

When he appeared in Riverton Circuit Court before Judge Wesley Roberts, Powell was placed under a cash bond of $500,000, and also several contact restrictions: He was to have no contact with his mother or his father, the latter of whom had been flown to emergency medical care at the time.

Those strictures remain in place, despite the defendant's requests that they be altered.


Fatal fire ruled accidental

PINEDALE (WNE) — Following an investigation by the Wyoming State Fire Marshal, the house fire at 121 N. Ashley Ave. on July 10 that killed one man and left a woman injured was ruled accidental.

According to a press release from Sublette County Unified Fire, “The fire originated on the cook stove in the kitchen.”

The release goes on to say, “The occupants had left the front door open as well as a bedroom window due to the warm night. Open windows and doors allow for increased air entrainment (air being drawn) into the structure. This entrainment caused the fire to grow rapidly from the kitchen, to the short hall between the bedroom and kitchen. An opening in the wall between the kitchen and living room allowed for the fire and hot fire gasses to enter into the living room.”

James Tipton, 61, died in the fire. Tricia Gregory Gunderson, 57, was sent to the intensive care unit at an Idaho burn clinic.

After the fire started and noxious smoke poured from the house, a neighbor heard Gunderson screaming for someone to get out.

She was released from Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center on July 15. Dave Harley of the Wyoming State Fire Marshal’s Office assisted Sublette County investigators with the investigation.

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