Originally created 02/23/01

Across the area



BURKE COUNTY
Fisherman drowns after boat capsizes

A man drowned in a fishing accident outside Waynesboro on Thursday, nine days after his 27th birthday, according to the Burke County Emergency Management Agency.

It happened between 11:30 a.m. and noon, Chief Earl Porterfield said. Antonio Bell and a friend, Jesse Pinkston, 48, were in a canoe-type boat on a pond off Clarks Place Road. Mr. Pinkston stood up, causing the boat to capsize, the chief said.

Mr. Bell drowned in about 15 feet of water about 20 feet from the shore, Chief Porterfield said. The water temperature was estimated to be 50 degrees. Mr. Pinkston crawled onto the bottom of the boat and waited there until someone heard his yells for help and summoned EMA at about 12:30 p.m. A medic swam to him with a life jacket, and the EMA dive team recovered the body within 15 minutes.

Chief Porterfield said he did not immediately know what caused Mr. Bell, who lived off Mills Road in Waynesboro, to drown. EMA found no life jackets on the boat, he said. The body has been sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's crime lab in Atlanta for an autopsy.

COLUMBIA COUNTY
Dale Earnhardt remembrance set

The life of race car driver Dale Earnhardt will be remembered locally at 7 p.m. today with a memorial service.

The service at Silver Eagle Speedway at 3157 Gordon Highway near Grovetown will include Scripture readings by the racing group John 3:16 and a candlelight vigil, said Cliff Bennett, disc jockey for the radio station WEKL-FM, which is one of the sponsors of the event. The speedway also is sponsoring the service.

Mr. Bennett said there will be a memorial book to sign, and people are asked to bring potted plants or flowers for a memorial garden to be started at the race track in memory of Mr. Earnhardt, who died Sunday in a crash at the Daytona 500.

Mr. Bennett said the service will last about 30 minutes and is the result of an outpouring of sympathy among local racing fans. Gates at the speedway will open at 6 p.m. There is no admission price.

AUGUSTA
Hospital patient volume drops

Normally a booming month, January was a little slower than expected for University Hospital. Officials, however, expect patient numbers to get back to normal soon. At Thursday's meeting of the hospital's board of directors, the board approved more than $548,000 to replace 20 ventilators, part of a three-year upgrade.

While births were up, patient volume was about 8.5 percent behind budget, and the hospital closed the month about $1.1 million behind budget, said Chief Financial Officer Robert Taylor. The hospital will try to adjust expenses accordingly, he said.

With new technology that allows a more precise adjustment of volume and pressure, the hospital will replace 20 ventilators this year and plans to replace 40 in the next three years, said Marilyn Bowcutt, vice president for patient care services.

GEORGIA
Mother charged in child's injury

ATLANTA - A 1-year-old boy was hospitalized after his mother slammed him against a wall, police said.

Officers were called to an Atlanta apartment Wednesday where Michael Ralling told police he had argued with his girlfriend, 21-year-old Lashalae Morgan.

Mr. Ralling told police that during the argument, Ms. Morgan picked up their son, Tyre, and threw him against the wall.

Ms. Morgan turned herself in to police in Lithonia and was returned to Atlanta on Thursday, where she was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count of cruelty to children, Atlanta police spokesman John Quigley said.

Mr. Quigley said Mr. Ralling was charged with simple assault on Ms. Morgan.

The baby was in fair condition Thursday at Hughes Spalding Children's Hospital in Atlanta.

GEORGIA
Flames gut popular nightspot

ATLANTA - An early morning fire caused extensive damage to a well-known Buckhead restaurant.

Dante's Down the Hatch, the popular Atlanta jazz club and restaurant, was nearly destroyed in the fire.

More than 60 firefighters fought flames that shot through the roof of the building. The flames were contained by 2 a.m., officials said.

The cause of the fire was not known, but arson investigators were on the scene. Firefighters said all three floors of the building were damaged.

Destroyed were photographs, artifacts and antiques. Firefighters were able to save the basement area, where the winery is located.

Dante's, which opened in 1980, resembles a pirate ship docked at a European village, complete with moats and crocodiles. Six crocodiles located inside a tank in the restaurant survived the blaze.

Owner Dante Stephensen said the rebuilding process could start as early as this week. He was on the scene as the building burned.

GEORGIA
Sex-crime report involves girl, 10

MACON - Police are investigating a report of a sexual episode involving a 10-year-old girl and two male classmates left unattended in their Bibb County special education classroom.

Bibb County school system spokesman Lawrence Mink said a veteran Hamilton Elementary School teacher left six pupils alone working on math problems Tuesday while she went to make copies.

Police said two boys, 14 and 12, asked the girl to go behind a bookcase, where she allegedly performed oral sex on at least one of the boys.

Police are investigating the incident as a sexual battery, according to the incident report.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Three charged in burning death

SUMMERVILLE - Two Branchville men have been charged with murder and a third man faces other counts in the death of a woman whose burned body was found in the trunk of a charred car.

James Tawain Gadson, 22, and Marion Bowman Jr., 20, are charged with murder. Mr. Bowman also is charged with third-degree arson. Travis Dawit Felder, 19, also of Branchville, was charged with accessory to murder and third-degree arson, according to affidavits.

The victim has been identified as Kandee Martin of Branchville, Orangeburg County sheriff's spokeswoman Charlene Slaughter said.

The body was found in the trunk of a burned Ford Escort on Saturday morning in Dorchester County. Authorities said Ms. Martin was shot twice sometime between 8 p.m. Feb. 16 and 3 a.m. Saturday.