Originally created 12/29/04

Odds and Ends



PITTSBURGH - Did you hear the one about the insurance agent and the coyote?

So have the Pennsylvania Game Commission, wildlife agencies in other states and insurers.

They all dismiss as urban legend claims that insurance companies and wildlife agencies are releasing coyotes into the wild to reduce deer-car collision claims.

"There's a lot of people that seriously believe that the agency has been doing this," said Carl Graybill, director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's bureau of information and education. "The whole thing's pretty absurd."

While the agency doesn't track such claims, Graybill said wildlife conversation officers are occasionally questioned in the field about it.

It's illegal for anyone to release animals into the wild without a permit and the agency hasn't issued any permits to insurance companies, Graybill said Monday.

"No one ever comes forward with any proof that it occurred," Graybill said "People can be very gullible, too."

Over the last several weeks, Erie Insurance Group has had calls about the issue.

"It's just a fallacy. It's just not true. That's just not a way that we would manage our risks," said spokesman Mark Dombrowski.

To be sure, deer-car collisions are costly for insurers; about 150 people are killed in deer collisions annually and collisions cause more than $1.1 billion in vehicle damage, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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MEDINA, Ohio - A man whose car plunged 30 feet off a highway overpass and landed wheels down in the snow-covered median between lanes of freeway traffic escaped with only minor injuries.

"The front air bag deployed and right after that I felt a floating sensation," Michael Doner said. "I thought, 'I'm either dreaming or I'm falling.'"

Doner, 60, of Medina, was making the three-hour drive to visit his mother on Christmas when a car skidded into his and a second car slammed into him, sending his car over railing of the bridge over Interstate 71 about 30 miles southwest of Cleveland.

Doctors told Doner his Honda's side air bag minimized his injuries. He had a broken collarbone and cracked ribs, and was sent home less than six hours after the fall.

"I'm very lucky," Doner said. "The guy upstairs was looking out for me."

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BELMONT, N.C. - Wade Jones likes Elvis, but he insists he's just a casual fan.

That's why, after watching a grilled cheese sandwich thought to be embedded with the image of the Virgin Mary fetch $28,000 on eBay, he decided to part with three tablespoons of water from a cup he says Elvis Presley used during a concert.

"It's one thing to be an Elvis fan, but then you tell them you have this cup and water and they think you're a fanatic," he said. "I'm not like the people bidding on this water."

Jones was 13 when he went to see the aging Elvis in February 1977 at the old Charlotte Coliseum, which is now Cricket Arena. He saw the pop icon drink from the cup and, after the show, asked a police officer for it.

As proof of its authenticity, Jones provides photos of Elvis during the concert in which cups can be seen.

The cup stayed in Jones' parent's deep freezer for eight years, until he moved out. He then decided to melt the ice and keep the water in a sealed glass vial.

Jones' latest eBay posting, in which he is auctioning the chance to "exhibition" the cup for one day on Presley's birthday, said the water sold for $455 on Christmas Day.