Originally created 02/27/06

Across the southeast



Inspectors says ride was working properly

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. - A state agency reported Sunday that an inspection uncovered no problems with the Cypress Gardens roller coaster from which an Orlando boy fell.

Martin Llamas, 13, remained in intensive care at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa, hospital officials said. He had been airlifted there Saturday after falling from the Triple Hurricane coaster. Officials did not comment on his injuries.

"This appears to be a tragic accident. The preliminary investigation is that he came out of the car, went over the rail of the ride and dropped a distance of 10 to 12 feet onto grass," said Carrie Rogers, a spokeswoman for the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

An investigation is ongoing, she said.

Cypress Gardens released a statement Sunday saying that Martin acted on a dare to maneuver out of his restraint, and stood up before falling as the ride ended.

Park officials said they found his restraint secured when the coaster stopped.

State ride inspector Mark Gonzales, who inspected the roller coaster Sunday morning, reported that no deficiencies were found.

Man charged after confessing to killings

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. - A mechanic was charged with robbing and killing two people and could face charges in the slaying of a third man, authorities said.

Brian Bethell, 40, was charged in the deaths of Frederick Gunther, 76, and Albert Avenaim, 63, after confessing to both killings, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.

Mr. Bethell also confessed to killing Angel Pedro Medina, 41, and charges were expected to be filed, Fort Lauderdale police said.

All three Broward County killings took place in the past three weeks, authorities said. Investigators said Saturday they were looking into whether Mr. Bethell might have been involved in other slayings.

Mr. Bethell was arrested Friday, police said.

Mr. Bethell and his girlfriend, Natasha Edwards, 20, had gone shopping with Mr. Gunther's stolen credit card at a Wal-Mart in Coral Springs, where he also had gone shopping with stolen credit cards after fatally shooting and robbing Mr. Avenaim on Feb. 10 outside a Hallandale Beach restaurant, authorities said.