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Tuesday
Oct172017

911 calls capture unfolding crisis at Florida nursing home where patients died

John McCall, South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images(HOLLYWOOD, Fla.) --  Newly released 911 calls capture the unfolding crisis at a Florida nursing home that lost its air conditioning after Hurricane Irma, subjecting its patients to sweltering heat and ultimately leading to the deaths of 14 people.

In the first call from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills during the early hours of Sept. 13, an unidentified employee tells the dispatcher a patient is in cardiac arrest. "I saw her slouch over. I noticed she is not breathing," the employee says.

In another call, an employee sighs, "Whatta night," while describing her patient's condition. By the fourth call, an employee remarks, "Oh my God, this is crazy," as she goes back and forth with the dispatcher.

As the calls continue coming in, employees at the nursing home sound increasingly frenzied as they describe patients in various states of respiratory distress. By the sixth and final call, the dispatcher asks whether they've called already. "It's for a different patient," replies the employee.

The calls were released Monday by Hollywood Police.

Geoffrey D. Smith, an attorney for the nursing home, had no comment on the calls. "We have been asking for these records since the incidents occurred. To date, we have not had access to the 911 calls and are still waiting for responses to our multiple public record requests," he said.

Florida officials have suspended the nursing's home license in the wake of the deaths. The facility is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

More than 100 residents were evacuated from the nursing home, which is affiliated with the Larkin Community Hospital, on Sept. 13 after the facility's air conditioning system failed.

Medical staff from Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, which is near the nursing home, described a chaotic scene of evacuating the patients from the nursing home after three came into the emergency room with "extraordinarily high temperatures." Some of the patients who were admitted to the hospital had temperatures of upwards of 106 degrees, hospital officials told ABC News last month.

Nursing home administrator Jorge Carballo said in a statement shortly after the facility was evacuated in September that the home had suffered "a prolonged power failure to the transformer which powered the facility's air conditioning system as a result of the hurricane."

"Facility administration is cooperating fully with relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were affected," he added.

In a later statement, Carballo said, "The center and its medical and administrative staff diligently prepared" for the hurricane.

"We took part in emergency management preparedness calls with local and state emergency officials, other nursing homes and health regulators," he said. "While our center did not lose power during the storm, it did lose one transformer that powers the air conditioning unit. The center immediately contacted Florida Power & Light and continued to follow up with them for status updates on when repairs would be made. Outreach was also made to local emergency officials and first responders.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has vowed to hold those responsible for the deaths accountable.

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Monday
Oct162017

California wildfire death toll continues to rise

David McNew/Getty Images(SANTA ROSA, Calif.) -- A possibly weary contracted driver of a water truck helping to fight California's wildfires died Monday morning after his truck veered off the road and rolled over, officials said.

The unidentified man was driving a water tender, also known as a tanker, that can supply thousands of gallons of water to firefighters.

He was driving into Napa Valley's Robert Mondavi Winery to help battle blazes when he apparently lost control of the car, a California fire official confirmed to ABC News.

"Fatigue is [potentially] a factor," the official said.

His death comes after fire officials in California said they "turned a corner" on what has been one of the deadliest outbreaks of wildfires ever to hit the state.

"Conditions have drastically changed from just 24 hours ago, and that is definitely a very good sign," said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, on Sunday. "It's probably a sign we've turned a corner on these fires," he said, noting that some of the fires were 50 percent or more contained.

"A week ago this started as a nightmare, and the day we dreamed of has arrived," Napa County Supervisor Belia Ramos said Sunday.

Officials warned, however, that 14 large fires are still not fully contained and remain dangerous.

So far, 40,000 people have been evacuated. Officials said thousands of displaced residents are being permitted to return home to areas deemed safe.

The blazes have raged out of control for over a week, killing at least 41. In Sonoma County, 88 people remain unaccounted for, officials said Monday afternoon. Nearly 700 are in shelters in Santa Rosa, which is a part of the county.

They have destroyed some 5,700 homes and other buildings and charred more than 213,000 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 in Sonoma County, was among the hardest-hit areas, with at least 2,834 homes, businesses and other buildings destroyed there. Critical infrastructure was also lost in the flames, including the city's fire station, according to Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey.

Emergency vehicles have since returned to Santa Rosa police headquarters so crews can recuperate, and forecasters predict that Santa Rosa could get a dose of rain by Thursday.

The glimmer of hope in the fire-ravaged Wine Country comes after emergency personnel carried out mandatory evacuations in northern California on Saturday and as firefighters fought what had been 16 large wildfires around the state that authorities say leveled entire neighborhoods.

But as northern California's Diablo Winds die down, and fires get tamed as weather brings possible precipitation, southern California is seeing its Santa Ana winds starting to gain strength.

As a result, officials have placed areas in the southern part of the state under extreme fire weather warnings.

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Monday
Oct162017

Truck driver pleads guilty in human smuggling case that led to 10 deaths

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN ANTONIO) -- A man accused of transporting undocumented immigrants in a brutally hot tractor-trailer, resulting in the deaths of 10 people, has pleaded guilty to the federal charges against him.

James Matthew Bradley Jr., 61, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in death and one count of transporting aliens resulting in death, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

The truck was discovered early July 23 in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio, Texas, by firefighters and police after a Walmart employee called late Saturday for a welfare check when someone asked the employee for water, officials said.

Eight people were found dead inside the tractor-trailer. Two additional people died later. Many experienced heat stroke and dehydration, officials said.

The tractor-trailer contained a total of 39 people but was believed to have held between 70 and 180 to 200 people during transport, according to the DOJ press release.

Conditions inside the tractor-trailer were "horrific," according to officials. One undocumented immigrant who survived the ordeal told investigators that the driver ignored their banging from inside the container as they took turns breathing through a hole in the wall, according to a criminal complaint. Some people had trouble breathing and passed out, the man said.

Bradley initially told an officer at the scene that he was unaware of the tractor-trailer's contents, according to the criminal complaint. Bradley told the officer "after he parked his tractor-trailer he exited the vehicle to urinate when he heard movement in the trailer. Bradley said he then went to the rear of the trailer and opened the door. Bradley stated he tried to administer aid to the occupants," according to the complaint.

Temperatures inside the tractor-trailer are estimated to have reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, according to officials.

“Today’s admission of guilt by Mr. Bradley helps to close the door on one of the conspirators responsible for causing the tragic loss of life and wreaking havoc on those who survived this horrific incident,” Shane M. Folden, special agent in charge, Homeland Security Investigation, San Antonio, said in a statement. “This case is a glaring reminder that alien smugglers are driven by greed and have little regard for the health and well-being of their human cargo, which can prove to be a deadly combination. HSI is committed to aggressively targeting human smugglers and smuggling organizations, who continually victimize people for profit.”

Bradley faces up to life in federal prison, according to the press release. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 22.

Another man charged in connection with the smuggling operation, 47–year-old Pedro Silva Segura, an undocumented immigrant, faces a number of counts, including one count of conspiracy to transport and harbor undocumented aliens for financial gain resulting in death, one count of conspiracy to transport and harbor undocumented aliens for financial gain resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy, and more. Silva Segura was arrested in Laredo, Texas, and is awaiting transfer to San Antonio. He has not yet entered a plea.

Attorneys for Bradley did not immediately comment on the guilty pleas.

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Monday
Oct162017

'No way' he'd leave her: 100-year-old and wife of 75 years among wildfire victims

Courtesy of Mike Rippey (SANTA ROSA, Calif.) -- At least 41 people have died from the devastating wildfires that have been burning in California for more than a week.

Over 213,000 acres have burned in the state. Sonoma County was hit especially hard, where many perished and homes were demolished.

Those killed from the fires include a 100-year-old man and his wife of 75 years, as well as a 72-year-old woman who had reportedly been recovering from cancer.

Charles and Sara Rippey


Charles and Sara Rippey of Napa County, California, who were married for 75 years, both died in the fires.

Charles Rippey, who turned 100 in July, met Sara Rippey when they were children in Wisconsin, one of their sons, Mike Rippey, told ABC News.

Mike Rippey, the oldest of five siblings, said his mother "was paralyzed, she had a stroke about five years ago, and there was no way she was getting out of this fire."

"And my father was sleeping in a different room, and we found him halfway to her room. And so he never made it to her room," Mike Rippey said. "But even if he had made it, there was no way he was gonna leave her. So neither one of them was getting out."

His brother Chuck Rippey said he got a call about the house being engulfed in flames, so he drove over, reaching the house a few hours after the blaze.

"If they had gotten out, in their elderly state, somehow, they would have gotten grilled out here," Chuck Rippey said. "That's how bad it was."

Mike Rippey said of his parents, "They lived a long life. It was a great life and they were happy right up until the last minute.

"And you just have to look at that and just, you know, be happy that that's what happened and they died together and they never wanted to leave each other," he added. "So it was almost impossible for any of us to visualize one of them dying first."

Carol Collins-Swasey

Victim Carol Collins-Swasey, 76, was a retired real estate broker and active Red Cross volunteer who lived in Santa Rosa, California, for over 30 years, family member Roxanne Swasey told ABC News.

"She was successful, career-focused and very hardworking. She was quick-witted with a great sense humor and an animal lover," Roxanne Swasey told ABC News via email. "Married for 27 years to her husband, Jim Swasey, she was a positive influence on a lot of people's lives in helping them buy homes and felt a lot of gratitude in being able to do so."

Arthur and Suiko Grant

Arthur Grant, 95, and Suiko Grant, 75, of Santa Rosa, died at their home of 45 years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Grant was flying for Pan American World Airways when he met his wife, who was born in Japan, the newspaper reported.

They are survived by two daughters and a granddaughter, the newspaper said.

Lynne Powell

Lynne Anderson Powell, 72, who had been recovering from mouth cancer, died trying to flee the fire, her husband, George Powell, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

When the fire neared their Santa Rosa home, she left the house before he did, he said, telling the newspaper, "I thought my wife was out. I thought she was going to be safe."

But in the midst of the fire and smoke, she allegedly drove off the side of the road, the newspaper said.

“What I didn’t know is I had passed her,” George Powell told the newspaper. “She was down in a ravine. And I had no idea she was down there. If I had known that, I would’ve gone down with her. I would’ve gone to try and find her.”

“She always had my back,” he said of his wife, the newspaper reported. “She tried to make life OK for me, regardless of what she was going through.”

Valerie Evans

Valerie Lynn Evans, 75, a mother and wife, died at her home in Santa Rosa while trying to save her dogs, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

She was known as an animal lover and had horses, goats, dogs, a mule and a steer at her home, the newspaper said.

Carmen Berriz

Carmen Caldentey Berriz, 75, died in the arms of her husband of 55 years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

When fire surrounded the home they were vacationing in, the couple jumped in the backyard pool, the newspaper said. Berriz died, but her husband, Armando Berriz, survived.

The two had met in Cuba when Carmen Berriz was 12 years old, the newspaper said.

“They were inseparable. They were just amazing,” son-in-law Luis Ocon said, according to the newspaper. “They were the type of couple that you want to emulate, that you strive to be."

Donna and Leroy Halbur

Victims Donna and Leroy Halbur had just celebrated their 80th birthdays and 50th wedding anniversary, according to The Mercury News.

They had lived in their Santa Rosa home for 36 years, their son, Tim Halbur, said, according to the newspaper.

Tim Halbur described his mother, a former nun, as "a great mom" who was “very creative" and "loved little kids," the newspaper said. He called his father, who worked as an accountant for a decade, "a pillar of the community,” who was “very selfless.”

Veronica McCombs

Veronica McCombs, 67, died in her Santa Rosa home.

In a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle, her family said she devoted her life to her family and community.

“She was our foundation," her son, Branden McCombs, said in the statement. "As a family, we are grieving deeply and she will be missed forever.”

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Monday
Oct162017

200-pound, 85-year-old tortoise gets a lift from California wildfires in a wheelbarrow

Facebook - Napa Valley Equine(NAPA, Calif.) -- Rescuers found an unlikely animal in need of evacuation at a remote location amid the raging Northern California wildfires.

When a search-and-rescue team found the 200-pound, 85-year-old tortoise Friday, they quickly gathered a crew, led by Napa County Animal Services, to relocate the animal, according to Napa Valley Equine, an animal hospital.

The facility posted a video to Facebook showing a team of four people, including two veterinarians, lifting the large reptile onto a tarp and then into a wheelbarrow in order to get it off the property as quickly as possible.

Fire officials have called this one of the deadliest outbreaks of wildfires to ever hit the state, killing at least 40 people and destroying about 5,700 structures in the past week.

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Monday
Oct162017

Search suspended for missing worker after oil rig explosion in Louisiana

Erik Hanson(NEW ORLEANS) -- The search for a missing Louisiana worker was suspended Monday evening after he was unaccounted for following an explosion on a large oil rig Sunday night.

The Kenner Police Department said it fielded a flurry of 911 calls at 7:18 p.m. Sunday after witnesses heard a loud explosion and reported seeing a large fireball and cloud around Lake Pontchartrain, which is just north of New Orleans.

Lt. Brian McGregor told ABC News that after their phone lines lit up, boats were launched by Kenner Police Department and Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries "within seconds." The crews assisted seven injured workers and transported another four stranded workers aboard the rig to shore, but one victim, identified by the Coast Guard as Timothy Morrison, 44, of Katy, Texas, remained unaccounted for.

“The decision to suspend a search is never an easy one,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Zac Ford Monday evening. “We send our thoughts and prayers to the Morrison family and all those affected by this incident.”

The majority of victims suffered burn injuries, McGregor said.

Five workers in critical condition were rushed to University Medical Center, a level 1 trauma center, and two others were taken to East Jefferson General Hospital. Michael Guillot, director of East Jefferson Emergency Medical Services, said the victims suffered "blast-type injuries and burns."

Two workers, according to McGregor, who were more stable at the time were transported to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to receive treatment for fire-related injuries.

Clovelly Oil Company, the owner of the oil rig, released a statement about the fire and its oil and gas production on the platform.

The company said three of the injured were employees and four others were contractors from other companies hired to work on the rig. Morrison, the missing worker, was also a contractor, the statement added.

The blaze has been mostly contained, Jefferson Parish fire officials said at a press conference. The only flame still active on the rig is a shutoff gas light that officials anticipate will burn out on its own.


Initially, officials cautioned that oil could leak into Lake Pontchartrain, but the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Coast Guard stated earlier today that they do not see evidence of environmental issues so far and that no oil sheen has surfaced.

Clovelly stressed that it is working with local authorities to contain the fire and that three oil wells were "shut in" when the blast occurred.

The company said the shut-in took place "shortly after the explosion," but it is unsure whether oil leaked into Lake Pontchartrain.

"Clovelly does not know if any oil was discharged into the lake," the statement read.

At the time of the blast, "routine maintenance was being conducted on the platform," the statement added.

The City of Kenner posted on its Facebook page Sunday evening that "authorities on the scene report that cleaning chemicals ignited on the surface of the oil rig platform."

McGregor said it was too early to confirm the cause of the blast.

"We won't know until you get on the rig to see what kind of maintenance was being done," he said.

The lieutenant, a seasoned veteran, was shocked by the incident.

"I've been here 23 years and this is the first time anything like this happened," McGregor said.

Louisiana State Police is investigating the cause of the explosion.

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Monday
Oct162017

Bowe Bergdahl pleads guilty in desertion, misbehavior case

Sara D. Davis/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty on Monday to charges of desertion with intention to shirk duty and misbehavior before the enemy stemming from his 2009 disappearance and capture by the Taliban.

Bergdahl drew international headlines after he left his Army outpost in Afghanistan over eight years ago.

He was captured and held by the Taliban for almost five years until his release was negotiated in 2014 by the Obama administration as part of a prisoner exchange. Upon his return to the United States, Bergdahl returned to duty while an investigation probed the circumstances surrounding his disappearance. He was formally charged in March 2015.

The misbehavior before the enemy charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, though sentencing won't occur until later this month. Judge Jeffrey Nance, presiding over the case, questioned Bergdahl Monday to ensure he understood the charges and consequences of pleading guilty.

In interviews with the podcast "Serial" in December 2015, Bergdahl explained that his lack of confidence in leadership at Combat Outpost Mest-Malak in Paktika Province, Afghanistan prompted his decision to embark on an 18-mile hike to a nearby base to report his concerns. He said he realized he made a mistake only 20 minutes after leaving his base.

Republicans in Washington were critical of Bergdahl's negotiated release in 2014, portraying the Obama administration as having negotiated with terrorists. A 2015 report by Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee argued that Congress was misled by the administration about the exchange, which released five Taliban prisoners in Guantanamo Bay to Qatar.

President Donald Trump frequently assailed Bergdahl during last year's presidential campaign, referring to the soldier at times as a "dirty, rotten traitor" and a "bum." Attorneys for Bergdahl requested to have potential jurors answer questions about the president in a pre-trial questionnaire, though the trial's judge declined in June an attempt to include the question of whether those potential jurors voted for Trump.

In an interview recorded last year and obtained by ABC News, Bergdahl explained that because of Trump's statements, he did not believe he would be able to receive a fair trial.

“We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs that got what they wanted,” Bergdahl said. “The people who want to hang me, you’re never going to convince those people.”

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Monday
Oct162017

Bowe Bergdahl doubts he could get a fair trial after Trump comments

Sara D. Davis/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former Taliban prisoner Bowe Bergdahl is expected to plead guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in a military hearing that begins at Fort Bragg as he doubts that he could get a fair trial following campaign statements by Donald Trump.

Despite surviving five years in a Taliban cage, Trump had called Sgt. Bergdahl a "traitor" who should be executed in several campaign speeches as a presidential candidate.

In an on-camera interview shot last year by a British filmmaker, obtained exclusively by ABC News and airing on Good Morning America, World News Tonight with David Muir and Nightline, Bergdahl says the words of the man who is now his commander-in-chief would have made a fair trial impossible.

“We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs that got what they wanted,” Bergdahl said. “The people who want to hang me, you’re never going to convince those people.”

The 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment trooper walked off his combat outpost in Afghanistan in June 2009 and was immediately captured by the Taliban. During his five years in captivity with the Haqqani network, the same Taliban faction that held American Caitlan Coleman and her family hostage for five years until being freed last Wednesday, Bergdahl endured what one U.S. official called the worst case of prisoner abuse since the Vietnam War.

He was released in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners who had been detained at Guantanamo Bay, a deal that was harshly criticized on the campaign trail by then-candidate Trump, who called Bergdahl "garbage” and even suggested that he should have been summarily executed.

“You know in the old days, Bing. Bong,” Trump said as he mimicked firing a rifle. “When we were strong.”

Speaking to British war filmmaker Sean Langan, who was himself held captive by the same Taliban group in 2008, Bergdahl says he wants to fight back against what he calls a false narrative fueled by conservative outlets like Fox News that sought to portray him as a traitor and jihadi sympathizer who had been convinced to fight against the United States alongside his captors.

Such rumors were false, military officials have said.

“You know, it’s just insulting frankly,” Bergdahl told Langan. “It’s very insulting, the idea that they would think I did that.”

In 2014, then Fox News correspondents Megyn Kelly and James Rosen reported on “secret documents” obtained by the network which purported to show that Bergdahl had “shown affection” for his captors, converted to Islam and become a “Mujahidin,” or jihadi, himself.

According to Bergdahl, however, he thought the conditions in captivity might kill him before his captors could.

“It was getting so bad that I was literally looking at myself, you know, looking at joints, looking my ribs and just going, ‘I’m gonna die here from sickness, or I can die escaping,’” Bergdahl said. “You know, it didn’t really matter.”

He attempted to escape twice, according to military officials, and he was severely punished after being re-captured. Terrence Russell, a military official who debriefs former U.S. captives for the U.S. Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, says Bergdahl was tortured in a way reminiscent of the brutality visited upon prisoners of war in Vietnam decades ago.

“When they recaptured him and brought him back, the next day they spread-eagled and secured him to a metal bed frame,” Russell says to Langan in another video. “They took a plastic pipe … and they started beating his feet and his legs repeatedly with this plastic pipe. … The idea was to just beat him and injure his legs and his feet so that he could not walk away again.”

Bergdahl also says he was confined for more than four years to a cage that was only seven feet long and six feet wide.

“From first year,” Bergdahl said when asked how much time he spent in that cage. “So second, third, fourth and then into the fifth year.”

It remains a mystery, however, why Bergdahl walked off his post in the first place.

Another senior official who spoke to Langan for his documentary was retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who as the former head of intelligence for special operations in Afghanistan and then as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency was deeply involved in the early search for Bergdahl.

He also briefly served as President Trump’s national security adviser after working on his campaign, and he told Langan that he “absolutely” believes Bergdahl left the base with the intention to meet the Taliban.

But Bergdahl disputes that, claiming in a taped conversation with filmmaker Mark Boal that was broadcast in the second season of the Serial podcast that he walked off post in an attempt to report to senior officers that his platoon commander was “unfit” for his position.

Bergdahl has not been charged with any crime related to aiding the enemy.

Whatever his reasons were, at least two soldiers were seriously wounded during the search to find him, as ABC News first reported in 2014. Following his guilty plea, the question remaining before the military is what form of punishment Bergdahl deserves.

On that question, even Flynn doubted that justice would be best served by putting a former prisoner back in prison.

“So the guy deserted his men, his soldiers, his squad – no doubt,” Flynn said. “[But] I don’t think he should serve another day in any sort of confinement or jail, or anything like that because frankly even though he put himself into this situation to a degree, we, the United States government and the United States military, put him in Afghanistan.”

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Monday
Oct162017

Oil possibly leaking in Lake Pontchartrain after rig explosion injures 7; 1 missing

Erik Hanson(KENNER, La. ) -- Officials warned that oil may be leaking into Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans after a large rig explosion injured at least 7 people and left one missing on Sunday.

Witnesses reported hearing loud explosions, seeing a large fireball and cloud of smoke after an oil transfer station went up in the lake near the city of Kenner, just outside New Orleans.

The Coast Guard said it was coordinating search efforts for the missing man and dispatched two rescue boats and a helicopter rescue crew. Local fire officials said the blaze was under control but that oil may be leaking into the lake.


Seven people were transferred to local hospitals. Five of them were initially taken to a trauma center and were listed in critical condition with "blast type injuries and burns," according to Michael Guillot, director of East Jefferson Emergency Medical Services

Early on Monday Guillot updated the trauma patients' conditions to one critical, three serious and one stable.

Investigators arrived on the scene Sunday and were looking into reports of cleaning chemicals on the rig triggering the blast, officials said.

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Monday
Oct162017

Minnesota father of 3 killed worst terror attack in Somalia's history

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Minnesota father of three was one of more than 270 people who were killed in Somalia over the weekend when a pair of truck bombs went off in the country's capital, his family said. Authorities are calling it the deadliest terrorist attack in the nation’s history.

The attack left 276 people dead and around 300 others injured, the country's information minister, Abdirahman Osman, said late Sunday. The death toll is expected to rise.

Fifty-year-old Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow arrived in his hometown of Mogadishu just hours before the deadly bomb went off, according to his family. He was resting in his hotel room when the blast struck, destroying the hotel and many other buildings in the surrounding area.

"We miss him so much,” Eyow's widow, Ruun Abdi Eyow, said at a press conference on Sunday. "I want people to know that he was a great father. He has two jobs, and my husband works very hard."

Born in Somalia, Eyow became a refugee when he fled the East African nation after its government collapsed in 1991, according to his mosque. He eventually settled in Minnesota in 1998.

"Ahmed was one of our most effective and active community members in our center," Mohamed Omar, executive director of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center, said at the news conference on Sunday.

Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow leaves behind three children: Yonis, 14; Yusra, 13; and Yahya, 10.

Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow left for Somalia on Oct. 7 “with great hope, looking forward to a chance to make a difference in his home country,” according to the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., where Eyow attended daily prayer services.

“He was working as a welder but longed to return to his homeland of Somalia,” the center said in a statement on Sunday. “He thought that he could help bring back stability to Somalia by applying for a job as a representative with the UN.”

The Islamic center has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the Eyow family.

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