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REGIONAL BRIEFING

Sunday, December 17, 2006

DELAWARE HELICOPTER CRASH

No Mechanical Problems Found

Federal investigators have found no mechanical problems with a helicopter that crashed in dense fog Thursday night in Delaware, killing a local real estate developer and the aircraft's pilot, authorities said.

Joshua M. Freeman, 42, of Gaithersburg and the Bell helicopter's pilot, Danielle Howell, 30, of Richmond, were found dead in the wreckage minutes after the crash in a rural area near Dagsboro, authorities said.

Earlier in the evening, Howell landed the helicopter in a farm field to pick up Freeman and take him back to Washington after he attended a holiday party at a golf club. Howell chose the field because it was too foggy to operate the craft near the course, she told a state trooper who was summoned to investigate the helicopter's unexpected landing, authorities said.

The fog grew thicker before Freeman arrived. The pair took off about 6:15 p.m., investigators said.

A witness watched the helicopter clear power lines and then accelerate in a shallow descent until hitting the ground about 1,100 feet from where it took off, according to Brian Rayner, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Rayner said the fog was so dense that the witness had to grab a flashlight to find his way to the crash site. Investigators have completed a preliminary inspection of the helicopter's wreckage. A final report on the accident will not be released for several months, Rayner said.

-- Del Quentin Wilber

LOUDOUN COUNTY

Development Halt Considered

To encourage Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and the General Assembly to approve new transportation spending, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors will consider a moratorium Tuesday on development similar to a measure approved this month in neighboring Prince William County.

Loudoun Supervisor James G. Burton (I-Blue Ridge) proposed the bill. It is expected to face considerable opposition from other Loudoun supervisors, unlike the Prince William measure, which passed unanimously.

Burton's proposal would halt consideration of development applications until the county updates its transportation plan or the legislature finds money for road improvements.

Loudoun, the fastest-growing county in Virginia, has been inundated with new homes and the growing demands on services that come with them.

"Loudoun County shares many of the same issues as Prince William County: double-digit growth in population, housing units, student population, schools and school staff, public safety officers, tax-supported debt, and average residential tax bill," Burton wrote in a memo to the board. "The failure of the road infrastructure to support the increased demands upon it has also become increasingly clear."

-- Amy Gardner

THE DISTRICT

Police Investigate Fatal Shooting

D.C. police said they are seeking information about the shooting death of 29-year-old Preston Johns, who was found yesterday shot in the throat.

The man was found about 3:15 a.m. at Ninth and French streets NW, police spokesman Joe Gentile said. Investigators did not immediately identify a suspect or a motive. Anyone with information in the case should call 202-727-9099.

-- Associated Press

Southeast Woman Set on Fire

A 45-year-old Southeast woman was in serious condition yesterday after being set on fire by a man she knew and suffering burns on a large portion of her body, D.C. police said.

The woman, whose name was withheld by police, was transported to a hospital after fire and police units responded at 10:41 a.m. to the 5000 block of D Street SE, Capt. Michael Reese said. After investigating, police arrested Terrance James, 48, who lives on the same block but not in the same house as the woman, Reese said.

James and the woman had a domestic relationship of some sort, Reese said.

-- David Nakamura

3 Life Sentences in Gang Case

Three more men have been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of release for their roles in the violent drug gang known as Murder Inc. in the 1990s.

Federal prosecutors said Keith McGill, 38; James Alfred, 33; and Deon Oliver, 29, were sentenced Friday on their convictions of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, racketeering and other crimes.

In addition, Franklin Seegers, 51, was sentenced to 40 years to life for his role in the gang.

The gang had a long-running, successful drug distribution operation throughout the District in the 1990s and was responsible for dozens of killings and other violence to protect its territory, prosecutors said.

Seven other members of the gang have been convicted and sentenced to life in prison, and three more are to be sentenced next year.

-- Associated Press

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