THE REGION

Men Removed From Plane Later Cleared

A U.S. Airways flight headed from Orlando to Reagan National Airport was diverted yesterday to Jacksonville, Fla., where more than a half-dozen passengers were removed because of what was characterized as suspicious behavior. Those passengers turned out to be military personnel from the Middle East who were flying to Washington to meet with the U.S. Department of Defense, authorities said.

The men, who were in civilian clothes, were later cleared by authorities and were allowed onto another flight, law enforcement officials said.

Flight 480, with 144 passengers aboard, departed from Orlando at 1:05 p.m. and was diverted at 1:55 p.m. after members of the flight crew grew concerned that the Middle Eastern men were communicating with one another verbally and with hand gestures and had gone to bathrooms at opposite ends of the 737 plane, authorities and passengers said.

After the plane landed at the Jacksonville airport, the men were ushered off by marshals without incident, authorities and passengers said.

The other passengers eventually continued on, landing in Washington about 5:46 p.m., about 2 hours and 35 minutes late, an airline spokesman said.

Dolphin Is Aquarium's 2nd to Die in '05

The National Aquarium in Baltimore has lost its second bottlenose dolphin this year, officials said.

Raven, a 4-year-old dolphin who was born at the aquarium, became sick June 4 and died within hours of showing symptoms. A dolphin named Bob was euthanized in March.

An aquarium spokeswoman said news of Raven's death was not released earlier because the aquarium was waiting for more results from a necropsy. Spokeswoman Jennifer Fiegl said early results showed he died from a bacterial infection. The aquarium has seven dolphins that are said to be in good health.

MARYLAND

Beltway Driver Falls Asleep, Flipping Car

Traffic was slowed yesterday on the outer loop of the Capital Beltway in Maryland after authorities said a Fairfax man fell asleep at the wheel of a blue Buick. The car hit another vehicle, flipped and landed on its roof in a wooded embankment near the American Legion Memorial Bridge.

Maryland State Police identified the driver as Christopher Eequin, 20. Eequin and a passenger were taken to Suburban Hospital, where they were treated for minor injuries and released, police said. Another passenger was unharmed.

The accident occurred shortly before 9:30 a.m. as the three men were headed home to Fairfax after a night of partying, police said. Just before reaching the bridge, Eequin nodded off, struck a car in the adjoining lane and lost control, police said.

Man Killed in Aspen Hill Crash Identified

Montgomery County police yesterday identified a motorist killed in a three-car crash Saturday night in the Aspen Hill area.

He is Carlito Rivera Mandocdoc, 44, of Adelphi. Authorities said Mandocdoc was turning left into a shopping center on Connecticut Avenue near Independence Street about 7 p.m. when his blue Toyota Corolla collided with a white Corolla and then a silver Dodge Stratus.

The driver of the white Corolla was not injured, and the other driver's injuries were not considered life-threatening, police said. Authorities said they are investigating the crash.

Girl Hit by Vehicle Is Critically Injured

A 14-year-old girl was struck by a vehicle and critically injured early yesterday as she walked along Route 1 in Jessup, Howard County police said.

The accident happened just after midnight as the girl walked north near Hicks Road. She was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she was listed in critical condition.

THE DISTRICT

24-Year-Old Man Fatally Shot in NE

A 24-year-old man was found slain early yesterday in Northeast Washington, police said.

Just before 2 a.m., police found the body of Michael West, 24, in the 2500 block of 14th Street NE in the Brentwood Village area.

West lived in the 600 block of Edgewood Street NE, a little less than a mile from where he was found. He apparently was shot in the head and died at the scene, said Sgt. Joe Gentile, a police spokesman. Other details could not immediately be learned.

NW Apartment Fire Sends 1 to Hospital

One person was hospitalized for burns and smoke inhalation yesterday after an apartment fire in a building that houses elderly and disabled people, a D.C. fire department spokesman said.

Six people were carried out of the building after the fire broke out about 5 p.m. The person who was hospitalized had serious but not life-threatening injuries, D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Alan Etter said.

It was the second fire in less than a week at the Harvard Towers, in the 1800 block of Harvard Street NW. A fire June 6 caused about $35,000 in damage. One person was seriously injured, and firefighters had to rescue many residents, several in wheelchairs. Etter said that fire was caused by a man smoking in bed.

Yesterday's blaze was isolated to a second-floor apartment.

VIRGINIA

Talk to Focus on Reston Becoming a Town

The Reston Citizens Association is sponsoring a discussion Thursday about whether the unincorporated community in western Fairfax County should become a town.

The planned community of 56,000 people has talked about the pros and cons of becoming a town in the past, but the idea has never advanced beyond the discussion stage. The Reston Citizens Association provides cultural, recreational and educational services, and another organization, the Reston Association, supplies parks and recreation and oversees design issues. The county provides other services.

The meeting is scheduled for 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne, 1609-A Washington Plaza. For more information, visit www.restoncitizensassociation.org.

"It was getting more and more difficult to do my job. My feeling is they were trying to obstruct me in doing my job. . . . You either stand up for what you believe in or you quit."

-- John Hoffman, who recently resigned as Montgomery County's taxicab inspector after clashing with county leaders over his tough style. -- B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Allan Lengel, Lori Montgomery and Stephen C. Fehr and the Associated Press.