Drug Trafficking Suspect Fails to Appear in Court

MIAMI--Suspected Venezuelan drug trafficker Fernando Jose Flores, extradited from Colombia to Florida, failed to make his first U.S. court appearance yesterday because of health problems, officials said.

Flores, 38, known as the "Fat Man" and considered central to U.S. efforts to try Colombia's undisputed cocaine kings, the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers, had been scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate in Miami.

Extradited Thursday, Flores faces charges of conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine, importing cocaine and money laundering conspiracy.

Flores, who stands 5-foot-6 but weighs more than 300 pounds and has heart problems, boarded a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration jet in Colombia toting an oxygen bottle. He complained of breathing problems when the plane landed at Miami International Airport.

Thanksgiving Crash Kills 7, Injures 6--All Relatives

NEW ORLEANS--A tractor-trailer carrying Christmas trees slammed into a minivan and a car on a freeway Thanksgiving night, killing seven people and injuring six, all of them relatives.

The accident happened about 11 p.m. on an elevated stretch of Interstate 10. The victims were from the New Orleans suburb of Gretna and were returning from a Thanksgiving party.

The car and the minivan behind it were going about 35 mph, their emergency lights blinking, because the car was having engine troubles, Raphael Padilla, who was driving the car, told WDSU-TV.

The dead all were passengers in the minivan, which was crushed against a guard rail by the truck. One other person in the minivan was injured, as were all five people in the car. Four were hospitalized in guarded condition.

The truck driver was not hurt. No charges were filed.

The cause of the wreck was under investigation. The road was dry at the time.

Chevron Cleaning Beaches After Louisiana Oil Spill

NEW ORLEANS--Chevron Corp. said yesterday that it is working with the U.S. Coast Guard and state agencies to clean up beaches in Louisiana after crude oil spilled from a pipeline at Four Bayou Pass near Grand Isle.

The company said about 850 barrels (37,500 gallons) of Louisiana Deepwater Sour crude oil spilled early Wednesday morning from a pipeline running from its Fourchon Terminal to its Empire Terminal, both south of New Orleans.

The pipeline, which carries 80,000 barrels of crude per day, was closed on Wednesday.

It remained closed yesterday, but the crude it was scheduled to carry was rerouted, so only 3,000 barrels of production per day was halted, a spokesman said.

The spokesman said that some sea birds had been harmed by the spill but that it was not yet known how many.