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Michael Jackson's Death 4 Years Ago

Four years ago today (Tue) a global music icon died. Gary-native King of Pop Michael Jackson passed away on June 25, 2009, at the age of 50.   Alex Stone of ABC News covered Jackson's death, and saysl Jackson was in bed -- receiving the anesthetic Propofol to help him sleep -- when he died  "He had been on a grueling rehearsal schedule for a concert series in London. His assistant called 911," Stone reports.  "Jackson's doctor was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and now four years later, Jackson's family is suing the concert promoter - claiming it should have known Jackson was in poor health."


Storms Knock Out Power to 82,000

Northern Indiana Public Service Company field personnel worked through the overnight hours to begin to restore the approximately 82,000 customers system-wide who lost electricity when a line of severe thunderstorms moved quickly through the region Monday evening. NIPSCO says the largest percentage of customer outages were in western portion of the electric service territory, especially in Lake County.  The utility company says the outages were primarily due to broken utility poles, downed electrical wire and other related storm damage as a result of heavy wind and tree damage. As of 5 am today, more than 42,000 customers were without power, with thousands of outages across Lake County, especially across the Gary area. 
To view the outage map click here:

Severe Storms with High Winds Move Through Region

Sustained winds of up to 80 miles per hour caused extensive tree damage in portions of the Region Monday evening where trained spotters reported a sustained wind of 70 to 80 miles per hour for several minutes in the Griffith and Hammond areas. The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning that has since lapsed prior to the storm's arrival.

Trees fell on power lines throughout northwest Indiana, causing widespread power outages especially in Gary, Hammond, Griffith, Highland, Merrillville, Munster and parts of Hobart.
Multiple large trees were reported down near I-80/94 and US-41 in the Highland area causing traffic lights to reportedly go out along US-41 near Ridge Road.
Traffic tipsters reported numerous other trees down including a large tree across  Ridge Road in Munster that took out high tension lines, large branches across Cline Avenue near 15th Avenue.

Other storm damage reported by the National Weather Service included many large tree limbs down on Utah Street in Gary after a reported wind gust of 70 miles an hour went through the area.  A 79 mile per hour gust was reported in burns Harbor.

INDOT reported several fallen trees blocked westbound US-20 before US-12/Dunes Highway.

Meanwhile both Lowell and Valparaiso reported 58 mile per winds during the storm, according to the National Weather Service.

Much of the northwest Indiana listening area remains under a severe thunderstorm watch until 11 p.m. CST Monday night.


Indiana Continues to Struggle with High Child Poverty Rates

INDIANAPOLIS – New data show Indiana children are growing up healthier but the state continues to struggle with high rates of child poverty.
Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book for 2013 ranked Indiana 21st in child health, up 13 spots from last year. The new ranking is bolstered by a 20 percent decrease in the rate of child and teen deaths from 2005 to 2010 and a drop of four percent in the percentage of babies born at a low birthrate during the same time period. The rankings are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  
“This is great news for Indiana’s children,” said Bill Stanczykiewicz, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. “Hopefully the Casey Foundation’s Kids Count report helps to intensify state and local efforts to improve the lives of our children across all the indicators of child well-being.”
One indicator in which the state still lags is child poverty. Nearly one-fourth (23 percent) of Indiana’s children age 18 and under live in poverty. While that figure matches the national average, Indiana’s child poverty rate grew 35 percent from 2005 to 2011 compared to 21 percent for the national average. The Kids Count Data Book ranked the economic well-being of Hoosier children 26th, down two spots from the 2012 data book.
Indiana’s child poverty rate actually started growing before the Great Recession, Stanczykiewicz said, and the economic downturn exacerbated the problem.
“That initial uptick in child poverty and the recession are proving history to be accurate in that even as economies recover, poverty lags behind curve,” Stanczykiewicz said. “There is much we can do in our communities, congregations and youth organizations to encourage youth to prepare themselves academically for the current and future jobs in Indiana that pay high wages.”
Indiana’s overall rank for 2013 out of 50 states and Washington, D.C. improved to 30th from 31st in 2012. In addition to the health and economic well-being rankings, the Kids Count Data Book ranks the state 34th in education and 30th in family and community. 
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The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book provides a detailed picture of how children across the nation are faring. It gives a comprehensive index to measure childhood well-being at the national and state level in four categories—Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family and Community.  
The Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) contributed data to the book for each of Indiana’s 92 counties. Look here to see data from the national KIDS COUNT Data Book. Find Indiana statewide data here. Or see data for each of Indiana’s 92 counties here.    
The Indiana Youth Institute promotes the healthy development of children and youth by serving the people, institutions and communities that impact their well-being....

Man Killed in Co-Op Explosion ID'd, Along with Possible Cause

A 66 year old man is dead after an explosion around 1:30pm this afternoon at the Co-Alliance Grain Elevator in Union Mills. LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan says the deceased has been identified as James Swank, of Union Mills, cause of death due to multiple blunt force trauma with dismemberment, and the manner of death is accidental.
Sullivan says there is a high probability that this was a grain dust explosion, and that Swank's position was possibly on top on the grain elevator, when the explosion occurred, which was partially filled with corn and soybeans from local farmers. Sullivan says the A-T-F and the State Fire Marshal are on scene, along with the Department of Homeland Security. The LaPorte County Sheriff's Office reports the explosion occurred and was limited to a concrete grain silo that is adjacent to a railroad spur on the grounds of the Co-Op, and that the deceased is an employee who was working in the silo at the time of the explosion. Authorities report no hazardous chemicals were involved or released as a result of the explosion.
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Triple Homicide in Gary: Update

Police in Gary are investigating a triple homicide. The Lake County Coroners office says 34-year-old Michael Andrews and 22-year-old Briean Jiles, both of Gary, and 27-year-old Antonio Dove, of Glen Park, suffered multiple gunshot wounds and were all pronounced dead at the scene shortly before 2 am Sunday in the 58-hundred block of East 13th Place, in the city's Aetna neighborhood. Corp. King says a fourth subject, who was also wounded at that location, was taken by a private vehicle to the hospital for injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening.
Police say they received a call of shots fired around 1 am Sunday morning, and officers found all three men unresponsive in the street.
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Union Mills Co-Op Explosion: Update

A 66 year old Union Mills man is dead after an explosion shortly after 2pm this afternoon at the Co-Alliance Grain Elevator in Union Mills. LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan says the man died due to blunt force trauma after some type of explosion that left the building standing but unstable. Coroner Sullivan says everyone has been accounted for and at last check they were waiting on the A-T-F and the State Fire Marshal. The LaPorte County Sheriff's Office reports the explosion occurred and was limited to a concrete grain silo that is adjacent to a railroad spur on the grounds of the Co-Op, and that the deceased is an employee who was working in the silo at the time of the explosion. Authorities report no hazardous chemicals were involved or released as a result.
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One Dead After Explosion at Co-op in Union Mills

A 66 year old Union Mills man is dead after an explosion shortly after 2pm this afternoon at the Co-Alliance Grain Elevator in Union Mills. LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan says a 66 year old Union Mills man is dead due to blunt force trauma after some type of explosion that left the building standing but unstable. Coroner Sullivan says everyone has been accounted for and at last check they were waiting on the A-T-F and the State Fire Marshal.
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Exotic Catfish Caught at Portage Lakefront Park

Indiana DNR
A Lake Michigan angler caught more than he bargained for earlier this month when he reeled in an 8-pound, exotic Amazonian catfish commonly known as a redtail catfish.
The redtail catfish was caught at Portage Lakefront Park by Mike Durfee. It’s native to South America’s Amazon River system and is a popular aquarium fish in the United States. The fish would not have survived the cold water of Lake Michigan during Indiana’s winter.
Like many other aquarium species, the redtail catfish can grow large. The International Game Fish Association world record was caught in 2010 on the Amazon River and weighed over 123 pounds.
The fish Durfee caught likely was purchased when it was 2 to 4 inches long and raised in an aquarium until it outgrew the aquarium, according to Eric Fischer, aquatic invasive species coordinator in the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife.
“The first response of some owners may be to release unwanted fish into the closest natural water body thinking they are helping their pets out by setting them free,” Fischer said.
It is illegal in Indiana to release not only aquarium fish but also all other fish into public waters without a fish stocking permit.
Snakehead, an aggressive and invasive fish from Asia, and hydrilla, an aquarium and water garden plant that forms dense mats, are examples of species that have become established in the United States in large part due to aquarium releases.
“Some aquarium fish, exotic snails, and aquarium plants can permanently disrupt the natural environment,” Fischer said. “Exotic species impact our native wildlife by increasing competition for aquatic resources and introducing diseases.”
A person who has an unwanted aquarium pet should pursue an alternative to illegally releasing it into the wild. Many retailers will allow you to return unwanted aquarium pets or will put you in contact with another aquarium enthusiast or local aquarium society that is capable of caring for them.
If you are unable to find an alternative the most humane disposal method is to place the plant or animal in the freezer and then dispose of them in the trash.
Sightings and reports of exotic species should be reported to the DNR through the online reporting system  or by calling 1-866-NO EXOTIC (1-866-663-9684).
For more information on the dangers and risks of releasing aquarium pets and plants into the wild, visit
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Two Semi Drivers Killed in I-65 Crash: Update

(Photos Courtesy of Indiana State Police)
An investigation continues after a double fatality on southbound I-65 in Tippecanoe County this morning, just before Lafayette. Indiana State Police report a preliminary investigation showed two semi drivers, 44 year old Marek Dziudek of Downer's Grove, Illinois, and 31 year old Tadeusz Wojtaszek of Romeoville, who were outside their vehicles disconnecting a trailer from a disabled semi parked on the outer shoulder, were struck when a third semi, driven by 42 year old Plata Albertico of Berwyn, for unknown reasons did not move over to the left lane, struck the disabled trailer, hitting both the other drivers. Troopers say the third semi then struck both semis before coming to rest in a ditch on the west side of the interstate. Two of the three semis caught fire. Police say the Berwyn man was uninjured. All southbound lanes were closed for more than three hours.
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Pence on Illiana: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Pence at Illiana Forum
(Photo Courtesy of Matt Deitchley, INDOT Media Relations Director)
A two-day industry forum on the proposed Illiana Expressway kicked off today in Rosemont, Illinois. Both Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn attended the event this afternoon, and according to the INDOT Northwest Twitter Page, Governor Pence says the two states are partnering for progress, and that the Illiana Expressway is an idea whose time has come, because distributing the things Hoosiers make and grow is key to economic growth.
The gathering, hosted by INDOT and IDOT, is for potential contractors, construction managers, partners and investors in an east-west tollway that would run south of US 30 in the Region, connecting I-65 from south Lake County to I-55 in Illinois. You can hear more of our conversation at News Audio on Demand at
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Flood and Tornado Safety Tips in Case of Severe Wx

With the threat for tornadoes and flooding looming over the next few days, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) reminds residents to closely monitor severe weather alerts from the National Weather Service and follow these tips for surviving severe weather. 
Tornado Safety
  • Closely monitor a NOAA weather radio and/or a smartphone weather alerting apps to receive lifesaving severe weather alert information and other emergency messages on a timely basis.
  • The best place to shelter in a tornado is indoors.  Start with certified shelters and safe rooms, safe spaces above or below ground, or community shelters in public spaces labeled as official tornado shelters like stores, malls, churches or even airports.
  • If caught by extreme winds or flying debris while in a car, park as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes.  Stay in the car with the seat belt on.  Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
  • Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.
Flood Safety
  • Whether you are driving or walking, if you come to a flooded road, follow this simple rule:  Turn Around…Don’t Drown.  Just six inches of flowing water can knock a person off their feet.  Eighteen to 24 inches of moving water can wash an SUV off the road.
  • Flooded roads could have significant damage hidden by floodwaters. NEVER drive through floodwaters or on flooded roads. Water only one foot deep can float away most automobiles.
  • Don’t allow children to play near high water, storm drains or ditches.  Hidden dangers could lie beneath the water.
For more information on severe weather safety visit  For mobile severe weather alerts and mitigation tips, download FLASH Weather Alerts at

Armed Robberies Reported by Teens Leaving Festival

Munster PD
Police are investigating further incidents of teenagers leaving a festival at St. Thomas Church in Munster from over the weekend and being robbed at gunpoint, this after an incident on Thursday in the area of Broadmoor and Calumet. According to officials, one teen reported to police he was confronted early Sunday morning by a group of men, one of which pointed a gun at the teen, in the area of Broadmoor and Tapper Avenues, after reportedly leaving a friend's home prior to attending the festival. Police also report later that night, two teens were robbed by a man with a gun inside a gold or beige Cadillac, also in the area of Broadmoor and Tapper. Anyone with information regarding these incidents are asked to contact Munster Police at (219) 836-6600.
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Two Semi Drivers Killed in I-65 Crash

Information from The Indiana State Police: In Tippecanoe County, at approximately 7:18 a.m Eastern Time, this Monday, June 24, 2013 morning, a three semi crash on I-65 south bound at the 176 ½ Mile marker (this is 1 ½ mile south of the State Road 43 exit) resulted in the death of two semi drivers.
Preliminary investigation, by Master Trooper Bill Brooks, revealed that a white 2000 Freightliner semi hauling a trailer loaded with a rail container was parked on the outer shoulder. The driver was outside of his vehicle because the semi tractor was disabled. Another tractor (bob-tail) a 1998 red Freightliner had pulled ahead of the first Freightliner as the driver was going to connect to the trailer from the disable 2000 Freightliner. Both drivers from these semis were outside their vehicles, one of them wearing a reflective vest, disconnecting the trailer from the disabled 2000 Freightliner; the trailer they were disconnecting was parked near the fog line on the shoulder.
A white 2004 Freightliner pulling a box trailer, hauling for UPS, and owned by Transcorr LLC out of Indianapolis was southbound when the driver, Plata Albertico, 42 of Berwyn, Illinois, for unknown reasons did not move over to the left lane. Albertico’s tractor struck the disabled trailer parked on the shoulder, hitting both drivers as they were disconnecting the trailer, he then struck both Freightliners parked on the outer shoulder before coming to rest down in the ditch on the west side of the interstate. The red 1998 Freightliner (bob-tail) caught fire after being hit. Albertico’s semi also caught fire and part of his general freight load on his trailer burned. Albertico was not injured. All vehicles and trailers sustained heavy damage.
One driver hit at the scene was pronounced dead by the Tippecanoe County Coroner of massive blunt force trauma the second driver was taken to Indiana University Arnett in Lafayette where the driver was later pronounced dead. Names are being withheld pending notification of their families.
All lanes southbound were blocked and traffic was diverted off at State Road 18 for investigation of the crash, removal of the deceased, removal of the vehicles and trailers, and clean-up. One lane was re-opened at approximately 10:30 A.M. This is still an on-going investigation.
Assisting: Indiana State Police Troopers Derek Scott, Ben Rector, Sergeants Kim Riley, Dan Ziegler, Dave Murray, Lieutenant Jay Janke, White County EMS, Purdue University Police, Lafayette Police, West Lafayette Police and Tippecanoe County Sheriff
[Photos/Indiana State Police]

Diabetes Study Shows Success With Psoriasis Drug

iustudy WinCE
Dr. Mark Rigby [Photo provided/IU]
Researchers have blocked the progression of type 1 diabetes among newly diagnosed patients using a drug originally sold to treat psoriasis, according to the results of a clinical trial reported Saturday at a scientific meeting in Chicago. Dr. Mark Rigby, associate professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and principal investigator for the trial, says if results are borne out in larger studies, the drug could enable type 1 diabetics to maintain some insulin production and avoid the debilitating complications caused by the disease.
In a multi-center trial of 49 patients, those receiving the drug alefacept were producing the same amount of insulin one year after diagnosis, while patients receiving a placebo injection were producing less, consistent with the deterioration that usually occurs after diagnosis with the disease. The results were announced at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions.
"These are extremely promising results and offer hope that the progression of type 1 diabetes can be stopped or significantly slowed by a drug that was well-tolerated, without serious adverse events," said Dr. Rigby.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body's immune system attacks beta cells in the pancreas that produce the insulin needed to metabolize sugars and other nutrients into energy needed by the body. The process usually continues until the patient is producing little or none of his or her own insulin, requiring regular injections of insulin to maintain blood sugar levels at close to normal levels.
Nearly 3 million people are estimated to have type 1 diabetes in the United States. Although the disease can be managed with insulin injections, it cannot be reversed or cured. Long-term complications can include visual impairment, heart disease, stroke, problems in the extremities leading to amputation and other issues.
Trial participants ranged in age from 12 to 35 and had recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Two-thirds were randomly assigned to the group receiving alefacept injections, with the remaining patients receiving a placebo injection of saline solution. The participants received weekly injections for three months, followed by three months of no injections, then three more months of weekly injections.
Alefacept is an immunosuppressant drug that binds to and interferes with the actions of certain immune system T-cells that are believed to be involved with the destruction of beta cells in the pancreas.
A year after receiving the initial injections, the study participants were tested for insulin production using a standard mixed meal tolerance test, or "shake test."
The participants will continue to be tested until two years after starting treatment. The additional testing may reveal whether the alefacept treatments have resulted in "re-education" of the immune system so that patients would not need further treatments with the drug, Dr. Rigby said.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Immune Tolerance Network, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the NIH.

Govs Pence, Quinn to Illiana Forum

Indiana Governor Mike Pence will be talking transportation will Illinois Governor Pat Quinn today. Both governors will be attending the Illiana Corridor Industry Forum that takes place in Rosemont, Illinois. INDOT and IDOT are hosting the two-day international industry forum for potential contractors, construction managers, partners and investors. Later this afternoon, Governor Pence is scheduled to tour the homeless charity, “A Safe Haven Foundation” in Chicago.

Trial to Begin in Alleged Lake Co Hit-and-Run

Jury trial is scheduled to begin in Crown Point today for Jason Cozmanoff, who is accused in an alleged hit-and-run crash that killed Lake County Corrections Officer Brittney Meux and injured three others as they were jogging along West 93rd Avenue in Crown Point in March of last year. The 43-year-old Lakes of the Four Seasons man faces charges that include reckless homicide and criminal recklessness. Earlier this month a Lake County judge approved a request from the defense to remove a memorial for Meux at the Lake County Government Center and Court complex before and during the length of the trial.

Trial for Mother of SlainToddler to Begin

Jury selection is scheduled to begin today in Lake County in a case stemming from the death of a two-year-old Portage girl, Jada Justice, whose body was found in concrete in a LaPorte County swamp four years ago. Prosecutors accuse the victim's mother, 31-year-old Melissa Swiontek, of endangering her child by leaving her with a couple known to sell and take drugs. The woman's cousin, Engelica Castillo, was found guilty of murder, and the cousin's boyfriend, Timothy Tkachik, pleaded guilty to neglect. Last week, a Lake County judge dropped the more serious of two neglect of a dependent charges Swiontek was facing.

Fatal Semi Crash Stops Traffic on I-65

In Tippecanoe County, the Indiana State Police at Lafayette Post are at the scene of a fatal crash involving multiple semis that has closed I-65 at the 177 mile marker which is just south of the State Road 43 exit in Tippecanoe County. Southbound traffic is being diverted off at the 188 mile marker exit which is SR 18. Go west on SR 18 to US 231. At US 231, go south to US 52. Go east on US 52 till you get to SR 25 north then go north back onto I-65. It is unknown how long the detour will last. State Police say more information about the crash will be forthcoming.

Police Blow Up Backpack in Indianapolis

In Indianapolis this morning, the police department's bomb squad blew up what was described as a suspicious backpack outside the federal courthouse. The security guard who noticed the backpack called police - who brought in a bomb sniffing dog. Indianapolis police spokesman Michael Hewitt says the dog alerted on the backpack , then the the bomb squad was called out and the blew up the backpack.  " The scene is secure now," Hewett said. "There are no injuries. The local hotels were notified that they were gonna hear a loud bang."


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Region News Team
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