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Four die in Memorial weekend accidents; Search continues for man missing in St. Croix River; More state news

Authorities report at least four people were killed in separate traffic crashes during the Memorial Day Weekend.

Marathon County authorities said Herman Krueger, 81, died at a Wausau hospital after a two-vehicle crash late Saturday afternoon north of Hatley in the town of Norrie. Details were not immediately released, as the mishap remains under investigation.

In St. Croix County Charlene Kastens, 79, of Deer Park died after a motorcycle on which she was a passenger veered into a ditch. That happened Saturday on Hwy. 63, about ten miles southeast of New Richmond.

Two people from Eau Claire were killed in separate deer collisions in different parts of Wisconsin.

A 69-year-old Eau Claire man died late Sunday night after his motorcycle struck a deer on a road south of Eau Claire in the town of Washington.

On Memorial Day, a 54-year-old Eau Claire man was riding in the front seat of a car that hit a deer around 11:30 a.m. in Jefferson County on I-94 near Watertown. The State Patrol said the car struck the deer head-on, and the animal smashed through the windshield.

Names of both victims were not immediately released.



Search continues for man missing in St. Croix River

A search resumes today for a man missing and presumed drowned in the St. Croix River on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border.

Authorities said Tou Hu Vang, 21, of Coon Rapids, Minn., was swept away on Sunday in the river's swirling currents. He was trying to rescue his 11-year-old nephew Calvin, who was fishing when he slipped off a wet rock on the Minnesota side at Taylors Falls. A bystander pulled the youngster to shore.

A full holiday of searching for Vang ended last evening when a threat of severe weather emerged.

Calvin said he felt terrified by the strong currents. Officials say the currents have been sped up by recent heavy rains, and that has made the river especially dangerous for recreation.



Kohl surprises arena workers with $500 checks

Those who work at Milwaukee's indoor entertainment arena got quite a surprise recently -- letters of appreciation and checks for $500.

The money came from Herb Kohl, whose Milwaukee Bucks have played at the BMO Harris Bradley Center ever since the arena opened in 1988.

Kohl recently sold the team, and arena employees said they were shocked to be remembered like this.

Bradley Center usher Izeal Atkins told WISN TV that he rarely cries, but he couldn't help doing so after he got Kohl's letter and check.

Arena security guard Markeish Stringer said, "You just don't hear about people doing that."

Kohl, a former U.S. senator, owned Milwaukee's NBA team since 1985. He sold it this month to New York hedge fund owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens for $550 million.



Three ‘shaken but uninjured’ after plane crash on Lake Superior island

LA POINTE -- Three people escaped injury when their plane crashed Saturday while trying to land on Madeline Island in Lake Superior.

The La Pointe Police Department reported that the 1974 Piper Cherokee was approaching Major Gilbert Field from the north just after noon when the landing went awry. The plane came to rest in a wooded area just east of the runway’s south end.

Three people on board were “shaken but uninjured,” the police department reported, and they refused medical transport.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been notified and will be on the scene today to investigate the cause of Saturday’s crash.

The La Pointe Police Department, La Pointe Fire Department and La Pointe Ambulance Service responded to the scene.

The crash comes just short of a year after a plane crash claimed two lives on Madeline Island. Two brothers from western Wisconsin died June 15, 2013, when their Piper Comanche crashed while trying to land at Major Gilbert Field. A preliminary investigation indicated that the plane bounced “out of control” on the runway during an initial landing attempt, then crashed during a second attempt.

--Forum News Service



Straight from winter to summer?

What happened to spring?

It was 90 degrees in Janesville on Memorial Day while much of Lake Michigan still had water temperatures in the 30's. Highs throughout Wisconsin were in the 80's -- about 15 degrees above normal. Milwaukee and Duluth-Superior -- about 400 miles apart -- both had the same readings of 85 yesterday. That was a new record-high for Duluth.

Thunderstorms with hail and rapid downpours went through some of the northern two-thirds of the state. The four-lane Hwy. 29 expressway near Marathon City was closed late last night due to high water.

Woodruff in Oneida County had 1.2 inches of rain in just 40 minutes. Quarter-sized hail covered the ground at Fall River in Columbia County with winds up to 50 mph.

The Weather Service says an unstable air mass, merged with a cold front, will sag from central Wisconsin southward today. More thunderstorms are possible this afternoon and evening. It's supposed to be cooler today with highs in the 70's to near 80 in much of the state.


Milwaukee leaders say too many sex offenders placed there

Almost 10% of Wisconsin's 21,000 registered sex offenders are placed in Milwaukee after their confinement terms are finished.

Alderman Michael Murphy says it's not fair, and he wants those placements halted until the state Corrections Department comes up with a different policy.

Milwaukee does not require sex offenders to live a certain distance away from schools and parks where young people congregate. All but four of the Milwaukee County suburbs have such policies. Critics have long said they're de facto housing bans designed to keep sex convicts away, even though state law requires that they be returned to the communities where they used to live.

Murphy has asked the Corrections Department for a statewide policy on residency restrictions. Two bills for such a policy failed to pass in the state Legislature over the past decade. Corrections officials were among the opponents, saying those who've done their time need to live someplace.

Grace Roberts of the Department of Corrections said Murphy should go to local officials to try to get their living restrictions changed.


Investigators follow new lead in 30-year-old death

It's been almost 30 years since UW-Stevens Point student Janet Raasch, 20, was found dead. Now investigators hope an anonymous letter they received a year ago can provide some new leads.

The letter was sent to authorities about a month after the Stevens Point Journal wrote about the case. At first, Portage County sheriff's officials were reluctant to say anything about the letter, but now, they're using it to try to generate new leads.

Officials said Raasch went missing in the fall of 1984 after friends dropped her off south of Stevens Point. She was planning to head north to her family's home at Merrill, but she never got there.

Hunters found her body a month later about two miles from where she was dropped off. Investigators thought Raasch was strangled, but her body was too decomposed to determine how she died.

After some tips, the state exhumed the body in 2002 in the hopes that modern-day technology could help solve the case. It didn't.


Concern growing over oil pipeline that would cross state

Public concerns are growing about the proposed expansion of a crude oil pipeline from Superior southeastward across Wisconsin to a terminal in Illinois.

Enbridge Energy wants to expand the capacity of its Wisconsin line from 400,000 barrels of oil per day to 1.2 million. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that the new line would carry more oil than the proposed Keystone XL pipeline -- which has created a national uproar and repeated opposition from President Obama.

Meanwhile, the Enbridge project has had almost no attention. In one case, the Department of Natural Resources did not get a single public comment for a state permit to improve pumping stations in wetland areas.

Supporters say the pipeline is needed to help reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. Critics point to previous spills at Enbridge facilities. The company says it has gotten better.

Earlier this month, the Jefferson County Board voted to fight a proposed air pollution permit that Enbridge would need for storage tanks to help operate the pipeline. Over 200 people have asked the DNR to order an environmental assessment -- something Enbridge says is not needed because it already passed muster when the first part of the pipeline went in.

A final DNR decision on the air permit is expected within 60 days unless an environmental review is ordered.


Green Bay swimmer drowns

A Green Bay man drowned over the weekend while swimming with two others.

Authorities said Michael Two-Rivers-Broeffle, 20, went underwater while he was in the Peshtigo River flowage near the Caldron Falls Dam. He disappeared Saturday afternoon.

The dam's owner, the Wisconsin Public Service utility, reduced the water level in an effort to find Two-Rivers-Broeffle.  Rescue divers found the victim's body on Saturday night.


Chautauqua gets brand new canvas tent

The Bayfield area's Big Top musical attraction will open the summer season with a brand new tent made of old-style canvas that's hard to get these days.

Big Top Chautauqua could have used the more modern-day vinyl material, but operations manager Phil Anich said vinyl is poor for acoustics. He says canvas absorbs music in a much more pleasant-sounding way.

The attraction needed a new tent after last summer's windstorms ripped holes in the old one.

Officials said it was not easy finding 3,000 square yards of canvas, but they did it. About a dozen workers spent 1,500 hours creating a music venue out of a ton of canvas at a total cost of $140,000.

It's the fifth new tent in the 28 years of Big Top Chautauqua. It seats about 950 people for concerts.


Convicted felon arrested in shooting of child at playground

An 18-year-old convicted felon has been arrested for last Wednesday's playground shooting of a 10-year-old girl in Milwaukee.

At a Memorial Day news conference, Police Chief Ed Flynn said the suspect was previously arrested 15 times, and he was on probation when he and another man got into a shooting match that wounded Sierra Guyton. She was caught in the crossfire. Her family says she's recovering better than expected.

The other suspect remains at large. Flynn could not say whether the man who's under arrest fired the bullet that wounded Sierra, but the chief said it's a very strong possibility. He said the suspect was wounded in another shooting the previous week.

Flynn said the arrest was made by officers in Milwaukee's fugitive apprehension unit with strong cooperation from city residents. He urged people to "stay engaged and stay enraged."

Mayor Tom Barrett thanked all those involved in the arrest. But he urged Milwaukeeans to "put the guns down."

Earlier yesterday, about 300 people attended a rally in the girl's neighborhood on Milwaukee's north side. Organizers said it was a "call to action" to support Sierra's family, cooperate with police, join neighborhood groups and volunteer in other ways to improve their community.



Abortion regulation trial begins

A federal trial begins today to determine whether it's constitutional to force Wisconsin abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

Judge William Conley of Madison will preside over a bench trial that's expected to run for at least four days.

Planned Parenthood and the Affiliated Medical Services filed suit against the requirement. The lawsuit held up the measure just hours after it was supposed to take effect last July. Back then, the plaintiffs said it would have forced all abortion facilities north of Madison and Milwaukee to close because it would have been difficult to obtain the hospital privileges.

Media reports said Planned Parenthood abortion providers in Appleton have obtained those privileges, but they still say an Affiliated clinic in Milwaukee would be forced to close.

State government attorneys say the law assures consistent care in the event of complications which require hospital treatment.


Residents want Portage shooting range closed

State officials and local residents are at odds over a make-shift shooting range near Portage.

For the last three years, growing numbers of target shooters have taken advantage of tall and sandy berms to shoot near the entrance of the state's Swan Lake Wildlife Area.

With homes as close as a quarter-mile away, the Associated Press says residents are tired of shooters who fire bullets from 6 a.m. until dusk up to five days a week, the target trash they leave behind, and mostly the bullets which go over the berms into their neighborhood.

The Department of Natural Resources plans to address the subject by building a public shooting range in Columbia County where Swan Lake is located and eventually closing off the Swan Lake berms.

But the local town chairman says residents want a complete ban on shooting at Swan Lake -- something the DNR hesitates to do. Shooting is legal on public land in 54 counties, including Columbia.

Politically the DNR is in a pickle. While Swan Lake residents demand a shooting ban, sporting groups say there are too few places to shoot in the area, and Gov. Scott Walker has done a lot to promote recreational shooting in Wisconsin.