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Body of second drowned fisherman found

GUIDE ROCK — Authorities have recovered the body of a second man who had been presumed drowned near the Guide Rock Diversion Dam since a fishing mishap on Friday afternoon, according to the Webster County Sheriff’s Office.

The man’s body was found Monday about 3 p.m. about 1.5 miles east down the Republican River from the dam, which is south of Guide Rock.

The discovery marked the end of a long weekend for law enforcement, first responders, firefighters, dive team members and other volunteers who searched for two men who went missing in the river on Friday about 3:45 p.m.

Webster County Sheriff Troy Schmitz said the men had been fishing near the dam and they were pulled under water by the undertow.

A third man had been rescued from the river, as well. He was taken to a hospital while the search began.

Authorities haven’t released the identities of the men, but indicated one of the presumed drowned men was from Grand Island and the other lived in the Hastings or Blue Hill area.

Law enforcement from Webster and Nuckolls counties responded Friday, as well as emergency responders from Guide Rock and Red Cloud and rescue divers from Hebron and Deshler.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission joined in the hunt on Saturday using a boat with side sonar equipment. Rescue divers from Grand Island also assisted.

The search continued into the evening each day and had to be suspended until daylight the following day. Workers used kayaks, air boats and foot patrol to scour the area searching for any sign of the missing men.

About 9:25 a.m. Sunday, rescuers found the remains of one of the men about a quarter- to a half-mile east of the dam.


News
Auction purchases help kick off Blue Hill beef in schools program

BLADEN — The new Blue Hill Beef Boosters program, a beef to schools program, received donations during this year’’s Webster County Fair that will help the program take off just in time for the new school year.

South Central State Bank made a monetary donation and also purchased a steer at the fair’s annual 4-H/FFA livestock premium auction to be donated to the Blue Hill Beef in our Schools program. Shane and Alison Meyer of Blue Hill also purchased a steer and donated it to the program.

These are the first steers to be donated to the local program. The fair ended Saturday in Bladen.

“We are really excited to be getting this program set up in Blue Hill,” said Jana McNeill, president of the group.

Word of this program is spreading quickly and is generating enthusiasm, as the program also includes a chance for students to learn about agriculture.

“We are excited to be able to offer an educational component to the program,” McNeill said. “The kids will learn where beef comes from, what it takes to raise livestock in today’s industry along with information about crop production.”

With a goal of serving homegrown beef to the students twice a week in the form of ground beef, roasts and stew meat, the group knows it will need strong community support. Many of the students who will benefit from the nutrition provided will go on to live in the agricultural community and work in the field of agriculture. This program helps to strengthen that connection.

sdanehey / Susan Danehey/Tribune  

Colton McNeill of Blue Hill rests against one of his cattle Wednesday at the Webster County Fair in Bladen.

Blue Hill is not the first school in the area to want to connect local beef producers to the school lunch program. Lawrence-Nelson, Red Cloud and Sandy Creek schools are among Blue Hill’s neighbors that are incorporating Beef to Schools as a way to enhance school lunches.

The Blue Hill school board, staff and administration have been supportive of the new program.

“I am thrilled to be a member of our schools beef booster committee,” said school board member Ann Auten. “Not only are we able to support Nebraska’s No. 1 industry, but Blue Hill’s lunch program will be promoting an excellent source of protein for our student’s daily nutritional requirements.”

Though the program has a great start, the group is hoping to continue to build momentum through both beef donations and monetary donations that will help with processing the beef.

With each animal costing between $750 and $1,400 and processing costs between $500 and $600 depending on the size of the animal, the program members are looking for additional support.

“Donations from our area beef producers and monetary support from our community are appreciated,” Auten said.

Those interested in making donations to support the program are encouraged to contact Blue Hill Schools to make arrangements at 402-756-2085 or send a check made out to Blue Hill Beef Boosters and mail it to Annette Spencer, 1959 Road Z, Blue Hill NE 68930.


State requests outside investigation of Spencer Dam collapse

A team of engineering experts will investigate the March breach of a dam in north central Nebraska that led to extensive downstream flooding and one presumed death.

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials announced Monday that it will dispatch four investigators to identify the likely causes of the Spencer Dam collapse on March 14.

The independent investigation is being initiated at the request of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, which has regulatory authority over the Spencer Dam.

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials is a nonprofit organization focused on dam safety. The investigation is intended to compile “information and lessons to be learned from the event with the goal of advancing the dam safety engineering profession,” ASDSO said in a news release.

The experts chosen for the team, all of whom are professional engineers, include Mark Baker, principal of DamCrest Consulting in Louisville, Colorado; Robert Ettema, an engineering faculty member at Colorado State University in Colorado Springs; Martin Teal, senior vice president of WEST Consultants in San Diego; and John Trojanowski, president of Trojanowski Dam Engineering in Littleton, Colorado.

Team members will bring specific expertise in dam safety failure investigations; hydrology, including cold-weather hydrology; hydraulics, including cold-weather hydraulics, and ice and debris flow; and hydraulic structures.

The Spencer Dam breach occurred after heavy rain fell on frozen ground, sending high water and ice chunks down the Niobrara River.

A wall of water and ice destroyed a residence and business just east of the dam, and the man who lived there hasn’t been seen since.

Nebraska Public Power District owned the run-of-the-river dam, which was constructed in 1927 for hydroelectric generation. NPPD has said the dam was not intended for flood control.

Mark Becker, a spokesman for NPPD, said Monday the district supports the state’s request for an independent investigation.

The Spencer Dam was about five miles southeast of Spencer in Boyd County, 39 miles from the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers.


Shooter posted online just before killing three at festival

GILROY, Calif. — Before a 19-year-old gunman opened fire on a famed garlic festival in his California hometown, he urged his Instagram followers to read a 19th century book popular with white supremacists on extremist websites, but his motives for killing two children and another young man were still a mystery Monday.

Santino William Legan posted the caption about the book “Might is Right,” which claims race determines behavior. It appeared with a photo of Smokey the Bear in front of a “fire danger” sign and also complained about overcrowding towns and paving open space to make room for “hordes” of Latinos and Silicon Valley whites.

In his last Instagram post Sunday, Legan sent a photo from the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Minutes later, he shot into the crowd with an AK-47 style weapon, killing a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a man in his mid-20s.

Under it, he wrote: “Ayyy garlic festival time” and “Come get wasted on overpriced” items. Legan’s since-deleted Instagram account says he is Italian and Iranian.

The postings are among the first details that have emerged about Legan since authorities say he appeared to fire at random, sending people running and diving under tables. Police patrolling the event responded within a minute and killed Legan as he turned the weapon on them.

He legally purchased the semi-automatic assault rifle this month in Nevada, where his last address is listed. He would have been barred from buying it in California, which restricts firearms purchases to people over 21. In Nevada, the age limit is 18.

Legan grew up less than a mile from the park where the city known as the “Garlic Capital of the World” has held its three-day festival for four decades, attracting more than 100,000 people with music, food booths and cooking classes.

Authorities were looking for clues, including on social media, as to what caused the son of a prominent local family to go on a rampage. His father was a competitive runner and coach, a brother was an accomplished young boxer and his grandfather had been a supervisor in Santa Clara County.

Police said they don’t know if people were targeted, but at this point, but it appears he shot indiscriminately. Twelve people were injured.

Police searched Legan’s vehicle and the two-story Legan family home, leaving with paper bags. Authorities also searched an apartment they believed Legan used this month in remote northern Nevada. Officials didn’t say what they found.

Big Mikes Gun and Ammo, which appears to be a home-based internet gun shop in Fallon, Nevada, said on its Facebook page that Legan ordered the rifle off its website and “was acting happy and showed no reasons for concern” when the store owner met him. The post said it was “heartbroken this could ever happen.”

In California, police had training in how to respond to an active shooter. While they prepared for the worst, they never expected to use those skills in Gilroy, a city of about 50,000 about 80 miles (176 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco known for the pungent smell of its prize flowering crop grown in the surrounding fields — garlic.

The city had security in place for one of the largest food fairs in the U.S. It required people to pass through metal detectors and have their bags searched. Police, paramedics and firefighters were stationed throughout the festival.

But Legan didn’t go through the front entrance. He cut through a fence bordering a parking lot next to a creek, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said. Some witnesses reported a second suspect, and authorities were trying to determine if he had any help.

Police arrested a 20-year-old man who claimed involvement online, but investigators determined he was just trying to get attention.

The police chief praised officers for stopping Legan with handguns without injuring anyone else.

“It could’ve gotten so much worse, so fast,” Smithee said.

The gunfire sent people in sunhats and flip-flops running away screaming. Some dove for cover under the decorated food booth tables. Others crawled under a concert stage, where a band had started playing its last song.

The youngest victim, Stephen Romero, described by his grandmother as a kind, happy and playful kid, had just celebrated his sixth birthday in June at Legoland in Southern California.

“My son had his whole life to live and he was only 6,” his father, Alberto Romero, told San Francisco Bay Area news station KNTV after the shooting.

Also killed was 13-year-old Keyla Salazar from San Jose, seen dressed in pink, wearing a tiara of flowers and smiling as she poses with relatives in photos posted on her aunt’s Facebook page.

“I have no words to describe this pain I’m feeling,” Katiuska Pimentel Vargas wrote.

The oldest victim killed was Trevor Irby, 27, a biology major who graduated in 2017 from Keuka College in upstate New York.

The wounded were taken to multiple hospitals, and their conditions ranged from fair to critical, with some undergoing surgery.

Troy Towner said his sister, Wendy Towner, was at the festival for her business, the Honey Ladies, when she saw a man with a gun climb over the fence. She yelled at him: “No, you can’t do that!”

The gunman shot her in the leg and her husband three times, while a young girl dragged their 3-year-old son under a table, Towner wrote on a fundraising page he set up for his sister.

Legan then approached the couple as they lay motionless on the ground and asked if they were all right. They didn’t move, fearing he would finish them off, Towner wrote.

Towner said his sister underwent surgery and was expected to have long-term nerve damage, while her husband faces many surgeries.

Candice Marquez, who works for Wendy Towner and her husband, Francisco, told The Associated Press that she had stepped away to go to the bathroom and saw the gunman heading to their tent. She said her 10-year-old niece helped the toddler to safety.

“She was brave,” Marquez said.

Jan Dickson, a neighbor who lives across the street from the Legan family, described them as “a nice, normal family.” She said Santino Legan had not lived there for at least a year.

“How do you cope with this? They have to deal with the fact that their son did this terrible thing and that he died,” Dickson said.

***

Watson reported from San Diego. Associated Press reporter Mike Balsamo in Washington, Natalie Rice in Los Angeles, Scott Sonner in Hawthorne, Nevada, Ken Ritter in Las Vegas, and Martha Mendoza in Gilroy contributed to this report.