CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) – Lance Cpl. Squire Wells, who was known as Skip, was swapping text messages Thursday with his girlfriend of two-and-a-half years and was excited that she had booked a flight to visit him in Chattanooga after months apart.
Skip Wells was exchanging text messages with his girlfriend when the Chattanooga shooting occurred. (Courtesy: The Associated Press)
“Can’t wait anymore,” Wells texted. “Yes, you can honey,” his girlfriend, Caroline Dove, replied.
His next two words would be the last she’d ever hear from him.
“ACTIVE SHOOTER,” he wrote.
She thought he was kidding, replying, “You are so weird.”
Then hours of silence.
“I love you,” she tried. Hours more passed, the news out of Chattanooga becoming clearer. “Hon, I need you to answer me please,” she wrote.
It would not be until Friday that she learned his fate.
Caroline Dove had been texting with her boyfriend prior to the shooting. (Courtesy: The Associated Press)
Wells and Dove met at Georgia Southern University, but Wells soon followed in his family footsteps and enlisted.
His grandfather had been in the Air Force, and his grandmother and mother served in the Navy, Dove said.
Through tears, Dove remembered her boyfriend’s love of flag football and Nerf guns, his passion for U.S. history, his ability to handle her when she was grouchy and how good he was at listening.
He dreamed of being a drill sergeant, and when they last saw each other around Valentine’s Day, he gave her a gold-and-silver ring. When the time came to propose, she said, he knew to ask her parents first.
Wells’ mother was watching television coverage of the shooting when Marines appeared at her door. She knew what the visit meant.
“Every service parent, especially moms, dreads opening the front door and seeing people in uniform,” said Andy Kingery, a friend who is acting as a family spokesman.
Google Inc. revealed Thursday that one of its self-driving car prototypes was involved in an injury accident for the first time.
In the collision, a Lexus SUV that the tech giant outfitted with sensors and cameras was rear-ended in Google’s home city of Mountain View, where more than 20 prototypes have been self-maneuvering through traffic.
The three Google employees on board complained of minor whiplash, were checked out at a hospital and cleared to go back to work following the July 1 collision, Google said. The driver of the other car also complained of neck and back pain.
In California, a person must be behind the wheel of a self-driving car being tested on public roads to take control in an emergency. Google typically sends another employee in the front passenger seat to record details of the ride on a laptop. In this case, there was also a back seat passenger.
Google has invested heavily as a pioneer of self-driving cars, technology it believes will be safer and more efficient than human drivers.
This was the 14th accident in six years and about 1.9 million miles of testing, according to the company. Google has said that its cars have not caused any of the collisions — though in 2011 an employee who took a car to run an errand rear-ended another vehicle while the Google car was out of self-driving mode.
In 11 of the 14, Google said its car was rear-ended.
In a blog posted Thursday, the head of Google’s self-driving car program, Chris Urmson, wrote that his SUVs “are being hit surprisingly often” by distracted drivers, perhaps people looking at their phones.
“The clear theme is human error and inattention,” Urmson wrote. “We’ll take all this as a signal that we’re starting to compare favorably with human drivers.”
In a telephone interview, Urmson said his team was exploring whether its cars could do something to alert distracted drivers before a collision. Honking would be one possibility, but Urmson said he worried that could start to annoy residents of Mountain View.
According to an accident report that Google filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles about the July 1 crash:
Google’s SUV was going about 15 mph in self-driving mode behind two other cars as the group approached an intersection with a green light.
The first car slowed to a stop so as not to block the intersection — traffic on the far side was not moving. The Google car and the other car in front of it also stopped.
Within about a second, a fourth vehicle rear-ended the Google car at about 17 mph. On-board sensors showed the other car did not brake.
When 16-year-old Autumn Veatch emerged from a plane crash last weekend – bruised, burned and dehydrated – she awoke deep in the middle of nowhere, on a mountainous route leading to a place called, rather underwhelmingly, Easy Pass Trail.
The obstacles in the Cascade range, known to locals as the Alps of Washington, are as ineffably dense as they are treacherous, a wooded labyrinth where the illumination of a sunny day is quickly dampened by shadowy forestry. Experienced hikers at the trailhead here the other day called Autumn’s canyon of survival thicker than the Rockies at their best, a place so disorienting “you can’t really tell where you are” at worst.
By the time she made it past the rustling creek, up over the wooden footbridge and, one freezing night later, to the sound of civilization – cars breezing by on Highway 20 – the teenager was dazed and overwhelmingly confused.
“But she was very quiet, very calm,” said David Crosby, the cashier at a local grocery store who was asked, rather casually by a teenager on Monday afternoon, where to find the restroom.
When Autumn returned to the register a few minutes later, Crosby recalled at the store on Wednesday, she said: “I have no idea where I am.”
Autumn is home now, after a remarkable journey that her father, who encouraged her to watch the reality show Survivorman, called a “miracle”. The high-schooler has yet to tell her tale – her mother, Misty Bowman, told the Guardian the family was grieving for Autumn’s step-grandparents, who perished in the crash – but to hear the authorities and the shopkeepers tell it in this sleepy corner of Washington state, where mountain meets riverbed and nowhere turns into somewhere, this is not merely the stuff of reality TV.
“I don’t think people truly understand,” said Sheriff Frank Rogers of Okanogan County, who spoke with Autumn on Monday. “It’s so dense and thick.”
After visiting family in the city of Kalispell, Montana, authorities say Veatch departed around 1 pm on Saturday in a four-seat Beech A-35 plane with her step-grandparents, pilot Leland Bowman, 62, and his wife, Sharon Bowman, 63.
The aircraft crossed the Idaho/Washington border at 2:21 pm. An hour later, it dropped off the radar in a remote section of the state, about 50 miles south of the Canadian border. That afternoon, officials said, storms periodically rolled through with occasional bursts of wind. The sky consumed the tail-end of the flight.
“It was extremely cloudy,” said Sheriff Rogers, whose department initially responded to reports of the crash, in an interview with the Guardian. “You couldn’t see anything.”
Then, a break in the clouds presented devastating circumstances: the plane was headed directly into the trees and mountainscape ahead.
It remains unclear when the aircraft went down, but the last known phone signal was flagged around 3:50 pm on Saturday. The plane struck a series of trees and barrelled toward the ground, sparking a fire.
Rogers said the teenager attempted to assist her grandparents, to no avail.
So she turned around and began a daunting trip out of the woods: the sheriff said Autumn fell down a small cliff, before gathering her composure, and followed a creek to a sandbar, where she slept for the night. Within the dense landscape, temperatures dropped to an unpleasant low.
“She said the first night she was coming down she was freezing,” Rogers told the Guardian.
By Monday morning, Autumn made her way from the crash site within the Rainy Pass mountainscape toward the trail. Thick logs are splayed across the landscape as far as the eye can see.
“If you were just out in the timber,” said Tom Beck, an experienced hiker who recently moved to the region, “it’d be pretty difficult.”
The trail is “thicker than what we hiked in south-west Colorado, by far”, said his wife, Sandy Rost, walking near the trailhead of the sprawling Easy Pass landscape. “You’d have to be in good shape.”
Authorities also credit the teenager’s intuition to follow the creek downstream from Rainy Pass to Easy Pass. Autumn also needed some luck.
“If she’d gone up the ride and came up the other side, it could’ve been much longer,” said Sheriff Rogers.
Her mobile phone would have been useless: Easy Pass is firmly situated within a dead zone that lasts for miles.
‘A very impressive, determined, very strong lady’
As Autumn neared the Easy Pass exit, the sound of vehicles ahead would have been an enormous relief, a sign of life.
But there does not appear to have been a car for miles: the sheriff said the teenager had to turn back from the highway to the trail’s parking lot. She sat down, barely able to stand, next to a parked sedan.
Soon after, two men driving by pulled into the lot and asked Autumn if she was OK.
Nearly two full days after the crash, Veatch explained to the pair what happened. They immediately drove her about 30 miles down Highway 20 to a general store in the minuscule town of Mazama (population: 200),the first for 70 miles for motorists heading that way.
Autumn called 911 at 2:41 pm, after the vehicle rolled into the parking lot of the Mazama General Store.
“I was riding from from Kalispell, Montana, to Bellingham, Washington, and about … I don’t know where, but we crashed and I was the only one that made it out,” she told the dispatcher.
When Autumn arrived at the storefront on Monday afternoon, the workday wasn’t unusual for employee David Crosby. While Autumn stood near the cash register with the pair who picked her up, he continued about his daily routine. She was “maybe a little bit dazed”, Crosby told the Guardian, but altogether solemn.
Quickly, store employees began to absorb the gravity of the situation: her face was “a little red … like it had a rash”, Crosby said, and her clothes were ragged.
“It looked like she had been rolling in the sticks and stuff – stuck to her back,” he said. “So she’d definitely been outside.”
She was still disoriented when CB Thomas, a first responder and operator of the nearby Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies, rushed into the store.
“He came over, introduced himself to her,” Crosby said. “From there, it kind of just took off.”
Sheriff Rogers said by the time he spoke with her on Monday evening, Veatch showed “a lot of character” and displayed a prevalent resolve. She’s “just a very impressive, determined, very strong lady”, he said.
Autumn was released from the hospital on Tuesday evening after officials said she was treated for dehydration and minor burns and lacerations. Dr James Wallace, of the Three Rivers hospital in Brewster, Washington, where Veatch was treated, said at a press conference on Tuesday her “baseline state of health” played a key role in the teenager’s survival. Her father, David Veatch, told local news outlets his daughter is an “amazing kid”. Family friends joined him at Three Rivers, where a stream of selfies showed Autumn, with scrapes and a nose ring, smiling for the camera.
Family friends relayed to the Guardian that Autumn needed more rest at home and declined requests for comment.
An Egyptian navy vessel was targeted on Thursday by militants affiliated with the Islamic State group, who claimed they destroyed it with a rocket while it was anchored off the Sinai peninsula’s Mediterranean coast.
Egyptian military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir said the vessel caught fire in an exchange of fire with “terrorists” on the shore and that there were no fatalities among its crew members. He did not say how much damage the vessel suffered and gave no details on the type of ship or the size of its crew.
However, security officials said an unspecified number of crew members suffered injuries from the fire and that several of them jumped overboard to escape the raging fire.
The Egyptian IS affiliate, which calls itself the Sinai Province of the Islamic State, said it destroyed the vessel with a rocket. Its claim of responsibility came in a statement posted on Twitter accounts known to be linked to the group.
The authenticity of the statement could not be immediately verified, but it was accompanied by photos purporting to show what appears to be a rocket flying toward the vessel, a large explosion engulfing most of the boat and then black smoke rising up from the vessel.
The attack on the ship is the first of its kind by the IS affiliate in Egypt, representing a qualitative evolvement in the military capabilities of the group, whose campaign of violence has been mostly restricted to the northern part of Sinai bordering Gaza and Israel. Its claim of responsibility for Thursday’s attack on the vessel is the second in as many days for major operations, or attempted ones.
On Wednesday, the military said it foiled an attempted attack on a military post on a highway linking Cairo to the Red Sea coast. The driver of a car that was carrying 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of explosives refused to stop at a checkpoint, drawing fire from troops, the military said in a statement. It then swerved off the road and the driver was killed, it added.
Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate said it was behind the incident, claiming the car’s driver was a suicide bomber who had detonated his explosives, killing several soldiers. The authenticity of the claim, which was denied by the military, could not be independently verified, though it was, like Thursday’s, carried by Twitter accounts known to be linked to the group.
A witness, fisherman Abu Ibrahim Mohammed from the neighboring Gaza Strip, said the vessel targeted Thursday was a gunboat that was about a nautical mile off the coast when it caught fire. He did not hear the explosion but saw two smaller boats trying to put out the fire and that a third, larger one later arrived and towed the burned vessel away. Two speed boats were later seen combing the area as gunshots rang out, he said.
The vessel, according to the security officials, routinely patrols Egyptian territorial waters and has frequently been used to transport army and police personnel to mainland Egypt, the officials said. The sea route avoids the overland journey through Sinai, where Islamic militants target government forces.
“Diamonds & Rust” is a song written and performed by Joan Baez. It was written in November 1974 and released in 1975.
In the song, Baez recounts an out-of-the-blue phone call from an old lover, which sends her a decade back in time, to a “crummy” hotel in Greenwich Village; she recalls giving him a pair of cuff-links, and summarizes that memories bring “diamonds and rust.” Baez has stated that the lyrics refer to her relationship with Bob Dylan.
The song, which was a top-40 hit for Baez on the U.S. pop singles chart, is regarded by a number of critics, as well as by Baez fans, as one of her best compositions. It served as the title song on Baez’s gold-selling Diamonds & Rust album in 1975.