Tanker’s owners ask judge to dismiss states’ lawsuit

The owners of the oil tanker that damaged a bridge connecting New Hampshire and Maine are asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the two states seeking about $2.4 million in compensation.

The owners say costs to repair the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, which reopened Monday, “constitute an improvement or betterment of the bridge” with new parts, so there should be a reduction in claimed damages. They also say the two states are “guilty of negligence to such a degree” that the states should be barred from recovering any damages, or recover a reduced amount.

The 473-foot tanker MV Harbour Feature hit the bridge on April 1 after breaking away from a pier.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Hampshire, alleged the incident happened because the crew “failed to properly secure the vessel at her berth,” resulting in the “parting of her mooring lines.”

Court records show the states asked a judge to order the “maritime arrest” of the tanker that would have allowed them to keep the ship in port. That seizure was avoided when the tanker owners posted a “special bond” for $2.4 million, the amount of the estimated repairs, on April 5.

The Portuguese tanker MV Harbour Feature is owned by Sexhste Nordtank-Hamburg and operated by TB Marine Shipmanagement.


Plane crash that killed pilot blamed on 65-year-old part

Federal investigators say an aging part fractured and caused a vintage plane to crash into the ocean off Portland Head Light last summer, killing the doctor piloting the aircraft.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in its report released earlier this month that the 1946 Stinson Voyager suffered “a fatigue failure of the No. 3 piston skirt,” causing a total loss of engine power.

The Sun Journal reported that the NTSB said although the piston was overhauled about five years before the accident, the part was more than 65 years old.

The plane crashed about 100 yards from shore June 24. The pilot, Dr. Louis Hanson, 60, of Durham, died.


Mother: Missing girl, 15, had a date with Facebook friend

The Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department is looking for a missing 15-year-old girl from Glenburn.

Authorities said Wednesday that Nichole Cable was last seen by her parents Sunday evening. They said 45 officers from different agencies were working to find her.

Law enforcement officials, joined by Cable’s parents at a news conference, declined to say Monday if she’s in danger or if she’s run away before. No Amber alert was issued.

Her mother, Kristine Willey, told WABI-TV that she was scheduled to meet someone she had met on Facebook.

Cable has light brown hair and blue eyes and weighs 90 pounds. She is a student at Old Town High School.


Lawyer insists DNA testing will clear client in 2 killings

The lawyer for a man who is serving two life sentences for the 1999 execution-style shooting deaths of his former girlfriend and the toddler she was baby-sitting says DNA tests could show that somebody else committed the killings.

Richard Hartley told Maine supreme court justices Wednesday that they should overturn a lower-court ruling denying his motion for DNA testing of clothes worn by another man who claimed responsibility for the killings, but later recanted.

Hartley said the tests could show the victims’ DNA or blood on the clothes, which would benefit his client, Jeffrey Cookson, 49, who was convicted of killing 20-year-old Mindy Gould and 21-month-old Treven Cunningham in Dexter.

The lower-court judge ruled that Cookson couldn’t show the clothes hadn’t been contaminated in the two years they were buried in the ground.


Woman accused of stealing cash, jewelry from elderly

A South Portland woman who allegedly stole from elderly residents after entering their homes on the pretext that she was from “the agency” and was doing inspections has been charged.

Police arrested Margaret Wilkes, 53, Wednesday morning on three counts of burglary and three counts of theft.

Wilkes entered residents’ homes and asked for medical information or did “inspections,” and at the same time stole cash and jewelry, said South Portland Detective Sgt. Steve Webster.

Police were first notified in April about such a theft, then another on May 5. The most recent incident occurred Monday, Webster said.

South Portland police worked with Portland police to identify and find Wilkes, and arrested her on Main Street. A search warrant for her home on Bonny Bank Road led to the recovery of some of the stolen items, Webster said.

Wilkes was being held on $500 bail in the Cumberland County Jail.


Two crew members escape fire that gutted lobster boat

Two crew members of the 36-foot lobster boat Miss Ellie escaped safely after the boat caught fire off the coast of Wells just before 8 a.m. Wednesday.

The crew called to shore on a cellphone, which led the Coast Guard to issue an urgent marine broadcast asking any nearby boaters to assist.

The flames quickly engulfed the boat, which was four miles north of Boon Island Light, and the crew donned survival suits and climbed into a life raft, a Coast Guard spokesman said.

The Coast Guard dispatched a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Portsmouth, N.H. Meanwhile, a research vessel, the Tioga, responded and was able to get the crew aboard without any injuries, the spokesman said.

The fire gutted the boat, though it was still afloat at 11:15 a.m.


Judge rejects Schofield’s bid to ease probation conditions

The woman who is serving a 17-year sentence for the suffocation death of her 5-year-old foster child more than a decade ago wants her probation conditions eased once she’s released from prison.

But a judge on Tuesday rejected Sally Ann Schofield’s request to relax her probation conditions banning direct or indirect contact with children under 12, ruling that it’s premature because she’s still in prison.

Schofield was convicted of manslaughter in the 2001 death of Logan Marr, who died after Schofield bound her with duct tape and left her alone in her basement in Chelsea.

The Kennebec Journal reported that Schofield’s attorney indicated Schofield will be eligible for home confinement later this year and is concerned she could violate probation if she has incidental contact with a child. 

Senate upholds LePage veto of another education bill

Lawmakers have upheld the second veto of a bill by Gov. Paul LePage in two days.

The Senate on Wednesday sustained LePage’s veto of a bill that sought to change the school budget approval process for school units known as alternative organizational structures. The vote was 23-12, just shy of the number needed to override the governor’s veto.

LePage said he vetoed the bill because it “moves away from the ballot box” and toward special meetings, giving the school board more power over money matters.

On Tuesday, the House sustained LePage’s veto of a bill that sought to allow school districts to hire superintendents without regard for whether they live within the district they will head.


Businesses urged to watch for counterfeit $50 bills

Police said Wednesday that someone is passing fake $50 bills and urged businessess to watch for them.

Police said in a news release that they had received several calls Wednesday reporting the fake bills.

The department included a picture of one of the bills, which has the serial number GE35575088A.

Police ask that anyone who suspects they have received a fake bill report it to police immediately.


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