SAN JOSE, Calif.

Officials: Hunter caused fire at Yosemite, and may get bill

A hunter who allowed an illegal campfire to leap out of control caused the massive blaze burning in and around Yosemite National Park, investigators from the U.S. Forest Service announced Thursday.

No arrests have been made, and the hunter’s name is being withheld “pending further investigation,” Forest Service spokesman Ray Mooney said. Investigators declined to release further details Thursday, including where the hunter is from, whether they have interviewed him and whether there were other hunters involved.

But his excursion into the Stanislaus National Forest, where the Rim fire began west of Yosemite on Aug. 17, is not going to be cheap. Not only could the hunter face criminal charges and possible jail time, federal officials may send him a bill for the costs of putting out the fire — $81 million thus far.

“There’s no rule that says the state will or should only go after individuals with large bank accounts,” said attorney Kyle Graham, a former national park ranger who now teaches law at Santa Clara University. “The state’s interest in such a case may be to send a message, or to recover some costs, or both.”


Teen dies after being struck by his own model helicopter

A teenager operating a remote-controlled helicopter in a New York City park has been struck in the head by it and killed.

Police say 19-year-old Roman Pirozek Jr. died Thursday afternoon near a parkway in Brooklyn. They say he suffered a severe head injury.

Enthusiasts are allowed to operate model aircraft in designated parts of Calvert Vaux Park, which features a playground, basketball courts and baseball diamonds.

Pirozek’s father is the vice president of the Seaview Rotary Wings Helicopter Club, which organizes flights in the park. He hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

A spokesman for the Muncie, Ind.-based Academy of Model Aeronautics says he believes Pirozek’s death is only the second death caused by a remote-controlled helicopter in the United States.

KABUL, Afghanistan

Militants blamed in death of prominent Indian author

An Indian woman whose memoir about life under Taliban rule was turned into a Bollywood movie was shot dead Thursday by suspected members of the Islamist militia, officials said.

The killing of Sushmita Banerjee was the latest in a string of attacks on prominent women in Afghanistan, adding to fears women’s rights in a country where many are barely allowed outside the house will face setbacks after U.S.-led foreign forces fully withdraw in 2014.

The militants arrived before dawn at Banerjee’s residence in eastern Paktika province, which lies in Afghanistan’s east – a region where the Taliban are especially influential.

The militants then dragged Banerjee outside, took her to a nearby road and shot her at least 15 times,

Taliban spokesmen did not answer phone calls seeking comment late Thursday.

Banerjee — who was from Kolkata, India — wrote “A Kabuliwala’s Bengali Wife.” It later became the basis for the 2003 film “Escape from Taliban.”

MANAGUA, Nicaragua

Environmentalists report dramatic drop in sea turtles

Authorities and environmentalists say the number of sea turtles arriving on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast is dropping sharply this year, something they say could be an effect of climate change.

Environmental authorities say 2,000 turtles arrived on the coast of Rivas state in July and August. They say that in the same two-month period last year 21,350 turtles made their way to that coast.

Rivas environment delegate Mario Rodriguez says it is the sharpest drop in sea turtles recorded by authorities in 10 years.

Experts say the drop could be due to climate change, which is affecting the ocean’s temperature and tides.

— From news service reports

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