US 301 Mainline Project looks to improve safety, traffic issues in Middletown area

By Tom Lehman 4:13pm, February 5, 2016 - Updated 5:17pm, February 5, 2016
VIDEO: WDEL's Tom Lehman reports.
Ground was broken Friday on the U.S. 301 Mainline Project in the Middletown area, signaling the start of construction on the long-awaited project that officials hope will ease congestion on local roadways and improve safety.

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The $470 million project will create a new four-lane, electronically tolled, limited access roadway which will run from from the western Delaware-Maryland border and bypass the heart of Middletown, taking motorists to Route 1. It's expected the road will be completed by the end of 2018.

Officials with the Delaware Department of Transportation said one major focus of the new road is improving safety.

"The existing U.S. 301 route has a very high crash and fatality rate," said DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan.

Once completed, the Route 301 Mainline project is expected to alleviate congestion on local roads by diverting trucks onto the bypass. DelDOT estimated the change will reduce overall traffic in those thoroughfares by 20 percent.

Middletown Mayor Ken Branner said it's a positive move that will help keep roads like Main Street from being used as paths to U.S. 301.

"The bypass north and south is going to be tremendous for residents and people that want to get around Middletown and a straight-through corridor," he said.

The existing section of U.S. 301 will be converted into a local road. Officials expect the project will employ 5,200 in construction-oriented jobs in the coming years.

DelDOT received roughly $211 million from the federal government through a low-interest direct loan under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

"Reducing bottlenecks will make it more cost efficient for America's businesses to move their goods," said Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau.

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You can contact Tom Lehman at tlehman@wdel.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.




'Ideal plunging conditions' for 25th annual Polar Bear Plunge in Rehoboth

By WXDE 9:36am, February 6, 2016
Thousands will take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean tomorrow for the annual Polar Bear Plunge. (Photo/WDEL File)
Rehoboth Beach will draw summer-like crowds this weekend, as more than 3,000 people are expected to dash into the ocean Sunday for the 25th Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics Delaware.

"The water temperature's in the low 40s--it's really ideal 'plunging conditions,' said Jon Buzby, director of Media Relations for Special Olympics Delaware. "We're expecting possibly an all-time high of what we call 'walk-up plungers' who decide that morning, 'You know what? I've been on the fence about doing this, I'm going to go down there and do it,' becayse it really is going to be great weather conditions."

Buzby said Special Olympics Delaware offers sports opportunities throughout the year for about 3,700 adults and children with disabilities in Delaware.

"It is a completely free program for them. There are no registration fees. We take care of the equipment, we take care of the uniforms. When people wonder where all of this money's going that we're fortunate enough to raise, it's going right back here in The First State."

The Polar Plunge takes place Sunday, but as a prequel to the main event there's a 5K Run to the Plunge, a restaurant chili contest, a "fire and ice" festival where visitors can sample hot wings and ice cream, and an ice-sculpting contest all on Saturday.


Troopers seek masked gas station holdup man

By Frank Gerace 9:55am, February 6, 2016
Delaware State Police are asking for the public's help finding a masked suspect who robbed a Newark-area gas station Friday night.

The robber demanded cash from two clerks at the Valero station in the 700 block of Old Baltimore Pike around 8:45. leaving when he got some money, police said.

The crook is described as white, 20 to 25 years old, 5-10 to 6 feet tall, and wore a dark-colored sweatshirt and blue jeans in addition to the mask.

Anyone with information on the holdup can call Troop 2 at 302.365.8566.

Information may also be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333, via the internet at www.tipsubmit.com, or by sending an anonymous tip by text to 274637 (CRIMES) using the keyword "DSP."




DSP busts wanted brothers

By Frank Gerace 10:17am, February 6, 2016
Delaware State Police have arrested two brothers from Milford who were wanted on a slew of charges.

Troopers tracked down Matthew and Joshua Meding at a house in Dover Air Force Base's housing area Thursday night, police said.

The Meding's are charged with offenses including theft, burglary, selling stolen property and falsifying business records.

Both brothers are being held at the Sussex Correctional Institution.


Elderly MD man ctied after Georgetown-area crash

By Frank Gerace 10:26am, February 6, 2016
An elderly Maryland man was ticketed by State Police after a crash involving his car and a tractor-trailer near Georgetown.

Police say 79-year-old John Culhane ran a red light on Gravel Hill Road and turned left into the path of a tractor-trailer on Lewes-Georgetown Highway around 1:45 Friday afternoon.

The car's engine compartment caught fire, but Georgetown firefighters were able to put it out quickly.

Culhane was treated at Beebe Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries--he was also ticketed for failure to yield and not having insurance.

The tractor-trailer driver wasn't hurt.

The intersection was closed for about 3 hours after the crash.


Elsmere Police: Drugs fall out of suspect's pant leg, found 'tucked in buttocks'

By DJ McAneny 3:41pm, February 5, 2016 - Updated 9:09am, February 6, 2016
Carney and the drugs allegedly found on, or in, his person/Courtesy Elsmere Police
Authorities conducting a traffic stop in the area of Elsmere Gardens arrested a man on drug charges after they said heroin fell out of his pants leg.

According to Elsmere Police, Desean Carney, 43, of the 100 block of Ridge Road in Linwood, Pennsylvania, was stopped February 4, 2016.

Officers said they detected a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle and conducted a pat-down of Carney, at which point 13 bags of heroin in a bundle fell out of his pant leg. A search of his vehicle turned up three small packages of marijuana, police said.

Police said a sandwich bag with 8 additional bundles of heroin totaling 104 bags, and a bag totaling 2.8 grams of crack cocaine were discovered "tucked in his buttocks area."

Carney was charged with manufacturing, possessing, or delivering a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance-Tier 1 quantity, possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana, failing to use a turn signal, and driving while suspended. He ws committed to the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in lieu of $7,000 secured bond.


Claymont man dies after being detained at scene of car tampering

By DJ McAneny 4:29pm, February 5, 2016
A 42-year-old Claymont man has died following a medical emergency he suffered while being detained by a witness who had spotted him tampering with a vehicle, New Castle County Police announced Friday.

Authorities said John Fretchel, of the 2700 block of Washington Avenue, was detained by a witness Tuesday, February 2, 2016, while hiding in some bushes after the man had spotted tampering to his vehicle in the 100 block of Compass Drive.

Fretchel was transported to Wilmington Hospital while receiving first-aid, but New Castle County Police announced his death Friday.

This incident remains under investigation, police said.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact authorities at 302.573.2800 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.


Blood Bank of Delmarva kicks off urgent appeal for donors in advance of Super Bowl weekend

By Andrew Sgroi 2:19pm, February 5, 2016 - Updated 2:28pm, February 5, 2016
Critically low supplies of blood has prompted an urgent appeal from the Blood Bank of Delmarva.

Citing such factors as the recent blizzard and typically higher seasonal demand, officials said the potential is there for Super Bowl weekend emergencies to compound the shortage.

"We are like the Boy Scouts, we always have to be prepared," said Michael Waite, Director of Marketing & Community Relations for BBD. "In anticipation of the fact that some people may go out there and do things they shouldn't do (on Super Bowl weekend), there may be a greater need. If we had just had a normal use of product, we would be fine."

Waite added that, though the petition for additional resources is targeted to everyone, there is a certain donor class the Blood Bank especially wants to see again.

"Our regular donors are here all the time," he acknowledged. "(We're) really looking to appeal to somebody who may have not donated in quite some time."

As for the kinds of donations the Blood Bank can use, that also runs the gamut.

"(Type) O negative is the universal blood type," Waite reminded. "So that, in a trauma situation, will always be the first thing that a doctor or a nurse will grab for. The problem is--with O negative--that is only 1 in every 15 people that is typed that way. At the same time, you have O positive and A positive which are the common blood types--which is 1 in every 3 persons. Do the math, you can figure out that in a certain trauma situation, the odds are you're going to need A- or O-positive."

To become a donor, visit www.delmarvablood.org

To schedule an appointment, click here.






Shots fired outside Famous Tim's in Wilmington

By Amy Cherry 3:56pm, February 5, 2016 - Updated 5:30pm, February 5, 2016
Shots rang out in a bar parking lot following a fight in Wilmington's Forty Acres neighborhood Sunday night.

Wilmington Police Sergeant Andrea Janvier said a large fight led to gunfire in the parking lot of Famous Tim's, located at 1705 Lovering Avenue on January 31, 2016 at 8:40 p.m.

Police said no one was injured.

There were no arrests made. Police said, by the time they arrived, there was no one left at the scene.

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Contact Amy Cherry at acherry@wdel.com or follow her on Twitter at @acherry13.




Wawa in Bear robbed by note-wielding man implying he was armed

By DJ McAneny 4:40pm, February 5, 2016
A Wawa in Bear was robbed early Friday morning by a man who implied he was armed, but never displayed a weapon, Delaware State Police said that evening.

According to authorities, a man entered the Wawa at 1605 Pulaski Highway in Bear at approximately 4:01 a.m. and approached a female clerk, who was supplied with a note demanding cash.

The clerk complied with the note's demands, turning over an undisclosed amount of cash. The suspect then fled in an unknown direction, causing no injury as he fled.

The suspect was described as a white male, 25 to 35 years old, standing 5'8" to 5'10", last scene wearing a gray and black jacket, blue jeans, and a baseball cap.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact Delaware State Police at 302.365.8566 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.


Man, 21, allegedly pulls gun during foot chase with Dover Police

By DJ McAneny 12:34pm, February 5, 2016 - Updated 12:44pm, February 5, 2016
Sameer Dover, left, and Zhamir Cooper-Watson/Courtesy Dover Police
Two men have been charged following foot chase with Dover Police, during which one man allegedly pulled out a handgun before complying with officer's orders to drop it.

According to authorities, officers responding to reports of an armed robbery in the are of Barrister Place near Dover East Estates made contact with Zhamir Cooper-Watson, 21, of the 400 block of Barrister Place.

Cooper-Watson fled on foot, police said, and pulled out a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver loaded with five rounds of ammunition from inside his coat as police gave chase. He complied with commands to drop the weapon.

He was charged with carrying a concealed deadly weapon and resisting arrest. He was committed to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in lieu of $5,500 secured bond.

Two additional subjects remained with a Dover Police Cadet while officers. chased down Cooper-Watson. One was released after being interviewed, but the second, Sameer Dover, 19, of the 100 block of Lady Bug Drive, was fund to be in possession of 27.6 grams of marijuana.

Police charged Dover with possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was released on his own recognizance.


Dover Police, parole officers arrest 2 on drug charges following midnight raid

By DJ McAneny 12:05pm, February 5, 2016
Rodney Morris, left, and Johnmicah Daniels/Courtesy Dover Police
A man and woman are facing drug charges after Dover Police and Delaware parole officers raided their shared home to find drugs and cash, authorities said Friday.

According to police, officers raided a residence in the 300 block of Cecil Street at 12:04 a.m. on February 5, 2016, to find Rodney Morris, 42, and Johnmicah Daniels, 30, in possession of 6.6 grams of cocaine, .2 grams of crack, and $9,536 in suspected drug proceeds.

Morris and Daniels were both charged with possession with intent to deliver cocaine, possession of controlled substance-Tier 1 quantity, possession of drug paraphernalia, and second-degree conspiracy.

Morris was committed to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, while Daniels was committed to the Baylor Correctional Center. Bond information was unavailable.


Wilmington could expand ban on feeding pigeons after problems with bird droppings at park

By Tom Lehman 11:35pm, February 4, 2016 - Updated 9:11am, February 6, 2016
PHOTO: Roughly a dozen loaves of bread could be seen near the Cool Spring Reservoir on Thursday. VIDEO: Councilwoman Loretta Walsh discusses the ordinance.
Wilmington may move to expand its ban on feeding pigeons because residents and council members say food intentionally left in one city park has led to a regular influx of sea gulls and an excessive amount of bird droppings in the area.

A bill introduced at Thursday's city council meeting would prohibit feeding or leaving food for most birds and wild animals on sidewalks, streets, highways, parks, public properties or private properties where permission has not been granted. Police would enforce the measure with citations, according to Councilman Charles "Bud" Freel (D-District 8), the bill's primary sponsor.

The legislation is aimed at addressing what has been coined by some residents have deemed extreme behavior by a select few people, one of whom is alleged to have left pieces and loaves of bread near the Cool Spring Reservoir for roughly a year.

As a result, Freel said the bread draws congregations of sea gulls and other birds into the area and they leave their feces on surfaces throughout the park.

"It is unfortunate that we have to legislate it but the problem we have here is a health issue," he said.

The legislation acknowledges that bird droppings damage the environment, cause erosion and water quality problems, and can carry diseases or parasites that make humans sick.

Greg Luna, president of the Cool Spring/Tilton Park Civic Association, said the amount of bird droppings frequently found in the park has become more than just a nuisance and is causing residents and families to avoid the park.

"It's unpleasant. It's unsanitary for humans to use the area. Consequently, we had to ask the city to power wash the area," he said.

In photos Luna said he took roughly a year ago, bird feces could be seen on a railing and the brick path along the park's reservoir and inside a drinking fountain.

Freel said he recently visited the park after Luna reached out to him and thought the park was "a mess."

Councilwoman Loretta Walsh (D-At Large) said such sights aren't uncommon and the bird feces has caused thousands of dollars in damage to the park.

"The gulls poop a little bit bigger and a little bit more than the other birds do, so the feces have actually started corroding a lot of the cement that has been around there," she said.

In statement, Mayor Dennis Williams (D) said residents and the city government have an obligation to protect and preserve parks and public spaces.

"That means evaluating actions, that may not appear to be overly harmful but could have a longterm detrimental impact on the park and nearby communities who use that space," he said.

Although much of the blame for the bird feces has been levelled at one particular individual, Luna said the bill also contains language that is aimed at educating those who think it's acceptable to leave birds pieces of bread or other foods.

The National Audobon Society wrote in a blog post last year on its website that bread---fresh or stale---and food items like crackers that are often fed to waterfowl don't meet their nutritional needs.

The ordinance also includes a provision that deems bird feeders on private property acceptable, so long as they don't attract wildlife and are arranged in such a way that animals can't get into them.

Not all visitors to the park are convinced that legislation is the solution.

Arsha McDuffy, a New Castle resident who frequently walks through the park, said she thinks the city should look into the problem but issues like crime deserve more attention.

"I understand how they feel but I think it's wrong because not everyone's doing that," she said. "Most of the people are just coming and playing or sitting with their kids."

Councilwoman Maria Cabrera (D-At Large) lives near the area and said she wishes the council didn't need to pass legislation to address the issue, but the current situation necessitates such a measure.

"It had to be done because we have a beautiful location in the city that is being polluted by the amount of crap from the birds because they're being fed by humans and because they're being fed bad stuff," she said.


Pennsylvania woman killed in bed by falling tree, husband trapped

By Associated Press 2:24pm, February 5, 2016
Authorities said a 90-foot tree fell on a house in suburban Philadelphia, killing a woman in her bed and trapping her husband beside her.

A crane was used to lift the tree so fire crews could cut through roofing, limbs and other debris to free the husband.

Marple Township Police Chief Thomas Murray said the beech tree apparently toppled onto the two-story home at about 6 a.m. Friday. Rescue units were called about 8:15 a.m. after a neighbor heard screams.

Alan Cooper was pulled from the bedroom a little over an hour later. His wife, Marjay Cooper, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The chief said Alan Cooper's injuries didn't appear to be serious.

A wet snow was falling but Murray said he didn't think the incident was weather-related. He called it a "freak accident."


Bridgestone-Firestone recalls over 36,000 truck tires

By Associated Press 9:17am, February 6, 2016
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Bridgestone-Firestone North America recalled more than 36,000 heavy truck tires in the U.S. and Canada because the tread can separate from the body and cause the tires to fail.

The recall covers 22.5-inch Firestone FS561 replacement tires made from Jan. 25, 2015 to Jan. 27, 2016. The company said in documents filed with the government that the recall covers tires used on trailers. Tread separation can cause sudden loss of air pressure and increase the risk of a crash.

Bridgestone-Firestone said its investigating what causes the problem. It was discovered in October of 2015 when the company noticed an unusual number of warranty returns. The company says it has no reports of injuries.

Bridgestone-Firestone will replace the tires at no cost to owners.


National parks face $12B backlog for maintenance work

By Associated Press 9:27am, February 6, 2016
The Grand Canyon (Photo/Wikipedia)
The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary, but the system is facing a backlog worth billions of dollars.

Projects range from replacing water works at the Grand Canyon to making sure the Jefferson Memorial doesn't sink into the Tidal Basin.

The bill for deferred work is nearly $12 billion nationwide - a $440 million increase from last year.

President Barack Obamo proposed spending $900 million over three years to reduce the backlog, with another $300 million targeted for restoration projects.

Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said he hopes to chip away at the backlog so parks eventually have enough resources to keep pace.

He said there is "a lot yet to do, but ... everything is moving in the right direction."


Twitter moves to actively seek out terrorist supporters

By Associated Press 9:27am, February 6, 2016
Twitter said it's now using spam-fighting technology to seek out and automatically flag accounts that might be promoting terrorist activity.

The company announced Friday in a statement that it has suspended more than 125,000 accounts on its social media site for threatening or promoting terrorist acts mainly related to the Islamic State group in the last eight months.

The news signals a move toward automation as the U.S. government has pressured social media companies to respond more aggressively to reports of abuse. A human still reviews flagged posts.

Child pornography is automatically flagged for human review using a separate technology.


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