October 23, 2014

Tests find majority of deer at Cerro Gordo County facility had CWD

The Iowa Department of Agriculture has released the tests results from a north-central Iowa deer herd where an animal had previously tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Ag Department spokesman Dustin Vande Hoef says they took action soon after finding out about the infected animal two years ago at the Pine Ridge Lodge near Clear Lake in Cerro Gordo County.

“We quarantined the facility and then entered into negotiations with the owners, and then just this past August we depopulated the heard at that breeding facility and conducted tests on all the deer there…and 79.8 percent of all the deer tested positive for the disease,” Vande Hoef says. There were a total of 356 deer at the facility owned by, Tom and Rhonda Brakke.

The deer are all gone now and Vande Hoef says precautions must still be taken to prevent the spread of CWD. “The owners of the herd have entered into a fence-maintenance agreement with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship which requires them to maintain an eight-foot perimeter fence around the facility for five years to keep any wild white tail deer from entering the facility,” he explains.

CWD is a progressive, fatal, degenerative neurological disease caused by what are called prions in the brains of the animals. Vande Hoef says the five-year quarantine of the area is designed to prevent its spread. “The prions can stay in the soil want to keep the wild deer out of that facility,” Vande Hoef says. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says $917,000s from its indemnity fund will be available to the owners to pay for getting rid of the deer and cleaning up the area. The owners have been in a fight with the state over the cost of cleaning up the problem.

Vande Hoef says deer farms like this one are not uncommon in the state. “We operate a voluntary CWD testing program for farms that sell deer, elk and moose and there are 145 farms that participate in the program,” Vande Hoef says.

There have been three case where captive deer were found to have CWD. The first case was found in Davis County at a farm also owned by the Brakkes. A DNR spokesman says the deer on that shooting preserve came from the breeding facility in Cerro Gordo County. Around 100 deer at the David County facility were killed to stop the spread of the disease. And 3 of the 5 deer that were found with CWD in Pottawattamie County came from the Cerro Gordo County facility.

CWD was recently detected for the first time in a wild deer in Iowa. The animal which tested positive was shot by a hunter in northeast Iowa’s Allamakee County early December.


Maurice woman dies in accident

 Authorities have now released the name of the northwest Iowa woman woman who died in a two-vehicle accident that happened on Wednesday morning on Highway 75.

Forty-nine-year-old Lisa Opheim , of Maurice was heading east from Maurice when she stopped at a stop sign at Highway 75, then drove onto Highway 75 where she was struck by a semi. Opheim was pronounced dead at the scene by the Sioux County Medical Examiner.

The driver of the semi was 22-year-old Mark Schmith of Hawarden. He was traveling southbound on Highway 75 hauling a loaded feed trailer.

(Reporting by Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars)


Father of man who drowned in Missouri says trooper should be charged

Craig Ellingson at Missouri hearing.

Craig Ellingson at Missouri hearing.

The father of an Iowa man who drowned while in the custody of Missouri’s Water Patrol says the trooper involved needs to face some consequences. Craig Ellingson of Clive was in Missouri Wednesday as a House Committee discussed the Water Patrol’s operations. Ellingson heard how some troopers, who aren’t on the water full-time, are trained, such as the trooper who had his 20-year-old son Brandon in custody when he drowned.

“He needs to be charged with manslaughter. If I did it, you did, we’d be in trouble,” Ellingson says. An inquest jury determined the drowning was an accident. The Highway Patrol Superintendent, Ron Replogle, approached Ellingson right before the hearing started and expressed his condolences for Brandon Ellingson’s death.

Craig Ellingson says he wasn’t sure how to take it. “That’s the first time I’ve been apologized to. And it’s been over 100 days,” Ellingson says. “They drug their feet on the report, it took them until September 4th, my son drowned May 31st, so that’s over 90 days which they kept saying they were going to have the report out in a week, and after the first week they kept stalling.”

Ellingson has asked for a federal investigation, and his attorney says a civil case against the state and the Highway Patrol will be filed before the end of the year. The committed did not discuss the specifics of Brandon Ellingson’s drowning, citing the potential for a civil suit.

Thanks to Mike Lear of the Missourinet


Message on DOT billboards draws attention

iowa-dot-messageThe Iowa Department of Transportation is getting a lot of feedback for an eye-catching electronic billboard message this week.

DOT traffic safety engineer Willy Sorenson says, on Monday, around 85 electronic signs around the state posted a message designed to curb distracted driving.

The billboards read: “Get your head out of your apps. Drive safely.” It’s the latest “Message Monday” slogan, which is part of the DOT’s Zero Fatalities campaign. A few motorists have commented that the messages, while targeting distracted drivers, are themselves – a bit distracting.

Sorenson says the agency has received hundreds of mostly positive comments about the latest message.  “Around 95-percent are very positive,” Sorenson says. “Around five-percent did not like the message we posted, but you can’t make everybody happy.”

In addition to the “apps” message, the sign listed the number of people who’ve died in traffic crashes this year in Iowa. “We made 100-percent of the people who saw (the sign) aware of the number of traffic fatalities that we have in Iowa and that’s the message,” Sorenson says.

So far this year 225 deaths have occurred on Iowa roadways. Last year, there 319 traffic fatalities, the fewest in the state since 1943.

Charges filed against semi driver in accident on I-35

Charges have been filed against the motorist who forced the closure of an interstate in central Iowa Tuesday. The four-vehicle crash shut down Interstate 35 near West Des Moines for nearly 9 hours. Police say they’ve charged the semi driver from California who caused the accident with failure to maintain control.

The semi crashed through construction barriers, overturned, and spilled diesel fuel across the interstate. Another semi and two other vehicles were impacted and three people were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.


Lawyer for Brandon Ellingson’s family finds testimony at Missouri hearing ‘insulting’

A Missouri House Committee held its first hearing Wednesday to examine the merger of the state’s Water Patrol with its Highway Patrol. The superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol told the committee with the potential for civil lawsuits, he would not answer questions about the drowning of a Clive,Iowa man while in Water Patrol custody.

Craig Ellingson, the father of 20-year-old drowning victim Brandon Ellingson, was at the hearing in Missouri along with his attorney Matthew Boles. Boles says what he and his client heard was “insulting.” “Going through the litany of success stories that the merger has brought about with manpower, training, and equipment and highlighted floods and the Ferguson civil unrest, and conveniently jumped over the May 31st drowning of Brandon Ellingson,” Boles says.

Some of the committee members have said it isn’t their place to investigate the drowning of Ellingson while in Water Patrol custody, but the Boles says there is more to measuring success than whether the merger saved money. “The cost of the loss of Brandon Ellingson’s life isn’t measured in dollars an cents,” according to Boles. “And if the rush to get offices on the lake and the rush to make sure that they have fulfilled the obligations of the merger have resulted in public safety concerns — such as the death of Brandon — this has been a failure.”

Boles took particular exception to the Highway Patrol superintendent’s description of what were called the successes of that merger, including specific water rescue incidents and response to disasters. “I thought it was somewhat insulting,” Boles says.

Boles says it doesn’t matter if the Highway Patrol members testifying don’t talk about that drowning during hearings on the merger. He says the information will come out. “All of the documents that they’re referencing are going to be discoverable. We are going to get an opportunity to depose all of these people. And we have a very, very good picture, based on eyewitness testimony, about what happened at the time of Brandon’s death,” Bole says.

Boles expects a civil case against the Patrol and the State of Missouri will be filed before the committee completes its work at the end of the year, and his client has also requested a federal investigation.

Thanks to Mike Lear of the Missourinet for this story.


Sioux Central homecoming activities delayed after 2 students killed

Homecoming activities at a northwest Iowa high school have been postponed in the wake of a deadly car crash. School officials at Sioux Central have moved homecoming activities, originally planned to begin this Friday, to the week of October 13-17.

The decision comes after an accident this week that claimed the lives of 17-year-old Caleb Smith of Sioux Rapids and 16-year-old Lexi Rydstrom of Marathon. Smith’s car struck a pickup head on east of Storm Lake. Four others were injured.

Smith and Rydstrom were both students at Sioux Central High School in Sioux Rapids.

(Reporting by Ryan Long, KICD, Spencer)