As the year winds to a close, Radio Iowa staff are reviewing the year’s top news and sports stories.
AUDIO of top stories of 2013, 3:00
Two girls were snatched from a bus stop in the central Iowa town of Dayton in May. The 12-year-old girl escaped, but the kidnapper vanished with 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepherd. The suspect, 42-year-old Michael Klunder of Stratford, hanged himself. Kathlynn’s body was discovered a few weeks later, in the Des Moines River, near the Kate Shelley bridge. The suspect, Klunder, was sentenced to 41 years in prison for a kidnapping case in 1992, but was released two years ago for good behavior.
In January, a medical helicopter from Mason City crashed near Ventura while heading to Emmetsburg, killing the pilot, the nurse and the paramedic. Fred Bittrell, CEO of the copter’s parent company, said any crew member could have aborted the flight, if there was a concern.
“We always had a saying: ‘Three to go, one to say no,'” Bittrell said. “So if anybody was not comfortable with not accepting the mission — for whatever reason — we would not do it.”
The family of the nurse sued, claiming the helicopter wasn’t safe in icy conditions.
In February, Iowa cracked the top ten in a listing of the healthiest states in the nation. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranked Iowa number-nine, up from 16 the previous year.
Bullying is a top issue in Iowa schools and a conference in Altoona for gay and lesbian issues in April drew huge numbers of attendees — and protesters. Jackie Mendez, a high schooler from Sioux City, says those who oppose her views shouldn’t condemn them.
“It’s like something we really believe in,” Mendez says. “We’re all equal, so why discriminate against us.”
A conservative group and several legislators spoke out against using taxpayer money to fund the conference, as they say some sessions bullied those who don’t support gay rights issues.
About 160 Iowans ran in the Boston Marathon in April where a pair of bombs went off. Kirk Newstrom, a Des Moines podiatrist, was working at the finish line when he heard the first blast.
“I looked down the street and saw a big plume and thought, ‘Huh, that sounded like a cannon,'” Newstrom said. “About 10-15 seconds later we saw and heard the next one and, immediately, I knew it was a bomb.”
The explosions killed three people and injured dozens.
After a wet cold spring and a rare snowstorm in early May, record rains fell in late May and early June, bringing flooding to Iowa. Ray Leucke of Le Mars says the Floyd River rose very quickly:
“Our phones were cut off,” Leucke says. “Next thing we knew the first and rescue team was down here to get us out.”
Governor Branstad declared 30 counties state disaster areas due to flooding.
This past March, scientists found new evidence in northeast Iowa of a massive 470-million-year-old meteorite crater.