According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, a lineman working in Tyler County after the severe storms blew through the area was killed while working on power lines on County Road 3630 off of FM 256 in the Colmesneil area.
The Tyler County Communications center received a call Tuesday morning reporting that the incident had happened after linemen with Utility Plus Incorporated were walking out on a line getting ready to restore power when the lineman came in contact with part of a downed wire. Witnesses report that he fell instantly and attempts at CPR failed.
The lineman, who was 33 years old and from Oklahoma, was pronounced dead on the scene by Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Greg Dawson.
On May 1, Deputies with the Tyler County Sheriff's Department were dispatched to County Road 3155 in Colmesneil. According to Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, the caller reported that a white male was driving an SUV with a rifle hanging out of the driver's door.
Deputies arrived in the area, and observed a vehicle matching the description of the vehicle described by the caller. The vehicle was parked on the edge of the roadway, and as deputies began to approach the vehicle, they observed the subject pick up what appeared to be a rifle, Weatherford said. The subject was ordered to drop the weapon and raise both of his hands.
"The subject would raise his hands, then lower one of his hands into the vehicle where officers could not see them," Weatherford said. "They continued to give him orders to comply with directions and the driver finally placed both hands outside of the vehicle and deputies were able to open the door and take the subject into custody." According to Weatherford, as officers were removing him from the vehicle they observed a small bag of what appeared to be Marijuana.
The subject was identified as Billy Joe Ott, 34, of Colmesneil.
The gun Ott was carrying was a BB gun rifle, and a computer check revealed that he had an outstanding warrant out of Tyler County that was for a Motion to Revoke Probation with the original charge being Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Felon.
Ott was placed under arrest at that time for the warrant, as well as the marijuana that he had in his possession. When Ott arrived at the jail, he advised deputies that he had some methamphetamines in his sock. According to Weatherford, Deputies removed two clear plastic baggies from his sock with a crystal white substance that tested positive for methamphetamines.
Ott was charged Possession of a Controlled Substance State Jail Felony, Possession of Marijuana and the outstanding felony warrant.
On April 18, a Deputy with the Tyler County Sheriff's Department went to a residence on County Road 3400 in an attempt to serve some warrants to several individuals. According to Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, the Deputy was unable to locate the individuals, and after talking to some neighbors in the area, learned that they had left earlier so the Deputy remained in the area.
Later that day, the Deputy met up with one of the Tyler County Sheriff Sergeants and located the vehicle that the individuals were in. According to Weatherford, the Deputy and Sergeant approached the vehicle and identified the driver as Richard Neil and the passenger as Shannon Neil. Deputies checked through communications and confirmed the warrants and placed both individuals under arrest.
During a pat down search, the Deputy felt sharp edges in Richard Neil's pocket. Neil let the Deputy know that the substance was K-2, or Kush, which is a synthetic marijuana. Neil stated he bought it in the Cleveland area. "A search of the vehicle revealed a blue glass marijuana pipe," Weatherford said. "The pipe and the substance were taken into evidence. This particular brand of synthetic marijuana was called 'Loopy Brand'."
The vehicle was turned over to a person with a good drivers license.
Shannon Neil and Richard Neil were charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance Penalty Group Two as well as the outstanding warrants.
"We want to make sure that parents and people in the county know a little bit about synthetic marijuana, because it is such a problem," Weatherford said. "It is also known as Spice, K-2, Fake Weed or Skunk. It has a lot of fake names on the street and has a lot of mind-altering effects. It is more unpredictable than regular marijuana, and people often try to create their own blends of K2 that are all illegal but are so different and people never know what they are taking. Scientists are also really unaware of the long term effects of this drug and a lot of it contains heavy metals that will have debilitating effects on the brain as users age."
According to Weatherford, it is illegal to sell, buy, or possess synthetic marijuana.
"If parents see this it is often packaged as potpourri or incense and has all kinds of different labels," Weatherford said. "Of the drugs that are used today by high school kids, synthetic ranks second behind regular marijuana so it is becoming more prevalent; but, it is significantly more dangerous than regular marijuana."
Some of the effects of the drug are extreme anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, vomiting, confusion, raised blood pressure and reduced blood supply to the heart. It was been associated with heart attacks, even in young people and unlike regular marijuana, it has withdrawal and addiction symptoms, Weatherford said.
Firefighters from Tyler County and Livingston fought a silo fire at German Pellets on April 26, but another fire at the plant broke out on May 2, requiring the help of several volunteer fire departments.
The second fire began at approximately 7 p.m. Saturday, at the German Pellet Plant, said Tyler County Emergency Management Coordinator Dale Freeman. At first, the call reported that it was only a small fire and only the assistance of Woodville VFD was needed. Shortly after, the call stated to send every resource available. All Tyler County Fire Departments, besides Chester, Whitetail Ridge, and Village Mills responded, as well as Jasper and Livingston VFD.
"The radio traffic was constant and frantic for a while," Freeman said. "The call went out for the VFD's to bring all the fresh air apparatuses that they had."
According to Freeman, the fire started in a mechanism called "the cyclone" which spins trees at high speeds to remove bark and debris. The fire then spread to the silos. There were several explosions inside the plant during the fire.
"When the Woodville VFD first arrived, they were attacking the fire with hoses strung from the ground up onto the structure and decks that encompassed the vessels that were on fire," Freeman said. "When the second explosion occurred, four of our firemen with Woodville VFD were on a deck in close proximity to where the blast release occurred. They were knocked to the deck by superheated smoke and air that blew out from the blast. They were wearing gear that protected them from being burned, but they said the smoke was so intense that they could not see anything. They just held onto the rail until it cleared up."
The four firemen inside the blast were John David Risinger, Joey Lane, Scott Cloud and Assistant Chief Jimmy Watts.
To fight the fire safely, a ladder truck was desperately needed, but Livingston's truck was down for repairs at the time. Thankfully they were able to send nine to ten fireman along with foam agents.
Jasper VFD responded with their Tower 1 ladder truck to get water into the silos from the air, as firefighters on the ground sprayed water to keep the silos cool. According to Freeman, there are no fire hydrants around the plant so numerous water trucks had to deliver water to the scene from Gemma Plant and a hydrant in front of the Bealls Shopping Center, which took extra time and slowed the flow of water when it ran low.
The fire was safely brought under control around midnight.
"I am wonderfully impressed with the way Chief Tommy Shane conducted the attack," said Marc DeShazo, who was working at the hospital at the time of the fire. "I am grateful to all departments that responded. We need to express our gratitude to the firemen and women who put their lives in jeopardy for us. Thank you!!"
Freeman says that if Woodville wants to continue to have a plant like this, the proper equipment is needed to keep our volunteer firemen safe.
"We cannot continue as we are going," Freeman said. "We were close to having fireman injured or worse this time. We cannot afford to lose any of our lineman nor can German Pellets afford to lose any of their employees." Tyler County residents are beginning to echo his concern.
"We do have a plant in our town and a ladder truck is much needed," said Tyler County resident Virginia Riddick. "I've seen several times that German Pellets has caught fire and needed one available right then. The place is a safety hazard and should have all of the resources they need available at first response."
Others think that German Pellets should be responsible for providing or helping provide the necessary ladder truck and equipment.
"German Pellets should purchase a ladder truck," said Gay Lynn Muzny. "Our men and women are too valuable to get hurt or burned."
Some of the things Freeman says German Pellets are on-site water available, a fixed fire monitor system, fixed foam nozzle in the top of the vessels prone to fires, fire training with their employees, fresh air breathing apparatuses, and hydrants. Woodville VFD also desperately needs a ladder truck, Freeman said.
"With this certainty and now historically confirmed that there will be re-occurring fires, German Pellets needs to step up and be responsible," Freeman said. "They cannot rely on the generosity of the VFD's of Tyler County and the VFD's of the cities in the counties to our left and right to rescue them with the fire occurrences are becoming a standard and regular practice for their business."
On Thursday, April 16 at approximately 3:30 p.m, Sergeant Borel with the Woodville Police Department was patrolling near Kelly Boulevard in Woodville when he observed a vehicle that had run off the road and struck a guy wire to an electrical pole.
According to Captain Mike McCulley with the Woodville Police Department, the vehicle's engine was still running and there was a female in the drivers seat that appeared to be unconscious. After several attempts, Borel was able to wake up the driver and was unsure if she was injured, but noticed that she was under the influence of some sort of substance.
At that time, the driver was identified as Kathryn Hudson, age 26, of Woodville.
"Further investigation yielded drug paraphernalia in the seat next to Hudson that included homemade pipes and a leaf substance that was later determined to be synthetic marijuana, also commonly known as K2," McCulley said. According to McCulley, routine field sobriety test concluded that Hudson was under the influence of some type of narcotic. There was a usable amount of synthetic marijuana recovered from the vehicle, along with several items of drug paraphernalia.
A DPS Trooper was contacted to assist in the DWI investigation, and Hudson was taken into custody for Driving Under The Influence, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia as well as Possession of a Controlled Substance Penalty Group 2A, McCulley said.
"It was learned that Hudson also has a prior DWI and Possession of a Controlled substance case pending in another county, so she is waiting to go to court on that one and now has another one," McCulley said. Hudson had also been drinking at the time of the accident and there was an open container of alcohol in the center console of the vehicle.
Hudson didn't require any medical attention due to the accident.
"All law enforcement is seeing an increase in the use of this synthetic marijuana," McCulley said. "It's alarming and troublesome that people are choosing to use this stuff in place of marijuana and we are trying to understand why. There is no difference in the cost and availability can't be an issue, and we are just trying to decide why people are trying to consume this stuff. This symptoms that K2 creates can lead to high blood pressure, hypertension and all sorts of heart and health issues."
McCulley said the synthetic marijuana also causes people to behave very erratically and presents a problem to law enforcement.
"The chemical makeup of this stuff is changing constantly so its hard for the lab to test for it," McCulley said. Synthetic marijuana is extremely dangerous and is often sold at convenience stores behind the counter and packaged very discreetly. If any parents have questions about synthetic marijuana, please contact your local law enforcement.