DNR asks for dismissal of bridge suit

JEFFERSON CITY — The Department of Natural Resources has asked a judge to bar Attorney General Jay Nixon from suing the agency in a dispute over an old Katy Railroad bridge.

In asking that Nixon’s lawsuit be dismissed, an attorney for the department contends Nixon has a conflict of interest and lacks the authority to seek an injunction against the agency’s decision to waive its right to use the bridge as part of the Katy Trail State Park.


A story on page 8A Friday about the London bombings gave an incorrect spelling for Stephens spokeswoman Sarah Berghorn’s last name. Also, the story gave an incorrect major for a Stephens student studying in London; the student is majoring in law, philosophy and rhetoric.

Cause of death still unknown

A day after MU football player Aaron O'Neal died after a voluntary workout, there were still more questions than answers.

O'Neal's cause of death was not released early Wednesday evening at a press conference with coach Gary Pinkel and athletic media relations director Chad Moller.

Boone County Medical Examiner Valerie Rao, who conducted the autopsy, was expected to speak at a press conference, but did not attend. Moller cited conflicting schedules for Rao's absence.

But Rao, in an off-camera interview with KOMU-TV, said she was told in a phone call a half-hour before the 5:30 p.m. press conference to stay away. She said she had been preparing for the appearance all day and had finished her work by 4:30 p.m. in order to attend.

"I was embarrassed. Now I look like the bad person," she told KOMU. "It's going to come out."

Asked whether Rao had been called and told to stay away, Moller said a call placed to Rao was about scheduling.

The Associated Press reported that autopsy results would be available today, but Dori Burke, forensic investigator for the Boone County Medical Examiner's Office, said that autopsy results will not be available for some time, pending further testing.

A timeline of Tuesday's practice was also unavailable at Wednesday's press conference. According to Pinkel, the athletic department is still gathering information about the incident and is stressing accuracy and respect for the family.

Pinkel described the players as "crushed."

"When you have players in your program, they're like children," Pinkel said through tears. "I feel like I lost one of my children."

This is the second time Pinkel has dealt with the death of one of his players. In 1995, while coaching for the University of Toledo, a walk-on player died during a weight-lifting practice, Pinkel said. It was later discovered that the player suffered from a heart condition.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association requires all collegiate athletes to undergo routine medical examinations prior to practice. Pinkel noted that all of his players had been cleared to practice, but it was unclear whether those examinations had been conducted yet this season.

According to a statement issued Wednesday by MU, "O'Neal completed the workout and returned to the game day locker room, where he became uncommunicative. The training staff assisted him and called 911."

But Jenna Isaacson, a Columbia Daily Tribune photographer who attended the practice, reported O'Neal collapsed while coaches spoke to the 12 players at the end of practice. O'Neal was helped off the field and into the locker room, she said.

Pat Ivey, director of strength and conditioning at MU, ran the voluntary practice at Faurot Field along with seven other members of the MU athletic training and conditioning staff.

"I believe so strongly in my coaches and trainers," Pinkel said. "They are exceptional at what they do."

All strength and conditioning coaches are required by the NCAA to be certified in CPR and first aid. Although members from the football coaching staff are banned from these practices, an athletic trainer must be present.

Voluntary practices, which according to Pinkel began June 6, prepare players for the upcoming season.

Sam Fleury, assistant media relations, said MU's voluntary practices consisted of running, sprints and agility drills. No pads or helmets are worn.

Lorenzo Williams, Missouri defensive lineman, said that the coaches do not pressure players to attend but that the players put pressure on themselves.

"It's not strongly encouraged at all. They set it up for us. We make it a point for ourselves to be there. I mean, we want to get better as a team so this is what we need to do," he said.

The death of several college football players in the summer of 2001 led the NCAA to re-examine regulations regarding off-season practices. In order for the practice to be considered voluntary it must be requested by the players. Athletes can neither be rewarded nor penalized for practice attendance.

Pinkel received word of O'Neal's death while on vacation with his wife in Las Vegas. He had requested his staff to give him two days without interruption. Upon return to the hotel he found six messages on his cell phone. "I looked at my wife and said 'Something's wrong,'" he said.

Pinkel returned just after midnight Wednesday to St. Louis and later visited with O'Neal's father.

He is discussing memorial arrangements in Columbia with the family and team. Voluntary practices have been suspended indefinitely.

MU is providing counseling services to players as well as accommodations for O'Neal's family when they travel to Columbia.

"I just want my guys to hang tight, embrace one another and help each other," Pinkel said.

A national study conducted by the University of North Carolina and sponsored by the NCAA found that in 2004 nine football players died in or after practice - including one college athlete after a voluntary workout.

"It's happened one too many times as far as I'm concerned," Pinkel said.

Missourian reporters Leslie Parker, Jennifer Price, Kristin Kellogg, Thomas Lundby, Steve Cusumano and Chris McCrary contributed to this article.

MU football player dies

Aaron O’Neal, a redshirt freshman on MU’s football team, died Tuesday after collapsing at a voluntary practice.

Mary Jenkins, University Hospital Public Relations manager, confirmed O’Neal’s death and said he was brought to the hospital.

Home runs and history

“Pass it back!” The chorus echoed throughout the bus as about 30 children from Columbia’s First Ward passed water bottles and powdered donuts to those seated in the back.

It was going to be a long day.

City reviews art group funds

Columbia’s Commission on Cultural Affairs met Monday to approve final recommendations for funding art projects in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Sixteen groups turned in requests for funding, totaling $127,180. Although the commission has increased its funding from last year by 2 percent, they were unable to meet the groups’ requests. The board plans to give out just under $76,000 this year to local groups and organizations.

City health costs soar

City Manager Ray Beck recommended a salary and benefits package for city employees that includes a 20 percent increase in the cost of health insurance before turning to a discussion of proposed tax increases at the City Council’s Monday night work session.

“This is the biggest hit since I have been city manager,” Beck said about the increased cost to the city and employees.

Missouri is No. 1 in wasted time

ST. LOUIS — If you’re on the job, and you’re reading this, you should probably get back to work.

MU Police switch to new computers

The MU Police Department retired a 23-year veteran and replaced it with $250,000 rookie last month.

The department’s new computer system from New World Systems came online June 20 and replaced the department’s Sunguard HTE system, which was installed in 1982.

Schools request more city sidewalks

New houses, paved streets and a city park are just a few of the additions to Amy Anderson’s neighborhood during the past 40 years. But there’s one addition that’s been missing.

“When we moved in, the developer said the city was planning to build a sidewalk across the street,” Anderson said. “I called the city over the years, but they never put one in.”

Little hoopla

Thirteen-year-old Tanisha Peal steadies her shot at the foul line. Behind her, Tia Kemp, 9, spins head over heels through cartwheels on the gym floor. In the corner, kids play cards.

Tanisha fires her shot over the head of city recreation worker Erick Flemming and into the hoop. Because of low attendance, it was a game of one-on-one.

Inmates’ education takes a cut

Inmates at several maximum security prisons can no longer participate in education classes or substance abuse treatment due to recent budget cuts.

The Department of Corrections has closed education programs at three of the state’s five maximum-security prisons — Cameron, Potosi and Jefferson City — and eliminated the substance abuse treatment program in the Jefferson City prison, the only program of its kind at a maximum-security facility. The programs being eliminated served approximately 657 inmates at those three prisons in fiscal 2005.

Task Force 1 heads home after Dennis

Missouri Task Force 1, an urban search and rescue team, is returning to Boone County early after Hurricane Dennis left minimal damage and no deaths when it hit the Gulf Coast over the weekend.

The task force received deployment orders Friday and left at 11:15 a.m. Saturday for Meridian, Miss., said Boone County Fire Protection District Captain Gale Blomenkamp. They were given orders Sunday to move to Hattiesburg, Miss. On Monday at 1 p.m., the task force receive demobilization orders and expects to return by noon today.

Nursing homes guide revised, tested locally

For the past 10 years, MU nursing professor Marilyn Rantz has worked to create a way to help people measure the quality of care provided by nursing homes for their loved ones.

“I’ve always had a real interest in wanting to understand what quality care is in nursing homes and how to improve it in nursing homes,” said Rantz, who worked in a nursing home for 12 years.

It's time to quit wasting my time

It seems I barely got on Missouri’s “No Call” list just in time before all the unsolicited e-mails began to pour in. Otherwise, the time I would have spent answering annoying telephone calls, plus the time I spend deleting unwanted e-mails, would have equaled the time I spend sleeping. One can only wonder at the miracles that might take place if these marketers would devote as much time trying to improve the status quo as they do in creating ways to make nuisances of themselves.

I often think about how people of my mother’s generation seemed to have so much leisure time, in spite of the fact that they had so few labor-saving devices. In our house, there was only a wringer-style washer for the laundry and our clothes had to dry on the line. The only work-saver I recall was a vacuum cleaner. Clothing and linen had to be ironed because there were no permanent press fabrics. Nevertheless, my mother always had time to read books and teach us girls the fine points of sewing, embroidery, knitting and crochet. And more important, there were always those memorable hours spent in conversations, which were great adventures in learning. There was no end to new topics to discuss, intriguing theories to investigate and introductions to other cultures that needed to be explored.

MU football player dies after collapsing at practice

Aaron O'Neal, a redshirt freshman on MU's football team, died Tuesday after collapsing at a voluntary practice.

University Hospital Public Relations Manager Mary Jenkins confirmed the death of O'Neal. She would not release the cause of death, but did confirm that O'Neal was brought to the hospital.

Dori Burke, a death investigator for the Boone County Medical Examiner's office, said that O'Neal died at 4:05 p.m. in the emergency room of the hospital. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Christian Basi, a spokesman for MU said that the university is currently focusing on O'Neal's family. It is trying to make accommodations for them and any needs that they might have when they arrive from O'Neal's hometown of Creve Coeur, a suburb of St. Louis. The university is also trying to make counselors available to O'Neal's teammates and friends.

O'Neal, 19, was a sophomore at MU and redshirted his freshman year. O'Neal was a four-sport standout at Parkway North High School in St. Louis County.

He rushed for 1,562 yards and 19 touchdowns his senior year, earning Class 5A all-state honors. He also excelled in basketball, track, and baseball.

O'Neal, a 6'3" 220-pound middle linebacker, was third on MU's preseason depth chart.

MU's football team is scheduled to begin official practices on August 8.

The football team held a short meeting at the Student Resource Center Tuesday night. Players left without comment.

Players reached by phone by the Missourian refused to comment.

Bob Bunton coached O'Neal at Parkway North.

"That's all the kid wanted to do, was play for Missouri," Bunton said to the Associated Press. ""He was so happy and doing so well. I just feel bad for his family.

"Aaron had always been a picture of health. It was something he really took pride in."

Dennis rips through two states

PENSACOLA — Hurricane Dennis roared quickly through the Florida Panhandle and Alabama coast Sunday with a 120-mph bluster of blinding squalls and crashing waves, but shell-shocked residents emerged to find far less damage than when Hurricane Ivan took nearly the same path 10 months ago.

The tightly wound Dennis, which had been a Category 4, 145-mph monster as it marched up the Gulf of Mexico, weakened just before it struck less than 50 miles east of Ivan’s landfall. And despite downed power lines and outages to 200,000, early reports indicated no deaths and relatively modest structural damage.

Life on the line

Forty feet above the Wendy’s on Clark Lane, Charles Schouten slides the bucket of a utility truck beneath a pair of 13,000-volt wires. He’s careful to stay well below the lines, knowing what would happen if he made contact.

A few weeks before, Schouten was in Independence, helping repair storm damage with a crew of Columbia Water and Light Department linemen. On the morning of June 10, the boom of a nearby truck made contact with overhead wires. The shock was enough to send Schouten to the hospital. His partner, fellow Columbia lineman Steve Ebert, was killed.

Going where the wind blows

It starts with a knock on your door about suppertime. A slit in the window blinds shows a cargo van idling in your driveway. It’s white with tinted windows and a dented rear-lift gate. A man in aviator sunglasses and a tie-dyed shirt smiles as you open the door.

First, he introduces himself: James Tucker Smith, Sunshine Daydream Hot Air Balloon Team. Then, he asks to use your large front lawn as a launch pad.

Hey mom, college can wait

It was hardly the average teenager’s idea of a good time. Gerrit Lansing spent his days shoveling out a ‘barn and crushing grapes under the hot Mediterranean sun.

But Lansing calls the year he took off before college one of the best things he ever did. Burned-out and aimless after high school, he spent part of the year in Greece working on a farm in the mornings, then taking afternoon classes that helped him develop a love of classical poetry.