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Updated: 1 hour 39 min ago

Kansan rides out Hurricane Maria in Dominica

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 23:47

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) –  Hurricane Maria tore through the Caribbean this week, leaving devastation behind.

One of the hardest hit islands was Dominica, a place that is home to 15-hundred medical students at Ross University School of Medicine.

One of those students is from the town of Benton, 20 miles northeast of Wichita.

22-year old Jessica Stephens graduated from Circle High School in Towanda.

She graduated from Wichita State University in 2016 and ventured off to Ross University School of Medicine shortly after.

For the past year, she’s been at the school, focusing her studies on Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Her older sister, Samantha, says her and the rest of her family made sure Jessica was fully prepared to ride out the storm.

“I was on FaceTime with her just making sure she had everything all set up, we had her write her name and phone number and medical school ID number, in case something happened so they would know who she was,” said Stephens.

It was around 8:30pm on Monday that Samantha last talked to her little sister.

“She jokingly said I don’t have time to be scared, I worry about this water that is coming in through my windows,” said Stephens.

Samantha says that was the last time she spoke to her sister.

She says the following days have consisted of keeping tabs on the news for any word of what was going on in the Caribbean.

“We are just constantly trying to find anyone with any information, calling the hot-line phone numbers, calling them 27 times until you finally get through,” said Stephens.

For Stephens and her family here in Kansas, time continued to pass without hearing any word if Jessica was okay.

“It was 52 hours, ” said Stephens.

It wasn’t until last night that Stephens says a woman with Ross University called them about Jessica.

“We finally got an answer from her, last night, right before midnight and she said Jessica is accounted for, is at campus and is safe,” said Stephens.

Samantha admits, it was comforting to hear that her sister is okay, but she still has some concerns.

“It is immediately replaced with extreme anxiety, is she hurt? When is she coming home, we just want to hear her voice,” said Stephens.

Samantha even got emotional when talking about what she will say to her sister, when they finally do get to talk again.

“I would just tell her how glad I am that she is safe and just tell her how much people were worried about her,” said Stephens.

Samantha says her sister could be evacuated as soon as Friday from the island.

From there, she says Jessica would go to St. Lucia.

However, she’s unsure if and when Jessica would be flown back here to the United States.

Samantha says her and her family have also been active on social media trying to help others locate loved ones in Dominica.

She says a Facebook page, titled Ross University School of Medicine Family Support Group has been set up.

Several people have been posting on there and giving out information to help others locate those who are currently unaccounted for.



Categories: Local KSN News

League 42 describes Wichita shooting victim, coach: ‘His passion is the kids’

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 22:38

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Wichita baseball league said the victim in Tuesday’s Department of Revenue shooting is a dedicated dad, husband and coach.

“He loves this league. He is here all the time. He has two boys that play in our league,” said League 42 Executive Director Bob Lutz.

Bob Lutz said he doesn’t know Cortney Holloway on a personal level, but he said he does know him through his dedication to the kids of League 42.

“He coaches with a team called the Dodgers in our Bruin division. They were 7 and 8 years old this year. Cortney does what he can. He is a tremendously involved,” Lutz said. “We are just thrilled with the Holloway family. They have been a huge part of our league since we started.”

Lutz said Holloway joined League 42 as an assistant coach in 2014, the same year the league was formed. He said Holloway has been a vital member of the organization and a leader for area youth.

“His passion is the kids. His passion is being around the kids,” he said.

Wichita police said Cortney Holloway, a tax collector for the Kansas Department of Revenue in Wichita, was shot multiple times by Ricky Wirths on Tuesday afternoon. Lutz said he was in disbelief when he heard the news.

“I know on that day I heard all of the police cars. I was driving from the west side of town to the east side of town. All of the police cars were going past me and I knew something terrible had happened and to find out it had involved on of our League 42 people was a bit of a shock,” Lutz said.

Shortly after learning about the shooting, Lutz turned to the League 42 Facebook page. He wrote the following:

Please send out your best thoughts and prayers to Cortney Holloway and his family. Cortney was shot today in the incident near 21st and Amidon. Cortney is one of our great League 42 parents and coaches with two sons in our league. His wife, Moniqueka, is also a fantastic person and supporter of League 42. This family has been with League 42 from the outset and we love them. Cortney has been an inspiration to the players he has coached and to the coaches he has assisted. League 42 puts all of its support behind him and his family.

The Facebook post was immediately flooded with comments from people sending prayers to the Holloway family and wishing Cortney well.

“We try to be one big family of people who are involved in our league and we just wanted to share that he had been involved in this incident and that we wanted prayers and good thoughts to go his way and the reaction was enormous and I hope that is gratifying to Cortney and his family and everyone who knows him,” Lutz said.

As of Thursday, Holloway was listed in fair condition at a Wichita hospital.

Categories: Local KSN News

Kim Jong Un: ‘Deranged’ Trump will ‘pay dearly’ for threat

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 21:48

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in an extraordinary and direct rebuke, called President Donald Trump “deranged” and said he will “pay dearly” for his threats, a possible indication of more powerful weapons tests on the horizon.

Hours later, North Korea’s foreign minister reportedly said that his country may be planning to test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean to fulfill Kim’s vow to take the “highest-level” action against the United States.

Kim, in his statement, said Trump is “unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country.” He also described the U.S. president as “a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire.”

The dispatch was unusual in that it was written in the first person, albeit filtered through the North’s state media, which are part of propaganda efforts meant to glorify Kim. South Korea’s government said it was the first such direct address to the world by any North Korean leader.

Some analysts saw a clear sign that North Korea would ramp up its already brisk pace of weapons testing, which has included missiles meant to target U.S. forces throughout Asia and the U.S. mainland.

“I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying the DPRK,” said the statement carried by North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday morning.

DPRK is the abbreviation of the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters on the sidelines of a United Nations gathering that his country’s response “could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Ri reportedly added that “We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.”

Such a test would be considered a major provocation by Washington and its allies.

The statement by Kim Jong Un responded to Trump’s combative speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday where he mocked Kim as a “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission,” and said that if “forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

Kim characterized Trump’s speech to the world body as “unprecedented rude nonsense.”

He said Trump’s remarks “have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last.”

Kim said he is “thinking hard” about his response and that he would “tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire.”

Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean military official who is now an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said Kim Jong Un’s statement indicated that North Korea will respond to Trump with its most aggressive missile test yet. That might include firing a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan to a range of around 7,000 kilometers (4,349 miles) to display a capability to reach Hawaii or Alaska.

The statement will further escalate the war of words between the adversaries as the North moves closer to perfecting a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America.

In recent months, the North has launched a pair of still-developmental ICBMs it said were capable of striking the continental United States and a pair of intermediate-range missiles that soared over Japanese territory. Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date drawing stiffer U.N. sanctions.

South Korea called Kim Jong Un’s rebuke a “reckless provocation” that would deepen his country’s international isolation and lead to its demise.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told reporters Friday that North Korea must immediately stop such provocations and return to talks on nuclear disarmament.


Mat Pennington reported from the United Nations. AP writers Kim Tong-hyung and Hyung-jin Kim contributed from Seoul.

Categories: Local KSN News

UPDATE: Tyson execs want to keep plant in Kansas, AG officials say

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 19:56

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – What exactly happened to those plans for Tyson to build in Tonganoxie?

“I thought they just didn’t want to hear my side of the story  they wanted me to just listen to their side of the story,” said Robert Holland, Leavenworth County Commissioner.

Holland said some residents were worried that building the new plant would bring a variety of health concerns including foul smells.

Holland visited a similar plant in Tennessee, to see for himself.

“They had chickens in there and where the chickens are being fattened up,” said Holland. “Yes, you smell a chicken smell inside but you go outside the building there is no chicken smell.”

He said a 3-0 vote to build the plant in the county suddenly flipped to a 2-1 vote against the facility.

Holland said at least one county commissioner was feeling the heat from the public.

“The minute he started getting some push back and he thought this was going to affect the way he looked at him in his district he caved,” said Holland.

David Dennis, Sedgwick County Commissioner, said the county is just in fact finding mode now.

Dennis tells KSN the Tyson deal has his attention. The Department of Agriculture confirmed today that Tyson executives still have their sights set on building in Kansas.

Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell said he spoke with AG officials directly about that today.

Both he and Dennis feel Sedgwick County could be the right fit.

“Our area is looking at 6.1 percent unemployment right now so if we could find something that we could employ 1,500-1,600 people that is obviously something we are looking at.”

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Curbed entrance to recycling plant causes concern among residents

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 19:52

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A KSN viewer reached out to KSN and expressed concern about safety on a residential street in southwest Wichita. It involves a recycling business at Seneca and Orient.

Employees are using a curbed entrance as a potential new driveway that opens onto Dodge Avenue, a residential street. Plus the viewer said students from Stanley Elementary and West High walk down the street, raising concerns for their safety.

Several people who either live on Dodge or nearby say the road has become dangerous because of the second entrance, but a co-owner of the business says they have permission to be there.

Brian Held has lived on South Dodge for 18 years and says the recycling plant nearby has always had one entrance. The use of a second has him worried about others.

“Its never been about me, its always been about the kids,” said Brian Held, nearby resident.

Others who live on or near the road agree a second entrance is dangerous. And Held says it’s more than just the recycling traffic.

“There’s a concern with the trash being a safety issue, plus an aesthetical issue, plus the smell that comes out of here and the overall safety issue,” said Held.

The co-owner of South Seneca Scrap says they have a permit and a company will be working on the entrance and completing it soon. He says it will be more convenient for customers and help traffic from Seneca.

“A lot of the kids stop at the back gate, and they like to watch what’s going on they like to see the cars getting moving around, the big equipment,” said Jarrod Dunken, South Seneca Scrap co-owner.

Maggie Gonzalez lives nearby with her family and is concerned about her kids’ safety.

“Our kids walk on here what if they hit them, I mean, you know there’s a lot of kids,” said Maggie Gonzalez of Wichita.

But one Wichita man who sells product to the plant says there’s never many kids around.

“The truck drivers pay attention before they come out I mean, they don’t want to run over no kid and I don’t see very many kids walking across these tracks,” said Jeff Decker of Wichita.

The entrance is expected to be complete by next week.

KSN reached out to Councilman Jeff Blubaugh, who represents this area of southwest Wichita. He says that residents have complained to him as well so he says the city sent a letter telling the business to stop construction of the second entrance and no longer use it by the end of September. We’ll keep reaching out to the owner to get his response to the city.

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Liberal looking to take flight again

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 18:48

LIBERAL, Kan. (KSNW) — Travel options have been limited in Liberal and Dodge City since PenAir declared bankruptcy and stopped serving the towns earlier this month.

The Liberal city commission has taken a big step forward in getting flights out again.

For many in Liberal, flying out locally was worth the cost.

“We’re going to pay a little bit more for our ticket,” said Carrie Hensley, who flies out of Liberal’s airport several times each year, “but the convenience of having it here I feel really outweighs that, and so it’s disappointing to not have that option anymore.”

This week, liberal’s commission voted unanimously on one of six proposals offering different airlines to the city, ultimately choosing SkyWest Airlines.

“It checks all the boxes for our dream carrier,” said Jeff Parsons, the city’s Economic Development Director.

Compared to what PenAir offered, the planes will now seat 50 instead of 34, and there are morning and evening flights instead of two afternoon flights.

“Early morning departure from Liberal around 6:00 a.m.,” said Parsons, “which gets you to Denver at 7:30, which allows you to connect to flights leaving Denver all the rest of the morning.”

Parsons expects this to have a huge impact on ridership, which was about 1,900 passengers last year.

“They’re estimating 15,000 passengers a year, and we think we can get to that without any problem.”

One of those 15,000 will be Carrie Hensley.

“I prefer a morning flight, so I’m actually really excited that they’re going to have that option.”

There is one problem they’ll need to address. This waiting room, which seats 10, is not going to be big enough to hold 50 passengers plus TSA.

What they’ll have to do is push the exterior wall out farther to make more space. They can extend the waiting area out into part of the rental car area.

The U.S. Department of Transportation now has to approve the proposal and order an economic impact study.

Liberal expects to see flights again in January or February.

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Breitenbach concerned about his constitutional rights in court

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 18:34

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The man accused of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl was back in court this afternoon.

Corbin Breitenbach is accused of breaking into an apartment in June and sexually attacking the girl after choking her into unconsciousness.

Thursday Breitenbach expressed concern about his constitutional rights.

“It also allows me to be considered innocent until proven guilty which hasn’t happened, which is why when I come to trial I’m allowed not to be seen in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs, but you allow the media right now to show it to the population that’s going to be my jury,” said Breitenbach.

The judge did not comment on Breitenbach’s statement in court.

A jury trial has been set for November 27.

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Hernandez Boxing Academy re-opens new and improved

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 18:14

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The year 2016 brought professional boxer Nico Hernandez joy in the form of an Olympic bronze medal in the Rio Olympics. It also brought strife as his training facility caught fire in early November.

Now, 10 months later, he’s back to joy as the Hernandez Boxing Academy officially re-opens its renovated structure at 1901 N. Market, just in time for Nico’s third professional bout.

“It means a lot, you know this is where I grew up, this is where I started at,” Hernandez said Thursday.

In the months between the fire and the re-opening of Hernandez Boxing Academy, Nico trained in a two bedroom home in north Wichita. To make his new facility possible, local companies pitched in and installed everything from the pavement to the security system.

“If it wasn’t for you guys, Nico wouldn’t probably be standing here, probably be out in California or Texas or somewhere so we appreciate that,” said Lewis Hernandez, Nico’s father and trainer. “We’re trying to bring something good to Wichita.”

Because Kansas isn’t a prime state for the sport of boxing, Nico briefly thought about leaving for training. But he decided to stay, and picked up wins in his first two professional bouts.

“We made it work, but it’s so much better being in here and being in the ring and with the heavier bags and just that atmosphere, with the whole team here,” said Nico. “Everybody’s just happy to be back.”

Wichita vice mayor Janet Miller was at the ribbon-cutting Thursday, crediting Hernandez Boxing Academy as somewhat of a pillar in the north Wichita community.

“It’s more than a gym, it’s more than a place to train,” explained Miller. “This building represents opportunity.”

Nico faces off on Saturday at Hartman Arena against Francisco “Guerrero” Lapizco. Fights begin at 6:00 p.m.

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Kansas day care worker ordered to stand trial for murder

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 17:53

EUDORA, Kan. (AP) – A judge has ordered a Eudora home day care worker to stand trial for murder in the death of a 9-month-old baby.

After a preliminary hearing Thursday, Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny ruled 43-year-old Carrody Buchhorn should be tried in death of Oliver Ortiz.

The child died in September 2016 at the Sunshine Kids Group Daycare Home.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports medical examiner Erik Mitchell ruled Oliver’s death a homicide caused by blunt force trauma to the head and torso.

Mitchell testified Thursday that he couldn’t create a scenario to explain the boy’s death as an accident.

The trial was scheduled to begin Feb. 12.

The license for the day care was put on emergency suspension after the toddler died and the state later ordered the business closed.

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Wichita man charged with attempted first-degree murder of KDOR employee

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 16:59
Ricky Wirths was charged with attempted first-degree murder September 21. He is accused of shooting KDOR employee, Cortney Holloway, multiple times. (Photo courtesy KSN News)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Wichita man was charged Thursday with attempted first-degree murder of a Wichita KDOR employee.

Ricky Wirths, 51, of Wichita, is accused of walking into a Kansas Department of Revenue office Tuesday and shooting Cortney Holloway, an employee, multiple times. Holloway is currently in a Wichita hospital recovering from his injuries.

Tuesday morning Holloway and other officials from the Department of Revenue and Sedgwick County civil service were at Wirths’ home in reference to a Department of Revenue investigation. Tax records indicate Wirths owes $196,455.36 for four tax periods spanning 2012 to 2015. Another tax warrant amounts to $198,250.02 for unpaid consumers compensating use tax.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Wirths shot Holloway at a Kansas Department of Revenue taxation office. Wirths was arrested about thirty minutes after the shooting and taken into custody.

His bond has been set at $500,000 and his next court appearance is scheduled for October 5.

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Volunteers needed for meals on wheels

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 15:54

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Meals on Wheels program in Wichita is experiencing a shortage of volunteers.

The program says substitute drivers are desperately needed. Delivery takes approximately one hour Monday through Friday. It starts at 10 a.m. through the lunch hour. If you can help, please call 267-0122.

RELATED LINK | Meals On Wheels | Senior Services of Wichita

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Police: Teenager arrested in string of robberies

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 14:36

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Wichita Police Department arrested a 16-year-old male for a string of west side robberies.

On Monday, officers were dispatched to an armed robbery at Famous Footwear in the 6700 block of West Kellogg. A 37-year-old woman stated an unknown suspect entered the store, pointed a gun at her, and demanded money. The suspect fled with cash on a green BMX style bicycle.

Robbery detectives were able to identify the suspect. He was arrested and booked into the Juvenile Detention Facility.

Investigators also connected the suspect to crimes at the Dollar Tree and Gordmans.

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Woman crashes into creek near Salina

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 13:10

SALINA, Kan. (KSNW) – A woman from Colby survived a plunge into Mulberry Creek after her truck crossed the median Wednesday evening according to KSAL.

Saline County Sheriff’s deputies responded to mile post #253 on Interstate-70 around 6:15 p.m. after 25-year-old Ashalee Tankersley was driving westbound and lost control of her 2014 GMC Sierra pickup. The truck hurled down the bank and crashed into the creek bed.

Tankersley was transported to Salina Regional Health Center with a possible broken leg. She was not wearing a seat belt.

Right now, the sheriff is investigating.

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Student threatens to shoot staff, students at Salina school

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 12:58

SALINA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Salina student is facing serious charges after he allegedly threatened to shoot staff and students yesterday at Lakewood Middle School according to KSAL. The school is located at 1135 Lakewood Circle.

According to Sergeant Jim Feldman, an 11-year-old boy was taken into custody Wednesday morning after he told a staff member and students he going to go home and get a gun and then, “Shoot everyone in the building.”

The student was arrested just outside the school building by the resource officer and a Salina police patrol officer.

No one was injured. The boy is facing charges that could include criminal threat.

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Man dies after north Wichita collision

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 11:43

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita police said a 61-year-old man died after the motorcycle he was riding collided with the back of a pickup.

It happened Wednesday afternoon around 3:15 near the intersection of McLean and Minisa.

Police said the bike was traveling north and struck a Ranger waiting to turn onto Minisa.

The 61-year-old man was transported to the hospital in critical condition. He died from his injuries. He has been identified as Arthur Pilant of Wichita.

It is the 24th fatality accident of the year in the city. Police said their thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the victim.

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Youth football players kneel during national anthem

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 10:26

ST. LOUIS, MO (NBC News) — A St. Louis area youth football team is gaining attention for taking a knee during the national anthem.

The team, made up of mostly 8-year-olds, knelt during the anthem before their game on Sunday.

Their coach says the demonstration was the players’ idea.

He says several players asked him about the unrest in St. Louis, following a judge’s decision to find a former police officer not guilty of shooting and killing a black man.

He said the player’s questions about the unrest led to a conversation about racial equality and the justice system.

The conversation turned to NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who made headlines for protesting racial inequality by kneeling during the national anthem.

Their coach says said the players’ parents were present during the discussion at practice.

The team has faced some criticism for kneeling.

Their coach says the players are young, but have a good understanding of the issues they discussed and meant no disrespect to those who served the country.

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Update: Man found unconscious after hit-and-run in Hutchinson

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 09:44

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – The Hutchinson Police Department is investigating a hit-and-run accident involving a car and bicycle. It happened around 1 a.m. in the 1200 block of East 4th Ave.

The victim, identified as Jose Luis Lopez, was found unconscious after being hit on the side of the road. He was transported to Wesley in critical condition.

Authorities have located the Nissan Altima, but the suspect is still on the run.

If you have any information, contact the traffic bureau at 620-694-2854 or the police department main number at 620-694-2816.

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Alabama transportation crew drags dog’s carcass on highway

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 09:04

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Department of Transportation says “appropriate action will be taken” after photos were posted to Facebook showing a department truck dragging a dog’s body on an interstate.

Al.com reports April Bennett was driving with her 5-year-old son on Interstate 20 on Tuesday when she spotted the lifeless body of a dog, which she says appeared to be a German shepherd, being dragged behind the truck.

Bennett began taking pictures with her phone. She says when the driver saw her, he pulled off the highway. Bennett says she told a friend and police were notified.

ALDOT spokeswoman Linda Crockett acknowledged a department crew found a dead dog on the interstate. She apologized for the manner in which the dog was disposed and says the incident is being investigated.

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‘America’s Got Talent’ crowns its newest winner

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 08:31

“America’s Got Talent” wrapped up its season Wednesday night on KSN.

The show crowned its newest winner, based on America’s vote. For fans watching all season, it probably wasn’t a big surprise.

With a record 52 million votes cast, viewers voted for 12-year-old ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer from Oklahoma City.

“Honestly, I have no words. I’m just so happy and blessed. The man upstairs blessed me with this title and I’m so, so excited and happy that I can’t stop crying.”

She wins a $1 million and has a chance to headline a show in Las Vegas.

“You don’t get many people like this girl. She’s unique. Super, super talented. She deserved it,” said Simon Cowell, judge.

The runner up was 10-year-old Angelica Hale.

“This means so much to me. Being runner up? I never thought I would be here,” said Hale.

All of the finalists got to perform alongside established stars in the finale.

That include Farmer whose talents impressed season two winner Terry Fator.

“She’s going to be one of the greats, in fact, right now, I think she is already one of the greats.”

As well as ventriloquism standout Jeff Dunham.

“Her skill level is absolutely fantastic. And the singing ability is pretty much unparalleled.”

Light Balance finished third, deaf singer Mandy Harvey finished fourth, and Sara and Hero round out the show’s top five.

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A stunned Puerto Rico seeks to rebuild after Hurricane Maria

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 08:01

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans stunned by a hurricane that knocked out power for the whole island and paralyzed the U.S. territory with landslides, flooding and downed trees vowed to slowly rebuild amid an economic crisis as rescue crews fanned out Thursday.

The extent of the damage is unknown given that dozens of municipalities remained isolated and without communication after Maria hit the island Wednesday morning as a Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years.

Uprooted trees and widespread flooding blocked many highways and streets across the island, creating a maze that forced drivers to go against traffic and past police cars that used loudspeakers to warn people they must respect a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew imposed by the governor to ensure everyone’s safety.

“This is going to be a historic event for Puerto Rico,” said Abner Gomez, the island’s emergency management director.

President Donald Trump approved a federal disaster declaration for Puerto Rico.

Previously a Category 5 with 175 mph (281 kph) winds, Maria hit Puerto Rico as the third-strongest storm to make landfall in the U.S., based on its central pressure. It was even stronger than Hurricane Irma that storm roared into the Florida Keys earlier this month.

In the capital of San Juan, towering eucalyptus trees fell nearly every other block over a main road dotted with popular bars, restaurants, and coffee shops, some of which were damaged. Outside a nearby apartment building, 40-year-old tourism company operator Adrian Pacheco recounted how he spent eight hours in a stairwell huddled with 100 other residents when the hurricane ripped the storm shutters off his building and decimated three balconies.

“I think people didn’t expect the storm to reach the point that it did,” he said. “Since Irma never really happened, they thought Maria would be the same.”

Hurricane Irma sideswiped Puerto Rico on Sept. 6, leaving more than 1 million people without power but causing no deaths or widespread damage like it did on nearby islands. Maria, however, blew out windows at some hospitals and police stations, turned some streets into roaring rivers and destroyed hundreds of homes across Puerto Rico, including 80 percent of houses in a small fishing community near the San Juan Bay, which unleashed a storm surge of more than 4 feet.

“Months and months and months and months are going to pass before we can recover from this,” Felix Delgado, mayor of the northern coastal city of Catano, told The Associated Press.

The sound of chain saws began to fill the silence that spread across San Juan late Wednesday afternoon as firefighters began to remove trees and used small bulldozers to lift toppled concrete light posts. Some neighbors pitched in to help clear the smaller branches, including Shawn Zimmerman, a 27-year-old student from Lewistown, Pennsylvania who moved to Puerto Rico nearly two years ago.

“The storm didn’t bother me,” he said. “It’s the devastation. I get goosebumps. It’s going to take us a long time.”

Maria has caused at least 10 deaths across the Caribbean, including seven in the hard-hit island of Dominica and two in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe. Puerto Rico’s governor told CNN one man died after being hit by flying debris. No further details were available, and officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Maria weakened to a Category 2 storm later in the day but re-strengthened to Category 3 status early Thursday with winds of 115 mph (185 kph). It was centered about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and moving northwest near 9 mph (15 kph).

The hurricane was still dumping rain overnight Wednesday in Puerto Rico, where crumbled red roof tiles lay scattered across many roads, and curious residents sidestepped and ducked under dozens of black power lines still swaying in heavy winds. But they posed no danger: Maria caused an island-wide power outage, with officials unable to say when electricity would return.

Puerto Rico’s electric grid was crumbling amid lack of maintenance and a dwindling staff even before the hurricanes knocked out power. Many now believe it will take weeks, if not months, to restore power.

Edwin Rosario, a 79-year-old retired government worker, said an economic crisis that has sparked an exodus of nearly half a million Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland will only make the island’s recovery harder.

“Only us old people are left,” he said as he scraped a street gutter in front of his house free of debris. “A lot of young people have already gone…If we don’t unite, we’re not going to bounce back.”

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