October 30, 2014

Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department adds drone

A new state law puts limits on how law enforcement can use unmanned sky cameras to watch over the rest of us. But Chippewa County sheriff’s officials say there are still a lot of useful-and-legal applications for the new drone unveiled yesterday.

The department paid $1700 for a new Phantom-2-Vision camera, but it won’t go up in the air for at least another month while a policy for its usage is set-and-approved. Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk said the drone could be used in a number of ways to protect officers and others. They include photographing searches approved by judges, re-constructing traffic accidents, or finding lost kids. He said the drone is easy to use, and it only takes about 20 minutes to train an operator.

In April, Governor Scott Walker signed a law which prohibits Wisconsin law enforcement from using drones to obtain evidence without warrants. Kowalczyk promised his department would use its new drone selectively with search laws in mind.


Marshfield emergency responders hold Ebola drill

Emergency responders in Marshfield practiced Wednesday for the possibility of dealing with ebola patients. Ministry St. Joseph’s Hospital transportation director Ted Ryan said proper procedures include encapsulating an ambulance, donning personal protective equipment and loading and delivering Ebola patients.

“We want to slow things down. We want to contain the situation, and make sure that things do not get more escalated,” Ryan said.

Marshfield Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Scott Owen said Ebola preparation is new to his department, but necessary in today’s day-and-age. “It probably won’t happen here, but we can’t take that chance, we have to be prepared just in case,” Owen said.

Owen said newly purchased equipment is based on CDC protocols. He’s putting together four ebola kits per ambulance, plus back-up kits at the station.


Wisconsin elections head predicts voter turnout at 57 percent

WRN File photo

WRN File photo

Expect plenty of Wisconsin residents to show up at the polls next Tuesday to cast their votes in a race for governor that both of the leading candidates admit will largely hinge on turnout.

The state Government Accountability Board project about 2.5 million voters will cast ballots in the November 4 election, which is about 57 percent of the eligible electors living in the state. GAB executive director Kevin Kennedy says the numbers are “extremely similar” to the ballots cast in the June 2012 recall election, where Governor Scott Walker won over Democratic nominee Tom Barrett. Walker, the Republican incumbent, is seeking reelection in a close race against Democrat Mary Burke.

Kennedy says “anytime you break 50 percent you know it’s got the voters engaged, they think that their vote is going to make a difference, and that’s why they get to the polls.” He says that seems to be the case this year, with major races for governor and attorney general at the top of the ticket. There are also a number of high profile races for Congressional seats, the state Legislature, and local offices, as well as referenda questions and a proposed state constitutional amendment on protecting the state transportation fund.


Flu season starts out strong

State health officials are urging residents to get their flu shots, with the flu season already starting to pick up in Wisconsin.

So far this year, Wisconsin Department of Health Services spokesperson Claire Smith says elderly patients seem to be getting hit hardest. “Quite a number of the hospitalizations are in the elderly. That’s a majority, and with the H3 strain it tends to hit the elderly harder.” Since the start of October, 20 hospitalizations due to the flu have been recorded in the state, and that number is expected to rise as the winter months approach.

Smith says getting the flu shot is good for you and those around you. She says “if you’re around people who are in a high risk group, you know people who are over age 65, have weakened immune systems, have chronic medical conditions, you not only want to get it to protect yourself but to also help from potentially spreading the flu to them.”

If you do manage to get infected, stay home. “Get rest, don’t be out there and infect others.” Smith says you can spread the flu even before you exhibit symptoms, and kids heading to school and workers heading to the office are great ways to pass the flu around.


Michigan pilot found dead in western Wisconsin

Federal authorities have taken over the investigation of a plane crash in western Wisconsin that killed a pilot from Upper Michigan.

Authorities said 73-year-old Richard Schweitzer of Watersmeet took off Friday afternoon, heading from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Nebraska. His single-engine Cessna went missing over central Wisconsin.

Civil Air Patrol units from Wisconsin and Minnesota searched more than 24 hours for the missing craft before finding it Saturday evening near Bay City in Pierce County.  Ground searchers found Schweitzer’s body in a farm field. Authorities have not said whether the plane had mechanical problems, or if the pilot suffered a medical problem.

The National Transportation Safety Board normally issues a preliminary investigative report within a few weeks on fatal plane crashes.