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PM Newscast 6.18.19

Siouxland Public Media

Funeral services take place tomorrow for community activist and democratic party leader Frank LaMere.  LaMere died over the weekend after a battle with cancer.

LaMere struck up an unusual alliance with Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa.  The two worked on a plan to battle homelessness and substance abuse among native Americans in Northwest Iowa.

On Twitter Congressman King says “Siouxland mourns the passing of Frank LaMere atrong leader and advocate for Winnebagos and all Native Americans.  we will miss him already and now dedicate ourselves in finishing his work.”

Another tweet said “let us return the Winnebago Lands to the Winnebago.  This started

with Frank LaMere & me at the Omaha airport in an informal conversation. Let it be finished in Frank’s memory.

A funeral mass is planned for tomorrow at 10 a.m. at St. Augustine Indian Mission in Winnebago, Nebraska. 

The Native American Community also lost another prominent community member.  Curt St. Cyr died over the weekend.  The 60-year-old was Vice Chairman of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and a well-know musician. 

St. Cyr described his music as “real soulful and funky”.  He began his musical passion with drums but was drawn to the harmonica.  He possessed a vibrant voice for vocals. 

A spokesman for Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says Reynolds asked the Department of Human Services director to resign because, quote, “she wanted to go in a new direction at the department.”

Reynolds appointed Jerry Foxhoven to oversee the department that deals with Medicaid, child welfare, and public assistance in 2017.

On Monday, the governor’s office announced the state public health director will step into the position for now, but gave no details about Foxhoven’s resignation.

The change comes about two weeks before hundreds of thousands of Medicaid patients are shifted to a new private insurance company because one is leaving the state.

Spokesman Pat Garrett says Reynolds has been assembling a new team throughout her administration, and more changes will be announced in the next few weeks.

A Sioux City man’s been killed in a crash in Omaha.

The incident happened last night around 5 p.m.  Police say 49-year-old Vernon Hunter was going north on U.S. Highway 75 when he ran into the rear of the other vehicle.

His motorcycle then spun into another traffic lane, where it was hit by a school bus.

Police say Hunter was pronounced dead at the scene.

A federal agency says a fire suppression system may have prevented a school bus fire in western Iowa in 2017 from killing a 16-year-old student and the 74-year-old driver. The fire consumed the bus after the rear wheels got stuck in a ditch in rural Oakland, and the engine overheated trying to get out.

At a hearing today reviewing the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that school buses nationwide be retrofitted to automatically put out engine fires. Michelle Beckjord is a senior investigator with the NTSB.

Some of the automatic fire suppression systems can literally put the fire out within seconds and then continue to keep it from re-flashing.

The current standards for school bus fire safety date back to 1971. According to the NTSB, school bus fires happen at a rate of about one per day.

In its review of a fatal school bus fire in western Iowa, the National Transportation Safety Board says the driver should have been off the job.

In December 2017, bus driver Donald Hendricks got stuck in a ditch in rural Oakland after picking up student Megan Klindt. As he tried to drive out, an engine fire swept through the bus, killing them both.

NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt says the Riverside school district should have known Hendricks had back problems and would struggle to reach an emergency exit.

'If you’re a school district you have a responsibility to make sure that you’re providing the oversight that those kids deserve.'

Riverside does require drivers to have regular physicals. In a statement, superintendent Timothy Mitchell said the safety of students and staff is the district’s top priority.

The NTSB also says all school buses should have a system to automatically put out engine fires.

Nebraska has won a national award for its efforts to attract new businesses and promote economic development.

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Nebraska received the 2019 Silver Shovel Award from Area Development, a magazine aimed at corporate executives that focuses on the process of picking new sites for business development.

The publisher says Nebraska has done an outstanding job in recruiting businesses and competes well with much larger states.

Nebraska was recognized in a category of states with less than 3 million people. The other two winners were Kansas and Rhode Island.

Sioux City is looking at how to deal with an invasive beetle known for killing trees, before it reaches city limits.

The city heard a presentation from a parks employee about how to manage the pesky Emerald Ash Borer.

Sioux City Mayor Pro-Tem Dan Moore says the city will need to educate people about the insect. The city is planning to hire a dedicated staff member.

"We’ve built that into our budget to add someone. To take on the issues that will be coming up that we predicted, and he’s predicted, that will happen and occur in the next three years."

Ash trees make up more than a quarter of Sioux City’s trees.

The Emerald Ash Borer has been spotted in 66 of Iowa’s 99 counties, but has not yet been found in Sioux City. Environmental officials expect it to move further west over time.