August 4, 2016
Ten Of The Craziest Daredevil
Stunts Ever Performed
By John Rogers
The Associated Press
Los Angeles (AP) Although he’s one of the most accomplished skydivers in the world, Luke Aikins will tell you what he’s about to do • jump out of a plane without a parachute • is one crazy stunt.
``If I wasn’t nervous I would be stupid,’’ Aikins, who has jumped 18,000 times with a parachute, said recently as he prepared to jump from 25,000 feet without one. He plans to land in a giant net for a program being broadcast live Saturday on Fox. (Ed. note: Aikins jumped & survived on July 30, 2016)
Crazy perhaps, but only the latest in a long line of outrageous endeavors. Here are 10 of the craziest and most dangerous.
• Evel Knievel’s Snake River Canyon Jump: After years of jumping motorcycles over buses, trucks and fountains, and breaking many of his bones, Knievel decided to ride a rocket-powered motorcycle across a mile-wide chasm in Utah’s Snake River Canyon on Sept. 8, 1974. He didn’t make it, his cycle crashing on the canyon floor below. His escape chute deployed prematurely, likely saving his life.
• Felix Baumgartner’s Stratosphere Jump: The Austrian daredevil became the first skydiver to break the speed of sound when he jumped from a small capsule 24 miles above Earth on Oct. 14, 2012, and landed safely on the ground near Roswell, New Mexico, nine minutes later. Aikins helped train Baumgartner for that stunt and was the backup jumper.
Luke Aikins making a jump
• The Trade Towers Walk: Philippe Petit and his companions surreptitiously strung a wire between New York City’s then-recently constructed World Trade Towers on Aug. 6, 1974, and Petit walked across it the next day. He danced, strutted and clowned around for 45 minutes as startled bystanders watched from 110 stories below. The Frenchman’s stunt is the subject of the 2008 documentary ``Man on Wire’’ and the 2015 film ``The Walk.’’
• Karl Wallenda’s Final Walk: The patriarch of the famous German high-wire-walking family plunged to his death on March 22, 1978, while attempting to cross a wire strung between two hotel towers in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Although the 73-year-old Wallenda had performed much more difficult stunts, a wind gust caught him off guard and he fell. In 2012, his great-grandson, Nik Wallenda, became the first person to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls. And a year later he tight-roped across the Grand Canyon.
• Move Over Knievel: Record-setting Australian motorcycle daredevil Robbie Maddison rang in 2009 by flying his bike 120 feet through the air and landing on Paris Las Vegas hotel’s 96-foot-high arch. The feat put a gash in one hand that required 10 stitches. Noting afterward that he’d previously broken his neck, wrist and collarbone doing stunts, Maddison said he considered this injury no more than a paper cut.
• Mad Mike Hughes’ Steam-Powered Rocket Jump: Using a rocket powered by the same technology as Knievel’s Snake River motorcycle, Hughes soared 1,374 feet across the Arizona desert in January 2014, staggering out of the contraption after it landed. He plans a longer jump later this year.
• Dean Potter’s Last BASE Jump: One of the sport’s most acclaimed and safety-conscious jumpers, Potter, 43, was attempting a twilight wingsuit leap from Yosemite National Park’s Taft Point on May 16, 2015, when something went wrong and he plunged to his death. Graham Hunt, a friend jumping with him, also died. BASE jumping is an acronym for leaping from a building, antenna, span or Earth and is banned in Yosemite, although it occurs there with some regularity.
• Johnny Strange’s Final Flight: The American adventurer, who at 17 became the youngest person to summit the highest mountains on all seven continents, was 23 last October when crashed into a mountain in the Swiss Alps while filming a video for a new wingsuit. The day before he’d posted on social media stunning close-to-the-ground photos he’d taken, but he’d also noted the weather had been unpredictable.
• Feats of the French Spiderman: ``Urban climber’’ Alain Robert has scaled the tallest structures all over the world, often without ropes or harnesses and sometimes illegally. On Christmas Day 2004 he climbed to the top of Taiwan’s Taipei 101 Building, which at the time was the world’s tallest. Braving rain and wind, he climbed for four hours to get to the top, stopping along the way to chat with Taiwan’s president.
• Changing Planes in Midair: That’s what Paul Steiner did in 2010 when he climbed out of one glider flying at about 100 miles per hour over Austria, jumped onto the wing of another and then stood up and grabbed hold of the tail wing of the first plane as they flew in tandem. Steiner was wearing a parachute at the time, which he used to get back to the ground safely.
Three Sisters Qualify For Junior Olympics
In A NY Homeless Shelter
By Ezra Kaplan
New York (AP) - Every morning, three young sisters wake up together with their mom in one bed in a Brooklyn homeless shelter. Every afternoon, they train in a sport that they hope will put them on a path to a better life.
Tai Sheppard, 11, and sisters Rainn, 10, and Brooke, 8, have all blossomed since taking up track and field a year and a half ago, rising to the top tier of age-group national rankings and earning a spot in the Junior Olympic Games, now underway in Houston.
``This is a means to get them to college,’’ says their mother, Tonia Handy, ``to opening doors that maybe I can’t open for them.’’
Handy, a 46-year-old who works answering phones at a car service, has been raising her family alone for nearly a decade, enduring constant financial hardship and even tragedy. Three years ago, the girls’ 17-year-old half-brother was fatally shot in the street by another teen over what investigators said was a perceived insult.
She always managed to make ends meet, though, until early last year, when she and the girls were evicted from their apartment in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section for failing to pay the rent, landing them first in a motel shelter in Queens and then in the apartment shelter on a gritty Bed-Stuy street.
``The first time we got there, there was just roaches everywhere,’’ Tai says. ``Every time I looked on the floor, a roach. And every time I looked on the ceiling there was a roach. It was horrible.’’
Rainn, Tai (at right) and Brooke Sheppard (seated)
Handy, however, has worked to make the apartment clean and livable. But she has also made a point of not getting too comfortable in what she hopes is a temporary situation. The only decorations are the many awards the girls have won on the track, with trophies crowding the top of the lone dresser and medals hanging from every doorknob.
``I don’t bring in anything,’’ she says. ``When I’m ready and I have an apartment, I’m just gone.’’
The girls, who still have their estranged father’s last name, Sheppard, got into track in January 2015 when their baby sitter, looking for some kind of activity to keep them occupied, signed them up for a track meet that did not require any entry fees.
It just so happened that the founder of the Brooklyn-based Jeuness Track Club was at the competition scouting for new talent. By the end of the first day, Jean Bell had given her business cards to each of the girls separately with the instructions to have their mother call or just show up to practice.
It wasn’t until they turned out for practice together that Bell realized the girls were sisters.
``It’s been very tough for them,’’ says Bell, an administrative law judge who grew up in the nearby projects. ``They’ve been moved from one shelter to the next. Their belongings are shuffled around. They don’t have a lot to work with but they do the best with what they have.’’
The 20 girls on the Jeuness team come from a variety of backgrounds, but none of them are rich. Parents and coaches pool their money to provide the funds for the girls to go to the Junior Olympics.
The mission of the team is to keep girls on track, both academically and athletically to set them up for college scholarships.
The sisters are well on their way.
Each has qualified for the Junior Olympics in multiple events. Rainn was the top qualifier for the 3,000-meter run with a time of 10 minutes, 44 seconds - 30 seconds faster than the next-closest qualifier.
Tai runs the 400 and 800, as well as the 80-meter hurdles.
Brooke, the youngest, qualified for the 800, the 1,500 and the high jump, even though the team doesn’t have the equipment to allow her to practice. Her only jumps have come in competitions.
The girls are set to board a plane with the rest of their team for their first time Sunday to head to Houston for the track and field events, which begin Monday. But their mother won’t be with them.
``I’m not going because the shelter has a curfew and I still have to work,’’ Handy says. ``It’s not that kind of job where you can take time off. You don’t go, you don’t get paid.’’
But Handy is hopeful she will soon land a new job that would make it possible to get a place of her own again, and to get most weekends off so she could attend more of her daughters’ meets.
``Next year,’’ she says, ``I think it will be different.’’
Jewett Williams, Civil War Vet Who Died In An Asylum, Going Home
By Andrew Selsky
Salem, OR (AP) - Jewett Williams served in the 20th Maine Regiment in the Civil War. When he died in 1922 at an Oregon insane asylum, he was cremated and his ashes were stored and forgotten along with the remains of thousands of other patients.
With a color guard in Civil War-era uniforms present, Oregon State Hospital officials handed over Williams’ ashes to a group of motorcycle-riding military veterans for a journey across the country to his home state.
``He was a son, a brother, a husband and a father. At the end of his life, however, he was alone and institutionalized here,’’ Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney said at the ceremony. ``When he died, nobody came. Nobody came to honor him. Nobody came to take him home. Nobody came. Until today.’’
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group that attends the funerals of U.S. military veterans, firefighters and police, then solemnly received the ashes, started their Harleys and began the long journey to Maine.
Wearing leather vests festooned with patches describing their branches of service and American flags flapping from their bikes, the group will escort the remains in relays across America.
The ashes of hundreds of other patients remain at a memorial on the grounds of the hospital made famous in ``One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’’ a film starring Jack Nicholson and adapted from a novel by Ken Kesey. It was in 2004 that Courtney, on a tour, found the ashes of more than 3,600 people who died at the Oregon State Hospital and other institutions, stashed away in a shed in corroding copper cans.
In 2014, the memorial was opened with the remains of patients unclaimed by relatives kept in urns labeled with names, birth and death dates and embedded in a wall. A gap now exists where Williams’ urn had been. Over 300 other remains have been claimed.
``Here we are in this honored spot with all these unclaimed souls,’’ Geno Williams, a U.S. Army special forces veteran and Patriot Guard Rider from Vancouver, Washington, murmured to a reporter after blinking away tears. ``It is an emotional moment for me.’’
The 20th Maine famously prevented a Union defeat at Gettysburg with a bayonet charge at Little Round Top. Williams, of Hodgdon, Maine, joined in October 1864, more than a year later, but many engagements remained. His regiment was at the siege of Petersburg, Virginia, and in battles with the rebels right up to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, in April 1865, said Maine historian Tom Desjardin.
``The New Englanders were actively engaged with Grant’s army in the long siege of Petersburg and the running fight with Lee to Appomattox,’’ said James I. Robertson Jr., retired professor of Civil War history at Virginia Tech.
Jewett shared a tent with his cousin, Albert Williams, who, in a letter reflecting his rudimentary education, described long marches in bad weather and sleeping in the open, according to a family history published online in 2005 by Barbara Ann Estabrook.
He also described a scorched-earth campaign.
``i didnt have a chance to get a shot at a reb when we on the rode but i made the Cattle and Sheep and hogs suffer. Y
Members of Patriot Guard with Williams’ remains & photo
ou bet we killed every thing that we see and burnt every thing as we went,’’ Albert Williams wrote on Dec. 18, 1864, less than four months before he died of fever at age 21.
Jewett Williams was married and divorced, then remarried and moved to Michigan, then to Minnesota where he was a carpenter. His first child died after only 19 months. He and his wife had five more children and moved to Washington state, where the couple separated. In the 1920 census, Williams was listed as a widower in Portland, Oregon.
In April 1922, Williams was admitted to the Oregon State Hospital for the Insane in Salem, as the hospital was then known. He died on July 17, 1922, at 78, of cerebral arteriosclerosis.
None of Jewett’s descendants has been found.
His remains are scheduled to arrive in Maine on Aug. 22 and will be buried with military honors in Togus National Cemetery in Maine on Sept. 17. A period-correct white marble veterans headstone will mark the spot, said Dave Richmond, deputy director of the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services.
``He will rejoin his comrades-in-arms in Maine,’’ said Greg Roberts, the superintendent of Oregon State Hospital. Also buried at Togus are five other 20th Maine veterans, including one from Williams’ Company H.