NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, June 18, 2020

Perennial candidate Wilde runs for U.S. Senate

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Rex Wilde is no stranger to Wyoming’s political scene.

Wilde has mounted several campaigns over the past decade, running twice for governor as well as for mayor of Cheyenne in 2016. All of his bids were unsuccessful at the primary stage, with the most competitive attempt coming in his 2014 run for the U.S. Senate. In that Democratic primary, Wilde came in second, losing by about 4,000 votes.

Wilde, who has lived in Cheyenne since 1981, hopes to build on those campaigns in his bid for one of Wyoming’s U.S. Senate seats this year. After retiring from his career as a cabinet maker, he has more time to focus on campaigning, which won’t look the same amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had some venues set up where I was going to have quite a few people come to them, but that’s probably not the right thing to do,” Wilde said in an interview. “It’s going to be tougher, but it’s going to be the same tough foray for the rest of the people running for the Senate, too.”

Wilde said his campaign centers on three priorities: water rights, tourism and marijuana legalization. From Wilde’s view, the state has not been fully tapping into its water resources ever since the 1922 Colorado River Compact, a seven-state agreement governing the allocation of water in the river basin.


South Dakota man sentenced for game violations

GILLETTE (WNE) — A South Dakota man will have to pay $10,010 in fines and his hunting privileges will be suspended for 15 years after pleading no contest Monday to eight counts of gaming violations.

David E. Underwood, 52, had been charged with 16 game violations — all misdemeanors — including 10 counts of making false statements to buy or apply for game licenses or permits from 2005 to 2015. He was the third of three men to be charged in the case.

The counts that Underwood pleaded no contest to in Circuit Court include illegally killing a buck antelope without a license and illegally killing pheasants without a license.

He also pleaded no contest to two counts of illegally buying a Wyoming resident small game license, two counts of illegally buying a resident general deer license, one count of acting as an accessory in the application of a resident Bighorn sheep license, and one count of acting as an accessory in the failure to tag a buck antelope.

Eight other counts were dismissed.

Dustin Kirsch, former south Gillette game warden, said that from 2004 to 2009, Underwood applied for and bought hunting and fishing licenses in both Wyoming and South Dakota.

Kirsch called Underwood “the smaller of the three fish” in the case. Underwood’s father, Robert A. Underwood, 75, has pleaded not guilty to 35 counts of misdemeanor big game violations dating back to 2003. And Russell Vick, 54, of Buhl, Alabama, pleaded not guilty to 42 big game violations.


Yellowstone contractor tests positive for coronavirus

JACKSON (WNE) — A third round of surveillance tests for COVID-19 turned up 165 negative results among Yellowstone National Park employees. However, one contractor working on a construction project tested positive, Yellowstone announced Wednesday in a news release. 

This is the third week in a row Yellowstone has conducted COVID-19 surveillance testing and all tests have come back negative. On June 10, Park County, Montana, health workers tested 165 employees from the National Park Service and concession companies in the park. The latest round of testing brings the total number of employee tests completed in the past 17 days to 387.

Meanwhile, the contractor working tested positive. The individual reported symptoms at the jobsite, was isolated, and tested outside the park. The individual does not live in the park. Health officials are conducting contact tracing, but at this point they have not identified any close contacts with park employees or visitors.

This individual was not tested as part of the Yellowstone employee COVID-19 surveillance program. To protect the individual's privacy, the park will not release more details about this case, the release said.

"This is why we have developed response protocols with our health experts and have required COVID-19 mitigation/response plans for all contractors," Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement. "The contractor took the appropriate actions by immediately isolating the employee, sending him for testing, and notifying health officials.”


Search and Rescue volunteers hurt in training

LOVELL (WNE) — Two volunteers from the Big Horn County Search and Rescue team were severely injured during a joint training exercise with the Wyoming National Guard on Saturday afternoon near Horse Creek Mesa in the Big Horn Mountains. 

The two men, Johannes Bates of Cowley and Jeff Schmidt of Shell, are part of the search and rescue team’s high angle ropes division.

According to Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn, the Wyoming National Guard was conducting a training exercise in hoist training with the two men dangling from a rope connected to the helicopter above the ground when the helicopter suffered engine failure. 

During the course of an emergency restart procedure, it was necessary for the helicopter crew to cut the line hoisting the volunteers, causing them to fall an estimated 30 feet. Search and rescue volunteers on the ground were stationed nearby and were able to assist the men within minutes of the fall.

In a press release issued by the Wyoming National Guard State Public Affairs Office, the incident involved a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter assigned to the Guard. The crew and helicopter are assigned to G Company, 2nd Battalion, 211th Aviation, Wyoming Army National Guard, a team that is frequently used to conduct search and rescue missions and provide firefighting capabilities.

The two volunteers each sustained serious back and limb injuries, Blackburn said. Once the helicopter was restarted, it landed and took the men to the Greybull airport. From Greybull, they were transported by ambulance to a hospital in Cody.


Man accused of strangulation after pulling on seatbelt.

SUNDANCE (WNE) — A Rawlins man faces felony charges of strangulation after allegedly pulling on the seatbelt of the driver he was sitting behind in an attempt to stop the vehicle.

On May 26 just before 4 p.m., a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper was dispatched to a fight in progress on I-90 at milepost 151. He arrived to find Moorcroft Police Department had already secured the scene.

The driver allegedly stated that Travis Trujillo, who was sitting directly behind him in the vehicle, had grabbed the seatbelt and pulled on it and said he had begun to choke, so he pulled the vehicle onto the shoulder and came to a stop.

Trujillo allegedly claimed he was attempting to get the driver to stop the vehicle. According to court reports, he had thrown some food at the front window for the same purpose and, when that didn’t work, grabbed the seatbelt.

According to the trooper’s report, the driver had red marks on both sides of his neck and cheek consistent with those that would be left by a seatbelt.

Trujillo faces one count of strangulation of a household member, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment, a $10,000 fine or both.