Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Standoff with police ends without injury in Homewood

Monday, June 29, 2010
By Vivian Nereim and Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A nearly three-hour standoff between Pittsburgh police and a Homewood man with mental health problems ended peacefully Monday evening when the man surrendered after police fired tear gas canisters at him.

Robert Campbell Jr., 50, faces a charge of aggravated assault, said Pittsburgh Police Chief Nathan Harper. Mr. Campbell was not injured, nor were any police officers, Chief Harper said.

The standoff began after 4 p.m. Monday, when police were called to an apartment in the 7200 block of Frankstown Avenue. The building's landlord told police that Mr. Campbell, his tenant, had pointed a gun at him.

When police arrived, Mr. Campbell began to shout incoherently, Chief Harper said. SWAT teams were called to the scene, and police blocked off several streets. Initial reports indicated Mr. Campbell had more than 20 guns in his home, but that was never confirmed. No shots were fired during the standoff.

Chief Harper said police used a Long Range Acoustic Device repeatedly, asking Mr. Campbell to surrender. Instead, Mr. Campbell held up notes asking to see a warrant. Police threw him a telephone at least four times to try to talk to him, but he threw it back.

Several neighbors said Mr. Campbell was harmless, but others said he struggled with paranoid delusions.

Lilianne Miles, 43, said Mr. Campbell believed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was tapping his telephone.

During the standoff, police saw Mr. Campbell point something at them, but they were not sure if it was a gun, Chief Harper said. Mr. Campbell did not have a gun when he surrendered.

Police were in the process Monday of obtaining a warrant so they could search his apartment.

Scores of people gathered to watch the standoff unfold, many frustrated that they could not reach their homes.

Two women who repeatedly tried to cross the police perimeter were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, Chief Harper said.

Later, police fired tear gas canisters into the apartment. At about 6:45 p.m., Mr. Campbell surrendered. He was taken to the Allegheny County Jail, where he will undergo a mental health evaluation, Chief Harper said.

Police did not know Monday what prompted the confrontation between Mr. Campbell and his landlord.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday Diary / Me and my good friend Buster the ball player

Saturday, June 26, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Do you remember me?"

On a list of questions that a professional journalist shouldn't ask a professional athlete, "Do you remember me?" falls somewhere above "Can you sign my notepad?" and somewhere below "Can I borrow a dollar?"

Two months ago, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants and I were in the bowels of Cashman Field in Las Vegas. He was in the minor leagues with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies and I was a reporting intern at the Las Vegas Sun.

We're both 22, and we're both learning on the job.

"So ... what ..." I began, near the end of the interview. "I mean, actually, I don't have another question, but I feel like I should ask another one. Have you been to Vegas before?"

"I came here last year," he said, "Last September when I was called up, so I didn't see too much of the town, was just over at the Golden Nugget."

Then he stopped himself.

"Wait. I don't know if you want to say Golden Nugget or not, you might have to think of something else."

I agreed. We laughed. Accidental commercial endorsement and all that.

But I did have another question on that hot, dry April afternoon, one that went unasked in the name of professionalism -- as if a conversation between a guy in a backwards baseball cap and baggy jeans and a guy in a straight baseball cap and cut-off shorts would have anything to do with professionalism.

"Should I pick you up on my fantasy team?"

Well ... the interview came and went, he hit the ball, I wrote the story, somebody picked him up on a fantasy team and I was left with Jason Kendall as my catcher.

Earlier this month, on June 4, Buster Posey and I crossed paths once again, and this time, I was determined to ask the borderline awkward question I didn't ask the first time.

The week before, Posey had traded in his Triple-A duds for a real-deal major-league uniform and, after hitting a shade under .475 in his first five games with the Giants, came to Pittsburgh for a weekend series against the Pirates.

Now reporting for the Post-Gazette, I stood inside the entrance of the visitor's dugout at PNC Park that Friday afternoon, awkwardly acknowledging the passing big-league players with eye contact and head nods, all the while wondering, would Buster Posey remember me?

Two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Tim Lincecum walked by, looking ripped. One-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Barry Zito stood by, looking normal -- despite his $126 million contract.

Then there's Buster Posey. And me.

Posey works as a baseball player and gets paid in dollars, millions of them. I work as a reporter and get paid in academic credits, three of them.

But he's still got his baby fat. And I've still got some acne.

He's still a young catcher-turned-first-baseman learning on the job. I'm still a young sports-reporter-turned-news-reporter learning on the job.

From his locker in the back corner of the clubhouse, Buster Posey bounces toward the front to check out the batting practice lineup on the wall behind me.

I approach and extend a hand.

"What's up, man?" I say, more than ask.

"Hey," he answers, with an absent look on his face, shaking my hand.

He doesn't remember me. Can't.

"Do you remember me?" I ask.

He pauses. Stares blankly. Definitely doesn't remember me.

"I talked to you in Vegas," I continue, "Earlier this year when ..."

He cracks half a smile.

"Oh yeah," he says. "Yeah, I thought I saw you before."

We talk for a few minutes -- about his call-up, the big leagues, playing first base. I ask the obligatory follow-up questions, even though I already had the answer to the one question I really wanted to ask.

Yes, Buster Posey did remember me.

Kind of.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Obituary: Sharren Yamron / Started area support group for pulmonary illness

Jan. 25, 1956 - June 23, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Early last decade, Sharren Yamron sat around a kitchen table with two others.

The three had been diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension, a rare and incurable disease of the lungs and heart, and the trio wanted a place to share their daily struggles.

Soon after, Ms. Yamron started a local support group, one that would eventually become the Pittsburgh chapter of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. Her hard work and dedication to the group is evident by the 100-plus people who attend meetings, giving them a collective voice for their experiences.

Ms. Yamron died of a stroke Wednesday after fighting multiple illnesses for many years. She was 54.

"She was an extraordinary woman and will be deeply missed," said Merle Reeseman, co-leader of the Pittsburgh PHA chapter. "Her strength and encouragement helped many people."

Born in Homestead, Ms. Yamron grew up in West Mifflin and graduated from South High School. She traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., and returned to Pittsburgh shortly after, working at Horne's department store.

She then worked in the real estate industry for 10 years until her PH diagnosis in April 1993, when she started the support group.

"It gave her a purpose," said her son, Sam Yamron, of Wilkins. "She was very devoted to others, liked being busy, and could run this within her physical capabilities, and I truly believe her help with others helped herself."

Ms. Yamron would bring in doctors, nurses and other medical support staff to the group's meetings. Patients from across Western Pennsylvania travel to meetings.

But as the success of the chapter grew, she continued to fight her own medical challenges.

During a 17-year period, Ms. Yamron underwent two lung transplants, overcame breast cancer and battled a brain tumor.

"She had been written off more times than I think anyone can imagine," Mr. Yamron said. "They would tell her she had five more years, and she would stick her tongue out to that."

As a mother, he said, Ms. Yamron "was going to fight to make sure we were well taken care of." He said some of the most fond memories he has of his mother are of her sitting at a beach on vacation or conversing nightly at the dinner table.

Ms. Reeseman said there was no better example of encouragement for fighting the disease.

"She went through more than any person should have to go through," she said. "And she always did it with dignity and grace, while trying to help others."

In addition to her son, Ms. Yamron is survived by her husband, Lawrence; another son, T. Yamron, of Wilkins; and two grandchildren.

Visitation is 11 a.m. today with a noon service at Ralph Schugar Funeral Chapel, 5509 Centre Ave., Shadyside.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Over 5,000 Duquesne Light customers without power

Wednesday, June 23, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

About 5,500 Duquesne Light customers remain without power after the severe thunderstorms that swept through the area earlier this evening.

That figure is down from a peak of 10,000 customers who were reported without power around 7 p.m.

Duquesne Light spokesman Joseph Vallarian said company crews are gradually restoring power by removing trees and repairing downed wires.

Those areas hardest hit by the storm include Baldwin, Castle Shannon, Daugherty, Hampton, McCandless, Plum, and Pulaski.

Mr. Vallarian said Duquesne Light crews will continue working through the night and into Thursday. All customers are expected to be back in service by 2 p.m. Thursday.

Duquesne Light urges residents to avoid contact with downed power lines, which pose the danger of electrical shock and injury.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pittsburgh receives national award as bike-friendly community

Thursday, June 17, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In 1990, Pittsburgh was ranked by the League of American Bicyclists as one of the 10 worst bicycling cities in the country.

On Wednesday, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl accepted a bronze bike-friendly community award from the same organization, an accomplishment that marks the region's commitment to cyclists for more than a decade.

"This is a very exciting day, and a time for us to be very proud of our work," Mr. Ravenstahl said.

Since 2000, the city has purchased 200 bike racks, constructed 15 miles of on-street facilities, and today has an even bigger goal in mind.

"This is just the beginning," Mr. Ravenstahl said. "We received a very worthy bronze status, but we have much more work to do if we want to reach gold or even potentially, platinum."

Cities are ranked in descending order by platinum, gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention.

The mayor mentioned plans to add 25 more miles of bike lanes and shared lane markings over the next two years, while connecting those with the 21-mile riverfront trail system.

Other ideas Mr. Ravenstahl mentioned is the development of a strategic bicycle route, with a network of signed routes and pavement markings.

Scott Bricker, who founded Bike Pittsburgh, an organization spearheading bicycle advocacy and safety in the community, spoke to a crowd of cyclists outside of the City-County Building around noon and said the biggest hurdle was convincing city officials that Pittsburgh could be a biking city.

"Now, we have new bike lanes, new bike racks and the first bike map of Pittsburgh in 15 years," Mr. Bricker said. "We have seen amazing changes."

Unveiled at Wednesday's ceremony was a purple street sign commemorating the award. The sign stands at the corner of First Avenue and Grant Street.

Pittsburgh police investigating recent attacks on bicyclists

Thursday, June 17, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Two days after a man was thrown off of his bike and assaulted by a group of people on the East End, the Post-Gazette has confirmed a pair of similar incidents.

Police spokeswoman Diane Richard could not confirm a connection between the incidents, but said that the department is aware of the recent assaults.

"There has been no set pattern for these actions," Ms. Richards said. "These are random acts of opportunity, when the opportunity presents itself."

Justin Chechile, 31, of Lawrenceville, said that on May 30, he was approached by a pair of bikers in the bike lane at East Liberty Boulevard and North Beatty Street.

One biker hopped off of his bike, throwing it into Mr. Chechile, who was flipped over the handlebars and onto the pavement.

While on the ground, Mr. Chechile said, he was verbally berated by the suspects, who were not found by police.

"I would like to see some people connected to what's happening," he said. "It feels like it's going to happen every day until they start finding them."

Another assault occurred Monday night, when 26-year-old Ryan Ference was thrown off of his bike and hospitalized while riding his bicycle home from work.

"I feel that they're connected as much as the youth in the area is connected," said Mac Howison, 36, of Swissvale. "It's the perfect storm with the increasing amount of targets in the cycling community."

Mr. Howison said that in early August, he and his wife were riding on East Liberty Boulevard when they were jumped by three men.

After being struck on the side of the head by one of the men, a dazed Mr. Howison remained on his bike and came to a stop.

The trio surrounded the couple and began taunting them.

"It kind of seemed like they were fooling around," Mr. Howison said.

A week after Mr. Chechile's assault, Zone 5 Acting Commander Kevin Kraus met with a group of 25 bikers, which Mr. Chechile said, "was supportive."

While no suspects have been identified, Ms. Richard urges cyclists to be cognizant of their surroundings and, if possible, travel in pairs.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

8 attack bicyclist in North Point Breeze

Tuesday, June 15, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A man who was beaten last night in North Point Breeze while riding his bicycle home from work is recovering at UPMC Presbyterian's intensive care unit.

Ryan Ferrence, 26, is expected to make a full recovery and could be released from the hospital tomorrow.

The victim was identified as Mr. Ferrence by friend Matt Narvis.

Police spokeswoman Diane Richard said multiple units responded to a 10:30 p.m. assault call in the 7500 block of Meade Street in North Point Breeze, just in front of East End Food Co-Op.

Mr. Ferrence, who is an employee of the co-op, started to ride his bike home around 9:45, and was attacked by a group of eight people.

As a witness went to help the victim, the group fled, including a man who took the victim's backpack.

According to Ms. Richard, police searched the area for suspects, but were unsuccessful.

Mr. Narvis said the victim suffered a broken collarbone, has bumps and bruises, but "is in good spirits."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

UPMC Passavant sued over patient's death

Thursday, June 10, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The family of an 82-year-old woman has filed a lawsuit claiming negligence by UPMC Passavant hospital and three physicians contributed to her death.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Allegheny County Common Pleas court, states that Eileen Funston of McCandless died after a mistake in recording her medical history, leading to the intake of a drug seven times higher than initially prescribed.

UPMC could not be reached this afternoon for comment.

According to the lawsuit, brought by her daughter, Cynthia McLafferty of Baden, Ms. Funston suffered fatal internal bleeding as the result of an overdose of the drug methotrexate.

The complaint alleges that she was prescribed 12.5 milligrams per week to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but during an October 2009 stay at Passavant, a physician incorrectly recorded a dosage of 12.5 milligrams per day.

The family is charging that the mistake was not found, and was repeated after Ms. Funston was transferred to St. John Specialty Care Center in Mars, which led to hemorrhaging, aspirating blood, and ultimately her death at Passavant on Oct. 29.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Old biplane flips over while landing in D.C.

Local pilots not involved in crash

Tuesday, June 08, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A Stearman biplane traveling to Washington, D.C., flipped over this morning on the main runway of Ronald Reagan National Airport.

Ron Gorr, one of four Pittsburgh-area pilots making the trip for the "Legends of Flight" IMAX movie premiere, said the plane belongs to a Virginia pilot.

CBS is reporting that the 1943 airplane is registered to Michael Truschel of Nokesville, Va.

Mr. Gorr said no one was hurt in the crash, which occurred just after 10 a.m. Onboard was the pilot and a Washington Post reporter.

Mr. Gorr, a pilot from Mt. Lebanon, said that as he flew his Stearman toward the airport, he heard an unusual request from air traffic control.

"The tower told us to go to another runway," Mr. Gorr said. "But we didn't see anything. The weather has been good and it's beautiful here."

After landing, he found out why he had been diverted.

Mr. Gorr was traveling in a group of five pilots and arrived later than another group of three that included the airplane that crashed.

"After we taxied in and shut down, we heard about it," he said.

Asked to speculate on a cause of the accident, Mr. Gorr said, "The only thing I can think of is maybe he hit the brakes by mistake. If you suddenly hit it, the back end can come up. That or maybe his brakes locked up. I really don't know."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Obituary: John F. Shovlin III / World War II veteran, school board member

June 1927 - June 1, 2010

Friday, June 04, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In 1945, John F. Shovlin III was a Navy electrician aboard the USS Santa Fe in the Pacific Ocean, one of the youngest among the crew during World War II.

A short time later, in October of 1946, the light cruiser was decommissioned from wartime sailing, but Mr. Shovlin was determined to sail on with his crew.

The Mt. Lebanon resident did just that, as longtime chairman of the USS Santa Fe Association, orchestrating the group and their annual crew reunions since the war.

He also played an integral role in Beaver County education, working for nearly two decades on the betterment of students and schools in the area.

On Tuesday, Mr. Shovlin died at Providence Park retirement community in Mt. Lebanon. He was 82.

"He was the old cliche, a true people person," said his wife of 25 years, Dr. Betty Radvak-Shovlin. "He loved to be around people, and he joined places where they were."

Mr. Shovlin, originally from Midland, was a Navy veteran of World War II and the Korean War, serving in both active and reserve duty from 1945 to 1954. He joined the USS Santa Fe as a 17-year-old electrician working in the internal communications unit of the ship.

"John was a very good worker and always strived to get the job done," said Harold Hartmann of West Haven, Conn., a friend of Mr. Shovlin's since meeting him on the ship.

The pair were part of a crew that earned 16 battle stars, a presidential unit citation and a Navy unit commendation.

To Mr. Hartmann -- one of the elder statesmen aboard -- Mr. Shovlin's personality and work ethic were infectious.

"He was always the perfect gentleman," Mr. Hartmann said. "But he was also aggressive with his job, made friends very easily and was well-liked."

The friendships made onboard lasted a lifetime, something that was prevalent in his future endeavors as chairman of the USS Santa Fe Association for the past 20 years.

"He always said he would work as hard as he could to repay those men because he respected them so much," Dr. Radvak-Shovlin said. "It impacted his life greatly."

Mr. Shovlin also was affiliated with the American Legion Post 481 and VFW Post 8168 of Midland.

He retired from the Crucible Divison of Colt Industries after 36 years of work and spent two years with IMS International as an assistant superintendent, establishing a steel plant in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies.

Upon returning from overseas, he pursued better education opportunities for Beaver County students, serving as a school director for 18 years in the Midland School District.

Later, he was one of nine initial directors responsible for building the foundation of what would become Beaver County Community College.

"People saw his ability," said Mr. Hartmann. "He was very bright and enjoyed doing things for people and being with them in all capacities."

In addition to his wife, Mr. Shovlin is survived by his son, Michael of Beaver; one sister, Mary Ann Ferlaino of East Liverpool, Ohio; and three grandsons. A funeral Liturgy will be celebrated today at 10:30 a.m. in St. Gregory Byzantine Catholic Church in Upper St. Clair.

Memorial contributions can be made to Byzantine Catholic Seminary of SS. Cyril & Methodius, 3605 Perrysville Ave., Pittsburgh 15214.

Anthony Fenech: afenech@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pittsburgh-area aviators to fly a Stearman biplane to D.C. for documentary premiere

*This story was published on Page A-1 of the Tuesday, June 1 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jack Roethlisberger sits inside a muggy hangar at Beaver County Airport, leans back on a folding chair with his legs stretching forward, crosses and rests them on a bucket.

To his right is an old Stearman airplane fuselage, the core of what hundreds of working hours later will end up as another one of his refurbished airplanes.

"There's just something about taking a pile of parts," he said while cracking open a beer, "and making it into something that looks pretty."

A week from today, Mr. Roethlisberger will climb into another Stearman biplane that he refurbished and will fly with four other Pittsburgh pilots to Washington, D.C., for the premiere of "Legends of Flight," a 3-D IMAX film. The documentary details the history of flight and the many technological advances that have led to modern airplane design. The two-seater Stearman is among the planes that are featured in the movie.

Sheets of metal and fabric outline Mr. Roethlisberger's work area, littered with tools, parts and a stray engine mount. High above, unfinished wooden airplane wings hang above a workbench.

The first time Mr. Roethlisberger saw one particular pile of parts, it wasn't pretty.

It was a crippled airplane lying in a Lock Haven riverbed, surrounded by crashed wings, burned wood and a propeller somewhere off in the distance.

Whereas most would see the death of a plane, Mr. Roethlisberger saw a project.

"If you have one piece, enough ambition and enough time, you can make an airplane out of it," he said.

And so, Mr. Roethlisberger -- no relation to the Steelers quarterback -- rented a truck, drove northeast to Lock Haven from Beaver and picked up the only piece he needed, the fuselage.

That was in 2000. A decade later, he will fly that same 1941 Navy Stearman to Ronald Reagan National Airport, accompanied by four Stearman enthusiasts.

Ron Gorr of Mt. Lebanon will lead the group of retired military aviators and commercial pilots to the nation's capital June 7 and will fly his World War II Stearman, a plane that was primarily used as a military trainer for Army and Navy pilots.

"I didn't think we'd get permission from Homeland Security to fly these little planes into Reagan," he said. "But we did and they're shutting the whole airport down for us to fly in. It's exciting and quite the honor."

Mr. Gorr's Stearman was built in 1942 and delivered to the Army in December 1943. Nicknamed the "Yellow Peril" for its tricky ground-handling characteristics, the open cockpit biplane was known for its simple construction and durability.

Mr. Gorr's Stearman, its blue-and-yellow paint scheme glistening in the sunlight, shows no signs of a 68-year-old history, complete with training stops in California and Alabama.

"These [airplanes] are brand new," he said. "Everything's new, the wood, the paint and the fabrics. They're finished products."

Mr. Roethlisberger, 61, of Beaver, acquires the planes as scrap, or buys them from other people who don't have the time or energy to finish the project.

"All of these have crashed at one point or another," he said. "And that's the fun of it, taking a pile of junk that everyone looks at and tells you can't be fixed. You put it together and there's no better feeling than that."

The planes take anywhere from three to four years to rebuild and cost between $50,000 and $70,000 plus a lot of labor, depending on how many parts are needed. Mr. Gorr guesses the finished product could sell for up to $150,000.

Only a few Stearman parts manufacturers remain. "They're rather expensive," Mr. Roethlisberger said, "so we try to make as many parts as we can."

Currently, he's working on two different frames and equips them with new nuts, bolts and hardware. After the fuselage is completed, the home-made wings are attached and finally, a fabric is stretched around the frames before being painted and hardened.

"It's basically like building a new airplane," he said.

Mr. Roethlisberger has worked on airplanes since his 20s, and has been making parts since fixing cars during his teenage years.

The "Beaver Boys," as Mr. Gorr likes to call the group, consist of five current or retired US Airways pilots: Mr. Gorr, Mr. Roethlisberger, John Lebbon of Greenville, Cam Youree of Hookstown and Charlie Lines of Canfield, Ohio.

The group has flown together for more than a decade. Some of their friendships go back a quarter century, to the former Allegheny Airlines that rebranded itself twice before becoming US Airways.

"We fly around quite a bit together," Mr. Gorr said. "We love it. This is what we do."

They fly in pairs, trios, and on occasion, all five together, to different airports, to the National Stearman Fly-In each year and even to a restaurant in Salem, Ohio, from time to time for the "$100 hamburger," given its nickname for the $99 in gas spent flying to Salem and back, and the dollar for the burger.

A week from now, they'll depart from Beaver for a 21/2 hour flight to Manassas, Va., where they'll stay overnight and meet with four Stearman pilots from Virginia before flying about 25 miles to Washington the next day.

With his impending retirement just a month away -- "29 days to be exact," he says -- Mr. Roethlisberger will have more time to spend with the wind piercing his thinned-out, gray head of hair, and most importantly, with his grandson, Jack, a flying maniac at the ripe age of 8.

"He'll probably be soloing by the age of 12," he says, smiling.

But for the moment, Mr. Roethlisberger, who flies a Boeing 767 for US Airways, is excited about the upcoming trip to Washington for the movie premiere.

"It's fun to go to D.C.," he says. "I've flown a lot of bigger airplanes there, but not a small one. There's about a 30,000 feet difference between the two."

But the biggest difference?

"That's work," he says. "This is flying."