Louisiana news briefs

14 young whooping cranes now in Louisiana
GUEYDAN — Fourteen young whooping cranes have a new home in Vermilion Parish as part of an ongoing project to re-establish the endangered bird in the marshes of southwest Louisiana.
The cranes, raised at facilities in Maryland and Wisconsin, were delivered Thursday to their new home at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area near Gueydan.
The only natural and self-sustaining wild flock of whooping cranes migrates between Texas and Canada. Another flock has been taught to migrate between Wisconsin and Florida. This flock is planned to stay year-round in southwest Louisiana.
The new birds bring the wild flock in Louisiana to 40 birds, the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said.
“As we prepare to enter year five of this project, I encourage the public to continue to support our biologists in this effort by observing these birds from a distance and reporting any sightings of injured birds or anyone attempting to harm them in any way,” Secretary Robert Barham said in a news release Friday. “We are fortunate to have a number of private landowners who have assisted us by working with our staff when the cranes roost on their property and I thank them for their participation.”
Whooping cranes disappeared from the Louisiana landscape by 1950, the victim of habitat loss and hunting. The last sightings of the cranes in Louisiana were in the White Lake area, where a project began in 2011 to reintroduce one of the rarest and largest birds in the world, growing up to 5 feet tall with a 7-foot wingspan.
A total of 64 cranes have been brought to Louisiana since the project began, but 24 have died, some from predators and others from bullets.

Roadside accident kills Landrieu campaigner
SHREVEPORT — A woman campaigning for Sen. Mary Landrieu died after being hit by a pickup truck in Shreveport.
Landrieu noted the death Saturday night during her concession speech after losing her bid for re-election to Rep. Bill Cassidy.
The victim was identified as 23-year-old Sedestini Monette Fields. Police said she was hit about 11 a.m. Saturday when the pickup truck apparently veered off the road.
The driver was identified as 43-year-old Diane Patrick of Keithville. Police said the accident remained under investigation Saturday night.

Man dies in New Orleans crash
NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans police say a 53-year-old man died when the pickup he was riding in hit a parked vehicle and flipped over.
Police say the man died at the scene early Monday morning. He has not been identified.
Authorities say the truck’s driver, 29-year-old Isaac Nelson, has been booked with vehicular homicide.

Troopers: Cyclist
killed in St. Landry Parish
OPELOUSAS — State police say a cyclist was killed when a truck hit him as he rode on a highway in St. Landry Parish.
Joseph Norman, 55, of Opelousas was killed Saturday shortly after 5:30 p.m. on La. 357, according to state police. Troopers say he was riding a bicycle with no helmet, no lights or reflective clothing and was struck from behind by a truck driven by 69-year-old Joseph Thibodeaux of Prairieville.
Authorities say Norman was thrown from his bicycle and died. He was pronounced dead on the scene by the St. Landry Parish Coroner’s Office. Thibodeaux was not injured.
State police say they do not believe the driver of the truck was impaired. Toxicology results are pending.

Ex-DHH employee gets
10 years for Medicaid theft
BATON ROUGE — A state district judge has sentenced a former employee of the state Department of Health and Hospitals to 10 years in prison — five of them suspended — for defrauding Louisiana out of more than $1 million.
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, in a news release, says District Judge Richard Moore sentenced 47-year-old Deborah Crowder Loper of Baton Rouge on Friday. She also has agreed to pay $1,018,424 in restitution to the state.
Loper pleaded guilty in October to one count each of felony theft by fraud and malfeasance in office for intentionally using her position as an accountant at DHH to defraud the department by misappropriating public funds for personal use, largely to foot the bill for a gambling addiction. The alleged crimes occurred from March 2007 through January 2013

Men apparently killed
each other in moving car
MARRERO — A Jefferson Parish sheriff’s spokesman says a drug deal gone sour apparently prompted two men to shoot and kill each other in a moving car, which ran into a house and caught fire.
Col. John Fortunato said Saturday that the passenger died with a stolen gun in his hand and a large bag of marijuana under his arm. A second gun was near the driver’s body. Fortunato says bullets and spent shell casings found were found in the 2011 Buick La Crosse.
He identifies the driver as 35-year-old driver Tory Sanders of Marrero and the passenger as 26-year-old Byron Price of St. Rose.
The car hit the house shortly before 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Fortunato says the fire apparently started because the car remained in gear with the front wheels turning.

Officials identify remains of missing airman
BARKSDALE AFB — Leaders from Barksdale Air Force Base have confirmed that human remains found in Guam belong to an airman who has been missing since Monday.
Officials identified the remains of Airman Alec Dye, a Mooresville, Indiana airman who was a maintainer with the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, on Saturday.
Dye was deployed by the Barksdale Air Force Base to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to support the continuous bomber presence mission.
“Alec was an outstanding young Airman, and a B-52H Stratofortress crew chief,” said Lt. Col. Michael Hammack, 2nd AMXS commander.
Dye’s remains were recovered on Tarague Beach near where he went missing.
“The news is beyond sad and our team is mourning the loss of one of our own,” said Col. Kristin Goodwin, 2nd Bomb Wing commander.
Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Andrew Toth had said authorities don’t suspect foul play. The search included about 180 federal and local officials and dozens of volunteers.
“As great as our pain is though, it pales in comparison to the loss that is felt by the Dye family and all of those who loved and knew Alec, and we want to ensure that they know that we are here to help them and support them in any capacity.”
Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Andrew Toth had said authorities don’t suspect foul play. The search included about 180 federal and local officials and dozens of volunteers.
From the Associated Press.

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