Nation roundup for June 25


Wallenda walks tightrope high over Ariz. gorge

LITTLE COLORADO RIVER GORGE, Ariz. (AP) — Nik Wallenda studied the plunging walls of the Little Colorado River Gorge before stepping out on a quarter-mile tightrope cable. “Whoo! That’s an amazing view.”

With that observation, the well-known aerialist embarked Sunday afternoon on a walk without a safety net or harness, 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River Gorge in northeastern Arizona.

The successful, 22-minute walk on the 2-inch-thick steel cable was monitored by people around the world via television and computer screens during a broadcast of Wallenda’s most ambitious stunt yet.

They watched as the winds tested the Florida daredevil, and listened as he called on God to calm the swaying cable and as he paid homage to his famed great-grandfather. The stunt was the leading trending topic on Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

“It was unbelievable,” he told reporters later. “It was everything I wanted it to be. It was extremely emotional. I got to the other end and started crying.”

Hundreds of people watched from the remote site on the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona that led them past roadside vendors selling traditional jewelry and about a dozen protesters who consider the area sacred.

During his walk above the dry river bed near the Grand Canyon, Wallenda paused and crouched twice as winds whipped around him and the rope swayed. Gusts had been expected to be around 30 mph. He said they sent dust flying into his eyes.

“It was strenuous the whole way across. It was a battle. The winds were strong, they were gusty,” he told reporters. “But there was never a point where I thought, ‘oh my gosh, I’m going to fall.’”

Wallenda stepped slowly and steady throughout, murmuring prayers to Jesus almost constantly along the way. He jogged and hopped the last few steps.

“Thank you Lord. Thank you for calming that cable, God,” he said about 13 minutes into the walk.

The Discovery Channel broadcast the event live. He wore a microphone and two cameras, one that looked down on the river bed and one that faced straight ahead.

The 34-year-old Sarasota, Fla., resident is a seventh-generation high-wire artist and is part of the famous “Flying Wallendas” circus family — a clan that is no stranger to death-defying feats.

His great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, fell during a performance in Puerto Rico and died at the age of 73. Several other family members, including a cousin and an uncle, have perished while performing wire walking stunts.

Nik Wallenda grew up performing with his family and dreamed of crossing the Grand Canyon since he was a teenager. Sunday’s stunt comes a year after he traversed Niagara Falls earning a seventh Guinness world record.

Despite those successes, his next goal is in question. New York’s police commissioner said Monday that Wallenda’s hope of tightrope walking between the famous Chrysler and Empire State buildings was too dangerous. “I would say no,” Raymond Kelly said when asked about the possibility.

At the Grand Canyon, about 600 spectators watching on a large video screen on site cheered him on as he walked toward them. A Navajo Nation ranger, a paramedic and two members of a film crew were stationed on the canyon floor.

The ranger, Elmer Phillips, he got a little nervous when Wallenda stopped the first time. “Other than that, a pretty amazing feat,” Phillips said.

Discovery’s two-hour broadcast showcased the Navajo landscape that includes Monument Valley, Four Corners, Canyon de Chelly and the tribal capital of Window Rock.

Wallenda already is eyeing his next stunt, which he hopes will take him between the Chrysler and Empire State buildings in New York. As a nod to his Internet audience, he said he also would ask his Facebook and Twitter followers what the next challenge should be

But he said he would give up tightrope walking altogether if his wife and children ever asked him.

“That’s a serious talk that we’ll have. But absolutely, it weighs on heavy on me,” he said.

2 Russian astronauts tackle chores in spacewalk

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Two space station astronauts took care of a little outside maintenance Monday.

Russian flight engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin replaced a main valve on the International Space Station and prepared for the arrival of a new lab later this year.

“To save the time, I’m embroidering,” one of the spacewalkers said in Russian, holding a clump of cord as he worked. “It’s not easy to handle all these ropes.” Later, he added, “OK, now we’re doing beadwork.”

Besides the valve swap 250 miles up, the spacewalkers installed clamps and retrieved science experiments, completing most all their chores. The spacewalk ran a little over at 6½ hours. “Thank you for your work,” radioed Russian Mission Control outside Moscow.

It was the year’s third spacewalk. The four other space station residents monitored the action from inside.

Yurchikhin arrived at the space station just a few weeks ago. Misurkin has been on board since March.

The crew includes three Russians, two Americans and one Italian. The Italian and one American will conduct a pair of spacewalks for NASA in July.

Begun in 1998, the space station still is one room short.

The Russian Space Agency plans to launch a research lab by year’s end to replace the Pirs air lock that has been in place since 2001. An unmanned Proton rocket will hoist the lab, which also will serve as an air lock for spacewalk preparations and a docking port for visiting craft.

As for Pirs — Russian for pier — it will be cut loose before the launch of its replacement and burn up upon re-entry as junk.

Officials: 1 dead in explosion at Indiana plant

UNION MILLS, Ind. (AP) — Authorities say an explosion at a grain silo in northwestern Indiana left one worker dead.

The LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department says the explosion occurred Monday afternoon in a concrete grain silo at the Union Mills Co-op.

The department says in a news release that the victim was a co-op employee believed to be working in the silo when the blast happened. The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear.

The department says all other employees are accounted for and no other injuries were reported. It also says no hazardous chemicals were involved.

Indiana Labor Department spokesman Bob Dittmer says a workplace safety investigation has begun. The co-op is about 50 miles southeast of Chicago

Deputy Sheriff Neil Lachmund says the co-op has multiple grain and fertilizer storage facilities.

 

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