News In Brief - June 17, 2007

DNA samples would be taken in felony arrests

COLUMBIA -- A bill awaiting Gov. Mark Sanford's signature would require DNA samples be taken from anyone charged with a felony or other crime punishable by five years or more in prison.

The proposal originally was part of a package of bills developed by the Senate's criminal justice task force, but languished until the DNA provision was added last week to a bill requiring background checks for people seeking certification as emergency medical technicians.

The state already takes DNA samples from people convicted of felonies.

If a person is acquitted, he can ask to have his sample removed from the database.

"It's not a collection of DNA of the innocent," said state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, who sponsored the original bill. Malloy said taking DNA samples is akin to taking fingerprints during the arrest process.

Two Upstate nurses killed in fiery crash

GAFFNEY -- Two nurses from Gaffney have been killed when their car crashed and caught fire with them trapped inside, the Cherokee County coroner's office said Saturday.

Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said Stephen Daniel Vassey, 32, and Dana Maria Mullinax, 31, were pronounced dead at the scene Friday morning.

Investigators said Vassey is thought to have been driving the 1999 Honda toward Gaffney when it ran off the right side of the road near Highway 329. The car hit a tree and a fence before it flipped. The two were trapped inside as the car burst into flames just as emergency responders arrived on the scene.

Vassey and Mullinax worked in the emergency department at Upstate Carolina Medical Center in Gaffney.

S.C. rescued rescued after small plane hits ocean

HONOLULU -- A South Carolina couple were rescued Friday evening after their small plane ran out of fuel and ditched in the ocean, sinking off Oahu, officials said.

The 29-year-old pilot and his 31-year-old wife declined medical treatment after being brought to Maunalua Bay Beach Park, said Bryan Cheplic, a spokesman for the city Department of Emergency Services.

The two, who identified themselves to reporters only as Michael and Christina, managed to escape from the Cessna 150J and get into a life raft after their rental plane came down about two miles south of Koko Head.

The couple weren't in the raft long.

The woman was lifted to safety by a fire department helicopter a little more than half an hour after the plane hit the water. The man was brought to shore by a department rescue boat about five minutes later.

"The pilot declared an emergency due to engine problems before he ditched his plane," Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said. "The aircraft was destroyed."

The plane had been rented for the day from George's Aviation Services of Honolulu.

Company owner George Hanzawa said the pilot saw he was running out of fuel at 2,000 feet and declared an emergency. When the engine quit, the man glided the plane into the wind and landed the aircraft on the water, Hanzawa said.

The couple were on their way back from the neighbor islands when the accident occurred, Hanzawa said.

He estimated the cost of the plane at $30,000.

There was no sign of pollution or wreckage, according to the Coast Guard, which also launched a helicopter and boat to aid in the rescue.