News In Brief - February 18, 2008

Two perish in Lancaster home fire

LANCASTER -- Two people died in a fire that occurred at 965 12th St. at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, according to Inspector Richard Hunton of the State Law Enforcement Division.

Lancaster County Coroner Mike Morris would not release names Sunday pending notification of the next of kin. The cause of death also was pending Sunday, he said.

The Lancaster Sheriff's Office asked SLED to send an arson team to investigate the fire at about 4:30 Sunday morning, Hunton added, saying it is under investigation.

A couple in their mid- to late 30s lived at the residence, an older home that had been converted into a duplex, a neighbor said. Although children also were sometimes seen there, they apparently were not there Sunday.

One neighbor said she was awakened at about 3:30 a.m. by people pounding on the house trying to wake up the occupants.

Another neighbor, Nathaniel Mungo, who lives just around the corner, said fire was coming through the roof, and the deceased had been removed from the home when he arrived at about 4 a.m.

Missing anchor recovered in Charleston Harbor

CHARLESTON -- The Coast Guard has canceled a safety zone in Charleston Harbor after a missing anchor and chain were recovered from the bottom of the Cooper River.

The Siteam Aniara dropped its port anchor then became separated from it Saturday morning when the 584-foot Liberian-flagged vessel lost propulsion just north of the Ravenel Bridge.

The Coast Guard established the safety zone until the anchor could be located and removed. Salvage crews recovered the anchor Sunday afternoon.

Homeless man dies when his van catches fire

SUMTER -- Officials say a 62-year-old homeless man has died after the van he lived in caught fire.

Sumter County Coroner Verna Moore says Rafael Lara died Friday night from smoke inhalation and burns.

Sumter police Chief Patty Patterson says foul play is not suspected.

Charter school chief wants share of sales tax money

CHARLESTON -- The head of the new statewide school district governing charter schools says her district should get sales tax money just like any other district.

The sales tax money is replacing local property taxes that used to go schools and State Public Charter School District Superintendent Barbara Nielsen wants her group to get its share, but some lawmakers say that isn't going to happen.

Nielsen said there is about $50 million left over after schools got their funding and said her district should receive about $14 million for its 3,000 students -- about $4,658 per student.

"What we're asking for is to be treated like any other district and get that state revenue," she said.

But when the statewide charter district was started, there was no money allocated to it, said state Rep. Bill Cotty, R-Columbia and a member of the education subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee.

They got the bill passed without that," Cotty said. "What was wrong with it then?"