|THE DRAGON IN PRINT NEWS 2002:|
Former Rockford officer innocent - Jury takes less than 30 minutes to decide
by Lance Coleman of The Daily Times Staff
A 29-year-old Florida man riding on Foothills Parkway was injured Friday when his motorcycle left the road, skidded along the shoulder, struck a tree and went down a steep embankment.
Brian Magyar, a Fort Lauderdale airplane mechanic, was pulled up the 70-foot slope and taken by Rural/Metro Ambulance Service to Blount Memorial Hospital where he was treated and released, Blount County Sheriff's officials said.
Magyar was riding a Suzuki GSX 1300 RX Hawabusa motorcycle with Peter Kratsh, a Fort Lauderdale mechanical engineer. Hawabusa means ``Falcon'' in Japanese, Kratsh said. ``It looks like he did some flying of his own,'' he said, noting that it appeared Magyar injured his collar bone.
The motorcycle was seen about 20 feet below the road's grass shoulder. The driver probably went 50 feet further down the slope, according to members of the Blount Special Operations Response Team. The men had hauled their motorcycles up to Fontana and were riding to Townsend when the mishap occurred at about 12:34 p.m.
``He had his full gear on, he was pretty well prepared,'' Kratsh said. ``He's a good rider. We were cruising along not pushing it. Maybe his mind wandered a bit, that's my guess.''
A National Park Service ranger, Blount County Sheriff's Office, Blount County Fire Department Blount Special Operations Response Team and Rural/Metro Ambulance Service responded.
Environmentalists to Graham: No easy rides to Knoxville September 19, 2002
By Mike Andrews of The Graham Star
The Dragon's Tail, the 12-mile stretch of hairpin curves that frustrate Graham County drivers on their way to shop in Knoxville and excites motorcycle enthusiasts nationwide will never be straightened if environmentalists have their way. "To put this mildly, the environmental community would be very, very, very opposed to straightening that road," said Danielle Droitsch of the Tennessee Clean Water Network.
Some environmentalists support increased flows in the Calderwood riverbed to promote the wavyrayed lampmussel, which makes its home in Smoky Mountain rivers.
Johnson said two things attract people to The Dragon. One: lots of curves. Two: no driveways or intersecting roads where vehicles pull out in front of riders. The main attraction, though, is the curves. "There are no two alike,'' Johnson said. "And another thing, is it's relatively flat. You're not constantly going up and down mountains.''
He also agrees that it is the best ride in America. "There's no place even close,'' he said. Word is getting around. More and more motorcycle riders are riding The Dragon's curves -- and not just motorcyclists, so are car clubs. This weekend, a Miata rally is being held in Robbinsville, N.C., and the prime attraction is The Dragon.
Motorcyclist critical after accident on `The Dragon'
A Michigan man was critically injured Sunday afternoon in a motorcycle accident on Calderwood Highway.
DALE BENTLY DIED ON JUNE 16, 2002
After 30 years of operation, the Rockford Police Department no longer exists.
Dalton opened the called meeting Wednesday of the City Commission by saying the decision to meet came after she discovered the other two commissioners planned to do away with the police department at tonight's monthly meeting without offering a severance package to the department's employees.
``I think that it is a terrible thing to do to dedicated people,'' Dalton said.
Rollie Swafford will be sworn in as a commissioner at tonight's regularly scheduled meeting. He will replace longtime Commissioner Patsy Dalton. Swafford won his seat as commissioner in the May 7 election.
Commissioner Steve Simon, who was re-elected, also will be sworn in tonight.
After the motion passed unanimously to abolish the police department, Rockford Mayor Gail Dalton proposed a severance package for the four employees who were essentially unemployed Wednesday. The employees are Police Chief Robert Simerly, Johnson, Officer Bill Allen and dispatcher Jennifer Dalton, the mayor's daughter.
All four will be given six months pay and six months of health and dental coverage in their severance package. That motion passed with Patsy Dalton and Gail Dalton's votes. Simon did not vote.
Mayor Dalton said she understood that Simon and Swafford planned to do away with the police department tonight.
Simon said he questioned whether $250,000 of the city's $400,000 annual budget was an acceptable expense for a part-time police department when the Blount County Sheriff's Office offers patrol coverage in the city.
The mayor disagreed.
``How can I look at the citizens of Rockford and say their safety is not worth $250,000?'' Dalton said. ``I don't feel safe with the Blount County Sheriff's Office. We have been blackballed by the Blount County Sheriff's Office and the 911 Center. We were standing alone, and that was something to be proud of.''
The police department has faced an uphill battle since Blount County Sheriff James L. Berrong canceled the mutual aid agreement between the Rockford Police Department and Sheriff's Office. The city also lost use of the county's radio frequency.
The sheriff's decision came after he and the county were named as co-defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that Rockford Sgt. James ``JR'' Johnson was responsible for the motorcycle death of Philip Laton of Knoxville on March 10, 2001.
A Blount County Grand Jury indicted Johnson on a vehicular homicide charge in August 2001. He has remained on paid administrative leave since the investigation into the accident began.
At the end of July 2001, the Rockford Police Department opened its own communications center with one full-time dispatcher and two part-time dispatchers.
Six months severance
Gail Dalton said it will be difficult for all four to get employment in the law enforcement field in Blount County due to the media coverage of the events in the city.
Prior to the severance package vote, Simon questioned whether the checks should be given to the employees until each returns city-owned equipment that he or she was using. This would include keys and computer codes.
Simerly said he took offense that Simon may infer the police chief would take anything owned by the city. He threw his keys at Simon during the meeting.
``I have worked hard for this city,'' Simerly said. ``I would not take anything that does not belong to me.''
K-9 stays with Johnsons
Once the severance package was approved, Dalton turned the attention to the K-9 Officer ``Bosco.'' The city purchased the dog and assigned him to Johnson.
Although Bosco has not been in service for over a year, he has been living at the Johnson residence, Dalton said.
Dalton suggested that Bosco remain with the Johnsons since he has bonded with them. The Johnsons have sheltered and fed him as well.
``It would be detrimental to the dog to remove him from his trainer,'' Dalton said.
Simon questioned whether it was safe for a police-trained dog to be owned by a private citizen, and suggested Bosco be sold to a police officer.
Jennifer Dalton mentioned that when K-9 dogs are retired from police service, they usually remain with the police officer they accompanied.
JR Johnson's wife, Christy, was present at the meeting and told the commission Bosco would be well taken care of in their home and was one of the family.
Patsy Dalton and Gail Dalton voted that Bosco remain with the Johnsons. Again, Simon did not vote.
The police department has been in existence since Rockford became a city in 1972, Gail Dalton said.
``I do not want to abolish this police department,'' Dalton said. ``It is going against everything I believe in.''
Simerly said since the police department has been in operation under their own communications center, he and Allen have been doing mostly community policing.
Simerly has been a law enforcement officer in the county for nearly 12 years and was the chief at Rockford for 27 months, he said.
``It's been a long time coming,'' Simerly said following the meeting regarding the disbanding of the department. ``This city has had a police department for 30 years, and it's coming to an end.''
The Rockford City Commission will hold its regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. today at the town hall.
The twists and turns of U.S. 129 in the southwestern corner of the Smokies carry a nickname among those riders of sleek, powerful sports motorcycles: The Tail of the Dragon.