Mississippi: crop-duster sprays boats

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Samples tested after crop-duster sprays boats

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) -- Crew members who were aboard a Mississippi River towboat when a crop-duster sprayed it with an unknown substance have reported no health problems but were given an antibiotic as a precaution, health officials said Sunday.

The towboat's skipper reported that the low-flying plane sprayed the towboat and barges Friday near Rosedale, Mississippi, then circled around and sprayed a pleasure craft. Officials were still searching for the pleasure boat.

"This was a deliberate act by a crop-duster -- this was no accident," said Kent Buckley of the Bolivar County Emergency Management Agency.

Buckley said officials suspect the sprayed substance was sodium chlorate, used to defoliate cotton crops. Buckley said that sodium chlorate is similar to salt water and is not dangerous.


The towboat and its 17 barges have been grounded and quarantined near Rosedale. Their contents were unknown.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), October 22, 2001


This has a suspicious ring to it.

-- LillyLP (lillyLP@aol.com), October 23, 2001.

10/23/2001 - Updated 07:53 AM ET Crop duster pilot sought

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) Final test results are expected Tuesday for a Mississippi River towboat and crew that was doused with an unknown substance by a crop duster. Federal and state authorities searched crop dusters' flight records Monday, hours after the 11 crew members and towboat were released from quarantine near Rosedale, Miss. Initial tests for chemical or biological agents were negative.

"It was definitely a criminal act, whether it was a hazardous substance or not," said Bob O'Brien, commanding officer of the Marine Safety Office in Memphis, Tenn.

According to the crew's report, O'Brien said, the low-flying plane passed directly over the 17 barges bow to stern. The crew two of whom were on deck said the plane released a light, white substance or mist, according to the report.

Officials earlier said the captain reported that the plane circled around to spray a pleasure craft. O'Brien said the captain reported that he "thought" another craft was sprayed.

Neither the pleasure craft nor the crop duster has been identified.

Area crop duster pilots were shocked and angry that one of their own allegedly sprayed people intentionally.

"We're here to help the farmer, we're not here to hurt people," said Karen Brunetti of Shelby Air Service in Shelby, Miss. "If they were playing around, it was just the wrong time for them to be doing it."

Officials were seeking witnesses who may have seen the plane. While it was unknown if the plane originated in Mississippi or Arkansas, Jennifer Gordon of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said her agency was told the investigation was a Mississippi matter.

The tow boat and its 11 crew members isolated since Friday afternoon were released from quarantine near Rosedale, Miss., around midnight Sunday.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cleared the crew after determining no health threat existed, the Coast Guard said.

State health officials said clothing samples tested came back negative, but authorities are still awaiting results from swabs from the boat.

Investigators with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture were checking records with some 40 crop dusters in counties along the Mississippi River north of Rosedale.

The FBI is also investigating, but spokeswoman Deborah Madden said her office could not comment on the case.

The agriculture department responsible for the chemicals involved in crop dusting has several ways to check a pilot's flights.

First, crop dusters must log every flight and every chemical used on a flight. Some airplanes even have a Global Positioning System memory card, which tracks and records flight paths.

Investigators are also checking with local farmers who may have seen the duster, said Chris Sparkman of the state agriculture department.

Otherwise, investigators may try to match up cockpit tachometer readings with doctored log books, a clue that would provide flight mileage but not exact locations.

Some crop dusters skeptical that the spraying was purposeful said the incident was all the worse because of recent terrorist threats and hoaxes.

"I talked to a couple of my friends who have flying services, and they're just bumfuzzled," said Jimmy Ervin, who owns a flying service. "They can't believe anyone would do that."


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), October 23, 2001.

Coast Guard Office Sprayed By Darren Dedo Natchez, Miss. (WJTV) Oct 23, 2001

Officials say a crop duster sprayed a white substance on the U.S. Coast Guard post just north of the Natchez-Adams County Port in the lower Mississippi River.

Lieutenant Dale Folsom of the Memphis office, told a local newspaper that three people were inside the facility and one was outdoors when the spraying occurred Monday. He says the people are all being treated as a precaution, but none exhibited any signs of harm.

Now the FBI, state and local officials are trying to find the plane and pilot.

The spraying incident is the second in three days to occur on the lower Mississippi. On Friday a crop-dusting plane sprayed a towboat and a pleasure boat with an unknown substance near Rosedale.

Initial tests conducted for chemical or biological agents have come up negative.

Natchez Regional Medical Center administrator, Jack Houghton, confirms that several patients were brought to the emergency room yesterday. He says one patient has been hospitalized as a precaution and the others have been discharged.

Samples of the powder dropped on the Coast Guard facility were taken to the Mississippi Department of Health laboratory in Jackson.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), October 23, 2001.

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