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Tennessee House OKs tightened amusement park safety rules
AP Friday May 5, 2017

Tennessee could soon tighten amusement park safety regulations after people were injured on rides in two incidents last year.

The Tennessee House passed a bill Thursday with heightened safety requirements. The Senate approved it Wednesday, so it heads to Gov. Bill Haslam.

In September, eight people were hospitalized after a ride shut down at the Delta Fair in Memphis.

At the Greene County Fair in August, three girls fell 30 to 45 feet and were injured when a Ferris wheel basket overturned.

The legislation would increase inspections and let state regulators hire inspectors or keep using third-party groups.

It would require operators to be at least 16 years old, running one ride at a time and present while it runs.

It would let injured people sue ride owners and operators.


Tennessee tourism officials: Visitors up 4.4 percent in 2016
AP Friday May 5, 2017

Tennessee tourism officials say 110 million people visited the state last year, a 4.4 percent jump from 2015.

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development says the research from DK Shifflet shows Tennessee is a top-10 state for domestic travel for the third consecutive year.

About 80 percent, or 88.4 million, of those Tennessee visitors were leisure travelers, a 5.1 percent boost compared to 2015.

State tourism officials attribute the increase in leisure travelers to a jump in overnight stays, which grew by 5.2 percent.

Starting Sunday, the department is celebrating a national tourism week with fairs and free windshield washing at the state?s 14 welcome centers.


UPDATE: 60 to 80-acre fire in Gatlinburg area 100% contained
WVLT/Peg Broadcasting News Thursday May 4, 2017

Firefighters said a 60 to 80-acre fire in the Gatlinburg area was 100 percent contained as of 7 p.m. Thursday.

The fire is burning east of Pittman Center, near the Sevier/Cocke County line.

One utility worker received minor injuries as a result of the fire, but he refused EMS transport for those injuries. There are no reports of damage to structures.

Crews will continue to address hot spots throughout the night. No evacuation was put into place.


UPDATE: Gatlinburg Area Wildfire Grows from 38 Acres to 60 to 80 Acres
WVLT/ Peg Broadcasting News Thursday May 4, 2017

The Wildland Task Force has been activated to fight a 60-80-acre fire in the Gatlinburg area, according to the Seymour Volunteer Fire Department.

As of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, the only active fire in Sevier County was east of Pittman Center, near Branam Hollow Road.

There are no reports of injuries or damage to structures due to the fire, a representative from Sevier County said. Crews are continuing to fight the fire. There was not an evacuation called into place as of 4 p.m.

Tennessee Department of Forestry's Nathan Waters is traveling to the scene now. He said the fire was originally reported as a 38-acre fire in the Cobbly Nob area. TEMA advised people to monitor local updates and reported high wind warnings with 80 mph gusts.

Two engines and one battalion from Rural/Metro were dispatched to stage in Sevierville due to the fire.

A shelter opened at the Pigeon Forge Community Center. Six people are currently seeking help there. The shelter is located at 170 Community Center Drive in Pigeon Forge and can be reached at 865-429-7373.

The Sevier County Electric System reported that approximately 11,000 customers lost power. One person at LeConte Medical Center was treated for injuries sustained from a tree falling on a house.

Sevier County officials advised people to stay off of the roads.

Dollywood is closing at 2 p.m. Thursday as precautions due to the high winds and pending weather. Theme park representatives said they plan to reopen Friday.

U.S. Highway 441/Newfound Gap Road from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina, is temporarily closed due to high winds.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park closed several park facilities and roads due to significant winds and downed trees in the area. Winds in the park were recorded as high as 98 miles per hour with sustained gusts of 50 miles per hour. Sugarlands Visitor Center, Oconaluftee Visitor Center and the Cades Cove area have been closed as of Thursday afternoon.

Ironically, today (Thursday) was the final day for check distributions from Dolly Parton's My People Fund to assist those who suffered losses from last November's wildfires in Gatlinburg.


New Law Increases Penalties For Targeting Police
AP Thursday May 4, 2017

Governor Bill Haslam has signed a bill into law that will force people to face stiffer penalties for committing a violent offense against a police officer.

The measure, which passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, was set to apply to any uniformed law enforcement officer, as well as those in the military or national guard, targeted simply because of their status as members of a police or armed service agency.

The law has created a new sentence enhancement for the targeting of officers.

The main sponsors of the legislation were Representative John DeBerry, a Democrat from Memphis, and Senator Paul Bailey, a Republican from Sparta.


Ben Lommand
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