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Names of Hot Air Balloon Crash Victims Emerge


Two of the 16 or more people killed in Saturday's hot air balloon crash near Austin, Texas — one of the deadliest in U.S. history — were identified by their brother Sunday, and remembered as "incredible human beings."

Matt and Sunday Rowan, both 34, were married within the last year, according to Matt's older brother, Joshua Rowan. Officials have not yet released the names of the deceased, but Joshua Rowan told NBC News about his brother and sister-in-law on Sunday, hoping to share with the world what good people they are.

"They’re going to be incredibly missed. They made a difference in so many people’s lives," he said.

Matt Rowan was a professor who had just started working at an army hospital burns trial unit. He believed his work would help soldiers who have been burned, according to his brother, himself an Iraq veteran.

Rowan was also a stepfather, and he and Sunday had bought a house together in San Antonio, Joshua said. "They were trying to a grow their family. It makes the timing of it even more horrific."

Federal and local investigators are just beginning to look into what caused the balloon to catch fire early Saturday morning, over a field in Lockhart, which is south of Austin in central Texas.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday at least 16 people died, but added that investigators are still trying to determine the exact number of passengers. A small team of NTSB investigators was already at the site Sunday morning, an official said, with more on the way.

"The identification of the victims will be a long process according to the NTSB and the medical professionals," according to a news release from the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office. The FAA and FBI are also investigating the crash.

It wasn't known if the operator of the hot air balloon — whom authorities haven't identified, or the pilot — filed a passenger manifest before taking off, an NTSB official said Sunday.

NBC News confirmed the balloon was operated by Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides through the company's Facebook page. The owner of the account verified that it was the company's balloon that went down.

Skip Nichols identifies himself on his Facebook page as the chief pilot of Heart of Texas and pictures posted by him are on the business' Facebook page. His roommate told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth that Nichols was the pilot of the balloon, but authorities had not confirmed that information.

Photo Credit: Family photo

10 Displaced After Torrington House Fire


Two families are displaced after a fire in Torrington early Sunday morning.

Fire officials said they responded to a multi-family home on Brookside Avenue around 1:40 a.m. When they arrived because of the extent of the fire they struck a second alarm.

It took about an hour to get the blaze under control, according to fire officials. There is extensive damage to the inside and outside of the home.

One resident was taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. No other injuries were reported.

The Red Cross confirmed they are assisting two families – seven adults and three children – with temporary housing.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Trump on Defense Over Reputed Ties to Putin


Donald Trump was still defending the idea that he has “no relationship” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite a 2013 interview where Trump said he did, NBC News reported. 

"I do have a relationship and I can tell you that he's very interested in what we're doing here today," Trump said at the time, in an interview with MSNBC's Thomas Roberts, then in Moscow.

During an interview on ABC Sunday, Trump said he feels Putin “treats me with great respect” but that the two do not know each other. He asked “what do you call a relationship?” and said he doesn’t know what it “means by having a relationship.”

"I haven't spent time with him. I didn't have dinner with him. I didn't — go hiking with him. I don't know-- I-- I wouldn't know him from Adam except I see his picture, and I would know what he looks like," Trump stated unequivocally.

Photo Credit: AP

Lane Shift on I-84 in Plainville Starts Monday


A construction project is expected to cause delays on Interstate 84 east near the Route 72 interchange in Plainville starting Monday.

The Department of Transportation said the traffic pattern on I-84 east will be “flipped” in a process starting Monday, August 1. The two lanes of traffic currently being shifted to the right will instead be shifted to the left. Drivers should expect delays and closures in the area while the work takes place. There will be overnight lane closures and detours throughout the area.

The construction is part of larger project to rehab five bridges in the area which carry I-84 traffic over Route 72 and Route 372 and connect the roadways. The project started in April.

The work includes patching the deck and repairing the steel superstructure. The total cost is 15-million dollars, according to the DOT. The work is expected to wrap up in late 2017.

For more details on this project consult the DOT website.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Water Rescue Underway at Sherwood Island


Crews are responding for a water rescue at Sherwood Island State Park, according to Westport police.

Police said a swimmer was reported missing Sunday afternoon.

More information was not immediately available. NBC Connecticut has a crew on the way and will provide updates as they come into the newsroom.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Ryan Says Muslims in Military Should be Honored


House Speaker Paul Ryan says Muslim Americans who serve in the U.S. military should be honored — "period" — and that he would reject any proposal that would require a religious test for entry into the U.S.

The House speaker made the comments in a written statement issued Sunday. He also praised a U.S. Army captain, Humayun Khan, who was killed in a suicide bombing in Iraq in 2004. 

"America's greatness is built on the principles of liberty and preserved by the men and women who wear the uniform to defend it," he said in the statement. "Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice—and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan—should always be honored. Period."

"As I have  said on numerous occasions, a religious test for entering our country is not reflective of these fundamental values. I reject it."

Ryan addressed the 

The captain's parents have come under criticism from GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump for speaking out against his candidacy during the Democratic National Convention.

The bereaved father, Khizr Khan, has called on Ryan to withdraw his support for Trump after the candidate's remarks about the family. 

In his statement, Ryan doesn't mention Trump but says Capt. Khan's sacrifice and that of his parents should always be honored.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called on both Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to revoke their endorsement of the real estate mogul. 

“Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan approvingly spoke at Donald Trump’s convention, endorsed Donald Trump for president and believe he is mentally fit to sit in the Oval Office," Reid said in a statement. "Occasional statements that do nothing to repudiate Donald Trump’s words and actions are spineless. Anything short of revoking their endorsements is cowardice."

Photo Credit: AP
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Sanders Urging Supporters to Back Clinton


Sen. Bernie Sanders urged his supporters to back Hillary Clinton, saying his key issues stand a better chance under President Clinton rather than a President Donald Trump, NBC News reported. 

"I would tell all of my supporters, and we got over 13 million votes, to take a hard look at the issues impacting the American people," Sanders said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "Which candidate, for example, wants to overturn this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which allows billionaires to buy elections and is undermining American democracy? That is Hillary Clinton's position."

Sanders said he takes issue with Trump’s economic plans and contended that the Republican nominee was running a campaign “based on bigotry.” 

The former Democratic nominee said he would ask supporters to “get away from the personality conflicts that media tries to bring forward.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Man Impersonated Officer, Threatened to Make Arrest: Police


Willimantic police have arrested a man they say pretended to be a police officer and threatened to arrest a city resident.

Danny Vazquez, 27, of Hope Street in Willimantic, was charged with impersonating a police officer and second-degree breach of peace.

Police said Vazquez showed up at a home dressed in a suit and told the resident he was a police officer investigating a complaint that the resident was selling drugs. He flashed a pair of handcuffs during that incident.

Vazquez also allegedly stopped two people in a parking lot and identified himself as an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agent.

“The Willimantic Police Department takes this type of complaint very seriously. The public’s trust in today’s climate is paramount to our building a strong bond and positive relationship with the community. Anyone who misrepresents themselves as a member of law enforcement needs to be arrested. This type of behavior will not be tolerated,” Corporal Stanley Parizo, Jr. of the Willimantic police department said in a release.

Vazquez was arrested and released on a $5,000 bond. He was scheduled a court date of August 9.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Fallen Soldier's Dad: Trump Lacks 'Moral Compass'


When Khizr Khan spoke at the Democratic National Convention Thursday night, few could have predicted his emotional rebuke of Donald Trump would still be driving headlines days later — including the father of the fallen Muslim U.S. Army Captain himself, NBC News reports.

But that's exactly what has happened, and Khan told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday his words surprised him. "I spoke from the heart."

Over the weekend, Donald Trump questioned why Mr. Khan's wife, Ghazala Khan, did not speak alongside her husband at the convention, then later, amid bipartisan backlash, issued a clarification through his campaign saying he believes Captain Humayun Khan, is "a hero to our country."

Khan appreciated the clarification, but continued to express his concerns about the Republican nominee Sunday: "We have a candidate without a moral compass, without empathy for its citizens."

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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Danbury Man Accused of Assaulting Danbury Police Officer


Danbury police have arrested a man accused of “viciously assaulting” a Danbury police officer.

 Pierre Elhayek, 20, of Danbury, is charged with assault on a police officer, interfering with a police officer, breach of peace and criminal mischief after police said he attacked an officer Saturday night.

According to a Danbury police press release, Officer Joe Pooler was in his marked patrol cruiser parked at Jimmy’s Market at 38 Germantown Road around 11 p.m. when he spotted a man, later identified as Elhayek, pacing up and down the road. Elhayek approached Pooler’s vehicle and began banging on it, according to police.

Pooler got out of the cruiser thinking Elhayek needed his help. According to police, Elhayek then struck Pooler in the side of the head and ear. Police said Elhayek repeatedly punched and kicked Pooler. During the struggle Pooler lost his Taser and could not reach his radio, police said.

The officer eventually was able to get back to the safety of his cruiser and radioed for help, police said. Several officers arrived and Elhayek was arrested after a struggle.

Pooler was treated and released from Danbury Hospital.

Elhayek is currently being held on a $250,000 bond.

Photo Credit: Danbury Police Department

Victims Jump From Windows To Escape Hartford Fire


People jumped from second floor windows to escape a fire in an apartment building in Hartford Sunday morning.

Firefighters were called to 31 Gillett Street around 7:30 a.m. after heavy smoke filled the building, according to Fire Chief Michael Dempsey.

Blankets and sheets hung from the broken windows where people tried to escape the fire.

“We opened the door. All the smoke was really really dark in the hallway,” resident Juan Valez described.

“I was asleep. My daughter woke me up. Then I heard the alarm, then she told me the building was on fire and then we ran out,” added another resident, Betty Kennedy who lives on the fourth floor.

Authorities believe the fire started in a 2nd floor apartment in the back of the building when a man fell asleep while cooking French fries on the stove.

“It’s scary. You never know, especially when you live in a building like this,” said Valez.

The fire sent smoke through all four floors, according to the Fire Department’s Public Information Officer, Captain Raul Ortiz.

“There were people in the back screaming banging on the windows telling people to get out, so we just woke up and ran downstairs,” recalled Zatanya Irving, who lives on the third floor.

Irving told us the smoke alarms go off so regularly in this building, most people ignore them. By the time some residents realized the fire was real, it was too late.

“We did know we had something serious happening once we saw people hanging out the windows,” said Ortiz.

Valez’s girlfriend was one of three people taken to the hospital.

“She’s not feeling well. Her chest is kind of tight. They gave her some blood tests to see how much smoke she inhaled,” he said.

Authorities said a dog also died in the fire.

After 90 minutes, residents were allowed back into all but three of the building’s 64 units. Fire officials said the unit where the fire started was destroyed and two more were uninhabitable.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

$20 Million Federal Grant to Help Downtown Crossing Project


New Haven has obtained a $20 million federal grant for New Haven’s Downtown Crossing and it will be used to transform the old Route 34 highway into a walkable area with mixed-use development. 

The grant will be used to reconnect New Haven’s downtown, medical district, Hill neighborhood and Union Station transit hub and open up 10 acres for new development. 

It will also help make way for around $400 million in private investment at the former Coliseum site, including 1 million square feet of mixed use and mixed-income development, according to a news release from local Congress members. 

The city previous obtained a $16 million TIGER award that helped with the first phase of Downtown Crossing, the development of 100 College Street. 

“Ongoing efforts to bridge an unnatural, untenable gap in New Haven – the Route 34 Connector – will be advanced mightily by this federal TIGER grant. On behalf of everyone in New Haven, I thank the federal delegation for bringing these substantial resources to bear. Downtown Crossing will reunify the Hill neighborhood, the flourishing medical complex, and Union Station with downtown New Haven and Yale’s main campus, which will knit New Haven back together and help build a greater sense of community,” Mayor Toni Harp said in a statement. 

Senator Richard Blumenthal called the federal funds “a game-changer” for New Haven. 

“For too long, New Haven has endured a misguided, man-made highway to nowhere that has isolated neighborhoods and stifled development. With this grant-- the second TIGER grant for Downtown Crossing-- New Haven can continue to show what is possible when a city takes bold steps to transform its economic future,” Blumenthal said in a statement. 

Senator Chris Murphy said completion of the Downtown Crossing project will transform New Haven and take a practically inaccessible highway entrance and make it an easy-to-access, pedestrian and bike-friendly hub. 

“Families and students want a walkable city, and there’s no doubt that this $20 million grant will bring us leaps and bounds closer towards making that a reality,” Murphy said in a statement. 

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said the improvements will enable New Haven to reconnect downtown with the outlying neighborhoods and the train station. 

“With this funding, New Haven can more fully implement its economic development strategy and ensure that the local business community can flourish‎," DeLauro said in a statement.

Families of War Dead Demand Trump Apology


Families of 11 U.S. service members who died fighting for their country signed a letter demanding an apology from Donald Trump for trivializing the sacrifices their loved ones made, NBC News reported.

Trump questioned why Ghazala Khan stood by quietly at the DNC as her husband Khizr Khan talked about their son Humayun, who died in Iraq.

The letter called Trump's comments "repugnant, and personally offensive." "When you question a mother's pain, by implying that her religion, not her grief, kept her from addressing an arena of people, you are attacking us," the Gold Star letter added. "When you say your job building buildings is akin to our sacrifice, you are attacking our sacrifice." 

Families that have lost members are known as Gold Star families. The letter was organized by Gold Star Mother Karen Meredith from VoteVets.org, an advocacy group that calls itself non-partisan but which has been described in the past as allied to Congressional Democrats. The Center for Responsive Politics says VoteVets.org is fueled "largely by social welfare organizations aligned with Democrats and millions of dollars given by unions."

The 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars also joined in the criticism

"There are certain sacrosanct subjects that no amount of wordsmithing can repair once crossed," VFW leader Brian Duffy said.

Photo Credit: AP

Man Suspected of Attempted Sex Trafficking Due in Court


A New Haven man police said is suspected of attempted sex trafficking is due in court today.

State police said Raymond W. Harlow, 54, of New Haven, was promoting prostitution of pre-teen sex trafficking victims. 

The Connecticut State Police Computer Crimes Unit started the investigation and undercover detectives set up a meeting for Friday, July 22 with Harlow, who police said made an arraignment to engage in forcible sexual contact.

When Harlow showed up for the meeting, he had narcotics and police took him into custody.

He was arrested on July 22 and charged with first-degree criminal attempt to commit sexual assault, first-degree promoting prostitution, conspiracy to commit trafficking in persons and attempt to commit risk of injury to a minor. It's not clear if he has an attorney.

Police said they have obtained several search warrants and other charges are possible. 

The Department of Children and Family Services will also be involved in the investigation.

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

Crash Closed Route 5 in Hamden


Part of State Street, or Route 5, in Hamden was closed after a crash that took down power lines on Monday morning.

Police said the crash was in the area of 1631 State St. and the road was closed between Park Road and Albert Street.

FBI Gives Civilians Shooting Training


Whenever there's a questionable police shooting, it's common for civilians to make judgments on whether or not they think it was justified. The FBI Cleveland division gave a group of civilians the opportunity to go through shooting scenario training to show how difficult split-second decisions can be, and how the perceived threat can be very different depending on gender and life experience.

WATCH: Dramatic Human-Chain Rescue During Md. Flooding


An owner of an Ellicott City, Maryland, business posted Facebook video of a dramatic rescue Saturday night as flood waters rushed through the city during a heavy rain.

Sara Arditti, who owns Still Life Gallery Fine Art & Custom Framing, was watching water rush by her business with her husband, David Dester, and a few other people taking refuge from the rain. The group watched cars get pushed down the street by the rushing water.

Arditti said they noticed one of the cars going by was occupied and stopped briefly in front of her shop. Jason Barnes, owner of All Time Toys, had the idea to make a human chain to try to rescue the woman.

The video shows the efforts of the group to reach the car. At one point, Barnes falls down because of the speed of the water but recovers and helps with the chain.

The woman was rescued from the car and taken to safety.

Two people were killed in flooding in Ellicott City and 120 people were rescued, authorities said. 

Arditti said her gallery’s basement contents of custom framing were destroyed. She said most of the businesses on Main Street are closed due to the damage.

The frame shop owner said many of the building in downtown Ellicott City are very old, and the flooding caused massive infrastructure damage. She said her building was built in 1890.

Photo Credit: Sara Arditti

Officer Donates His Own Bike After Teen’s Is Stolen


When a 15-year-old boy’s bike was stolen, an East Windsor Police officer donated his own bike so the boy would have a way to get around.

East Windsor police shared the story on their Facebook page after the teen’s mom reached out to thank Officer Zachary Sherman.

The teen has been working over the summer to save money to buy a car when he gets his license. A couple of weeks ago, he and some friends went to a gas station on Route 5 and someone stole the bike from the front of the store.

“Officer Sherman was great to work with because he understood how upset we were to know that someone so uncaring of others could take a bike from a 15 year old kid," the thank you letter says. 

Photo Credit: East Windsor Police
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High-Speed Chase Spans 3 Southern California Counties


A pursuit that began in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley Monday morning continued for nearly three hours before the driver was arrested in a San Diego County neighborhood.

The chase ended shortly after the woman crashed her Saturn sedan into at least one parked vehicle and drove across the front lawn of a home in Fallbrook, more than 120 miles south of where the chase started in the Woodland Hills area. She got out of the vehicle and surrendered after CHP officers used their SUVs to set up a road block on the street. 

The pursuit began around 4 a.m. when officers saw a driver in a Saturn sedan weaving across lanes on the 101 Freeway in the San Fernando Valley. The driver continued onto the 105 and 710 freeways before driving onto streets in Long Beach.

The driver then entered Orange County on the 5 and 73 freeways and continued on freeways into northern San Diego County.

The pursuit in Fallbrook entered several cul-de-sacs, where the driver made U-turns to avoid officers. The driver continued across the front yard of a home after a failed PIT maneuver left the car's rear bumper dangling from the vehicle.

A resident at the home said she thought the noise outside was a sanitation truck, but was surprised to learn a high-speed pursuit had come to her neighborhood. The Saturn left a chunk of turf on the driveway and tire marks through the grass.

The driver came to a stop when she encountered at least three CHP vehicles blocking the street. 

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV

New Haven Man Charged in Hamden Car Break-Ins


Hamden police have arrested a New Haven man who is accused of breaking into vehicles and officers are still investigating. 

Police responded to Grandview Avenue around 3 a.m. to investigate a report of two men breaking into vehicles and determined that two vehicle were broken into. 

After establishing a perimeter, Officer William May and his K-9 partner Blaze followed a track to a wooded area of the street and saw Terrance Colvin, 25, of New Haven come out of the woods, police said. 

Officers arrested him and charged him with two counts of third-degree burglary, two counts of sixth-degree criminal attempt to commit larceny and interfering with a police officer. 

Colvin was held on a $5,000 bond and he is scheduled to appear in court in Meriden on Aug. 15. 

Police said they are continuing to investigate. 

Photo Credit: Hamden Police
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