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Fire Victim Receives Care Package From Stranger


It was just a box when the mail carrier dropped it off Saturday morning, but it deeply touched Brian and Gina Reifschneider in a way they hadn't expected.

Packed inside were gently-used clothes and books for their 4-month-old daughter Alex. They had no idea where it came from until they saw the note.

"We opened it and it was, it was amazing," said Brian. "It was kind of hard to get through reading."

The note read:

Dear Alex,
My name is Lucy. I am 15 months old, and I live in NJ with my two moms (Mindy and Karin). We heard through a friend that you lost a lot in a fire. We hope that some of my things that I can't use anymore will help you out!

"You don't expect people to be quite so kind," said Brian.

On Tuesday, the Reifschneiders lost most of their belongings as well as their three cats when their Mansfield Hollow Road home caught on fire. Now staying at Gina's mom's house, they realize they've got family, friends and strangers watching over them.

NBC Connecticut located Mindy Richardson and connected the families.

"Saying 'thank you' is not enough, but that's what we can do," Brian said in a phone conversation with Mindy.

"That's more than enough," responded Mindy.

The two families are connected by a chain that includes a cousin and a mutual friend. They don't know each other, but Mindy knows someone close to her who lost everything in a house fire last Friday.

"I've been struck by how much people have reached out to support her, and I just thought that I had things and I could share them," said Mindy.

That one act packaged inside a box has now brought two families hundreds of miles apart closer than ever.

"I know that I sent a lot of pajamas, and it sounds silly, but those meant a lot to me, thinking of their little girl sleeping safe and sound and warm," said Mindy.

"There's nothing I can say that's ever going to thank them enough," said Brian.

Photo Credit: Brian Reifschneider

4 Safe After Boat Sinks


Four fishermen are safe after they were thrown overboard from their sinking boat off Key Biscayne and spent more than 10 hours in the water, according to Miami Fire Rescue.

The 22-foot vessel capsized Friday night at 7 p.m., officials with the U.S. Coast Guard said.

One man swam to shore after the boat capsized and reported that there were three others missing, MFR said.

Coast Guard officials launched a helicopter and small boat search crew to look for the other passengers. Two of the missing passengers were rescued by Good Samaritans. The third was found by fire rescue crews.

The boaters were all wearing life jackets, according to MFR.

"These four men are returning home to their loved ones today because they were smart, prepared and wore their life jackets," said Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma, Coast Guard Seventh District Public Affairs Officer, in a press release. "We cannot stress enough that emergencies on the water can happen at any moment and today's incident illustrates the need to have safety equipment on board and readily available."

Stay with NBC6.com for updates.

Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

Coach Stops Kidnap Attempt


Parents across San Diego County have been on high alert after a kidnap attempt at Robb Field Ocean Beach.

Police told NBC 7 the incident happened on Feb. 20 during a little league practice. Officers arrested Jarrod West, 28, at the park for approaching a 7-year-old boy and trying to grab him.

NBC 7 spoke exclusively with the boy’s coach, Scott Hedenkamp. Hedenkamp says they were in the middle of practice when he noticed the man watching one of his players and pacing back and forth.

Hedenkamp says the man watched the boy from behind home plate and, at one point, joined the group on the field.

“He had a one track mind, and he was going to take my player,” Hedenkamp said. “I wasn't going to let that happen.”

Hedenkamp told NBC 7 the suspect kept saying the same thing over and over: “‘That's my boy. That's my son. C'mon let's go. It's time to go home.’ My player said, ‘Coach, that's not my dad.’”

Hedenkamp said he put his body between the man and the boy, making it clear the 7-year-old wasn’t going anywhere.

Lt. Kevin Mayer with the San Diego Police Department confirmed Jarrod West was arrested for attempted kidnapping and resisting a police officer.

“[The coach] did exactly the right thing. This situation he’s the guardian of these children. He stepped up and took action,” said Mayer.

NBC 7 also spoke to Brian Burgess, the president of Peninsula Little League. Burgess sent alerts to more than a dozen other leagues across San Diego.

The news traveled quickly on social media among parents of little league players. There were reports of a possible second incident at a Point Loma park, but Lt. Mayer said those reports are unconfirmed.

Burgess said, when it comes to protecting children, “It takes a village. Everyone around here, no matter what league you're in or what school you play for, you need to watch the kids.”

The boy was not harmed and is now safe with family.

West was arraigned on Feb. 25 and pleaded not guilty to the charges. His next hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Students Injured in Stage Collapse


Around two dozen students were injured when a stage collapsed during a dance performance inside an Orange County high school theater, police said.

The incident at Servite High School at 1952 W. La Palma Ave. in Anaheim was reported just before 11 p.m., according to the Anaheim Police Department.

About 200 students, mostly girls, were performing to a Beyonce song when the stage collapsed. The students were taken to the gymnasium where they met their parents and emergency officials checked them for injuries. 

Officials said about 25 students suffered minor to moderate injuries and were taken to local hospitals. No one was trapped and everyone was accounted for, police said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the students and their families," according to a statement from the Rosary High School and Servite High School. 

Servite High School is an all-boys Roman Catholic college preparatory, but students from the all-girls preparatory Rosary High School use the theater for performances.

Photo Credit: @AnaheimPD via Twitter

Worker Says Manager Told Her to "Put a Bullet" in Her Head


Workers rallied at a Chicago McDonald’s Saturday afternoon after an employee claimed she was told to “put a bullet” in her head after asking to go home following a “diabetic episode.”

Fast food workers, members of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago and Aldermen Bob Fioretti, John Arena, Scott Waguespack, and Ricardo Muñoz gathered at the flagship Rock N' Roll McDonald’s around 2 p.m. sporting stickers that read “respect” and “no more verbal abuse."

They also displayed a poster to McDonald’s management that said “You should just put a bullet in your head.”

Carmen Navarrette, a McDonald’s employee for more than nine years at the River North restaurant, claims she was told to “put a bullet” in her head after she asked her manager to go home and recover following a “severe diabetic episode," according to a release from the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago.

Navarrette reportedly shared her experience with the Organizing Committee of Chicago Women Caucus during a meeting last weekend where other workers shared similar stories, prompting the Saturday rally.

"I'm here on International Women's Day to support my fellow workers, women, and stand with my union,” Adriana Sanchez, an employee of the Rock N' Roll McDonald’s, said in a statement. “We are the heart and soul of McDonald's and it's unacceptable for any worker to be yelled at and insulted."

Among the rally attendees were several city aldermen.

"I stand with the workers of McDonald's and call on the corporation to treat them with respect and dignity,” Ald. Muñoz of the 22nd ward, where Carmen Navarrette lives, said in a statement. “No one should be verbally abused or threatened at work."

McDonald’s has not responded to NBC Chicago’s requests for comment.

Bobcat Sighting in Waterford


The Waterford Police Department wants to warn residents to bring their pets inside after a bobcat has been sighted in town.

The bobcat was spotted in the area of Route 156 near Millstone.

Police Chief Murray Pendleton advised residents to make sure their pets and small animals are accounted for.



Photo Credit: Andy King

Crash Causes Backup on I-84 East in Newtown


A one-car crash is causing lane closures and traffic delays on Interstate 84 eastbound in Newtown, according to state police.

Police said no serious injuries were reported, but the fire department is on scene to clear fluids in the road. Traffic is getting by on the right shoulder only between exits 9 and 10 in Newtown.

It's not clear how long it will take to tow the car away and clear the scene.

Check back for updates. 

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Photo Credit: Tom Brant

Standoff Ends at FBI Headquarters


A nearly six-hour standoff at the San Diego FBI headquarters in Sorrento Valley has ended.

The suspect, who had refused to come down from the roof of an annex building, was taken into custody shortly after 5 p.m. on Sunday.

The man has been identified as William Durant, 36, of Lakeside.

According to FBI Special Agent Darrell Foxworth, Durant broke into the gated facility by climbing over a steel security fence, injuring himself in the process.

When the suspect couldn't get into the main building, Foxworth said he made his way to the top of the parking garage and then onto to the roof of a single-story annex building.

"When he did make entry into the building, one of our security officers tried to stop him. In the course of doing so, the man indicated he had a weapon," Foxworth said. "I'm told a weapon has not been seen, but he did tell the officer he was armed with a weapon."

Officials said Durant was in possession of a broken metal door handle.

Durant called NBC 7 from the rooftop during the ordeal. He voiced concerns for his safety and asked for help, but would not give his name at that time or details into why he was doing this.

During the standoff, Durant alternated between sitting on a ledge and roaming around the roof. Two loud flashbangs were heard before he was taken into custody.

The incident started just after 11:30 a.m. Sunday. FBI hostage negotiators, an FBI SWAT team, SDPD officers and fire-rescue crews responded to the incident.

Durant will face federal charges.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Authorities Respond to Crash in Danbury


Three people were injured when a pickup truck and sedan collided on Backus Avenue in Danbury on Sunday afternoon, fire officials said.

Firefighters said the crash happened in the area of 26 Backus Avenue.

According to fire officials, the driver of the sedan received cuts and scraped, the female passenger was extricated and a backseat passenger did not seem to be injured.

Two people in the truck received minor injuries and were out and walking when authorities arrived on scene.

Fire officials said the extricated passenger was taken to Danbury Hospital. The extent of her injuries is unknown.

Danbury police and fire officials responded to the scene.

The people involved have not been identified.

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Route 44 Reopens in New Hartford


Route 44 has reopened in New Hartford following a rollover crash, which state police said may be related to an ice slick on the road.

The Department of Transportation arrived to treat the road. State police said the road would remain closed in the area of Park Meadows and Michel Angelo's pizza at 256 Main Street until the ice melted.

Route 44 had reopened as of 9:15 p.m. but police said there were still slick spots and advised drivers to be careful.

No serious injuries were reported in the crash.

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Photo Credit: Rob

Phone Scam: Relatives Held Hostage


Police in Willimantic and other towns are warning residents of a phone scam in which the caller claims to be holding one of the victim’s relatives hostage or says a relative has been in a serious accident and needs money.

Willimantic police said they have been “inundated” with reports of the scam and have received at least a dozen complaints since the beginning of March, including three calls in three hours over the weekend.

Police said most of the calls have come from a number with a 717 area code and at least one has been traced back to Puerto Rico. The caller is described as being an adult man with a Spanish accent, although one victim told police it sounded like the phone had been passed around among a group of teenagers.

Willimantic police said they believe the caller or callers may be working with an accomplice in Connecticut, as some victims have said the caller appears to know where they live and what kind of cars they drive.

“If you receive a phone call from an unfamiliar number and the caller demands money from you, or tells you that someone you know is hurt or being held hostage, we have three words for you: It’s a hoax.” Said Willimantic Police Corporal Matthew Solak, in a statement. “Try to get as much information about the caller as you can, then hang up and contact with Willimantic Police immediately. Under no circumstances should you send money anywhere or provide any personal information to the caller.”

Guilford police have also reported a similar scam in which the caller says he’s holding the victim’s relative at gunpoint and demands money. The caller then threatens to shoot the relative if he doesn’t receive money and warns the victim not to contact police.

The Guilford Police Department has also tracked the scammers backed to Puerto Rico and said the suspects have phones with different local numbers for each state and dial randomly until someone answers.

It’s not clear if the scams in Guilford and Willimantic are connected, but Guilford police said similar incidents have been reported across the state. Phone company officials have said the scams are ongoing and the same group of people in Puerto Rico is responsible, according to Guilford police.

Anyone who receives one of these calls should refrain from disclosing personal information and call police right away.

Route 34 West Project Could Transform New Haven


As soon as next year, the Route 34 West Project in New Haven could transform the North Frontage Road and Legion Avenue area.

"Folks are really excited to see what is an underdeveloped piece of land developed and to contribute some economic vitality," said Yves Joseph, Centerplan Vice President of Development.

The plan for the 5.5 acres would include offices, retail shops, a parking garage, and the headquarters for Continuum of Care. The non-profit organization provides housing and services for those with disabilities.

Continuum of Care is expected to hire another 300 workers with the move, and at a community forum on Sunday officials said the finished $50-million project would provide an additional 250 full-time positions.

"We think this is an important project for the City of New Haven. We really want people to understand it, and if there are concerns we want to hear their concerns so we can make adjustments as we move forward," said New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.

Not everyone at the meeting agreed with the proposal.

"We feel we should just go back to the drawing board and look at it more critically," said Olivia Martson who lives in New Haven.

Martson says some neighborhoods were left out of the planning process, and a big sticking point is the parking garage. She says there are plenty of those already.

"It's a bad plan in terms of the environment. It doesn't improve mobility or public transportation," said Martson.

The mayor says they'll likely send their plans to the Board of Zoning for approval this week and could break ground as soon as this summer.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

6.9M Quake Off NorCal Coast


A magnitude-6.9 earthquake struck in the Pacific off the Northern California coast Sunday night  and rattled a widespread area, but there were no reports of injuries or significant damage, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The temblor was recorded at 10:18 p.m. about 50 miles west of the city of Eureka, the USGS said. The quake was followed by several aftershocks, including one that measured magnitude-4.6, that continued into Monday morning.

A tsunami was not expected for North America's West Coast, according to the National Tsunami Warning Center. The agency did not issue a tsunami watch, warning or advisory.

The Eureka Police Department and Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office said there were no reports of damage or injuries.

Eureka police said the initial shaking was felt for about 20 to 30 seconds.

"This lasted longer than any earthquake I've ever felt," Raquel Maytorena, 52, who lives about a mile from the coast in Ferndale near Eureka, told the Los Angeles Times. "It just kept going and going, very slowly and softly. It was not violent. It almost felt like you were in a boat that was rocking."

There was a 90 percent chance that a “strong and possibly damaging” magnitude 5.0 or larger aftershock would strike in the next seven days, according to the Northern California Earthquake Data Center.

Jana Pursley, a geophysicist with the National Earthquake Information Center, said that based on the area's tectonics and past temblors, damages or casualties were unlikely.

Earthquakes are very common in Eureka, a city of about 27,000 people about 270 miles northwest of San Francisco and 100 miles south of the Oregon state line. Nearby Arcata is home to about 17,000 people and Humboldt State University.

The area had a magnitude-5.6 earthquake in February, 2012 that did not cause serious damages or injuries.

An offshore magnitude-6.5 quake struck offshore in 2010 and caused bumps and cuts among residents and broke glass in some buildings, but it was about 25 miles closer to land than Sunday night's quake.

Photo Credit: Map by U.S. Geological Survey

Part of Route 169 North Closed in Canterbury


Route 169 North is closed by Old Plainfield Road in Canterbury after a car hit a utility pole.

The crash was reported just after 6 a.m.

No additional information is available.

Photo Credit: NBC

Executive Officer of USS Connecticut Relieved of Duties


The executive officer of the USS Connecticut was relieved of his duties in March due to a loss of confidence in his ability to serve as executive officer, according to a statement from the U.S. Navy.

Rear Adm. Phillip G. Sawyer removed Lt. Cmdr. Brett J. Sterneckert from his position on the Bremerton, Wash.-based fast attack submarine.

An NCIS investigation is ongoing.

Sterneckert, who had served aboard Connecticut since June 2012, has been administratively reassigned to Submarine Group 9 in Bangor, Wash.


Photo Credit: U.S. Navy

Rain or Mixed Precipitation Possible Later This Week


We are monitoring a possible messy weather situation developing for Wednesday, Wednesday night and very early Thursday.

Considering this system is just moving onshore near northern California, it is impossible to nail down it exact location 48 hours from now.

That said, at this time of year, the exact location and track of a storm is crucial to its ultimate impacts on our region.

Right now, it looks like the track will take it close to, or over, Long Island and move it out to sea near Cape Cod.

This track is considered a “hugger” to us and brings rain or mixed precipitation across Connecticut. 

It looks like chilly rain showers mixed with sleet and wet snow is likely on Wednesday after the morning commute.

This nasty mix will continue and pick up in intensity later on Wednesday evening and taper off early Thursday.

If we get any medium accumulation of snow, it would be in the hilly terrain near the Massachusetts border.  Most of us might get a bit of slush and snow that could turn very icy as colder air rushes in on Thursday morning.

Temperatures will ride the March roller coaster with highs today around 40 to 45 degrees, tomorrow 50 to 56, and only 34 to 40  on Wednesday.

Thursday looks very cold with highs in the 20s! After that, the weather quiets down and the weekend looks OK.

Metro-North Worker Killed by Train


A veteran Metro-North worker was struck and killed by a train in East Harlem early Monday, the latest in a series of accidents at the beleaguered commuter railroad.

The employee, 58-year-old James Romansoff, was working on the tracks near East 106th Street and Park Avenue when he was hit by a Poughkeepsie-bound Hudson Line train that left Grand Central Terminal at 12:47 a.m., a Metro-North spokesman said.

The Yonkers man had spent eight years with the railroad's power department, and was part of a crew restoring power to tracks that had been closed for weekend maintenance work when he was hit.

Service was suspended while emergency crews worked, and the three dozen passengers on the train that hit the worker were transferred to another train. Service was restored before the morning rush. 

"The entire Metro-North family mourns the loss of a colleague and a friend and we offer our deepest condolences to Jim Romansoff's family," Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti said in a statement. 

Metro-North authorities and MTA police are investigating, along with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Metro-North has been plagued with problems over the past year, including the death of a worker on the tracks in West Haven, Conn. last spring. In that case, the worker was hit by a train on a supposedly inactive section of track.

Also last spring, two trains collided during the evening rush in Connecticut, injuring more than 60 people.

And in December, a speeding train derailed in the Bronx, killing four people and injuring dozens more. The Federal Railroad Administration is expected to release its review of the December derailment in a week. 

Six months before that derailment, a freight train hauling trash derailed on the same curve.

And in September, a feeder cable in Mount Vernon, N.Y., failed, knocking out power for 12 days on the Metro-North’s New Haven line, which carries 132,000 customers daily.

No Injuries Reported in Hamden Rollover


The right lane of Route 15 was closed in Hamden this morning after a car rolled over during the morning commute on Monday.

No injuries are reported.

Traffic was backed up as emergency crews responded.

Photo Credit: Teri Goldspink Walsh

Crews Respond to Plainville House Fire


Firefighters responded to a house fire at 29 Carol Drive in Plainville this morning.

Officials believe it started in the basement and traveled to the attic.

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Food Shortage at Ukraine Zoo


Animals in Ukraine are also in crisis.

The director of Kharkiv Zoo in northeast Ukraine warned Friday that their animals could start dying as a result of a food shortage due to lack of funds triggered by the surrounding political unrest.

"Our animals are not fighting for power, they do not share anyone's political views, they just want to live," the zoo said in a statement on its website, according to the Agence France-Presse.

In the second-largest city in Ukraine, "our zoo is living through difficult and terrifying times," the statement said.   

A Facebook page, "Kharkiv Zoo Friends," created to raise awareness of the status of the animals has asked for food donations from the public. According to the page, as of Saturday, the food supply was reported to be stable thanks to public donations.

"We just got back from the zoo — literally the entire city had brought bags and bags of food to donate: cabbage, bread, carrots, beets, greens, you name it! The zoo staff was using tractors to haul the food around. We spoke to the zoo director and she said they'd also received some cash donations," the page posted.

The zoo is also working to accept electronic donations through PayPal.


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