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AK Beat: Coast Guard officer injured during November rescue dies

Alaska Dispatch

Coast Guard officer injured in rescue dies: The U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday that Petty Officer Third Class Travis Obendorf died in a Seattle hospital after succumbing to injuries he received during the rescue of 22 mariners from the fishing vessel Alaska Mist in the Bering Sea on Nov. 11. The Coast Guard credits Obendorf with directly saving at least five crew members of the stranded 166-foot vessel, which had suffered a mechanical failure. After being injured during the rescue operation, Obendorf was immediately taken to Cold Bay, and then Anchorage. He was transferred to Seattle Dec. 6. The Coast Guard said they are continuing to investigate the incident.

Stolen vehicle leads to foot chase, frostbite: A Wasilla man landed in a Fairbanks hospital after attempting to flee into the Alaska Range to escape arrest, according to Alaska State Trooper reports. Troopers said the incident began Tuesday afternoon with the report of a vehicle in a ditch near Mile 201 of the Parks Highway near Broad Pass, one of two passes through which the highway traverses the Alaska Range. When troopers responded, they discovered that the vehicle had been stolen from Anchorage. Meanwhile, the driver, 20-year-old Samuel A. Wade of Wasilla, had caught a ride with a passing driver. When police pulled over the driver who’d picked him up near Cantwell, Wade fled on foot. Troopers tracked him for more than an hour through two miles of forest before locating and apprehending him. Temperatures at the time were 20 degrees below zero, troopers reported. By then, Wade was suffering from hypothermia and frostbite. He was treated first by emergency medical services in Cantwell and then at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, after which he was arrested and charged with second-degree escape, first-degree vehicle theft, first-degree criminal trespass, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. He was taken to Fairbanks Correctional Facility and held without bail.

A way to capture flare gas? Natural gas burned off as flares at 1,500 oil wells that dot North Dakota’s Bakken oil field could heat a million homes — and they release as much carbon as three coal-fired power plants. But capturing waste gas has never proven feasible. That may be about to change. The New York Times reports that a partnership between Norway’s Statoil and General Electric is working on projects to capture that gas and use it, rather than burning it as waste. One possibility is using it as a fuel for onsite equipment. A prototype is being tested in North Dakota by the two companies now. Alaska’s oil wells flare gas, too, though not as much as North Dakota’s. Still, if the fuel technology becomes practical, it might prove especially useful in logistically challenging places -- such as the North Slope.

Conservative judicial group blasts Begich: Ready or not, politicking around the 2014 elections has begun, and Alaskans can look forward to seeing one of the first attack ads of the season on air beginning today, according to the Washington, D.C.-based news and politics site Politico. The 30-second advertisement, produced by conservative group Judicial Crisis Network, focuses on Sen. Mark Begich’s votes to confirm Obama-nominated federal judges and links those to hot-button issues such as Obamacare and Second Amendment concerns. The group plans to spend more than $100,000 running the ad. Begich isn’t the first to be targeted by the campaign, Politico notes. Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas -- both, like Begich, Democratic senators in conservative-leaning states -- have already been the target of similar campaigns.