The Beat: A look at what’s been making headlines this week

Lightning strikes

The tragic news of a woman who was recently struck by lightning on Max Patch Bald in Madison County is reverberating around the world.

In "Woman Killed by Lightning Minutes from Becoming Engaged," the Asheville Citizen-Times reports that Richard Butler, 30, took his girlfriend of a year, Bethany Lott, 25, to the popular hiking spot "under the guise of a summer afternoon hike."

"The real purpose was that I had a ring in my pocket, and I was going to ask her to marry me," Butler tells the C-T.
According to the paper, as Lott and Butler hiked toward the top of the bald, bad weather moved in, and there were three quick lightning strikes, killing Lott and inflicting Butler with second-degree burns.

As rescuers tried to bring Lott back to life, Butler crouched near her body. "I put the ring on her finger while the EMTs were working on her," he tells the C-T. "They are listing me as her fiancé in the obituaries."
Variations of the sad story have also been running in far-away publications such as The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph in the UK. According to the Telegraph, as Lott gazed out upon the mountain top view, her last words were "look how beautiful it is."

Not so merry pranksters

The other big story making headlines in Madison County this week is that a couple of "Prankster Seniors Can't Attend Madison High Graduation," reports the News-Record & Sentinel. According to the paper, Jacob Ballard and McClellan Clay Patterson were suspended from school for the remainder of the school year and told they would not be allowed to take part in graduation after they were caught trying to ride two motorcycles through the high school lobby.

The paper reports that Madison High School Principal Dr. Tony Tipton said that the punishment for senior pranks had been explained numerous times to students, dating back to the beginning of the school year. However, the punishment has angered many Madison residents who say it's too harsh.

"They are not bad kids," Lisa Mace, the mother of another senior who will graduate, tells the Sentinel. "One is the oldest child in his family, and they are denying the parents the right to watch their oldest child walk the line and get his diploma."

Busted

Over in Haywood County, the big story has been a recent "Meth Lab Bust Near to Canton School." The Mountaineer reports that "four suspects were taken into custody, charged with felony manufacturing methamphetamine."
The home where the lab was located was only 314 feet from North Canton Elementary. Luckily, the paper says that officers immediately conducted a safety sweep of the home and confirmed that all hazardous chemicals were contained.

"We determined that no evacuation of the school or surrounding neighborhood was necessary," Haywood County Sheriff Bobby Suttles tells The Mountaineer.

And in other drug related news, the C-T reports in "Task Force Seizes 36 Pounds of Pot in Cherokee," that investigators recently seized more than 36 pounds of marijuana and arrested a New Mexico man in Cherokee.

Sporty WNC: Golf and roller derby

In more upbeat news, BlueRidgeNow reports that Hendersonville's Champion Hills golf course was one of many courses across WNC and Upstate South Carolina to recently host the largest single-day charity golf tournament in the U.S.

According to "BI-LO Charity Classic Raises More Than $4.5 million," funds from the charity event go toward supporting organizations that focus on children's needs, education and hunger relief.

And in other sports news, Ashvegas reports that Asheville's own Blue Ridge Roller Girls beat the Carolina Bootleggers 136 to 83 at their June 5 roller derby bout. According to "BRRG Dominates with Incredible Display of Teamwork," the hometown girls played to 2,200 enthusiastic fans at the Civic Center.

Their next bout will be July 31 when they host the Texas Hellmarys, which the blog says could put up a more formidable challenge.

URTV signing off?

Another local institution facing a formidable challenge this summer is the WNC Community Media Center, which plans to shut down unless additional funding is received. The center holds public-access channel URTV as well as newly-forming public-access internet radio station urRadio.

In last week's June 9 print story "Broke," Xpress reports that URTV producers plan to lobby Buncombe County Commissioners for additional funding to help the station survive. Xpress will have more on that front as it develops.

Bear beat bangs on

And in other news, bears continue to wreak havoc around Asheville.

In the wake of a recent bear bite in the Smokies and a downtown bear visit, the C-T reports that "Bear Kills Dog Near Bell Elementary in East Asheville."

In response to the dog-killing, Bell Elementary Principle Carleene Finger says that school officials put an unfenced playground behind the building off-limits to students for the remainder of the year.

According to the article, officials estimate there are 6,000 bears in WNC, up from about 4,000 in 2005.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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