HEYBURN — A truck hauling a semitrailer crashed through the railing of the overpass at exit 211 near Heyburn about 6:30 a.m. April 2, landing on a car on Idaho 24 below.
Police say the semi driver died at the scene but have not released a name pending notification of next of kin.
The semi landed on the state highway, hitting a 1997 GMC pickup driven by Gregory Grove, 63, of Albion.
Police said Grove was not taken to a hospital.
Gray smoke billowed into the sky as firefighters doused water on the crash. The crash took out a chunk of the westbound railing of the Interstate-84 overpass at Exit 211.
Rupert resident Will Murphy was on his way to work in Twin Falls when he saw the semi on fire after falling to the highway below.
“It was almost unbelievable,” Murphy said. “All day long I’ve been asking myself if I really saw that.”
Murphy was on the highway south of Rupert at the I-84 Exit 211 westbound on-ramp when the crash occurred. Murphey said he was listening to an audiobook and did not hear the crash.
“I saw this ball of flame on the right side of the road,” Murphy said. “I thought I better pull over to help, and by the time I went from the left to the right-hand lane, the fire ripped across the highway.”
Idaho State Police Lieutenant Robert Rausch said it was unclear whether any other vehicles were involved in the crash.
All four lanes of traffic on the highway were blocked shortly after the crash. The westbound lanes on I-84 are reduced to one lane.
Police did not know whether either driver wore a seat belt.
This crash is under investigation by the Idaho State Police.
FILER — Santa Claus brought Doug Christensen his first Lionel train when he was 6 years old. He continued to receive model trains for the next three Christmases.
“I never got over it,” said Christensen, now 76. “I’ve never seen a train I didn’t like.”
He’s been collecting and building train sets for the past 70 years, and today presides over the Magic Valley Model Railroaders club at the Twin Falls County Fairgrounds. Every year, fairgoers come and appreciate Christensen’s intricate, handcrafted buildings and scenery.
The Model Railroaders are the only year-round tenant at the fairgrounds, but earlier this year, their 1930s building was torn down to make room for a new home.
“The foundation and floor was shot,” Fair Manager John Pitz said. “The roof was shot.”
The new building is on track to be completed by June 1, and while this year’s fair will have some trains and tracks set up, the group expects to take a couple of years to rebuild much of its setup from scratch.
“It won’t be anything like it used to be,” said Clarence “C.L.” Reese. “We just don’t have that kind of time.”
The fairgrounds will pay $50,000 for the construction of the new building, but the club needs to raise $15,000 to pay for the new heating, wiring, lighting and other capital expenses for the train setup.
The model railroads are an added attraction each year for the Twin Falls County Fair. But when the group wanted to redo some if its wiring to make the building safer, they realized the costs were going to be a lot higher than expected — especially with the rotted floor and leaking roof.
“We just didn’t want to spend good money after bad,” Christensen said.
But moving out, although necessary, came at a cost. Much of the scenery and landscaping was built into place and wasn’t designed to be moved. A canyon and mountainous scenery were made from newspaper, foam insulation and chicken wire. Much of it was destroyed during the move to another nearby building.
“We couldn’t rescue ‘em,” Christensen said. “They just disintegrated.”
The club members will use what they were able to salvage, but the rest will have to be rebuilt. Christensen hopes to incorporate local towns and farms into the new layouts.
The new building will be slightly larger and will have a covered outdoor area for the larger model trains. Inside, the club will no longer have to use propane heaters.
“We’ll be able to put in electric heat here,” Reese said. “We’ll have heat, and it won’t be dangerous.”
The Magic Valley Model Railroaders is a group with about 20 members — most of them retired and “old folks,” Christensen said. Anyone is welcome to join, and they say they’re looking for younger people to help with some of the physical labor. The Magic Valley Model Railroaders meets at the fairgrounds every Saturday from noon to 2 p.m.
While the club members describe themselves as “crazy, but cohesive,” they share a common love for trains. Gene Conley was a fourth-generation railroader (of life-sized trains) and has been in the model railroaders club since 1979.
“We try to appeal to the community as much as possible, and the community is why we’re here,” Conley said.
The Magic Valley Model Railroaders each year brings in childrens groups to come tour its facility and learn about model trains. And oftentimes, the fathers who come to see the trains with their children at fairtime end up staying longer than anyone.
“I think it’s the kids inside us that keeps us going,” Conley said.
Anyone interested in donating to help the club with setup expenses can call Christensen at 208-420-0945. Donors of $500 or more have their names on a plaque, and donors of $1,000 or more will have a scale model of their building or service vehicle placed on a layout of their choice.
The club offers even more bonuses for larger donations, and a major corporate sponsor ($2,000 per year over five years) will have the building named after that company.
“Everybody likes trains,” Christensen said. “Everybody.”
TWIN FALLS — Twin Falls could become less restrictive on backyard hens and more restrictive on roosters.
On Monday, the City Council directed staff to prepare an ordinance that would change city code to allow residents to have four hens on their property without a permit. Roosters, meanwhile, would be banned altogether. The ordinance will come up for Council approval at a later date.
The consensus came after one Twin Falls mother, Lindsay Jacobsen, addressed the Council, proposing that hens be regulated similarly to dogs and cats. While Twin Falls code allows residents to have four dogs and four cats without a permit, to own even one hen requires residents to notify all neighbors within 300 feet of their property, and to get written approval from 75 percent of those neighbors.
Hens, Jacobsen said, generally can’t be heard from more than 25 feet away.
“Some hens produce louder squawking when an egg is laid, but this is short-lived and quieter than a barking dog,” she said. “It is also quieter than lawn mowers, leaf blowers, passing trucks, pneumatic roofing nailers, children playing, etc.”
“Chickens go to bed with the sun, do not prowl the neighborhood or hold cat fights outside anyone’s bedroom window.”
Chickens also help reduce landfill waste as natural recyclers, Jacobsen said, and their manure is good for gardens.
Other residents flocked to Council Chambers to support Jacobsen, but were not given an opportunity to comment. However, when the Council spoke in support of a code change, the room broke out into applause.
“Lindsay did a wonderful job of representing the chicken species,” Councilman Chris Talkington said. “I’m so convinced of the need for a change, I think we might consider making it mandatory for everyone to have four chickens.”
Twin Falls Code Enforcement Coordinator Sean Standley said the city has never denied an application for a permit to have four hens or fewer. But he noted the code change, if approved, will not affect space requirements for poultry owners. Residents have to have 5,000 square feet of real property, and the chickens need to remain on the property, he said.
“They have to be cooped up 40 feet away from a neighbor’s dwelling,” he said.
City code does not currently prohibit roosters, but residents are required to tell their neighbors when seeking a permit what they intend to have on their property.
The code change will come about seven years after the City Council amended the permit process, requiring residents to notify all their neighbors when applying for a permit for any outdoor animal other than cats, dogs and more than three rabbits.
Also at the meeting, the City Council:
If you do one thing: A free Reptile Revue starts at 6 p.m. at CSI’s Herrett Center for Arts and Science on North College Road in Twin Falls. “Dinosaurs at Dusk: The Origins of Flight” follows at 7 p.m. in Faulkner Planetarium; tickets: $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 children.
TWIN FALLS — A Buhl man has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in a fatal crash.
Angel Chavez-Tafoya, 27, was arraigned Monday, roughly 10 months after the crash that killed Dale E. Adams, also of Buhl.
On May 30, 2017, Chavez-Tafoya was driving west on U.S. 30 and failed to yield to oncoming traffic while making a U-turn, according to a police affidavit. Chavez-Tafoya, who was driving an SUV, hit a motorcycle carrying Adams and another passenger, Shirley Cegelis.
Cegelis was flown to St. Alphonsus hospital in Boise, and Adams was taken to St. Luke’s in Twin Falls, where he was pronounced dead.
Chavez-Tafoya told police he hadn’t seen the motorcycle when he made the turn. Neither Chavez-Tafoya nor Adams were under the influence at the time.
A pretrial hearing is set for May 30, exactly one year after the crash. Bond has been set at $50,000.
TWIN FALLS — After a flurry of school security threats this winter across Idaho an updated state law aims to crack down on offenders and hand down harsher punishments.
House Bill 665 — which Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed into law March 23 — includes an emergency clause, so it’s already in effect. It’s now a misdemeanor for making a threat that disrupts school activities. It’s a felony offense if a person who makes a threat has a firearm or other deadly weapons.
Magic Valley students and parents were on edge in February after a series of threats prompted police presences on school campuses and triggered lockdowns. The incidents came less than two weeks after 17 people were killed during a shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school.
There’s a need for this stricter law, said Dale Layne, superintendent of the Jerome School District.
“I think it’s a good move and hopefully the message gets out and it does make a difference,” he said.
People need to understand if they make a school threat, Layne said, “both law enforcement and school districts will take these very seriously.”
Idaho law used to prevent prosecutors from bringing charges against someone who threatened a school while off-campus or electronically, such as through social media. The statute hadn’t been updated in more than 10 years.
But now, a new law is in place and has already been used. The Moscow Police Department says it cited Michael Dain Mastro Jr. on Thursday with suspicion of a misdemeanor charge of threatening violence upon school grounds, the Associated Press reported Saturday. Police say they received information from officials in Texas about online comments.
In late February, Cassia County law enforcement and school officials dealt with nearly a week of social media threats against schools. At Declo High School, officers swept the building after a bomb threat was posted on an Instagram account. Law enforcement found none of the threats were viable.
“After our experience, which was five days in a row… I know our (school) board and community, they were supportive of harsher penalties to those that sort of cry wolf in that sense,” said Debbie Critchfield, spokeswoman for the Cassia County School District.
In late February, Gooding police detained a middle school student after he reportedly made a school shooting threat. No weapons were found when the boy was detained immediately after getting off a school bus.
Filer High School was placed on a soft lockdown after a Snapchat message depicted a person students knew driving with a gun.
In Jerome, police announced a social media threat toward a Jerome High School student was false and “no actual, serious threat was present.” The message didn’t threaten violence specifically on school grounds, so Layne said he’s not sure if the new law would have applied.
In Cassia County, after the third social media threat in one week in February, “by the time we knew it wasn’t in our state, it felt almost like ‘here we go again,’” Critchfield said. “It really detracts from the seriousness of these critical situations.”
She added: “Emotionally after the fact, we don’t want to go through it ever again — certainly not as any kind of a prank or joke.”
Technology serves a good purpose for schools, “but it’s not our friend with online proliferation with these types of threats,” Critchfield said. “It becomes an interesting balance.”
The new law addresses one side of the problem by providing severe repercussions for making a threat, Critchfield said, but “I don’t know if the penalty side of the law gets to the root of the cause.”
In Cassia County and statewide, there’s a greater need for social, emotional and developmental support for students, “to the degree that school counselors have never seen before,” said Critchfield, who’s also vice president for the Idaho State Board of Education.
The long-term goal, she said, is to help address issues that could lead students to make school threats in the future.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.