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Great Outdoors: Free Entrance to National Parks


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Looking for something fun to do outdoors this holiday weekend? Head to a national park -- for free!

The president has once again deemed all national parks free and open to the public this weekend in honor of National Parks Week.

In addition to free entrance, during National Parks week from April 19-27, visitors can partake in special events and programs, as well as National Junior Ranger Day on April 26.

According to National Park Services, 133 of the nation’s 401 national parks usually charge an entrance fee, including Grand Canyon, Denali, Yellowstone, Shenandoah and the Statue of Liberty.

The U.S. National Park systems covers more than 84 million acres and includes every state.

In 2013, U.S. state parks saw more than 273 million visitors, with Golden Gate seeing the most visitors last year.

Other days you can grab free park entrance include: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day weekend, National Park Service Birthday on Aug. 25, Sept. 27 for National Public Lands Day, and Nov. 11 for Veterans Day.

So get out there and enjoy the great outdoors. Or in the words of Obama: “I encourage all Americans to visit their National Parks and be reminded of these unique blessings we share as a Nation.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Kansas City Highway Shooting Suspect Charged with 18 Felonies


Kansas City Police Department(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) -- The man suspected of shooting at cars as they traveled on Kansas City, Mo., highways in recent weeks has been identified and charged with 18 felonies, authorities announced Friday.

Mohammad Whitaker, 27, is accused of shooting into at least nine cars, injuring two of the drivers, in incidents dating to the beginning of March.

Kansas City prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said at a press conference that police first realized there might be a serial shooter on the loose on April 7 when an analyst with the police department pointed it out. The department quickly mobilized an investigation involving other area police departments, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Witness reports helped point police toward Whitaker, whom they surveilled during the last week, authorities said.

Police arrested Whitaker Thursday night in Grandview, Mo., using SWAT teams to surround his house before taking him into custody.

Whitaker is charged with two class A felonies for shooting and injuring someone in a car, seven class B felonies for shooting into cars, and nine charges of armed criminal action. He is being held on $1 million cash bond.

Baker said she is confident that Whitaker is the only person responsible for the shootings that set Kansas City drivers' nerves on edge.

"Residents are safe...we have a person in custody," Police Chief Darryl Forté said after the arrest.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Obama Presents Navy Football with Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy


Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Naval Academy ended their season 9-4, a solid feat for any team, but their bigger accomplishment: taking home the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

And Friday, President Obama presented the team with the trophy for the second time in two years and 9th time in the past 11 years.

“This is a team that also had a knack for getting the job done under some pretty tough circumstances,” Obama said.

“And you kept on rolling through the games that really mattered.  In the snow, you beat Army for the 12th time in a row — they’re starting to feel bad about this,” he joked. “You went on to beat Middle Tennessee State to win your first bowl game since 2009.”

The trophy represents the winner of the triangular series of military academies. Last fall Navy won the game against the Army 34-7 and Air force 28-10, securing the trophy Obama said “weighs about as much as I do.”

The game against the Air Force was in jeopardy last season as the government shutdown loomed. Obama commented that the Secretary of Defense “stepped in, gave the green light -- which tells you how important it was.”

In addition to praising their on-the-field accomplishments the President commended their off-the-field dedication.

“What’s more impressive is the fact that for these outstanding young men, football isn’t even the main thing,” Obama said before outlining the players grueling schedules, that start with 6:00 am training followed by classes and practices, that doesn’t relent until 8 pm when players are free to study.

“It’s about learning to be a good football player, but more importantly, it’s about learning how to be a good leader and to be a good man,” he said. ”And that’s what these outstanding Americans are and will continue to be.”

Fourteen of the midshipman will be commissioned at the end of the school year as officers in the Navy, eight will become officers in the Marine Corp and one will become a Naval aviator officer.

The President also commented on the recent death of football player Will McKamey, the 19-year old freshman running back.

“Two busloads of classmates and teammates made the eight-hour trip to Knoxville to attend his funeral, as did Coach Ken.  I understand your motto for this season is “I Will” in memory of him,” he said. “And that’s what camaraderie is all about:  Honor.  Courage.  Commitment.  That’s what makes the Midshipmen so strong.  And that’s why I’m so proud to serve as your Commander-in-Chief — not only — in fact, not primarily because of what you’ve done on the football field, but because of your dedication to each other and your service to America.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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High School Students Sacrifice Cellphones for Kid with Leukemia


iStock/Thinkstock (BELLERICA, Mass.) -- When the varsity hockey team at Billerica Memorial High School in Billerica, Mass., was brainstorming ways to help a young pee-wee hockey player with leukemia, they came up with the typical fundraising ideas like a 5-K race.

Then, one of their teammate’s father, Glen Corbett, came up with an idea that would both affect the teens and be a surefire way to get adults to donate money: take away the teens’ cellphones.

More than 100 students at Billerica Memorial Thursday handed their cellphones over to police officers who will keep them in a safety box for 30 days to raise money for “Celling Out for Leukemia.”

“It’s unbelievable,” said Corbett, whose son, Brian, is a sophomore.  “Phones are still coming in.  The kids know they’re paying it forward.”

Corbett’s son and his teammates first got to know the 12-year-old for whom they are raising money, Ian Candee, through the town’s local hockey association.  When they learned of his battle with leukemia, they made Ian an honorary captain of the school’s varsity team and had him to throw out the puck at a game.

“He’s awesome,” Corbett said of Ian.  “I told the kids, ‘Let’s do this so he’s back here in two years.’”

Ian was at the high school Thursday for the “Celling Out” kickoff as students signed a permission slip and handed their phones over to the Billerica Police Department, who will keep them in a safety box at police headquarters until May 16.

With the extra time the kids will have on their hands with no phones to Facebook, tweet and SnapChat, they are asked to get family, friends and businesses to sponsor them for each day they are without a phone.

“People are just blown away that a kid would give up their phone for a day, much less  30 days,” Corbett said.  “Kids are turning in huge donations of $1,400, $2,500, as much as $3,000.”

The hockey team hopes to raise at least $120,000 in the next 30 days.  Corbett plans to meet with the Candee family, who have two other kids in addition to Ian, to determine how the money will be donated.

The Dana Farber Children’s Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, where Ian is being treated, could be a potential recipient, or the funds could all go to the Candee family to help defray expenses.

“I’m going to see where they are and how they want us to donate the money,” Corbett said.

While most of the students were expectedly apprehensive about losing their phone for 30 days, Corbett says he heard from some teens who quietly said they were excited for the chance to disconnect.

“I had one member of the girls’ hockey team text me and say, ‘Mr. C., I can’t wait to give my phone up.  No one can reach me for 30 days,’” Corbett said.

“We’re going to have the kids keep a journal of what it’s like without their phones,” he said.  “Maybe it’ll be a relief.”


ABC US News | ABC Business News

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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NJ Mumps Victims Were Vaccinated, Officials Say


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An outbreak of mumps among New Jersey college students has highlighted the “weak sister” in the MMR vaccine.

At least eight students at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken have contracted the contagious virus despite having received two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, according to the college.

“All Stevens’ students are required to have full vaccinations before attending the University,” the college said in a statement, adding that “outbreaks of mumps have occurred in vaccinated populations before.”

More than 95 percent of the people who receive a single dose of MMR develop some immunity to all three viruses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the mumps portion of the shot is only 88 percent effective in preventing the disease.

“Of the three vaccines that are given together, mumps is what we might call ‘the weak sister,’” said Dr. William Schaffner, and infectious disease expert and chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. “We really do expect vaccines to be perfect and, of course, they aren’t perfect. Medical science provides us with vaccines that have different degrees of effectiveness, approaching but never reaching perfection.”

“When you are vaccinated [against mumps], the illness you get is much milder,” Schaffner added.

The MMR vaccine is 99 percent effective against the measles and 90 percent effective against rubella, according to the CDC.

Stevens’ students suspected of having mumps were “isolated” and then sent home, according to the college.

“There have been no reports of newly symptomatic cases since the initial cases last week,” the college said.

Symptoms of mumps such as fever, aches and swollen glands can take more than two weeks to appear. And while most mumps sufferers recover after a week or two, the disease can cause serious complications like inflammation of the testicles, ovaries and brain as well as deafness, according to the CDC.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Seattle Restaurant Ad Shows Jesus Smoking a Joint


A Seattle sandwich shop has created a controversial poster showing Jesus smoking a joint and eating a sandwich. Credit: KOMO(SEATTLE) -- A burger chain in Seattle is creating a stir with a new promotional poster for Easter, featuring Jesus smoking a joint and holding a sandwich.

The restaurant, Lunchbox Laboratory, riffed off Easter Sunday’s falling on April 20, or 4/20, which is also a pop-culture reference to cannabis consumption. The business has been using a 2-for-1 promotion for the past two years to advertise its “Burger of the Gods” signature dish.

“I’m not your moral guide in life, I’m selling burgers,” Lunchbox Laboratory owner John Schmidt told ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle. “It’s not an anti-Christian message, it’s a very peaceful message; Jesus enjoying a sandwich and a blunt.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Fox Is Giving the White House Trouble


File photo. (Richard McManus/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- There is an unwelcome guest at the White House -- and the Secret Service can't catch him.

A red fox has sneaked onto the White House grounds and taken up residence, tripping alarms and feeding on the first lady's vegetable garden, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This fox is pretty sly; it's only been spotted a couple of times. But there are reports President Obama saw the fox once from the Oval Office.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Good Samaritan Prevents Possible Murder-Suicide in NJ


Andrew F Kazmierski/Thinkstock(FLORENCE, N.J.) -- An apparent murder-suicide attempt was foiled in New Jersey this week by a Good Samaritan, who local authorities say saved a mother and her teenage kids from drowning.

Police are crediting Darnell Taylor with diving into the Delaware River near the town of Florence and rescuing Joann Smith and her three children, ages 13, 14 and 15.

According to prosecutors, Smith deliberately drove a van into the river as the youngsters called their father to tell them what was happening. Taylor told the daughter to kick open the window, pulling the girl out first. He then went back and retrieved the others before the van sank.

One child received cuts to the leg but otherwise, everyone was okay.

Smith, whose first court appearance is next week, has been charged with three counts of attempted murder and three counts of endangering the welfare of children. Bail has been set at $600,000.

Smith's husband, Jeffrey Smith, says that his wife has been dealing with a mental health issue for more than a decade.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Kansas City Police Have Highway Shooting Suspect in Custody


ABC News(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) --  Kansas City, Mo., police said Thursday they have taken into custody a suspect in connection with a string of highway shootings that have set the area on edge.

SWAT teams were seen swarming the house of the male suspect in Grandview, Mo. In a brief news conference Thursday evening, police did not provide details on what led them to the suspect.

"Residents are safe...we have a person in custody," Police Chief Darryl Forté said. "That person has not been charged." He said more details will provided Friday and the investigation is ongoing.

One person was killed and another injured on Monday after a shooting on a Kansas City highway.

Police in Kansas City, Kan., where the shooting occurred, had said they believe it was an isolated incident and not part of a spate of up to 20 highway shootings that have occurred in the past month on the Missouri side of Kansas City, but are still investigating any possible connection to the other cases.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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'Horseless E-Carriage' Debuts in Time for NY Auto Show


Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tries to ban horse-drawn carriages in the city, an animal advocacy group is pushing an alternative to the tourist attraction with "Horseless eCarriages."


NYCLASS, which stands for New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets, debuted a model of the eight-passenger vintage-style vehicle Thursday to coincide with the New York Auto Show. The car runs on a lithium-ion battery with a top speed of 30 mph.

The nonprofit animal advocacy organization said it hopes to bring the vehicle to the streets of New York for commercial use in the future.

The organization commissioned a classic car restoration business in Dania Beach, Fla., called The Creative Workshop, to build the car, which has a GPS-regulated automatic 5 mph for those slow Central Park drives.


ABC US News | ABC Business News

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Stormfront Website Posters Have Murdered Almost 100 People, Watchdog Group Says


iStock/Thinkstock(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) -- Nine men who were allegedly prolific posters on the white supremacist website Stormfront were responsible for killing almost 100 people over the past five years, according to a report released Thursday by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Among the nine people named in the report are Anders Breivik, who was convicted of killing 77 people in two attacks in Norway in 2011; Wade Michael Page, who authorities said killed six people at a Milwaukee Sikh temple before taking his own life; and Richard Poplawski, who was sentenced to death for killing three Pittsburgh police officers.

“If you spend enough time looking at these folks, there is a pattern that emerges," said Heidi Beirich, who spent two years analyzing Stormfront, which she calls the "murder capital of the Internet."

"It is a myth that racist killers hide in the shadows. Investigators find that most offenders openly advocated their ideology online, often posting on racist forums and blogs for hours every day," Beirich said.

With 268,000 registered users, she said Stormfront has become a breeding ground for hate, where the typical shooter, who she said is a "frustrated, unemployed, white adult male," can post his grievances against society.

While online, the alleged perpetrators of these killings exhibited several unique characteristics, including being argumentative on the forums, discussing violence as an acceptable means of conflict resolution and a notable change in their posting frequencies in the days leading up to their crimes.

Don Black, a former Ku Klux Klan member and the founder of Stormfront, told ABC News the Southern Poverty Law Center's report was "ludicrous" and said the number of murdered was inflated because they included Breivik, who he said posted only a few times on the site before he was banned.

"There are any number of websites who have had murderers come through their ranks," Black said, naming several popular social media and online personals websites.

"We have had a few people who have gone on shooting sprees. Most were domestic issues that didn't have anything to do with politics," Black said.

Frazier Glenn Miller, the man who allegedly killed three people outside two Jewish sites in Kansas last weekend, posted more than 12,000 times on a different racist web forum, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Miller was charged this week with one count of capital murder and a second count of premeditated first-degree murder. He has not yet entered a plea.

Black, who said he knows Miller from decades ago, said he wasn't welcome on the Stormfront website since he became a "government informant" in exchange for a plea deal and testified against several white supremacists at a 1988 sedition trial.

"He was certainly unwelcome and I couldn't imagine why he would think he is welcome. He was a big-time government informant," Black said. "He wouldn’t have been allowed to post the stuff he had [on VNN] on our board."

Stormfront is staffed with moderators, Black said, who "do not tolerate illegal violence, even the suggestion of illegal violence."

"Anybody who says anything like that gets shown the door," he said.

Black said his website is a place for white nationalists to "discuss the truth as we see it" and, if anything, may act as a deterrent.

"The kind of people that are more likely to go out and do something and go on a shooting spree are by themselves typically," he said. "If they become part of our community they are less likely to do something because they have a support group."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Obama: US ‘Prepared to Respond’ to Russian Aggression in Ukraine


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama on Thursday said the U.S. and its allies “have to be prepared – potentially – to respond” to continued efforts by Russia to interfere in southern Ukraine.

He held out the “the possibility, the prospect that diplomacy can de-escalate the situation,” but warned that he was not counting on it.

However, he said that military options are still not on the table “because this is not a situation that would be amenable to a clear military solution.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier the lengthy four-way meeting on Ukraine had produced metrics for measuring how quickly the situation there de-escalates, but added that there is still more work to be done. Speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room, Obama called the development “a glimmer of hope.”

“All of this, we believe, represents a good day’s work,” he said after the meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. “But on the other hand, this day’s work has produced principles. And it has produced commitments."

Turning to domestic issues, Obama also called upon Republicans to end their “endless, fruitless” efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“The repeal debate is and should be over,” the president said as he announced that enrollment in Obamacare, his signature legislative achievement, his now topped 8 million Americans with “millions more to come next year and the year after.”

But some Republicans, he said, “still can’t bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working.”

The president also expressed his frustration with states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid “for no other reason than political spite.”

“That’s wrong,” Obama said. “It should stop.”

In his remarks on Thursday, the president also took the opportunity to express his “deepest condolences” to the Republic of Korea in the wake of the ferry disaster earlier this week. Obama travels to Seoul next week as part of a multi-country trip to Asia.


ABC US News | ABC Business News

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Newly-Released Video Captures Deadly Plant Explosion


WFAA-TV/ABC News(WEST, Texas) -- Witnesses to last year’s fiery explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, have come forward with a new video of the explosion that shows a gas cloud burst into flames.

The video was taken by Jeff Tobola, who was sitting in a car with his son Mason near the plant when it happened.

“I just happened to throw it up at about that time,” Jeff Tobola told ABC News affiliate WFAA, saying he shot the video with only a moment to spare.

He shared the video with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as part of this investigation into the explosion, which happened one year ago Thursday and claimed 15 lives. More than 160 people were injured.

“When it exploded, you could see the wave of the energy of the explosion actually like in slow motion… like in a movie,” Mason Tobola told WFAA.

 

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Exclusive: Image Shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Last Message Before Arrest


Obtained by ABC News(BOSTON) -- A new image shows the bullet-riddled anti-American rant allegedly scrawled by suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the inside wall of a boat as he hid from a police manhunt last year.

“The U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians, but most of you already know that…I can’t stand to see such [bullet hole] go unpunished,” says the handwriting captured in the image obtained by ABC News from a law enforcement official in Massachusetts. “We Muslims are one body. You kill one of us, you hurt [bullet hole] us all.”

Two state and two federal law enforcement officials confirmed the authenticity of the image.

Along with bullet holes that interrupt Tsarnaev’s message, the image shows drips of red liquid on the wall, which could be paint or, officials said, blood. Dzhokhar had been injured in a firefight with police hours before -- the same firefight that took the life of his older brother and alleged co-conspirator Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

ABC News has previously reported that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrote an anti-American message on the boat, called the Slip Away II, in which he hid during the massive manhunt last April. Law enforcement sources previously said that the message also included the phrase “F*** America”. That portion of the message was not included in the image obtained by ABC News.

This week, law enforcement sources said Dzhokhar also lamented elsewhere in the note that his brother was able to meet Allah first.

David Bruck, a member of Tsarnaev’s defense team, had no comment when he was shown the photograph Wednesday. In a pre-trial hearing Wednesday, he repeated arguments made in court filings that Tamerlan was ultimately responsible for last year’s terror attacks. Previous filings indicated the defense may argue in Dzhokhar’s November trial that the 19-year-old was only doing his older brothers’ bidding.

“If the government’s indictment is true, this [case] is about a family,'' Bruck said, adding, "a story of this family and the relationships between the people in."

Dzhokhar has pleaded not guilty to 30 counts related to the dual explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line last year. The blasts killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and injured some 260 others.

The bombings also kicked off an enormous investigation in and around Boston during which, three days after the bombing, the FBI released surveillance images of the Tsarnaev brothers, who had not yet been identified, as suspects numbers one and two in the case.

Hours after the photos were released, the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly ambushed and killed MIT Police Officer Sean Collier and then carjacked a man. A high-speed chase escalated into a firefight where the suspects hurtled bombs at the police on the streets of nearby Watertown.

Authorities say Dzhokhar at least partially contributed to Tamerlan’s death during the firefight when Dzhokhar hit his brother with a vehicle during his getaway. Dzhokhar temporarily disappeared, only to be discovered in a boat sitting on land in a local resident’s back yard.

While injured, authorities say Dzhokhar had taken the time to write on the walls of the boat in black pen. When authorities arrived, a bloodied Dzhokhar surrendered.

Based on the image obtained by ABC News, he begins the message with the Muslim statement of faith, saying that there is but one god, Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.

Aside from the aforementioned legible messages, much of the rest of the note in the image is unintelligible due to the red liquid, bullet holes and fading ink.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Fast Food Workers Rewarded for Fast Action That Saved Customer’s Life


Scott Olson/Getty Images(FLINT, Mich.) -- When a couple of fast food restaurant workers got no response over the microphone at their drive-thru station they rushed outside to find a driver in cardiac arrest. They pulled him out of his vehicle and gave him life-saving CPR.

The customer returned to the Burger King in Flint, Mich., Wednesday to thank his rescuers and applaud them.

Assistant Manager Lidia Rodriguez, 26, was working the drive-thru when Howard Turner Jr., 46, pulled up to the speaker on March 29. Rodriguez heard nothing from the other end and knew something was wrong.

“I go toward my back room where I can see out to my speaker and I’m like, ‘If you’re okay, raise your hand’ and I didn’t get no response,” Rodriguez told ABC’s Michigan affiliate, WJRT.

Rodriguez and a co-worker, Kelseigh Valdez, a member of a volunteer paramedic program, rushed outside to Turner.

They pulled Turner out of his car, and Rodriguez called 911 while Valdez performed CPR.

The two saved Turner’s life.

“I feel like I’m going to be connected with them forever. They were just like my angels, right at the time,” Turner said.

Mobile Medical Response, a non-profit organization that provides emergency medical services to counties across Michigan, presented both women with lifesaving awards on Wednesday, but they also had a surprise for Valdez.

Valdez, 18, originally from Oregon, moved to Flint to participate in a volunteer paramedic program. MMR gave her a scholarship to become a professional paramedic. Valdez was shocked to see her dreams come to fruition.

“I knew it was going to happen at some point in my life, just not at Burger King,” she said.

The scholarship award came as a surprise to everybody. “I got all teary eyed when it happened,” said Donna Bennett, the Burger King manager.

“Oh my God, I am so proud of both of them. I don’t know if I could have ever done anything like that. I would have probably just panicked,” Bennett told ABC News.

“I thought what they did was great,” Bennett added.

Turner does not recall the women pulling him out of his car, but he is forever grateful. “Without them, I definitely wouldn’t be here and I know that for a fact,” Turner said.

Bennett said incorporating CPR training for employees is something she and her owner will likely discuss for the future.


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