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SUIT CHARGES NEGLIGENCE IN AMTRAK CRASH INJURING 61

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Amtrak and CSX Transportation, claiming the two railroads were negligent in an accident Feb. 5 that injured 61 people.

The lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court on behalf of 15 of the injured passengers. It seeks $75,000 per passenger from the two railroads, said attorney Peter Catalano, a partner in one of the two law firms involved in the lawsuit.

A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board said the accident occurred when veteran Amtrak engineer Steven R. Gill of Rensselaer misread a signal that warned him there was an obstruction on the track ahead and to go slow.

Investigators said evidence indicated the Amtrak train reached a speed of 58 mph before Gill applied the emergency brake. Investigators said the Amtrak train hit the freight train at about 35 mph.

The crash happened just moments after the five-car passenger train left the Regional Transportation Center in Syracuse. The train was traveling from Buffalo to Albany with 98 passengers and a crew of four.

Wine tasters got greedy, so the beer will be rationed

SYRACUSE (AP) -- Winterfest officials will limit samples at an upcoming beer tasting event after a similar wine-tasting event last weekend ended early because people guzzled the samples.

"This is meant to be a tasting and sampling only," said Winterfest organizer Bill Cooper, who was responding to complaints from the public.

Organizers for last weekend's wine tasting planned for 300 people, and vendors brought about 185 bottles of wine.

The event, scheduled to run four hours, attracted 320 people and ended nearly two hours early, he said. Cooper said some patrons, angry that they didn't get enough to drink, were given refunds or free admission to other events.

For Saturday's beer tasting, vendors will be advised to give samplers just a taste -- less than an inch -- of beer, so there is enough of the 28 varieties to go around.

He can't do much about the people who wanted to turn the wine-tasting event into an unlimited watering hole, Cooper said.

"They sampled all the wines and wanted more," he said.

Ulster County cracks down on dogs that chase deer

NEW PALTZ (AP) -- To keep a vulnerable deer population from "horrific" mauling by roaming dogs, a Hudson Valley county has ordered owners to confine their pets.

"It's a horrible way for the deer to go," Capt. Peter Fanelli of the Department of Environmental Conservation police told the Middletown Times Herald-Record newspaper. He said the dogs attack the deer's hind legs while they're running."

The resolution by the Ulster County Board of Supervisors requires owners to keep their dogs on leashes or confined to their property until April 30. It also allows any dog officer to seize and destroy, if necessary, a dog caught hunting deer.

Hunting dogs are exempt.

Conservation experts say late winter is rough for deer that lose agility and speed as snow forms a crusty surface that their hooves break through.

Glenn Cole, a DEC wildlife manager, said the population appears to be holding up well this winter. The deer population in the state is estimated at more than a million.

N.Y. City mayoral prospect hires a campaign strategist

NEW YORK (AP) -- Media mogul Michael Bloomberg's will-he-or-won't-he bid for mayor appears increasingly likely to go forward -- the latest sign being the hiring of campaign mastermind David Garth, who helped both Ed Koch and Rudolph W. Giuliani win City Hall.

Garth said Wednesday that he has yet to "sign the dotted line" on a contract only because he and Bloomberg haven't had time.

Garth rose to prominence while managing the successful mayoral campaigns of John Lindsay in 1965 and 1969. He later directed Koch's three victories and Giuliani's 1993 win.

Garth hinted Bloomberg, 59, may not formally announce his candidacy for some time. "My feeling is that there's plenty of time," he said.

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