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3 WOMEN DROWN IN RIVER AFTER JEEP GOES OFF ROAD

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Three women returning from a birthday party drowned when the driver lost control of a Jeep Cherokee and went off the road, plunging into the Passaic River as the women frantically called a friend on a cell phone instead of dialing 911.

Trapped inside the sinking SUV, the women were unable to tell their friend where they were, and although their friend scrambled to use another phone to call police, authorities didn't immediately know where the vehicle had ended up.

Within minutes of the accident, witnesses called 911, but police conceded that they might not have been able to save the women even if they knew the exact location of the SUV.

The dead were Nicole Floyd, 34, who worked at a drug rehabilitation center; Gail Williams, 35, a counselor at a homeless shelter; and Monique Hawkins, 39, a nurse's aide -- all of Newark.

HIGH COURT THROWS OUT STATE'S HATE CRIMES LAW

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously threw out the state's hate crimes law Monday.

The 7-0 decision called the four-year-old law "unconstitutionally vague." The law had called for stiffer criminal penalties for crimes where a victim is chosen because of "bias or prejudice." But, unlike similar laws in other states, it does not specify which groups might be victims.

The 7-0 ruling came in the case of a white man and woman convicted of an assault on two black men in Atlanta's Little Five Points neighborhood.

Angela Pisciotta and Christopher Botts were accused of beating two brothers, Che and Idris Golden, in 2002 while screaming racial epithets. The two pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, and the trial judge sentenced them to six years in prison, plus two years under the hate crimes law.

PARACHUTING CLUB'S PLANE CRASHES, KILLING ONE MAN

TAYLORVILLE, ILL. (AP) -- A single-engine plane used by a parachuting club crashed into a field, killing a man whose parachute got tangled in the plane's tail. The others on board, including the pilot, parachuted to safety.

Investigators were trying to determine Monday whether the tangled chute caused the crash or the plane had stalled as club members prepared to jump.

Bill Jensen, 38, died in the crash Sunday near Taylorville Municipal Airport, southeast of Springfield in central Illinois, Police Chief Greg Brotherton said.

Jensen was jumping from the Cessna 206 aircraft with other members of the Taylorville-based Mid-America Sport Parachute Club, according to Brotherton and the Federal Aviation Administration.

An AA spokeswoman said preliminary reports indicate Jensen's parachute deployed prematurely and became tangled around the tail of the plane, causing it to spiral to the ground from about 10,000 feet.

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