Authorities: Iowa factory explosion was accidental
POSTVILLE, Iowa (AP) - Authorities in northeast Iowa say they still don't know exactly what caused a small explosion that injured three factory workers.
Postville Fire Chief Jeffrey Bohr says the explosion early Monday at the Norplex-Micarta composite laminates plant in Postville has been deemed accidental, and officials believe employees were cleaning equipment at the time.
Bohr says firefighters and the factory's sprinkler system helped contain fires caused by the explosion. Officials also shut down natural gas valves to prevent further explosions.
Three workers were injured, including one who was airlifted to a burn unit in Iowa City. The employee's condition is unclear, though Bohr says the employee is improving.
Another injured worker was treated and released from an area hospital, and the other declined treatment at the scene. Their names have not been released.
CEDAR RAPIDS FIRE
No injuries reported in Cedar Rapids blaze
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - No injuries have been reported from a fire that rousted at least 18 people from their apartments in northeast Cedar Rapids.
Firetrucks were dispatched just after 2 a.m. Tuesday to the Flagstone Apartments. Firefighters say they contained the blaze to a single unit on the second floor of the building. That apartment's residents weren't home.
The fire cause is being investigated.
Police ID man who died after Davenport park fight
DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - Authorities have released the name of a man who died after a fight at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport.
Davenport police identified him as 45-year-old Douglas Whalen, of Davenport. He died Friday after being taken to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.
Officers who were sent to the park Thursday night found Whalen on the ground, bleeding from his head. An autopsy was ordered.
Fifty-year-old Joseph Van Hecke was arrested that night in connection with the incident and was charged with disorderly conduct. He pleaded not guilty in court on Monday.
Oskaloosa man pleads not guilty in baby's death
OSKALOOSA, Iowa (AP) - An Oskaloosa man has pleaded not guilty in the death of a 7-week-old baby.
The Ottumwa Courier reports that 24-year-old Bryan Draper Vilcone on Monday pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
He's charged with killing Raelynn M. Hart, who died April 21 after being injured three days earlier. An autopsy showed she likely died of abusive head trauma.
Police arrested Vilcone on April 23. He had been caring for the baby.
According to an affidavit, he told authorities he had shaken the child three times on the day she was injured.
IOWAN STABBED-GARDEN TROWEL
Man stabbed with garden trowel in Council Bluffs
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - A 21-year-old Council Bluffs man is expected to recover from injuries suffered when he was stabbed with a garden trowel.
Police say James Augustine was stabbed a little before 6 p.m. Monday inside a home on the west side of the city. He was taken to Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
A suspect had fled the scene by the time officers arrived.
Iowa health insurer to seek smaller rate hikes
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Months after customers blasted the company for skyrocketing rates, Iowa's dominant health insurer says it will limit premium increases in 2014 to less than six percent for individual and small business policyholders.
Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced Tuesday it won't raise premiums to cover increases for medical or administrative costs in 2014. Instead, it will only raise rates to offset new fees and taxes required of insurance carriers under the Affordable Care Act.
The decision impacts 330,000 individuals who purchase health insurance from Wellmark, or who get insurance through small businesses with less than 50 employees.
It comes after an increase of more than 12% went into effect for Wellmark customers April 1. The hike prompted customers to express frustration online and at a public hearing.
2 Iowans testify against MidAmerican rate hike
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Two people have testified in Des Moines against a $135 million base rate increase sought by MidAmerican Energy Co.
Bob Wessel and Jerry Bridgeman asked at the Iowa Utilities Board hearing on Monday in Des Moines whether the rate hike is justified.
MidAmerican officials say the utility hasn't had a base rate increase since 1995. The company has 640,600 Iowa customers.
The Des Moines Register reports that Bridgeman is a former accountant for the Iowa Utilities Board who retired in 2009. He suggests a mandatory audit for MidAmerican to make sure that customer costs are appropriate.
He also says the state board should ensure that MidAmerican will "stay healthy, but not become wealthy."
IOWA VETERANS HOME
VA awards nearly $24 million to Iowa Veterans Home
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Sen. Tom Harkin says the Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded nearly $24 million for renovations at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown.
Harkin announced Tuesday that the VA would spend $23.8 million to renovate the Dack and Malloy buildings at the home.
The Dack Building was completed in 1981 and Malloy Hall was dedicated in 1978.
The Iowa Veterans Home is the nation's third-largest such facility, with 755 beds available.
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