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Illegal, homemade fireworks can be deadly

Two years ago as families were preparing for their Fourth of July barbecues and a night of fireworks, a St. Joseph home at 1109 Prospect Ave. was leveled in an explosion.

In that explosion caused by illegal fireworks, three adults were injured and a lawsuit soon followed.

Fire Inspector Mindy Andrasevits of the St. Joseph Fire Department said altering or attempting to make fireworks is a dangerous game to play.

“The fireworks they buy at a fireworks stand have been tested,” Andrasevits said. “They’re tested for federal standards. If you start altering fireworks, it’s just an accident waiting to happen.”

During the 2017 incident, no deaths occurred, but just last month a man in Bakersfield, California, was killed by illegal fireworks.

Homemade fireworks like sparkler bombs may be laughed off and perhaps seen as child’s play, but they can have deadly consequences for those making them.

“Combining fireworks together to make something more potent, stronger, louder, there’s no way to control how that’s going to react, and you really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Andrasevits said.

No criminal charges were filed in the 2017 explosion, with Leslie Osborn, the man renting the house, receiving only a charge for illegally having a firearm. Devon Wall and Kaitlyn Pennington, who were in the home at the time of the explosion, attempted to sue the home’s owners, but that lawsuit was dismissed.

ATF recovers illegal fireworks at destoyed home

Agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives discovered “components” of illegal fireworks Wednesday in the debris of the north St. Joseph home that exploded the morning of July 4.

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Sprucing up | Workers ready facilities for busy weekend
Weston Bend Park enjoying increase in visitors

WESTON, Mo. — At least one Northwest Missouri state park is benefiting from the flooding.

High waters that have drenched Lewis and Clark State Park are forcing recreational enthusiasts to consider heading elsewhere for their enjoyment. In the immediate region, one of those choices is turning out to be Weston Bend State Park in Platte County.

To accommodate that surge in interest, Weston Bend Superintendent Matt Carletti said his staff has been busy ensuring all trails are cleared and that each facility is cleaned. And flooding has impacted only two short trails of the park’s system that are susceptible to closing: the Missouri River and Bear Creek.

“They’ve only been out-of-water since last week,” Carletti said of both sections, which are located closest to the Missouri River and could reopen later this season.

“We’ve had storm damage here periodically,” said Maintenance Supervisor Shanea Frederick, adding that debris cannot be completely removed until dry conditions return.

Frederick said the park imparts the periods between the holidays with as much importance as those prime times for luring the most attendance.

“Our season starts in early spring,” she said. “We’ve been seeing some increased use during the week.”

The maintenance focus is trained on the trails, the campground and picnic areas, with power-washing done to the picnic shelter.

Carletti said Weston Bend will have additional staffing to ensure all responsibilities are covered. High visitor use of the trail system is anticipated for the remainder of the year, and the campground will be full all season, including sellouts for tonight through Saturday night.

“We’re expecting a lot today,” he said of early arrivals.

In his ninth year with the park, Carletti said he’s heard from some visitors who say they enjoy staying at Lewis and Clark but who now must pick other sites on high ground. Overnight use of the park in June may have possibly broken a record.

Those hoping to visit the park should be thinking four to six weeks out for a weekday stop, while those contemplating a weekend excursion might want to secure their spots several months in advance. Weekly use is based on a first-come, first-served basis.

Despite the allure of the major summer holidays, and even with all three being fairly close in popularity, Weston Bend receives its greatest popularity in the fall. Nearby festivals are one way the park garners its complement of autumn guests.

Upcoming improvement projects include refurbishing the park’s well-known overlook, which Frederick said will receive sanding and re-decking, done for aesthetic and practical reasons. A border around the playground will be replaced.

Routine maintenance is planned for the tobacco barn, with long-term work to include interpretive displays.

Staff also will be providing cleanup duties that will lead toward the eventual reopening of Lewis and Clark to the public.

Information on placing a reservation at a state park is available at

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LIFE STORY | An ongoing seriesof articles about noteworthy peoplefrom the News-Press readership area
Long-running program commits itself to U.S. flag

Since Betsy Ross laid down her needle and thread, the American flag has changed 26 times.

One of those times, in 1822, a 24th star got added representing the entry of Missouri to the Union. By the time of St. Joseph’s incorporation in 1843, the nation’s banner had 26 stars.

The look of the flag changed with the years. The symbolism has not.

Dick Anderson has an armload of flags, their poles hugged together in a tight cluster. He is returning them to a closet provided by the St. Joseph Fire Department at the North Belt Highway station.

“I try to keep the flags in good shape and put up the brackets and take them down when necessary,” he said. “So it’s very important to me.”

Anderson moved to St. Joseph 26 years ago, a transplant from Kansas. He had not been in the city long before he became involved in Sertoma, the Missouri-born club whose very name speaks to its mission: service to mankind.

One service to which Anderson warmed was the placement of American flags at businesses during assorted holidays. It served as a fundraising vessel for the organization, but it also dressed up the city.

A quarter-century of work later, he still believes in the program.

“I think it’s very important that they show the patriotism, the flag flying,” he said. “For us, it’s a service to have the flags flying. It’s a service to the nation.”

On 10 days a year, most national holidays but also Missouri Western State University’s homecoming, the Sertomans fan out to place the flags at participating businesses, trying to have them out by sunrise and down by sunset.

(For a $40 contract, the club supplies, the bracket, the pole and the flag.)

Seven flag routes exist, with club members volunteering to make the circuits. Firehouses have been gracious in supplying storage, Anderson said, and their locations and availability make them ideal.

On some occasions, the Sertomans have shown up with the firefighters away on a call, and they wait to retrieve the flags.

The flags go out, weather permitting.

“This year, the weather hasn’t been very permitting,” Anderson said.

St. Joseph has had a complicated history with the American flag. In 1861, a former mayor, Meriwether Jeff Thompson, led a Southern-sympathizing mob in bringing down and destroying the flag at the city’s post office.

The incident led to city occupation by Union troops and came to represent the divide of allegiance among St. Joseph’s citizens during the Civil War. Some historians say the turmoil cost the community its chance of being the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad.

For his part, Thompson hightailed for a command in the Confederate cause.

Flags make for no such local contention these days, though Anderson says fewer contracts exist today for the Sertoma program than in the past.

“What’s hurting to me is you go by shopping areas, and you won’t see a flag flying,” he said. “I think that’s terrible.”

Money from this program and other fundraisers goes to the club’s signature commitment to helping those with hearing impairments. Sertoma has helped in auditory looping projects around the city. A camp for deaf and hard-of-hearing children, ages 7 to 14, will again be held this month at Camp Marvin Hillyard.

As Independence Day arrives and flags go into their places, Anderson reflects on the worth on the program that he has long embraced.

“It’s very gratifying to see the flags flying,” he said.

Inside today's St. Joe Live

❯ Lighting up the sky

July 4th events planned

around the area

❯ Grab the mic

Big Brothers Big Sisters

to host ‘Lip Sync Battle’

❯ Plus, MUCH,


Mustangs ready for holiday game

Flying for the Fourth

Mustangs capture 19th win ahead

of annual holiday game tonight.

Deatail on Page C1

After 72 years, veteran pilot is still flying

Imagine it’s your 90th birthday and you’ve gotten some swell gifts from friends and family. But it’s not quite everything you want.

At that age you can take the liberty of buying yourself something special.

For Jerry Acord, who has been flying over Rosecrans Memorial Airport for the past 72 years, that necessary gift was an airplane.

The reason he needed a new one to fly was because he sold his old plane to a museum in Seoul, South Korea.

“I prefer an old man’s airplane — this is a nice airplane” Acord said. “It’s a 1960, and it’s called an Ercoupe.”

This isn’t his first plane. It isn’t even his fifth. The Ercoupe is number 15.

“I’ve had airplanes that you can turn upside down and loop — whatever you want to do,” Acord said. “Been there, done that.”

The first thing Acord did after graduating high school in 1947 was join the Air Guard, which at the time wasn’t part of the Air Force.

“It’s what we called the brown shoe Air Force — everybody wore army uniforms, you had a brown tie and you had brown shoes,” Acord said.

It wasn’t until President Harry Truman made a pen stroke that everyone in the 139th Airlift Wing transitioned into the Air Force.

“The only trouble — all we did was take our brown tie and our brown shoes and went to black tie and black shoes,” Acord said.

Acord retired from military service after 36 years. During that time, he worked as a loadmaster on C-130s and also as an air-refueling boom operator. That was his favorite position of the two.

Today, Acord sometimes shares the sky over St. Joseph with C-130s, but he said they get priority of way. And that could include his grandson, who is a pilot in the Guard.

About his plane in South Korea, he doesn’t believe he’ll make it there to see his 1948 Stinson Station Wagon 108-3 again. It was a tail-dragger, which pilots typically do not fly anymore.

The museum in Seoul is still under construction.

“I’ll never see it,” Acord said. “But my grandson flies for the Guard, so there’s a possibility he might get to see it.”