State Briefs

Jet slides off runway at Gillette airport

GILLETTE (WNE) — A passenger jet carrying over 30 people slid off the runway at the Gillette-Campbell County Airport early Monday afternoon, causing the runway to be closed temporarily, according to airport administration.

United Airlines flight 5117, from Denver, was carrying 33 people, including one infant. No injuries were reported at this time. The passengers were evacuated from the plane and were transported to the terminal building.

Airport director Jay Lundell said there was no damage to the airplane, which slid off the runway about 30 yards.

‘Not guilty’ plea entered in Gillette arson charge

GILLETTE (WNE) — A man accused of setting fire to a Gillette apartment shortly after Christmas has pleaded not guilty in District Court to first-degree arson.

Shaun Sprague’s next court appearance is scheduled for May 16 unless a plea agreement is reached beforehand.

The 36-year-old was arrested in Talen, Ore., a few days after the fire and was extradited back to Gillette a few weeks ago.

The fire destroyed the apartment of Sprague’s brother, and damaged an apartment in an adjacent building.

After serving jail time in Washington for igniting his apartment and firing a gun in a Walmart, Sprague moved to the Minnesota-South Dakota border for a job building pole barns, according to court documents. He left because of a dispute with his boss about pay and arrived in Gillette in early December to stay with his brother.

His brother asked Sprague, who has a history of drug use and mental illness, not to use drugs while staying at his apartment, court document said.

At one point, his brother thought he was using drugs and confronted him. Sprague then disappeared for a few days before calling his family from a hospital in Sturgis, South Dakota, where he hoped to receive treatment.

Sprague later returned to Gillette and found out the hospital couldn’t treat him until January, which upset him, his brother told investigators.

The day after Christmas, Sprague tried to return a key to his brother’s apartment and told him, “I don’t want to cause any more problems around here,” court documents said. His brother told him he could stay, which he did.

On Dec. 27, a woman saw Sprague drive away from the apartment building and noticed flames shortly afterward.

Utah skier killed in Jackson Hole avalanche

JACKSON (WNE) — A Utah skier died just outside the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boundary Saturday after triggering an avalanche in Rock Springs, a backcountry area south of the ski area.

According to Teton County Search and Rescue, the man was caught in Ralph’s Slide, between Zero G and M&M in Rock Springs Canyon.

Teton County Coroner Brent Blue identified him as Alexander Marra, 30, of Orem, Utah. Cause of death was closed head trauma. Marra was not wearing a helmet.

The man was with one ski partner who was not injured, police said. While the deceased was believed to not be carrying any backcountry gear, his partner was.

Search and Rescue was paged at 11:26 a.m., but Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski patrol responded, according to Teton County Sheriff’s Lt. Matt Carr.

Skiers reported that backcountry gates one, two and three were closed by ski patrol during the retrieval of Marra’s body.

According to the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center, the avalanche hazard at upper elevations was rated “considerable.”

Carr said the pair of skiers probably didn’t mean to end up above the cliff band.

“That isn’t a wise place to ski today,” he said. “They probably weren’t where they intended to be.”

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort officials released information about the incident at 3 p.m. Saturday. Resort officials said the avalanche was at least 2 feet deep at the crown. Marra was partially buried “with obvious signs of trauma” and pronounced dead at the scene.