EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the last of a two-day series recapping the year's top local stories.Fulton, Montgomery and southern Hamilton counties witnessed many major events in 2013. Some were tragic, some a cause for celebration.
There was a plane crash in Ephratah, severe flooding in Fort Plain, a train derailment in Montgomery County, the opening of a new Walmart in Gloversville and the election of a new mayor in Johnstown. Those were just a few of the top stories.
Below, The Leader-Herald has ranked the top 20 local news stories of the year.
1. Three die in plane crash
Three people died in a plane crash in May in Ephratah. A Piper PA 34, which had taken off from Laurence G. Hanscome Field Airport in Bedford, Mass., on an Angel Flight mission, was headed to Griffiss International Airport in Rome, Oneida County. The plane went down near Granny's Ice Cream Shanty at the Royal Mountain Campsite on Route 29. Killed were pilot John Campbell of Stamford, Conn., and passengers Frank Amerosa, 64, and his wife, Evelyn Amerosa, 58, of Rome. A search for the bodies went on for several weeks before all were recovered. Frank Amerosa had been receiving medical cancer treatments in Massachusetts and was being transported by Angel Flight, a service provided to people needing transportation for medical services.
2. Severe flooding
In late June, water rose on the Otsquago Creek in Fort Plain by several feet, causing a great deal of flood damage to parts of the village. Flooding was most severe near Abbott and Reid streets. The flooding claimed the life of one resident, Ethel Healey, 87, who lived on Reid Street. Numerous homes and businesses were damaged. Hundreds of volunteers came to the village to help with recovery efforts, which continued for the rest of the year.
3. Train derailment
Two CSX freight trains hit each other just west of Fonda on June 27, resulting in a derailment. CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan said one of the trains was traveling from Avon, Ind., to Selkirk with four locomotives and 126 freight cars. The other train was going from Selkirk to New Castle, Pa., with two locomotives and 83 freight cars. Sullivan said four locomotives and 45 freight cars derailed in the accident. Crews spent weeks removing the freight and cars. Authorities closed a 12-mile stretch of Route 5 from Mohawk to Palatine after the derailment. Officials said an engineer and a conductor on one of the trains received minor injuries in the accident. The railroad and road have since reopened after repairs.
4. Fishermen's bodies found
The bodies of a father and son who were missing for 10 days were recovered from the Great Sacandaga Lake in Broadalbin in May. The Fulton County Sheriff's Department identified the bodies as those of Mark Richards, 51, and Brent Richards, 24, both of Broadalbin. One of the bodies was found near the North Broadalbin Beach Club off Route 110 and the other was found about a half-mile away near the Broadalbin Boat Launch, authorities said. The two men went fishing May 18 and failed to return. Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey said he believes the boat was too small for the two men and their equipment, resulting in the boat tipping over and the two drowning.
5. Two teens
go to prison
Teenagers Matthew Phelps and Anthony Brasmeister were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in July for the slayings of two other Amsterdam youths, Jonathan DeJesus and Paul Damphier. The victims were shot in a field in the town of Florida in 2012. Phelps and Brasmeister pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder. Montgomery County District Attorney said the two had planned the killings, which Conboy called a "senseless act."
6. Walmart opens
After nine years of planning, Walmart opened a new supercenter off South Kingsboro Avenue in Gloversville in August. The 157,100-square-foot store includes a Subway, a new branch office for the Fulton County Federal Credit Union, a Smart Style Family Hair Salon and Da Vi Nails. The new store employs about 255 people. It created 85 new jobs, adding to the 170 employees from Walmart's town of Johnstown store, which closed as the new store opened.
7. Sno Kone Joe
vs. Mr. Ding-A-Ling
Gloversville had a taste of ice cream warfare this year. Joshua Malatino and Sno Kone Joe owner Amanda Scott, ice cream vendors, were charged by police in April with stalking and harassing the operator of a Mr. Ding-A-Ling ice cream truck. The controversy received national media attention, and Scott ended up losing her city vending permit. The saga didn't end there. In July, the Mr. Ding-A-Ling truck operator, Philip N. Hollister, was charged with driving his ice cream truck while intoxicated and was fired by the business owner.
8. Officer accused
A Johnstown police officer was accused of felony statutory rape in September. Patrolman Adam Schwabrow was accused of having sexual contact with a 16-year-old girl. He was placed on unpaid leave from his city police officer job and another job as director of the Montgomery County Emergency Management Office.
9. Man accused of killing mother
A man was arrested and charged in July with shooting and killing his mother at her Ephratah home. James F. Dibble was indicted on second-degree murder and other charges. Dibble's mother, Gwenda L. Lisman, 58, was found July 1 by a neighbor. Authorities said Dibble shot his mother in the head with a rifle she borrowed from a neighbor to deal with a rodent problem in her garden. According to the indictment, the killing took place between June 30 and July 1. Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey said Dibble and his mother may have been arguing over money and had a "tumultuous relationship."
10. Three killed in crash
A car accident in March claimed the lives of three people in Amsterdam. The collision on Route 67 killed Elijah Sleight, 9, Tanya Sleight, 33, Elijah's mother, and Chyara Concepcion, 39. Authorities said David Bain was driving east in a van. Authorities said Bain's van crossed into the oncoming lane and collided with the other vehicle.
A child used a lighter to set a blanket on fire in the living room on the first floor of a Fifth Avenue house in Gloversville in March, resulting in a blaze that killed Donald Larimore, 41, authorities said. Later in the year, the mother of the child, Jamie L. Ormanian, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree harassment, a violation, in satisfaction of the charge of endangering the welfare of a child. Police said Ormanian left her three children, ages 2, 4 and 12, in the home without adequate supervision for a short period. During the time she was gone, a child in the house used a lighter to set the blanket on fire.
12. Soccer club treasurer charged
The former treasurer of the Fulton United Soccer Club was charged in October with stealing more than $13,000 from the club. Sandra Yost of Gloversville was charged with third-degree grand larceny, a felony. Police said from 2007 through 2011, she spent the money for personal use and fraudulently issued numerous checks to family members during her tenure as treasurer.
13. Edinburg crash
A small plane went down in Edinburg in September, killing the pilot, Timothy Cowper. Witnesses reported the pilot turned back toward the town's Plateau Sky Ranch Airport shortly after takeoff. The plane banked steadily before flying behind a tree line. Eyewitnesses heard the engine grow louder before impact, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report. The plane crashed in the woods southwest of the airport. Cowper was the only occupant of the plane.
14. EMT charged
An emergency medical technician for the Ambulance Service of Fulton County who also worked as a Gloversville firefighter was accused early this year of touching two women in a sexual manner while they were patients in an ambulance. He was charged with forcible touching and was sentenced in August to 30 days in jail. Frye was fired from the ambulance service after his arrest and resigned from the Fire Department in June.
15. Grade grouping
The Greater Johnstown School District decided in March to go ahead with a grade-level grouping plan in the 2014-15 school year. The three buildings will undergo a conversion from neighborhood-based schools to grade-level grouping. District officials say the new system will be a more efficient way of educating elementary school students. Grades at the elementary schools will be placed this way: prekindergarten, kindergarten and first grade at Pleasant Avenue Elementary School; grades two and three at Glebe Street Elementary School; and grades four, five and six at Warren Street Elementary School.
16. Local elections
Among local elections in November, city of Johnstown voters elected a new mayor, Michael Julius. In Gloversville, voters re-elected Mayor Dayton King - the first Gloversville mayor to be re-elected to consecutive terms in more than 40 years. In Montgomery County, voters chose Republican Matthew Ossenfort as the county's new county executive. Montgomery County voters also elected members to a new county legislature, which will replace the county's board of supervisors. New York voters also approved casinos to be built in several parts of the state.
17. New gun measures
Local gun-rights advocates raised concerns about the state's new gun-control measures this year. Some groups, including the New York Rifle and Pistol Association, took legal action in an attempt to stop the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, known as the SAFE Act. The measure was passed by the state Legislature on Jan. 15 and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. Some local residents protested the new rules.
18. Child porn case
Two Mayfield brothers, Richard and Robert Hastings, were charged in August with producing child pornography. Authorities said between July 27 and 29, Richard Hastings produced sexually explicit photographs of a child and posted some of them on a website. He also emailed some to an undercover investigator with Queensland Police Services in Australia, authorities said. According to an affidavit, an assessment of the victim by a therapist revealed the victim said the Hastings brothers touched her private area. The Hastings brothers' court cases are still pending.
19. School officials placed on leave
First, Dan Russom, the Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School superintendent, was placed on administrative leave in February for undisclosed reasons. Later, Russom retired and Laura Lawrence was named superintendent of the newly merged Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District. Then, Lawrence was placed on paid administrative leave in November for undisclosed reasons. The district currently is searching for an acting superintendent.
20. Trooper dies
New York state trooper David W. Cunniff, 35, of Duanesburg was killed in an accident on the Thruway in Amsterdam in December. Cunniff was parked on the side of the highway conducting a traffic stop when a tractor-trailer plowed into Cunniff's vehicle and the vehicle the trooper had pulled over in front of him. The tractor-trailer driver was uninjured. The motorist in the other vehicle was taken to an Albany hospital.