Hero pilot pays tribute to vets

DENISON, Texas - In a town that's no stranger to heroes, one stood out yesterday. US Airways Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III returned to his hometown to help pay tribute to military veterans on the 65th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. Denison also was the hometown of the man who led the invasion, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry presented Sullenberger with a legislative resolution praising his safe landing of a US Airways jet on the Hudson River on Jan. 15, saving all aboard. A crowd of flag-waving, sign-holding North Texans staked out sidewalk space early yesterday to get a good glimpse at the 57-year-old pilot and Air Force veteran in a parade down Main Street.

"It makes me proud and makes me feel good to know that somebody from such a small town can do something so great and save a lot of lives," said Helen Moore, a drum major in the high school band.

- AP

A death sentence for Calif. arsonist

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - A convicted arsonist was sentenced to death Friday for setting a Southern California wildfire that killed five federal firefighters struggling to defend a rural home from raging, wind-driven flames.

Raymond Lee Oyler, 38, was found guilty in March of five counts of first-degree murder for setting the Oct. 26, 2006, blaze about 90 miles east of Los Angeles. Riverside County Superior Court Judge W. Charles Morgan said that Oyler was "on a mission . . . to wreak havoc in this county" by setting fires and became increasingly proficient.

Oyler's case is believed to mark the first time a death sentence has been ordered in the United States for an arson wildfire involving the deaths of firefighters, said John Hall, a spokesman for the district attorney.

- AP

Pick for forestry post withdraws

WASHINGTON - President Obama's choice to oversee the nation's forests has withdrawn his nomination, a White House spokesman said yesterday.

Homer Lee Wilkes was nominated May 5 as undersecretary of agriculture, a position that would have put him in charge of the U.S. Forest Service and the National Resource Conservation Service. The White House never sent his nomination to the Senate.

White House spokesman Shin Inouye said that Wilkes had withdrawn his name for personal reasons. Wilkes is a 28-year veteran of the Natural Resources and Conservation Service and the state conservationist in Mississippi. Inouye said the president had not picked a replacement.

- AP

Elsewhere:

An underground explosion in downtown San Francisco on Friday sent black smoke pouring out of a manhole and temporarily cut power to 8,600 people. There were no reports of injuries. Pacific Gas & Electric spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian said the cause of the blast was not immediately known.

Five people were shot and wounded early yesterday in a pizza shop in Hartford, Conn., police said. One of the victims was hospitalized in serious condition with a gunshot wound to the back. A 21-year-old Hartford man was arrested and charged with weapons violations.

Two men who escaped a rural Alabama prison last month were arrested yesterday with two suspected accomplices after a nearly 14-hour standoff in North Dakota. Authorities said the sister and wife of one of the men helped them flee the Perry County jail.