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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Gardner's Victims Share Pain, Divided on Execution

Jenny Brundin (2010-06-17)

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (kuer) - Utah's death row inmate Ronnie Lee Gardner is set to be executed just after midnight tonight. The families of Gardner's victims have shared the same wrenching pain for the 25 years he's been on death row. But some of them have very different views on his execution. KUER's Jenny Brundin tells their stories.

For 25 years Ronnie Lee Gardner has tried to evade the death chamber. And for 25 years Veldean Kirk has waited to see him walk into it.

KIRK: It'll be a closure, because for 25 years, it hasn't closed a bit.

Kirk and her daughter Tami Stewart are sitting at the kitchen table. The Sunday paper is spread out in front of them. There's a full day spread on what happened April 2, 1985. That's the day a bullet ripped through Kirk's husband's stomach.

STEWART: He was still facing him. KIRK: He was facing Gardner, and Gardner had the gun in his hand .

Every detail of that day is burned into their memories. Gardner was in court on a murder charge when he tried to escape using a gun slipped to him by an accomplice. As he fled, he shot and killed attorney Michael Burdell, and severely wounded Nick Kirk. For a quarter of a century, the victims' families have lived the anguish of not knowing whether or not Gardner would be put to death.

Here's Barb Webb, Kirk's older daughter.

WEBB: Every time Gardner's names brought up, he's either appealing this, he wants the death penalty, then he doesn't want the death penalty, it brings everything back that happened on April 2, 1985 over and over again. We all have to relieve it. Every single family has to go through the same thing that they went through on that day. Enough is enough.

Where Barb comes across as tough and angry, her younger sister Tami Stewart is tender and cries easily. The family calls her the soft-hearted one. What happened to her father twenty-five years ago has been present every day of her life.

STEWART: It's a mess. And I'm tired, like Barb, I'm tired of hearing his name, and I'm tired of remember how Dad felt that day and how sad it was .I'm just tired of it.

Donna Nu met Michael Burdell, the man who six years later would be one of Gardner's victims, at discussion group in Arizona. They would talk about who they were, why humans were on Earth, and the nature of creation - and they tried to practice the concepts they learned about.

NU: Well Michael would invariably verbalize exactly what I'd experienced.

The two would drive up once a month to Salt Lake City to take classes in spirituality. Their relationship deepened and evolved. Nu remembers vividly a night they spent together visiting a Vietnam veteran friend at the VA hospital after they'd both moved to Salt Lake City. She drove Burdell home.

NU: He said thank you in such a way that jolted my soul - it was a thank you that was more than just thanks for the ride. It just went very deep.

The next day Michael Burdell was murdered. As Ronnie Lee Gardner tried to escape from a Salt Lake City courthouse, he shot Burdell in the face. The bullet entered Burdell's eye at point blank range. Nu remembers seeing him in the hospital..

NU: And then it was like it was like I had run full force on, into a brick wall, that's what it felt like.

The Kirk family is tight-knit. They like to joke around and have fun. And Nick Kirk was the ring-leader. The father and grandfather everyone loved. He liked to scare the grandchildren on Halloween; he took them boating and fishing. And his two daughters Tami Stewart and Barb Webb say he loved to laugh.

WEBB: On April 2, 1985, that all changed, because he wasn't that type of person. STEWART: He was in pain.

Webb holds up a picture of her father.

WEBB: He went from looking like this, to a year and half after he was totally grey, he was like this little old man he couldn't do anything.

STEWART: But Dad did forgive Ronnie Lee before he died, that's what he told me, and he told me that I needed to do. WEBB: I think he did it because you're the one with the soft hearted one.

Webb tells her sister that her father did that because Stewart's the one with the soft heart. She thinks her father died hating Gardner.

WEBB: He knew his life as hunting and fishing and taking his grandchildren boating, and Gardner took all of that away from him that day he shot him.

Tami Stewart says she doesn't hate Gardner anymore, she feels sorry for him. But she can't forgive him. She imagines him sitting in the death chamber.

STEWART; He's going to feel that fear that he put into every one of those men. He's done, we've given him more than enough I think.

For Michael Burdell's family, putting Gardner to death they say, is not what Michael would have wanted. His father, Joseph Burdell Jr., testified that his murdered son would not want Gardner to die in his name. Donna Nu feels the same. She remembers her partner as a gentle, positive soul who was for life.

NU: He certainly wouldn't want to be the reason that Ronnie Lee was killed.

Nu never had hatred for Ronnie Lee Gardner, she was too consumed with the loss of her partner. And she knew she had to move on.

DONNA: If I would have dwelt on it anymore, it probably would have killed me. I had to go beyond it. I had to use it as a launching point to go beyond. Because I had no choice. I could wallow, or I could go beyond.

Gardner recently contacted Donna Nu and by telephone, they had a lengthy conversation.

NU: He is sorry for it, he is sorry for what he's done. And he had no idea of the ramification that would he caused from all this. All he knew was what the little life he knew, he knew nothing beyond that. He'd never experienced .caring. He'd never experienced anything that we might call normal life. All he knew was the violence that he knew and the chaos that he grew up with. MUSIC

Kirk sits alone at her kitchen table, the telephone phone in front of her. Her family stands nearby. Ronnie Lee Gardner has requested to talk with her to apologize. Several minutes pass. KIRK: I wonder if I was supposed to call him? DAUGHTERS: No, you wouldn't have .

45 more minutes pass.

KIRK: Now, I'm getting kind of angry.

The family has to call the prison to see what's going on. Because of miscommunication and the fact that a documentary team is present to interview Kirk only afterwards, the call doesn't happen. It turns out, Gardner, wanted to talk to the families privately. So the family was left waiting, with no phone call.

KIRK: You think he, they, would have at least tried to call to explain what was going on.

Donna Nu and Michael Burdell's father haven't met VelDean Kirk's family. Both families say they respect how each other feels about executing Gardner. Donna Nu:

DONNA: and I understand their pain because I had it for ..I still so I know the pain.

She just simply cannot understand the death penalty.

DONNA: What are we doing? What purpose are we serving? What are we gaining? .why would we kill each other?

And VelDean Kirk struggles with comprehending the views of Donna Nu and Michael Burdell's father, Joseph.

KIRK: How could you stand there and say you don't believe in the death penalty and he shouldn't die when he killed your son? I mean, I just can't understand that way of thinking!

VelDean Kirk will be a witness to Gardner's execution.

It's Monday. VelDean Kirk is leaving the prison. The Board of Pardons has just denied Gardner's request for life without parole. Kirk says his execution will bring closure.

KIRK: It'll just be over with. I don't know how to explain it. It'll be over with.

No one from Michael Burdell's family will be there. But Donna Nu says she and Michael believed that life is eternal. They often talked about their next lives. She says Burdell was excited, and looking forward to it. It just came too soon.

Ronnie Lee Gardner: Is Utah firing squad a more humane execution?

Ronnie Lee Gardner, who is scheduled to be executed by firing squad in Utah just past midnight local time Friday, raises questions about the relative humaneness of methods of execution.

Ronnie Lee Gardner raises his restrained hand as he is sworn in before speaking at his commutation hearing at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah, on June 10. Next to him is his attorney Andrew Parnes. Convicted of two murders, Mr. Gardner faces execution by firing squad at 12:05 a.m. Friday. Trent Nelson/AP/Pool

By Daniel B. Wood, Staff writer / June 17, 2010

Ronnie Lee Gardner is scheduled to be executed at 12:05 a.m. Friday in the Utah State Prison, spotlighting a long list of sensitive issues about the death penalty, ranging from cost to crime deterrence to the relative humaneness of specific methods, such as firing squad.

Mr. Gardner, convicted of two murders – one during a courthouse escape attempt in 1985 – had been selected to die by lethal injection. But in an April court hearing he said, “I would like the firing squad, please.”

There is some evidence that firing squad is less "barbaric" than lethal injection, says John Holdridge, director of the Capital Punishment Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which campaigns against the death penalty.

A Utah inmate who in 1938 agreed to be shot to death while hooked up to an electrocardiogram showed complete heart death within one minute of the firing squad's shots. By contrast, research shows that a lethal injection – if done properly – takes about nine minutes to kill an inmate.

Support for death penalty dropping

Polls show public support of the death penalty has been dropping steadily since the 1990s, partly because of the number of convictions shown to be wrong by The Innocence Project, a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing.

Mr. Holdridge says the number of proven, wrongful executions has now reached 138. And Cleveland-based criminal defense attorney Elizabeth Kelley says that 250 exonerations of death-row defendants in recent years, coupled with medical procedural TV shows such as CBS’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” have made the public more sophisticated about the fallibility of scientific evidence.

Holdridge says the Gardner execution by firing squad will be more dramatic and argues that it will raise more public opposition to the death penalty itself than would a lethal injection, which makes the death appear more humane and clinical.

“The Gardner execution really brings to the spotlight what we are doing – exterminating a human life in a deliberate, premeditated fashion,” Holdridge says. He notes that one of the five rifles is loaded with a blank round so that each shooter is uncertain about whether or not he fired a fatal shot.

But is it also a deterrent? Dr. Allison Cotton, associate professor of criminology at the Metropolitan State College of Denver, says shooting a convict sends a mixed message.

“Shooting a person because he shot a person to death – to deter others from shooting people – is faulty reasoning,” says Cotton.

Leaving aside the personal motivations for choosing to be shot, which some have suggested might be for political reasons, Cotton says the pain factor is unknowable. Lethal injection takes time, and is achieved in three stages, Cotton points out. The first injection makes the person unconscious. A second injection paralyzes muscles so they can’t move. And a third stops the heart.

“There is no way of knowing how much pain this causes because the person is unconscious,” she says.

Death-penalty costs

As to cost, Cotton says the average execution – whatever method – costs $2.3 million dollars, compared to $500,000 to $700,000 for life in prison without parole.

In 2006, the United States Supreme Court ruled that death-row inmates in the United States could challenge the constitutionality of states' lethal injection procedures through a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Since then, numerous death-row inmates have brought such challenges in the lower courts, claiming that lethal injection as currently practiced violates the ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" found in the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Lower courts evaluating these challenges have reached opposing conclusions.

For example, courts have found that lethal injection as practiced in California, Florida, and Tennessee is unconstitutional while other courts have found that lethal injection as practiced in Missouri, Arizona, and Oklahoma is constitutionally acceptable.

Family, friends say goodbye to Gardner

Family, friends say goodbye to Gardner
June 17th, 2010 @ 5:54pm
By Jennifer Stagg

DRAPER -- While Ronnie Lee Gardner spends his last day in prison, his family says they're coming to terms with his impending execution.

Gardner's daughter and brother visited the prison Wednesday night, their final visit with Ronnie Lee. His daughter, Brandie, and brother, Randy, say they believe Ronnie Lee is a changed man since he first entered prison. They hope Ronnie Lee Gardner's life will serve as a warning to others going down the same path. Both said they hope the public has compassion for their situation, as they say they are victims as well.

Brandie was under the age of 2 when her father was sent to prison. On the day of his execution she tearfully spoke of how much she loves him.

"He told me that he loved me and to take care of my kids, and just to be strong and that he'll be around," she said.

Brandie Gardner can't remember life without her father in prison. Friday, she'll have to adjust to life after his execution.

"He'll always be with me," Brandie said. "He always has, he always will."

Both Brandie and Randy say they are not attending the execution tonight, at Gardner's request. They will spend the evening at a vigil celebrating Ronnie Lee's life -- one they say was misguided.

"He, in a lot of ways, believes in the death penalty," Randy said of his brother. "He also believes in ‘an eye for an eye.' His victims got killed by a bullet. Why shouldn't he get killed by a bullet?"

"No matter that we can't physically can't be there with him, I'll be there for him as close as I possibly can. I'll be praying," said Debbie, who asked we don't identify her beyond first name. She has maintained a more than 25-year relationship with Gardner -- the entire time he's been in prison.

She says they were lovers, but stopped their physical relationship. They referred to each other as "best friends." Thursday night, when he is put to death, she'll be remembering the good in a convicted murderer.

"Yesterday I got to talk to him, and I just told him that he knew that I loved him and I love him from the bottom of my heart, and our friendship was true and pure," Debbie said.

Ronnie Lee Gardner allowed to touch his family through prison bars
By Aaron Falk
Deseret News
Published: Thursday, June 17, 2010 5:51 p.m. MDT

DRAPER — Friends and family of Ronnie Lee Gardner hugged and wiped tears from their eyes Thursday, as they gathered in a parking lot overlooking the Utah State Prison and waited for Gardner to die.

"It's hard to say goodbye to somebody you love," said Brandie Gardner, the convicted killer's daughter.

Brandie Gardner, the daughter of Ronnie Lee Gardner, speaks about her last meeting with father Ronnie Lee Gardner Thursday. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

Ronnie Lee Gardner met with his brother, his two children and a grandchild Wednesday night, before being moved into an observation cell to await his execution by firing squad in the first minutes of Friday morning.

The prison allowed the family to touch the inmate through bars.

"He's never touched no one but his lawyer's hand" since coming to prison, his brother, Randy Gardner said. "We kissed him goodbye."

Gardner's family said they would not witness the execution at the prisoner's request.

"He don't want that to be our last image," Randy Gardner said. "He don't want us to have nightmares and bad dreams."

"He's holding up probably better than we are," he added.

Gardner's daughter and brother said the man who killed John Melvyn Otterstrom in 1984 and Michael Burdell in 1985 had changed during his time in prison.

"The real Ronnie Lee Gardner is a good man — a good man who grew up with the state," Brandie Gardner said. "He's a good man. He's got a good heart."

Randy Gardner said he plans to carry out his brother's wishes to start an organic farm in Box Elder County to help troubled youth.

"Ronnie really has changed in the last 10 years," Randy Gardner said. "He knows he messed up and done wrong. And he knows he's going pay the ultimate price."

Gardner's family said they hoped Friday's execution would bring attention to the practice and help end capital punishment.

"I have a hard time believe we still execute people in the United States," Randy Gardner said.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Video: U.S. aims for hearts and minds in Kandahar

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The Best Way To Recycle A 747 Is To Live In It

Where do 747s go when they die? In this particular case: Malibu, to become a luxury home. And that’s not just a flight of fancy – the construction is on pace to be completed later this year. A closer look:

A brand new Boeing 747 will set you back $US200 milllion, but it turns out the scraps go for about $US35,000 – relatively economical given the scale of the project. And architect David Hertz made sure to use every part of the buffalo:

The Main Residence will use both of the main wings as well as the 2 stabilizers from the tail section as a roof for the Master Bedroom. The Art Studio Building will use a 50-foot long section of the upper fuselage as a roof, while the remaining front portion of the fuselage and upper first class cabin deck will be used as the roof of the Guest House. The lower half of the fuselage, which forms the cargo hold, will form the roof of the Animal Barn. A Meditation Pavilion will be made from the entire front of the aeroplane at 28 feet in diameter and 45 feet tall; the cockpit windows will form a skylight. Several other components are contemplated for use in a sublime manner, which include a fire pit and water element constructed out of the engine cowling.

Not to mention the roof aeroplane wings. I’m assuming they also got to keep the drink cart to use as a… drink cart.

It’s not just a fun way to make a house – although it certainly is that. It’s also a great sustainability project. The 747 comprises 4.5 million parts that would’ve ended up junked somewhere. Instead they’ll be a Mercedes dealership owner’s domicile. Not that using planes for homes will take off as a trend. But any time we can recycle on a large scale, I’m for it. Especially if it results in a fuselage gazebo.

Architect Designs New Home from Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet Scraps

MALIBU, CA - At over 230 feet long, 193 feet wide, and 60 feet tall, Boeing 747 jumbo jets were once the largest commercial planes in the sky.

But many airlines retired their 747 fleets as newer long-haul planes came on the market.

READ More About the Project and View more Images on >>>

Architect David Hertz though about that fact when his client, homeowner Francie Rehwald, approached him with a request.

It became clear a retired 747 would make a perfect home!

"I was very interested in building a green house using recycled materials whenever possible and voila," said Rehwald.

The aircraft was cut up into pieces for transport. Some larger parts had to be brought to the hills of Malibu by helicopter and crane.

The wings now make the home's roof, the fuselage will comprise the guest house, and the cockpit windows form skylights.

It took clearance from 17 different government agencies to pull it all off.

"We closed five major freeways to transport it at night," said Hertz.

The structure has to be registered with the FAA so pilots don't mistake it as a downed airliner.

New, the plane cost 200 million. The scraps cost $35,000, and all of its nearly 4.5 million parts will be used.

"We have a finite, an extremely finite amount of resources on the planet. It is not vast and endless. I believe everyone does have an impact," said Rehwald, who hopes to move in three months from now.

His neighbors, Rehwald said, are also on board with the project.

"It's big news on the mountain and it's so much fun to come up here."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Once again, Utah comes in No. 1 in volunteering

Once again, Utah comes in No. 1 in volunteering
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 06/15/2010 04:02:31 PM MDT

Utah has topped the nation in volunteering for the fifth year in a row, with the nation's highest rate of residents giving back to their communities.

With participation at 44.2 percent of adults, Utah far exceeds the national average of 22.8 percent.

"If you think about what attracts companies to Utah ... they feel this spirit," said Spencer Eccles, executive director of the governor's Office of Economic Development.

State and local leaders gathered Tuesday at the capitol to announce the ranking, which comes from the 2010 Volunteering in America report. Statewide, an estimated 906,000 Utahns volunteered 200 million hours in 2009.

Residents ages 55 to 64 most frequently volunteer.

Among mid-size cities, Provo had the highest volunteering rate nationwide, with 63.6 percent participation. "Volunteering is part of who we are," said Provo Mayor John Curtis.

Volunteering in Utah comes in all forms, from giving tours at The Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy to teenagers growing food to give to the poor through Utah G.A.R.D.E.N.S. The recent Chevron oil spill, which sent 33,000 gallons into Red Butte Creek, inspired citizens to contact Salt Lake City about how they could help.

"A large majority are asking how they can help the birds," said Karen Hale, the communications director. "We are lucky to have great communities here."

The Utah Commission on Volunteers is challenging citizens of all ages to volunteer in its Summer of Service campaign, competing for lunch with Lt. Gov. Greg Bell. And by working for 50 to 100 hours, depending on age group, participants can earn a Presidential Service Award.

In a Summer of Service kick-off last weekend, volunteers did landscaping at Provo's North Park and dug out grass from around sycamore and ash trees.

Last year, 13-year-old Amber Barron of Riverton won her age category in the state's competition, logging 64 hours of service at the Girl Scouts' three-day Camporee and setting up a blog for a camp held in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

This summer, she has been selected as a delegate for the Girl Scouts of Utah, and also will serve as a program aide for A Journey to The Past, a three-day camp that teaches children about their Utah heritage.

"I am hoping to be the top volunteer in [my] age group," she said. "I am hoping to log over 100 hours this year."

In Murray, the Youth Chamber of Commerce is helping children as young as 3 become more active in their community, said program director Sheri Van Bibber. While a teenager may have a what's-in-it-for-me mentality, she said, "if we start with them younger, we can reverse that train of thought."

Murray youth helped dig mud out of a flooded apartment building carport last week; this summer, they will help with projects from cleaning up the Jordan River to painting faces at the town's Fourth of July parade.

Despite Utah's success, Bell reminded the crowd Tuesday the state can't stop giving back. It's necessary to continue to inspire each other, he said. "We know there is much work to be done," he said.

Tribune reporter Samuel Weigley contributed to this report.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Abby Sunderland rescued and details of ordeal begin to emerge

Saturday, June 12, 2010 9:30am PDT
By: Pete Thomas,

*Updated to reflect that Abby Sunderland had in fact been knocked unconscious

Abby Sunderland is safely in the hands of French fishermen, no longer exposed to the harsh conditions she had endured for the past several days.

The 16-year-old sailor from Thousand Oaks, Calif., who had been the subject of a highly publicized search-and-rescue mission as her de-masted 40-foot vessel was adrift in rough seas in the southern Indian Ocean, was picked up by a crew from the Ile De La Runion on Saturday afternoon (Saturday morning PDT).

Her vessel had, as many presumed, been rolled by a giant wave, and Sunderland was knocked unconscious for a short period before recovering to activate two emergency satellite beacons, which signaled her position to authorities.

This brings to an end the sailor's bid to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone. But on the bright side, soon after she gets home -- possibly beforehand -- her new baby brother will be brought into the world.

Marianne Sunderland, Abby's mom, is due to give birth to her eighth child on July 1. She had gone into false labor at least once during these trying past few days.

Marianne spoke with Abby shortly after the rescue and said she seemed like her old self, with not much to say. "She just said, 'I'm fine,' and then we talked for a bit and passed the phone around inside the house," Marianne said.

Abby wasted no time getting familiar with the boat. She got on its computer and updated her blog with this passage: "Sorry I haven't written in so long. As you probably already know I had a pretty rough couple of days. The long and short of it is, well, one long wave, and one short mast (short meaning a two-inch stub). I'll write a more detailed blog later. I just wanted to let everyone know I am safe and sound on a great big fishing boat headed I am not exactly sure where."

Marianne said at 8:30 a.m. Saturday she telephoned the vessel to speak with Abby again, and was told her daughter, who had not slept much lately, was asleep.

The previous time Abby had talked to her mom and dad, via satellite phone, was early Thursday while she struggled in fierce winds and high seas. Abby had a day earlier been slammed by a supercharged storm and her vessel had been knocked side-to-side, its mast striking the water, in waves up to 50 feet.

About an hour after that call broke off, Abby activated the emergency beacons, launching an international rescue effort. When her vessel rolled she lost her mast and satellite communications.

A period of 20 hours had passed before she was located and contacted aboard her vessel, Wild Eyes, by the crew of an Australian spotter plane. She was alert when the spotter plane arrived and she spoke to a crewman via VHF radio.

During those 20 hours, headlines of a girl feared lost at sea, her boat possibly capsized, the sailor possibly trapped beneath the boat or -- worse -- in the water, topped newspaper and website stories.

That prompted debate and criticism as people questioned the wisdom of letting a teenage girl attempt so dangerous a feat, and the timing of an excursion that placed her in the region during the onset of the Southern Hemisphere winter.

Abby addressed some of these issues in her blog post: "The truth is, I was in a storm and you don't sail through the Indian Ocean without getting in at least one storm. Storms are part of the deal when set out to sail around the world alone."

Of the age issue she wrote: "Since when does age create gigantic waves and storms."

Many also wondered who would foot the bill for this complex rescue in one of the more remote location on the planet.

Abby's father Laurence, reached Friday night, said he would worry about that after his daughter was out of danger.

The rescue operation was tricky, as expected, as waves remained large and shifting when the large fishing boat arrived. The pickup was by a crew in a smaller boat. At one point during the rescue the captain of the fishing boat fell overboard and "was fished out in difficult conditions," said a statement from French authorities.

The Sunderlands were notified of the rescue by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Afterward Laurence stepped from his home into the predawn darkness and told reporters: "She got out of her vessel with the clothes on her back, and we are just really excited and ecstatic that Abigail is in safe hands. She was in good spirits."

It remains unclear whether Abby's $200,000 sailboat was scuttled and sank, or left adrift.

It will be a long journey home for Abby, who is aboard a fishing vessel on which only two crewmen speak limited English. The Ile De La Reunion will make a two-day trip to the Kerguelen Islands. Abby then is expected to board another boat for a seven-day voyage for Reunion Island, east of Madagascar.

The Sunderlands have not yet figured out the logistics of getting Abby home from there.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Teen Sailor Abby Sunderland Found Safe After Indian Ocean Scare

An Australian rescue crew in a Quantas airlines Airbus 330 spotted her boat upright late Thursday evening, family friend William Bennett told media gathered at the family home in Thousand Oaks. Rescue crews, who made contact with Abby via radio, told the family she was alive and well, he said.

"The family is overjoyed," Bennett said.

Planes, boats and prayers from around the world headed toward Sunderland and her rescue beacon bobbing in the rough seas of the Indian Ocean on Thursday.

An international rescue operation was launched to find the 16-year-old Thousand Oaks teen, who was about halfway through her quest to become the youngest person to sail around the world when something went seriously wrong Thursday morning.

The passenger plane was dispatched from Australia at first light after her satellite phone stopped working. Shortly after she lost communication, she deployed two rescue beacons calling for help, which means she or her boat are badly hurt, said Jeff Casher, one of Abby's support crew.

"She set this off not because she lost communication but because something is wrong," he said.

When rescuers found the 40-foot sailboat Wild Eyes its mast was broken.

Casher said either a French fishing boat that was speeding across the ocean or a military vessel should be able to reach her within 24 hours. She told rescuers she had a space heater and about two weeks worth of food.

She is about 2,000 miles west of Australia.

At the Blessed Hope Chapel in Simi Valley, where the Sunderland family have been longtime members, friends gathered late Thursday night for a prayer service. Word she had been found reached them via text message after 11 p.m. and Pastor Joe Schimmel raised his hands in jubilation. He then called her family.

"The boat's upright. She's fine," he told those who had gathered to pray for her.

Before the service started Tom Witt of Thousand Oaks, there with his 16-year-old daughter, Audrey, who grew up with Abby, said he went to the Sunderland home earlier in the day when he got the news. "She's an incredibly brave young lady and I hope she is OK. Our thoughts and prayers were with her and her family throughout the day," he said.

Lenny Breton, who was adjusting sound equipment in preparation for the service, said like other members of the 300-plus member congregation, he was notified by e-mail of the situation. "As with a lot of members, I'm here because there is power in prayer," he said.

As the 10 p.m. service began, the pastor reminded everyone that God is in control. "We just know that Abby is in his hands and nobody can snatch her from his hands," the pastor said.

Casher speculated earlier in the day that one of three things likely happened that caused Abby to call for help. As she detailed on her blog, the seas had been particularly tough over the past few days. Her boat listed into the water several times and winds reached 60 knots.

Casher said her keel or mast may have been damaged or broken off, or Abby could have been injured to the point where she couldn't sail when the boat tipped over. Even if the boat is tipped completely over, it will be able to float, he said.

Earlier in the day, her brother Zac -- who himself sailed around the world solo and briefly held a record as the youngest person to do so nonstop -- said Abby has the sailing prowess and mental toughness to weather the problems.

Abby manually deployed two beacons, one that was on the boat and the other that was attached to her and they both are close together, meaning she is likely still with the boat. A third beacon, which goes off automatically when submerged, was not deployed, meaning the boat is likely floating.

The beacons show the boat moving about 1 mile an hour, which means it is coasting, not sailing, Casher said. Her boat has moved about 12 miles since the beacon went off.

The ocean temperatures are about 55 degrees, but Abby has the survival gear to withstand the cold, he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard doesn't have any boats nearby but is assisting by using software that could help track the boat by looking at ocean conditions.

Abby has been writing about her journey on her blog and noted how the weather had turned nasty recently.

"The weather looks like it could pick up a lot in the next few days," she wrote in a Monday post titled 'Update from the Middle of the Indian Ocean.' "I could have winds up to 60 knots, so I'm getting things all tied down and ready for some big winds."

On Wednesday, she wrote under "A rough few days," "The wind is beginning to pick up. It is back up to 20 knots and I am expecting that by midnight tonight I could have 35-50 knots with gusts to 60 so I am off to sleep before it really picks up."

Abby and Casher had spoken early Thursday morning as they worked to fix her engine that had gone out during the storms. Numerous times in the adventure the two had "Apollo 13" moments, where they figured out how to fix the boat with limited supplies. Once she got the engine fixed, "she perked right up to her same old self," he said.

They lost connection shortly thereafter and he called back about 15 times until there was no longer a signal on Abby's end.

At a news conference Thursday, Zac, 18, declined to address the criticism of some who questioned his parents' decision to allow their children to undertake a dangerous voyage.

Zac had his own drama on his journey, including outrunning pirates. Although he did set a record, about two months after he was finished, a 17-year old Brit bested his feat.

Abby set sail from Marina del Rey in January in hopes of making her own history as the youngest person to sail around the world nonstop.

But in April, she had to stop in Capetown, South Africa, for repairs, which effectively ended her nonstop goal. She was still trying to do the trip as the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe.

Casher said that while Abby is sometimes shy on land, she is free and happy at sea.

"She perks up anytime she can drive that boat," he said. "She's in her zone."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Prayers for Abby

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - 21 May 2010: (SOUTH AFRICA, UAE, BRAZIL OUT) Abby Sunderland, an American teenager on her yacht 'Wild Eyes' at the V&A Waterfront in CAPE Town, South Africa on 21 May 2010. She left California 103 days ago on her solo voyage around the world, but she had some steering problems with her yacht and had to dock in Cape Town to get the problem fixed. Abby says that since she was 13 years old she had a big dream to sail across the world alone and when her brother did it a year ago she was even more eager to set sail. (Photo by Jaco Marais/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Rescue of teen sailor Abby Sunderland could take nearly two days
Thursday, June 10, 2010 2:47pm PDT

Teen sailor Abby Sunderland, who today made international headlines by requesting a rescue via various distress-signal units, is in a portion of the southern Indian Ocean that is so remote it could take nearly two days for a boat or ship to reach her position.

Sunderland, 16, had been a little past the halfway point in an attempt to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone.

Helicopters reportedly do not have the fuel capacity to reach her but a crew aboard an airplane from Australia hopes to arrive at the position issued via her EPIRB satellite positioning device at daybreak (she's 11 hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time).

-- Image of Abby Sunderland courtesy of Lisa Gizara/Gizara Arts
The Sunderland parents, Laurence and Marianne, had not at the time of this post gone outside to meet with reporters in front of their home in Thousand Oaks, Calif. But this afternoon they issued an update on Abby's blog.

It stated that it the EPIRB unit issuing a signal was one that has to be activated manually. Presumably this is the unit attached to her survival suit. Another signal had come from a hand-held Personal Locator Beacon, or PLB. The water-activated EPIRB unit did not activate, which might mean her 40-foot vessel, Wild Eyes, is afloat and upright.

It's not clear if Abby is on the boat, in a life raft or in the water. She is wearing a survival suit designed for emergency situations. The water temperature in the area is in the low to mid-50s, according to recent reports.

Of the aircraft en route to her position the Sunderlands stated: "They will not be able to help her other than to talk via marine radio if they are able to get close enough. Hopefully, they will be able to assess her situation and report back to us."

Earlier in the day, Zac Sunderland, who last July completed a solo-circumnavigation of the planet in a 36-fot sailboat, issued this comment to KNX radio in Los Angeles: "We're still trying to figure out the rescue situation. Right now we're trying to figure out if there is any faster way."

The Sunderlands are in touch with American, French and Australian search-and-rescue authorities.

Abby, a high-school junior who had dreamed of sailing around the world since she was 13, has a big red heart painted on the bottom of her white keel. If her 40-foot cruising sled, Wild Eyes, has capsized and she is clinging atop the hull, maybe this will make her more visible.

The Sunderland parents were part of a large prayer vigil earlier in the day.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Looking back on STS-130

STS-130 MCC Status Report #01

Feb. 8, 2010 - After a one day delay due to clouds, space shuttle Endeavour launched at 3:14 a.m. CST Monday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with a new module and an attached cupola for the International Space Station that should increase human understanding of our home planet.

A week prior to the launch my 'geeks' were down there crawling all over that launch site!

This here is Dr. Cranky, Bob Bob, and Technopooh!!!

The goofy-looking balloon on the left is to scare away birds. Keeps the woodpeckers from pecking holes in the external tanks.

Reach out and touch a wingtip!

Spectacular Launch Begins a Complex Mission

After a one-day delay due to clouds, Mon, 08 Feb 2010 04:13:21 AM MST

"What a beautiful launch we had this morning... the orbiter performed extremely well," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations, during the STS-130 postlaunch news conference. "This is a great start to a very complicated mission."

Jean-Jacques Dordain, European Space Agency director general, thanked NASA, the crew and the ground teams for "a very beautiful launch." Dordain said, "It was an important event. Even more important for us because the shuttle was full of European hardware."

Mike Moses, shuttle launch integration manager, said the count went unbelievably smooth. He commented how the weather constraints influenced the launch of space shuttle Endeavour and how happy he was that it all came together today. Docking is set for flight day three with three spacewalks planned to install the Tranquility node and then cupola permanently to the International Space Station. "This will be a good example of international partnerships and cooperation between the station crew and shuttle crew," said Moses.

"This was one of the smoothest countdowns ever," said Mike Leinbach, shuttle launch director. "The team was very, very energized going into the count."