Plane crash, union vote are top stories for Mississippi in 2017

Published 11:45 pm Sunday, December 31, 2017

JACKSON (AP) — A military plane crashed in the Mississippi Delta, Nissan employees rejected a union and regulators said no to a power plant.

Those were among Mississippi’s top news stories in 2017 — a year the Magnolia State celebrated the 200th anniversary of its admission to the Union. The bicentennial was punctuated by a visit from President Donald Trump to the state’s new history and civil rights museums, even though protesters said he had no business attending an event noting the African-American struggle for freedom.

Other news was just tragic — eight deaths in a chain of shootings brought on by a domestic dispute, a tornado that killed four including a grandfather and grandson, and a train that hit a bus in a deadly crash.

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A look at these and other big stories in Mississippi:

Military plane crash

The nation’s attention focused on soybean fields outside Itta Bena in July when a military transport plane broke up in flight and slammed into the ground in a fiery disaster that killed 15 Marines and a Navy sailor. Authorities spent days collecting remains and sifting through a miles-long debris field, trying to figure out why the KC-130 tumbled. A Marine general said something appeared to go wrong high in the air, but military officials have yet to release more information.

No to nissan union

Workers at Mississippi’s largest auto assembly plant resoundingly rejected union representation in August, adding to decades of futility by the United Auto Workers at foreign-owned auto plants in the South. Nissan Motor Co. workers voted against the union almost 2-to-1 in an election with trappings of a partisan political campaign.

200 Candles for mississippi

Mississippi marked the 200th anniversary of its admission to the Union with a yearlong program of events that climaxed with the opening of the state’s twin history and civil rights museums in Jackson. The civil rights museum won widespread praise for its unflinching look at Mississippi’s segregationist past and the struggle by African-Americans for equal rights. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant celebrated a visit by President Donald Trump on museums’ dedication day. Some civil rights veterans and others boycotted Trump’s visit.

Regulators pull plug on power plant

Regulators forced Mississippi Power Co. to abandon plans to fuel a power plant in Kemper County by converting coal into synthetic gas, saying the plant had grown too expensive and the technology remained uncertain. The decision in June forced Southern Co., the Atlanta-based parent of Mississippi Power, to absorb more than $6 billion in losses on the $7.5 billion plant, and dealt a blow to efforts to develop “clean coal” technology emitting less carbon dioxide.

Budget cuts hit state agencies

Community college and university students are paying higher tuition charges, Mississippi’s crime lab is running far behind in analyzing evidence, and some agencies laid off employees after state budget cuts. The Republican-led Legislature reduced spending in the face of shortfall caused by a stagnant economy and hundreds of millions in tax cuts.

Man charged with killing 8

A Mississippi man is charged with killing eight people May 27 and 28, including a sheriff’s deputy and seven members of an extended family in Lincoln County. Police say Willie Cory Godbolt started shooting after the deputy responded to a call about Godbolt arguing with his estranged wife. Authorities say Godbolt then killed others in two additional locations as police searched for him.

Train slams stranded bus

A tour organized by a Texas senior citizens’ center ended in four deaths after their bus got stuck on a humped railroad crossing in Biloxi and was hit by a freight train on March 7. Another 39 passengers and the driver were injured after the driver took a scenic route along beachfront U.S. 90 instead of Interstate 10.

Tornado rips hattiesburg, petal

A Jan. 21 tornado tore a 31-mile path across south Mississippi, killing four people and damaging or destroying more than 1,100 homes. One Hattiesburg woman lost both her father and her son, killed in separate houses in the same neighborhood. College students huddled in terror as the twister damaged every building at William Carey University. More than $11 million in federal aid was allotted to governments and individuals to help them recover.

Burning death mistrial

Jurors in October claimed they’d reached a verdict in the trial of a man charged with burning a north Mississippi woman to death, only to have a juror say, “We didn’t all agree” when the judge polled them. The judge eventually declared a mistrial in the case against Quinton Tellis, who is accused of killing 19-year-old Jessica Chambers in 2014. Prosecutors say they’ll retry Tellis.