Odds & Ends

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Dateline: Serbia—Children in the central Serbian town of Kragujevac watched in horror as a helicopter carrying a man dressed as Santa Claus crashed into the street in front of them. A crowd of children had gathered to greet Santa Claus on New Year's Day when the helicopter shuttling him and his bag of presents crashed a few hundred yards from them. The pilot, co-pilot and Santa were all injured, Beta news agency reported. Hospital officials reported that, despite the injuries, no lives were in danger. The cause of the crash has not been determined. Serbs celebrate Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7, but children receive presents at New Year—a holdover from the years of communist rule when Christmas was not an officially celebrated holiday.

Dateline: Japan—Police in Nishio say a 47-year-old cross dresser took a wrong step when he tried unsuccessfully to steal a nurse's uniform from an area hospital. Police told reporters that the transvestite might have eluded them if he hadn't insisted on wearing stiletto heels during the clothes-snatching crime spree.

Dateline: New York—Sonya Thomas, 36, is full of holiday cheer after her victory in a fruitcake-eating competition. The 105-pound woman choked down nearly five pounds of the Christmas treat in 10 minutes, beating her closest rival, a man who weighed almost four times as much as her. “My jaw is very tired right now,” Thomas said last Tuesday after out-eating 405-pound Eric Booker by one-eighth of an ounce. The fruitcake-eating competition was sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating and kicked off New Year's festivities in Buffalo. The Fruitcake Champion crown is just the latest in a string of food-related victories for Thomas. At the World Championship Chicken Taco Eating Contest, she scarfed 43 tacos in 11 minutes. She also holds the female world record for eating 24 hot dogs in 12 minutes and for consuming 68 hard-boiled eggs in eight minutes. Booker, of Long Island, apparently holds no grudge over his one-bite loss. Booker is a current title-holder in pea-eating and corned beef hash-eating.

Dateline: England—Dorothy Fletcher, 47, of Liverpool suffered a heart attack while flying to her daughter's wedding in Florida. A stewardess on the flight asked, “Is there a doctor on board?”—at which point 15 heart specialists jumped to their feet and offered assistance. All 15 were on their way to Orlando for a cardiology conference. “The doctors were wonderful,” Mrs. Fletcher said. “They saved my life. I was in a very bad way and they all rushed to help.” The ailing grandmother spent two days in intensive care at the Charlotte Medical Center in North Carolina following the heart attack. She spent an additional three days on a normal ward, but was still able to attend her daughter Christine's wedding in late November.

Dateline: Washington, D.C.—The chief of the Transportation Safety Administration at Dulles International Airport was placed on administrative leave last week after he was charged with drunk driving while on duty for a New Year's Eve Code Orange security alert. According to the Washington Post, acting federal security director Charles Brady was pulled over about 1 a.m. by a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police officer who saw him driving erratically on Route 28 near Dulles. Brady, 49, was taken to the Fairfax County jail, where he was booked on charges of driving while intoxicated. Brady was supposed to be at his airport post until 2 a.m. New Year's Eve, a night earmarked for heightened security due to terrorist concerns. TSA spokeswoman Jennifer Marty told the Post that Brady should have been participating in a security exercise to ensure the safety of air travelers at the time of his arrest. The TSA has named Adm. Jaems Shear as acting federal security director at Dulles pending its internal investigation into Brady's arrest.

Dateline: California—The family of a man whose body was donated to UC Davis Medical Center for research is suing the center after his embalmed head was discovered in the tool shed of a former autopsy assistant. Alan, David and Terry Whitten filed suit in Sacramento Superior Court recently alleging negligence and the intentional infliction of emotional distress as a result of the discovery that their father's had had been kept in a bag stored in the assistant's backyard shed for nearly 11 years. Former UC Davis assistant David Lawrence Beale is currently accused of stealing more than 150 pounds of human remains from the medical center program over an 11-year period. He was arrested five months ago after the remains were recovered in four Yolo County locations where he stored his belongings. Beale has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. The Whitten family's lawsuit claims that the medical center, which has since reported changes in the handling of human remains, was negligent in allowing Beale and his former company to mishandle the remains.

Compiled by Devin D. O'Leary. E-mail your weird news to devin@alibi.com.

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