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Gabby Petito: The search for Brian Laundrie in a swampy Florida nature reserve enters its second week


The search of the Carlton Reserve will resume Saturday, officials said.

An underwater dive team from the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office who are “called upon to search for evidence of crimes and victims of drowning, water accidents and foul play” was also brought in midweek, according to the sheriff’s office.

“We’re looking through wooded areas, we’re looking through bodies of water, we’re looking through swampy areas,” North Point Police Commander Joe Fussell said in a video shared online Friday. “And we’re deploying the resources to be able to do that. We have air units, we have drones, we have the swamp buggies, air boats, multiple law enforcement agencies, we have ATVs, we have UTVs and we have officers on foot as well.”

Petito, 22, and Laundrie embarked on a cross-country trip in June and were visiting national parks. They posted online regularly about their travels with the hashtag #VanLife, but those posts abruptly stopped in late August.

Laundrie returned home with their van on September 1. Petito was reported missing September 11 after her family had not been able to get in touch with her. She was found dead eight days later near a campground in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest.

According to an arrest warrant issued Thursday, Laundrie is wanted for the alleged use of “unauthorized devices” in the period following Petito’s death.

The warrant “doesn’t change anything for us,” Fussell said. “We’re working as hard to find him now as we did on day one.”

The conditions are challenging with murky water, muddy roads and thick vegetation, according to videos shared by North Port police. “Rough is an understatement,” Taylor said Thursday of the conditions in the reserve.

He said Saturday’s and Sunday’s efforts will be focusing on “areas of more likelihood.”

Another person says she gave hitchhiking Laundrie a ride in August

With law enforcement combing through the reserve, more stories are emerging of interactions involving Laundrie before his return to Florida.

Norma Jean Jalovec, a seasonal Wyoming resident, told CNN that she picked up Laundrie not far from Jackson Lake Dam on August 29, around 6:15 p.m. and gave him a ride to the Spread Creek dispersed campground where Gabby Petito’s remains were later found.

Laundrie was hitchhiking, Jalovec said, and got in the passenger seat of her Toyota SUV 4-Runner.

According to Jalovec, Laundrie told her he and his fiancée had a travel blog, that she was in their van at the camping area working on the blog, and that he had been hiking along the Snake River embankment for a few days.

A timeline of 22-year-old Gabby Petito's case

Jalovec said when they arrived at Spread Creek, she dropped Laundrie off before the gate at the entrance of the camping area. She said she offered once or twice to take him farther, but he was insistent that he be dropped off at the entrance.

Laundrie then offered her gas money, but she declined, she said.

Jalovec said as soon as she saw a series of videos posted on TikTok by Miranda Baker, who said she picked up Laundrie hitchhiking and dropped him at Jackson Lake Dam, she called the FBI and shared all the information she had.

Baker had said she dropped Laundrie near the dam at 6:09 p.m. and Jalovec says she picked him up just a few minutes later.

“I’m glad I was able to help in the investigation that placed him at Spread Creek at a definite time on August 29,” Jalovec told CNN.

CNN has not been able to independently verify Baker’s claims. North Port police confirmed to CNN that Baker spoke with the department before posting the videos on TikTok.

$30,000 in rewards offered for tips

As the search for Laundrie stretches into its second week, two separate rewards totaling $30,000 have been offered to anyone who provides law enforcement officials with Laundrie’s whereabouts.

Boohoff Law, a personal injury law firm, said in a release on its website it is offering a $20,000 reward to be “paid once the investigating law enforcement agency supplies” the firm with “written verification that a tip helped lead to locating” Laundrie.

The law firm, which has multiple offices across Florida, including North Port, said its reward “will remain open for two months starting from the receipt of the tip” by law enforcement.

Meanwhile, a second reward has been offered by Jerry Torres, who said in a tweet Wednesday he was a neighbor of the Petito family. Torres wrote that he and his daughter “offer our deepest condolences to the family of Gabby Petito,” adding, “We are offering a reward of $5,000 for tips leading to an arrest.”
Torres said Friday the reward he’s offering had been raised to $10,000, thanks in part to help by people like Steve Moyer, the former deputy chief of police for Sarasota, Florida.

“Money gets people to talk,” Moyer told CNN affiliate WZVN Friday.

Remembering Gabby

The disappearance of Petito, and subsequent search for Laundrie, has received a wave of national interest as well as brought heightened attention to others who have gone missing in the US.
Since the discovery of Petito, vigils have been held from Salt Lake City to the East Coast.
These families of missing Black people are frustrated with the lack of response to their cases

On Friday, residents of Blue Point, New York — Petito’s hometown on Long Island — lit candles in a memorial to show support for her family.

The organizers of “Light the Night For Gabby Petito” hope that similar demonstrations would stretch beyond Long Island, according to CNN affiliate WABC.

Candles were provided along with a request for a $20 donation with proceeds going to the Petito family, WABC said.

A candle lighting and butterfly release memorial is slated for Saturday evening in North Port in front of its city hall, according to The Daily Sun.

A memorial visitation for Petito is planned for Sunday afternoon in Holbrook on Long Island, according to Moloney’s Holbrook Funeral Home. It will be open to the public.

Richard Stafford, an attorney for Petito’s family, confirmed in a statement Friday her funeral would be held Sunday, adding that the family has asked for donations to be made to the future Gabby Petito Foundation in lieu of flowers.

CNN’s Randi Kaye, Leyla Santiago, Dakin Andone, Steve Almasy, Kate Conerly, Christina Maxouris, Rebekah Riess, Gregory Lemos and Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.





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Reserve a time for TSA screening


Harriet Baskas, Special to USA TODAY
Published 5:55 p.m. ET May 3, 2021 | Updated 6:11 p.m. ET May 3, 2021

CLOSE

The good news: Air travel is picking up. Sunday, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1.6 million passengers, the most since March 12, 2020.

The bad news: Long wait times at security checkpoints may be coming back, too.

At times during spring break, the lines to go through the security checkpoint stretched into the food court at Orlando International Airport and across the skybridge and into the parking garage at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

TSA is in the process of hiring 6,000 screening officers before the predicted summer travel surge. That should help move things along.

So could a pilot program that debuts Tuesday at the Seattle airport.

The program, called SEA Spot Saver, seeks to streamline wait times by offering digital reservations, or “virtual queuing,” for passengers to go through the TSA screening process.

The program will operate daily through Aug. 31 from 4 a.m. to noon (the airport’s peak travel period) at two checkpoints (2 and 5) and offer expedited screening to general screening passengers for free. No membership or account sign-up is required. (Expedited, nonreserved screening remains available to passengers enrolled in Trusted Traveler programs such as TSA PreCheck and CLEAR). 

SEA Spot Saver will test two options.

Alaska Airlines passengers can sign up for a security checkpoint appointment online up to 24 hours before their scheduled departure time or once they are in the terminal.

Passengers will receive a QR code to use at the checkpoint at their reservation time. That option is offered by Pangiam and powered by WhyLine and Copenhagen Optimization.

There is a separate line at Checkpoint 5 for Alaska passengers. Groups traveling together can enter “party size” on the reservation form, which can save a spot for a group of up to 12 people. 

“We are confident this pilot program will help reduce queue crowding, enable social distancing and provide a smoother and safer experience for travelers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport,” said Daniel Tanciar, chief innovation officer at Pangiam.

The second option, operated by VHT, is for passengers flying on Delta Air Lines and all other carriers. This option allows passengers to book a checkpoint appointment time by scanning a QR code once they are in the terminal.

At Checkpoint 2, Delta and other passengers will find signage with staff checking appointment times. Up to 10 people are allowed per reservation. 

Both options give passengers a 15-minute window for their appointment times.

When it is your time for an appointment, the app notifies you to go to your assigned checkpoint and “just look for the SEA Spot Saver logo. “

“Virtual queueing showcases our belief in putting customers in control of their experiences,” said Matt DiMaria, CEO of VHT. “While it offers passengers a sense of comfort and stability, it also grants airports the power of predictability and efficiency. It’s truly a win-win for everyone.”

Seattle will be the only airport in the USA testing a “virtual queuing” system as a solution for crowded general screening lines. 

Montreal-Trudeau International Airport’s (YUL) has offered screening reservations since 2014 through SecureXpress, but that program is on hold during the pandemic.

“The pandemic has left very few passengers coming and going through YUL,” said spokeswoman Anne-Sophie Hamel. “As such, there is no line-up to get through security, and the service is simply not useful right now.”

From October 2020 through April 30 Denver International Airport piloted the VeriFLY program, which offered timed checkpoint appointments but required passengers to file health data information before arrival and get temperature checks on site.

Port of Seattle officials said that after the pilot program is completed late this summer, they will evaluate usage, customer feedback and line efficiency – and, if successful, launch a broader program. 

“These are the innovations and ideas that we love, to make our guest experiences more convenient and stress-free, especially as more people get back flying again,” said Charu Jain, Alaska Airline’s senior vice president of merchandising and innovation. “With very little effort, guests can lean on technology to get them through the security process quicker.”

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/news/2021/05/03/seatac-airport-checkpoint-reserve-time-sea-spot-saver-tsa-screening/4928627001/





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Bills would reserve highway lane for cars with more than one person


High-occupancy vehicles would get exclusive use of a designated highway lane, a practice that has been around for several years in other states.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Efforts are underway to bring designated carpooling lanes to some Michigan freeways, a concept that picked up speed in the 1970s and has expanded to several states.

“We have to trigger people into being smarter about the vehicle miles that they are contributing, pairing up when it is possible,’’ said state Rep. Rachel Hood, who is one of several lawmakers calling for high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

Bills recently introduced in the Michigan House and Senate would allow state officials to designate a lane of a highway for exclusive use of vehicles carrying more than one person.

Hood, D-Grand Rapids, said the HOV lanes would be in urban areas with multiple lanes and where rush-hour traffic can be a nightmare. In other states, at least two people need to be in a vehicle for it to use the HOV lane.

Lanes would be specially marked and could be designated for high-occupancy vehicles at specific times of day when traffic is heaviest.

“I have experienced high occupancy vehicle lanes in my travels to California,’’ Hood said. “There, you have a dedicated lane that is moving – not maybe high speed, but it is moving. It is not interrupted by stops and starts. And it’s consistent. And it allows more people to get where they’re going faster.’’

Carpool lanes are part of a modernization project on a segment of I-75 in metro Detroit. The carpooling lanes, which would require two or more riders, will not be open until the project is completed in a few years.

The Michigan bills do not address penalties for violators.

“I think we can start to deal with penalties as we start to see problems emerge,’’ Hood said. “We can work on consequences later if we need to.’’  

People have used mannequins and blow-up dolls to get around minimum occupancy requirements. The state of Washington in 2019 added a new fine of more than $500 for people using a fake passenger in their vehicle, such as a doll or dummy.

Other states, including New York and Florida, have patrol units that look for drivers who travel HOV lanes with dummy passengers.

Hood says she hopes Michigan motorists will embrace the spirit of the legislation, should it become law, and stay focused on the larger picture.

“All of these things are part of a larger picture to make sure that we are addressing climate, reducing our emissions and building the smartest roads that we can build for a future that is probably going to look a little bit different than our grandparents’ highway,’’ she said.

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