Marietta woman killed in traffic accident | News, Sports, Jobs

MARIETTA — A Marietta woman was killed in a traffic accident Friday in Washington County, the Marietta Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said.

Jean R. Pekach, 92, of Marietta, was killed in a collision with a 2010 Mazda 3 driven by Jimella J. Bigley, 51, of Ravenswood on Ohio 7 near milepost 27 in Marietta Township, the patrol said.

The investigation found Pekach, driving a 2001 Honda Accord, was attempting to pull out of a private drive when the collision occurred. Bigley was traveling north on Route 7, the patrol said.

Pekach was taken to Marietta Memorial Hospital by the Reno Volunteer Fire Department EMS where she was pronounced dead, the patrol said. Bigley sustained serious, but non-life-threatening injuries and also was taken to Marietta Memorial by the Fearing Township Volunteer Fire Department EMS, the patrol said.

The accident happened around 12:30 p.m. Friday, according to the patrol.

Alcohol is not suspected to be a factor in the crash and both drivers were wearing a seatbelt, the patrol said. The accident remains under investigation, the patrol said.

Responding agencies include the patrol, Fearing and Reno fire departments and Westfall Towing.

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New hope for missing Mayo woman Sandra Collins’ family after anonymous tip-off

The family of a woman who has been missing for 22 years believe they are now close to finding her body.

andra Collins (28) was pregnant when she disappeared in Killala, Co Mayo, on December 4, 2000. She was last seen at about 11pm after she bought chips in a takeaway.

Despite a fleece jacket being found by the local pier, it is believed she did not take her own life by jumping into the sea but was rather abducted, murdered and buried in a shallow grave.

Her brother Patrick told the Sunday World he believed an anonymous phonecall he received at Christmas was credible and he said the information he was given could finally lead to his sister’s remains being found.

“We met with gardaí two weeks ago for an update on the investigation,” he said.

“After the appeal at Christmas a few people came forward with a few bits of information. I also got an anonymous phonecall after I was interviewed on radio.

“When I put the phone down, I knew it wasn’t going to fall on deaf ears.

“The caller provided new information that is being followed up on and I am hopeful that this will lead somewhere.

“However, we are still appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

“There are people out there who definitely know what happened to Sandra and we still believe there is someone out there who can put an end to this. We do believe we are close to finding Sandra.”


Ms Collins’s family has refused to allow the case of her disappearance in 2000 to fade from the public eye.

In May 2014, after a cold case review, local plasterer Martin Earley went on trial accused of murder.

But the evidence against him was circumstantial: Sandra’s body has never been found, and there was no murder weapon or crime scene.

As revealed in court, Ms Collins found out she was pregnant on the day she disappeared. She had told her GP she intended to travel to England for a termination.

Several people saw her in a phone box in Killala throughout that day.

The State alleged she called Mr Earley’s mobile phone and claimed he made calls to the phonebox as well.

Witnesses confirmed Ms Collins was wearing a light pink fleece on the day of her disappearance.

This was subsequently found on the pier in Killala on December 9, 2000. A packet of sausages and two pieces of paper were found in the pockets.

Mr Earley’s number was written on one piece of paper, while the other piece contained the numbers of two abortion clinics in Britain.

The court heard Mr Earley admitted in statements to gardaí to having a sexual relationship with Ms Collins, but denied killing her.

After a four-week trial, Mr Earley walked from the court a free man. Ruling there was not sufficient evidence to find him guilty, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy directed the jury to acquit him.

“At this stage we just want a body,” her brother Patrick said.

“It’s not about justice for us now; we have been down that road already. I do believe there are people out there who have information and are afraid.

“There is an awful lot of fear in the community, a sense of this being too close to home.

“We would ask that those people look deep inside themselves and try to find the courage to do the right thing.

“Out of fear or loyalty there are people who are holding back, and we want to stress that there are so many ways to give us information without implicating themselves.

“There is a confidential garda line and anyone who wants to can send an anonymous letter.”

Interviews with Ms Collins’s family feature next week in a TG4 documentary about her disappearance.

In 2020, the family launched a GoFundMe appeal to raise money for a reward to any persons with information that leads to the discovery of Ms Collins’s remains, and to help gardaí if a location for her remains is identified.

“Thanks to the GoFundMe page we are putting up billboards on bus stops in Mayo to try and appeal to people,” her brother Patrick said.

“We hope that people standing at the bus stops in Ballina and Castlebar will look at Sandra’s picture and do the right thing.

“Since the GoFundMe page was set up in 2020, over €7,000 has been raised, which has enabled us to do this and put money towards a reward for information that leads to the discovery of Sandra’s remains.

“We are also hoping to use the money to hire a renowned US criminal profiler to help gardaí to locate her.”

After their most recent meeting with gardaí, the Collins family are hopeful of a breakthrough in the case.

They are anxious for a resolution, some form of closure, but more than anything they want Ms Collins to be given back her dignity.

“It is important for us to give our sister a proper burial,” Patrick said.

“Until we can do that, we will never give up. What has happened to Sandra has stolen all our lives. We stay so focused because we love Sandra.

“We just want to know where Sandra is. We just want her back and then we will walk away.”

The GoFundMe page set up by the Collins family is at bring-sandra-collins-home

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Money saving tips: Woman explains how she’s saved £500 | Personal Finance | Finance

While experts have been recommending cutting back on takeaways and subscriptions, has discovered a fun way to save a fortune on travel this year.

A 46-year-old woman from York has shared how she saves money on travel by staying in stranger’s homes – for free.

She has enjoyed cheap holidays in exotic places like the French Réunion island south of Mauritius by not paying for accommodation or food.

Savvy Brits like Suzi Bewell are part of a ‘couch surfing’ phenomenon which could be about to become a lot more popular.

“I went to la Réunion island and stayed for three days with a family for free and I’ve had people from all over the world stay here in York,” Suzi told

READ MORE: NS&I explains how to increase chances of winning prize of up to £1m

She’s not the only one raving about sofa surfing as a means of saving money on travel.

While it’s easy to see how this way of life would be more appealing to the younger generation, surfing for seniors is also a thing.

On the Couchsurfing blog Paul Miniato wrote: “The average age of a Couchsurfer is 28, and only about three percent of users are over 50.”

Still with about five million members, that’s 150,000 ‘golden age’ surfers and hosts.”

However, he said the good news for travellers who might find a week on a sofa a little uncomfortable, is many people offer a private bedroom.

Jane Hawkes, consumer expert at, said it’s a great way to save money.

She said: “Couch surfing is a novel way to get that much needed holiday for a fraction of the price.

“You can also get cost cutting travel tips, local info and advice from your hosts as to where to go and what to do.”

Couch surfers like Paul say it’s a once in a lifetime experience they’ll never forget.

“Our first Couchsurfing experience was in the seaside town of Sequim, Washington.

“Our host, Teresa, was both interesting and gracious, and the accommodation offered us by our new friend was as good as any an old friend might provide.

“Couchsurfing will be high on our list for our next trip.

“We’d recommend it for yours.”

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A Woman Alone in Oman: Three Weeks Along the Arabian Coast

I could barely tell where the salt ended and the sky began.

I was on my way to Masirah, Oman’s largest island, when the surrounding terrain turned into a massive salt flat. At its edge, near the road, two Bangladeshi workers were up to their ankles in the mixture of liquid and minerals, pushing the salt flakes into pyramid-shaped piles. I, too, waded in, the horizon blurred by an orange-pink haze.

Finally I reached the ferry and, after more than an hour at sea, arrived at Masirah. I began driving down the west coast of the bowtie-shaped island, hoping to make it to its southern point by sundown, a distance of some 40 miles. The farther I got from the port, the fewer people I saw — until, pulling onto the sand of Bu Rasas Beach, there was no one. With the trunk of my S.U.V. open to the sea, emitting the only light for miles, I could hear the small shore creatures scuttling near the water’s edge.

Alone, skirting the boundaries between sand and sea, I’d reached the midpoint of my trek.

This past December, three months after the Sultanate of Oman lifted its Covid-19 travel restrictions, I flew from my home in Paris to the southern city of Salalah, intending to explore the entirety of Oman’s coastline from south to north.

For the next three weeks, I would be traveling solo across the edge of the Arabian Peninsula, clocking more than 2,600 miles, improvising campsites, off-roading with middling success, loading my rental car onto ferries to reach remote islands, passing military checkpoints and, finally, reaching the northern tip of Oman and the waters of the Strait of Hormuz, one of the most geopolitically contentious and carefully monitored waterways in the world.

When you conjure images of the Arabian Peninsula, whose inhabitants go by the pan-Arab term “khaleeji,” the Sultanate of Oman is perhaps not the first country that comes to mind. Saudi Arabia’s presence on the world stage has been dominant in recent years; both the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have made political and cultural impressions internationally; and the entire world has watched in horror at the ongoing civil war in Yemen.

And yet Oman has nurtured its reputation as a neutral and often tranquil place, even serving during the Obama administration as a conduit for nuclear talks between the United States and Iran. The country has made few ripples on the international front since the British-backed coup in the 1970s, when a reformist son deposed his father to become the new sultan. The leader — Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, who died in 2020 — subsequently transformed Oman, catalyzing mass modernization while maintaining the absolute monarchy.

For me, that relative calm was one of its most attractive features. That and its unique climate. Because of its location, Oman is one of the rare countries in the Arab world that experiences a khareef (monsoon) season, which turns the landscape a lush green, floods mountains with waterfalls, fills the wadis (valleys or riverbeds) with fresh water and brings a thick fog to rest on the southern governorates of the country. Oman doesn’t really have an off-season. The khareef is popular with khaleejis, and during winter months the sultanate receives more European and Indian tourists. As I’d missed the khareef, it was the ideal time for a beach-bound adventure.

In my dedication to traveling the entirety of the Omani coastline, I’d be foregoing inland Oman, famed for the Rub al Khali, or the Empty Quarter, considered the world’s largest continuous sand desert and made up of approximately 250,000 square miles of uninterrupted sand dunes, spanning across Oman, Yemen, the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia. And, in a stubborn commitment to driving the entire coastline, I drove some three hours west of Salalah to the border of Yemen to officially begin the trip.

The route to the border was treacherous, full of repeating switchbacks as the road ascended into the Dhofar Mountains. And the quality of the roadway significantly deteriorated the closer I got to Yemen.

The border crossing near the town of Sarfayt wasn’t very imposing: a makeshift hut of corrugated iron paneling — covered in camouflage netting and yellowed by the sun — with a sand-colored SUV in its shade. Disappointingly, there was no signage. This was the closest I’d been to Yemen since December 2013, not long before the civil war began. After conferring with his colleagues in the hut, the guard allowed me to complete a U-turn in the no man’s land between Oman and Yemen. And with that, my journey had officially begun.

The first thing I did on my expedition north was pull up for a warm cup of sweet milk tea called karakan Omani favorite, made with spices — at the nearest place I could find. It was significantly colder and windier here in the mountains.

By nightfall I’d reached Fazayah Beach, some 65 miles from the border. Wild camping is legal in Oman; one has the right to pitch a tent on any public land. Before picking up my car rental, I requested that the rear rows be removed, which would give me the option of sleeping in back. That night, I kept the trunk open, tucked into my sleeping bag, listening to the waves. In the morning, cows walked the beach while I swam; later I waited as they blocked the mountain road until I could pull back out onto Highway 47.

My trip progressed in undulating chapters: Periods of isolation and contemplation were followed by moments of extreme focus in precarious situations, which then swung into generous cultural exchanges.

At Mughsail Beach, with Mount Qamar looming in the distance, the shallow pools of light green and blue water gathered in pockets in the sand, as dromedaries, or one-humped Arabian camels, walked along the shore, silhouetted by an orange sun. Ropes of a vine called goat’s foot crisscrossed the beach, with their pink flowers dotting the sand.

Just as the sun was fading into a fuzzy haze, a traditionally dressed couple walked barefoot along the shoreline, the man in a dishdasha (an ankle-length collarless tunic) and kuma (a rounded embroidered cap), and the woman in an abaya (a long black cloak) and hijab.

At the Khor Rori archaeological site, I met a man who looked to be in his mid-40s. We struck up a conversation, and when he found out I have Yemeni ancestry, he warmed to me. I sat with him through a few of his cigarettes.

He was fascinated by my Jewish heritage, saying I was the first Jew he had ever met and asking to take a photograph together. Then, as though he needed proof of my Jewishness, he asked that I write out several names in Hebrew, which I did. We exchanged numbers and planned to meet that evening for dinner.

After visiting Wadi Darbat, famous for its plateau of waterfalls, I drove to Mirbat, where my new friend had dropped a pin on my phone to share the exact location. He had ordered takeout, and we took the bags to the beach, where he laid out a mat and we sat eating cross-legged using our right hands in place of utensils, in the traditional manner. Having finished our meal of chicken biryani, we stepped out onto the rocks where the ocean lapped onto the stones. We went as far as we could without getting wet, finding a place to lean back comfortably. And then, as if old friends, we had a long talk about a range of topics, including religion, while staring up at the sky.

The next day, I stopped to have coffee in the bustling village of Sadah. As soon as I sat down, the neighborhood children playing at a nearby table were intrigued — likely with my unruly (and uncovered) hair, western (though modest) clothes and vaguely familiar features. The girls waved at me, while the boys made faces and loud jokes, clearly having a cheeky laugh at my expense. These exchanges are among my favorite moments on the road: no common language, no inherent gain for either party, just a bit of wonder on all sides, full of hand signals and carefree laughter.

A man in western clothes and his young daughter joined our interaction. He introduced himself as a native of Sadah and suggested a restaurant with the best view in town. Requesting that I refer to him as Ali, he later said he was a member of an elite military unit in Oman.

Ali proposed a drive to Natef Falls, where, as one local described, the “water comes from the mountains like tears.” I bathed in the freshwater, which felt noticeably distinct from mornings spent in the brine.

Drying off, I recalled the conversation we had shared earlier in the day. “I’m crazy, you’re crazy,” he’d said, as both of us laughed. What Ali had meant, restricted by the limits of our common language skills, was that I was a woman traveling by herself, an idea that to him was absolutely mad — and yet also brave. He was likening it to his métier: high-altitude military parachuting, which he knew was both courageous and a bit unhinged. (I’d seen videos of his jumps.)

In other words: This was Ali, paying me a compliment.

A couple days later I was off-roading in the Sugar Dunes of Al Khaluf in an attempt to reach Bar al Hikman before sunrise. Suddenly, my S.U.V. ceased moving forward; the wheels rotated in place, sending sand in all directions. The car sank into the white lumps. I tried in vain to dig myself out, but it was futile. I hesitated before calling Ali. Within 30 minutes of dropping him a pin, two friends from Ali’s unit pulled up — barefoot, wearing dishdashas and massars (embroidered headscarves) — in a beat-up ’90s truck the color of sand.

Ten minutes later, employing the practiced skill of people who had clearly done this many times before, they yanked my much larger vehicle out of its pit, and drove it back to the blacktop. They offered me a place to stay at their camp for the night, but I had taken up enough of their time. We said our goodbyes and, my hands pressed together in supplication uttering profuse shukrans (thank yous), they sent me on my way. Feeling inordinately lucky, I found an easily accessible nearby beach, splayed out in the trunk, and passed out.

The following morning, I walked across the stunning white sand beach, sat in the water feeling grateful for it all, and looked back at the dunes that had nearly devoured me the night before.

The farther north I traveled, the craggier the terrain became — stonier, less smooth. An hour north from the port city of Sur, I was enchanted by the many smaller coves that broke up the long stretch of beach near Bimmah Sinkhole. Weaving among them, I admired the massive chunks of brain coral and the way the morning sun reflected pastel highlights onto the stones.

Exactly two weeks into my trip, with only brief interludes from the intermittently unforgiving coastal terrain, I pulled into a parking spot on a perfectly manicured street — lined with elegant palms trees — in a swanky corner of Muscat, Oman’s capital, and walked my weary self into an international coffee chain.

Hoping to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, I missed the window for non-Muslim visitors. Instead, I walked through the surrounding gardens. Evening had fallen by the time I departed Muscat for Shinas, a coastal town near the border with U.A.E. I counted the gas flares that dotted the coastline as I continued my drive.

The following morning, I found a small unassuming cafe for breakfast. The corner shop, open on two sides, let in a much-appreciated breeze. I joined a morning crowd of South Asian workers, silently drinking their chais and munching their chapatis, transfixed by the overhead TV, a few flies resting on the plastic tables we all shared. I saw one of the men dip his chapati in his tea, and I did the same. Not half bad. After their meal, men would approach the sink in the middle of the shop and wash their hands and mouth, then use the thin waxy paper, provided by the shop, to dry themselves off. I followed suit.

These types of shops can be found all over the sultanate, a staple of communities in a country where foreign workers — mostly from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan — make up a significant portion of the population. (In Oman and many of its neighbors, the pandemic led to a reckoning about the many inequalities that exist in the Gulf states, which rely heavily on migrant labor.)

I was finally ready to head to Musandam, the northernmost of Oman’s 11 governorates, which borders the Strait of Hormuz and is separated from the rest of the country by a spit of Emirati land. Musandam has beautifully barren fjords hugging green-blue bays, jagged mountain ranges, and inlets that reveal small villages accessible only by boat. The port city of Khasab is a four-hour ferry ride from Shinas, north along the edge of the Arabian Peninsula and around the cape into the Strait of Hormuz.

I drove off the ferry into town and let curiosity lead me along the Khasab Coastal Road, gradually nearing my ultimate destination. The Musandam mountain scapes were intimidating, dwarfing the few homes that were built right up against them. One road appeared to turn into the mountains, and I decided to see where it led.

After about five minutes, the paved road gave way to dirt. I got out of the car to take some photos when I heard a man’s voice call and echo to me from across the valley. Looking in the direction of the sound, I discerned a figure waving me over. It turned out to be a group of young Omani men, who went on to invite me to join their breakfast, revealing a spread of coffee, karak, tanoor bread (baked in an underground clay oven), honey and cheese. The home, land, and surrounding flock of goats belonged to a family member, and they were all visiting from their respective homes in the nearby Emirates.

That afternoon, I made my way to the northernmost point of Oman — or as far as I could go without risking further off-roading high jinks — and gazed out over the coast. The waters were deceptively serene. I found a place to rest among the rocks and contemplated the historic nature of the sea passage. Only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, the Strait of Hormuz has been essential for trade between civilizations for thousands of years.

Recently, some 20 percent of the global oil supply has flowed through the strait, which is the only way for oil tankers and cargo ships to reach the Indian Ocean for maritime trade. Tensions at this chokepoint have led (and continue to lead) to numerous conflicts.

Taking in the sea view from a small park just southwest of the horn, I waved to a group of women walking in the sand; they waved back. I longed for interactions with Omani women but had experienced very few throughout the journey — partly a result of my limited language skills and the solitary nature of my trip, and partly because of the complicated gender dynamics in a country with a spectrum of conservativeness.

I’d spoken briefly with a young doctor on the ferry to Masirah, on the deck reserved for families (the other side was reserved for single men), where we were both trying to get a good picture of the sunset and joked at our unsuccessful attempts. The conversation trailed off, and she returned to sit with her two friends.

At a generic food stand in Khasab, a group of young girls approached me, admiring my camera. I let them hold it and play, which drew the attention of some teenage girls who wanted to practice their English. “You’re cute!” they said to me, giggling.

Reflecting back on these fleeting moments, I was thankful to have had them.

I left Musandam the following morning and headed back to mainland Oman, where I booked a hotel in Muscat and, for the first night in weeks, slept in a bed. When I awoke, the city had flooded, limiting the options for my final day. I lay back down on the bed. I could still smell the smoke emanating from burned frankincense resin, could feel the air from Jabal Samhan on my skin, could hear the batting of green sea turtle flippers in the sand.

Noa Avishag Schnall, is a visual journalist based in Paris. You can follow her work on Instagram.

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Florida woman dies, travel insurance would not refund cost of cruise not taken

Harvey Wasserman and his wife Arleen have always loved to travel.

“Since we’ve been together — last 37 years — we’ve done an enormous amount of traveling,” Wasserman said.

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The couple has pictures in Paris, Vienna and places around the world. So when they got a brochure to take a 15-day Viking cruise through the Panama Canal and Central America, Wasserman said his wife couldn’t resist.


“The very first cruise that Arleen and I did together was through the Panama Canal,” Wasserman said. “And we were really excited about going back and seeing it again.”

According to Wasserman, they paid more than $12,000 for the cruise, including money for travel insurance. The travel insurance was purchased with Tripmate through Viking, Wasserman said.

They also invited their good friends Deborah and Alvi Blankenship.

“We were kind of excited about going with them because we’re close friends,” Alvie Blankenship said.

The Blankenships paid more than $10,000, which included trip insurance. But then they were notified that their cruise was cancelled due to COVID-19. The couples chose to rebook on a future cruise and accepted a voucher for Future Cruise Credits.

However, before they could take the cruise — Arleen passed away.

“At 75, its not a life I planned. I don’t even know how to go forward,” Wasserman said.


Wasserman keeps his wife’s remains close by, but after the service, he decided he could not take the cruise alone.

“The idea of going to someplace new and enjoying myself, it’s upsetting to just think about it,” Wasserman said.

Wasserman said he tried to get a refund but was denied for the same reason as the Blankenships — here’s why:

When they agreed to be rebooked on the second cruise, they accepted a voucher for a future cruise credit worth 125% of what they originally paid — the caveat: vouchers don’t allow for cash refunds.

“It was never really explained properly,” Wasserman said.

Then the couples turned to their trip protection plan, which said it covers trip cancellation and 100% of the trip cost. One of the covered reasons for cancellation is “death of you, your traveling companion or your family member,” according to the protection plan documents.

Wasserman submitted a claim and included his wife’s death certificate but was notified “records from Viking cruises indicate the booking was paid using previously issued travel vouchers and such vouchers are non-refundable.”


So accepting that voucher not only forfeited their right to a future refund but also nullified their trip insurance.

“What the hell did I buy the insurance for?” Wasserman asked.

News 6 tried contacting Viking on April 19, 20 and 21. We followed up with phone calls, more emails and even messages to some of the company’s executive team members — but still no response.

“I don’t understand why, especially under the circumstances, why it’s so difficult for them to honor my wishes,” Wasserman said.

Since we started investigating this, Viking did offer to refund his wife’s portion of the cruise, but not his, according to Wasserman.

Wasserman has not accepted that offer.

We spoke to a very experienced travel agent who said this doesn’t happen often, but he said the one time he has seen it it was with Tripmate — the travel insurance provider in this story — and with Viking.

We reached out to Tripmate as often as we did Viking. Tripmate planned to have a statement for News 6, according to a company spokesperson. It did not happen by the time we aired this report.


If we hear back from Viking or Tripmate, we will include any comments they have with this story.

If you purchase trip insurance, read the policy thoroughly. Also, if you want advice on companies and their coverage, call a travel agent; they can get insurance for you, even on a trip you booked yourself.

And the last thing is: your travel insurance does not have to come from the company you booked your travel through — so shop around.

Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.

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Los Angeles man arrested on suspicion off raping woman in Helendale

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s detectives from Barstow traveled to the Los Angeles area to arrest a man suspected of numerous felony charges, including the rape of a woman in Helendale.

Jose Del Refugi Velazquez, 37, of Compton remained at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday, with bail set at $1.5 million.

He was arrested on suspicion of several felonies, including rape by force/fear, great bodily injury on a person, kidnapping to commit robbery/rape, attempted murder, battery with serious bodily injury and assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury, sheriff’s officials said.

The Barstow Sheriff’s Station reported that on March 19, a 34-year-old woman met Velazquez in South Gate. From there ,the two drove around for several hours in Velasquez’s 2003 Ford Expedition.

Velazquez made a stop in a deserted area of Helendale, nearly 100-miles north of South Gate, and sexually assaulted the woman, according to sheriff’s officials.

Additionally, Velazquez physically assaulted the woman numerous times, causing injuries to her face and body. He also choked the victim with a cell phone charger cord until she became unconscious, according to the sheriff’s report.

Velazquez fled the scene in his vehicle, leaving the unconscious woman in the deserted area. 

On April 12, Velazquez was located in Los Angeles and arrested by detectives from the Barstow Sheriff’s Station.

Authorities did not say if Velasquez and the woman were previously known to each other.

Anyone with information regarding this incident or possible victims of Velazquez are urged by the Sheriff’s Department to contact Detective Faylor of the Barstow Sheriff’s Station at 760-256-4838.

 Callers wishing to remain anonymous are urged to call the We-Tip Hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME (27463) or leave the information on the We-Tip Hotline website at

Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227 or Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz

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Woman paid to test theme parks shares top tips including how to cut queue times


Florida theme parks tester Alexandria has shared her top tips for the likes of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and Legoland including how to cut down queue wait times

A photo of Alexandria looking out at the rollercoasters in Universal Orlando
Alexandria has the dream job – testing out theme parks

Imagine spending your days exploring some of the world’s best theme parks including the likes of Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando – and being paid for the experience.

Well, that’s exactly the dream job which Alexandria Adamson from Glasgow bagged when she was picked to become Ocean Florida’s official Theme Park Tester back in 2020.

Due to the Covid pandemic she was unable to visit Orlando until this year, but she’s now back after three action-packed weeks.

Some of her highlights included a trip to Busch Gardens which she claims “has some of the best rollercoasters in all of Florida”. Speaking of rollercoasters, some of her must-visit rides include Universal’s new Jurassic World themed Velocicoaster, Disney’s Star Wars themed Rise of the Resistance, and the Iron Gwazi ride at Busch Gardens.

Of course, Alexandria’s picked up heaps of insider tricks for navigating the theme parks – and now she’s shared some exclusively with The Mirror.

We’re talking easy hacks for cutting queue wait times, essentials to pack for a theme park day out, and some of the must-knows if you’re heading to Walt Disney World and Universal parks.

Check out her top tips below…

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Plan ahead

“These parks have a lot to offer and can be overwhelming especially in busy periods which for Orlando is most of the year,” says Alexandria. “Know what you definitely want to do, look at any seasonal offerings in the parks at that time that may affect your day. Book any dining reservations. Pre-planning and booking as much as possible before you even arrive will make your trip that much less stressful.”

Oh, and if there’s one essential you pack for your trip, make it a battery pack. “No one wants to spend part of their day waiting for their phone to charge or having no battery to take photos of your day!” she explains.

How to cut down queue wait times

Alexandria recommends using the theme park apps to keep an eye on when wait times get shorter, but sometimes it can come down to being clever with your timing.

“If there are big night shows or parades happening and you’re not overly bothered about those, this is usually when wait times are at their lowest,” she advises.

It’s also worth checking for any perks if you’re staying in a resort. She explains: “If you’re a resort guest for specific parks use that extra time they give you to enter the parks, it may mean an early morning or late night, but it’s usually worth it.”

Use the apps

“Each park has its own app that will help you make the most of your day usually with wait times, how to navigate the parks, and all the entertainment and food and drink options,” she explains.

Heading to Walt Disney World specifically? Alexandria recommends having a look through the app before your trip. “Play about with the My Disney Experience app before you go,” she suggests. “It will be super helpful once you’re there.”

Top tips for Walt Disney World

With four theme parks and two water parks, if you’re planning to make the most of the Walt Disney World resort, you’ll need a game plan.

Alexandria recommends starting by pre-booking your dining reservations as “it can be really difficult to get the full-service restaurants on the day”.

Oh, and while Florida is renowned for its sunshine it does also get some rainfall – if you’re unlucky with the weather, you can be tactical if you’re still going to hit the parks.

Alexandria spent three weeks exploring Florida’s best theme parks


Ocean Florida)

Alexandria has shared her tips for major resorts including Walt Disney World


Ocean Florida)

“Some parks are better to be in during bad weather,” says Alexandria, noting that EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios have fewer attractions that close when there’s lightning, compared to Magic Kingdom.

Aside from the theme parks and rides, there’s heaps to explore around the resort.

Foodies, take note: according to Alexandria, “some of the best bars and restaurants on Disney Property are in the Disney resorts”.

Her top picks include Enchanted Rose at the Grand Floridian, Jellyrolls at the Boardwalk Inn, and Trader Sam’s at the Polynesian, while Disney Springs also gets a shout out for its “amazing food and drink” as well its shopping, cinema, bowling alley and concert venue.

Top tips for Universal Studios Orlando

Universal consists of three theme parks, but if you’re only planning to hit one or two, our theme park insider suggests considering an Express Pass as “it will make such a difference to your day”. The pass can’t be used for certain rides such as the new Jurassic World theme rollercoaster, the Velocicoaster.

Meanwhile Harry Potter fans won’t want to miss the Wizarding World, which is spread across Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. “As a Harry Potter fan these parks are unmissable and unforgettable,” Alexandria says.

“The Diagon Alley area and the Hogsmeade area are literally like stepping into the pages of the books or into the scenes of the movies. It’s so easy to forget you’re in the real world with people running around in robes and performing spells with their interactive wands, and let’s not forget about the dangerously delicious Butterbeer.

Alexandria has shared her tips for getting the most of the theme parks


Ocean Florida)

Alexandria has come back with serious theme park knowledge


Ocean Florida)

“The Hogwarts Express experience between the two areas just perfectly ties the whole magical experience together. And as if the theming wasn’t enough the Hagrid’s story coaster is one of the best attractions across both parks.”

When you need a break from the parks, Alexandria recommends heading to CityWalk.

“Those restaurants have much better food than in the parks and they’ll probably be quieter than the restaurants actually in the parks,” she says. “CowFish on CityWalk is one of the best restaurants at Universal Resort, the cheeseburger sushi was incredible, I went back twice. And the chocolate emporium does the BEST speciality milkshakes or you have Voodoo doughnuts for incredible and sometimes unusual flavoured doughnuts if you’re not a milkshake fan.”

Have you been to Orlando – and did you unearth any good theme park tips? We want to hear them! Let us know in the comments below.

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Woman Shares Passport Tip Some Travelers Might Not Know—But Should

While traveling can be a wonderful chance to explore new places and experience new cultures, it can also come with a set of logistical challenges.

One TikToker took to the platform to share a specific logistical challenge she faced in regard to her passport. User @Wheres_elle posted a video earlier this month sharing that she recently learned that travelers can be denied entry into a country if there are not enough blank spaces left in their passports.

“[T]his is not a flex but I am genuinely upset,” @wheres_elle, whose first name is Elle, said at the start of the video.

“I had no idea that if you fill up your passport and you actually have no space for any more stamps than you can get denied entry from a country,” she said.

In the caption, Elle said there are three weeks until she travels again.

“I need a new passport BAD,” she wrote.

A video has gone viral on TikTok after a woman shared that she discovered she needed blank passport pages in order to enter certain countries. Here, a stock image shows a passport book.
Evgenia Parajanian/Getty Images

Commenters shared mixed reactions with some relating to the woman’s surprise and others calling it “common knowledge” and questioned how she never knew this fact.

In 2018, the Points Guy reported that there are in fact a handful of countries that require at least one or two fully blank passport pages for entry. Beyond that, there are several countries that require at least two blank pages in order to receive a visa. An important caveat to keep in mind is that the last two pages of an American passport do not qualify to be used as visa pages.

“Make sure that you have an empty page with ‘visa’ at the top,” the outlet wrote. “You’ll want to renew your passport before these visa pages are gone.”

According to the FAQ section on the U.S. Department of State-Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website, some airlines will not allow passengers to board if there are not two to four blank pages left to meet a particular country’s requirements.

Commenters were surprised to learn that someone who travels as frequently as Elle does would not know this fact and they were not shy to share these opinions below the video.

“How did you not know this? Isn’t it common knowledge?” one commenter wrote.

“[I]f there’s no room do you expect them to double stamp another page? Lmao,” wrote another.

Others, though, were also surprised when they discovered this fact and thanked Elle for sharing.

“Actually good info, thanks!” one person wrote.

“All you guys who say it’s common knowledge…literally it’s not, I lived abroad for 8 years it was mentioned literally never,” one commenter wrote in support of Elle.

Others, who claimed to be frequent travelers as well, said they have visited countries and not received a stamp.

Some offered advice on how to get passports renewed quickly and suggested next time she request a 52-page passport book rather than the standard-issue 28-pages.

In 2021, the U.S. began issuing a new passport called the “Next Generation Passport” which uses new technologies with “enhanced security features,” according to the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website. With the new passport, a standard-issue features 26 pages with a larger 50-page book available as well.

Newsweek reached out to Elle, the Department of State and the National Passport Information Center for comment.

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Van life: Meet the woman who turns Airstreams into homes.

(CNN) — The ability to wake up in a different place every day, live and work in some of the world’s loveliest places, and feel absolute freedom — it’s no wonder that many people dream of life on the road.

Kate Oliver not only succeeded in making van life a reality — but she also turned it into a business. Along with her wife, Ellen Prasse, Oliver launched The Modern Caravan, a business that took them all over America as they repaired old Airstream camper vans — a business built on the back of their gorgeous renovation of their first Airstream, Louise.
Now Oliver has published a book, “The Modern Caravan” — something of a meditation on van life, profiling people who have restored their own vans, looking at their lifestyle and renovation tips. But it’s also a guide to Oliver and Prasse’s aesthetic, and how to achieve that DIY-style. Because, they say, everyone loves the open road — even if we don’t quite know why.

Dreaming of another life

Oliver says we all have a hankering for the open road.

Oliver says we all have a hankering for the open road.

Kate Oliver

Growing up in the Midwest, Oliver felt out of place. “I never really felt like I fit, and I didn’t have an easy childhood,” she says. Instead, she retreated into her imagination, calling the local library her “escape.”

“Initially it was all fiction, then one day I wandered up and found architecture and interior design books, and I thought, ‘Oh my god, those are real places, they exist somewhere with people in them,'” she says.

“There was something in those pages and photographs that I could just imagine myself into. Obviously the photos were staged, and my nine-year-old mind didn’t know that, but there was often food on a counter being prepared, and I imagined the whole scenario playing out. I thought, I want that kind of life, full of gatherings.”

She got that different lifestyle — though in a rather different way than she’d imagined, from looking at those library books.

‘What if we sold everything?’

Oliver and her wife wanted more for their daughter. On the road, they found it.

Oliver and her wife wanted more for their daughter. On the road, they found it.

Kate Oliver

In 2013, Oliver and Prasse had started talking about the future. They wanted something more for them and their four-year-old daughter, but weren’t quite sure what.

“For six months, we’d sit up every night drinking tea, talking about what that meant,” she says.

“We never really came to a conclusion, but one morning in January 2014, I stumbled across some photos of a band on tour. Someone in the band seemingly had a kid and was taking their kid on tour.”

It was a light bulb moment.

“That was it — I thought, I know we don’t have a van but that’s what we need to do. I texted my wife at work, and said, what if we sold everything, bought a van and traveled — and she said yes.”

That, as Oliver says, was that. The next morning, as Prasse went to work, Oliver got to work, planning their lifestyle change. Back in 2014, she said, “it wasn’t really common — van life wasn’t a thing.” She also admits, “We didn’t know what was coming.”

The grind to build a home

Some people live permanently on the road, others park up in their gardens.

Some people live permanently on the road, others park up in their gardens.

Kate Oliver

Because from pictures on Instagram, turning an Airstream into a natty home looks pretty glamorous. In fact, says Oliver, it was difficult, not always pleasant, and heavy-duty labor.

“We hoped we’d find a really cool vintage Airstream, and maybe paint it a bit,” she says. After several months, they found one that seemed to fit the bill — but then they took it home.

“Once we started doing the basic digging in, we said, ‘Oh my god, this is a much bigger project.'”

Mice had chewed through the electrics, meaning the entire thing had to be rewired. The interiors needed huge work, too.

“Within a few months we’d taken the entire thing down to the chassis and the shell,” says Oliver.

“You could stand with your feet on the earth but still in your trailer.”

‘Sweat, tears and cursing’

Oliver's book travels the States, meeting people who've renovated their own vans.

Oliver’s book travels the States, meeting people who’ve renovated their own vans.

Kate Oliver

Oliver had no experience at all with renovation or building work, but Prasse had — her mother is an electrical engineer, and she’d learned from her “fix it” family. A love of sculpture also meant she was good with her hands, and had an eye for what worked.

In her book, Oliver talks about the physicality of the work — tough manual labor that changed them physically. That she enjoyed it was a surprise, she says: “Once I got into a flow I really enjoyed the physical labor, and I was amazed at how well our strengths and weaknesses played off each other. Where I didn’t have a strength she did, and vice versa.”

Today, people looking at their finished products or flicking through Oliver’s book won’t see the “sweat, tears and cursing” she says goes into a van rebuild — not least because of all the layers of work.

“Normally a contractor building a house has someone coming in to do the electrical work, plumbing, drywall, custom cabinetry, or custom furniture,” she says.

“We do all that.”

The only thing they don’t do anymore? Upholstery. “We’ll happily wield the power tools but when it comes to the sewing machine we need professionals,” says Oliver.

The tricky start

Oliver and Prasse have renovated 12 Airstreams, including three they lived in themselves.

Oliver and Prasse have renovated 12 Airstreams, including three they lived in themselves.

Kate Oliver

It took a year to renovate the van they would christen Louise. During that time, they sold their house and moved into the van, creating their home as they lived in it. Eighteen months later, they were on the road. They traveled across the States in Louise, bedding down in the desert and beside the ocean, living the van life dream.

It was while they were on the road that they realized that they could make a business out of renovation. The idea was simple: to travel in their Airstream to clients’ houses, where they would work onsite, doing Louise-style transformations of old jalopies into sleek campers.

Nowadays, with the proliferation of the “van life” movement, and companies offering transformation services everywhere, it’d be hard to make a name for yourselves. But in 2017 it was easier.

“We were in the sweet spot where the travel lifestyle was taking off, not a lot of others were doing what we were doing, and Instagram was about organic growth,” says Oliver.

They traveled across the States — by this time in their second renovated Airstream, June — driving to clients’ houses and doing up their vans on site. Interestingly, most of their clients were women — coupled up but “with their husbands going along with it,” says Oliver.

Seeking safety

The book follows van dwellers, like rockclimbers Gabi and Brandon.

The book follows van dwellers, like rockclimbers Gabi and Brandon.

Kate Oliver

It wasn’t all the dream they’d expected, however. In the her book, Oliver talks about experiencing misogyny and homophobia on the job. “Sometimes we want to think we’re more progressive and accepting than we actually are,” she says.

In fact, it was one terrible experience that made them decided to give up their business model of visiting the clients in situ.

“When we started, we wanted to roll our love of travel in with the business, and said we wouldn’t take contracts further out than two years because we wanted to evaluate whether it was working or not,” says Oliver.

“We knew before we went to that last job that it wasn’t very sustainable — we were working insane hours, homeschooling our daughter, working constantly. We weren’t exploring. This was not the way we wanted to do things.”

Around the same time, in early 2019, a friend let them know about a new trailer for sale — the couple immediately said they wanted to buy it, and do it up for themselves.

“We were going to start flipping Airstreams: buying, renovating and then selling them — it felt more doable and safer,” says Oliver. They called their new vehicle Hope. Eventually, they sold her to a woman “to park on her own land, as a way to live in peace and solitude and grow deeper into herself,” as Oliver writes in the book. Their next Airstream? Hawk, in which she wrote it.

Van life in a pandemic

Having a van is your chance to express your personality, says Oliver.

Having a van is your chance to express your personality, says Oliver.

Kate Oliver

Because, just as they were embarking on this new chapter, Oliver was asked to write about van life. So they jumped back behind Hawk’s newly restored wheel and spent the next year the US, photographing people who were living in renovated Airstreams. They were already talking about potentially settling down, with their daughter ready to start junior high school, when the pandemic hit.

“Covid really forced our hand,” she says. “We were back on the road when the world shut down. Campgrounds were closing, everyone was saying go home, but for nomads, where do you go home to?”

They parked up in the back yard of Prasse’s parents’ house in Kansas, and stayed there for a few months. Then they talked. A studio was a necessity to carry out their renovation work, they decided.

“Staying in my inlaws’ back yard wasn’t an option, so we said, OK, it’s time to settle down,” says Oliver. On June 4, 2020 — she remembers the date instantly — they moved into a house, back in the Midwest.

Nearly two years on, they’re working on their 12th vehicle.

Matching personality with van

Some keep their vans on their property, as a fuller expression of themselves.

Some keep their vans on their property, as a fuller expression of themselves.

Kate Oliver

For Oliver, the road is, clearly, life — and she wants to bring that life to the projects they work on for other people. So how do you encapsulate someone’s essence in a camper van?

“I can’t design for someone if I don’t know who they are,” she says. “I like to have really intimate conversations — some are up for that, some are not. We start with how they live now. That’s crucial — for clients wanting to use it as a home it’s important to get a sense of the way they work, and move through a space, so they don’t feel their movements are having to shift.

“I want to know what they do for work, what their style of work is. Do they prefer to sit on a couch, at a desk, do they need a separate workspace?”

Once they’ve talked needs and style, they move on to design. The couple’s signature touches? Frosted Plexiglass doors separating living spaces, and lots of walnut wood to bring the outdoors in.

Oliver is a firm believer of the power of getting out on the road.

“When I went out there for the first time, and I was so far from the Midwest, everything I’d been raised in, I could breathe and see myself for the first time,” she says.

“I could see who I was because I had the space and time to think about it. I think a lot of people think of it as escapism — I went to escape my life I didn’t want, and find the life I did [want]. There’s so much distracting us, and we lose sight of ourselves really easily.

“I think people go to find out who they are away from all of that. I think we need to sit in that quiet.”

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Woman reveals ‘genius’ tip for beating liquid rules at an airport

AIRLINES have strict policies on carrying liquids onto a plane, which can make packing tricky.

But one woman has revealed a clever hack for getting additional liquids through security, and she claims it doesn’t break any rules.

Tiktok user Emily McKeon revealed a clever hack for getting additional liquids through security, and she claims it doesn't break any rules


Tiktok user Emily McKeon revealed a clever hack for getting additional liquids through security, and she claims it doesn’t break any rules

Tiktok user Emily McKeon shared a tip with her 22,000 followers explaining how to carry liquid make up remover and face wash in your hand luggage.

She advised travellers to put some cotton pads into a plastic bag and pour make up remover or face wash onto them.

The pads will soak the products up so there won’t be any liquid.

By keeping the cotton pads in a sealed, airtight bag, they will remain moist so you can use them when you get to your destination.

Airline launches free flights with champagne and massages - but there’s a catch
Traveller reveals 'genius' tip for getting through the airport with less faff

In the video, Emily, who goes by @emilymckeonfit, said: “Travel hack for the ladies – put eye make up remover and face wash on cotton pads in baggies. TSA approved.”

The video has been watched two million times and people were impressed with the hack.

One person wrote: “Omg why have I never thought about this!”

Another put: “I needed to know about this right now, thanks, just about to pack.”

She advised travellers to put some cotton pads into a plastic bag and pour make up remover or face wash onto them


She advised travellers to put some cotton pads into a plastic bag and pour make up remover or face wash onto them
The pads will soak the products up so there won't be any liquid, and will stay moist if you keep the bags airtight


The pads will soak the products up so there won’t be any liquid, and will stay moist if you keep the bags airtight

Someone else wrote: “Omg this is so clever.”

And a fourth simply put: “Genius.”

Someone else commented saying how much cheaper it is to use Emily’s tip compared to buying travel sized products.

They wrote: “I was just looking at Micellar Water travel sizes today – thought the price was outrageous. Thank you.”

Some flight attendants have revealed the products they pack to reduce the amount of liquids they’re carrying.

They suggest taking soap, shampoo and conditioner bars instead of their liquid counterparts.

The bars are solid and can be packed away in your luggage instead of taking up space in your very limited liquids bag.

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Plus there’s no chance of them leaking, so you don’t need to worry about wrapping them in a plastic bag.

We’ve got all the details on the amount of liquids you can take on a plane.

People were impressed with the tip and said it's cheaper than buying travel sized products


People were impressed with the tip and said it’s cheaper than buying travel sized productsCredit: Getty

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