(A short, made-up story)
The sound got Carmen Lupo’s attention before he saw the splash of color, before he heard the whips. Then came the lift.
He had time, witnesses said, to look up to the sound. He was probably confused by the flapping and the thumping — loud and getting closer.
Those nearby variously described the sound as “a howl like a movie alien,” “a dragon,” “jake brakes on a semi” “a really big vacuum” and a “helicopter with a broken blade.”
Mr. Lupo died, the coroner ruled, from catastrophic blunt force trauma after being slammed at 40 miles per hour into a 36-foot tall highway support wall.
He was 23, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras and pursuing a nursing degree from Calvasa Area Community College. He worked part-time at his uncle’s muffler and tire repair shop on 19th Street and was reportedly taking a smoke break outside the shop before he was killed.
Authorities are seeking relatives in Honduras.
Bystanders said Anna Koroulus, 57, tried to run but chose the wrong route. Hobbled by foot pain and diabetic nerve damage, she couldn’t ambulate very well, the coroner said; her misdirected attempt to escape might not have mattered.
Homeless and resting near the arroyo at 24th Street, she smiled at first when the noise caused her to look up.
That’s according to a traveling companion, Marty Hicks, who survived. Ms. Koroulus reportedly had time to ask, “Is that a rainbow?”
She drowned after being caught in a crude lasso then let loose with such force that she hit the canal water at an estimated 62 miles per hour, knocking her unconscious. Her companion said he tried to get to her in the water but could not. He was also disabled, with only one lung and one leg. He was found slumped against the side of a culvert, using his cane as leverage to keep from being pulled downstream. He’s recovering at nearby Hallstarff Medical Center.
Ms. Koroulus’ body was donated to science as per her will.
Johnny Jinkens, 30, got out of prison three days before his last day on earth. It was an early release.
Had he served the sentence as originally ordered, he would not have been waiting for the bus at 18th Street and Revenal Road at 6:52 p.m., April 12 as the skies grew increasingly hazy. “Bad timing” an officer was overheard remarking somberly.
Mr. Jinkens was preoccupied with figuring out the bus route, trying to find his way to the halfway house across town. He had been applying for jobs all day, according to others at the halfway house, and apparently got turned around in his directions. Witnesses said he didn’t even look up to the flapping, the whoosh, “the crack like a giant horse whip.”
A paroled felon, Mr. Jinkens had served 11 years, 10 months and 322 days in state prison for a Calvasa County sexual assault. His lawyers had argued he didn’t know the victim was only 15; they had met at an ATV four-wheeling party at a remote farmhouse. He was 18 at the time.
A pauper’s grave is being prepared.
U.S. Army veteran Danny DiSalvo, 49, of Highersands, died trying to move luxury cars.
An employee of one of state’s biggest Cadillac dealers on Centennial Road near 20th Street, Mr. DiSalvo was killed in what authorities have described in an initial report as “the second wave.”
(Editor’s note: The Desert Daily Review realizes the possibility that, due to the nature of what happened, the word “wave” could be construed by some readers as insensitive but it’s not meant as a pun. It is quoted directly from official reports.)
Mr. DiSalvo, according to interviews, received a text with a video from a frantic friend at a fast-food restaurant two blocks east of the car lot in which, according to investigators, the friend captured the “initial fatality wave.” That video, which has not yet been released by authorities, purportedly shows the area of the early deaths. (The Desert Daily Review continues to seek that video as a public record.)
Described as a hard-working, conscientious employee, Mr. DiSalvo had just told coworkers he would do his best to move some of the more expensive automobiles from an exposed outdoor lot to a parking garage — just in case.
He suffered massive blood loss after being snared by a fast-moving, quarter-inch diameter, braided-steel cable, apparently during what investigators are calling “the middle wave of two reanimations of the initial. 6:50 p.m. fatal wave.”
Mr. DeSalvo had served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Germany without injury. He had been honorably discharged. The Desert Daily Review could not determine burial plans.
No damage was reported to the high-end vehicles. However, three used cars in the back lot where Mr. Lupo had been working were listed by authorities as destroyed.
In total, seven vehicles were hit and incurred projectile or other damage. One that had been running at an as-yet-unidentified intersection was enveloped by quickly moving suffocating material and caught fire, killing the passenger, a woman who has been described as in her 30s, of apparent Somalian descent and wearing a traditional African shawl and headscarf. Identification has been complicated, authorities said, because she was carrying no current government papers.
Investigators at this point are not releasing a specific timeline of events. Fire reports, however, include results of preliminary testing of what was found at three distinct “fatality areas.” All are generally categorized as “rubble.”
“More than 250 pounds of potential suffocating material of various colors, some of which are indeterminable because of charring, burning or explosion during the first vehicular impact at Fatality Marker No. 4; about 26 feet of quarter-inch braided steel cable, with a 12-foot section showing fraying or wear in more than one place; various pieces of extruded, broken aluminum parts that, due to momentum, became penetrating shrapnel.”
Late in the day today, President Donald Trump told reporters he felt for the victims and he knew the area well because he owns a boutique hotel downtown. He said it was spared but 22 workers were late for the evening shift. He tweeted in response to the incident. It is reprinted here without editing. “SAD! But we cannot be timid.Rebuild BIGGER! TALLER! #dessertsRgreat!”
The president later corrected the tweet. An image appears here:
Authorities have remained tight-lipped about any working theory designed to answer the question “Why?”
In light of that, The Desert Daily Review is sharing here, in its entirety, the latest news release issued by the lead investigative agency, the Oncillavia County Sheriff’s Department:
“Because of the vehicular involvement and the damage to the highway support wall, the National Transportation Safety Board will be assisting other law enforcement and fire departments in the investigation.
“As of today, because of the early stage of the investigation, the only information being released regarding causal factors are:
- The weather, including unusually powerful convection-driven updrafts and overall wind speed measured at the nearby Highpalms Municipal Airport at 23.5 miles per hour.
- Reanimation coupled with responder optimism. After the first fatality event, emergency responders wrongly concluded that events were over and did not rope off a large enough perimeter, push civilians far enough away or block traffic on surrounding exposed arteries. It should, however, be noted that the second and third fatality events following reanimation were triggered by extremely unusual factors, and nearly impossible to predict.
- Scope, size and weight of the fatality-inducing materiel.
“According to Hazmat and fire department inventory records, the materiel began its descent from a height of 274 feet at a reported original size of 52 by 97 feet (about 5,000 square feet) and with a weight of more than 400 pounds. Some of the offending red and white polyester, despite separating along seams during the descent, upon impact regardless caused extreme whiplash effect. The sections recovered by responders measured about four feet wide and 82 feet long. The whiplash exacerbated catastrophic impacts still being measured to be documented in the fatality areas..
“One final note: We’d like to correct media reports that this was the tallest and largest of its kind in the United States. That is false. The largest, in Sheboygan, WI, remains grounded until this investigation is complete.
“For more information, please call 888 208-9854 or check out the website we created for updates: