Kentucky News Network

A group of Kentucky firefighters is being sent to Utah to assist with wildfires burning in big timber and juniper grass.  Kentucky Division of Forestry officials say 21 firefighters will gather Wednesday in London for a briefing before heading west. 

The U.S. Forest Service notified the division Tuesday that assistance was needed.  The division has a cooperative agreement with the Forest Service to provide assistance during forest fire emergencies.

"We are glad to be able to help. I am sorry for the situation they find themselves in but happy that we are able to respond.” said Leah MacSwords, Director of the Kentucky Division of Forestry.

The last time the division sent crews out of state was 2011 when firefighters were sent to Georgia and Florida where catastrophic wildfires were burning. 

Kentucky News Network

Updated at 9:55 a.m.: 

The Republican Party of Kentucky has confirmed that Senator Mitch McConnell will attend Fancy Farm. In a news release, McConnell challenged his most high-profile Democratic opponent, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, to attend the event in western Kentucky as well.

Original post:

So far, the count of prominent speakers for the 133rd annual Fancy Farm Picnicon the 3rd of next month is...  one.  Organizers say the first statewide elected official to accept an invitation to speak is Attorney General Jack Conway.

The AG's expected by many to run for Governor in 2015, but has been a regular at the picnic in recent years anyway.  The event has historically been, since 1880, the place where Kentucky candidates kick off campaigns.

The Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals both had first round picks in the NBA draft Thursday night. 

Former Wildcat Nerlens Noel was picked sixth overall by the New Orleans Pelicans and Archie Goodwin was picked 29th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Following their picks, each player was involved in a proposed trade, with Noel going to Philadelphia and Goodwin to Phoenix.

Former Louisville Cardinal Gorgui Dieng was taken by the Utah Jazz with the 21st overall pick and then traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Peyton Siva was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the second round with the 56th overall pick.

It marks the fourth consecutive NBA draft that Kentucky was represented by multiple players in the first round of the draft.  Dieng is the first Cardinal to go in the first round in four years.

Bardstown Police Department

Kentucky State Police say there is new information in the investigation into the shooting death of Bardstown Police officer Jason Ellis. 

An outside K-9 group got involved in the case, according to State Police Trooper Norman Chaffins, and the dog led investigators from the crime scene to a nearby pond.  Chaffins says the Louisville Police dive squad is combing the pond for clues.

Chaffins adds, they're not sure what will turn up, but it's just part of the lengthy investigation in which they are leaving no stones unturned.

Officer Ellis was killed in the early morning hours of May 25, while he was cleaning tree limbs from a ramp on the Bluegrass Parkway.

Kentucky is among the most rapidly improving states in the nation when it comes to closing the achievement gap in schools.

Kentucky recorded better than expected gains in student achievement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act in a new national study.

The findings are among those in a recently released national study "The New State Achievement Gap:  How Federal Waivers Could Make It Worse – Or Better" by Education Sector.

The study compares student gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) from 2003-11 in grades 4 and 8, reading and math for all students. Kentucky students recorded an overall gain of 28.2 points. That is better than the national average gain of 20 points.

Kentucky charted the fourth highest gains in the country behind Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

The full report can be viewed here.

Visitation for Elizabethtown Mayor Tim Walker begins Monday.  The mayor died of a massive heart attack last Friday morning at the age of 54.

Visitation is from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at the First Christian Church in Elizabethtown and again Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the church with the funeral to follow.

Walker will be buried at Elizabethtown Memorial Gardens.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released preliminary information, on the June 6th Air EVAC helicopter crash in Clay County.

Several witnesses reported the helicopter was spinning prior to the crash, about 750 feet from their base landing zone. One told investigators it was in a 40-degree nose up attitude, and shortly after, no engine sound was heard.

There was conflicting testimony: some witnesses saying the weather was clear, others that there was dense fog. According to security camera recordings, the helicopter erupted into a fireball, immediately upon impact.

All three crew members aboard, Pilot Eddy Sizemore, Paramedic Lee Dobbs and Nurse Jesse Jones were killed.  A public memoiral service for them will be held in the North Laurel High School gym, at 10:00 Saturday morning.

The investigation into the crash continues.

Michael Cook

Update at 12:28am:   According to preliminary reports from the National Weather Service, the path width of damage is 300 yards, with maximum winds of 135 mph, making it an EF2 tornado.  One home was completely demolished, three houses and numerous outbuildings were severely damaged, and several livestock were killed. 

Original Post: A tornado touched down in southern Kentucky Monday afternoon, damaging farm structures and some homes. 

The twister hit in Logan and Simpson counties.  It was visible for miles.

Michael Cook, who took this photo, was working on a farm just west of Franklin when the tornado hit.  It destroyed several grain bins and damaged some homes.

Ohio County Detention Center

A western Kentucky child is in critical condition after ingesting a chemical used to make methamphetamine.

The 2-year-old Ohio County girl drank sulphuric acid drain opener that was in a shot glass. She suffered chemical burns to her lips, tongue, mouth and esophagus.

Authorities say the child's mother and her boyfriend were making meth inside the home.   They allegedly waited six hours before taking the child to the hospital.

Bardstown Police Department

The widow of an ambushed Bardstown police officer is making her first public comments since her husband was gunned down Saturday. 

Kentucky State Police say 33-year-old officer Jason Ellis was shot multiple times after he got out of his cruiser to pick up debris on the Bluegrass Parkway in Nelson County.

Amy Ellis Tuesday morning thanked the community for an outpouring of support.

"The only reason I can get up here right now is because of prayers, and God has picked me up off the bathroom floor," said Ellis.  "I didn't want to live another second without him, but I know I have to be strong for our kids."

More than 300 people attended a candlelight vigil Monday night outside the police station.  A stream of mourners turned a police car into a makeshift memorial, covering it with flowers, flags, and balloons. 

On the 25th anniversary of the nation's deadliest drunk driving crash, federal safety officials are pushing for tougher DUI laws. 

The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that states lower the benchmark for determining when a driver is intoxicated.  NTSB chair Deborah Hersman says hundreds of lives could be saved each year by lowering the blood alcohol level.

"We can choose to accept the senseless and needless losses or we choose to act," Hersman remarks.

The NTSB is also pushing for stiffer drunk driving penalties, including laws requiring first-time offenders to have ignition locking devices. 

The NTSB recommendations come 25 years after a drunk driver travelling on the wrong side  of I-71 in Carrollton, Kentucky slammed head-on into a bus carrying passengers home from a church youth trip.  Twenty-seven people died, 24 of them children.

Kentucky News Network

A Hardin County middle school teacher has been arrested for sexually abusing a student.

Forty-six-year-old Anthony Durrant is charged with inappropriately communicating with a student at James T. Alton Middle School. Police say Durrant touched a 13-year-old student on the buttocks April 12 and the two were exchanging inappropriate texts over the weekend.

The teenager also allegedly sent an explicit photo to the teacher. Police say they were contacted after the parents of the teen found the messages.

 Durrant had taught sixth grade social studies at the school since 2010. He was terminated from his job on Tuesday.

Kentucky News Network

The University of Kentucky says Nerlens Noel will forego his sophomore season and enter his name in the NBA Draft.

"I have loved my time at Kentucky, but I feel that I’m ready to take the next step to the NBA," Noel said. "I’ve learned so much here at UK and am thankful for Coach Calipari, the staff and my teammates for all of their support. I especially appreciate the Big Blue Nation and all of the support, prayers and well-wishes I’ve received from them during my rehab and decision-making process. I’ll always be a Wildcat."

Noel led the nation in blocks as he averaged 4.4 rejections per game and tallied 106 in 24 games played before a season-ending knee injury. He averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

The draft is June 27.

Bogus doctors' notes have some Spencer County students facing charges. Several fake notes popped up at Spencer County High School, where school officials noticed a high number of absences. They took a closer look at the notes and called police to investigate.

Taylorsville Police say dates had been changed on some of the notes and fake doctor's names were used on others. These are notes from real offices, with information changed. Police are warning students this is a serious matter, with felony charges being filed.

Over half a dozen students at a few different schools have been charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument. The investigation is continuing, with more charges possible. Police say it's possible some parents were even involved.

The Louisville Cardinals are atop the college basketball world, capturing the NCAA men's championship Monday night in Atlanta.

Luke Hancock scored 16 of his 22 points in the first half and Louisville won its third national title by rallying for an 82-76 win over No. 4 Michigan. He was 13-for-18 from the field in the last two games to be named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

Peyton Siva and Chane Behanan were mostly silent in the first half before helping the Cardinals outscore the Wolverines 45-38 in the second. Siva finished with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Behanan chipped in 15 points and 13 boards.

The Wolverines were ahead 35-23 late in the first half, but the Cardinals went on a 14-3 run and led by as many as 10 in the second half en route to their first championship since 1986.