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Michael Dodge/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The pilot of a plane that crashed into an Australian shopping center called "mayday" several times before the crash on Tuesday, authorities said.

The pilot did not specify the nature of the emergency before the twin-engine Beechcraft crashed near Melbourne, killing four American tourists, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in a press conference Wednesday morning local time.

Portions of the aircraft are still on the roof of the shopping center and in the parking lot, ATSB officials said. Investigators have completed of sweet of the runway for plane parts. Officials are also interviewing people who were on the runway at the time of the ill-dated takeoff, including pilots who also fly the Beechcraft and may have some helpful observations as to what they dash.

The crash was also documented on dashcam video, which investigators are looking into for clues.

The sister of one of four Americans killed when remembered her brother as "handsome" and "athletic."

"Dear friends and family, my handsome athletic big brother was killed Tuesday in a plane accident while on his 'once in a lifetime' trip to Australia. It was a charter flight with 2 of his friends flying to another island to play golf," Denelle Wicht, the sister of Greg Reynolds De Haven, wrote on Facebook.

Wicht told ABC News that her brother was traveling in a group, and that the husbands had split up with their wives for the day. She said that the group had been traveling for two weeks before the accident took place.

"Greg was on a vacation trip with a group of friends and wives. They were to spend three weeks in Australia, and I think they were there for two weeks plus when this happened. The group was spending the day going separate ways, there are other wives who lost their husbands. So so sad. Such a great guy," Wicht said in a Facebook message.

The plane had taken off from Essendon Airport around 9 a.m. local time and suffered a "catastrophic engine failure" in the air, according to Victoria Police assistant commissioner Stephen Leane.

The pilot attempted to return to the airport and crashed into the DFO shopping center, Leane said. There were no fatalities on the ground, he added.

A State Department official confirmed that four U.S. citizens were aboard the flight. “We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all those who died in Tuesday’s tragic crash," the official said.

Victoria's premier, Daniel Andrews, called the incident the “worst civil aviation accident in our state” in 30 years.

The identities of those who died and the nationality of the fifth victim were not immediately known.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who died in [Tuesday’s] tragic crash," a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Canberra said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The controversial shooting death of a 15-year-old by a Border Patrol agent across the U.S.-Mexico border nearly seven years ago made its way to the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the court heard arguments in Hernández v. Mesa, which will determine whether the family of a non-American who was killed on the Mexican side of the United States border can sue over their son’s death in U.S. federal court.

Sergio Hernández Guereca, an unarmed Mexican national, was shot and killed in the summer of 2010 by U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa, who was patrolling the border by bicycle.

The case reached the Supreme Court at a time when immigration enforcement and border security have been thrust into the national spotlight by the Trump administration.

One of President Trump’s executive orders, issued on Jan. 25, called for the "immediate construction" of a physical wall on the southern border, as well as the hiring of an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

How we got here


In 2010, Mesa, while standing on the U.S. side of the border, pointed his service weapon at Hernández, who was on the Mexican side of the border, and struck the teen. Hernández died at the scene of the shooting.

Beyond that, there is little agreement about what happened between the two sides. The facts of the case have never been argued in court, so for the purposes of the Supreme Court hearing, both parties will rely on the account of the facts brought by the petitioners -- the Hernández family.

Hernández was playing a game with friends on the border between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico in which they would run up and touch the U.S. fence and then run back down, according to court documents.

After Mesa arrived on the U.S. side, he caught one of the boys and the other two ran behind a pillar on the Mexican side of the border. Mesa, who remained on U.S. soil, then shot Hernández as he peered out from pillar.

U.S. authorities initially claimed that Hernández was throwing rocks and Mesa had shot him in self-defense. But cellphone video later revealed that Hernández was shot as he peered his head out, according to the petitioner’s brief.

Hernández’s parents sued Mesa in federal court, but the district court dismissed the claim. The case then moved up to the Fifth Circuit of Appeals, which also sided with Mesa.

The Hernández family then appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to take the case in October of last year.

"We just want to prove our case in court," said Robert Hilliard, lead attorney representing the Hernández family.

Hernández’s "parents want justice," he said.

Mesa's side


The Department of Justice concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Mesa under a federal homicide charge and that prosecutors lacked jurisdiction under civil rights statutes because Hernández was "neither within the borders of the United States nor present on U.S. property" at the time of the shooting, according to a DOJ announcement in 2012 when the investigation was concluded.

Mesa was charged by Mexican authorities, but was never extradited to face those charges.

"We are very confident" that the Supreme Court will find that the opinion of the Fifth Circuit is in line with the case law,” said Randolph Ortega, Mesa's attorney.

Mesa, who is still with the Border Patrol, had to uproot his family and re-locate from the El Paso area because of death threats, said Ortega.

"It’s been extremely difficult," he said.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which oversees Border Patrol, declined to comment on pending litigation.

The issue before the Supreme Court


The case brings into question the constitutional rights of non-citizens, which could potentially impact other legislation and expand the scope of U.S law.

"The Fourth Amendment protects non-citizens against the arbitrary use of deadly force at the border, at least in the context of a close range, cross border shooting in a confined area patrolled by federal agents," argue attorneys in a brief for the petitioners.

The court is being asked to decide whether Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure should apply when someone is not on U.S. soil, which Hernández was not.

Attorneys for Hernández argue that protections under the Constitution should apply.

He "was an unarmed civilian and a "member of an intertwined, binational community," said the brief.

But the U.S. government, which is supporting Mesa, said in its brief that U.S. legal protections should not be expanded to non-citizens in this case. “An injury inflicted by the United States on a foreign citizen in another country’s sovereign territory is, by definition, an incident with international implications,” the brief said.

The Supreme Court will also weigh whether Mesa is entitled to "qualified immunity" -- whether an officer is immune from liability for a violation of constitutional rights.

And the justices will also determine whether Hernández’s parents have standing to bring forth the claim in the first place.

Larger implications


While this case is about one incident, Hernández’s parents argue that this is a recurring problem for foreign victims who wish to make claims against the Border Patrol.

In a recent five-year span, border agents shot across the border at least 10 times, killing a total of six Mexicans on Mexican soil, according to court documents.

"There is no constitutional constraint when U.S law enforcement stands in the U.S and shoots people. There is no law that governs their conduct," said Hilliard.

After the agency was criticized for transparency and enforcement abuse, former CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske worked to change the culture of the agency, ordering limits on when agents can use their weapons and called for more accountability when civilians are shot.

Kevin McAleenan has been serving as acting commissioner since Jan. 20, 2017.

Violent encounters between CBP officers with both immigrants and American citizens reached a four-year low in 2015, dropping 40 percent from two years earlier.

But those number began to rise again in 2016, with 978 violent encounters recorded in fiscal year 2016, as well as a five-year high of assaults against CBP law enforcement officers.

CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the use-of-force incidents.

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iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, Texas, has been given an all-clear after police responded to reports of gunfire on Tuesday.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said no one was shot and no suspect was found despite initial reports about an active shooter, a suspect described to police as a white male, on the second floor of the hospital.

Two searches were conducted by police, according to Acevedo, and there was "no evidence of shooter or shooting."

"I am confident that if there was a threat, that threat is not here now," he said.
When the hospital was in lockdown mode, some sheltered in place while hundreds of others, including staff, patients and family, were evacuated.

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instagram/Vitoria Londero (NEW YORK) -- A banner that read "Refugees Welcome" was unfurled atop the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty on Tuesday.

According to U.S. Park Police, the banner, 20 feet by 3 feet, was illegally affixed to the wall of the public observation deck at the statue's base by nylon rope.

When rangers were alerted to the banner's presence, they immediately moved to its location and assessed how it was attached to the monument, police said. Rangers began removing the banner after it was determined it could be done without damaging the pedestal.

An investigation is underway to identify suspects.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A bull that led police on a wild goose chase through New York City earlier Tuesday has died just hours after it was captured, according to a New York Police Department source briefed on the incident.

The bull was originally spotted roaming the streets of the city's Jamaica, Queens, neighborhood late this morning after escaping from a slaughterhouse, according to ABC's New York station WABC-TV.

A local named Jimmy King told WABC-TV he was nearly mauled by the animal.

"[If] I didn't move to the left like this, he would have got me," King said. "Thank God I'm alive."

At one point, the bull began grazing on someone's lawn. But once police officers closed in on it, the bull got spooked and trotted off again, according to video recorded by WABC-TV.

Several times during the chase, the bull squeezed through and narrowly avoided cop cars that tried to pin it down.

Police officers were eventually able to corral the animal and shoot it with several darts containing tranquilizers, WABC-TV reported.

Once the bull was sedated, it was loaded onto a vehicle for transport to a local animal shelter -- but it didn't survive for long.

Animal Care Centers of NYC said the bull was dead on arrival when it arrived at the Brooklyn facility, according to WABC-TV.

The police source told ABC News that while the NYPD is good at many things, the department has proved deficient in bull wrangling.

"We're really not good at it," the source said. "They don't train us for that in the academy."

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Xinhua/Yin Bogu via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The beloved giant panda Bao Bao departed from Washington, D.C., Tuesday for her new home in China.

Bao Bao took off from Dulles International Airport in Virginia this afternoon beginning her long trek to Chengdu. She is traveling aboard her customized FedEx plane, the "Panda Express," accompanied by one of her keepers, Marty Dearie, and a veterinarian. Also on board: nearly 60 pounds of bamboo and other treats and a box of letters from well-wishers.

🐼❤️🌏Thank you for joining us to say #ByeByeBaoBao. Here's a look back. @FONZNationalZoo pic.twitter.com/5uJb5e1VYR

— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) February 21, 2017

"Today marks another milestone in our fight to save endangered species," Smithsonian National Zoo Director Dennis Kelly said. "Our team has worked so hard for so many years to make sure giant pandas stay on the earth."

The 3-and-a-half-year-old panda enjoyed a hearty breakfast and one last outing in the zoo's panda yard this morning before her departure.

 

One more time in the panda yard for Bao Bao #ByeByeBaoBao pic.twitter.com/BpsPW5eqqw

— Jennifer Hansler (@jmhansler) February 21, 2017

 

Ahead of the big event, thousands of well-wishers headed to the zoo to say "Bye-bye, Bao Bao."

"Everyone here at the zoo, the millions of people at the zoo and the millions more on the webcams around the world are all going to miss her tremendously," Brandie Smith, associate director of Animal Care Sciences, told ABC News.

Bao Bao is leaving the U.S. for China as part of a cooperative breeding program between the National Zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA). All giant pandas born at the National Zoo must be sent to live in China before the age of 4, the program mandates.

In the days leading up to Bao Bao's departure, the zoo has hosted a number of activities and educational livestreams, including a dumpling ceremony and an ice cake party.

Crowds lined up at the panda house, some waiting more than an hour, to wish the bear bon voyage.

“I have been watching this bear since she was born and it's actually the first adult animal I have seen from birth until adulthood,” visitor Heather Heckel told ABC News. “So, I've just kind of loved her all of her life and I wanted to say goodbye.”

 

🐼❤️🌏Bao Bao's last ice 🎂 created by our Dept. of Nutrition Sciences was inspired by a Chinese pagoda in honor of her new home #ByeByeBaoBao pic.twitter.com/7V1Ua0gei9

— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) February 20, 2017

 

Bao Bao was born at the National Zoo on Aug. 23, 2013, to parents Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. She is only the second panda born at the zoo to travel to China--she was preceded by her older brother, Tai Shan.

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iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- What one Texas woman thought was just her boyfriend dancing in the streets at a Mardi Gras celebration turned into a flash mob marriage proposal.

Wendy Hernandez, 23, of Houston, Texas, was celebrating Mardi Gras in Galveston Saturday afternoon with her family and friends, including her boyfriend, John Galloway.

Just before the island city’s Mardi Gras parade was about to begin, Galloway, 26, began dancing in the street. He was soon joined by nearly a dozen of his closest friends in a choreographed dance routine to Bruno Mars’ hit songs “Uptown Funk” and “Marry You.”

Galloway didn’t even have an idea of what a flash mob was until last December when he asked his friends’ advice for how to propose and they immediately said, “Flash mob,” he said.

“I just went to YouTube and we went from there to choreograph it,” Galloway told ABC News. "It wasn't pretty at first."

Galloway knew that dancing was the way to the heart of Hernandez, a college student who is also a Zumba teacher and a former professional dancer.

“My original plan was to hire professional dancers,” Galloway said. “But that would take the fun out of it and I wanted something that would take more effort and show more emotion.”

Galloway recruited around 25 of his friends to help. Those that wanted to dance rehearsed with him weekly from December until this weekend. Those friends with what Galloway described as “less rhythm" worked as self-named security guards on Saturday to make sure no one interrupted the surprise proposal.

“I did not catch on at all,” said Hernandez, who watched on the street alongside her family and friends who traveled from Houston. “He’s pretty silly and I thought he was just dancing and thought it was pretty cool.”

As a large crowd gathered to watch, Galloway danced his way to the back of his friends and then walked through an aisle they created to get down on one knee in front of Hernandez with the ring.

“In the video, you can see my shoulders are shaking for how much I’m crying,” Hernandez said of her shocked reaction.

Friends posted videos of the proposal on Facebook, and family made sure they had engagement T-shirts and a cake on hand to celebrate.

"There were tons of people involved," Galloway said. "There was no way I could have done it on my own."

The newly-engaged couple has yet to set a date for their nuptials but they are already planning their first dance at their wedding reception.

“I want to do a full-on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ salsa dance,” said Galloway, to which Hernandez replied, “And of course I’m all in.”

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KABC-TV(WHITTIER, Calif.) — A veteran officer was killed and another injured after a parolee opened fire on them after they responded to a traffic incident Sunday in Whittier, California, police officials said.

The officers responded to a reported incident — in which a driver, who police said was driving a stolen car, rear-ended multiple other vehicles — around 8 a.m.

Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office said the suspect, who was not named, moved his car around the corner after the collisions.

When officers arrived on the scene, the other drivers, who had refused to give the suspect a ride, indicated that he had moved his car.

The officers, who did not know at the time that the car was stolen, made contact the suspect and went to pat him down, and he pulled out a gun and opened fire, police said.

"When they got the call, it was just a traffic accident, and they didn't know what they had," Corina told reporters. "When they went to contact him, that's when the shooting happened."

Corina said the suspect was 26, a "known gang member" and was armed with a semiautomatic handgun. He was released from jail a week ago.

The officers returned fire, wounding him.

The suspect was released on parole two weeks ago and has made statements to police.

The two officers and the suspect were hospitalized after the shooting, and one officer, Keith Wayne Boyer, died at the hospital. The surviving officer, Patrick Hazel, and the suspect are in stable condition, according to Corina.

Boyer became an officer with the Whittier Police Department in 1990 and was remembered as positive and energetic, according to the department's chief, Jeff Piper.

He was from the area and had grown children, Piper said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In the wake of 11 new threats Monday against Jewish centers, from New York to New Mexico, the FBI said it is investigating, along with the Department of Justice, bomb threats to the centers across the country.

Federal authorities are looking into threats communicated to at least 60 Jewish centers around the country this year. The threats started in January and the FBI began investigating later that same month. The threats have come in "different waves," with more threats phoned in to centers Monday, according to one source familiar with the matter.

The FBI said they are "investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish Community Centers."

"The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence, and will ensure this matter is investigated in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner," the FBI said in a statement. "As this is matter is ongoing, we are not able to comment further at this time."

This year, a total of 69 threats to 54 JCCs have spanned 27 states and one Canadian province and came in four waves: Jan. 9, Jan. 18, Jan. 31 and then Monday, the JCC Association of North America said.

In Monday's wave of threats 11 JCCs received bomb threats over the phone, the JCC Association of North America said. All threats were determined to be hoaxes and all JCCs returned to normal operations, they said.

The threats Monday included a JCC in St. Paul, Minnesota, a JCC in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and two Jewish centers around Buffalo, New York.

The Department of Homeland Security has also been working on this matter. Almost immediately after the threats are reported to federal authorities, the DHS is informed and disseminates the information nationwide through the Homeland Security Information Network channel "so that others can see that these calls are going on and respond accordingly," one source said.

David Posner, director of strategic performance at JCC Association of North America, said that while the JCCs that received the threats have all resumed operations "with a heightened level of security," he added, "we will not be cowed by threats intended to disrupt people’s lives."

"While we are relieved that all such threats have proven to be hoaxes and that not a single person was harmed, we are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats, and the repetition of threats intended to interfere with day-to-day life," Posner said. "Local JCCs serve not just the Jewish community, but the entire community. Participants from all different backgrounds come to their local JCCs."

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in a statement Monday that the threats are "alarming, disruptive, and must always been taken seriously."

"We look to our political leaders at all levels to speak out against such threats directed against Jewish institutions, to make it clear that such actions are unacceptable, and to pledge that they will work with law enforcement officials to ensure that those responsible will be apprehended and punished to the full extent of the law," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in the statement.

At a press conference last week, when a Jewish reporter started to ask President Trump about a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S., he said it wasn't a fair question and told the reporter to sit down. Trump then said he is "the least anti-Semitic person you've ever seen in your entire life."

He later responded to questions about possible anti-Semitic activity saying, "As far as people, Jewish people ... I think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four, or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening, and you’re going to see a lot of love."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday, in response to the threats, "Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individuals freedom. The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable."

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Molly Draper(MARION, Ohio) -- Police across the country are used to solving puzzles, but one Ohio police department recently got a plea for help from a local girl seeking to solve a puzzle of a more mathematical bent.

Ten-year-old Lena Draper, 10, decided she needed some help with her fifth-grade math homework, so she took to the Marion, Ohio, Police Department's Facebook page on Friday and messaged them a few problems that she felt needed answering.

The police department came to her rescue, messaging the little girl back after she posted the math problem, (8 29) X 15. The police department responded with "do the numbers in the parenthesis first so in essence it would be 37 X 15."

Lena followed up with another problem: "(90 27) (29 15)x2"

To which the police department replied: "Take the answer from the first parenthesis plus the answer from the second parenthesis and multiply that answer by two."

Though they were going above and beyond their duties, in a math faux pas, the answer given to Lena ended up being incorrect, as pointed out by a friend of Lena’s mother. (The correct answer is to add the numbers in the second parenthesis and multiply only that by two, and then add it to the numbers in the first parenthesis.)

Lena’s mom, Molly Draper, said she was tickled that the local police department tried to help her daughter with her homework. “I didn’t believe her and asked for a screenshot. I thought it was pretty funny. And I love that they went ahead with it," she told ABC News.

In response to the incident, the Marion Police Department posted on its Facebook page that it is a full-service police department that makes every emergency a cause to be answered.

When asked if Lena’s math problem ever got answered correctly, her mom said, “I hope so. But we’ll see when she gets her paper back.”

For those in need of math equation help, remember the acronym, PEMDAS, which stands for parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition and subtraction -- the order in which mathematical operations should be performed in an equation.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Following years of drought, parts of Northern California have experienced a deluge of rain so far in 2017.

Rain, heavy at times, is expected throughout Monday in the region, before tapering to scattered showers overnight, according to ABC News meteorologists.

Around the area of the Oroville Dam, where residents were forced to evacuate last week following concerns that the structure could falter, 1 to 2 inches of rain were expected, and the area surrounding nearby mountains could get as much as 5 inches or more, meteorologists said.

Following the rain, wind gusts Monday evening and overnight could create downed trees, power lines, and power outages in some areas.

This has been the wettest start to the year ever recorded in the Sacramento area -- which has now exceeded a foot above normal for rainfall since Oct. 1, 2016, according to ABC News' analysis.

Some residents of the region are preparing for the possibility of another evacuation of the region surrounding Oroville, according to the Sacramento Bee, but the water has nevertheless been lowered to a safe level.

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ABCNews.com(Cannon Ball, N.D.) — Dakota Access Pipeline protestors that are still camped out in North Dakota could be arrested Wednesday if they do not leave.

Protesters have been at the campsite since August as they fight the construction of a pipeline that will carry oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois.  They feel the pipeline threatens the sanctity of the land, and Native American tribes argue the pipeline threatens drinking water and cultural sites.

Weather serves as another threat to protests. Protesters may have to move to higher ground amid the possibility of spring flooding.

Some protesters tell Bloomberg News they are prepared to be arrested, but will remain peaceful.

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Indiana State Police(DELPHI, Ind.) -- A tip line set up by investigators in the murder of two Indiana teens who disappeared while hiking is filling up with calls from across the country after a man photographed on a nature trail was named a primary suspect in the killings, police said.

"Everyone is calling us from everywhere," a spokesperson for the Delphi Police told ABC News.

The bodies of the two girls -- Liberty Rose Lynn German, 14, and Abigail Jay Williams, 13, both of Carroll County -- were found last Tuesday near a creek, roughly three-quarters of a mile from an abandoned railroad bridge, near Delphi, Indiana, where they were dropped off Monday to go hiking.

Indiana State Police named a man in a photograph as the primary suspect in the double homicide investigation Sunday afternoon, but nothing is known about him at this time outside of a single image.

Previously, he had been labeled a person of interest, and police said he might only be a witness to the crime.

That changed Sunday afternoon.

"Since Wednesday February 15th, law enforcement officers have distributed a photo of a person observed on the Delphi Historic Trail. The photo appears to depict a white male wearing blue jeans, a blue coat/jacket, and a hoodie," a statement from the Indiana State Police read.

Investigators told ABC News that a search warrant was executed at a home in Delphi on Thursday night, but it did not yield anything of value to the investigation.

State police referred to "preliminary evidence" that led their attention to the man in the picture, without detailing what it was.

"During the course of the investigation, preliminary evidence has led investigators to believe the person, in the distributed photo, is suspected of having participated in the murders of Abigail Williams and Liberty German," the statement added.

The case has garnered great attention in the otherwise peaceful area of rural Indiana from which the girls disappeared.

On Monday, police told ABC News that people in the small city of Delphi bonded together following the tragedy and have been extremely helpful to the investigation.

"The people of Delphi are being very helpful," the spokesman said. "They are helping in any way that they can."

Thousands gathered in Delphi this weekend to take part in a motorcycle memorial ride to commemorate the lives of the two girls.

Organizers for the motorcycle rally estimated that more than 3,000 people took part in the ride on Saturday, while hundreds of spectators watched, according to the Lafayette Journal and Courier, a local paper.

The paper said that the downtown area of the small city overflowed with motorcycles and cars, who registered for $20 per driver and $5 per passenger to ride from Office Tavern Bar in Delphi to Whiskey and Wine Saloon in Monticello, and that the funds were split between the families of the two victims.

ABC affiliate WRTV in Indianapolis reported that residents of Delphi were applying purple ribbons to their homes and storefronts show their support for the victims and their families.

The affiliate also reported that several local businesses in Delphi are hosting fundraisers for the families.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Low fuel prices and economic stability are straining the country's roadways, leading to congestion that cost U.S. drivers nearly $300 billion in wasted gas and time last year, according to a new report released Monday.

Los Angeles had the worst traffic in the world among 1,064 cities studied by traffic analytics firm INRIX. L.A. also topped the Kirkland, Washington, firm’s list the year before.

On average, Los Angeles motorists spent about 104 hours stuck in traffic during the peak commuting hours of 2016, contributing to a loss of $2,408 per driver, or about $9.7 billion collectively, in wasted fuel and productivity, according to the firm’s Global Traffic Scorecard report.

That topped Moscow and New York, where drivers spent an average of 91 hours and 89 hours, respectively, sitting in gridlocked traffic.

Overall, U.S. cities accounted for half of the firm’s list of the top 10 most-congested areas worldwide, helped by cheaper U.S. gas prices and a buoyant economy, the report said.

"A stable U.S. economy, continued urbanization of major cities, and factors such as employment growth and low gas prices have all contributed to increased traffic in 2016," INRIX senior economist Bob Pishue said in a statement.

U.S. drivers spent an average of 42 hours a year in traffic during the busiest commuting hours of the year, costing them about $300 billion collectively, or about $1,400 per driver, in squandered gas and time last year, according to the report.

"Traffic truly is a double-edged sword," Pishue said, adding that he doesn't expect the global traffic situation to improve soon any time soon.

"The demand for driving is expected to continue to rise, while the supply of roadway will remain flat," Pishue said.

He recommends that governments use traffic data and technology to improve traffic flow as they explore new road projects and investments.

Separately, in a blog post Friday, INRIX Chief Economist Graham Cookson noted that the causes of congestion are specific to the city and road structures, but he also laid out a few ways that cities could address the problem.

"Congestion is bad for our wallets and our health, but in one sense it is a good problem to have,” Cookson said. “Roads are the arteries of the economy pumping people and goods around the country. Congestion is the symptom of a rich and prosperous economy."

Avoiding peak hour trips through remote working and encouraging the efficient use of our roads through wider adoption of road user pricing could help cities to better manage road demand, Cookson said.

He pointed to places like London as an example of a city that is using technology to improve traffic flow.

London invested nearly $4.3 billion to improve the roads there, according to the city's website.

As part of that initiative, the city placed sensors in 80 percent of the city's roads to detect real-time traffic conditions at junctions and optimize traffic light timings to reduce delays, Cookson noted in his blog post.

INRIX said it used anonymous and real-time GPS data to track traffic flows across 38 countries. It also utilized “market-specific criteria that affect traffic,” including construction and road closures, real-time incidents, sporting and entertainment events, weather forecasts and school schedules.

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@KSATadrian/Twitter(SAN ANTONIO) — A severe storm ripped through parts of San Antonio early Monday morning, causing significant damages in the area and leaving nearly 40,000 residents without power.

More than 100 structures were damaged in the north side of San Antonio, Texas, San Antonio Fire Department officials told ABC News on Monday. Residential homes accounted for most of the destruction, but an elementary school and a few commercial properties were also damaged.

The brunt of the storm hit an area located just south of the San Antonio Airport, which is north of downtown. That's where 43 homes were significantly damaged, fire department officials said. There was also a fire at an elementary school in the area that was related to the storm. Authorities said the fire was under control.

MORE IMAGES: Garage roof punctured in a tree along with trees snapped in half all along Linda Dr, north side of SA #KSATnews #StormChaser pic.twitter.com/0hYdowxzDx

— Adrian Garcia (@KSATadrian) February 20, 2017

No serious injuries or fatalities have been reported at this time, Leer said, while noting that fewer than five minor injuries had been reported. The city said it is working to get up a shelter with the Red Cross.

SA (Linda Dr.) resident said it sounded like a freight train hitting her home as she and her husband took safety #KSATnews #StormChaser pic.twitter.com/WTDSPkwU52

— Adrian Garcia (@KSATadrian) February 20, 2017

As of 3:30 a.m. Eastern Time, there were more than 39,148 San Antonio residents going without power, according to the website of CPS Energy, a city energy provider.

While the storm totally flattened some homes, the majority of the damage was structural or related to roofing, San Antonio Fire Department Lt. Brian Leer Leer told ABC News.

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