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Virginia State Police looking to reduce crashes on I-81 with ‘Operation DISS-rupt’

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Virginia State Police looking to reduce crashes on I-81 with ‘Operation DISS-rupt’


RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia State Police is aiming to crack down on speeding and reckless driving on Interstate 81 with Operation DISS-rupt.

From Monday through Tuesday, state troopers throughout the Commonwealth will be joining forces to conduct the traffic enforcement and educational safety initiative on the full stretch of I-81.

According to preliminary data, from Jan. 1, 2023, to Dec. 31, 2023, 839 people died in a traffic crash on Virginia roadways, and in January of 2024, there were 50 fatalities on Virginia roadways, stats reveal.

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Ultimately, this operation is looking to disrupt those alarming trends by addressing distracted and impaired driving, speed compliance and seat belt safety. The overall goal is to achieve zero fatal crashes during designated enforcement periods and to reduce the total number of crashes on Virginia interstates for the calendar year by 10%.

“We are asking Virginians to help state police ‘DISS-rupt’ the dangerous behaviors that put motorists and pedestrians at risk,” said Lt. Col. Matt Hanley, director of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Field Operations. “Initiatives like ‘DISSrupt’ are about getting Virginians back to the basics about traffic safety: making sure they are driving sober, driving safely, buckled up, and focused on the task ahead.”

State police recently ran ‘DISS-rupt’ enforcement actions on Interstates 64 and 95.

Copyright 2024 by WSLS 10 – All rights reserved.



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Brentsville’s May Cuyler rules again as Virginia girls’ wrestling keeps growing

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Brentsville’s May Cuyler rules again as Virginia girls’ wrestling keeps growing


After the adrenaline boost from winning a state championship passed, May Cuyler had a chance to reflect. Standing in a hallway outside the gym, the senior attempted to put the gravity of the moment into words but choked up when she realized this was the end of her Brentsville District career.

“When I first met the team, I didn’t even talk to anyone. They brought me out of my shell and treated me better than anyone else in the world,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. “I love them more than anything.”

Cuyler went out in style, claiming the 152-pound title at Saturday’s Virginia girls’ wrestling state championship meet at Gar-Field High in Woodbridge. Only 60 seconds elapsed from the opening whistle of her final match to her hand being raised by the referee following a pin, a grin showing as she looked to her supporters in the bleachers.

Winning has been a habit of Cuyler’s since she started wrestling for the Tigers as a sophomore. Ranked sixth in the nation at 145 pounds by FloWrestling, she will leave to compete for Presbyterian College as a three-time state champion.

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“It feels amazing,” Cuyler said. “I worked so hard with my team, with my family, and I can’t believe they got me here.”

From 2023: High school girls wrestle their way to a barrier-breaking triumph

Lily Oh, a freshman at Riverside, pinned her opponent to claim the 120-pound title. Potomac’s Mahalia Adams won the 185-pound final by fall. Eleanor Dean of Freedom (South Riding) won at 138 pounds.

“To finally get my moment is the best feeling ever,” said Dean, a junior who finished second at the state meet the previous two years. “I was just so happy. I was waiting to just run to my coaches and give them a hug.”

Saturday’s meet was just the second girls’ wrestling championship sanctioned by the Virginia High School League — an unofficial tournament was held in 2022 — and the event’s growth has been remarkable. More than 400 wrestlers competed this year — well over 100 more than last year — with 143 schools represented, a year-over-year increase of 25.

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Dean recalled having just seven others in her bracket at her first state tournament. Just two years later, her weight class had 52 participants. Cuyler has seen a similar trend.

“When I came in sophomore year, it was just me and one other girl. We’d have to work really hard to find tournaments,” she said. “But then we just got swept up into this whirlwind. … I’m super happy to see it’s growing, and I think it’s going to explode from here.”



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Virginia couple feared dead as escaped prisoners hijack yacht in Caribbean

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Virginia couple feared dead as escaped prisoners hijack yacht in Caribbean


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A Virginia couple who were enjoying their retirement cruising the Caribbean on their yacht are feared dead after three escaped prisoners hijacked their vessel.

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Ralph Hendry and Kathy Brandel were docked on Sunday in the St. George’s area of Grenada, which they frequent annually in the winter months when authorities say the three fugitives set upon them and stole their yacht called “Simplicity.” The vessel is a catamaran, a type of sailing yacht with two hulls. 

The prisoners, aged 30, 19, and 20, had been locked up on charges of violent robbery, with the eldest also being held on three counts of attempted rape.  

Ralph Hendry and Kathy Brandel are feared dead after their yacht was found abandoned and ransacked in the Caribbean. (GoFundMe)

MEXICAN AUTHORITIES ARREST 6 IN CONNECTION TO GRISLY MACHETE MURDERS IN CANCUN

The Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) says the three prisoners were discovered near another Caribbean Island on Wednesday, but there was no sign of the couple. 

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Investigators say the boat was ransacked and that a violent act took place.

“The RGPF is currently working on leads that suggest that the two occupants of the yacht may have been killed in the process,” police said in a Thursday Facebook post. “It is believed that the occupants of the yacht were American citizens.”

A GoFundMe post by Jessica Mause, who says she is a close friend of one of the couple’s sons, wrote that they were dead.

“It is with profound sadness and heavy hearts that we share the devastating news of the senseless act of violence that tragically claimed the lives of husband and wife, Ralph Hendry and Kathy Brandel. Their lives ended in unimaginable tragedy… off the shores of Grand Anse Beach, Grenada.”

However, Hendry’s sister, Suellen Desmarais, told FOX 5 that she is keeping faith they are alive and is still trying to figure out what happened.

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“Why would I presume anyone is dead with no body and DNA? I want to remain positive. I want to believe that they are alive,” said Desmarais, who shared some details about the heartbreaking incident.

An image of boats in the harbor of St. George's, Grenada.

The harbor of St. George’s, Grenada, where the couple were visiting. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

FBI ISSUES DIRE WARNING TO AMERICANS THINKING OF TRAVELING TO CARIBBEAN NATION AS CRIME SKYROCKETS IN 2023

“On Sunday, they went into the town around 3 o’clock because another boater saw them go into town. And then the other boater, when he went to bed, he noticed that they were there because you always look to see who is around you and in the morning, when the boater woke up they were gone,” Desmarais said. 

The RGPF said it had taken the three prisoners into custody; Ron Mitchell, a 30-year-old sailor; Trevon Robertson, a 19-year-old unemployed man and Abita Stanislaus, a 20-year-old farmer. They are all locals from Paradise in Grenada and had been locked up since December, police said. 

Mause wrote that the couple were experienced adventurers who spent their retirement sailing aboard Simplicity in the winters and then traveled to New England in the summer. 

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Three suspects arrested in the case of a Virginia couple feared dead.

The suspects arrested in connection with the disappearance of the couple.  (RSVG Police Force via Facebook )

Nicole Parker, a former FBI special agency and Fox News contributor says she fears the worst for the couple. 

“My suspicion is the suspects forced them to sail where they wanted to get to, probably had a violent interaction, killed them, dumped them overboard and went on their way,” Parker told Fox News Digital.

She said that the FBI are often called to other countries to help with their investigations if requested to do so and that the suspects could still be prosecuted even if the couple’s bodies are not recovered. It is unclear whether the FBI have been called upon to investigate this incident. 

“Hopefully they’ve required the assistance of the FBI, such as its evidence response team, to bring justice to these individuals who likely hurt or killed U.S. citizens,” said Parker, who has investigated violent crimes involving U.S. citizens in international waters.

She said that U.S. tourists should remain vigilant at all times when visiting foreign countries. 

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“Sometimes we let our guards down when on vacation. We always have to be aware and alert, because unfortunately, there are people out there who have no respect for human life.”

“Never live in fear, but follow your gut, and keep your head on a swivel.”

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Hendry and Brandel were part of a sailing association called the Salty Dog. Its president, Rob Osborn, said that instances like this are uncommon in Grenada. He said he had received a message from a person who had seen the yacht abandoned and then had called local authorities.

“This is a tragedy that has shaken our community,” Osborn told FOX 5. He also lives on the sea.

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 “There are literally hundreds of people who do what I do in the winter. I just want everyone to know that this is very rare. When people ask us if we worry about pirates, the answer is ‘No,’ these are friendly islands. “Whether you are in New York City, Chicago or here, sometimes bad things happen, and this is heinous.”

A Google Maps image pinpointing Grenada

A map pinpoints Grenada in the Caribbean where the couple are feared dead. (Google Maps)



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15 Best Places to Visit in Virginia, According to Locals

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15 Best Places to Visit in Virginia, According to Locals


As someone who spent the first two decades of their life in Virginia, only to find themselves moving back after 10 years away, I can attest that it’s a state with a seemingly endless number of places to explore. My childhood was spent in the Blue Ridge Mountains — camping in the Peaks of Otter and canoeing down the James River — and my college years brought me to Williamsburg, where history and higher education go hand in hand with waterfront views. Now, I’m a resident of Charlottesville, a small city within driving distance of Shenandoah National Park and Virginia’s Wine Country. 

“Virginia has everything that you could ever ask for,” says George Hodson, CEO of Veritas Vineyard and Winery in Afton. “For me, it is the natural resources… rivers, lakes, oceans, and mountains — and four seasons to enjoy each of them in.” Matilda Reuter Engle, proprietor of Middleburg Hospitality and general manager of The Red Fox Inn & Tavern and Glenstone Gardens, has the same mindset when it comes to the Old Dominion’s charm: “Virginians take great pride in their connection to nature, reflected in the state’s agricultural heritage, rural traditions, and a commitment to preserving open spaces.”


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No matter which region you’re traveling to, make sure you experience some of this unmatched natural beauty, as well as the small towns, culturally rich cities, and unforgettable sights that set this state apart. Read on to discover the best places to visit in Virginia. 


Natural Bridge

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Travelers of all ages will want to make their way to Natural Bridge. Located just south of Lexington, it’s home to Natural Bridge State Park and the Caverns at Natural Bridge. The former, which is a designated National Historic Landmark, is known for its 200-foot-tall stone archway; the latter allows visitors to descend more than 34 stories into the Earth as they admire stalactites, stalagmites, and other underground wonders.


James River

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The largest river in Virginia, the James starts in the Appalachian Mountains and flows into the Chesapeake Bay. “It’s an amazing place to get outside and be outside,” says Hodson, who recommends getting on the water in Scottsville with James River Runners.


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Blue Ridge Parkway

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“If you want a beautiful drive, [the] Blue Ridge Parkway offers a scenic trip on the way to Shenandoah National Park,” says Reuter Engle. As you start planning your drive, download the Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Planner app; this is super helpful if you’re unsure what each region and section of the parkway offers. 



Richmond

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Virginia’s capital city has something for everyone — from history lovers and art fanatics to foodies and outdoorsy types. If you’re interested in the beverage scene, however, Hodson suggests checking out Scott’s Addition, which he describes as a “playground for big kids.” Here, you’ll find old factories and warehouses converted into taprooms, cideries, and distilleries.


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Smith Mountain Lake

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You may have heard it described as the “Lake Tahoe of the East,” but Smith Mountain Lake definitely has its own personality and appeal. The reservoir is the second-largest body of water in the state, with 500 miles of shoreline and two dozen islands, and it provides plenty of room for water activities — including swimming, boating, fishing, and various water sports.

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Monticello Wine Trail

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Hodson calls this area of the world — one he’s very much familiar with — “a world-class wine region with so many great winery experiences, all within a 30-minute drive from Charlottesville.” The Monticello Wine Trail spans 40 vineyards, with each offering wine tastings paired with gorgeous Virginia views.


Historic Triangle

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The three points on the Historic Triangle — Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown — make for an educational and beautiful weekend getaway. Along the route, also known as the Colonial Parkway, you’ll have the chance to visit Historic Jamestowne, the Jamestown Settlement, Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown Battlefield, and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.


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Crozet

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Crozet is “still a quiet little Virginia town, but [it’s] on the rise,” says Hodson. Plus, it’s a great day trip from Charlottesville. As far as an ideal itinerary, Hodson has you covered. “Grab a coffee and a bagel at Praha Bakery… head off to hike Blue Hole from the Sugar Hollow reservoir, then come back to downtown Crozet and treat yourself to a sauna and cold plunge at Reset Crozet.” Finally, he says, “Have dinner at the legendary Fardowners.”


Middleburg

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Reuter Engle, whose family has been in Middleburg for generations, admits that while she may be biased, the historic town has plenty to do and see in every season. Her must-experience list includes: “Christmas in Middleburg’s traditional hunt parade that draws thousands each year; the Middleburg Film Festival in the fall; Historic Garden Week in the spring; and equestrian activities galore in the fall and spring, such as the Middleburg Spring Races, the Virginia Gold Cup, and the Upperville Colt & Horse Show.”


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Lexington

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Travelers may know Lexington for its association with Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and Washington & Lee University, but it also boasts one of the most interesting outdoor entertainment venues. Once an abandoned limestone quarry and kiln, Lime Kiln Theater welcomes 675 guests to enjoy shows featuring bluegrass, folk, and other music genres surrounded by trees, natural stone walls, and the stars overhead. The 2024 season will be announced in March.

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Shenandoah River

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“For the water sports enthusiast seeking an exhilarating experience, the Shenandoah River is a must-visit destination,” says Reuter Engle. Rafting, tubing, and kayaking are all possibilities, and she suggests heading to the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center “for both adventurous and family-friendly options.”


Virginia Beach

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Virginia has some of the country’s oldest mountains, but you can’t forget about its oceanfront destinations — namely, Virginia Beach. “I grew up a surfer kid at the beach, and I feel so at home there,” says Hodson, sharing that the ViBe Creative District, in particular, is notable for its “great coffee shops and restaurants.” He recommends grabbing a drink or a bite at Three Ships Coffee and The Pink Dinghy, which sit right next to one another.


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Ashby Gap and Sky Meadows State Park

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“Just about an hour outside of Washington, D.C., these two spots on either side of Paris, Virginia are perfect for experiencing the natural beauty of our state with a good hike or walk outside,” explains Reuter Engle. Sky Meadows State Park is especially beautiful during the fall when foliage is at its peak. While in the area, she recommends stopping at The Ashby Inn for lunch and picking up local produce at Hollin Farms.


Bath County

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Just like the city of Bath in England, Bath County, Virginia gets its name from its natural healing waters. You can experience them for yourself by making a reservation at the recently renovated Warm Springs Pools, part of The Omni Homestead Resort. Travelers interested in the more agricultural side of the county can opt to stay at Apple Horse Farm, a sustainable cattle and pig farm with a standalone cabin available for short-term rentals.


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Shenandoah National Park

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Reuter Engle says travelers can expect “picturesque hiking” in Shenandoah National Park, where 500 miles of trails lead hikers to waterfalls, scenic landscapes, and remnants of pioneer history. One of the most popular paths is Old Rag, a 9.1-mile loop trail that’s labeled as “difficult.” If you can handle a bit of rock scrambling, though, the views are completely worth the climb.

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