Attorneys for a South Carolina man who broke his jaw in a 2019 boat crash linked to a murdered Lowcountry scion have filed a petition asking to depose the officers who responded to the crash, alleging that they and “unknown others” may have tried to frame him.
Connor Cook was aboard a boat operated by Paul Murdaugh when it crashed near the Archers Creek Bridge near Parris Island in February 2019, sending 19-year-old passenger Mallory Beach overboard. She died, another young woman was bleeding heavily, Cook broke his jaw – and deputies and wildlife officers arrived to find the underage survivors intoxicated, according to authorities.
Paul Murdaugh (left) and police at scene of double-homicide at hunting lodge in Islandton, South Carolina. (South Carolina Attorney General’s Office/WTAT-TV/DT)
Although Murdaugh was charged in the incident several months later, the petition alleges that authorities and “unknown others” may have first attempted to frame Cook as the boat operator due to Murdaugh’s status as a member of a wealthy family with generational ties to the local prosecutor’s office.
“This motion was kind of a necessity in terms of kind of staring down the barrel at a statute of limitations,” said Joe McColluch, an attorney for Cook. “And there’s a significant range of questions about whether there is a civil conspiracy case to be made here, and against whom it should be brought.”
The petition seeks phone records and a chance to depose several witnesses – members of the local sheriff’s department as well as South Carolina Department of Natural Resources officers – who responded to the crash.
They are former South Carolina Department of Natural Resources officers Robin Camlin and Michael Brock, the latter of whom is now at the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, as well as current DNR officer Austin Pritcher, along with John Leroy Keener and Troy Andrew Krapf of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
“[Cook] further believes that these deponents through their official positions with their respective law enforcement agencies, in concert with others unnamed, may have information of collusion and/or a civil conspiracy to shift the blame for the boat accident away from Paul Murdaugh by wrongfully shifting the focus to [Cook],” the petition reads.
Under state law, such a Rule 27 petition can be filed ahead of a potential lawsuit in order to secure relevant testimony.
Both the DNR and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the civil litigation.
Additional court documents include depositions of the same officers from a wrongful death trial brought by Beach’s family. And they highlight discrepancies between some of the responding officers’ testimony.
In one instance, a Beaufort County Sheriff’s deputy said that at the scene, “I was trying to find out who was driving and I – they wouldn’t tell me.”
That’s despite contemporaneous police recordings in which Cook’s cousin, Anthony Cook, who was also on the boat, said Murdaugh was behind the wheel.
Testimony from another document reveals that Officer Brock had a potential conflict of interest with the Murdaugh family.
“I think his wife or somebody worked for the Murdaughs, or had something to do with them,” Camlin, then Brock’s superior at the DNR, said during a deposition in the Beach case
Authorities ultimately stopped looking into Cook as a potential driver, and Murdaugh was out on bail in connection with the crash and Beach’s death when he was murdered.
But the boating tragedy is only part of a saga that has seen an alarming number of deaths in South Carolina’s quiet Lowcountry region, best known as a coastal countryside full of landmark historical buildings near the Georgia state line.
Paul Murdaugh, 22, and his mother Maggie Murdaugh, 52, were both gunned down on a family property in rural Islandton on June 7 – shot multiple times and left for dead, according to authorities. Just days later, Randolph Murdaugh III, Paul Murdaugh’s 81-year-old grandfather and a longtime local prosecutor, died of natural causes at his home in Varnville.
The Murdaugh family is the most prominent legal family in the region – through its personal injury law firm and the fact that three generations of Murdaughs served as 14th Circuit Solicitor, the top prosecutor for the four surrounding counties.
In 2006, Duffie Stone assumed the position – a longtime family friend and colleague. Murdaugh III’s son, Alex, the husband and father of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh, is a part-time prosecutor in the same office.
Stone recused himself from Paul Murdaugh’s drunken boating case, but the family’s prominence has fueled speculation about how much influence its name still carries. As a result, Cook’s petition was filed in Richland County, far removed from the crash site in Beaufort.
Adding another layer of mystery to the double homicide, state investigators said that while looking into the slayings, they found information that led them to reopen the 2015 case of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, who was found dead on a rural road with severe trauma to the head.
His death had officially been ruled a hit-and-run, although that decision has proven controversial.
“There was no evidence that pointed towards this being a hit-and-run, or a vehicle even being involved in it,” former South Carolina State Trooper Todd Proctor, who led the preliminary investigation into Smith’s death, told Fox News last month.
“It looked like it was more staged,” he said. “Like possibly the body had been placed in the roadway.”
That’s because there were no tire marks in the road or broken car parts that might have fallen off, and Smith did not appear to have slid across the asphalt after an impact.
“We had no evidence to show there was any movement of the body,” Proctor told Fox News.
Despite that, the incident was ruled a hit-and-run, and no one was ever arrested. Police said Smith’s car was found without any gas and that he may have started walking and been hit in the head by the mirror of a passing tractor-trailer.
The link between the Murdaugh slayings and Smith’s death remains unclear.
Fox News’ Griff Jenkins, Stephanie Pagones and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Paige Winter, a North Carolina native, will be making an appearance on National Geographic’s Shark Fest next week. She was attacked by a shark two years ago in Atlantic Beach at the start of the summer travel season.
Winter was at Fort Macon State Park when she said she felt a tugging at her leg while swimming in waist-deep water. At the time, she had no idea it was a shark, or that she would be fighting for her life.
“I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I have a great family, just got a boyfriend and I have great friends.’ I have to see it through, and so, I just prayed, don’t let me die,” recalled Winter.
Winter, who was 17-years-old at the time of the attack, ended up having her left leg amputated above the knee and suffered extensive injuries to her hands.
“It was hard, but I was more focused on me and my recover, rather than, oh that was a shark,” she said.
Winters’ father rushed into the water to fight off the shark, and punched it over and over again in a bid to rescue his daughter.
“It was just an immediate dad thing,” Charlie Winter said during a press conference in 2019. “When I pulled her up, a shark came up with her, and it was a big shark. The head was, it was a bark shark. It kind of thrashed a little bit, and it had a big, just a big eye staring at you.”
Winter was taken to Carteret Health Care in Morehead City before being airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.
Winter lost her ring finger and pinkie on her left hand, in addition to having her leg amputated.
“I had to have tendon repairs on four of these fingers. This thumb was untouched. My left hand – I can’t feel anything in it – and this finger doesn’t have any major arteries anymore. This thumb was bitten twice, but it’s till there and this whole section of my hand is a piece of my back,” Winters described about her hands after the attack.
Standing in the sun outside Milan’s San Raffaele hospital last September, Silvio Berlusconi, the great survivor of Italian politics, recounted the story of his latest remarkable escape.
“I told myself: ‘You have got away with it again’,” the tanned and grinning tycoon told his cheering supporters, recounting his battle with Covid-19. Having contracted the virus on holiday at his villa in Sardinia he developed double pneumonia while already recovering from a heart attack.
Berlusconi, who for decades has seduced Italy with tales of entrepreneurial daring and stamina, insisted that his viral load had been “the highest among tens of thousands of patients” at the Milan hospital.
The 84-year-old Italian magnate, who has unexpectedly returned to government this year, is now planning his last act: succession.
The February earthquake in Italian politics that saw Mario Draghi, the former president of the European Central Bank, become prime minister of a national unity government, has given Berlusconi an unlikely reprieve. Having been out of office since 2011, the new coalition brought Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, now the smallest of Italy’s rightwing parties, back into power and gave him three ministers.
Back in the limelight once again, he is looking to cement his legacy. In a bid to secure a long-term role for his political party, Berlusconi is negotiating the formation of a centre-right political bloc — in what could be the last big gamble of his political career.
“It is my final objective, which I have been thinking about since 1994 and which today can finally be achieved,” he told Fortune Italia last week.
His political return could also provide a fillip to the family media business which has struggled over the past decade when he was out of power amid deep structural changes to the industry.
The question facing one of Europe’s longest-standing and most controversial politicians and businessmen is what will remain after he is gone.
Can his children guide the family’s media empire through the challenges of a transformed advertising market and threats from US streaming giants like Netflix? And does Berlusconi’s much diminished political party, which has shaped Italian politics since the early 1990s, have a future without the businessman who built it in his own image? Or will it simply fade away?
“No one inside Forza Italia really believes that the party can exist in a meaningful way without Berlusconi,” says Daniele Albertazzi, an academic at Birmingham University. “If he named a successor he could have helped the party survive after him, but it remains entirely dependent on his personality and even his funding.”
Even before the day in 1994 when the then 57-year-old Milanese tycoon stunned Italy by declaring he was “entering the playing field” of national politics, Berlusconi had always operated in the messy intersection of power, media and business.
As he spoke, the sclerotic and corrupt party system of the so-called First Republic was collapsing. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia was built on a single, powerful idea years ahead of its time: aspirational anti-politics.
“If you listen back to that speech now it is all still there, he hasn’t really changed a single word over his career,” says Albertazzi.
“He says, ‘I am an outsider, I created an empire for myself and I can do the same for you. The politicians are corrupt and have betrayed you, and I am the man to lead the country’.”
Yet support for Forza Italia has collapsed since Berlusconi was ejected from office in 2011. Having won 30 per cent in the 2013 election, Berlusconi’s share of the vote fell to 14 per cent in 2018 and the party currently polls in the single digits, overtaken by a new generation of rightwing nationalists led by Matteo Salvini’s League and now Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy.
For its entire history, Forza Italia has been built around the image of Berlusconi. He has not named a successor and many in Rome believe it risks melting as soon as he is gone.
But Antonio Tajani, a senior Forza Italia leader and a Berlusconi loyalist since the early 1990s, says his party has a deep bench. “We have many young MPs working towards the future,” he says. “But today Berlusconi is our leader.”
Tajani, a former president of the European Parliament, describes how Berlusconi runs the day to day business of his party via Skype from his 17th century Villa San Martino.
“He is very active and very engaged. Getting Covid was a problem for two or three months but his health is much better now, and I want to be optimistic.”
But in May, former Forza Italia member Giovanni Toti, the governor of the Liguria region and an ex-Mediaset news editor, launched a breakaway centre-right party named Coraggio Italia, triggering a mini-exodus of Forza Italia lawmakers.
Michaela Biancofore, one of 11 MPs who left the party to join the spin-off and famed for being one of Berlusconi’s staunchest supporters, says the party is no longer the same after what she calls Tajani’s “takeover”.
“I’m leaving after Berlusconi left . . . Of course he’s still there, he’s the leader, but there are people who take advantage of the opportunity of being close to him, using him like a plasterboard cut-out,” she told Italian daily La Repubblica.
Berlusconi is currently locked in negotiations with Matteo Salvini’s League about a form of merger of the two parties that would create a single rightwing group in what could be his last throw of the political dice.
“Our task is to build a republican party, like the US one, where the centre and the right [work] together to rule the country,” Berlusconi said, speaking virtually at a party event last month.
A merger would allow Berlusconi to leverage what is left of his political influence inside a bigger tent, and likely extract favourable terms from the League ahead of general elections in 2023. Yet there is disagreement in the Berlusconi camp over the move, with some Forza Italia loyalists fearing its more centrist platform will be devoured by Salvini’s anti-migration politics.
While the three Forza Italia ministers in Draghi’s government oppose the initiative, Tajani believes “this is an idea for the future”.
Fedele Confalonieri, chair of Mediaset, the broadcaster Berlusconi founded in the late 1970s and which would become Italy’s first privately owned national TV network, is also against the idea.
“I told Berlusconi I don’t agree,” he says. “Forza Italia’s identity is liberal, truly liberal. Of course, if you don’t water yourself down, everything can be done, but these operations must be prepared over time”.
Berlusconi’s media empire has always been deeply interconnected with his political power. By controlling the largest commercial broadcasters in Italy, he could ensure blanket favourable coverage for Forza Italia. When in office, he was subject to multiple legal challenges over conflicts of interest.
In the mind of his eldest daughter, her father’s political career has been a hindrance to their family business.
“The hate campaign against my father hit our companies,” says 55-year-old Marina Berlusconi, the eldest of Berlusconi’s five children and chair of the Fininvest family holding company. She describes “constant accusations of [some kind of] conflict of interest which in reality never existed [and] that only ended up undermining our business strategies”.
Others have disagreed. In 2014 a group of economists published research showing that, based on an analysis of quarterly advertising expenditure between 1993 and 2009, Mediaset’s market share had consistently increased during the years Berlusconi was in power and declined when he was not.
While domestic legislation is arguably less critical for Mediaset now than in the past, a loss of influence in the corridors of power may also be felt in the boardroom.
The media business is now formally in the hands of his children. “I consider myself the luckiest of daughters,” says Marina Berlusconi. Pier Silvio, her younger brother by one year, is chief executive of Mediaset and also sits on the Fininvest board, as do their half siblings from their father’s second marriage to Italian actress Veronica Lario, Barbara and Luigi. Eleonora Berlusconi, the middle child from the Lario marriage, does not hold an executive role at her father’s companies.
Marina, who is married to a former first dancer of Milan’s La Scala and built a reputation as a fierce negotiator, says she has learnt business at her father’s side for decades.
“I’ve had the privilege of observing him from a close range and [have understood] his method and his values,” she says. “His skills are so unique that genetically inheriting even only part of them would have been miraculous.”
After their father fell ill with Covid, rumours began to surface in the Italian press about a bitter row between Marina and her younger half-sister Barbara. The family has staunchly denied any rift, presenting a united front to the public.
Yet the media empire Berlusconi’s children will inherit from him finds itself in a much diminished position in an industry transformed from when their father pioneered commercial television in the 1980s.
While Mediaset continues to dominate domestic commercial broadcasting, it has merely kept its share of a steadily shrinking pie. As Italy’s economy has flatlined for two decades, Mediaset’s revenues fell from €4.3bn in 2010 to €2.6bn last year.
“The Italian TV market is a shadow of what it was pre-financial crisis,” says Richard Broughton, research director at UK-based Ampere Analysis. The total Italian advertising market spend, including TV, online, print, radio and out of home, was worth around €9bn a year in 2007, he says, but had shrunk to €7bn last year.
At the same time, an increasing amount of advertising spend in Italy is going to online platforms such as Facebook and Google. In 2008, television ads made up 48 per cent of the total Italian market. Today that share has fallen to 39 per cent, according to Ampere.
As new entrants such as Netflix steal viewers from incumbents, and newly enlarged foreign competitors such as Comcast, which acquired Sky in 2018, and Warner Discovery pump billions of dollars into a global content war, analysts say it will be a Herculean task for Mediaset to keep up.
“Falling revenues mean you can’t spend as much on original content as international competitors, so you risk losing more viewers,” Broughton says. “It is a very difficult problem to solve. This is a problem for many broadcasters in Europe but the Italian companies are in a more perilous situation.”
Confalonieri, the Mediaset chair, has been Berlusconi’s friend and ally since their 1950s adolescence in a booming postwar Milan.
“We went to the same school, we started hanging out because of our shared passion for music. I played the piano and he sang well, Yves Montand, Frank Sinatra,” he says. “We stayed friends for our whole life even though I fired him from our little orchestra when we were 19.”
Berlusconi, and his media empire, according to Confalonieri, are in rude health.
“Mediaset is doing well,” Confalonieri says. “Of course it has to face the competition of the various Amazons and Apples but our distinctive characteristics are always valid. If you want entertainment and news you go local, not global. Domestic politics or news about your next door neighbour are always more interesting than world news.”
Marina Berlusconi says the family remains deeply committed to commercial television, and believes that her strategy of building pan-European scale will repel the American tech giants. Mediaset has operations in Spain, and has a stake in German broadcaster ProSieben.
“The digital revolution is upsetting and it is twice as difficult to face OTTs [‘over-the-top’ providers such as Netflix], for their incredible strength but also for the total absence of limits and rules in which they are allowed to operate,” she says.
“Mediaset is among the main protagonists at a European level. We believe it has a solid future before it and we can make it even stronger thanks to the international mergers we are working on.” Following the truce with French conglomerate Vivendi, Mediaset is ramping up plans for a Netherlands-based pan-European broadcaster.
However, it is not clear if this strategy will work, given the lack of synergies between European broadcasters and their audiences’ different languages and viewing preferences.
“Germans don’t tend to want to watch Italian shows,” says Broughton. “You can plough lots of money into an Italian original but it will do well in Italy and not anywhere else. Cross-border consolidation of broadcasters in Europe might address some problems but it is not a short-term fix.”
‘The Berlusconi way is dead’
As Berlusconi enters the twilight of his career, his family and allies continue to battle over the legacy that he will leave behind.
For his numerous critics he is a proto-Trumpian billionaire-outsider whose misrule of Italy seeded both the anti-politics of the Five Star Movement and also the high technocracy of the Draghi government.
“He is the father of the idea that politics and politicians are dirty and need to be replaced by something else,” says Albertazzi.
For Marina Berlusconi, the country’s travails in the decade since her father left office is evidence that his critics misunderstood the complexity of running the country.
“In the face of all these changes across the past 10 years, many people, including the most hostile to my father, began asking themselves some questions,” she says.
For Confalonieri, Berlusconi has already become a historical figure. “When Berlusconi approaches the end of his career, and we’re getting there, he’ll be portrayed as a great businessman who went into politics with an entrepreneurial mentality . . . applying techniques and opinion poll strategies to politics”.
Yet the world he and the teenage crooner Berlusconi inhabited, long before social media and Netflix, is gone. The question for the next generation of Berlusconis to answer is whether the magic can continue as their proximity to political power fades.
“These guys are from a different world,” says Albertazzi. “The businesses may continue but the Berlusconi way of doing politics is already dead”.
Author: Miles Johnson in Rome and Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli in Milan
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Lucy, an Ewings Sarcoma survivor teams up with “Lucy,” the Porsche, in a winning partnership between a nonprofit and the racing community at prestigious race.
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO, USA, July 3, 2021 /EINPresswire.com/ — On Sunday, the eyes of the automotive racing community were on Pikes Peak for the 99th running of the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb. The uphill race, known as “The Race to the Clouds” is regarded as one of the most famous and arduous racing events in the world.One of the most buzzed-about cars leading into the event was BBi Autosport’s Porsche GT3 Turbo Cup, nicknamed Lucy. Having set a new course record in 2019, the expectations for “Lucy” were sky-high.
When BBi heard about 10-year-old Lucy Spada of Brookfield, and her battle with Ewing Sarcoma, they wanted to get involved with the cause. They dedicated their “Lucy” and two other Porsches to bring attention to an organization that’s in hot pursuit of better treatment options, the Little Warrior Foundation. The team placed the Little Warrior Foundation in prominent spots on the car spoiler and used their spotlight to raise awareness.
“We need to accelerate medical breakthroughs for these kids. There’s hope on the horizon, but these kids can’t wait,” said Emily McFadden, one of the co-founders of Little Warrior Foundation. “When you need things to go faster, BBi Autosport is a perfect partner.”
Lucy attended the race, along with her siblings and the foundation’s co-founders — her parents and godmother. In the days leading up to the event, Lucy served as much needed inspiration and perspective for the BBi Team.
“It was a tough week leading up to the race. We had a lot of mechanical issues, weather issues and obstacles in our path,” said Dmitiry Orlov BBi’s COO. “But that’s nothing compared to what these families go through. Lucy gave us great perspective and motivated us to keep pushing on.”
Despite snowy conditions and a shortened course, Lucy the Porsche took first place in the Open Division. BBi’s GT4 Club Sport, piloted by Tanner Foust also won in its division. BBi’s third Porshce, a GT2 RS, took third place in the highly competitive Time Attack Division.
When the driver Raphael Astier of France descended the mountain, he was greeted by a triumphant team and huge hug from Lucy. As a trophy of her own, the BBi Team gave Lucy an autographed endplate form the wing to take home.
“It’s so cool that they won this race and then turned to clap for me!” said Lucy.
ABOUT THE LITTLE WARRIOR FOUNDATION: The Little Warrior Foundation was founded in April 2020 following 9 yr old Lucy’s diagnosis of Ewing Sarcoma. After a year in treatment, 14 cycles of chemotherapy and 48 rounds of radiation, Lucy is a thriving 5th grader in remission. The Little Warrior Foundation has a mission to fund and find a lasting cure for pediatric cancer, with a specific focus on Ewing Sarcoma. They are focused on less-toxic therapies, such as immunotherapy, mRNA vaccines, and molecular targeting. To date, they have raised and granted over $ 500,000. www.littlewarrior.org
ABOUT BBi AUTOSPORT: BBi Autosport, founded in 2005, specializes in Porsche service and race engineering, blending motorsport and street performance throughout the BBi product line and comprehensive workshop services. Located in Huntington Beach, Calif., BBi is the premier Porsche service facility in Southern California. BBi develops a comprehensive line of performance aftermarket and safety upgrades for all Porsche platforms and offers bespoke street and race engineering services. Through industry partnerships and new technology, BBi pushes the envelope in engineering and performance.
p class=”contact c4″ dir=”auto”>Emily McFadden Little Warrior Foundation +1 6085134155 email us here Visit us on social media: Facebook Twitter
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Valparaiso, IN — In 2013, Jeffrey Howard was diagnosed with liver cancer.
“They basically told me that there was nothing more that they could do and that I had about, on average, about 17 months to live,” he said.
After a liver transplant and treatment, Jeffrey is cancer free! But, he is now in need of a kidney transplant.
“Because of the anti-rejection meds and the damage that my kidneys already had from the cancer treatments, my kidneys started to fail. I had to go on dialysis and go on the waiting list for a kidney transplant,” Howard said.
Jeffrey’s family and friends were all tested, but no one is a match. So, Jeffrey and his family found a creative way to spread the word about his need for a new kidney.
“We saw stories about some other people in other cities that put decals on their trucks or their cars and we went to a local printing company here and got the decals made up. And we had a really good response to it. We put it on Facebook. I put it on Tik Tok just trying to find someone that would be willing to be a match, be a donor,” he explained.
His wife, Kelly, took notice of the feedback.
“The response we’ve had just has been overwhelming and it really gives you faith in humanity again in a year where it’s been kind of tough to find at times,” she said.
But Jeffrey is still in search of a kidney match.
“To get the phone call from the hospital would be really life changing. I have to do dialysis every day for 8.5 hours and so that really has changed life a lot so it would be life changing to get back to regular life,” Howard said.
Finding out of you are a match for Jeffrey is a simple process.
“If someone wants to be a donor for me, they can go to Northwestern Medical’s website and there’s a living donor health questionnaire that you can fill out and then you would put my name in the questionnaire as the person that you want to donate to. Then they call you with further steps after that, which is all paid for by my insurance,” he explains.
Jeffrey encourages everyone to consider being a living organ donor to help others in need.
“You can have a normal life with one kidney. If for some reason you ever start to have health problems and you need a transplant, you go to the head of the line by being a donor. And it’s not just kidneys either. You can donate half your liver, you can donate a kidney, you can donate bone marrow. There’s many options that you can save someone’s life, change someone’s life,” he says.
To see if you are a match for Jeffrey or for more info on becoming an organ donor, visit www.nmlivingdonor.org
AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) — Now, this is a story sure to make you smile!One Texas family is thanking officials from the Texas Department of Transportation and Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas for putting a smile on their 6-year-old son’s face.
Little Archer is a Leukemia survivor who recently got the opportunity to help TxDOT push the ceremonial button to implode pieces of a flyover in Austin.
Two spans of the northbound I-35 to northbound US 183 flyover were destroyed on Saturday when Archer pressed the button.
He quickly jumped for joy and covered his ears as the loud explosion brought down the final sections of the bridge.TxDOT said construction in that area will take approximately four months to complete.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thanks to the Texas Department of Transportation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a 6-year-old Leukemia survivor gets to push the button to bring down part of the U.S. Highway 183 and Interstate 35 flyover Saturday morning.
The child, named Archer, will help TxDOT crews implode a portion of the flyover so crews can rebuild it to make it longer and not as steep. It’s the last portion of the flyover that needs to be demolished, and Archer gets to have the honors to bring it all down.
Crews have been working to implode the stretch of road for the past couple of weeks, and once the remainder of the flyover is brought down Saturday, the rebuilding can begin.
The boom is expected at 6 a.m. Saturday, and all lanes of I-35 and U.S. 183 interchange will be closed for two hours while the implosion takes place.
Work to rebuild the flyover is expected to take four months, and once it’s done, there will be new northbound bypass at St. John’s Avenue and a new on-ramp to northbound I-35. During the work, those on northbound I-35 who need to get on U.S. 183 northbound will have to use the Rundberg Lane exit and then U-turn to use a new flyover.
Alex Telles was just 18 when he left hometown club Juventude for the first big move of his career.
The fresh-faced teenager packed his bags and left behind the town of Caxias do Sul in the south of Brazil for the city of Porto Alegre, trading fourth division football for top flight title contenders Gremio.
After bursting onto the scene in the Juventude first-team as a youngster, Telles was a man in demand.
In a bid to complete a deal for the left-back, Gremio struck a link-up with Juventude which saw five more players join him on the 120km jaunt south down the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
When he arrived in the big city, Telles and one of the five team-mates, goalkeeper Jakson Follmann, moved into an apartment together to start their new adventure.
“Jakson and I lived together in 2013, but we first met in 2007,” Telles says.
Their friendship instantly blossomed.
Telles adopted a dog, Pipoca (Popcorn), which Follmann would regularly look after as he travelled to away games, albeit with the occasional hiccup.
“One day I arrived on a trip and he told me that Pipoca ate my passport,” Telles once revealed in an interview with a Brazilian radio station, Rádio Gaúcha Serra 102.7 FM.
“Worst of all, the following week we had a trip to a Libertadores game, so I had to run to get another one.”
On the pitch, the pair were chasing their dreams.
Away from the pitch, they turned to music as an escape.
“He taught me to play the guitar and sing,” Telles recalls.
“We sang a lot at home, we formed a beautiful country duo,” Follmann jokes.
“Alex also knows how to play guitar, piano, drums and cavaquinho (a small South American string instrument resembling a small guitar).
“And by the way, he sings very well!”
Telles and Follmann’s friendship started when they were part of a talented crop of Juventude youngsters.
They won the Campeonato Gaucho Under-20s, beating top tier clubs such as Gremio and Internacional to emerge as the best youth team in the region.
From there, they then went on to the prestigious Copa Sao Paulo, achieving the best result in the club’s history by reaching the semi-finals against the best youth teams Brazil had to offer.
“It was very nice, because that team won some important championships in the football academy of Juventude,” Follmann recalls.
In the summer of 2014, they headed to Gremio alongside team-mates Bressan, Ramiro and Paulinho in a new link-up between the two clubs.
Whilst Follmann had previously been part of the Gremio academy before heading to Juventude, returning amongst the first-team setup fighting for the title was a culture shock.
“We ended up going to Gremio practically together,” he recalls. “That was very good, because we helped each other a lot, especially in the beginning when everything was new for us.
“It was a different reality than what we were used to. We left a club that was playing in the fourth division of the Brazilian championship for a club that was fighting in the first division.”
Amid their new reality, Telles made an immediate impact.
“We knew that Alex had something different about his football and his attitude,” Follmann recalls.
“It was just a matter of time before he would go to Europe, because he always had plenty of quality since he was very young.”
In 2014, he left Gremio and South America for his European adventure as he joined Galatasaray.
It meant leaving behind Follmann, but the pair remained in close contact until both earned big moves just a few weeks apart in 2016.
For Telles, a move to Portuguese giants Porto on a five-year deal was completed on July 12, 2016.
Follmann, meanwhile, had found his way to over-achievers Chapecoense two months earlier, looking to cement himself as a top flight goalkeeper.
As back-up goalkeeper, Follmann had to be patient in waiting for his chance, making just one appearance in his first few months at the club.
Then, whilst Telles’ career was hitting new heights in Europe, tragedy struck for Follmann ahead of one of the biggest games of his life.
He was one of just six survivors when LaMia Airlines Flight 2933 crashed over the Colombian mountains whilst taking the Chapecoense team to the Copa Sudamerica Final.
Follmann was fortunate to escape with his life, but the tragedy saw his left leg amputated and ended his football career.
In the aftermath, Telles was and continues to be a source of support.
Just weeks after the accident, Telles shared footage of Follmann taking his first steps along with an emotional message of support.
“We always talk,” Follmann says.
“Our friendship is very strong. I have a huge affection for Alex and I know that he has for me.”
Whilst his life as a footballer was cut short, Follmann considers Telles’ friendship one of the gifts he was given from the sport they both love.
“He is a brother that football gave me,” he says.
Four years on from the sudden and heartbreaking end to his footballing career, Follmann watches on with pride as Telles lives out the dream they both shared back in their Porto Alegre apartment seven years ago.
“I am a big fan of Alex the athlete, but even more Alex the person,” he states.
“He’s a simple guy with exceptional character who worked his way up and is exploring the world.
“I am very happy, fulfilled and grateful to have lived with him all these years, and watching him today he’s without doubt one of the best Brazilian left-backs playing in Europe.”