Death toll in oil refinery explosion climbs to 15

TEXAS CITY, Texas - The death toll in a thunderous explosion at a BP refinery climbed to 15 Thursday as investigators tried to determine the cause of the worst accident in the nation's gas and chemical industry in nearly 15 years.

A worker who was thought to have checked out and left the refinery was instead found dead near the site of the blast, BP spokesman Bill Stephens said.

More than 100 people were injured Wednesday in the explosion, which plant manager Don Parus said happened during maintenance work in an area of the refinery that boosts the octane level of gasoline.

About 1,100 employees and 2,200 contract workers were at the refinery when the blast shot flames into the sky.

Prosecutors: Club was overcrowded on night of fire

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Station nightclub was overcrowded the night of the fire that killed 100 people, and the owners broke the law repeatedly by allowing the establishment to exceed its legal capacity, prosecutors say.

In court papers filed Tuesday, prosecutors said there were 458 people inside the West Warwick club when the fire occurred on Feb. 20, 2003.

Many of the victims died when they were caught in a pile at the main doorway as they tried to flee the inferno, which prosecutors say broke out when pyrotechnics set off by the rock group Great White ignited flammable soundproofing.

The Station's owners, Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, and Daniel Biechele, the former Great White tour manager blamed for the pyrotechnics, are charged with 200 counts each of involuntary manslaughter.

Hurricane expert says nature to blame for intense season

NEW ORLEANS - Nature, not mankind, is to blame for a period of increased hurricane activity that could last another 20 or 30 years, tropical weather expert William Gray said on Thursday.

The Colorado State University professor, known for his annual predictions, will be the closing speaker today at the 27th annual National Hurricane Conference.

He said hurricane activity began increasing 10 years ago after a slack period of about 25 years.

Drifter identified as suspect in slaying

FRANKLIN, Tenn. - Authorities launched a nationwide search Thursday for a drifter accused in the slaying of an Oklahoma woman who frequently picked up hitchhikers so she could talk to them about her Christian faith.

The body of Amanda Ann Phillips Bateman, 29, was discovered by horseback riders Wednesday in a Tennessee state park. She had been missing since early Monday, when she told her family that she had given a ride to a stranger while driving from Chandler, Okla., to visit her parents in this Nashville suburb.

Bobby Joe McCauley, a 30-year-old transient from Georgia, is wanted on first-degree murder charges in the slaying. Investigators said they focused in on him because Bateman's cell phone was used to call McCauley's mother in Georgia.

Red Lake survivor says he tried to reach out to gunman

BEMIDJI, Minn. - A teenager wounded in the Red Lake High School shooting said he reached out to gunman Jeff Weise before the attack because the boy seemed to have no friends.

''He looked like a cool guy, and then I talked to him a few times,'' 15-year-old Cody Thunder said Thursday. ''He talked about guns and shooting people.

Thunder said despite that, and even though Weise cultivated a dangerous appearance that included sculpting his hair into devil horns - ''It looked like he was trying to be evil'' - Thunder never thought Weise would shoot up their school.

Weise, a hulking 16-year-old, shot to death five students, a security guard and a teacher Monday at the school on the Red Lake Indian reservation, then killed himself. Earlier, he shot to death his grandfather and the man's girlfriend.

Fingerprint evidence shown

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A sheriff's technician testified on Thursday in Michael Jackson's molestation trial that she found a fingerprint from the brother of Jackson's accuser in an adult magazine seized from the singer's home.

The prosecution began presenting testimony on fingerprint evidence to support the boys' accounts that the pop star showed them sexually explicit magazines at his Neverland ranch.

Technician Lisa Hemman testified that the brother's fingerprint was found on a page of a magazine called Finally Legal.

- From wire reports