Marine Corps helicopter crash claims 2 lives

ALPINE, Calif. - A Marine Corps helicopter crashed in a remote section of a Southern California forest, killing its two experienced pilots, authorities said Wednesday.

The AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing crashed shortly before midnight Tuesday in the Cleveland National Forest in eastern San Diego County, killing the only two people on board, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar said in a statement.

The pilots were part of an air-combat unit that was preparing to go overseas, said Maj. Jay Delarosa, a Marine Corps spokesman. The helicopter was carrying live ordnance.

'To get to this level, these Marines have been through extensive, in-depth, very serious training,' Delarosa said. 'They were at the top of their game.'

Movie crew members hurt in NY City crash

NEW YORK - Nine people, including some crew members working on a Nicolas Cage film, are being treated for minor injuries at New York City hospitals after a sport utility vehicle hit a parked car near the movie set.

It's the second crash this week involving the film 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice.' The most recent happened about 3:28 a.m. Wednesday in Times Square.

The SUV's driver told reporters she tried to avoid hitting a taxi cab and instead struck a parked car. Both vehicles jumped the curb where some crew members were sitting under a marquee.

Guilty plea in case of missing Calif. student

LOS ANGELES - A convicted sex offender has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the 2007 disappearance of a San Diego State University student whose body has never been found.

John Steven Burgess entered his guilty plea Wednesday in a Los Angeles courtroom and will be sentenced May 18. Prosecutors said the 36-year-old could face five years in prison.

Authorities believe Burgess met Donna Jou, then 19, through an online ad, and the two attended a party where he gave her heroin and cocaine.

Investigators said Burgess told them he panicked after Jou died of an accidental overdose and dumped her body in the ocean.

Air controller blamed for close call in Ky.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A 'significant error' by an air traffic controller in Memphis put two airliners too close together over Kentucky, leading both to take evasive maneuvers and one pilot to file a near mid-air collision report, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The American Airlines jet and smaller Pinnacle Airlines commuter plane were both around 32,000 feet when they got within a mile of each other above Bowling Green, Ky., causing emergency warning systems to activate.

Such planes can travel a mile in 15 to 20 seconds, said the leader of an air traffic controllers' union. FAA safety rules required that the planes be least five miles apart.

'It's very seriously close,' said Ron Carpenter, Memphis president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Maine passes same-sex marriage bill

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine's governor signed a freshly passed bill Wednesday approving gay marriage, making it the fifth state to approve the practice and moving New England closer to allowing it throughout the region.

New Hampshire legislators were also poised to send a gay marriage bill to their governor, who hasn't indicated whether he'll sign it. If he does, Rhode Island would be the region's sole holdout.

Maine Gov. John Baldacci, who hadn't indicated how he would handle the bill, quickly signed it.

The bill authorizes marriage between any two people rather than between one man and one woman.

Wal-Mart pays $2M to avoid charges in death

MINEOLA, N.Y. - Wal-Mart agreed Wednesday to pay nearly $2 million and improve safety at its New York stores as part of a deal that avoids criminal charges in the trampling death of a worker.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said that if she had brought criminal charges against the retailer, the company would have been subject to only a $10,000 fine if convicted. Rice declined to say what charges were considered against Wal-Mart, citing the secrecy of grand jury proceedings.