Reward in case of missing Iowa student doubles to $2,000

BROOKLYN (AP) — The reward for information into the disappearance of a University of Iowa student has doubled to $2,000, thanks to a pledge from the power utility in the woman's hometown.

The FBI, state and local investigators have been searching for 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts since she was last seen jogging in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa, the evening of July 18.

Brooklyn-based TIP Rural Electric Cooperative announced Saturday that it will match a $1,000 standing reward for information that leads to the discovery of Tibbetts' whereabouts or to an arrest and conviction in her disappearance.

The utility has also set up a hotline where anonymous tips on the case may be left. The cooperative says information called in to 1-800-452-1111 will be shared with the Poweshiek Sheriff's office.

Iowa woman killed trying to drive around railroad gates

MOUNT PLEASANT (AP) — The Iowa State Patrol says an 18-year-old woman has died after her car was hit by a train in southeastern Iowa.

Television station KCCI reports that the crash happened just after 1 a.m. Saturday at a railroad crossing in Mount Pleasant.

A report by the State Patrol says Lydia Johnson, of Brighton, tried to drive around crossing gates when her car was hit by a westbound train. The patrol says the gates were down and lights were flashing when the incident happened.

The crash remains under investigation.

NTSB: Recordings show change in weather before boat sank

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Video and audio recordings from a fatal tourist boat accident in Missouri show that the lake went from calm to deadly dangerous in a matter of minutes, the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday.

The NTSB cited preliminary findings gathered from the video recorder camera system salvaged by divers after the duck boat sank July 19 at Table Rock Lake near Branson. Seventeen of the 31 people on board died, including nine family members from Indianapolis.

The material was examined at a lab in Washington, but the agency has not yet analyzed the findings and no conclusions about the cause of the accident, one of the nation's worst maritime accidents in recent decades, can be drawn.

The findings, though, paint a chilling picture of the final few minutes before the boat went under.

The captain and driver boarded the vessel at 6:27 p.m. The excursion begins on land at a terminal in Branson. Normally, the vessel tours the popular country music and entertainment community first before going to the lake for about a 20-minute boat ride. The driver drives the vehicle on land, and the captain takes over on the water.

But the video recordings show that at 6:28 p.m., someone briefly stepped onto the rear of the vehicle and told the crew to take the water portion of the tour first. A minute later, with passengers boarding, the captain made a reference to looking at the weather radar prior to the trip.

The vessel arrived at the lake a few minutes before 7 p.m. and the captain briefed passengers on the location of emergency exits and life jackets, then demonstrated use of life jackets and pointed out the location of life rings.

The vessel entered the water around 6:55 p.m. at a time when the water appeared calm, the NTSB said. In fact, over the next five minutes the captain allowed four different children to sit in the driver's seat.

But suddenly just after 7 p.m., whitecaps rapidly appeared on the water and winds increased, the NTSB said. The captain returned to the driver's seat.

At 7:03 p.m. the captain made a call on a handheld radio but the content was unintelligible. A minute later, an electronic tone associated with the bilge alarm activated, until about a minute later when the captain reached down and the alarm stopped.

Over the next couple of minutes, water splashed inside the passenger compartment. At 7:07 p.m. an electronic tone associated with the bilge alarm activated again.

Ripley Entertainment, the owner of Ride the Ducks of Branson, declined to comment about the video. A private inspector who examined 24 duck boats for Ripley Entertainment in August, including the one that sank, said that when the bilge alarm went off, it would be a sign that, "There's a significant amount of water in the hull."