News Cast 10/15

News Cast for October 15th:

A vehicle accident claimed the lives of as many as nine horses early Tuesday morning in Okeechobee County. Officials from the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department say one of the horses was struck by an unknown vehicle while the other eight were hit by a semi-truck sometime around 1:30 on the 38 thousand block of US 441 North. The driver of the semi-truck was northbound on 441 when several of the horses ran out onto the road directly in front of the truck’s path. The driver hit the brakes to avoid a collision but eight of the horses were struck. Some were killed instantly or euthanized because of injuries they sustained from the impact. A ninth horse was reportedly hit by an unknown vehicle three miles away near the farm it came from. The incident is under investigation at this time. Some other horses escaped but they were corralled and returned to the farm. The truck driver was not injured and no word on the driver of the other vehicle. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department officials could not be reached for comment. This is the second such incident of horses being hit by a vehicle this year in the county.

While the general election is not for another two-plus weeks, the road to that point for local political positions up for grabs in Okeechobee County begins tonight. There will be an online political forum for all the candidates of all the political offices being contested, one of those being the position of Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller between incumbent Sharon Robertson and recently retired County Court Judge Jerald Bryant. Bryant says he’s looking forward to tonight’s forum and this office means a lot to him and to the community and he sees it’s time for a change because he knows more about this office than most and he knows it needs work. He cited the fact that the county clerk’s office has needed to progress with new policies and procedures for those who have to deal with this office and he believes that under Robertson, there’s been a reticence to change.

Bryant says he wants to do away with the unnecessary paperwork and he wants to address the issue that some in that office, specifically those in the technological department, are dealing with procedures that are constantly changing without warning.

Robinson could not be reached for comment. Candidates for District 3 Okeechobee County Commissioner between incumbent Brad Goodbread and his opponent Demetre Riles, and candidates for Supervisor of County Elections between Melissa Arnold, Lisa Rodriguez and Donna Howard will also be part of this political forum tonight beginning at six o’clock in the Freshman Campus Auditorium. It will be streamed live on Facebook and on WOKC. 

Officials from the Okeechobee County Emergency Management Center say this afternoon will be the first of two sessions of a special virtual class called SKYWARN being taught this month by members of the National Weather Service in Melbourne. Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says it has been a part of the National Weather Service since the 1960’s, to train people to be weather spotters in their areas. They would report severe and hazardous weather to help meteorologists make life saving decisions in the event of a severe weather situation. Smeykal says these weather spotters are not “storm chasers” in any way.

These weather spotters are invaluable because as advanced as Doppler radar has become over the years, it has its limitations. The first virtual SKYWARN class will be taught this afternoon beginning at four o’clock and the second virtual class will be taught on Wednesday evening, October 28th, beginning at six o’clock. If you’re interested, please call the Emergency Management Center, the National Weather Service in Melbourne or download the Okeechobee Emergency Management app to your smartphone. Preregistration is required to attend.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County as of yesterday rose again, albeit slightly, but unfortunately, the number of fatalities also rose again by one.  As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 1,650 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March, and now with 35 fatalities. 1,645 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to an even one hundred with the median age of the patients being forty. 185 county residents have been hospitalized.  Those who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through routine contact tracing. Along with fever, coughing and shortness of breath, other COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of sense of smell or sense of taste. Overall, as of yesterday morning, the state has 741,632 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 732,399 of them are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 15,595 with 46,482 people hospitalized. Okeechobee County residents can be tested, by appointment only, for the Coronavirus at the County Health Department between the hours of eight o’clock in the morning and two o’clock in the afternoon. This is an oral swab test. The Florida Community Health Centers have a drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing site available every Tuesday and Thursday from eight o’clock in the morning until noon at the former Okeechobee Surgery Center located at 1655 Highway 441 North. No appointment is necessary and you don’t need insurance, but if you have it, please bring your insurance card, otherwise please bring photo identification. Testing is free in both locations. The Okeechobee County COVID-19 information line remains open from 8am to 5pm now every Tuesday thru Saturday. This number, which also doubles as the phone number of the County Library is manned by live personnel and callers can ask about county updates on the Coronavirus and what is being done. The hotline will not address questions about the virus itself or medical questions. The County Library phone number/hotline related to county updates on the Coronavirus is (863) 763-3536. Any questions related to the virus itself, please call the Okeechobee Health Department at (863) 462-5800 or the 24/7 Department of Health hotline at (866) 779-6121. Remember, the key to avoiding the Coronavirus is good personal hygiene. Washing your hands for at least 20-30 seconds with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in it is recommended. Avoid touching your eyes or face with unwashed hands. Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet away from someone when greeting them and not shaking any hands. Avoid shopping at peak hours and use delivery services instead.  Avoid places where there are 10 people or more.

If you need further information about the virus and recommendations for preventing it, please log on to the Department of Health at floridahealth.gov or the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov.

On the arrest report:

19 year old Wender Roel Mendez Lopez of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on three counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with a victim between the ages of 12 thru 15. His bond is set at $60 thousand dollars.

32 year old Theresa Nicole Hogan of Okeechobee was arrested on a St. Lucie County warrant for violating probation on past drunk driving charges. She’s being held without bond.

26 year old Salomon De Jesus Serrano Junior of Okeechobee was arrested on battery charges. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

39 year old Jackie Ray Bayless of Okeechobee was arrested on a Glades County warrant for grand theft and illegal and fraudulent use of a credit card. She was released after posting a ten thousand dollar bond.

38 year old Kristin Nicole Clendenin of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license. She was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

30 year old Thomas Jay Draughon was arrested for trespassing. He was released after posting a $750.00 dollar bond.

56 year old Gregory James Spencer of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court after failing to appear to answer for charges of trespassing and resisting arrest. He’s being held without bond.

38 year old Carlos Salazar Manzano Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for trafficking methamphetamine and tampering with evidence after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $52,500.00 dollars.

49 year old Lamar James Talamantez of Okeechobee was arrested by police on local warrants for possession of the controlled substances buprenorphine and oxycodone without a prescription. He was released after posting a five thousand dollar bond.