Woman reported missing 31 years ago found in Puerto Rico

Patricia Kopta. (Video grab)
Patricia Kopta. (Video grab)
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Updated 05 March 2023

Woman reported missing 31 years ago found in Puerto Rico

Patricia Kopta. (Video grab)
  • Patricia Kopta, once a street preacher in Pennsylvania, meandered through Puerto Rico for a while before she was taken as a person “in need” to the adult care home in 1999

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico: A Pennsylvania woman who went missing more than 30 years ago in a case that stumped authorities who later declared her legally dead has been found living in a nursing home in Puerto Rico.
Patricia Kopta left behind a husband and siblings and meandered through northern Puerto Rico for a while before she was taken as a person “in need” to the adult care home in 1999, according to details announced at a news conference this week in Ross Township, where she once lived.
Kopta, once known as a street preacher in her home town, initially kept her past secret while in Puerto Rico. But she began to divulge details as she suffered progressively from dementia, Ross Township Deputy Police Chief Brian Kohlhepp said.
By last year, a social worker at the home had enough information to alert authorities back home about the now-83-year-old woman. A DNA test has confirmed her identity, Kohlhepp said.
Her husband, Bob Kopta, and her surviving sister, 78-year-old Gloria Smith. filled in details of Kopta’s life at the news conference and in telephone interviews Friday with The Associated Press.
Patricia Kopta had been nicknamed “The Sparrow” because of her slight build, and often frequented parking lots and busy roads in the largely residential community of about 31,000 north of Pittsburgh, where she would caution passersby and motorists about the end of the world.
But before she began preaching, Kopta was a straight-A student who became a model and dance instructor. After graduating high school, she worked in finance at a Pittsburgh plate glass company and would attend ballroom dancing events weekly, according to her family.
She would vacation often in Puerto Rico with her friends before she got married, Smith recalled.
“She just loved the ocean, the beach, the warm sunshine,” Smith told the AP.
Smith said her sister quit her job at the glass company after 10 years because of migraines that doctors blamed on stress. She then got a job as an elevator operator at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
That’s when family members noticed a change in her.
“She said something about seeing an angel there,” Smith recalled.
Shortly afterward, Kopta began preaching and was briefly institutionalized after doctors diagnosed her with “delusions of grandeur” and said she had signs of schizophrenia. Upon her release, she kept preaching until she vanished in 1992.
“I come home one night, and she’s just gone,” Bob Kopta told the AP.
They had been married for 20 years.
Kopta, now 86, recalled how they met near a river in Pittsburgh where he had a boat. He gave her and her friends a ride and fell in love. In 1972, they married.
The disappearance stumped authorities and family alike. Police went as far as to consult a psychic, while Kopta recalled his wife once mentioned she would like to go to Puerto Rico because of its balmy weather. So he published ads in Puerto Rican newspapers, but never got a response.
Years went by with no sign of her. He obtained a death declaration about seven years after her disappearance.
“I went through a lot,” said Bob Kopta, a retired truck driver. “Every time they’d find a body somewhere (I wondered), ‘Is it Patricia? Is it Patricia?’”
Meanwhile, Patricia Kopta apparently was wandering the island’s northern towns of Naranjito, Corozal and Toa Alta, located just southwest of the capital of San Juan. When she first was taken in at the adult home, she had hinted that she had arrived in Puerto Rico via a cruise ship from Europe, Kohlhepp said.
After a social worker contacted police in Pennsylvania, it took almost a year for DNA samples to confirm that the woman was indeed Patricia Kopta.
“It’s a sad thing, but it’s a relief off my mind,” her husband said. “When your wife goes missing, you’re a suspect.”
Bob Kopta, who did not remarry, said he doesn’t plan to visit, and that he’s now trying to forget the past, though he’s glad to know she’s being taken care of.
Smith, on the other hand, wants to go to the island to see her older sister. She says she’s been unable to speak to the elder sibling on the phone because she cannot hold a conversation given her dementia. A twin sister of Patricia Kopta died without knowing her fellow twin was still alive.
“Whether she knows me or not, I still want to see her and give her a hug and tell her I love her,” Smith said. “I thought maybe she had died.”

 


Nepali guide rescues climber from Everest death zone

Nepali guide rescues climber from Everest death zone
Updated 04 June 2023

Nepali guide rescues climber from Everest death zone

Nepali guide rescues climber from Everest death zone

Katmandu: A Nepali guide abandoned his client’s Everest summit bid to rescue a Malaysian climber in a deadly mountaineering season that has seen at least twelve deaths.
Gelje Sherpa was guiding a Chinese client to the 8,849-meter (29,032-feet) peak and planned to assist him to paraglide down.
Instead, only a few hundred meters from the summit, they came across a lone man clinging to a rope and shivering in the area known as the “death zone.”
The area above 8,000 meters has earned its name because of its thin air, freezing temperatures and low oxygen levels that heighten the risk of altitude sickness. It is also notorious for its difficult terrain.
“When I found him in that state, my heart did not let me leave him there,” Sherpa told AFP.
Many other climbers had walked past the man that day, but he declined to criticize them.
“It is a place where you have to think of your survival first,” he said.
Sherpa told his client — who will have paid at least $45,000 to attempt Everest, including a permit fee of $11,000 — to return without a summit.
“When I decided to go down, my client did not agree at first. Of course, he was there after spending a lot of money, it must have been his dream for years and he had to find time to come here to climb.
“He got angry and said he wanted to go to the summit.
“I had to scold him and tell him that he has to descend because he was my responsibility and I couldn’t send him to the summit on his own. He got upset.”
He explained that he wanted to take the sick man down the mountain.
“Then he realized that by ‘rescue’ I meant that I wanted to save him. He understood and then he apologized later.”
Sherpa, 30, fitted the ailing climber with his supplemental oxygen supply, improving some of his symptoms, but he was still unable to walk.
The rocky uneven terrain meant that Sherpa, who is about 1.6 meters tall (five feet and three inches) and weighs 55 kilograms, had to carry the Malaysian in some sections.
“It is a very difficult task to carry someone and bring them down from there. But some sections are very rocky, I couldn’t drag him,” said Sherpa.
“If I did that, he could have broken his bones, he was already not doing well.”
Sherpa hauled the man down nearly 700 meters for almost six hours to Camp 4 by himself.
“I’ve been a part of many search and rescue missions, but this was very challenging,” he said.
Joined by another guide, the pair wrapped the climber in sleeping mats and secured him with ropes, dragging him on snowy slopes and carrying him on their backs when necessary.
Finally, they arrived at Camp 3 at 7,162 meters (23,500 feet) and a helicopter using a long line lifted the stricken climber down to the base camp.
Sherpa was not able to meet the Malaysian climber again but received a message thanking him.
“He wrote me ‘You saved my life, you are god to me’,” Sherpa said.
Nepali guides, usually ethnic Sherpas from the valleys around Everest, are considered the backbone of the climbing industry and bear huge risks to carry equipment and food, fix ropes and repair ladders.
Sherpa’s video of the rescue two weeks ago has been liked on his Instagram more than 35,000 times and shared widely over social media, many applauding his selfless decision.
“As a guide you feel a sense of responsibility for others on the mountain and you have to make tough decisions,” said Ang Norbu Sherpa, president of Nepal National Mountain Guide Association.
“What he has done is commendable.”
Nepal issued a record 478 permits for Everest to foreign climbers this season and about 600 climbers and guides reached the top.
Twelve climbers have been confirmed dead, and five more are still missing.
Gelje Sherpa has reached the world’s highest point six times and did not regret his decision to turn back that day.
“People just focus on the summit, but everyone can do that,” he said. “To bring someone from higher than 8,000 meters is a lot more difficult than to summit.”


Cairo mega sandstorm topples billboard, killing 1

Cairo mega sandstorm topples billboard, killing 1
Updated 03 June 2023

Cairo mega sandstorm topples billboard, killing 1

Cairo mega sandstorm topples billboard, killing 1
  • Falling debris injures 5 others 
  • Authorities close several Red Sea ports, suspend maritime activities

LONDON: A severe sandstorm that engulfed Egypt’s capital Cairo on Thursday toppled a billboard on to traffic, killing one person and injuring five others.

Local traffic authorities rushed to remove the debris and restore traffic movement as the cloud of orange sand made it difficult for drivers to see, Al-Ahram newspaper reported.

Egyptian authorities also closed the ports of Suez, Sokhna and Adabiya on the Red Sea, citing bad weather conditions, while the Red Sea Ports Authority suspended all maritime navigation as waves rose to over four meters in height.

The country’s Meteorological Authority said that extreme weather conditions are expected to continue, urging the public to wear face masks and avoid sunlight when outdoors for the next two days as temperatures exceed 40 degrees Celsius.

Sandstorms, known as khamsin, are an annual occurrence in Egypt, but rarely reach the size and speed of Thursday’s weather event in Cairo.


Break in case of emergency: Japanese vending machine to offer free food if earthquake hits

Break in case of emergency: Japanese vending machine to offer free food if earthquake hits
Updated 03 June 2023

Break in case of emergency: Japanese vending machine to offer free food if earthquake hits

Break in case of emergency: Japanese vending machine to offer free food if earthquake hits
  • Coastal city launches trial of lifesaving devices that will distribute essential supplies in case of disaster

LONDON: Imagine a city with vending machines that unlock during earthquakes and other natural disasters, providing free food and supplies.

That is exactly what is happening in the Japanese coastal city of Ako, in Hyogo prefecture, as the country steps up its natural disaster preparations.

On Friday, Japanese news outlet The Mainichi reported that the city had launched a trial run with two emergency vending machines.

The machines usually sell snacks and drinks, but will also distribute items for free during major earthquakes or typhoons.

As well as 300 bottles of soda and 150 emergency food items, the lifesaving machines contain lockers filled with essential sanitary items, such as portable toilets and masks, the news outlet said.

The vending machines unlock when an evacuation order is issued after a quake or other natural disasters.

The “hygiene supply disaster prevention stockpiling vending machines” have been installed near buildings designated as evacuation shelters.

Ako is located in an area that is vulnerable to severe earthquakes. 

The emergency vending machine project is a collaboration between the municipality and Tokyo-based pharmaceutical firm Earth Corp., which has research and production facilities in Ako.

The company has signed agreements with 17 municipalities across Japan since 2020 to help solve local issues, with the machines in Ako said to be the first of their type in the country.

A company representative said: “We would like to spread this throughout the country as a socially oriented project.”

Vending machines can be found on almost every street in Japanese cities and sell a wide variety of items —  some as unique as bear or whale meat.

In a similar initiative, a vending machine with a radio that automatically broadcasts emergency information was installed in a Tokyo park earlier this year.

The radio will be activated by severe earthquakes, and transmit evacuation and other vital information from a local community station.

Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. On May 26, a 6.2 magnitude quake struck east of Tokyo.


Lebanese crowned No.1 ‘puff-daddies’ as world’s biggest spenders on cigars

Lebanese crowned No.1 ‘puff-daddies’ as world’s biggest spenders on cigars
Updated 02 June 2023

Lebanese crowned No.1 ‘puff-daddies’ as world’s biggest spenders on cigars

Lebanese crowned No.1 ‘puff-daddies’ as world’s biggest spenders on cigars
  • Fellow Arabs in Qatar were third-biggest spenders at $27.40

LONDON: Their country’s economy may be collapsing around them, but the Lebanese are still the people most likely to treat themselves to a cigar or two, according to recently released statistics.

A report from Statista Consumer Insights on 2022 spending habits found that Lebanese spent the most on cigars per capita in the world at $36.70, over a dollar more than those living in the US.

Their fellow Arabs in Qatar were the third-biggest spenders at $27.40, while Bahrainis came in eighth with a $12.40 spend per capita.

European nations Luxembourg, Iceland, Switzerland, UK, Netherlands and Finland rounded out the rest of the top 10.

According to Tobacco Atlas figures, Lebanon has the highest rate of smoking in the Middle East.

In 2022, the Lebanese smoked 1,955 cigarettes per person, according to its report. This was compared with 1,849 in Kuwait and 1,764 in Libya.

At the other end of the scale, in Saudi Arabia the figure was 485, in the UAE 438, and in Yemen 214.

In a bid to tackle rampant tobacco use, the Lebanese parliament passed a law in August 2011 banning smoking in all enclosed public spaces.

This included government buildings, airports, schools, modes of public transport, shopping malls, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

It also made health warnings on tobacco product packages mandatory, and banned all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.


Face of Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun newly reconstructed

Face of Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun newly reconstructed
Updated 01 June 2023

Face of Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun newly reconstructed

Face of Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun newly reconstructed
  • ‘More like a young student than politician,’ says study co-author
  • ‘Amazingly close’ to one done by a French team a few years ago

LONDON: The face of Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun has been newly reconstructed, The Independent reported on Thursday.

The scientists who conducted the reconstruction and study published the results in the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology.

“Looking at him, we see more of a young student than a politician full of responsibilities, which makes the historical figure even more interesting,” co-author Cicero Moraes told MailOnline, as reported by The Independent.

“Faced with the studies we have developed with data from living people, comparing projections with actual measurements, we are confident that there is good compatibility with the real face,” Moraes added.

Egyptologist and archaeologist Michael Habicht of Australia’s Flinders University said the new reconstruction was “amazingly close” to one done by a French team a few years ago.

“It also corresponds with the ancient depictions of Tutankhamun, especially with the head on the lotus flower from his tomb treasure,” Habicht told The Independent.

Various facial reconstructions have been attempted throughout the years, with the first in 1983 by forensic artist Betty Pat Gatliff, who built a mould using a plaster skull constructed from radiographs.

During his lifetime, Tutankhamun was worshiped as a deity, ascending to the throne at the age of nine. He died when he was just 19 and is renowned for the abundance of wealth discovered inside his tomb.

To date, his tomb is the only one that has been discovered totally intact, and its discovery is regarded as one of the most significant archaeological finds in history.

New evidence in 2022 suggested that the archaeologist who discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb stole treasure from it.