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Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Latest tropical storm ties record

MIAMI — Tropical Storm Wilma formed in the Caribbean yesterday, and forecasters warned it could become a hurricane and hit somewhere along the U.S. Gulf Coast as early as the weekend.

The 21st-named storm of 2005 tied the record for the most storms in an Atlantic hurricane season and exhausted the official list of names.

If it becomes a hurricane, it would match another record: There were 12 hurricanes in 1969, the highest number since Atlantic record-keeping started in 1851.

At 8 p.m. PDT, Wilma had sustained winds of about 65 mph and was centered about 250 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman A hurricane watch was issued for the Cayman Islands.

Wilma is the last on the list of storm names for 2005; there are 21 names on the yearly list because the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are skipped. If any other storms form this season, the Greek alphabet will be used, starting with Alpha.

Bus fire

Vehicle had problems; driver charged

The chartered bus that caught fire near Dallas last month, killing 23 elderly Hurricane Rita evacuees from a long-term-care facility, had a defective brake, an illegal license plate and a driver — charged yesterday with negligent homicide — whose Mexican license wasn't valid in the United States, according to state and federal officials.

The operator of the bus, Global Limo, had a low federal driver-safety rating. A government investigation after the accident found 168 alleged violations involving the four other buses in Global Limo's fleet, and the federal Department of Transportation has since ordered the company's vehicles off the road.

The driver had been stopped three times in the past seven months and cited for 11 violations, including speeding, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Yesterday, Juan Robles Gutierrez, 37, a Mexican national who had been jailed on alleged immigration violations after the fire, was charged with negligent homicide. His Mexican license was invalid because he had been in the United States for more than 30 days.

Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Don Peritz said the investigation was continuing and additional charges could be filed. Each of the 23 counts of criminally negligent homicide carries up to two years behind bars and a $10,000 fine.

The bus erupted in flames about 16 hours after leaving Houston. Some passengers and the driver escaped, but the flames, fed by 18 medical oxygen tanks, trapped many inside.

There was no immediate comment from Global Limo. Its telephone has been disconnected.

Evacuees

Life is "looking up" after $25,000 lottery win

OKLAHOMA CITY — A Hurricane Katrina evacuee is the first $25,000 jackpot winner of the Oklahoma lottery.

Caronell Allen, living in Bethany since he fled New Orleans, claimed his prize yesterday at the Lottery Commission office.

Allen said he plans to put his winnings in the bank.

He also got a job as a construction site laborer the day before he bought the ticket.

"Everything's looking up," he said.

Compiled from The Washington Post and The Associated Press

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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