Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Ex-US astronaut indicted in traffic deaths of 2 girls

01 September 2016, 23:34

Tuscaloosa — A grand jury in Alabama has indicted a former Nasa space shuttle commander on four felony charges in the traffic deaths of two girls killed on a rural highway in June, a prosecutor said on Thursday.

Grand jurors indicted James Halsell jnr, who turns 60 on Friday, on two counts each of reckless murder and assault, said Tuscaloosa County prosecutor Jonathan Cross.

The Huntsville resident was arrested on reckless murder charges after the June 6 wreck that killed 11-year-old Niomi James and 13-year-old Jayla Parler in the west Alabama county. Police reports show investigators believe alcohol and speed could be factors.

The reckless murder charges involve the girls' deaths, Cross said, and the assault charges stem from injuries suffered by the girls' father, Pernell James of Brent, who was driving, and his female friend, Shontel Cutts.

The girls' relatives filed two civil lawsuits blaming Halsell for the deaths. Halsell's attorneys have filed a document in one of those cases saying the driver of the car carrying the girls failed to yield and contributed to the wreck.

The girls' father told investigators he was driving about 105km/h on US 82 when a car travelling "at a very high rate of speed" struck his Ford Fiesta from the rear, crushing the Ford and sending it tumbling across the road, court documents state.

Nasa history

A sworn statement by a state trooper said Halsell was driving a rental car at the time and told officers he thought he was on Interstate 20/59, not US 82. Troopers said the girls were ejected.

Halsell was driving to his native Louisiana to pick up his son at the time of the crash and was so intoxicated that he asked to see the victims' bodies, the trooper's statement said.

The girls lived with their mother in Houston and their father, Pernell James of Brent, was returning home from Texas with them and a woman for a summertime visit, according to Brent Mayor Dennis Stripling.

An online biography by Nasa said Halsell's career with the space agency included five shuttle flights starting in 1994. He spent more than 1 250 hours in space, serving as commander on three shuttle missions and pilot on two others.

After the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, Halsell helped lead Nasa's return-to-flight effort. He retired in 2006 and worked for at least two aerospace companies afterwards, including ATK Launch Systems, Utah, according to his Nasa biography.

- AP

Tags nasa us

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Kenya says will return to interna...

Kenya will return to international markets to borrow when it feels the time is right, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said on Tuesday. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Deal with corruption or lose in 2...

A Jubilee Party MP says that the unending corruption claims against the government are killing President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election efforts for 2017. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
MP accuses Raila of making up fal...

An MP has accused CORD leader Raila Odinga of bringing up non existent corruption scandals to hurt the Jubilee government. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Leave office if you can't handle ...

Leave office if you cannot handle corruption, an MP has told President Uhuru Kenyatta. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Give me the chance to unseat Uhur...

Give me the chance to send President Uhuru Kenyatta home, Kalonzo Musyoka tells Kenyans. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Explain your foreign trips since ...

Explain your foreign trips, Musalia Mudavadi tells President Uhuru Kenyatta. Read more...