Year in Review: Upper Michigan's biggest news stories of 2016, pt. 1

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UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WLUC) - 2017 is only days away, and in honor of wrapping up another year, TV6 has looked back at some of the biggest news stories Upper Michigan experienced throughout the past year. Let's begin with the first half of the year, looking at January through June.

As 2016 began, many were excited to ring in the new year. But for us here at TV6, it also meant ringing in a new milestone. January of 2016 marked the beginning of TV6's 60th anniversary celebration.

"It's a milestone," said Kim Parker, WLUC TV6 Marketing Manager. "it feels good to be here that long, you know? And to still be such a powerful entity in this community."

2016 also started out as a lucky year for one man in Iron Mountain. Though he never came forward publicly, a regular customer of the Freedom Valu Center walked away a million dollars richer after a Powerball win.

In February, very cold temperatures and lots of snow couldn't deter mushers or crowds from attending the UP 200 sled dog races.

"The crowd, the cheering, the dogs barking... because they get more excited than the mushers, they're just ready to go, they don't care about the weather, and the crowd picks up on that and it's just a really good time," said Ron Hewson, President of the UP 200 Sled Dog Association.

In March, a jury cleared Brittany Russell of all charges in the June 2014 death of PennyAnn MacDonald, a 3-month-old infant left in Russell's care.

With the presidential primary approaching, in March Ohio Governor John Kasich paid a visit to the Upper Peninsula while on the campaign trail, and was greeted with a packed crowd in Marquette.

"More of the country needs to hear about what's here [in the U.P.]," said Governor John Kasich. "You know, I was excited to come here. Plus it was a two-for. One, you come up, you campaign, you hope you win some votes, but the second reason is it's great to come here. I've heard about it for many years, never been here before, and it's great."

As April arrived, so did a guilty verdict for Dalton Carll. The 19-year-old was found guilty for reckless driving causing death along with three other reckless driving charges after a fatal car crash in June of 2015. He was later sentenced to four years in prison in May.

When the first signs of spring began to emerge, the end of April brought huge news for the Upper Peninsula. Lakeview Arena in Marquette was crowned the Kraft Hockeyville USA winner for 2016 over Rushmore Thunderdome in Rapid City, South Dakota. When it was announced live on NBC, Lakeview Arena exploded with excitement, and the planning began for the big NHL preseason game in Marquette. ...But we'll get more into that in the second half of the year.

May began with the shocking explosion of a building in K.I. Sawyer. The owner of the building was injured in the blast, but ultimately recovered. The building was a marijuana grow operation, but the blast was considered to be unreleated to drugs. The explosion was ultimately determined to be the result of a gas leak.

Just one day after that blast, the arrest and extradition of Kelly Cochran was announced. She's an Indiana woman suspected of murdering Christopher Regan in Iron River in 2014.

As the month of May came to an end, a groundbreaking ceremony was held, marking the beginning of construction on UP Health System Marquette's new 300 million dollar hospital.

"I think it's going to give patients a lot more privacy, the technology will be a lot more advanced than we have here, and it's just going to be a much, much better experience for the patient," said Trent Crable, former CEO of UP Health Systems Marquette.

June brought heartbreak as a man and a woman drowned in Lake Superior off Little Presque Isle. The man was a bystander who tried to save the woman and her friend when they were swept away by a current.

Also in June, new beginnings for Iron Mountain... The Braumart Theater reopened its doors in a big way, hosting the Pine Mountain Music Festival.

And who could forget the saga of John Saatio wrapping up the first half of 2016... The Houghton County inmate who escaped police custody in June of 2015, was found in Costa Rica almost exactly a year later. However, he escaped custody not once, but twice more, through a ventilation duct at a detention center, and while in transit back to Michigan.
Saatio was taken into custody in Costa Rica, but escaped the detention center through a ventilation duct. Saatio has since been sentenced in Florida to 15 years in prison.

Part two of the TV6 Year in Review airs Tuesday December 27th at 6 p.m. eastern time, looking back at July through December. Notable stories include the AVTT Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, the closure of the Empire Mine, and Kraft Hockeyville USA just to name a few.

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