Wyoming news briefs for July 23


Man killed in coal mine accident

GILLETTE — A 31-year-old Gillette man was killed working at a Campbell County coal mine Wednesday.

Jeff A. Wendland and four other workers were adding a section to the boom of a 200-ton crane at Black Thunder mine near Wright. As they were doing so, Wendland was underneath the section when it fell onto the right side of his shoulder and neck area, said Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds.

A mine employee called the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office around noon requesting an ambulance and an air ambulance. Emergency medical services personnel pronounced Wendland dead at the scene, Reynolds said.

The cause of death has been determined as asphyxiation with crushing injuries, said Campbell County Coroner Paul Wallem.

Wendland worked as a millwright at the mine and had been at Black Thunder for 13 years, according to a statement from the mine's parent company, Arch Natural Resources. He leaves behind a wife and four children.

He was helping to perform a dragline repair when the accident happened, Arch said. The mine is working with federal and state officials to investigate the accident and determine what caused it.

Mining operations were suspended Wednesday but have since resumed.


Former counselor pleads guilty to assault charges

CHEYENNE — A former Cheyenne counselor pleaded guilty earlier this month to sexual assault and theft charges after he was accused of having a sexual relationship with a patient and improperly billing Medicaid for their sessions. 

At his July 9 arraignment, William Dale Robinson pleaded guilty to two felony charges as part of a stipulated plea agreement: second-degree sexual assault by a health care provider and theft (obtaining by false pretenses). Because the agreement was stipulated, Robinson may withdraw his plea if a judge does not go along with the agreement at sentencing. 

In exchange for the guilty plea, the state and Robinson agreed to a sentence of three to five years of incarceration for the sexual assault charge, along with 36 months of probation for the theft charge, with a suspended sentence of 12 to 16 months of incarceration. 

While working as a licensed professional counselor and part-owner of Capitol Counseling, 1918 Thomes Ave., Robinson had an ongoing sexual relationship with one of his patients, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case. 

Robinson admitted in the plea agreement that, after having the woman as a client for several years, he approached her during a June 2018 therapy session about beginning the sexual relationship. 

Robinson said he and the woman had sexual contact during a regularly scheduled therapy session in July 2018, and that he billed Medicaid and received reimbursement for both the June and July visits. 


Laramie backs vaccination initiatives

LARAMIE — The Laramie City Council signed a resolution Tuesday supporting the initiatives of Albany County Public Health to achieve a COVID-19 vaccination rate of at least 70 percent. 

During the council session, Albany County Public Health Officer, Dr. Jean Allais, asked for support from the City Council to reach this vaccination level in the community. 

“We need to get to a point where so many people have COVID that even those who can’t be protected with a vaccine … won’t get sick,” Allais said. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 100 percent of the population does not have to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity. However, there is a threshold percentage necessary to reach herd immunity, and the state of Wyoming is far from reaching that as of right now. 

“There is a number we need to reach to protect the most vulnerable members of our community,” Allais said. “That number is really complex, but the most common number we’ve heard is 70 percent.”

Currently, 43 percent of Albany County’s population is fully vaccinated. As of July 6, almost 32 percent of Wyoming’s population is fully vaccinated. Wyoming ranks 48th in vaccination efforts.

Allais said one of the efforts she hopes the city of Laramie will support with this resolution is the formation of a committee that includes public health, city and county government, the faith community, the University of Wyoming, Ivinson Memorial Hospital and the school district. 

The committee will take a multifaceted approach to increasing vaccination rates.