NASELLE, Wash. -- Passing motorists who stopped to investigate a damaged tree in southwest Washington found two young Oregon girls injured in a car crash that killed their mother, authorities said.
The Washington State Patrol estimates the car driven by 26-year-old Jessica Marie Rath of Astoria, Ore., hit the tree sometime early Wednesday morning.
The crashed vehicle wasn't visible from State Highway 401 south of Naselle.
The 4-year-old girl apparently pulled her more seriously injured 2-year-old sister from the car and covered both of them with a blanket, Trooper Russ Winger said. The overnight temperature was in the low 40s.
Kraai McClure and Scott Beautler were driving by the spot when they stopped to check out the gashed tree trunk, they told KING-TV. They found the woman dead and the little girls huddled in the cold and rain.
Beautler called the 4-year-old a hero.
"We were just doing a deed," he told KING. "She saved her sister's life."
The girls were taken first to an Astoria hospital, where their father met them. The 2-year-old was airlifted to a Portland hospital, Winger said.
NRA president doesn't expect filibuster: National Rifle Association President David Keene says he doesn't expect a filibuster from gun rights supporters as the Senate prepares to vote on potential gun control issues. Keene spoke Wednesday at Harvard's John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum in a one-hour event moderated by CNN chief national correspondent John King. Asked if the NRA would support efforts to block votes, Keene said President Barack Obama wants votes on the issue, the NRA wants votes, and "there will be votes." Keene also acknowledged the NRA would punish members of Congress who support universal background checks on gun purchases. The NRA once supported universal background checks but now opposes them.
Army general heads to court: A hearing is scheduled at Fort Bragg, N.C., for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, charged with sexual misconduct. Sinclair is expected in court today for hearing on pre-trial motions. Sinclair faces court martial on charges that include forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and adultery. He has thus far deferred entering a plea. The Army has rebuffed public records requests from Associated Press for copies of motions filed in the case by the prosecution or defense.
Questioned on Wis. abuse cases: New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, just days ahead of his departure for Rome and the conclave that will elect the next pope, has been deposed about clergy sex abuse in his former Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Dolan, who led Milwaukee's Roman Catholics from 2002 to 2009, answered questions Wednesday about his decision to publicize names of clergy members who had been accused of molesting children in cases that are mostly decades old, church attorney Frank LoCoco said. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an independent network of abuse victims and their supporters, said it would press to make the transcript of Dolan's testimony public.
NASA rover preps for test: Fresh off drilling into a rock for the first time, the Mars rover Curiosity is prepping for the next step: dissecting the pulverized rock to determine what it's made of. Images beamed back to Earth on Wednesday showed a tablespoon of gray powder in Curiosity's scoop, giving scientists their first glimpse of the sample collected during the drilling nearly two weeks ago. Over the next several days, Curiosity will sieve the powder and deliver a pinch to its onboard laboratories for analysis.
Romney to address conservative conference: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will make his first public speech since the 2012 election at a noteworthy gathering of conservatives next month. Romney plans to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington on March 15, offering his first extended remarks about national affairs and the conservative movement since losing the November election to President Barack Obama. The former Massachusetts governor has maintained a low profile since the election, spending time at his Southern California home and rarely venturing into Washington fights over taxes, spending and Cabinet nominees.
Suspended over anti-gay remarks: An Indiana school district reeling from the uproar over teacher Diana Medley's comments that she believes gays have no purpose in life suspended the woman Wednesday. Superintendent Mark Baker of the Northeast School Corp. in western Indiana's Sullivan County issued a statement saying the teacher has been placed on administrative leave out of concern "for the safety and security of everyone in our buildings." He added that "as a precaution" the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department and Indiana State Police "have deemed it necessary to station an officer" at North Central Junior-Senior High School in Farmersburg, about 75 miles southwest of Indianapolis.
Says bankruptcy financing approved: The parent company of Reader's Digest says a court conditionally approved its debt financing, allowing it to stay in business and pay its employees and freelancers while it restructures its business. RDA Holding Co. says the court approved an agreement for $105 million in financing, $11 million of which will be available immediately. A final hearing on the plan will be held in March. The company says it will keep publishing the magazine during bankruptcy proceedings and aims to be out of Chapter 11 in six months. It plans to cut its debt 80 percent, to $100 million.
Macy, Penney to spar in court: Let the pots and pans fly. Two of the nation's biggest department stores -- J.C.Penney and Macy's --began to duke it out in New York State Supreme Court over the right to sell Martha Stewart merchandise. At the heart of the trial, which got under way Wednesday, is whether Macy's has the exclusive right to sell Martha Stewart-branded products in such categories as cookware, bedding, and bath. Company founder Martha Stewart, J.C.Penney's CEO Ron Johnson and Macy's CEO Terry J. Lundgren could be called to testify during the trial, which could last three weeks.