Whether they be tragic or triumphant, some news stories capture the attention of the entire community. As 2018 begins, we paused to look back at those stories that resounded most strongly with our readers.
Here’s a summary of the most-read stories at Trib.com over the past year.
1. Bull rider suffers massive injuries at CNFR
A routine night at the College National Finals Rodeo turned into a fight for survival when a bull stepped on Odessa College cowboy Bradie Gray, causing massive internal injuries.
The junior from Australia arrived at Wyoming Medical Center with no pulse, collapsed lungs, broken ribs and a bruised aorta. Doctors stabilized him and performed emergency surgery.
Gray spent about 10 days on life support and was released from the hospital three weeks after his injury. During his recovery, he received a visit from world champion bull rider Sage Kimzey who was passing through town on the way to a Cody rodeo.
The Casper community and rodeo fans across the country also showed their support. A GoFundMe campaign raised $27,000 to help cover medical bills, and the CNFR donated 25 percent of merchandise sales to the family.
As for Gray? He was already eager to get on his next bull.
2. Casper resident found guilty of sexually assaulting 10-year-old
Miguel Martinez faces up to 70 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of sexually assaulting a girl in the bathroom of a friend’s home. The girl immediately told her mother, who contacted police, and later described the assault to a forensic interviewer with the Children’s Advocacy Project.
Martinez quickly appealed the conviction, saying prosecutors withheld evidence that would have swayed the jury. A judge upheld the ruling.
Martinez has not yet been sentenced.
3. Three football players dismissed, five suspended by University of Wyoming
Disciplinary action was taken against eight University of Wyoming football players in April, although no explanation for the decision was ever made public.
Defensive tackle Ja’Chai Baker, linebacker Drew Harvey and fullback Zach Taylor, all of whom redshirted in the 2016 season, were kicked off the team.
Taylor was a two-time Star-Tribune Super 25 selection during his high school career at Gillette.
Five other players were suspended: running back Mike Green II, cornerback Antonio Hull, free safety Tim Kamana, linebacker Adrian King and linebacker/nickel back Chavez Pownell.
Baker, Harvey and Taylor all tweeted following the dismissals that they would be leaving the university.
Coach Craig Bohl did not offer any further details about the cause. None of the eight players had been arrested, according to a review of local police records.
4. More than a million people may have visited Wyoming for the eclipse
The Wyoming Department of Transportation reported the total number of cars on the state’s highways was up 68 percent during August’s total solar eclipse, an increase of 536,000 from the five-year average for that day.
Assuming that each car carried two people, the department estimated that more than a million visitors may have come to Wyoming to view the eclipse. That number would roughly have tripled the state’s population.
However, the exact numbers are not known. The state Office of Tourism conducted a comprehensive study that estimated about 197,000 out-of-state visitors came to Wyoming on eclipse-related trips. Based on those numbers, the department’s director believed WYDOT’s car count may have tallied some cars multiple times.
The impact of the eclipse also remains fuzzy. Almost half of visitors surveyed by the tourism office said they would have made a trip to Wyoming even if there hadn’t been an eclipse.
What is clear is that, yes, one person landed a sea plane on Alcova Reservoir to take in the once-in-a-lifetime event.
5. Friends remember Kelly Walsh student killed in crash
Aurora Rohrer, a 16-year-old Kelly Walsh High School student and member of the school’s dance team, was headed to Riverton to watch her boyfriend’s wrestling match. The driver lost control on the slick highway, spun into oncoming traffic and was hit by another vehicle. Aurora later died at a Casper hospital.
Her death was just one of several tragedies to strike Kelly Walsh and Natrona County high schools. At least three other students and two teachers died during the 2016-17 school year.
On the first day back at school following the accident, students, teachers and parents gathered on the Kelly Walsh soccer fields to release bright yellow balloons in Aurora’s memory. Just one month later, the KW dance team dedicated their state championship performance to her.
6. Former Casper doctor arrested on sexual assault charges
Paul Harnetty, who practiced obstetrics and gynecology at the Community Health Centers of Central Wyoming, was charged with a dozen counts of sexual assault. A total of six women told police the doctor touched them inappropriately during exams.
He was arrested in Minnesota, where he was living at the time, and extradited to Casper to face the charges. Harnetty had previously lost his privileges at Wyoming Medical Center after being arrested on suspicion of public intoxication while he was supposed to be the hospital’s on-call OB-GYN. He voluntarily relinquished his Wyoming physician’s license in October 2016.
Harnetty’s trial was postponed multiple times and expected to take place this winter. He also faces trial on a single drug charge for allegedly attempting to purchase synthetic steroids from a business in China.