Year in Review: Most-read general news stories in 2015

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The waning days of 2015 saw Port City Daily taking a look back at the most read stories of the year in several categories, including high school sports, crime, business and more.

But which general news stories had readers clicking and sharing when they first published?

Below is a listing – in countdown order – of the top 10 general news stories that received the most pageviews in 2015. Which ones do you think the community missed? Leave your comments below.

Slide Fest Wilmington10. A popular traveling event made a stop in downtown Wilmington Sept. 20, and turned a sleepy Sunday into a “slip-n-slide Sunday.” Slide Fest USA and Wilmington Downtown Incorporated partnered to host Slide Fest Wilmington and turn Red Cross Street into a slip-n-slide three blocks long. The street used its natural incline and was transformed into a water slide with safety pads and an inflatable siding surface for the three blocks between Third and Water streets.

9. Back in January the area was riveted by the apparent escape of a Brunswick County Jail inmate who’d apparently switched identification arm bands with his brother, who was being held on a misdemeanor and was about to be released on bond. Deputies, after a five-day manhunt, arrested the alleged escapee at what they described as a Southport “family compound.” The escapee, William Earl Hewett, 22, was found in a small camper shell located on the edge of the family’s property in an area overgrown with weeds and vines. In July, Hewett entered an Alford plea to the charges against him and was sentenced to more than two years in the North Carolina Department of Corrections. His brother pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six to 17 months in prison, with all time suspended. The Brunswick County Jail detention officer in charge of processing releases at the time of the escape was fired.

A crowd gathered to watch the necropsy. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
A crowd gathered to watch the necropsy. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

8. Stories about sharks gripped the area in 2015, beginning with a 12-foot tiger shark swimming through the Cape Fear River and followed soon after by stories of shark attacks off local beaches – two off Oak Island and one off Ocean Isle Beach – in June. Marine biologists believed different sharks were responsible for the attacks, which thinned out crowds at local beaches. In December, a great white shark washed up on the beach near Crystal Pier at Wrightsville Beach, providing an opportunity for marine biologists to examine a species that doesn’t often present itself for such scrutiny. A necropsy didn’t reveal the cause of death of the shark, which was a female that measured just under 11 feet long and weighed nearly 688 pounds.

7. A young man admitted responsibility in November for a May 2014 attack that left his then-17-year-old girlfriend so severely injured that she required emergency brain surgery, but entered not guilty pleas to the most serious offenses of attempted first degree murder and kidnapping, as well as felony assault inflicting serious bodily injury to the victim’s genital area. A New Hanover County Superior Court judge dropped the attempted murder and kidnapping charges, and sentenced 20-year-old Michael Hutton to between two and 15 more months in jail for the beating. The victim’s father told reporters after the sentencing that justice was not served.

6. A former volunteer K-9 search and rescue team with the Wilmington Police Department became the target of an investigation by state agents. New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David said he requested the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to investigate allegations of untruthfulness regarding the credentials of Randy Searls and his company, I&I International K9 Search and Rescue Team. David said he believed Searls “was not completely truthful regarding his credentials and qualifications” that prompted access to the department’s facilities. Searls, who with his K-9 Jorga had been the subject of a story in July, told Port City Daily he’d been “blindsided” by the allegations. He stopped his volunteer efforts with the police department on Aug. 19. An SBI spokesperson said last week the investigation was ongoing.

Carolina Beach Lake overflowed onto Lake Park Boulevard on Tuesday.
Carolina Beach Lake overflowed onto Lake Park Boulevard on Tuesday.

5. The 2015 hurricane season caused little inconvenience until October, when Hurricane Joaquin swept in to cause flooding in the beach towns. Road closures were most prevalent in Carolina Beach, but Wilmington along with New Hanover and Brunswick counties declared states of emergency when the storm hit Oct. 2. Schools called it a day early, so students and faculty could get home before flooding rendered roads impassable. Between Oct. 1 and 5, 13.45 inches of rain fell in Carolina Beach, causing streets to flood and Carolina Beach Lake, which had been pumped down since late September, to overflow.

4. Any time a new restaurant opens, Wilmingtonians want to know about it. Plans for the northern area of downtown Wilmington made for required reading in July. The Charlotte-based Bar Management Group and USA Investco, a Wilmington real estate development group, announced plans for an American-style eatery and upscale cantina as anchors for the Port City Marina. Blackfinn Ameripub and Vida Mexican Kitchen. Both restaurants are slated to open in early spring 2016. Also in the works is a nine-story, 131-room boutique hotel with a rooftop pool and lounge.

The Moody Blues will perform in Wilmington in March as part of the band's 'Fly Me High' national tour. Photo courtesy Mark Owens.
The Moody Blues will perform in Wilmington in March as part of the band’s ‘Fly Me High’ national tour. Photo courtesy Mark Owens.

3. Wilmington loves its music, of that there is little doubt. But when word that the iconic rock band The Moody Blues was going to play a show in the Port City as part of their tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their group forming, well, readers responded. The tour is called “Fly Me High,” named after the band’s 1966 recording of the same name. Readers didn’t just read; they bought tickets. The band’s March 22 show at Cape Fear Community College’s Humanities and Fine Arts Center is sold out.

2. A U.S. Army officer who had recently returned from a deployment in Kuwait died July 19 while camping on the beach strand of Freeman Park. Carolina Beach Town Manager Michael Cramer said no foul play was suspected, and Tania Nichole Dunbar died after she fell and struck her head on a truck door handle. She was a Chief Warrant Officer and a founding member of SPARTA–An LGBT Military Organization. Ms. Dunbar was 40, and left behind her wife and children.

El Galeon beats the sunset - barely - as the tall ship arrives at the newly opened Port City Marina for a two-week stay. Photo by Hannah Leyva, Port City Daily
El Galeon beats the sunset – barely – as the tall ship arrives at the newly opened Port City Marina for a two-week stay. Photo by Hannah Leyva, Port City Daily

1. People in the Port City love to see a tall ship sail into the port. They had an opportunity in August, when the replica Spanish tall ship El Galeon made a dramatic entrance into the newly opened downtown Wilmington Port City Marina. The ship, a six-deck 16th century vessel, arrived Friday, Aug. 17 – a day later than planned due to unexpected weather the crew encountered on its trip down from New London, Connecticut. The ship’s week-long stay, during which it was open for public tours, was made possible by the Wilmington Harbor Enhancement Trust. A nonprofit, WHET works to raise awareness of the Cape Fear’s history and contributes to efforts to better its future. Fun fact: El Galeon was featured on the NBC series, “Crossbones.”

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