Even though a horrific crash on Highway 95 topped the 2019 list of highest viewed Gazette Record Facebook posts, the most-liked news wasn’t all bad.
And there was a lot to like.
One million, ninety thousand, one hundred and five impressions on this newspaper’s Facebook page drove record numbers of engagement.
The top ten most popular posts offer a wide variety of community news – from auto accidents and wildfires to local sports and academic achievement – and start with a few photos. Receiving 22,138 impressions, a March photo of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 25 member Velda Ausman presenting a quilt she made by hand to be raffled at the 2019 veteran’s dinner kicks off our annual countdown.
And with a handful more views, another photo edged into the top-ten list. A picture congratulating Benewah Community Hospital’s provider of the year and employee of the year received thousands of likes, shares and well wishes.
A post, along with a submitted photo, of a family believed to be endangered was shared more than 250 times and circulated among nearly 23,000 views. The snapshot of children from Kamiah was shared after an early-July missing person advisory was issued for them and their father. The next day, it was canceled after the 37-year-old father and his two children were found safe.
The next three posts were all photos that brought in a collective 78,000 impressions and focus on many aspects of the community, including reactions to the Lakeside High School sophomore Day Day Higgins being named to the All-North Star League after the 2019 basketball season; a snapshot of a wildlife biologist showing elementary students photos of wildlife; and a group shot of four members of BetterCARE inviting members of the community to the organization’s fundraising gala in December.
A favorite new feature of ours landed in the top-five most-viewed Facebook posts and celebrates academic achievement. For years we’ve listed local students named to the honor roll. This past school year, in an effort to highlight the highest-achieving students, we included photos of all who earned perfect 4.0 GPAs for that quarter or semester. The change was well-received with one of the photos earning 27,451 impressions – and several others placing high in the year-end tally.
The top three posts consisted of breaking news stories that unfolded over a few days’ time.
With 28,124 impressions, our reporting of a local man accused of internet sex crimes not appearing for court was the third-most viewed, shared and talked-about online report. Kenneth Campbell was set to appear for a long-awaited arraignment Feb. 22 on a pair of felony charges.
He was accused of having solicited sexual contact over the internet with a 15-year-old girl and 17-year-old girl in Washington. He was charged in Benewah County with sexual abuse of a child under the age of 16 years and soliciting a child for sexual contact over the internet.
Campbell came to law enforcement’s attention after vigilante group Hunted and Confronted snared him in an online sting operation. Deputy Mike Richardson of the Benewah County Sheriff’s Office conducted a thorough investigation of Campbell’s online activity and found evidence of further crimes. Deputies arrested Campbell Aug. 9.
Campbell’s case was delayed several times, and he was able to secure release on bail in October. However, court activity in January suggested Campbell was prepared to plead guilty in court, as part of an agreement with Benewah County Prosecutor Brian Thie.
However, when that court date came, Campbell failed to appear. He was later found dead in his St. Maries home.
An early August collection of submitted photos hit the number two spot with more than 30,000 impressions. The photos, sent to our newsroom from the Idaho Department of Lands, show the progress wildland firefighters made on the Mica Creek Fire that was reported Aug. 1. The blaze was about 40 acres in size and burned on state land on an active logging operation.
A tragic story involving a head-on collision on Highway 95 was the Gazette Record’s most read, shared, commented on and reacted to Facebook post of 2019. Multiple explosions were heard in the accident that killed one person and severely injured two others Aug. 2.
The accident closed Highway 95 south of DeSmet near Sheep Creek as emergency crews worked to clear the accident.
According to Idaho State Police, it appeared that a white pickup truck headed southbound on highway 95 crossed the center line and collided with a northbound tractor-trailer.
Witnesses at the scene said that both vehicles left the road and caught fire shortly after.
“We heard two explosions, first all the tires went and then white truck and the semi, both tanks exploded in pretty rapid succession,” witness Phillip Hagan said.
Mr. Hagan’s wife, Jennifer Nelson, a nurse, was the first medical responder on the scene. They were traveling approximately 100 meters behind the white truck, immediately prior to the accident, according to Mr. Hagan.
“We were behind the white truck. I was the first on the scene providing first aid. The truck hit the semi.
The truck left the ground and went off the side. I tried to get him out, but it got too hot,” Ms. Nelson said. “I tried and tried, but the flames were too much there was no way I was getting that door open without the jaws of life.”
Unable to extricate the driver of the pickup truck, Ms. Nelson and her husband went to the tractor trailer that left the road on the opposite side.
“We went to the semi and got them out through the gas and oil,” she said. “I had them wrapped up and just tried to keep them out of shock.”
The two St. Maries men riding in the tractor-trailer, Danny Moore, 49, and Walter Chappell, 53, were treated and released from Gritman Medical Center and Kootenai Medical Center respectively.