East Texas' biggest stories of 2017

East Texas' biggest stories of 2017
(Source: KLTV)

(KLTV) - As we count down the final days of 20-17, we're looking back on the stories that captured the attention of east Texans.

Our number five story of 2017: The search for an East Texas mother who disappeared in the waves off the Texas coast. In June, 35-year-old Brandy Mosley, of Palestine, went missing near Crystal Beach, near Galveston. She had gone in the water to help her four-year-old son, who was having trouble swimming.
The child made it safely to shore, but sadly, Mosley was not seen again.
Eric Legard, a friend of Mosley's said, "She's the kind of person that could just come in a room and just her smile would brighten a room and any building she walked into. I will miss her dearly."

After an extensive search, the Coast Guard later found a body matching Mosley's description.

Number four:  A former Hudson ISD kindergarten teacher is now serving a jail term after having sex with six high school students. In September, Heather Robertson, 39, pleaded guilty to charges of sexual assault of a child and improper relationship with a student. Authorities said the sexual activity happened between November 2016 and February 2017. According to detectives, Robertson used social media to reach out to the students.

After taking a plea deal, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison. An Angelina County prosecutor says she will lose her teaching license and must register as a sex offender.

Todd Dillon, Angelina County Asst. District Attorney, said, "We're happy that we were able to get this matter concluded without re-victimizing the victims. Putting them through a jury trial would asking these young men to do a lot, so this was a good resolution for everybody. We didn't have to put the victims all this stuff and Heather Robertson is going to be held accountable for what she did and she'll be sent to prison."

In October Robertson pleaded to an unrelated DWI charge. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Number three: The 80th anniversary of the New London School Explosion. March 18, 1937 remains one of the darkest days of Texas' history. That normal school day turned deadly for more than 290 students and teachers at a Rusk County community school.

A massive explosion started with an odorless unrefined gas leak from a pipe under the New London School 

Mary Lou Taylor was one of the survivors.

"I was in math class, the last period of the day. I slid under my desk and squat in the aisle and then I crawled from there out," she told us.
A spark from a sanding machine ignited the gas, leveling the building. It's said that the sound of the explosion could be heard four miles away.
In March 2017, survivors and loved ones marked the anniversary with a memorial and reunion. The halls of the New London Museum still house the memories and voices of their classmates who died.

Number two: Tragedy on the lake. In August, three East Texas boy scouts lost their lives when their sailboat touched a power line at Lake o' the Pines. 17-year-old Will Brannon, 16-year-old Heath Faucheux, and 11-year-old Thomas Larry were aboard the catamaran. They were all part of Hallsville Boy Scout Troop 620. 
After the accident, dozens of people lit candles for the scouts at the Hallsville City Park, including Boy Scouts and leaders from all over East Texas.

Game Wardens later determined the boat collided with an overhead transmission power line. Texas Parks and Wildlife closed its investigation in October, releasing its findings to the families.

The number one story of 2017: the East Texas tornado outbreak. On April 29, nine tornadoes ripped through Van Zandt, Henderson, Hopkins, and Rains counties. Four people were killed in the storms. It peaked with an EF 4 tornado that cut through Eustace, then north to Canton, where more than 200 homes were severely damaged or destroyed. With winds of at least 180 mph, it was the strongest twister to hit that area in almost a half-century.

Damage in Van Zandt County totaled more than $9,000,000, falling short of the federal disaster aid cutoff -- the county is using money from its roads and bridges fund for recovery. Residents and businesses are still rebuilding.

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