FROM THE TOP: The most-read News-Times stories from 2019

Lion Oil: A plume of black smoke billows across the skyline at the Delek El Dorado refinery on Tuesday as an in-house fire brigade attempts to subdue a fire at the facility. Terrance Armstard/News-Times
Lion Oil: A plume of black smoke billows across the skyline at the Delek El Dorado refinery on Tuesday as an in-house fire brigade attempts to subdue a fire at the facility. Terrance Armstard/News-Times

A new year (and new decade) is just one year away. We’ve been working at the News-Times to reflect on 2019 through a series of “From the Top” articles. This story collects the most well-read News-Times stories from the past year, based on a variety of digital analytics available to me.

The list has been edited, slightly. Some stories were so popular that even updated versions of the stories, which can generate a new entry for analytics purposes, registered as top stories. Updated information has been added to several. Some of the most-read stories from 2019 were not included, as they’ve been highlighted in other From the Top articles. These stories include reporting from a variety of current and former newspapers staffers, including Tia Lyons, Caitlan Butler and Michael Shine.

I hope you enjoy this look back. What, in your opinion, was the most significant Union County/El Dorado story in 2019? Send me an email at [email protected] with your thoughts.

• Feb. 6: Fire reported at Delek Refinery — An evening fire at the Delek: El Dorado Refinery in early February sent black plumes of smoke into the air at about 5:30 p.m. The fire was extinguished by the refinery, which has its own safety team and fire brigade. No injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire was not released.

“Earlier this evening, a fire occurred at Delek US Holdings’ refinery in El Dorado, Arkansas,” read a Delek press release. “It was extinguished by refinery employees. As the safety of employees and the local community are our top priorities, we are pleased that no injuries have been reported. We appreciate the support provided by the City of El Dorado. A full investigation into the fire’s causes has already been launched.”

• March 5: El Dorado native LeBryant Crew to appear on “The Voice” — El Dorado’s LeBryant Crew competed on season 16 of NBC’s “The Voice” as LB Crew in the spring. Crew, who also competed on season 13 of “American Idol,” met former “Voice” finalist Luke Wade while working as a manager of Griffin Restaurant. Wade encouraged him to audition for the show.

Crew’s musical journey began his freshman year at El Dorado High School when the speaker at a school assembly asked for volunteers to help him sing R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly;” Crew’s friend had to drag him to the front, but the experience ended up being formative for him.

He made it to episode 19 in May before he was eliminated.

• April 27: Three EHS students receive perfect ACT scores — Anyone who took the SAT or ACT knows the standardized tests are anything but a breeze. Receiving a composite 36 score — a perfect score — on the ACT is even more difficult. But three El Dorado High School students pulled the feat off in April: Andrew Longinotti, Scott Ratchford and Aidan Price.

“These students making a perfect score on the ACT is an awesome testament to them and our school,” Superintendent Jim Tucker said in April. “I have never had or head of three students in a school together making a 36 on the ACT. We are very proud of them.”

• June 6: Two arrested in fatal shooting in Urbana — Tristan Waller and Chancin Hooks were arrested and charged with capital murder in the shooting death of 27-year-old Brandon Parker. Hooks, 17 at the time of his arrest, was initially was charged as an adult. Randy Miller, then 22, was injured in the shooting.

Parker and Miller were inside a vehicle in Urbana when the suspects opened fire, according to police. Following an investigation of the crime scene and an interview with Miller, deputies identified Waller and the 17-year-old as suspects and took them into custody a short time later in Urbana.

• October 15: Michael Cooper arrested on felony drug charges — A 48-year-old El Dorado resident, Michael Cooper, was arrested three times in October. The first time, he was charged with third-degree domestic battery, resisting arrest and possession of the instruments of a crime after the Union County Sheriff’s Office received a report that Cooper was running around a local golf course naked attempting to tackle a woman. According to a UCSO report, Cooper admitted to using methamphetamine that night. He was later arrested for failing to appear in court and then again when residue found in Cooper’s home was confirmed to be meth, prompting prosecutors to amend charges against him.

Cooper was then arraigned and received a $10,000 bond. Law enforcement officials confirmed Cooper worked for Murphy USA. A Michael Cooper was listed on Murphy USA’s website as a senior vice president and chief information officer; his information has since been removed.

• October 25: Local Southern Airways, American Airlines at DFW seal interline deal — Southern Airways Express announced an interline agreement with American Airlines at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in October. Southern Airways Express travels three-times daily to DFW from the South Arkansas Regional Airport at Goodwin Field. The agreement was intended to make the booking and flying process easier for individuals flying out of El Dorado.

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