KOMO News' top 10 local online stories of '08

KOMO News' top 10 local online stories of '08
A Metro bus is routed around a tree that fell across Highway 99 in north Seattle Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008, following more overnight snow.
From the December deep freeze that buried us under snow to the people who inspired us with their strength of character, there were plenty of candidates for listing in the big stories of 2008 in Western Washington.

So how do you settle on the top 10 local stories of the year?

In the past, choosing the year's biggest stories was an inexact science, carried out by editors at media outlets that may have unknowingly injected subconscious biases and other factors into the selection process.

But, since the advent of the Internet, online news sites can now calculate exactly which stories generated the most interest among readers by simply measuring the number of page views each story received during the year.

In essence, readers of komonews.com - and all other online news sites - have been voting all year long with their clicker fingers for the stories that interested them most.

Here, then, without further ado or fanfare, are the 10 local stories that captured the most interest among readers and viewers of komonews.com during 2008, as measured by number of page views.

The stories are listed in descending order, starting with the December snow storms, which generated more page views than any other story this year. (For more information about each top story, click on the title.)

1. The December snowstorm and deep freeze - Much of Western Washington was brought to a near-standstill by a series of weather systems that plunged the area into bitter, subfreezing cold, then dumped several inches of snow on the region beginning in mid-December. Schools were closed, buses were halted in their tracks, hundreds of flights were canceled at Sea-Tac, stores ran low on supplies and roofs collapsed on some buildings under the weight of snow and ice. The ripple effects of the storm continue, with many undelivered Christmas packages and curtailed Metro transit service while buses are repaired.

2. Boys drown when car goes in Green River - Two boys, aged 2 and 13, were drowned when a Volkswagen beetle skidded off a rain-slick road and into the Green River on Nov. 7. The 16-year-old girl who was at the wheel tried to free the boys as the car sank into the surging river, but she was unsuccessful. The body of 2-year-old Hunter Beaupre was recovered days after the accident, but the body of his 13-year-old cousin, Austin Fuda, still hasn't been found.

3. The saga of James O'Neal - For years, James O'Neal of Kirkland lived with a deformity on his face caused by a genetic disease. But in 2008, thousands of people came forward with donations to help pay for surgery for O'Neal, who works as a checker at the Kingsgate Safeway on 124th Avenue in Kirkland. "He is an amazing man and we love him," said customer Aubrey Richins.

4. Brenden Foster's dying wish - Brenden Foster of Bothell was only 8 years old when he was diagnosed with leukemia. By the time he reached the age of 11 this year, he was confined to a bed. But there was no confining his spirit. Brenden's selfless dying wish was to help the homeless, and his wish took on a life of its own in his final days. Thousands of volunteers came forward to donate food and money. His wish came true, and he lived to see it before his death on Nov. 21.

5. Skagit County shooting spree leaves six dead - A Skagit County sheriff's deputy was among six people left dead after a shooting spree Sept. 2 near the town of Alger. Isaac Zamora, 28, was later arrested in connection with the killings after a chase and shootout on Interstate 5. Besides the deputy, five civilians were killed and two others were wounded. Zamora's mother said she had tried repeatedly to get help for her son, whom she described as "desperately mentally ill."

6. Armored car robbery and inner tube getaway - An imaginative thief captured national attention when he robbed a Brinks armored truck in September outside a bank in Monroe, Wash. Police believe the robbery was carefully planned by the suspect, who allegedly placed an ad on Craigslist for workers in the area that confused the initial response. He also wore a disguise and made his getaway down the Skykomish River - on an inner tube. Weeks later, Anthony J. Curcio, 28, of Lake Stevens was arrested on suspicion of first-degree robbery in the case.

7. Charter buses dangle over I-5 after slide down icy street - At the height of the December deep freeze, two charter buses collided while nosing down an icy Seattle hill, sending both of them crashing through a metal railing above the freeway. One bus skidded to a stop just seconds before toppling over, with its front end and wheels dangling 30 feet above the freeway below as the passengers screamed in terror. All 80 of the passengers made it off the two buses, although 11 of them were treated for minor injuries.

8. Teen dad dies in fight after drinking meth pipe water - Jamie D. Leavitt, 16, of Mill Creek reportedly had been drinking "worb water" from a meth pipe before struggling with another man at a home in Lynnwood last April. When the fight was over, Leavitt was unconscious, with a fractured skull. He later died at an Edmonds hospital. The man he struggled with, 29-year-old Robert Spillum of Lynnwood, was arrested. Leavitt's mother said her son recently had a baby daughter and had been trying to kick drugs.

9. Same-sex couple claims bias at Safeco Field - In May, a lesbian complained that an usher at Safeco Field asked her to stop kissing her date because it was making another fan uncomfortable. The incident exploded on local TV, on talk radio and in the blogosphere, touching off a debate over public displays of affection in generally gay-friendly Seattle. The Mariners later released a statement saying their staff acted appropriately because they were responding to the behavior of the couple, not because of their sexual orientation.

10. Semaj Booker and his continuing problems - A Tacoma boy who ran away at age 9 and talked his way onto airplane flights to Texas has blown too many chances to clean up his act and must live with a felony record for a prior car theft, a judge decided this year. Since his headline-making escapade in January 2007, Semaj Booker, now 11, has attempted to repeat his airline runaway act, broken curfew, lied to police, burglarized an apartment and destroyed a mattress in juvenile detention, Pierce County Deputy Prosecutor Fred C. Wist said.