Fire destroys home, damages vehicles

Fire destroys home, damages vehicles

Donna Walton leafed through the crisp pages of a photo album on the hood of a burned-out Volkswagen Beetle Wednesday – a day after fire destroyed a home on her family’s property.

The pages, burned around the edges, were among the few items her family had been able to salvage. Much of what was destroyed belonged to Walton’s grandmother.

Sifting Through the Ashes

SIFTING THROUGH THE ASHES – Donna Walton looks through a photo album pulled from the wreckage of Tuesday night’s house fire near Boonsville while family members in the background look for other items to salvage. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“All of the sentimental stuff is gone,” she said. ” … We can replace the material things.”

Walton’s daughter, Shontel, had moved into the single-wide mobile home at 1931 CR 3855 south of Boonsville just a few days earlier. The home is one of three houses on the property, owned by Thomas Lackey.

Around 11 p.m. Tuesday, fire was reported in the home located at the back of the property. Everyone was able to safely exit.

Boonsville/Balsora, Bridgeport, Salt Creek and Poolville fire departments responded to the blaze and found the home fully engulfed in flames and threatening other vehicles and structures on the property. The home was a total loss.

Wise County Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis said the fire is under investigation, but it appears to be accidental. He said it likely started from candles that were left unattended.

In addition to the house, the Volkswagon was destroyed and another vehicle and a car hauler trailer were damaged.

On Wednesday afternoon, Walton was still trying to process what had taken place right next door to where she lives.

“Watching a lot of years and memories go up in flames is not good,” she said before joining family members who were sifting through the remnants of the trailer.

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Roy Lynn Sweatman

Roy Lynn Sweatman

Roy Lynn Sweatman, 66, of Boonsville, died Saturday, June 28, 2014, at his home.

Memorial service is 5 p.m. Monday, July 7, at Jones Family Funeral Home in Bridgeport with Larry Fair officiating.

Roy was born Oct. 11, 1947, in Chillicothe to Velma M. (Smith) and Charlie C. Sweatman. He married Sherry Phillips in Glendale, Ariz., in 1967, and was a member of Grace Fellowship Church and the North Texas Honor Guard. He enjoyed camping and cruising.

Roy is survived by his wife of 47 years; son Steven Sweatman and wife, Leslie; daughter Kristy Whisenant and husband, Lowell; brother Chuck Sweatman; sister Charvel Simon; and seven grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society.

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Ruby Lee Walton

Ruby Lee Walton, 63, of Boonsville, died Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, in Fort Worth.

Graveside service was Dec. 17 at Thomas Cemetery in Bridgeport. Bro. Scott Strother, minister of Cates Street Church of Christ in Bridgeport, officiated, and services were under the direction of Jones Family Funeral Home in Bridgeport.

Ruby was born in Boonsville to Jim and Sue (Hall) Isbell on Aug. 25, 1950. She was a homemaker who enjoyed playing dominoes and bingo. She also loved crappie fishing with a cane pole.

She is survived by sons Jimmy Stinnett and wife, Amanda, Jerald Stinnett and wife, Melinda, and Bucky Stinnett; daughter Kelli Stinnett; mother Sue Bentley; brother Freddie Isbell; grandchildren Chris Stinnett, Bodie Brassfield, Michaela Stinnett, Tiffany Stinnett, Cody Teague, Dusten Brassfield, Hailee Rice, Magen Stinnett, Matthew McWilliams, Marissa McWilliams, Lindy McWilliams and Kyle Teague.

Ruby was preceded in death by her father, Jim Isbell; brother Jerry Isbell; and stepdad James Bentley.

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Fire wipes out home

Fire wipes out home

A home to a family of five near Boonsville was heavily damaged by fire Sunday evening.

Boonsville, Salt Creek, Bridgeport and Poolville fire departments responded around 6:30 p.m. after a neighbor called in a report of a fire across the street. Firefighters found a double wide mobile home in the 3400 block of County Road 3655 approximately a mile east of Boonsville in flames.


EXTINGUISHED – Firefighters work to put out the last of the hot spots at a house fire near Boonsville Sunday. They were able to salvage many of the family’s personal belongings. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“The fire departments did an outstanding job containing the fire, but it was still pretty much a total loss on the interior,” Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard said.

The home’s owners, Jamie and Shawna Marlett, and their three young children were not at home at the time of the fire and were not injured. Initially, there was concern a pet might have died in the fire, but Beard said Tuesday that all pets had been accounted for.

Firefighters were also able to salvage several personal items from inside the home.

The American Red Cross responded to help the family, and the Marletts were able to stay with a family member who lived nearby.

Beard said the cause of the fire was electrical in nature.

“It was probably the AC unit in the window,” he said.

The home was insured, Beard said.

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Home, pets lost in Friday fire

Home, pets lost in Friday fire

A couple in Boonsville lost their belongings, including their dog Blue and rabbit Roger, in a fire that scorched their single-wide mobile home Friday night.

SMOKY SILHOUETTE - A volunteer firefighter wades through the charred remains of a mobile home in Boonsville that caught fire Friday. Boonsville-Balsora, Bridgeport, Lake Bridgeport and Runaway Bay volunteer departments responded. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

SMOKY SILHOUETTE – A volunteer firefighter wades through the charred remains of a mobile home in Boonsville that caught fire Friday. Boonsville-Balsora, Bridgeport, Lake Bridgeport and Runaway Bay volunteer departments responded. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Reka Diaz and Tony Lane were in Decatur buying gardening and home improvement project supplies when they received a call around 7:30 from their landlord notifying them that their home on Private Road 3508, southwest of Bridgeport, was on fire.

The landlord, who is also the couple’s neighbor, called 911 when he saw flames coming through the windows and roof.

The Boonsville-Balsora Volunteer Fire Department, assisted by Bridgeport, Lake Bridgeport and Runaway Bay agencies, responded within minutes. But when the first units checked on scene, the home was engulfed in flames.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Among the valuables lost in the blaze was the couple’s beloved 7-year-old Blue Heeler and Border Collie mix, Blue.

“He had the most beautiful blue eyes,” Diaz said. “He had been our baby.”

Friday’s fire was just another misfortune in a series of setbacks the couple has faced the last two years.

A year-and-a-half ago, Lane suffered a heart attack that has inhibited his ability to work.

“He just hasn’t been the same,” Diaz said. “We’ve been living on my fixed income.”

The two had also been without a vehicle until a couple of weeks ago. Now they find themselves without a home.

“We finally managed to save enough money for that, and now this,” Diaz said. “If anybody could help us, that would be a blessing – a travel trailer, anything we can stay in, and clothes. We don’t have any other clothes than this.”

Although Red Cross was dispatched to assist the couple, the organization’s help is limited. Diaz wears a size 12 in pants, a large in tops and a 7 in shoes. Lane wears a size 40 in pants, extra large in shirts and 10 in shoes.

To assist them, call 817-312-2704.

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4-vehicle wreck injures 2

4-vehicle wreck injures 2

A woman was flown to a Metroplex hospital with head injuries after a four-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Boonsville.

Kay Lackey, 62, of Poolville was driving a van westbound on Texas 199 about 10:40 a.m. when she attempted to turn left onto Farm Road 920. Department of Public Safety Trooper Mitchell Collins said Lackey turned in front of a Buick Enclave traveling eastbound on 199.

SERIOUS ACCIDENT - Emergency responders wheel Edwina Norris of North Richland Hills to an ambulance Friday morning after a four-vehicle accident at the intersection of Farm Road 920 and Texas 199 south of Boonsville. She was the driver of the Buick Enclave pictured in the foreground. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

SERIOUS ACCIDENT – Emergency responders wheel Edwina Norris of North Richland Hills to an ambulance Friday morning after a four-vehicle accident at the intersection of Farm Road 920 and Texas 199 south of Boonsville. She was the driver of the Buick Enclave pictured in the foreground. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The Enclave was driven by Edwina Norris, 41, of North Richland Hills.

Her vehicle hit the van on the passenger side, and both vehicles spun into 18-wheelers before landing in nearby medians.

The van hit a truck, driven by William Mullally, 57, of Jacksboro, that was traveling westbound on 199, while the Enclave spun into a truck on FM 920, which was driven by Schuyler Long, 25, of Euless. Neither truck driver was injured.

The van eventually came to rest in the median of 199. Lackey suffered severe head injuries and was transported via helicopter to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.

Norris’ Enclave ended up in the triangular median separating 199 and 920. She was taken by ground ambulance to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Azle. There were no passengers in either vehicle.

At least a dozen people from a neighboring gas station and nearby homes gathered at the wreck scene. Texas 199 was shut down for about 30 minutes so the helicopter could land.

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Gas leak forces road closure, home evacuation

A gas leak along Farm Road 920 a mile north of Boonsville shut down the road in both directions for two hours Thursday morning.

Firefighters responded to reports of a haze and the smell of natural gas just after 7 a.m. and arrived to find a ruptured gas line.

“Residents in the area said they had been smelling it for (days),” Boonsville Fire Captain Don Zaidle said. “But with today’s atmospheric conditions – cooler temperatures, zero wind – residents could see a misty fog which was the cold gas coming out of a pipe.”

Enbridge Inc. personnel arrived on scene within 30 minutes to take the necessary action.

“During the final steps in rendering the area safe, we shut down the compressor station and began a blow down – highly pressurized air against the line to blow the gas out so that it is clear and work can be done on it,” Zaidle said. “That was very loud. The closest thing I can compare it to is an aircraft engine at a close range. It could be heard for many miles.”

The process took a little over an hour, and the road was reopened at 9:09 a.m.

“Once the gas was blown out, the area was rendered safe,” Zaidle said. “[Enbridge personnel] will dig it up and identify whether it’s a point-specific problem or general erosion of the line and replace what is deemed necessary. It could be due to a large rock abrasion caused by the movement of a tree root. Or it could be moisture accumulation or the ground shifting.

“It could be any number of causes – any one thing or a combination of things, natural processes.”

Traffic was rerouted around the three-mile stretch of the road onto nearby county roads, and one residence was evacuated.

The actions deemed necessary Thursday aren’t common, but the fire department, public safety officers and company personnel handled it seamlessly, Zaidle said.

“Usually, these investigations end up being a pop-off valve at a well – something harmless,” he said. “But for every [one call in] 10 or 100, we get a call like this – with the high hazard or potential for catastrophe with the gas settling at a low point. And that point in the road was low.

“All it takes was a spark, a cigarette thrown carelessly out the window – then we’d have a very bad situation.”

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Bobby Dean Wood

FUNERAL for Bobby Dean Wood, 58, of Stephenville, formerly of Boonsville, is 2 p.m. today at Hawkins Funeral Home in Bridgeport with private burial.

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Bobby Dean Wood

Bobby Dean Wood

Funeral for Bobby Dean Wood, 58, of Stephenville, formerly of Boonsville, is 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, at Hawkins Funeral Home in Bridgeport with the Rev. Gary Sessions officiating.

Visitation is 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home.

Wood died Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, in Stephenville.

Born July 6, 1953, in Prescott, Ark., to Lewie and Doris (Smith) Wood, he was a disabled rancher.

He was preceded in death by brother Don Wood.

Wood is survived by his mother of Bridgeport; his father of Boyd; brothers Lewie Wood and wife, Janie, of Weatherford and Kobie Wood and wife, Paula, of Stephenville; sister Melba Weatherly and husband, Tommy, of Ennis; sister-in-law Christine Wood of Houston; and nieces, nephews and cousins.

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Bobby Dean Wood

FUNERAL for Bobby Dean Wood, 58, of Stephenville, formerly of Boonsville, is 2 p.m. Monday at Hawkins Funeral Chapel in Bridgeport with private burial. Family visitation is 3-5 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home.

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Bobby Dean Wood

FUNERAL for Bobby Dean Wood, 58, of Stephenville, formerly of Boonsville, is 2 p.m. Monday at Hawkins Funeral Chapel in Bridgeport with private burial. Family visitation is 3-5 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home.

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Bobby Wood

SERVICE for Bobby Wood, 58, of Stephenville, formerly of Boonsville, is pending at Hawkins.

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Agnes Ruechell

FUNERAL is pending at Hawkins Funeral Home in Bridgeport for Agnes Ruechell, 87, of Boonsville.

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Letter of thanks: World War II veteran B.J. Shepherd has kept rare note from Secretary of the Navy

Letter of thanks: World War II veteran B.J. Shepherd has kept rare note from Secretary of the Navy

MEMORIES - World War II veteran B.J. Shepherd poses at his house in southwest Wise County with a collection of family photos and keepsakes, including a letter of gratitude sent to him after the war by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Billy Joe “B.J.” Shepherd was just home from the Pacific and working at the family dairy in Graham when it arrived in February of 1946.

It was essentially a thank-you note, but not from anyone Shepherd had ever met.

It came from Washington, D.C., specifically Secretary of the Navy James B. Forrestal. The letter thanked Shepherd for his service during World War II.

MEMORIES - The letter, written to Shepherd from Forrestal thanking Shepherd for his service in World War II, rates a prominent place of display in the vet's house south of Boonsville. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The letter was sent after Shepherd had returned home, Forrestal wrote, because “I want the Navy’s pride in you … to reach into your civil life and to remain with you always.”

In case Shepherd wasn’t sure why he should be proud, Forrestal’s letter explained.

“You have served in the greatest Navy in the world. It crushed two enemy fleets at once, receiving their surrenders only four months apart.

“It brought our land-based airpower within bombing range of the enemy, and set our ground armies on the beachheads of final victory.

“No other Navy at any time has done so much.”

Needless to say, Shepherd was delighted to receive the letter.

Then he put it away and forgot about it for nearly 60 years.

“I just thought it was a neat letter,” he said last week as he showed a visitor the farm land in southwest Wise County he bought with a $1 down payment in 1950. “I thought everybody got one.”

Shepherd said it was less than 10 years ago when he got involved in raising money for the Wise County Veterans Memorial in Decatur that he showed it to another vet for the first time.

“When I joined the (Wise County) veterans’ group, I took it up to Paul Duffy, the commander, and it was still in its envelope,” Shepherd said.

“He had never seen a letter like that.”

Since then, Shepherd has made a number of copies of the letter. He keeps one in his truck and has shown it to many other vets.

“I’ve never seen another one like it, and everybody I’ve asked about it has never seen one either,” he said.

“I’m sure that (of all those who served) in World War II, more than me got a letter like that. I’m sure it was a random pick. I don’t know why I was picked to get that kind of letter.

“I just thought I was lucky.”

Shepherd agrees he’s been lucky, both before and since receiving the letter from Forrestal, who would go on to become the country’s first Secretary of Defense.

In the hell that was the fighting in World War II’s Pacific Theater, Shepherd and his 270-odd shipmates had an unlikely fortuitous tour of duty. He was a gunner’s mate aboard the USS Picking, a 375-foot long, 40-foot wide destroyer that took part in seven Pacific Fleet invasions – including the Philippines and Okinawa campaigns – and sustained no damage or men lost.

It was hardly a picnic. Shepherd had two jobs, maintaining one of the big turret guns that fired 5-inch shells and serving as “pointer” aiming and firing the trigger on a 40-millimeter anti-aircraft gun.

For several long stretches of days and weeks, the ship was on 24-hour alert for Japanese fighters, including the “kamikaze” suicide planes, and the Picking was also the target of several unsuccessful shellings from shore batteries. Gunners aboard the ship shot down six enemy planes.

The Picking spent six months in early 1944 in the Aleutian Islands, on the western edge of Alaska. On Feb. 4, 1944, Shepherd and the Picking took part in the first naval bombardment of the Japanese homeland during World War II.

In October 1944, the Picking was assigned to the Seventh Fleet and participated in the Philippine campaign. It was part of the invasion of Leyte and, on Feb. 13, 1945, fired the first shell of the war from a U.S Navy vessel into Corregidor.

The Picking was part of the Okinawa operation, beginning April 1, 1945. Six days later, Picking gunners shot down two of four attacking airplanes, including one that got within 200 yards of the ship.

Once back from the war, Shepherd split his time between working in the oil fields and helping out at the family dairy farm. He also showed Jersey cows and that’s where he met O. Ray Brown, a supervisor with the Farm Home Administration.

That’s who helped him buy his Wise County farm for $1 down.

Then in 1954, George Mitchell drilled a 100-barrel oil well on Shepherd’s land, using his new technique of hydrofracturing.

“Three other companies had dry-holed it,” Shepherd said.

Forrestal’s 1946 letter ended with wishes of a bright future for the ex-sailor Shepherd.

“The best wishes of the Navy go with you into civilian life. Good luck!” the letter said.

Shepherd’s not complaining about his good luck.


  • Sam Blackwell, U.S. Army
  • Billy Bramlett, U.S. Army
  • Charles Braun, U.S. Army Air Corps
  • Don Brown, U.S. Army
  • Ray Florence, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Troy Hayes, U.S. Army
  • Ham Hamlin, U.S. Marine Corps
  • J.E. Haynes, U.S. Army
  • C.B. Hoyl, U.S. Army Air Corps
  • Henry McDaniel Jr., U.S. Navy
  • E.J. Miranda, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Talmage Morrison, U.S. Navy
  • Billy Narramore, U.S. Army Air Corps
  • Bill Pedigo, U.S. Army Air Corps
  • Sam Renshaw, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Clarence Russell, U.S. Navy
  • B.J. Shepherd, U.S. Navy
  • Windell Splawn, U.S. Army
  • Tom Stephens, U.S. Army Air Corps
  • Gordon Taylor, U.S. Army
  • W.B. Woodruff, U.S. Army

This list was compiled with the help of the Wise County Veterans Group. Please contact us at (940)627-5987, extension 31, or email with additions or corrections.


  • The Wise County Veterans Group will present its annual Veterans Day Program at the Veterans Memorial Park in Decatur 10:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11.
    This year’s program will feature the Decatur High School Band and Journalism Department covering the new Veterans oral history program.
  • Prairie View Elementary students will honor veterans by singing songs and reading student essays and poems 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11. The program will include a slide show of pictures with veterans and students while the Prairie View Elementary Choir sings patriotic songs.
  • Slidell Elementary School and Slidell FCCLA will present a Veterans Day Program 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11, for local veterans. The program will be held at Slidell Elementary School Auditorium. A cake and punch reception will be held immediately after the program for all veterans in attendance.
  • Rann Elementary in Decatur will have Bring a Veteran to Breakfast 7:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11. Students have invited family and friends who are veterans to eat breakfast with them. The vets will be recognized and receive a gift bag and thank you cards.

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Danny Lee Vaught

Funeral for Danny Lee Vaught, 80, of Boonsville, was to be 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at St. John the Baptizer Catholic Church in Bridgeport. Father Gonzo and Father Jacob were to officiate. Burial was to follow in Boonsville Cemetery.

Born Nov. 3, 1930, in Archer City to Basil and Naoma (Knight) Vaught, he married Betty Jean Myers June 2, 1951, in Jacksboro. He was a production supervisor at Mitchell Energy and was a rancher. Vaught was a member of the Knights of Columbus and of St. John the Baptizer Catholic Church.

He was preceded in death by son Mark Wayne Vaught; grandson Michael Duane Vaught; and brother Phillip Dwayne Vaught.

He is survived by his wife; sons Phillip Vaught and wife, Maggie, of Waco and Josh Vaught and wife, Sarah, of Grapevine; daughters Teresa Vaught Shaw and husband, Doug, of Lovelady and Lacasey Casillas and husband, Jesse, of Fort Worth; grandchildren Daniel Vaught, Christopher Vaught, Allen Vaught and wife, Donna, Erik Payne, Michelle Vaught and Melissa Litzkow; great-grandchildren Morgan, Jonathan, Cole, Camden, Shelby, Ethan and Cameron; and other family members.

Pallbearers were to be Daniel Vaught, Chris Vaught, Allen Vaught, Don Bessinger, Erik Payne and Rick Zellars.

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Danny Lee Vaught

FUNERAL for Danny Lee Vaught, 80, of Boonsville is 10 a.m. today at St. John the Baptizer Catholic Church in Bridgeport with burial at Boonsville Cemetery. Hawkins Funeral Home in Bridgeport is handling arrangements.

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Jordan Case Wood

Andy and Valerie Wood of Boonsville announce the birth of a son, Jordan Case, on July 25, 2011 at Baylor All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth.

He weighed 7 pounds, 10 ounces and was 19 inches long.

He has a sister, Abby, 2.

Grandparents are Paul and Debra Wood of Boonsville, and Bobby and Debbie Magruder of Mineral Wells.

Great-grandparents are Pete and Peggy Reeves of Decatur, Willine Wood of Denton, and David and Wanda Magruder of Lake Worth.

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Flames consume mobile home

A fire destroyed a double-wide mobile home on County Road 3849 near Boonsville late Wednesday night.

Boonsville, Salt Creek and Poolville firefighters responded to the blaze at the unoccupied home shortly after 11 p.m.

”A neighbor saw it and reported it,” said Boonsville EMS Captain Don Zaidle. “It was heavily involved by the time it was discovered. By the time we got on the scene, there was very little we could do but control it and keep it from spreading.”

Zaidle said the home was not a primary residence.

“It was a weekend home or retreat for the owner,” he said.

The cause and origin of the fire are under investigation.

“We performed a preliminary investigation, and there was nothing to indicate anything suspicious,” Zaidle said.

The fire cooked off ammunition inside the home, but Zaidle said it did not pose a threat to firefighters.

He also thanked the other departments for their response.

“The mutual aid from the other departments is invaluable,” Zaidle said. “It makes firefighting possible in the rural setting.”

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Thanks, firefighters

We sincerely thank the Boonsville/Balsora and Bridgeport fire departments for fighting the fire on three acres of our land.

All the firefighters handled themselves with such professionalism and concern for our safety.

God bless each and every one of you.

Ellen & Mark Whitley

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Thanks for supporting the center

The ladies of the Boonsville Community Center would like to thank all our friends and neighbors who came to have lunch with us to support the center.

A special thanks to the Messenger and Index for helping us advertise the event. It was a great success and we will be able to continue to make improvements and maintain our building.

Ann Henderson and The Ladies Lunch Bunch

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