TV5 looks back at 2016's top stories - WNEM TV 5

TV5 looks back at 2016's top stories

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The presidential election, Pokemon Go, the loss of several celebrities, Chewbacca mom, the Flint water crisis and creepy clowns - 2016 had it all.

Local and statewide news

After four and a half years of being held captive in an Iran prison, U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati was released and returned home to Mid-Michigan on Jan. 21.

He was imprisoned in Iran in 2011 while visiting his grandmother. He was taken captive and accused of being a spy. Hekmati was sentenced to death in 2012,  but the death sentence was overturned a few months later. He was instead sentenced to 10 years in prison.

He was released along with three other Americans as a deal to release seven Iranians who were in U.S. custody.

While 2016 had its ups, it certainly had its downs.

An Uber driver in Kalamazoo shot and killed six people in between shuttling people around town in February.

Jason Dalton was charged with six counts of murder for that incident.

That same month Mid-Michigan mourned the loss of TV5's own Sam Merrill.

His death came not only as a shock to his colleagues, but to the community he worked in for decades.

Sam was a veteran anchor and journalist at TV5 for 25 years and was affectionately known as "Mr. TV5."

In March the TV5 community said goodbye to another on-air favorite. Former news personality Dick Fabian passed away.

The year also brought a slew of tornadoes to Michigan. In one weekend six tornadoes touched down across the state. They ranged from EF-0 to EF-1, but they didn't stop one couple from saying "I do."

Despite tornado sirens, the Grand Rapids couple went ahead with their wedding ceremony.

"The church seemed so big and massive and sturdy," Groom Brandon Warner told the Grand Rapids Press. "I truly did not know how bad it was until everyone got on their cellphones and looked at the maps."

A local company made national news when Dow announced it was merging with DuPont. The merger made the Midland based company the second largest chemical company in the world.

The Flint water crisis put Mid-Michigan in the spotlight. Presidential candidates, celebrities and national network stations visited Flint to bring awareness to the tragedy.

The crisis drew President Barack Obama to the city after 8-year-old Mari Copey asked him to please visit and help her city. President Obama drank a glass of the filtered water during his visit to show residents it is safe to drink. However, he reminded everyone even with the filters the crisis was not over.

"There's time for politics. There's time for turf battles. This is not one of them," Obama said. "All of us need to keep our eyes on the ball even when the cameras go away."

Towards the end of the year many Flint residents rejoiced when former emergency manager Darnell Earley, along with other state and city employees, were charged for their part in causing the water crisis.

"The tragedy that we know as the Flint water crisis did not happen by accident," State Attorney General Bill Schuette said. "Flint was a tragedy of arrogance, disdain and a failure of management. An absence of accountability. We will proceed to deliver justice and hold those accountable who broke the law." 

National news

The debate over parents' responsibility was in full swing as the internet mourned the death of Harambe. The gorilla was killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a little boy broke into the gorilla exhibit in May.

Zoo officials killed the gorilla to prevent the boy from becoming seriously injured or killed by the animal.

The debate was sparked again in June after a toddler was dragged away by an alligator at a Walt Disney World resort. The boy was swimming in a lake with his family when the incident happened. There was a sign posted by the lake that said "no swimming."

In June, tragedy struck the LGBT community when a terrorist targeted a gay nightclub. The shooting at Pulse Nightclub killed 49 people and injured 53 others. The gunman, Omar Mateen, was shot and killed by police.

Shootings and terror played a big role in 2016. Domestically, the theme evolved around police involved shootings and the protests that sparked from those incidents.

In July, five Dallas police officers were killed and six others were injured while they monitored a protest through downtown Dallas. The protest was in regards to a deadly shooting involving Baton Rouge police.

Another protest that made headlines involved citizens who opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline. Thousands of people protested at the site of the pipeline, a Native American Indian reservation, for months before the Army Corps of Engineers decided to look for an alternative route.

Protesters said the pipeline would threaten a water source for millions of people and destroy sacred tribal sites.

International news

Terror struck the world with attacks in Belgium, France, Germany and Turkey - among other countries.

Thirty-one people were killed and more than 270 others were injured in an attack at the Brussels Airport in March. Among the deceased were two Americans.

Alexander and Sascha Pinczowski, siblings, were at the airport waiting to fly home to New York when the bombs went off.

In June there was another attack at an international airport. Three suspected ISIS attackers set off bombs at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.

At least 36 people were killed in that attack and about 150 more were wounded.

In July, 84 people were killed after a semi-truck plowed into a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France. A terrorist group has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

Aside from terror attacks, a few political stories also made headlines.

The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and then Googled what they voted for. It seems many voters were confused about what they were voting for.

The country's prime minister opposed the decision and resigned shortly after the vote.

The Syrian Civil War broke hearts all over the world as residents living in Aleppo documented the war between the rebellion and the government. Several residents were killed in bombings and gunfire as the government tried to regain control of the city.

President Bashar Assad regained control of the country's largest city in December. 

Closer to home, Cuba and the United States lifted the embargo - allowing Americans to travel to the country. The embargo was put in place after the Cuban Revolution.


This presidential election was 'yuge.' The Republicans started with 17 candidates at the start of the election. After several debates and primary elections it was narrowed down to Donald Trump.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders faced off against Hillary Clinton in a fight that went almost to the very end. Clinton ended up being the Democratic candidate.

The election divided families in three ways - the Bernie or Bust folks, Trump supporters and Clinton supporters. Relatives could not understand how their family could possibly vote for the other candidates.

The election itself came down to three states - Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump won all three states, ensuring enough electoral votes to win the presidency.

Those states were so important Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein even called for a recall after the results were in.


The whole world watched and cheered on their country during the 2016 Olympic Games. The games were held in Rio de Janeiro.

Some of the highlights include U.S. swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky. Phelps won five gold medals and one silver, while Ledecky won four gold medals and one silver.

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles was also a hit. She won four gold medals and one bronze in her first appearance at the Olympics.

After the games were over and the athletes returned to their home countries, the U.S. could focus on America's favorite past time - baseball.

The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. It was a huge milestone for the team because it was the first time they won in 108 years.

The series went into extra innings during Game 7. But the Cubs came through beating the Cleveland Indians 8-7.

For Cubs fans, hopefully it's not another 100 years before the team wins another championship.

The Cleveland Cavaliers also ended a decades-long drought. The team won the NBA championship. The last time they won was 52 years ago.


The year will be remembered as a year of loss and sorrow. Hollywood lost several heavy hitters and legends in 2016.

One of music's most colorful and ever changing artists lost his life on Jan. 10. David Bowie's career spanned 40 years and he was a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. He died at the age of 69 after an 18-month battle with cancer.

A few days later, on Jan. 14 Harry Potter fans raised their wands in memory of Alan Rickman. The actor played Professor Severus Snape in the movie series. He will be remembered - "always."

"There are no words to express how shocked and devastated I am to hear of Alan Rickman's death. He was a magnificent actor and a wonderful man," Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling tweeted shortly after his death.

It rained purple on April 21 when Prince died at his Paisley Park home. The 57-year-old music legend died from overdose.

Prince won seven Grammys over the course of his career and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

The Greatest of All Time died on June 3 at the age of 74. Boxing champ Muhammad Ali battled Parkinson's disease for more than 30 years before he died.

Ali was a legend in the ring and the community. He fought for those who could not fight for themselves. Ali's efforts helped bring food and medical supplies to impoverished people all across the world.

Another sports legend, Gordie Howe, died on June 10. Mr. Hockey died at the age of 88.

He played for the Detroit Red Wings almost his entire career and led the league in scoring six times. He was a four time Stanley Cup winner.

The original Willy Wonka and meme icon Gene Wilder died on Aug. 29. The 83-year-old died from Alzheimer's disease.

In the 80s George Michael told the world they had to have faith. On Christmas day he was found dead in his England home at the age of 53.

The pop music superstar topped the charts with songs he penned like "Careless Whisper" and "Father Figure," as well as upbeat dance tracks like "Freedom '90" and "I want your sex."

Michael had long lent his name and music to support AIDS prevention and gay rights.

On Dec. 27, Princess Leia went to a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher, 60, died after suffering a heart attack two days before Christmas.

The galactic princess was an inspiration to girls of all ages and taught them to fight for what is right. May the force be with you Princess.

Other notable deaths include Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Harper Lee, Nancy Reagan, Doris Roberts,  Arnold Palmer, Florence Henderson, Fidel Castro, John Glenn and Alan Thicke.

Click here to view a list of all the celebrities who died in 2016.

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