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In a photo provided by the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, Elizabethton Airport Manager Dan Cogan displays some of the golf balls that were found along the runway at the Elizabethton airport.

Officials call foul, not ‘fore’

Published 11:14am Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Carter County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a series of intruders into the Elizabethton Municipal Airport’s runway space.
These intruders didn’t get there on their own though. They had help from whoever hit them over the fence into the runway area.
That’s right, these intruders weren’t of the expected human variety. They were golf balls.
Hundreds of golf balls.
Airport Manager Dan Cogan said the first group of golf balls was found on the eastern side of the runway around three weeks ago. Since then, the balls have been found on four different occasions, usually in the same area.
Because the errant golf balls could cause a safety hazard for the airport and its customers, Cogan contacted the Carter County Sheriff’s Department after they were first found.
“This is a safety issue,” said Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes. “We have canvassed the area. We were hoping it was one-time thing but after they were cleaned up, more were found. Someone is continuously doing this.”
Cogan said the golf balls could cause damage to airplanes and more seriously, potentially threaten customers’ lives as they fly into and out of the airport.
“If one of the golf balls got picked up by a lawn mower, it could be thrown out and damage an airplane,” he said. “More serious, if a golf ball were sucked up into an airplane’s engine, it could cause it to fail. If a ball were hit toward a moving airplane, and it hit it, that could be catastrophic.”
Cogan said the airport staff was not certain where the golf balls were coming from. He said the balls were found during the routine safety inspections of the runway.
Mathes said the neighbors surrounding the airport were contacted to see if they had seen anything, but no one had witnessed any suspicious acts.
“They see it is a problem and want to help,” Mathes said.
Cogan said the investigation is now on the local level, but there have been discussions about elevating it to the federal authorities.
“We take aviation safety seriously,” Cogan said.
Mathes said he felt the federal agencies wouldn’t take the situation lightly.
“I am sure the FBI, the FAA and the NTSB wouldn’t take too kindly to someone hitting golf balls into an airstrip,” he said.

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