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Vandals Strike EAA Chapter Clubhouse in Georgia

Chapter clubhouse damage
EAA Chapter 172 members stand in front of their clubhouse in a photo taken before vandals defaced it on January 28. (Click here to see the damage.)

January 31, 2008 — On early Monday morning, January 28, EAA Chapter 172's (Augusta, Georgia) chapter clubhouse was vandalized, causing significant damage to the building and three aircraft, according to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office. The clubhouse is located at the private Pea Patch Airport (61GA) in Blythe, Georgia. Aaron Hannsz, Richmond County investigator, said the incident occurred about 3 a.m. when a local resident heard gunshots from the direction of the hangar and called 911. A deputy arrived at the scene and saw graffiti on the outside of the clubhouse, including a swastika, a confederate flag, "KKK", and a peace sign.

It was later discovered that three aircraft were damaged by gunshots from what officials determined to be a 12-gauge shotgun The damaged aircraft include a Taylor Monoplane owned by the chapter, which was undergoing restoration; a Zenith CH-801 under construction, owned by chapter member Jim McBurney; and a North Wing trike owned by Maj. Bill Amsink, who is currently serving in Iraq.

Also damaged by gunshots were a trailer containing some glider wings; a motorhome parked at a nearby carport; and other buildings hit by stray shots, Hannsz said. Total damages were estimated at around $34,000.

Sheila Connell, president of Chapter 172, said she was extremely frustrated and disappointed with what occurred. "Our clubhouse - it's so sad to see, they did so much damage," she said. "But the worst part was seeing the damage done to the airplanes."

Pea Patch Airport is a private facility owned by a group of about 20 people, she said. The Augusta Chronicle, which reported on the story, said airport owners have established a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for the crime. (See photos of the damage at the Chronicle website.)

Connell said that members had planned to gather at the clubhouse and clean up the building this coming weekend, but they were informed that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to check out the incident, as it happened at an airport. Connell noted that the chapter did not carry insurance on the building.

EAA has been in contact with chapter leaders and will determine what, if anything, EAAers can do to help, said Steve Buss, EAA director of Chapters and Young Eagles. "EAAers are always willing to lend a helping hand to their fellow members," Buss said. "When we know more, we'll let everyone know via the EAA website."

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