Vandalism reported at St. Marys Airport

Thousands of dollars' worth of runway lights smashed

ST. MARYS, Ga. – Police in St. Marys, Ga. are looking for whoever got onto St. Marys Airport property and smashed thousands of dollars' worth of runway lights.

The broken glass also damaged a plane. Now, no one can fly in and out of the airport at night, and taxpayers are left with the repair bill.

The Federal Aviation Authority has shut down all non-military air traffic after dark because someone smashed the runway marker lights.

Jay Stanford heads the airport authority. He said 21 of the lights were ruined and the vandalism caused issues with the electrical system, too. He's guessing the damage will cost the city-run airport $12,000 to $15,000. That's nearly a quarter of the airport's operations funds.

Police are investigating but said there's no surveillance video and no description of who did this. The airport is also responsible for paying for the damage on the plane that landed and had a piece of glass go into its wing.

Stanford said it's just lucky it wasn't worse.

"It's a quarter-inch thick and pretty sharp, and it can cause some damage, like get into an engine, into a propeller, pop a tire," said Sanford. "At landing speeds, something fast like 100 knots, that can cause some problems."

David Webb's been running his airplane upholstery business here for nearly a decade. He said this is the first big problem he's ever heard about.

"I know that the police have been called from time to time for people on the runways," said Webb.

The airport authority said they're looking into getting the lights replaced. It will probably take about a month for them to be installed.

In the meantime, police are offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest of who did this.