Sunday, April 16, 2006

1966: Police Chase 'Flying Saucer' Through Two States

Portage County UFO By Deputy Spauer
So what happened?

By Scott Tady
Beaver County Times
4-16-06

      As far as the federal government is concerned, the incident is over and done.

"The case was closed and never reopened," said Brian Seese, a paranormal researcher from Hopewell Township, who includes the incident in his new book, "Unexplained Events in Beaver County."

In late 1966, Weitzel, the NICAP investigator assigned to the case, delivered his final report to his Washington, D.C., supervisor, Richard Hall.

"I personally hand-carried a copy of Weitzel's very thick and extremely well-documented report to Dr. Edward Condon," Hall recalled last month.

Condon, a scientist, was in charge of a UFO study conducted by the University of Colorado under the sponsorship of the Air Force.

"Years later, I learned to my astonishment that he never turned over the case to his staff, and it gathered dust in his personal files," Hall said.

And so when the Air Force turned the Colorado report over to Congress, the Ohio-to-Conway incident wasn't mentioned.

"Maj. Hector Quintanilla tried to pass it off as a sighting of the planet Venus and an earth satellite, which was quite preposterous," said Hall, who wrote "The UFO Evidence, Vol. II; A Thirty-Year Report," published in 2001. "I think he may have changed it to an unexplained case later on."

According to the files of a leading UFO researcher, Brad Sparks, the Air Force ultimately did categorize the case as "unexplained" and probably left it at that, Hall said.

Project Blue Book files would show the final status of the incident, Hall said.

But trying to get someone to share Project Blue Book details isn't easy.

The feds closed Project Blue Book in 1972, ending at least publicly the Air Force's role as a UFO investigation agency.

Representatives of the U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency contacted last month said documents from Project Blue Book are kept at the National Archives and Records Agency, though two representatives at that agency said they couldn't confirm the status of the case, ultimately transferring a reporter's phone call to a third person who never returned the call.

"Getting someone from the government to talk is almost impossible," said Leslie Kean, an investigative reporter who, backed by cable's Sci-Fi Channel, sued NASA under the Freedom of Information Act to see files on a UFO sighting Dec. 9, 1965, in Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County.

NASA maintains the "fireball" that dozens of witnesses spotted that night was a remnant of a Russian satellite that disintegrated after re-entering the atmosphere. But official documents from that investigation were lost in the 1990s, NASA claims.

As for the Conway sighting, Kean speculated the Air Force proclaimed that matter dead after Quintanilla's ruling, or once the University of Colorado-Air Force report didn't list it.

UFO investigators claim that Air Force report "was a totally bogus thing" anyway, designed from the onset to debunk UFO theories, Kean said.

In the first few years after Project Blue Book ceased, UFO sightings continued to crop up nationally, including a six-month span from 1973 to 1974 that included separate sightings in Center Township, Ohioville and West Mifflin. Gradually, the phenomenon faded away, and recent years have been devoid of similar reports.

"The UFO sightings may have appeared to slow down," Seese said, "but these may only be reported sightings. As a general rule, most people do not report what they observe.

"According to veteran UFO researcher Paul Johnson, the Internet changed the way people report their sightings," Seese said. "Instead of contacting the state police or local researchers, they can now send their report directly to the Internet and remain anonymous and not have to deal face to face with an investigator initially."

The Internet certainly has kept the Conway-to-Portage incident alive.

Dozens of sites, many suspecting a government cover-up, recount the morning of April 17, 1966.

Meanwhile, the men who saw the flying object are left with their own unique perspectives.

"I don't know what I would have done it if had landed," Panzanella said. "I don't know if I would have run or not."

More . . .

See Also: Police Pursue UFO in Malbrán

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