Cochrane RCMP are currently seeking assistance from the public with any information related to an aircraft endangerment incident in Springbank that took place in late August.
According to an RCMP press release, Cochrane RCMP were dispatched to assist the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre out of Trenton, Ont., with an active aircraft distress beacon that originated at the Springbank Airport on Aug. 26.
“The investigation has determined that on Aug. 25, 2021, at approximately 11 p.m., a suspect gained entry into an unoccupied Antonov AN-2 aircraft that was parked at the Springbank airport, and intentionally activated the emergency signal,” the release stated.
Insp. Dave Brunner, the officer in charge of Cochrane RCMP, claimed the incident was not a minor act of vandalism or mischief.
“We are investigating this as a deliberate act that could have endangered lives and caused significant harm,” he said in the release. “We are taking this matter very seriously and continuing with this investigation as a high priority.”
According to Cpl. Susan Richter, watch commander with the Cochrane RCMP, when an emergency signal is activated, a distress tone can be heard by all aircraft in the area.
“Pilots of all aircraft entering and leaving the Calgary area heard the distress tone and were required to immediately report it in order to pinpoint the location and source of the emergency signal,” she said.
The release stated Cochrane RCMP, Rocky View County Fire Services, and Springbank Airport staff had to force entry into various hangars until the source of the distress signal was found and deactivated.
During this time, search-and-rescue responses across the country could have been impeded, according to the release.
“If any other aircraft had a legitimate emergency, their emergency signal could have been masked by this active signal,” it stated.
Richter said Cochrane RCMP officers have conducted a thorough investigation into the matter, collecting several witness statements and video surveillance from the area.
The investigation is ongoing with potential charges under the Criminal Code and the Aeronautics Act.
“This wasn’t just kids fooling around,” Richter said. “We believe that this was a very deliberate act and showed a really reckless disregard for the safety of all of these flights.”
Richter said though the investigation is still ongoing and active, there are some potential leads that are being followed.
She added any help from the public would be appreciated.
“You never know what little information may help us put things together,” she said.
Considering the gravity of the situation. Richter said this incident lands under an area in law with no maximums in terms of punishment. She said endangering aircraft is among the most serious offences in Canada’s criminal code.
If the public has any information that could help in the investigation, they are encouraged to contact Cochrane RCMP at 403-851-8000 or their local police. If they wish to remain anonymous, they can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), online at P3Tips.com or by using the P3 Tips app available through the Apple App or Google Play Store.