UPDATE: Alabama Air National Guard Says Choppers Not Theirs
FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn.(WHNT)-Night flights by military helicopters are riling up residents in Lincoln County, Tennessee, with many swamping emergency lines at the sheriff's office Tuesday evening.
Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder told WHNT News 19 that 911 lines were flooded for several hours as residents from one end of the county to the other reported helicopters hovering over their homes and shining spotlights.
"We got numerous calls from all over the county," said Blackwelder. "The helicopter would hover over the top of it, light the house up, light their property up, their barns, then move onto another area and do the same thing all over again.
Emergency dispatchers said they eventually lost track of how many calls they took, with helicopter sightings coming in from the Alabama-Tennessee state line to the far north end of the county.
A spokesperson at the Madison County Executive Airport in Meridianville told WHNT News 19 that a fleet of Lakota Army Helicopters were likely in the area participating in a National Guard drill. Officials there did not explain why the helicopters were allegedly shining lights into houses, and did not respond to our request for an on-camera interview. Alabama Air National Guard Spokesman Maj. Andrew Richardson told WHNT News 19 that the helicopters were not part of his unit, and did not know where the choppers originated from. Officials at Redstone Arsenal said they were checking to see if the helicopters were associated with the base, but did not immediately know if they were. WHNT News 19 is continuing to track down details on where the helicopters originate from and what their mission was.
Sheriff Blackwelder said he did not know the origin of the helicopters, and received no information from military or airport officials beforehand.
"A little bit of courtesy would go a long way because if we at least knew when they were going to do something we could at least tell the people when they call 'Don't be alarmed," said Blackwelder. "They [residents] don't know if it's us looking for somebody, we've got an escapee from New Hope they're looking for right now, they don't know if we're looking for somebody."
Several residents blasted the night flights, calling them a clear invasion of privacy.
"I seen it over my house, it sat there and hovered for about twenty minutes and shined its light into peoples' houses," said Lincoln County resident Gary Creson. "Some people was in bed asleep and it woke 'em up, and it's sort of bad for someone to shine a light in your bedroom and stuff...I would say it's a violation of privacy. My neighbors kept calling me wanting to know if a prisoner had escaped or if somebody was hurt and they was trying to find them."
Officials at the Madison County Executive Airport told WHNT News 19 that the National Guard's helicopter training exercise would finish up this week.