Sheriff's report needed before fixed

Sue Fleming, The Freer Press

For the third time this year, the Duval Freer Airport beacon light has been damaged at the hand of vandals, officials say.

Reports show the beacon light was also damaged in February and April and currently has not been operational since mid-June.

Local officials maintain the airport is mostly used by small aircraft during hunting season and is not subject to inspection by the Federal Aviation because of its rural area classification.

In a letter to Duval County Sheriff Santiago Barrera Jr. dated June 15, Duval County Commissioner Pct. 4 Gilberto Uribe requested an investigation into the matter, possibly having a deputy patrol the area during the night.

Uribe said, "I've asked for their help in the past in trying to find out who's responsible, so I'm doing it again and haven't heard anything, so far."

He says he was notified of the destruction of the county property on June 13 and then contacted the sheriff's department requesting assistance.

Uribe says an investigation and report has to be done by county before the lights can be replaced.

An earlier report dated April 12 filed at the sheriff's department by Major Crimes Investigator Abelizario Escalante, states damages to the beacon lights were believed to have been caused by a thrown rock, according to an electrician that examined the lights.

When asked by Escalante if the damages could have been caused by a weapon, the electrician said no, that the light would have been shattered instead of only cracked, the report says.

The report also shows both lights, which are located approximately 30 feet from ground level, were replaced on that same day in April.

Invoice records show replacement costs of two beacon lights is $2,500.

In the meantime, should an aircraft need to land, the beacon light is not functioning.

Freer Community Crime Stoppers is requesting anyone having any information concerning the person or persons responsible for causing damages to the Duval Freer Airport beacon lights to call the Freer Police Department anonymously at 361-394-6002.

Ask to speak to Sgt. Arturo Martinez or Police Chief John Spillers. A reward up to $1,000 may be given if the information leads to an arrest and indictment.