An Easter weekend break-in and theft at an airport beacon site on Hardy Mountain near Saddle lake means that planes cannot land at night in Grand Forks right now.
Grand Forks RCMP learned of the incident on April 17, but said in a release that they believe the crime occurred on April 9 between 7:30 and 8 p.m.
According to investigators, components of the electricity generating and navigation equipment at the site were stolen, including solar system parts, alternative fuel generators and ethanol fuel cells. Without those components, the site will be “inoperable for the foreseeable future,” the city said in a statement. Grand Forks RCMP pin the estimated cost of items stolen at $40,000.
“A break and enter to such an important and vital site is very disturbing,” said Sgt. Darryl Peppler of the Grand Forks RCMP. “There were clear warnings at the location, including a sign asking persons not to vandalize the site as there was lifesaving equipment present.”
The beacon is one of six in the region that aid pilots in navigating around the Boundary. Without it, night flights to or from the Grand Forks Airport are not allowed, under Transport Canada guidelines. Such a restriction could put a strain on services across the Kootenay Boundary, as Grand Forks has the only night flight-capable airport in the region. The West Kootenay Regional Airport in Castlegar, for example, is unable to accommodate night flying due to its surrounding terrain and lack of runway lighting.
Thanks to its geography and lights, the Grand Forks Airport is also go-t0 for emergency medical flights at night as well. In 2019, 27 fixed wing medical flights used the Boundary runway.
“Although signs on the building clearly indicate that the contents of the building fill a life safety role, thieves still broke in and removed critical parts of the power system,” the city’s statement says.
“Beacon site electronics are essential life-saving equipment. Tampering or theft from these sites is a Federal Criminal Code offence.”
The city said that equipment suppliers have been contacted in order to repair the beacon, but no timeline has yet been confirmed.
People with information on the stolen parts or activity on Hardy Mountain on the evening of April 9 are asked to contact Grand Forks RCMP at 250-442-8288.