By Max Fontaine | Beacon aviation reporter
It sat at midfield for more than a week. Now it’s gone without a trace.
The Bass Lake community helicopter has apparently been stolen, leaving local officials gasping and grasping for an explanation.
“It’s inconceivable!” exclaimed Bass Lake Authority Police Chief Gwen “Tug” McNabb. “I couldn’t even get the thing to turn over.”
Well, someone got it to turn over. Bass Lake High School neighbors reported hearing the chopper “fire-up and fly away” Sunday shortly before 11 pm eastern, 10 pm central, 4 am GMT.
“Scared the tomatoes out of me,” said Clara Voyant, who has lived next to the high school for 70 years. “I was just about to turn in when the thing whooshed to life and sped off.”
The helicopter wound up on the 50-yard line at Bass Lake High School in late August when a promotional flyover for the Canoes home opener turned in to a game stopper instead. With McNabb at the stick and a celebrity passenger along for the ride, the helicopter made an unexpected detour plunging to the field and frightening the nearly 75 people in attendance.
After the crash landing McNabb was at a loss to explain what happened. Instead, the BLAP chief ringed the chopper with caution tape and ordered curious onlookers to “step aside.”
Repeated attempts to restart the whirlybird failed and a helicopter towing service was scheduled to remove the disabled machine to a repair facility in Nearby Town. But that operation is no longer necessary.
Airports in the area reported a few stray blips on their radar around 11:15 pm but no actually visual contact has been made. The apparent theft of the helicopter, which cost the community some $240,000, leaves BLAP without its least vital crime-fighting tool.
Mayor-by-default Dolores C. Denominator said a full investigation is underway.
“Someone knows what happened to that helicopter,” the mayor said at a news conference earlier today. “And we’re going to find that someone if it’s the last thing I do while I’m still in office.”
Denominator faces a tough re-election challenge in November, with several prominent residents vying to oust the appointed mayor. The loss of the town helicopter, which was purchased on a whim with little community input, will only make her campaign more difficult.
“The chief and I will not rest until that chopper is found,” Denominator said. “Isn’t that right, Tug?”
McNabb refused to respond to Denominator’s question, saying it is inappropriate to comment while the investigation is ongoing.
“We don’t want the thief, or thieves, to know we’re looking for them,” he said.