Four teenage girls in Garberville, Calif., are facing criminal charges and several hours of community service after allegedly trespassing onto a general aviation airport and vandalizing at least five aircraft.
“Exactly when the damage happened isn’t clear,” said Brenda Godsey, public information officer for the Humboldt County Sheriff’s office. “We were made aware of it the morning of Jan. 8. The initial observation was that the airplanes had been moved from their hangars.”
The Garberville Airport (O16) is a small GA facility located south of Eureka. The runway measures 3,050 feet, is unlighted and limited to daytime use only.
The airport is home to 20 aircraft.
According to Jacquelyn Hulsey, airport manager, the girls, who are all under the age of 18, climbed over a fence to gain access to the field. They then proceeded to drag planes out of T-hangars and from their tie-down spots.
“I don’t know why they did it — they are teenagers,” said Hulsey, adding that none of the teens had any connection to the airport.
The majority of the damage is paint transfers and scraped finishes.
“These are small airplanes, taildraggers and a Cessna 172,” said Hulsey. “One of the airplanes was pulled into a grassy area. Another sustained $10,000 in damage because the girls walked on the wing.”
Hulsey noted that a deputy apprehended the teens the next day. They admitted to what they had done and apologized to the pilots.
“The pilots held a meeting after the incident and talked with the sheriff and myself,” she said. “The first proposal they put forth was not to charge the girls but to have them do community service at the airport.”
The girls are still doing community service, which includes picking up trash, washing and waxing planes and learning about aviation. “I think the last thing is the most important because if they had some understanding about aircraft they probably wouldn’t have done this,” said Hulsey.
When the extent of the damage was discovered, the pilots decided that charges should be pursued in addition to the community service.
“What is comes down to is a bunch of kids doing something careless and reckless and potentially so damaging,” said Godsey. “It falls to juvenile probation to decided what, if any, are appropriate charges.”