LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – The U.S. Air Force is warning more than 1 million people not to try and raid Area 51.
The Facebook page “Storm Area 51” was started as a joke but now officials are growing worried people will follow through.
It was almost exactly five years ago a tour bus carrying visitors to the edge of the top secret military base crossed the line.
The I-Team’s George Knapp put this story together then about how serious the military is about it’s boundary.
In the 25 years since our reports first put the once unknown base on the map, tens of thousands of curious people have trekked out to take a peek. A few strayed over the line, on purpose, and were quickly scooped up. It’s believed this is the first intrusion caught entirely on video and it nearly caused the tours to be shut down.
Area 51’s years in obscurity ended in 1989 when news reports about classified projects at the Nevada base set off a stampede of UFO seekers, aviation watchers, and media. The base is still a favored location for classified military projects, so security is justifiably tight.
Motion detectors, high-tech cameras, the ominous cammo dudes, and warning signs which declare deadly force is authorized. The signs themselves have become photo ops, the money shot for guided outings like those operated for 15 years by adventure tours.
“Some of them are just curious. They don’t know what it’s about. Others believe they have been abducted. Other people believe they are aliens and they want to go back out there to hopefully get back home. We get all kinds of people,” said Donna Tryon, Adventure Tours co-owner.
Tryon says the typical tour includes stops at main shrines of Area 51 lore including the ET highway sign, The Little A’Le’Inn, and the very edge of the base itself. But there is one thing the tour most certainly does not include.
“Our guys make it a point to tell the passengers that, you know, you can’t go over that line, and if you step over that line, you’re on your own,” Tryon said.
But on May 28, 2014, it happened to tour driver Denis Ryan and his four passengers, all of it recorded, inside and out. The video shows Ryan and the group having a good time, zipping toward the edge of Area 51. At precisely the wrong moment, one of the tourists asked Ryan a question about sports books. It was just enough of a distraction that he blew right past the warning signs, and kept on going. After 45 seconds or so, Ryan started looking around, wondering where the cammo dudes were.
Less than two minutes after crossing the boundary, the passengers inform Ryan that a white truck is right on their tail.
“I can’t believe it,” Ryan said. “A gentleman in full military garb gets out. The one on the passenger side, he had a fully automatic rifle.”
Ryan was told he went over the line and was trespassing on a military installation.
Inside the vehicle, the tourists — a couple from the UK and a mother and son from the East Coast — thought it was all part of the tour, actors playing their part.
“They said they would let the company know, you took us the extra mile,” Ryan said. “They thought it was part of the whole process.”
Soon they learned it was no act.
After Lincoln County deputies arrived, the driver and passengers were pulled out, cited for trespassing, and given court dates. The projected fine is $650 apiece and a misdemeanor conviction. Co-Owner Will Tryon contacted Lincoln County District Attorney Dan Hogue and tried to get the out of state passengers off the hook.
“We were afraid they would issue a bench warrant for these people, turn good tourists into criminals,” Will Tryon, Adventure Tours co-owner.
But Hogue wasn’t budging. He suspected it was done on purpose.
“‘Your tour goes to Area 51 and it was your intent to enter Area 51,’ Ryan said. “I said Mr. Hogue, you couldn’t be more wrong,” Tryon said.
The company decided that if the citations stuck, they would close down the tours to Area 51, which would be a blow to the fragile rural economy. What the district attorney didn’t know until the I-Team contacted him is that the incident was on video. One look at video, and the expressions on the faces of the group, and the DA knew it wasn’t intentional. The driver has to pay but the passengers don’t.
Reporter George Knapp: “You’re going to be famous. The driver who blew through Area 51.”
Denis Ryan: “Oh really? I’m barred for at least two years now.”
Lincoln County has an arrangement with Area 51. It handles all trespassing cases. The DA told the I-Team that while tourism dollars are important to the county, so is the base, which generates a lot of tax revenue.
After the I-Team told him about the video, the DA agreed to drop the charges against the passengers, but on one condition — that no video recorded by the van’s forward camera be made public. That camera recorded cammo dudes coming from the other direction,
But, for the record, there were no shots of any flying saucers or secret aircraft.