It was 40 years ago this month when Kecksburg became the center of national attention. Forty years ago, some people say a UFO landed in the small Westmoreland County community.
Saturday, hundreds gathered at the Kecksburg Fire Hall to hear of the events which allegedly occurred there and of any new news which was available after years of study.
From a group of local researchers to UFO enthusiasts, people came from as far away as Boston. They heard historical accounts and the current status of information of the event.
Bill Weaver, of Norvelt, was not only at the 40th anniversary event, he was also an eyewitness to the event when it happened Dec. 9, 1965, at the tender age of 19.
“I was driving down the road and heard on the radio that something had happened,” Weaver said. “I was in the area and saw people standing along the road, so I stopped and asked what was going on.”
That’s when Weaver was told that something landed in the patch of woods jut beyond the road.
After traveling down a farm lane, Weaver pulled his car behind a line of cars that formed there.
“From that vantage point I could look down in and see something partially buried that had come in at an angle,” Weaver said.
It was beginning to get dark, Weaver said. He said the object was emitting a blue light — almost like the light from a welder’s torch.
“In the meantime, a big white furniture moving truck (arrived) and people got out in what we would call moon suits,” Weaver said. “They were carrying a box on a stretcher down to the object.”
State police and military personnel showed up and sent the observers away.
“They told me they would confiscate my car if I didn’t move it,” Weaver said.
Those few minutes have led to a lifetime of interest for Weaver into the event that causes disagreement between locals and public officials alike as to what really happened.
Some are sure that the acorn-shaped object that appeared to have some type of Egyptian hyroglyphics written on it was in fact a UFO, while others take the more explainable path of the object being a Russian satellite that got off course.
Bill Steiner, a Mt. Pleasant resident, has done considerable research on the event. He attended Saturday’s anniversary. He believes the object was a Russian satellite.
“At the time, we were in a big space race with the Russians and I think the best explanation is that it was a Russian satellite that went off course,” Steiner said. “People saw it change directions when it came down, and if it were a meteor, it would have come on a straight path with much more force.”
He said the acorn shape described is consistent with the heat shield which would have been on the bottom of a satellite at the time, although the one modeled in the Kecksburg incident is much smaller.
In addition, Steiner said the writing that a lot of people have mistook for Egyptian hyroglyphics or some alien writing, could in fact have been a type of alphabet known as Russian Cyrilic, which looks much like Egyptian hyroglyphics.
He said there also is several explanations as to the secrecy of government officials and the precautions taken at the time.
“It’s very possible that they might have been concerned about a plutonium leak, which is one of the deadliest substances known to man,” Steiner said.
Steiner said if it were a Russian satellite, the military would want the chance to look inside without the Russians finding out that they were in possession of the object.
But Weaver is still open to all possibilities.
“I don’t know for certain that it wasn’t a UFO,” Weaver said. “All I can surmise is that it could have been a Russian rocket or satellite.”
Saturday was filled with a variety of other speakers who have researched the event or were a part of the event 40 years ago.
Stan Gordon, a local researcher, has conducted an investigation on the incident for the past 40 years.
Robert Gatty, a reporter for the Tribune-Review in 1965, described his assignment that night and how he was prevented from approaching the object by numerous Army personnel on the scene.
Larry Landsman, director of special projects for the Sci-Fi Channel, discussed the channel’s UFO Advocacy Initiative that supported a recent investigation of the Kecksburg case by the Coalition for Freedom of Information. The cable channel also produced two TV documentaries on Kecksburg that aired in 2003.
Leslie Kean, a journalist, spoke on the forensic evidence recently discovered at the crash site and on her interviews with Air Force personnel involved in the search of the alleged UFO. Lee E. Helfrich, an attorney, spoke about the current status of the lawsuit filed against NASA in 2003 to gain access information about the Kecksburg incident.
Former Mt. Pleasant Township supervisor Duane Hutter said he is hoping that one day, everyone will really know what happened. Tribune-Review Publishing Co.