The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta has the highest rate of airport runway vandalism in the state, and the village of Kasigluk is the latest community to suffer from it. This time the consequences are severe: medevacs weren’t able to land in the village at night this week.
Nearly half of the runway lights at the Kasigluk airport are still shattered after children broke them on September 18. That means planes can only land in the daytime, and eliminates any nighttime medevacs. At least one patient couldn't be medevaced out the night the lights were discovered to be broken.
Patrick Sergie, the tribal police officer at Kasigluk, says that the patient who was unable to be transported that night is at the hospital now. He says that police are now taking patients who need a medevac by boat to the nearby village of Nunapitchuk; doing so can take 10 to 15 minutes, he says.
Sergie has lived in Kasigluk all his life. He says that this is the first time he’s heard of lights being vandalized at the airport, but it’s not the first time this has happened in a Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta community this year. Russian Mission saw one of its worst spates of vandalism in April, and state officials are putting together a program to stop it.
Linda Bustemante is the Department of Transportation’s outreach coordinator for the program and spoke to KYUK last summer about the vandalism problems plaguing the Y-K Delta.
"We need help keeping kids off the runways, and we don’t want them using the runways for any purposes other than to safely meet a flight,” she said
A long, flat, gravel runway is often too tempting for village kids.
"Some of them go to the airport to pick up rocks for their slingshots," Sergie said.
Kasigluk’s runway sits within two miles of town. According to the Alaska State Troopers’ report, kids broke 43 of the nearly 100 bulbs that illuminate it. The damage won’t be fixed until next week when the DOT inspector is supposed to come, said Sergie.
The damage totals $1,600, and the parents of the children who vandalized the lights will have to pay some of the costs.
Sergie says that the traditional council wants to visit the school to talk to kids about the consequences of runway vandalism to help keep it from happening again. He says that no patients have died waiting for a medevac... yet.