I-Team: Vandals, looters trash government facility in Searchlight

SEARCHLIGHT, Nev. -- An I-Team Investigation has revealed that an inactive government facility in Nevada was trashed and looted by vandals. The former navigation station, called LORAN, which stands for Long Range Navigation, was run by the United States Coast Guard and funded by taxpayers years ago.

LORAN was a system of 24 radio transmitters positioned strategically around the United States. It was used to compare the time difference between pulses from different stations, so navigators could zoom in on their locations.

The abandoned LORAN is located in the heart of the desert near the town of Searchlight.

"The LORAN Searchlight station was commissioned in 1976 and has a permanent crew of five that maintain not only the sophisticated equipment necessary to transmit the LORAN signal, but also the station's buildings, grounds and access road," said the narrator of a video from the Department of Defense on the LORAN Searchlight Station.

However, since the facility closed, the access road has been neglected and is in a poor state of condition, along with the buildings that have been trashed.

"Equipment's been destroyed, and thousands of pounds of copper and aluminum have been taken," Richard Aschle, a commercial pilot, and ham radio operator said.

Aschle said thieves took overhead panels and destroyed awnings that were used for shade to get aluminum scraps. He said they also stole and destroyed different electronics that were worth a lot of money.

"They just totally destroyed these engines that are probably $150,000 a piece," Aschle said.

Aschle was the one who alerted 8 News NOW to the vandalism and looting that took place at the LORAN Searchlight station. He said he noticed the damage when he came across the facility during a bicycle trip.

Aschle said although he's saddened by the scavenging and vandalism, he's even more shocked at how much government property was left behind when the station closed.

"Man, that just makes me sick," he said.

Aschle said he called everyone from the FBI to the Coast Guard to put an end to the vandalism and looting problem, but nothing was ever done.

"I explained to the gentleman that there was millions of dollars worth of damage and equipment being looted and destroyed, and he didn't seem to care. I never heard back from him," said Aschle.

More than two weeks ago, 8 News NOW reached out to the Coast Guard about the looting and vandalism issue at the LORAN Searchlight location, and a public affairs specialist said he would look into the situation, but we haven't heard anything about it.

There was also a phone call placed, and an email sent about the issue to Congressman Joe Heck's office, who represents the Searchlight community. We asked them to review the story.  We're waiting to hear back from them.

The LORAN Searchlight station went off of the air back in Feb. 2010, because when it was compared to GPS Navigation, it like all of America's LORAN stations were considered expensive and obsolete.


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