Look! Up in the Sky!

EAST KOOTENAY WEEKLY Mar 17 – 23, 1999

A diamond-shaped spacecraft. Unearthly flashing lights. Shooting white beams. Five people aren't sure exactly what they saw hovering over Kimberley Mar. 5, but they agree on one thing - the experience was out of this world!

By Christine Boyd
Weekly Editor

A diamond-shaped UFO covered with flashing lights may have been responsible for the collapse of the McKim Theatre roof in Kimberley two weeks ago.

That's the rumour setting the ski town a-buzz after at least five witnesses reported seeing strange lights drifting slowly above the Bavarian City around midnight Mar. 5.

Fuelling speculation were reports of an unearthly "light show" spotted directly over the theatre roof just a few hours before it's as-yet unexplained collapse.

Flashing Lights above McKim

The first sighting of the UFO – and that's "unidentified flying object," not necessarily "spaceship," all those interviewed were quick to point out – seems to have been made between 10 p.m. and midnight Mar. 5.

Home care worker Gail Shay had just returned from work to her apartment in the Pioneer Lodge on Church Street. As she prepared to retire, she noticed unusually bright lights dancing above the roof of the theatre a few blocks away.

At first, the 46-year-old assumed that the beams were part of a McKim Theatre Society-sponsored light show.

A second glance sent shivers up her spine.

"It was like nothing I've ever seen before," said Shay.

"At first, it seemed like there was a crisscrossing spotlight going up into the sky from the roof of the school. It was glimmering, like the northern lights. There were all these colours."

"Then the light spread out like a mushroom cloud, exactly on the same spot as where the roof is gone."

Aware that she might be in for some ribbing after going on the record about her experience, Shay quickly added that she hadn't been drinking and isn't a spaceship buff. Although she considers herself somewhat unconventional and open to esoteric ideas, she was overwhelmed by the experience.

... The light spread out like a mushroom cloud, exactly on the same spot as where the roof is gone.

I was reeling through a list of possible explanations, Shay said she decided that she must be hallucinating and crawled quickly into bed.

"I just kept thinking, "Well, it’s some unexplained natural phenomena' . . . I can accept lots, but this was too much!" she said.

"I just couldn’t keep looking because my mind couldn't explain what I was seeing. I witnessed something, but I don't know what it was."

Shaking knees in Townsite

Approximately an hour later, 68-year-old Ted Zawaski was shaken out of a deep sleep by a phone call.

On the other end of the line was a friend in Chapman Camp, incoherently insisting that Zawaski take a look at the sky.

After a few minutes, Zawaski, says he was able to make sense of the friend's words - a diamond-shaped object covered with flashing lights was drifting slowly over the trees west of the town.

Grabbing their coats, Zawaski and his wife ran outside.

"The minute I saw it, I almost panicked, because it was like nothing I’ve seen on this earth," said Zawaski, who lives in Townsite.

Excitedly swapping details with the friends in Chapman Camp, the Zawaskis watched the object from 12:15 to 12:40 a.m when it drifted out of sight behind the trees.

"What do I think it is? I don't know. I can tell you what I don’t think it was..." he said.

The quartet ruled out every conventional explanation they could think of for the phenomena - it was moving too slowly and too low to the ground to be a plane or helicopter and it had too many extremely bright flashing lights to be a hot air balloon, said Zawaski.

Zawaski admitted to being a bit of a UFO aficionado himself, and has spotted four over the past 30 years - in Austria, Norway, near Calgary and Kimberley. However the other three witnesss claimed that they had never seen one before and weren't looking.

Man-made, not spacemen!

In fact, his two friends from Chapman Camp only agreed to comment if they could remain anonymous due to fear of public ridicule:

"You're kind of laughing at the whole thing yourself," said Mrs. "X." "People make these little comments like, 'Well, were you drinking last night?"'

In fact, Mrs. X was stone sober and doing a last tour of the house before retiring for the night when she, like Shay, noticed a bright light illuminating the house from outside. Expecting to see a bright star, she glanced outside and then stood petrified.

"It was large and round like a car light, so I thought it was a plane that was going to be landing," she said.

As she observed with dawning amazement, the "plane" hovered unmoving for five minutes, bright white rays of light shooting to each side. Then the lights changed.

"The minute I saw it, I almost panicked because it was like nothing I've seen on this earth."

"It was throwing out quite a few different lights, rotating around it. There were definitely four colours that I recall and maybe two other ones," she recalled.

"Then, of course, I ran in and called my husband 'Hey! You've got to see this!"

Armed with a pair of binoculars, Mr. X was the only witness to perceive more details on the object. He reported seeing a faceted shape like a diamond in a ring, with an inverted cone underneath. Lights played constantly about its surface, but they shimmered like lights in a fog, not with the concentrated energy of a bulb, he said.

"It definitely wasn't a star," he said. "Stars twinkle they don't give off dazzling light like that. It was too brilliant and big for a star."

Mr. X believes it was probably a man-made object, but is at a loss to explain it.

"I don't believe in flying saucers and little green men, space men, and all that stuff, I don't believe in it" he said. "I was the first to 'fooh-fooh!' all that stuff when other people talked about seeing UFOs. I think there's a logical explanation."

Back in Townsite, Zawaski shook with excitement, too awed to take his eyes off the object - which he now regrets not photographing. He had to take a tranquilizer to fall asleep after and couldn't help constantly glancing over his shoulder the next morning while skiing at the Kimberley Nordic Track.

"It wasn't anything I've ever seen anywhere," said Zawaski, adding that the experience cured him of any desire to see UFOs in the future.

"I don't ever want to see another one: it's too devastating."

"If it had been any closer, I would have had a heart attack. When I hear reports of other people experiencing these things from 20 metres away – I don't think I'd survive."

Spaceship not ruled out

While Cranbrook Regional Airport doesn't have radar, nothing unusual was reported that night by staff or incoming pilots, according to its flight services station.

However, Kimberley RCMP received several telephone calls that night about the phenomena, although they were unable to verify the sighting.

The rumour was even raised among members of School District No.6 at an emergency meeting called to discuss the collapsed theatre roof, which is attached to McKim Middle School.

We're not about to speculate on the cause of the collapse, but we've heard all kinds of ideas, including UFO sightings on Friday night," said George Watson, school district director.

He did admit last week, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, that the work crew had not yet found anything in the wreckage to rule out alien spacecraft as a cause.

"We haven't yet, but maybe when we get inside that building, we'll find something: we could find anything!"