KENNEWICK "That's not an airplane."
That was what Mike Miller thought as he looked out at the Columbia River from his Kennewick home around 10:30 p.m. Monday night and saw three orbs of light hanging in the sky.
The lights were as big as a car and weren't blinking like an airplane's, he said. And they were lined up vertically in a close, tight formation.
Cue the theme music from The X-Files.
He watched for 15 to 20 seconds as the lights moved west over the river between the cable bridge and blue bridge, about 2,000 feet up.
"It was a lot higher than the bridge, but it wasn't up where planes fly," Miller said.
They moved so fast they were gone before he could grab his camera, he said.
"It was going right down the middle of the river," he said. "I had a perfect, unobstructed view."
The Federal Aviation Administration tower at the Tri-Cities Airport closed at 10 p.m., so FAA representatives couldn't say if anything unusual crossed their radar.
And the Southeast Communications Center in Richland refused to say whether any strange reports were made to the 911 dispatch center Monday night.
Peter Davenport, director of the National UFO Reporting Center, which is west of Spokane, said he hadn't received any reports of UFO sightings in Washington since April 8, when someone reported seeing bright blue lights over Mabton.
While Davenport often gets reports that turn out to be people seeing the star Sirius -- a bright star in the west or southwest sky -- he said this one didn't sound like a star or a meteorite.
"An astronomical event would not appear as three lights stacking on top of each other moving down the river," he said.
But without seeing the details of Miller's report, Davenport wouldn't speculate on what the lights might be.
Commenters on the Herald's Facebook page, however, suggested the lights might have belonged to a remote-controlled airplane.
Davenport encouraged anyone else who saw something to contact him through his website. He said that without such reports, it's hard to figure out what might really have happened.
"My estimate is out of 20,000 Americans who see a genuine UFO -- and this is just my guess -- only one will report it," Davenport said.
For more information about UFO sightings or to make a report, visit nuforc.org.
* Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org