Finley man reports odd lights crossing Columbia River toward Kennewick

Jerry Nelson said he doesn't know what it was he saw cross the Columbia River near Burbank heading toward Kennewick on Tuesday night, but he knows it wasn't a plane.

The Finley man said he couldn't distinguish an actual shape. He only could see three lights spaced far apart gliding through the dark sky.

"If I had a word to describe it, it was massive," he said. "It was long."

Nelson's sighting is the second report of an unidentified flying object in the Tri-Cities this year, both appearing to come from the Burbank area.

The sighting comes at the end of a two-month span of increased reports to a Spokane-based UFO reporting agency and a week-and-a-half after crop circles were discovered near Grand Coulee Dam, about 150 miles north of Kennewick.

However, air traffic officials and a UFO expert said the unusual lights likely have a simple explanation.

"Ninety percent of the time it's some night (operations) with the military," said John Torres, air traffic manager at the Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco.

Nelson said his wife was the first to see the object flying west from Burbank when she called him outside to have a look. The object, which had appeared to have red lights at the front and in the middle, and red and white lights at the rear, crossed the Columbia before heading north toward Kennewick.

"There was no sound whatsoever," Nelson said. He said the object moved "as slow or as fast as a blimp."

Nelson said he tried to take photos but couldn't get his camera to focus. He called a non-emergency dispatcher to report what he saw and was told no one on either side of the river had made a similar report.

Torres said no one was in the air control tower at the time Nelson saw the strange lights. However, Burbank is in the flight path of the airport and "we have a lot of military routes in our air space."

Mike Klug of Burbank reported seeing strange lights over his community in late March. He described it as an orb with a bright light inside of it and captured video of it.

Peter Davenport, director of the National UFO Reporting Center in Spokane, said he couldn't definitively say what Nelson saw Tuesday night, but said that "the lights on an airliner or craft are not inconsistent" with his description.

Davenport also dismissed Klug's sighting this spring, saying it likely was an aircraft seen in conjunction with the star Sirius.

Davenport's agency has received twice to three times as many reports in the past month, describing different colored orbs appearing in the sky throughout the country, including in Spokane and Portland.

Authorities also haven't yet discovered how a group of crop circles appeared in a wheat field five miles north of Wilbur. There is no sign of anyone having walked into the field.

Even though Davenport said Nelson's report likely wasn't unexplainable. He said it's important people report possible UFOs sightings because people generally hesitate to report them unless they know they've been seen by others.

Nelson said he planned on filing a report with Davenport's agency.

"There's no way it was a plane," he said.

-- The agency's hotline is 206-722-3000. People should only use the number if the sighting has occurred within the last week, according to the center's website. A UFO report form also is available online at www.nuforc.org.

-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com