White Sands National Monument closed as drone crash investigation continues

White Sands National Monument closed as drone crash investigation continues
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 6:05pm

White Sands National Monument remains closed indefinitely to the public as the investigation into a drone crash continues.

A $2.6 million Q-F4 drone was flying back to Holloman Air Force Base February 7, after a scheduled test in coordination with White Sands Missile Range and the drone unexpectedly went down on national monument property.

"Unfortunately they cannot visit the dune field but visitors have been very respectful of that," said White Sands National Monument Chief of Interpretation Becky Burghart.

Burghart said the drone crashed off Dunes Drive which is the main road into the monument.

She added only 10 percent of the park is accessible and the crash is an area where visitors can get too.

Holloman Air Force Base said they are combing through the area in search of any debris or materials from the Q-F4 drone which was destined to be shot down.

With the park inaccessible, visitors left disappointed but did understand the reason why they weren't allowed in.

"We heard about it Friday or Saturday and it's it's been almost a full week now and I thought maybe we could get back there," said Jim McInteer from Iowa.

Burghart said the park averages about 930 visitors daily from all over and all are now limited to only the visitor's center.

With the dunes closed, the monument is also losing money as admission typically runs $3 per adult.

But all park staff continue working as scheduled but have been assigned new tasks while the investigation continues.

For visiting tourists, they would like to know when the park might reopen in order to change travel plans if possible.

"It would be nice if they could tell us a date an approximate date," said Gael Wright from New Zealand.

Wright has been traveling the United States with David Harris from England and said the stop at White Sands was one of the most anticipated desitinations of their journey.

Wright said they would consider staying in the area a few more days if they had an idea as to when the monument would reopen.

Holloman AFB said there is no specific day when the clean up and investigation might be complete.

White Sands does have several programs scheduled in the near future and those have not been cancelled at this point.

For any visitors thinking about visiting it's advised to call ahead or check the website to see if the park has reopened.

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