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Tucson, Arizona, January 19, 1978:

A report by Bob Pratt

Bob Pratt (right) was a journalist who became very interested in the UFO phenomenon. He did not just write articles from his desk but investigated many important reports on location, particularly in Brazil. He was also the first journalist to interview Major Jesse Marcel of Roswell fame. Bob Pratt passed away in November 2005. I occasionally exchanged emails with Bob and he was a true gentleman. I miss him. Underneath is one of his numerous articles.


Brothers cut their UFO chase short

Two brothers chased a disc-shaped object in their car as it passed low over Tucson, Arizona just before dawn one morning but backed off when they got too close.

They got within a block of the low-flying craft before deciding they had gotten close enough and stopped. The object was then only about a hundred feet above the ground. It appeared to be thirty to fifty feet in diameter, and it performed some strange acrobatics before it disappeared.

"We had never seen anything like that before," said Kenneth Kmak, a University of Arizona graduate who was then twenty-five and an accountant for the Tucson school system. "I'm never going to forget that."

His fifteen-year-old brother Bill was with him at the time. "I was stunned when I first saw it," Bill said. "I'm never going to forget it either."

The object was flashing bright lights as it moved slowly over the city. People in at least five locations over a twelve-mile stretch of the city and its suburbs reported seeing it as it passed from the southeast to the northwest.

It eventually disappeared over the Tucson Mountains west of the city. This took place shortly before daybreak on January 19, 1978. No civilian or military planes were in the area at the time and the object was not spotted on radar, authorities said. At one time the object was reported seen within three and a half miles of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in the southeastern part of the city and within eight miles of Tucson International Airport, southwest of the air base.

The Pima County Sheriff's Office in Tucson received phone calls from five people reporting seeing the object, a spokesman said. None of the seven witnesses that I talked to reported their sightings to the Sheriff's Office, and none of the seven had any doubt as to what they saw.

CHICKENS AND PIGEONS AGITATED

The Kmak brothers then lived with their parents in the northeastern part of Tucson, about three and a half miles north of the Air Force Base. Bill, who owned a number of pet chickens and pigeons, was the first to see the object. Ken usually dropped Bill off at Catalina High School on his way to work.

"We were running a little late so I went outside and fed our chickens and pigeons as usual," said Bill. "There was something strange with them that day."

"They were flipping around and bouncing against the wall... trying to get out of the coop. I didn't think too much of it. I threw them some food and opened up my door and all my pigeons took off. I don't know why because it was practically dark.

"I started walking back and I heard like a jet engine roaring and I looked up and I saw these lights. They were blinking in repetition order, like there were eight or ten of them. They were going one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, like that."

"I went to the car and told Ken, 'I saw these really strange lights out there.' Ken was listening to the radio for the weather report. He didn't pay much attention until we got down Pima Street, the main street where he takes me to school, and he saw the craft too."

Kenneth Kmak said, "When I first saw it we were coming down Pima Street. We'd gone about four blocks. As I looked up on my left, I saw these lights flickering on and off, one after the other. It was really neat. These lights were about a hundred feet off the ground and were an orange type of color."

"I followed it down the road, going regular speed, about thirty five. We were heading in a westerly direction. I decided to get an even closer look because I was even more curious. So I started speeding up and was chasing after it when we got within a block of it and saw the craft."

"It was about between thirty and fifty feet long and was concave in shape, round at the bottom. It wasn't exactly flat on top. It went up at an angle with a little hump at the top. We got within a block of this thing and I wasn't about to get any closer."

Bill Kmak interjected: "Yeah. I said, 'Ken, slow down!' You know, I was getting just a little too curious."

DIDN'T WANT TO GET CLOSER

Ken Kmak continued: "I said, 'We're not getting any closer than that – we'll wait until it goes down a little further and then we'll follow it.'"

"You just can't take things for granted. You just can't be sure about things nowadays. I felt it would be safer to just let it pass than to get too close to it. We could have gotten closer than a block. I could probably have driven right underneath that thing. But I didn't want to."

"I pulled off to the side of the road immediately and let it go down a little bit more before I was going to chase after it again. We saw this craft for about five to ten seconds. Then we started seeing the lights again and I went after it again, real slow."

"Now it started picking up speed. It was heading toward the Tucson Mountains. It took a northwesterly direction. The last we saw of it, the colors had changed from orange to blue. They were still flickering on and off in sequence."

"By this time it had taken off pretty fast down the road and it got really far away from us and the lights were becoming dimmer. Then the lights turned blue and it a just started doing these crazy things."

"It made these aerial acrobatics before we lost sight of it. It was in a hovering position... and then it made a rocking formation... like a falling leaf... real fast. Then it hovered and it went down to the right at an angle, back up, down to the left at an angle, back up and it started doing this really fast. It did this a couple of times."

"Then I pulled into Bill's school and we lost sight of the whole thing. That's the last we saw of it."

The Kmaks said that when they stopped to watch the UFO, near the Fort Lowell Elementary School on Pima street, a small red foreign-built pickup truck with three people in it a went speeding past them toward the object. They didn't see where the truck went. They looked back up at the craft and when they looked toward the truck again it had gone out of sight.

"The guy in the red truck saw it," said Ken Kmak. "I'm sure he did. I guess he got scared and ran off."

Bill Kmak said two of his of his eighteen pigeons never returned.

YOUNG COUPLE SEE OBJECT

The Kmaks watched the object for about ten minutes around seven that morning. A few minutes earlier, John and Beth Tompkins, who at that time lived about two miles west and slightly south of the Kmaks, were also watching the object.

John Tompkins, then twenty three and a masonry apprentice, said, "I got up that morning and since I work outdoors I was concerned about the weather. So I went outside to check out the clouds and to let my dog out. I noticed there was a low cloud cover, but before I even noticed that I noticed four to six red lights in the western sky."

"They were very visible. I say four lights. My wife says six. But they were weird lights. There was such a low cloud cover that they were just protruding underneath the clouds and it was kind of illuminating the clouds. Just a little. Not a whole lot.

"I got really excited about it and I started calling to my wife and I ran in and got her. She didn't know what to think. She thought maybe my dog got hit by a car or something.

"It was about a quarter to seven, still dark outside. She came out, looked up in the sky and tried to explain it away. It wasn't a plane, it wasn't a helicopter. It was definitely a UFO because it wasn't acting like any object that I know of in the sky. It was hovering and kind of moving a little bit back and forth... left and right.

"We watched it for a good seven to eight minutes. From where we were I would say the object was over the University of Arizona, which is maybe three or four miles west. The object stayed there for a while but then it moved off over the Tucson Mountains. I would say it was easily as big as a jetliner."

SHE'S NO LONGER A SKEPTIC

His wife Beth, who worked in the medical library at the University of Arizona hospital, laughed about the incident but readily admitted she was very frightened at the time.

"I was mesmerized," she said, adding that although her husband had believed in UFOs before, she had been a real skeptic and had never expected to see a UFO.

"I couldn't take my eyes off it because I actually saw one for the first time!" she continued. "And it was eerie. I got chills because I thought, 'Oh, they're coming to take us away or something.' I went back in the house because I'd stayed out there watching it long enough. I came back and figured my husband and the dog were gone."

She laughed again and explained: "I know it sounds crazy but I've heard stories. You know, I'm pregnant and my husband and I are newly married and we have a dog and I thought, 'Well, if they're going to take us they're going to have fun with me.'"

John Tompkins said that the following night neither one got very much sleep. "In between getting up and looking out the window, we kept going outside and looking up in the sky."

About ten to twelve miles northwest of the area where they and the Kmaks saw the object, a young woman out jogging in the foothills north of Tucson was watching it also. She is Pat Till, a University of Arizona graduate with a master's degree in counseling. She then worked as a career guidance consultant to teachers in two Tucson school districts.

"I jog two and a half miles every morning," Ms. Till said. "That morning when I went out there was a low cloud cover in the east, so it was darker than usual. As I was jogging I looked over my shoulder and I saw the lights off in the distance in the east side of town.

FIFTEEN TO TWENTY LIGHTS

"I couldn't see the shape or what the form looked like. What I saw was red lights and at times they looked like just a straight line of red lights and then it would tilt, I guess, to the side because it looked almost like an oval kind of shape, and I could see them on both sides.

"The lights blinked but it wasn't like they blinked around in a circle, one following the other. They might skip around the different parts of it.

"I really couldn't tell how many lights there were because they didn't blink regularly. I would guess there were probably fifteen or twenty of them, but because the way they blinked it might have been forty or fifty.

"I continued jogging but watching it. I kept turning around looking at it as I was going and it seemed to come across the town towards these apartments where I'm living, in a northwesterly direction. Then it got to a certain point over the city and it headed off more towards the west and went out over the Tucson Mountains about five to eight miles from here.

"I assumed it was a UFO because a lot of times I'm out in the morning and I see helicopters and planes, so I'm familiar with planes and jets and helicopters. The light pattern was just different than the normal kind you see flying. And the way it tilted to the side, you could see it wasn't just a straight line of lights."

Two other witnesses were Mike Stern, then sixteen, and Paul Klock, fourteen, who lived within several blocks of each other about three miles east of where Ms. Till was jogging. Both were heading for the same school bus stop, Mike walking from the west and Paul from the east.

"As I was walking to the bus stop I looked south towards the university and over the university area I saw these three white lights," said Mike, whose father was a Tucson attorney. The university is seven miles away. "I kept looking at them and I was wondering if anyone else was around, so I looked down the street and I saw Paul. He was looking at it too.

'SIZE OF A FOOTBALL FIELD'

"When I looked back, it had just turned red and they started to proceed in a northwesterly direction. First the lights were white and there were three of them. Then there were four of them and they were red. As they were going northwest, they had a gradual climb to them. When they were due west, they started to ascend into the clouds.

"There was something peculiar about these lights. Either almost all of them were off and one was on and then the other turned on and the rest would be turned off. It looked like they were going around, as if it was making some sort of shape.

"It looked as if it was very big. It was the size of a football field. I was a little bit intrigued and excited. It looked like airplanes at first but when it started that pattern of the sequence on and off flashing, I started to get a little bit confused. When I was on the bus, I looked back and it wasn't there."

Paul Klock, whose father was an art teacher at a junior high school and a professional artist, said, "I was going to the bus stop, just like Mike, and I looked out over the city and saw these three white lights over the general university area. I didn't really think much of it because it just looked like three airplanes to me.

"Then I just got to watching them and they were moving northwesterly and then after about a minute they all turned red. When they turned red, another light appeared which was also red.

"After that they flashed in synchronization from left to right. Then they started to speed up a little and climb a little and they went into the clouds. It was quite large. It would be larger than a 747 or anything like that, quite a bit larger."

Both boys said three other students were waiting at the bus stop and they tried to get them to look at the object but the three paid no attention. Mike said about sixteen other students were aboard the bus but apparently none of them had seen the object.

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This page was last updated on December 26, 2005.