McDuffie official questioned after airport complaint

Billy W. Hobbs/ The McDuffie Mirror
McDuffie County Commissioner Paul McCorkle (center) and his brother, Sammy (left), make written statements on the hood of a McDuffie County Sheriff's Department vehicle as deputies confer in the background Wednesday evening at Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport. Both men remained under investigation Thursday morning for an incident involving threats against an aircraft Wednesday evening.

THOMSON, Ga. -- Federal authorities have now taken over the investigation of an elected official and his brother in McDuffie County stemming from reported threats made against an aircraft pilot at the local airport Wednesday night.

McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall said the probe was turned over to investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta on Thursday afternoon.

“We’ve done as much as we can with the case and now we’ve put it in the hands of federal authorities,” Sheriff Marshall said.

An investigator with the sheriff’s department questioned McDuffie County Commissioner Paul McCorkle and his brother, Sammy McCorkle, at the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center until about midnight Wednesday. Neither man has been charged with a crime.

Paul McCorkle, who is in his first-term, told The McDuffie Mirror on Wednesday night that he and his brother drove to the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport after a low-flying aircraft passed over his mother’s home off Wrightsboro Road about 7:30 p.m. Family members were out eating pizza on the home’s patio at the time.

Mr. McCorkle said he called the airport to find out who owned the plane, but the personnel there would not provide any information.

Witnesses said two men walked into the airport and then through automatic doors that lead to the tarmac where the aircraft sat, awaiting departure. Outside, at least one of the men accosted the aircraft and its pilot, reportedly threatening to shoot down the plane if it flew over homes that low again.

The men then left the airport, but were picked up by lawmen less than half an hour later at another home on Wrightsboro Road and taken back to the airport where they gave written statements. They later were taken from the airport to the law enforcement center for additional questioning. Mr. McCorkle refused to comment further about the incident after a second round of questioning late Wednesday

Repeated attempts to reach an official with FAA for comment about the ongoing investigation were unsuccessful Thursday afternoon.

Local authorities spent Thursday investigating the incident. Sheriff Marshall said he and his investigator went to the airport, interviewed airport personnel and examined the aircraft in a hangar for visible damages. He reported no visible damage.

All of the statements, as well as the incident report, will be provided to FAA investigators, Sheriff Marshall said, noting the incident report would not be made available to the public because of the ongoing investigation.

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