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Planes Vandalized On Watson Island

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Vandals who struck in the middle of the night caused more than $7,000 in damage to two sea planes by smashing out windows. The damage prevented one of the planes from flying.

Owners of both planes told CBS4's Peter D'Oench that they were baffled by the crime.

And the manager of the Miami Seaplane Base, the former home of Chalks Airways, said such a crime has never happened there before.

"We have never experienced anything like this in 90 years," said Captain Roberto Gomez, the Base Manager.

Paolo Buonfante says the vandals caused $5,000 worth of damage to his light sport airplane after throwing rocks at a car on the Base.

"Those individuals that got in probably jumped the fence," he told CBS4. "And they were drinking. I saw a bunch of beer cans here. They threw rocks at the car and then theu damaged the left horizontal stabilizer on the plane, on the tail. And that will keep me from flying."

"Then the vandals removed the cover on the plane that I have for protection and then they broke out the windows on the Grumann Goose right next to it."

"It was just an act of vandalism," Buonfante said. "There was just no reason for this. It's awful. Last year I had three jet skis stolen from in front of my house so I decided to take a pilot's license to get a seaplane. Now I have damage to my seaplane. I don't bother anybody. I enjoy flying on weekends and flying to go to the Keys and the Bahamas."

The vandalized Grumann Goose was manufactured in 1941, according to its captain and mechanic Jack Bettencourt and was built to carry nine passengers and had been used in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Bettencourt says the Grumann Goose used to be owned by actress Maureen O'Hara and her husband and was recently in an Air Museum and was being renovated before being taken to New Smyrna Beach, where one of its owners, Lynn Storey, lives. Bettencourt said the plane will be flown in air shows.

Storey told CBS4 that he had no idea why vandals smashed out the windows on his plane. He said the plane is the property of the Deleware Corporation of Deleware and said he is one of the principal owners.

"They knocked out the windows on both sides and were also jumping up and down on top of the plane," said Bettencourt. "I don't know why they would do such a thing. I now have to replace all these windows and that will take hours."

"I feel very, very bad," said Bettencourt. "I have been working on this plane for a long time. It was getting renovated before going to New Smyrna Beach for the owner. This is just uncalled for."

Both planes are insured but the owners said that they would like to see police catch the culprits. Miami Police Detective Willie Moreno told CBS4 that as far as he knew, there were no suspects.

Anyone with information about this case is urged to call Miami Police or Miami-Dade Crimestoppers at (305)-471-TIPS (8477).

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