A loud boom that rattled both windows and citizens in Bulloch County Tuesday morning still hasn't been officially explained, but some public safety leaders believe it was a sonic boom.
However, reports are conflicting as to the cause of the boom. Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner said it was likely a military aircraft from Fort Stewart, but officials at Fort Stewart deny the boom was a result of any aircraft from that military base.
A Statesboro man said he witnessed the cause of the loud noise.
"I was taking the dogs outside," said Mike Moran, a 24-year-old professional golfer and Georgia Southern University alumnus who lives on Old Register Road.
"I was looking up at the sky, thinking about how pretty it was, when I saw an F-15," he said. "I grew up in the military so I knew what it was. I was looking toward the Brooklet area. The F-15 flew overhead, about 5,000 to 10,000 feet. I saw the sonic cloud, cone shaped, and then, I heard the boom. It was real brief."
The reports that Fort Stewart-based aircraft caused the boom might have originated from "unofficial" reports from a Georgia Emergency Management Agency officer who was at a public safety training class in Forsyth Tuesday, GEMA Public Affairs Director Ken Davis said.
The GEMA officer shared "unofficial information," but had no official report, that a Fort Stewart aircraft caused the boom.
Another unofficial report to the Statesboro Herald was that the aircraft may have come from Hunter Army Airfield. Officials at Hunter also denied the claim.
"GEMA did not get information from Hunter (Army Airfield) or Fort Stewart officials," Davis said. "I want to apologize for that. The bottom line is, our folks shared information they had gotten from internal channels."
Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin M. Larson said there were no exercises going on at the Army post, and Hunter Army Airfield spokesman Steve Hart said the same was true at his installation.
Hart, in fact, strongly disputed an early statement by Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn attributing the loud noise to a sonic boom caused by a jet based at Hunter.
"Why the Bulloch County official would say for a fact it emanated from here is baffling to me," Hart said in an email.
Statesboro police Maj. Scott Brunson also said information from credible sources close to Fort Stewart said the sonic boom was likely caused by the military base's aircraft.
Clint Perkins, GEMA's director of safety operations, also said Tuesday the "unofficial information" came from a GEMA officer who was at the Forsyth meeting.
However, "There is no telling where the aircraft (that likely caused the sonic boom) came from," he said. "Those jets don't know state boundaries when it comes to these exercises."
The aircraft that was the cause, if the sound was indeed a sonic boom, could have come from another state, he said.
A spokeswoman for Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina said that while pilots were conducting aerial exercises Tuesday morning, those were "right around the area here where they were doing touch-and-go's."
Bucky Burnsed, a public affairs officer for the Georgia Air National Guard's Combat Readiness Training Center in Garden City, said the aircraft that conduct bombing training runs at Townsend Bombing Range don't approach the speed of sound.
An FAA spokeswoman based in Atlanta directed an inquiry about the possible sonic boom to the U.S. Army's Special Operations Command's Public Affairs Office, based at Fort Bragg, N.C. A spokeswoman at Special Operations Command said post officials were "not tracking anything in your area" but that she would check to make sure there wasn't exercise of which she had not been made aware. She did not follow up with a response by press time Tuesday.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported a magnitude-2.2 earthquake about 5 miles north of Lincolnton, Ga., which is about 40 miles northwest of Augusta. But the earthquake was recorded at 11:27 p.m. Monday, meaning it could not have been the cause of the boom in Statesboro roughly 11 hours later.
Turner said the "sudden loud disturbance" happened around 10:40 a.m., and said the Statesboro police received "dozens of calls" regarding the boom.
Wynn also said Bulloch County 911 received numerous calls about the boom.
"Statesboro Police Major Scott Brunson immediately began contacting military bases in the surrounding areas to track down the possible source of the disturbance," Turner said in a news release. "Major Brunson was able to gain information from Statesboro Police Department's law enforcement liaison at Fort Stewart, who advised him that the noise was most likely a result of aircraft which were involved in military training exercises.
"He stated that when these aircraft are involved in training, they frequently break the sound barrier causing atmospheric disturbances."
While citizens reported the noise rattled windows and walls, both Wynn and Turner said no injuries or damage was reported.
Considering Monday's bombing during the Boston Marathon, the Statesboro Police Department released a public safety alert using Nixle, a text alert program, as well as on social media pages, shortly before 11 a.m., Turner said.
As of Herald press time Tuesday, no official cause of the boom was determined.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.