Tourists in Nevada recently got more than they were bargaining for when their tour guide accidentally passed the no trespassing signs and drove into Area 51. They were quickly tailed by a security truck and asked to get out of the van. The tour then got much less fun. The whole thing was caught on camera.
The story was featured on KLAS TV’s 8 News Now as an I-Team investigation and presented by veteran reporter George Knapp. Knapp is credited for putting Area 51 on the map when he covered the story in 1989 about an alleged whistleblower who worked at the super secret unacknowledged base. The man said he worked on back engineering alien technology that was housed at the base.
Ever since then, tourist have been flocking to the base, which all at once has been the most secret as well as perhaps the most famous U.S. Air Force installation. The tour van that crossed the line was from Adventure Photo Tours. Co-owner Donna Tryon told KLAS, “Some of [the tourists] are just curious. They don’t know what it’s about. Others believe they have been abducted. Other people believe they are aliens and they want to go back out there to hopefully get back home. We get all kinds of people.”
Tryon says that their Area 51 tour includes a lot of stops that have become famous in the area, but the spot most people want to see is where you can see the “Keep Out!” signs. She says that their drivers are very careful not to pass the signs and warn passengers, “you can’t go over that line, and if you step over that line, you’re on your own.”
Although Tryon says her drivers are careful, there are bound to be mistakes in any business. When your business is taking people to the edge of a Top Secret facility, the mistakes that one can make are a little more interesting. In this case, while cruising down the dirt road leading to Area 51, Denis Ryan, the driver of the tour van, was distracted by a question about sports. He missed the warning sign and a minute or two later his passengers noticed they were being followed by a white truck.
The whole time a camera was running inside the van. The tourists thought this was all part of the tour. However, Ryan can be heard saying, “I apologize for this. Those are the Men in Black.” The tourists were right to think they were experiencing something others don’t, but unfortunately it was not a planned added bonus.
Area 51 has an agreement with Lincoln County. They handle the trespassing cases, so the tourist group had to wait for Lincoln County deputies. Once they arrived, the passengers and the driver were cited for trespassing and given court dates.
The tourists, a couple from the UK and a mother and son from the east coast, were no longer having a good time. They were facing a $650 fine per person and a misdemeanor conviction. Will Tryon, another co-owner of Amazing Photo Tours said, “We were afraid they would issue a bench warrant for these people, turn good tourists into criminals.”
Lincoln County District Attorney Dan Hogue did not believe the incident was an accident. He thought the group was in cahoots to see what would happen if they crossed the signs. Luckily, when KLAS contacted the DA to ask him about the case, they let him in on the fact that the whole thing was video recorded. Upon viewing the video, the DA recognized that the expression on the face of the driver was shock, not someone making mischief. The charges were dropped for all but the driver, who is now barred from Area 51 tours for at least two years.
The one condition the DA did require for dropping the charges on the passengers was that the forward facing video on the tour van not be made public. Knapp clarifies that this was because the camera caught security trucks coming from inside the base. He says, “for the record, there were no shots of flying saucers or secret aircraft.”