On Oct. 18, 1973, north central Ohio residents witnessed strange lights in the sky to the west over Charles Mill Lake.
The next morning they were shocked to hear that they weren’t the only ones — a military helicopter flying near Mansfield also reported the lights in what is now known as the Coyne Incident. According to the Center for UFO Studies, the Coyne Incident is now considered the most credible incident in a wave of sightings in 1973.
At approximately 10:30 p.m. a UH-1H helicopter with the United States Army Reserve left Port Columbus, en route to Cleveland Hopkins airport, 96 nautical miles to the north-northeast. In command, in the right-front seat, was Capt. Lawrence J. Coyne. He was 36 years old and with 19 years of flying experience.
At the controls, in the left-front seat, sat 1st Lt. Arrigo Jezzi, 26 years old and a chemical engineer. Behind Jezzi sat Sergeant John Healey, 35, a Cleveland policeman who was the flight medic, and the crew chief, Sergeant Robert Yanacsek, 23 years old a computer technician.
The helicopter was cruising at 2,500 feet above sea level at an indicated airspeed of 90 knots, above mixed hills, woods, and rolling farmland, averaging an elevation of 1,200 feet. The night was totally clear, calm, and starry. The last quarter moon was just rising.
Around 11 p.m., 10 miles south of Mansfield, Healey noticed a single red light to the west, flying south. A few minutes later, Yanacsek reported a single red light on the southeast horizon, assuming it was a tower beacon or aircraft port wing light, until it then turned toward the helicopter and began rapidly approaching.
Coyne quickly powered a descent of 500 feet per minute, simultaneously contacting the National Guard aircraft tower in Mansfield to check if it was one of theirs, but after the initial contact of “This is Mansfield Tower, go ahead Army 1-5-triple-4” all transmissions were lost.
Meanwhile, Coyne increased their descent to 2,000 feet per minute at a speed of 100 knots, but still could not outrun the approaching object. Just as the crew braced for impact the light halted and began hovering above and in front of the helicopter.
Coyne, Healey and Yanacsek all described a cigar-shaped, slightly domed but otherwise featureless, gray metallic structure. Yanacsek described what appeared to be windows along the top of the dome. There was a red light at the bow and an indented white light at the stern, and then while the object hovered over the helicopter (plexiglass windows in the roof allowed the flight crew to view it from below) a green ‘pyramid shaped’ beam similar to a spotlight appeared — first passing over the helicopter’s nose and then up through the windshield and upper window panels enveloping the cockpit in green light.
While this happened, the helicopter had begun to climb, as if the object was dragging it upwards, for about 10 seconds.
The object then accelerated off to the west, leaving the helicopter behind, before executing a turn and racing over Lake Erie. Jezzi estimated that it moved faster than the 250-knot limit for aircraft below 10,000 feet, but not as fast as the 600-knot speed many other witnesses estimated.
The helicopter crew continued on to Cleveland, unable to determine what they saw.
Coyne described himself as a skeptic of UFOs, but admitted he couldn’t provide a reasonable answer for what happened.
In a later interview with the Mansfield News Journal, Jezzi admitted that “The first thing I thought was those Commie bastards … what are they up to?”
Coyne later contacted the Mansfield National Guard Tower, and discovered that they had no recordings of any contact with him that night — not even a tape with the initial contact — but did determine that no other aircraft were in the area at that time.
Coyne had also noticed that during the incident his magnetic compass in the helicopter stopped working correctly and filed a report to have it fixed — but maintenance crews were unable to fix it and eventually had to replace the entire unit.
The flight crew was awarded the National Enquirer Blue Ribbon Panel’s $5,000 award for “the most scientifically valuable report” of 1973.
More information on the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum can be found at this link.