A small drone flying at low altitude crashed into the White House complex on early on Monday, prompting officials to declare a security lockdown.
The US Secret Service said in a statement that President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were not at the White House at the time of the incident; they are in India.
“An investigation is under way to determine the origin of this commercially available device, motive, and to identify suspects,” said Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary.
He said the drone was spotted shortly after 3:00 a.m. (0800 GMT) by a Secret Service agent on the south grounds of the White House complex.
The officer “heard and observed a ‘quad copter’ device, approximately two feet in diameter, flying at a very low altitude and ultimately crashing on the southeast side of the complex,” the Secret Service statement said.
“There was an immediate alert and lockdown of the complex until the device was examined and cleared,” it added.
According to the New York Times, the device, a small, unmanned aircraft that is lifted by four propellers, was operated by a government employee who told the Secret Service he did not mean to fly it over the White House grounds.
The man does not work for the White House, the paper added.
The employee, who was being questioned, said he lost control of the drone before it crashed on the grounds of the White House.
Republican lawmaker John Mica said the Secret Service isn’t making any efforts to prevent a drone disaster.
“You have this capability. You could put light explosives on a drone and they could do an incredible amount of damage not only to the White House but to the Capitol and other government facilities,” Mica said.
The drone crash comes as the Secret Service is recovering from a series of embarrassing security breaches.
According to a report by the Washington Post, it took the Secret Service five days to discover that a man had shot seven bullets at the White House in 2011.
Another security lapse occurred in September, when a US war veteran was able to reach deep into the White House with a knife, an unprecedented security breach in recent decades.
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