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US: (Not a laser) Distraction from selfies and maybe camera flash likely cause of fatal crash, NTSB says
Widely reported in the press was the fact that the cell phone camera’s flash function was used during an earlier portion of the flight. (The aircraft made one 6-minute flight around the traffic pattern, landed, took off again, made a left turn, stalled and spiraled into the ground.) As recorded by a second camera, a GoPro, during the 6-minute flight, the cameraphone flash was used “during the takeoff roll, initial climb, and flight in the traffic pattern.”
The NTSB did not state whether the use of the camera flash impeded the pilot’s vision. He was able to successfully complete the first, 6-minute flight despite being flashed multiple times. It was on the second takeoff that the pilot stalled, leading to the spin into terrain.
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WTVR quoted a nearby resident as saying she heard the crash around 2:30 am, but there were no police on the scene until around 7 am. The road was closed until 2:30 pm while police investigated. The resident said there had been four fatal crashes on the road near her home in the past few years.
Matthew L. Farr
Farr had been charged with one misdemeanor count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft by aiming a green laser beam at a Virginia State Police Cessna 182 patrol aircraft. The pilot had temporary pain, according to a police spokesperson. Farr’s court date had been set for later in September 2013.
From WRIC, WTVR, NBC12.com, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The original LaserPointerSafety.com item about Farr’s July arrest is here.
Late in the evening of September 7 2011, 21-year-olds Alex Cox and Luke Fortune aimed a green laser at an air ambulance trying to land in Calne. The men disagreed about whether the laser could reach the helicopter. Cox thought it would; Fortune thought it would not. In court testimony, the men also disagreed about which one of them aimed at the helicopter.
The pilot tried three times to land but could not due to the laser interference. An ambulance was called to pick up the patient, a man in his 70’s suffering a heart attack. It took 25 minutes to reach the Great Western Hospital in Swindon by road; it would have been 10 minutes by air. According to the ambulance service, it was “unlikely” that the helicopter would have been able to reach the hospital in time to save the man.
Cox and Fortune pleaded guilty to directing or shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. They told the court their actions were stupid and very dangerous, and that they were sorry.
A Daily Mail article about the case has a sidebar listing four “laser pen pests” who received sentences from four to eight months, in cases ranging over the April-November 2011 timeframe.
From the Daily Mail. The original LaserPointerSafety.com news item about the incident, from September 2011, is here.
Late on September 7 2011, paramedics and an ambulance responded to a call about an elderly man who had collapsed in Caine, Wiltshire. They found the man had gone into cardiac arrest, and they called for the assistance of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance helicopter. It landed at the site but then took off again to burn fuel in order to carry the patient. As it tried to land for a second time, a “group of yobs” flashed laser pens at the pilot. He broke off the landing. The patient was then taken by ambulance to Great Western Hospital in Swindon, 20 miles away by road. Upon arrival, the man was pronounced dead after midnight on September 8.
Police said “at this stage, we are satisfied that the helicopter not being able to land did not affect the outcome of this incident.” They are searching for the laser-wielding perpetrators and are beginning a criminal investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call (0845) 4087000.
From The Independent , Wiltshire Times and BBC News
UPDATE September 15 2011: A story in the Gazette and Herald has some additional details about the incident.
UPDATE 2 March 15 2012: The two persons involved, Alex Cox and Luke Fortune, pleaded guilty. They had to pay £278 each and were given a conditional discharge (no punishment provided that no further offense is committed). More details are in a LaserPointerSafety.com news item here.