The safety of Yorkshire Air Ambulance crew members has come under threat as laser attacks escalated over the weekend.
Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA), a lifeline for communities in Yorkshire, has recently seen a disturbing rapid escalation in laser attacks. Over the course of a single week, YAA has been subjected to three separate and deliberate laser assaults, with the latest attack resulting in an injury to one of their crew members.
On Friday evening during a transit flight back to their Nostell airbase, YAA Technical Crew Member Alex Clark, became the unfortunate victim of the most recent laser strike. Horrifically, the laser beam managed to hit Alex in one of his eyes resulting in a burn on his cornea. Although he is now on a path to a full recovery, his injury poignantly emphasises the very real threats faced by YAA’s crew members.
These attacks, characterised by their intermittent and seemingly random nature, have left the YAA searching for answers, as there appears to be no discernible pattern or motive behind these acts of senseless stupidity. The safety of YAA’s crews and the patients they serve is paramount, and these attacks constitute a threat to both.
YAA Chief Pilot Owen McTeggart emphasised the severe consequences of laser attacks on air ambulance operations: “If we get a laser attack while trying to land at the site of an incident, it means we cannot land, and the injured person on the ground doesn’t get the care that we are there to provide. It doesn’t take much for the eyes to be permanently damaged by a laser, and while the laser itself might not be a danger if it doesn’t contact the eyes, it is a massive distraction for the crew during a critical stage of flight and causes much distress.
A lot of it is ignorance to the implications it can have on our operations. And I’m sure most people who point a laser at a helicopter think it’s just a laugh and no harm is caused. But it can, in some cases, have life-changing consequences for the pilot, the crew, and if it’s an air ambulance under threat, the patient in the back whose life they are trying to save.”.
Mike Harrop, YAA Chairman, implores those responsible for these attacks to consider the gravity of their actions and the potential harm they are causing. He added: “The safety and well-being of YAA’s dedicated crew members and patients are non-negotiable priorities. Our crew shouldn’t fear flying on a shift at YAA, all because someone somewhere finds it amusing to shine lasers at aircraft, or they are ignorant to the dangers they are putting our crew in. Regardless of whether YAA is being deliberately targeted or mistaken for another helicopter – it is wholly unacceptable for one of our crew members to suffer an injury due to someone else’s reckless actions.”
YAA now calls upon its supporters throughout the local communities it serves to assist in raising awareness of the dangers of shining lasers at aircraft. Anyone with information related to these attacks is urged to come forward and contact the police, and help ensure that such incidents do not happen again.