Air ambulance charity crew’s safety at risk due to ‘alarming spike in laser attacks’

Yorkshire Air Ambulance crew members in flight are being increasingly targeted by people on the ground shining dangerous lasers at them.

The charity is reporting a “disturbing rapid escalation” in such attacks, with three separate laser assaults over the last week.

During the latest attacks saw one of the crew members hit directly in the eye, leaving him injured with a burnt 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,” warned the charity.

The charity has condemned the action by people on the ground as “acts of senseless stupidity”.

It adds it is “searching for answers, as there appears to be no discernible pattern or motive”.

"The safety and well-being of YAA's dedicated crew members and patients are non-negotiable priorities” said the charity’s chair Mike Harrop.

“Our crew shouldn’t feel fearful of 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 are 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."

The charity is calling on people to raise awareness of the dangers of shining lasers at aircraft and to contact the police if they have any information about the perpetrators.

“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,” said the charity’s chief pilot Owen McTeggart.

“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 that 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.".

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