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Air ambulance crew member injured in ‘senseless’ laser attack

An air ambulance crew member suffered a serious injury when his aircraft was targeted with a laser in the latest in a series of “acts of senseless stupidity”.

Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) said technical crew member Alex Clark was hit in the eye on Friday evening, resulting in a burn on his cornea.

The charity said the incident is the latest in a recent “disturbing rapid escalation” in laser attacks.

YAA said aircraft have been subjected to three separate and deliberate laser incidents in a week.

It said Mr Clark was injured during a transit flight back to the service’s Nostell airbase, near Wakefield, in West Yorkshire.

A spokeswoman said that he is on the path to full recovery but “his injury poignantly emphasises the very real threats faced by YAA’s crew members”.

She said: “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 said: “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.”

Mr McTeggart said: “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.”.

YAA chairman Mike Harrop said: “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.”