Drone interference

A drone held up this medical helicopter Wednesday in Limestone County as the pilot and crew were preparing to take a critically injured dog-bite victim to Vanderbilt Hospital.

A medical helicopter preparing to fly a critically injured dog-bite victim to Vanderbilt Hospital on Tuesday nearly had to halt operations when someone flew a radio-controlled drone into the rescue helicopter's landing zone, officials said Wednesday.

Rescue personnel with East Limestone Volunteer Fire Department, a Limestone County sheriff's deputy and Limestone County Animal Control Officer Mike Clem responded to 4:59 p.m. call to a home in the 18000 block of Ed Ray Road. There, a 2-year-old boy had reportedly been bitten in the face by the family's large dog, said Deputy Stephen Young, public information officer for the sheriff's office.

The rescue helicopter set to take the child to Vanderbilt for treatment had to wait for a drone in the area to get out of the way before it could take off, Young said. Later that night on social media, East Limestone VFD said the helicopter nearly had to stop air operations due to "a knucklehead with a Mavic drone."

Young said the helicopter had to stay on the ground until the drone was gone.

"We're still trying to find out who was flying the drone," Young said.

If located or identified, the drone pilot could be charged under Federal Aviation Administration rule 107, Young said.

"Flying a drone near a manned aircraft is extremely dangerous and is a violation of federal law," he said. "Manned aircraft could be crippled by striking a drone in the air, causing a crash that could injure or kill pilots, passengers and people on the ground."

Young added, "People who fly a drone into an area where an EMS helicopter is trying to get a critical patient to the hospital can cost them precious moments in their effort to save a life."

In social media posts, East Limestone VFD described the boy as "critically injured" but did not name him. His condition was not available Wednesday evening, but Young said he was still at Vanderbilt.

The dog will likely be isolated until a determination is made on its health, Young said.

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