- The Washington Times - Friday, August 14, 2015

A drone had a near miss with a medical helicopter carrying a snake-bite victim to a hospital in Fresno, California, on Wednesday, authorities said.

The chopper was flying 1,000 feet above the ground about 1 p.m. when the pilot spotted a large drone in its flight path, said Todd Valeri, whose company operates the SkyLife Air Medical chopper, the Los Angeles Times reported.  

The pilot made a sharp turn and just missed the drone, and a potential catastrophe by about 20 feet, Mr. Valeri said. 

“It was definitely alarming to have something that close to you in an aircraft,” said Vince Ellis, a flight nurse who was attending to the patient on board. The drone was about 4- to 6-feet wide, he said, the LA Times reported. 

Police are now investigating the incident, which occurred about two miles north of Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Mr. Valeri, who has worked in the industry for 25 years, said his crews are more accustomed to dealing with hazards posed by lasers, not drones. 

“We’ve flown thousands of missions safely,” Mr. Valeri said, the LA Times reported. “This is the first case of encountering a drone.” 

Because medical choppers don’t fly in traditional flight paths like commercial planes, they are more likely to cross paths with drones. 

“This is lifesaving work,” Mr. Valeri said. “Lives weigh in the balance.” 

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