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Fri, Nov 10, 2017

Space Needle Drone Pilot Charged With Reckless Endangerment

Aircraft Impacted The Top Of The Structure On New Year's Eve

The 20-year-old Pasco, WA man who was operating a drone that impacted the top of the Space Needle in Seattle on New Year's Eve 2016 has been charged with reckless endangerment, and faces a fine and jail time.

The Seattle Times reports that Cole Kelly was operating the drone that impacted an area near pyrotechnicians who were getting ready for a midnight fireworks show to ring in the new year. There were about a half-dozen people on top of the iconic structure when the incident occurred at about 1400 local time.

Dave Mandapat, a spokesman for the Space Needle, said that the structure was undamaged by the incident. The drone was recording video at the time of the crash.

Police allege Kelly violated federal law because he was operating the drone above 400 feet. According to a news release from the Seattle City Attorney's office, the Seattle Municipal Code ways a person is guilty of reckless endangerment "when he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person.”

It is alleged in the current case that, when found, “One of the drone’s spinning blades was  dangerously near wiring from one of the [pyrotechnics] boxes, one motor was well wrapped up in the strap, one blade had shattered, and the drone itself was kicking around threatening the wiring of the pyrotechnic devices.”

City Attorney Pete Holmes said in the release that this is the second time his office has charged reckless endangerment in a case in which the operator mishandled a drone, causing serious damage. In January this year a jury convicted an Oak Harbor man for his illegal operation of a drone at the Gay Pride Parade in 2015, in which a woman suffered a concussion.

Kelly is due in court on November 22.

(Image from YouTube video posted by GeekWire)

FMI: www.seattle.gov

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