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23 Jan 2018 13:16
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  •   Home > News > Accident and Emergency

    Man charged over drone above Wanaka fire

    A man has been arrested and charged after helicopters fighting a large fire near Wanaka were grounded by a drone being flown in the area.


    A man has been charged after a drone was flown over a huge fire as it burned through more than 200ha of vegetation near Wanaka.

    Police say eight helicopters battling the blaze were grounded for 15 minutes on Wednesday afternoon when the drone was spotted on Mt Roy.

    The operator was located and arrested, and the drone seized.

    A 33-year-old man is due to appear in Queenstown District Court next Monday charged with endangering a transport facility.

    Senior Sergeant Allan Grindell, the Wanaka area response manager, says flying a drone where helicopters are working is reckless.

    "It's a timely reminder for drone operators to think before they fly," he said.

    "Not only did the grounding of the helicopters cost money and valuable time in the efforts to extinguish the blaze, it put the safety and lives of the helicopter pilots at risk."

    A Fire and Emergency NZ spokesman said firefighters had contained the fire, which is moving to the west and away from property.

    He said no properties had been damaged or were at risk, and there had been no reports of injuries.

    A crew will continue to monitor flare-ups overnight and the forecast for Thursday is favourable, with cooler temperatures and less wind.

    The fire is reported to have started on the side of Mt Alpha and emergency services were alerted about 2.50pm.

    © 2018 NZN, NZCity


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