Wiltshire Air Ambulance unable to land to treat patient after laser attack

Wiltshire Air Ambulance was unable to land to treat a patient after a laser attack over the weekend.

It happened over Bath on Sunday night (April 10) when charity’s aircrew were responding to a medical emergency at 9.42pm.

They were approaching Combe Down when a green laser beam was shone several times in the direction of its Bell 429 helicopter.

The crew had to abort their landing and stand down from the mission.

The pilot and one of the critical care paramedics on board sustained headaches and felt their eyesight had been affected by the incident.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance chief pilot Matt Wilcock said: “This laser attack has had a real impact, endangering multiple lives.

“We were unable to tend to a patient in peri-arrest. This is a crucial moment where our critical care paramedics are able to intervene before the patient goes into full cardiac arrest.

“The incident also affected our aircrew, meaning we were unable to continue flying for the rest of the shift, with a potential knock-on effect for other patients. The crew will be given full medical checks and support from the charity.

“We are grateful to the South Western Ambulance Service for continuing to support the patient and the local Police, who themselves have recently suffered from laser attacks to their own helicopter.”

He added: “Nobody should be shining laser pens at aircraft. Not only is it illegal and highly dangerous, you never know who that aircraft is coming to help. Just think if it was en route to help you or one of your loved ones.”

Avon and Somerset Police inspector Ruth Gawler said: “Shining a laser at any aircraft seriously endangers the lives of those inside it as well as people on the ground.

“Not only is it extremely reckless but it is also a criminal offence which carries with it the penalty of an unlimited fine or a prison sentence of up to five years.

“Anyone with information about this incident is asked to phone police on 101 and tell the call handler they’re phoning in relation to log 1134 of 10 April.”

Mike Pavey, Crime and Violence Reduction Officer at the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We will be working closely with our colleagues at the Wiltshire Air Ambulance and the local Police forces to find and prosecute those responsible for this serious crime.

“The Critical Care Team bring enhanced lifesaving skills to patients when they need it most. They are a hugely valued team and they do not deserve this unacceptable behaviour when they are trying to provide care to patients. Every emergency service worker should be able to do their job without fear of attack.”

The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust sent an operations officer and a double-crewed land ambulance to the original incident and took one patient to Royal United Hospital in Bath. 

This is not the first time the charity’s helicopter has been subjected to laser attacks. It happened four times in 2020, with a further incident in 2021.

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