The Alpine Fire Department is asking residents to not fly drones over car accidents or other emergency response situations. The statement comes after an accident on Highway 89 South of Alpine on Saturday, May 13. The accident, which resulted in one fatality and injuries to six others, required the use of life flight services. Luckily, the helicopter was requested to land at Star Valley Health and not at the scene of the crash. There was reportedly a drone flying over the crash that would have hindered Life Flight’s ability to land had they been needed at the scene.
“Critical care is provided in a time sensitive manner through Life Flight,” said the statement by the fire department. “This could have been a terrible problem at this scene. If they had been requested to land at the scene they would have been denied. There was someone flying a drone over the crash site. Not only would this interfere with lifesaving care but also an invasion of the privacy of injured people. Please be aware of the consequences of satisfying your curiosity. Think of the victims as well as their family and friends. Treat others as you would want treated. Our thoughts and prayers are with all involved.”
Lincoln County Emergency Management added that it is against federal law for drone flyers to interfere with emergency response efforts. “Federal law (18 U.S.C. 40A.(a) prohibits drone flyers from knowingly or recklessly interfering with wildfire suppression or related law enforcement or emergency response efforts. Federal law (49 U.S.C. 46320) also prohibits interference with wildfire suppression, law enforcement, or emergency response effort. Individuals who violate these regulations are subject to up to two years of imprisonment and a civil penalty of not more than $20,000.”
In their own statement, Lincoln County Emergency Management asked residents to not go “ambulance chasing” with drones. “You can interfere with medical helicopters or other emergency air resources, depending on the incident,” said emergency management. “Please stay well-clear of any active emergency response scene. Also remember that unmanned aircraft are to ALWAYS yield and give right-of-way to manned aircraft in the area.”
The accident claimed the life of 31-year-old Star Valley Ranch resident Forrest Jensen. A fundraiser auction has been set up on Facebook to support Jensen’s family following his loss. The fundraiser can be found by clicking here. The accident also resulted in the injury of six others, some of which were part of a youth Lacrosse team from Jackson.