LASER attacks on lifesaving helicopter crews have been condemned.

Yorkshire Air Ambulance teams, which frequently come to the aid of casualties across Keighley, were targeted three times in a single week.

And bosses have revealed that two of those attacks occurred in the Bradford district. The third was near Wakefield.

In one of the incidents, a crew member – Alex Clark – suffered an eye injury. The laser beam resulted in a burn to the cornea, from which he is now recovering.

Owen McTeggart, chief pilot with Yorkshire Air Ambulance, says such attacks not only endanger crews' safety, but also that of the patients they are trying to help.

He says: "If we get a laser attack while approaching the site of an incident, it means we cannot land and the injured person on the ground doesn't receive the care that we're there to provide.

"It doesn't take much for eyes to be permanently damaged by a laser. And while the laser itself might not be a danger if it doesn't contact the eyes, it is a massive distraction for the crew during a critical stage of the flight and causes much distress.

"I'm sure most people who point a laser at a helicopter think it's just a laugh and that no harm is caused. But it can in some cases have life-changing consequences for the pilot and crew, and if it's an air ambulance under threat, also the patient whose life they are trying to save."

His comments are echoed by Mike Harrop, chair of Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

He adds: "The safety and wellbeing of our crew members and patients is a non-negotiable priority.

"Our crews shouldn’t feel fearful of flying on a shift, all because someone somewhere finds it amusing to shine lasers at aircraft, or they are ignorant to the dangers they are putting our crews in.

"Regardless of whether or not our crews are being deliberately targeted, it is wholly unacceptable for one of our team to suffer an injury due to someone else's reckless actions."

Yorkshire Air Ambulance is encouraging communities to help raise awareness of the dangers of shining lasers at aircraft.

And it urges anyone with information related to attacks to get in touch with the police, on 101.

* Yorkshire Air Ambulance is a charity which relies on public donations and fundraising to keep its helicopters airborne.

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