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Man slapped with misdemeanor citation for flying drone near cliffside rescue in Pacifica

drone
A drone flown for recreational purposes. Regulations dictate how high drones can fly, how close they can operate near airports and their use during emergency operations.
(Photo by Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

The air rescue of a victim who fell 100 feet down seaside cliffs in Pacifica was abandoned Friday night after authorities say a local man flew his drone into the area to watch what was happening, forcing a helicopter crew to withdraw.

The rescue played out about 10:15 p.m. on the rocky shoreline below 320 Esplanade Ave., Pacifica police said.

First responders determined the person could not make it up the cliff by foot and called in the California Highway Patrol to help, authorities said. The CHP helicopter crew lowered a medic to the victim and prepared him to be hoisted up when other rescuers spotted the drone.

“Once the helicopter crew found out there was a drone on scene, they had to suspend the rescue operation and gain altitude to avoid a collision,” police said in a statement. “The drone’s operation could cause the helicopter to crash.”

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Instead of hoisting the victim by air, paramedics and firefighters with North County Fire Authorities rappelled down the cliff, put the victim in a basket and brought him up with ropes. The operation took about two hours, officials said.

In the meantime, police went looking for the drone’s operator.

Residents in the area mentioned knowing a neighbor who flew a drone, so officers knocked on the door of 55-year-old Gerald Destremps.

Destremps admitted to flying the drone and allowed officers to confiscate it, Pacifica Police Capt. Joseph Spanheimer said.

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He was cited with a misdemeanor charge of impeding first responders at the scene of an emergency.

As drones have become more prevalent in recent years, the Federal Aviation Administration and public agencies have made a concerted effort to alert the public to laws surrounding their use.

Regulations dictate how high drones can fly, how close they can operate near airports and their use during emergency operations.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.


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