A drone crashed into the seating area of Louis Armstrong Stadium during a U.S. Open match. (Photo courtesy of René Denfeld)
NEW YORK - Police arrested a New York City schoolteacher Friday for allegedly crashing a small drone into an empty section of seats at the U.S. Open Thursday night. Authorities charged Daniel Verley, 26, with reckless endangerment and operating a drone in a New York City public park outside of prescribed area, according to the NYPD. A police spokesman said Verley is a teacher at the Academy of Innovative Technology in Brooklyn.
The small drone landed in the stands during a match, startling spectators, staff, and the players. The drone, flying from the east, landed in an unoccupied seating area in the southwest corner of Louis Armstrong Stadium at about 8:27 p.m., the USTA said. It did not hit anyone, police said.
The match between Monica Niculescu and Flavia Pennetta was briefly stopped while several police officers and staff responded to examine the drone.
"A little bit scary, I have to say," Pennetta said after the match, according to the AP. "With everything going on in the world ... I thought, 'OK, it's over.' That's how things happen." Pennetta won 6-1, 6-4.
In a statement, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said drone operators who put lives at risk will "not be treated as children -- or as innocent hobbyists."
"Last night's incident at the U.S. Open in which an unmanned model aircraft crashed into an unoccupied area of the Louis Armstrong Stadium during play is just the latest close call involving a drone and clearly illustrates that drones cannot simply be considered children's toys," Brown said in the statement. "Many people operating unmanned aircraft are novices with little or no aviation experience and recklessly flying a drone near, over or into a tennis stadium or an airport or any other place where large groups of people assemble needlessly puts lives in danger."
Several people Tweeted photos of the drone, including René Denfeld.
The U.S. Open Tennis Championships are held at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens.