A “drone” once killed a fan at an NFL game

In recent years, the term “drone” has acquired a sinister feel, what with all the lethal firepower that unmanned military planes routinely carry and deploy.  So when a non-weaponized remote-controlled helicopter with simply a camera attached to it is called a “drone,” there’s a real difference.

But maybe not a huge difference.

In the wake of the news that a “drone” invaded the airspace of Bank of America Stadium during a recent preseason contest involving the Chiefs and the Panthers, Jim Celania of WFNZ in Charlotte mentioned this morning that a flying lawnmower once killed a fan at a game in the ’70s.

Initially, I assumed that Jim had simply doused his Post Toasties with something more potent than two-percent.  And while that’s still entirely possible, Jim was right.

It happened in December 1979, at Shea Stadium.  The Jets hosted the Patriots, and at halftime the Electronic Eagles of the Radio Control Association of Greater New York took the field, flying a collection of model airplanes.

During the show, a plane shaped like a lawnmower landed in the stands, striking 20-year-old John Bowen and 25-year-old Kevin Rourke.  Bowen, who reportedly “looked like he had been attacked by an ax,” underwent emergency surgery.  Several days later, Bowen died.

Criminal charges never were pursued, but a lawsuit later was filed against the Jets, the Radio Control Association of Greater New York, and Philip Cushman, who was flying the plane.

So, yeah, it’s probably a good idea for the NFL to ensure that “drones” don’t get anywhere close to the paying customers.  Otherwise, the paying customers will opt to watch the games from a place where the lawnmowers remain in the garage, with all wheels on the ground at all times.