NEW YORK — Tennis balls were not the only thing flying Thursday night at the U.S. Open, where a small drone crashed into a seating area during a match.
The remote-controlled aircraft whizzed above players Flavia Pennetta and Monica Niculescu before slamming around 8:30 p.m. into an empty area at Louis Armstrong Stadium, the United States Tennis Association said in a statement.
No one was hurt, according to the USTA. And while the match paused briefly, it didn’t slow down Pennetta as she marched to a 6-1, 6-4 victory.
The New York City teacher allegedly operating the drone, however, wasn’t so lucky.
That man — Daniel Verley, 26 — was arrested on charges of reckless endangerment, reckless operation of a drone and operating a drone in a New York City public park outside of prescribed area, according to the New York Police Department.
He was released and ordered to appear in court at a later date, according to New York police Lt. Thomas Antonetti.
Efforts to reach Verley on Friday were unsuccessful, and it could not be determined if he has an attorney.
Drones are one of a handful of items — along with things like food, backpacks, tennis racquets and selfie sticks — that fans are expressly prohibited from bringing on the grounds of the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.
The facility is also in the shadow of one of the country’s busiest airports, LaGuardia, so having unauthorized objects (besides tennis balls) flying around potentially could be problematic.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown called the Thursday night incident “just the latest close call involving a drone and clearly illustrates that drones cannot simply be considered children’s toys.”
“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,” Brown said in a statement.
The district attorney said it was “fortunate that no one was injured, … but we can’t rely on happenstance to protect the public.”
“Those who engage in conduct of this nature will be held legally accountable for their actions,” Brown said. “They will not be treated as children — or as innocent hobbyists.”
Verley is a science teacher at the Academy of Innovative Technology high school in Brooklyn, according to a spokesman for the NYC Department of Education.
“This is not a school-related incident, and we will monitor the criminal case closely. Any disciplinary action will be taken based on the information from the criminal case,” the spokesman said.