By Stephen J. Kotz
A drone piloted by a New York photographer who was photographing the Watchcase condominiums crashed into the side of the Sag Harbor Variety Store and burst into flames shortly after 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
Paul Callahan said he had been hired to photograph the condominium complex and had experienced no problems with the drone all day. He said he had changed the battery pack and launched the drone to take some sunset photos from the roof of the building when things went wrong.
“It was going to be a short flight, and it just went out of control,” he said. Mr. Callahan said he shut down the drone’s receiver to put it in “fail-safe” mode but it shot down from the roof toward Main Street.
Mr. Callahan said he took the elevator down and raced to Main Street, where he found the smoking wreckage and a small knot of bystanders gathered.
Mike Carroll of Noyac said he saw the drone shoot across Main Street and slam into the building before falling to the sidewalk in pieces and bursting into flames.
A bystander doused the flames with a fire extinguisher, but they reignited at least once. The drone’s impact broke off two small chunks of stucco from the variety store’s façade.
An 11-year-old boy, who would only identify himself as Emari, said he was walking down the street when he saw the drone coming flying his way. “It looked like it was going 100 miles per hour,” he said. The boy was struck in the leg by the propeller, he said, but was not injured.
The drone, which had a Sony digital camera mounted to it, was worth $20,000, Mr. Callahan said.
On Wednesday, Sag Harbor Village Police said Tuesday’s crash was not Mr. Callahan’s first mishap in the village with a drone. On September 17, his drone struck the mast of a sailboat in the harbor, causing minor damage, police said. Reached Wednesday, Mr. Callahan said a partner had been piloting the drone when it hit the boat.
After Tuesday’s crash, Mr. Callahan was questioned by village police, as firefighters arrived and sealed off the area with yellow caution tape and waited for a Southampton Town fire marshal to arrive.
“I’m done,” he said of his career as a drone pilot.