Unhappy camper to pay compensation

UNHAPPY Woodenbong camper Yon-Paul Stead took out his wine-fuelled anger in a bare-knuckled assault on a Channel Nine helicopter, causing $5000 damage.

Stead, 46, damaged Nine’s Squirrel helicopter when the unemployed farmer punched the aircraft three times, smashing its fibreglass bubble.

He was able to avoid a police officer to go under its still spinning blades with his arms raised to launch the one-man assault after it landed on the recreation grounds near his Woodenbong campsite.

Nine’s helicopter was landing a Brisbane news crew to cover the crash on nearby Mount Barney of a helicopter owned by Sunshine Coast businessman Grant Kenny.

A Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter had landed just moments before and its blades were also still spinning.

Stead pleaded guilty in the Lismore Local Court yesterday to recklessly damaging the Nine aircraft at 4.01pm on January 28.

Defence lawyer Laura Fennell said her client saw the chopper landing and got very upset, concerned the television network was going ‘to sensationalise the death of people’ in an accident.

Ms Fennell claimed Stead only punched the chopper once with his fist and said it was ‘unusual’ for the outside of a helicopter to break so easily.

“His view is that it (the helicopter) was fatigued. I was very much surprised that much damage was done,” Ms Fennell said.

Magistrate Robyn Denes said that could not be determined unless there was a hearing and the helicopter’s log produced.

Ms Fennell argued against her client having to pay compensation for the damage, saying Channel Nine ‘can win Logies and they are not doing too badly’ (financially).

Ms Denes replied that Stead broke it and was very lucky not to be injured.

“He may have had the view (the network) was going to sensationalise, but there are legitimate ways to protest,” Ms Denes said.

Ms Fennell said Stead had drunk a couple of wines and been isolated out in the bush away from human contact, and after recently coming back into town ‘he got a little bit excited’.

She asked that Stead not be ordered to pay compensation because he was existing on welfare benefits and wanted to return to the bush.

The Crown said Stead punched the helicopter three times.

In police facts, Senior Constable Michael Chaffey stated it had been ‘extremely dangerous’ with the helicopter not shut down when he tried to stop Stead’s approach.

Stead had both arms raised above his head as he walked beneath the rotating blades –‘only a foot distance’ between his hands and the blades.

Snr Const Chaffey said Stead was agitated and he saw him strike the front of the helicopter twice and then the offside once, causing the pilot to get out. The fibreglass bubble was smashed.

When arrested Stead said: “Yeah, sorry Mick. I didn’t mean to cause you trouble. They are parasites. They prey on other people’s troubles.”

Ms Denes ordered Stead to pay $4998.18 compensation sought by Channel Nine and suggested he find some work to pay it.

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