ANDOVER — As nearly 10,000 runners took to the streets of Andover for the 28th annual Feaster Five Thanksgiving Day Race, the competition’s only airborne spectator didn’t quite make it to the finish line.
For the last two years, aerial footage of the Feaster Five has been captured by a drone being operated from above. This year, however, the drone sparked some confusion and controversy after it crashed during the race and fell into a pack of runners on Main Street.
Daniel Brennan, Andover High School’s TV production teacher, was operating the drone during the race and said he was there volunteering his time to capture “aerial perspectives of the starting line.”
The drone clipped a tree branch shortly after the race began and, according to Andover Police Department Executive Officer Charles Heseltine, injured two male runners as it fell into the crowd. The runners, Heseltine said, sustained minor injuries described as “very small lacerations,” one being a cut on one of the runners’ fingers.
Heseltine also said the names of the injured runners have not been reported.
According to both Brennan and Heseltine, permission to fly the drone during the race was given by race coordinators, the Merrimack Valley Striders and Andover police. Post race, however, conflicting reports led to confusion over the drone’s owners and operator.
The high school’s principal Philip Conrad, through secondhand information, believed that the drone was being operated by Andover TV during the event. Wess Murphy, executive director of Andover TV, said the drone is actually property of the high school’s TV program and that Andover TV did not attend the race.
Brennan, though a teacher at the high school, was operating the drone during his free time and not in association with either the high school nor Andover TV.
Although he answered questions about his involvement in the incident, Brennan declined to answer questions about the drone’s specifications, so the size of the drone is still unclear. Town Manager Andrew Flanagan did not respond to inquiries about the town’s investigation into the matter, but Heseltine said the incident is currently being investigated by Andover police.