The pilot of the deadly helicopter crash in the East River on Tuesday has a less-than-savory past—he's a convicted felon for his role in a carefully planned robbery in Staten Island 32 years ago.
In 1979, pilot Paul Dudley and an accomplice robbed Rainero's Eldorado Lounge in Grant City, carefully cutting telephone wires and using a blowtorch to open the office safe. The duo stole about $4000 and two rings from the restaurant, which 24-year-old Dudley had apparently frequented prior to the crime. Dudley was arrested six months later, after a woman called the police to anonymously report that he was armed in a Dongan Hills restaurant. He was found with a loaded .32 caliber pistol, and charged with grand larceny and attempted criminal possession of a weapon. Dudley pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years of probation and $2,500 in fines.
Commenters on SILive.com are somewhat apoplectic that the Advance would dare publish this information: "I don't see the [relevance] of this story, unless the Chopper that Dudley was piloting crashed because it was being weighed down by a safe he just robbed earlier in the day & was using the chopper as a getaway while posing as tour guide. Was it really [necessary] for the Advance to [embarrasses] the guy. It's possible that he younger [members] of his family the 35 & younger group did not even know he was in trouble 3 decades ago. Sometimes it's best to leave the past in the past." However, one person did point out, "I don't understand the consternation of all those who posted responses to this article. The Advance didn't castigate the guy, they didn't condemn him, they merely reported something of public record."
In the time since his arrest, Dudley appears to have cleaned up his act—an article in the Daily News earlier this week asks "Who is Paul Dudley?," with a focus more on his flying expertise (notably landing a Cessna in a Brooklyn park in 2006) than his criminal past. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of Tuesday's crash, which left one woman dead and three injured.