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Drone strike! Our photographer injured by TGI Friday’s mistletoe copter

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Photo gallery

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Flying high: David Quinones prepares the drone for flight.
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Danger drone zone: David Quinones shows off the mistletoe that is attached to the smallest drone, which is only about the size of three tennis balls, yet managed to later injure our photographer.
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Kiss cam: Julius and Lola, who declined to give their last name, kissed underneath the drone’s mistletoe.
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Drone disaster: During a demo the drome operator lost control of the contraption and our very own photographer Georgine Benvenuto was hit, cutting her nose and chin.
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Mistletoe madness: Our intrepid photographer Georgine Benvenuto used several napkins to try to quell the bleeding caused by the drone — but the blood kept flowing.

Turns out a moment of awkwardness wasn’t the worst that could happen when a popular family restaurant chain unleashed indoor aircraft with the mission of prompting diners to kiss on camera.

TGI Friday’s much-hyped “Mobile Mistletoe” drones drew first blood in their New York City debut on Dec. 4 at the chain’s beloved Sheepshead Bay location when one of them hit our intrepid photographer right in the face.

The two remote-controlled helicopters dangling sprigs of mistletoe were intended to spread holiday romance, but one of them flew out of control and clipped Courier photographer Georgine Benvenuto in the nose with one of its spinning, uncovered blades.

“It literally chipped off a tip of my nose,” said Benvenuto, using tissues to stanch the blood. “It took off part of my nose and cut me here, right under my chin.”

Benvenuto said she’s just thankful she wasn’t blinded in the name of love.

“Thank god it didn’t go anywhere under my eye — that is my livelihood.”

Drone operator David Quiones said an accident like this had never happened before, and even blamed our reporter for the bloodshed.

Quiones had encouraged our reporter to let him land the smaller of the two aircraft on her hand, but she flinched when the 10-inch drone touched down — and he said that is what caused the four-bladed flying machine to careen into the face of our photographer nearby. But Benvenuto insisted that the responsibility lies with the man operating the controls.

“He is the one controlling it — he needs to be more careful,” she said.

A spokeswoman for TGI Friday’s insisted that earlier Mobile Mistletoe events in Long Island and Texas incurred no casualties and dismissed concerns about further injuries — even from the much larger, 23-inch drone sporting six uncovered propellers — saying that customers will stay clear of the whirling, five-inch blades.

“We do not let consumers touch it,” said Frances Karkosak, a spokeswoman for the restaurant chain.

Diners at the Harkness Avenue eatery were more amused than threatened by the kiss-coaxing drones looming overhead, saying Benvenuto’s injury was just a flesh wound.

“It was like a scratch on her nose,” said Karim Turner of Yonkers, who didn’t witness the incident but saw a photo of the result. “I’ve seen far more worse blood than that.”

Another man, who happily kissed his wife under the heavy downdraft of the larger drone, said the flying toy might even make a good Christmas gift for his wife.

“If you wanna bring it to the house, she’s gonna blow dry her hair with it,” said George Gonzales, who has been coming to TGI Friday’s with his wife for their twice-a-week “date night” for almost 16 years.

Quiones isn’t worried that the drone strike on Benvenuto will be the kiss of death for the restaurant chain’s Mobile Mistletoe holiday promotion, saying that people won’t be scared away because they already know — and disregard — the risks.

“If people get hurt, they’re going to come regardless. People get hurt in airplanes, they still fly,” Quiones said. “There is a risk involved — anything flying, there is risk.”

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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