Coast Guard helicopter grounded after laser incident

MH-65PORT ANGELES, Wash. — A Coast Guard helicopter crew was forced to cut a training mission short after they were targeted by someone with a laser near Port Angeles Monday night.

The MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew was airborne when a laser was shined at them around 6:30 p.m, forcing the crew to abort the mission and return immediately to Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles, where they landed safely.

No injuries were reported, but all crew members are grounded until they are cleared by medical personnel as laser strikes can cause permanent eye damage.

During nighttime missions, laser beams can also cause temporary loss of night vision, glaring and flash blindness, putting the crew members’ lives in jeopardy.

“The public should report this type of incident to local law enforcement,” said Lt. Cmdr. Greg Lynch, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter pilot at Air Station Port Angeles. “A laser can be just as dangerous as shooting a gun in bringing down an aircraft and crew. Unless they are held accountable, offenders may never learn that their actions are extremely dangerous and illegal.”

Coast Guard personnel are working with local law enforcement to investigate the incident. Anyone with possible information regarding the incident is asked to please contact the Coast Guard Investigative Service at 360-417-5823.

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