SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Coast Guard is investigating three laser strike incidents during a five-day period that were aimed at Coast Guard aircraft in Aguadilla Bay, Puerto Rico, and warns the public that pointing handheld lasers at any aircraft and Coast Guard crews is dangerous and illegal.
The latest laser incident occurred April 25, while the crew of a Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65D helicopter was conducting a litter hoist of an injured woman from the old sugar pier structure in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
“Pointing a laser at an aircraft is irresponsible, illegal and dangerous,” said Lt. Hunter Blue, MH-65D Dolphin helicopter aircraft commander. “I was in disbelief to know that someone was pointing a laser at us during the middle of a rescue hoist at the sugar pier in Aguadilla, adding difficulty to an already complex life-saving mission. I am extremely proud of the performance and focus of our crew in completing a successful rescue and bringing the victim to the care of medical authorities.”
The other two laser strike incidents occurred April 20 and April 25, when the crews of two MH-65 Dolphin helicopters were lased multiple times during flight around Aguadilla Bay. No injuries to the crews were reported.
Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime and a felony offense under Title 18, United States Code, Section 39A. If found guilty, offenders could be fined up to $250,000 and sentenced to five years in prison.
Pilots affected by laser strikes regularly report temporary effects in vision, including: afterimage, flash blindness and temporary loss of night vision. In some cases, laser strike can result in permanent damage to a person’s eye sight. If a crew member is lased it severely compromises his ability to effectively response and safely operate the aircraft, ultimately endangering the safety and lives of crewmembers aboard and the general public.
Coast Guard personnel are working with federal and local law enforcement to investigate the incident. Anyone with possible information regarding the incident is asked to please contact the 911 emergency response system in Puerto Rico and the Coast Guard Investigative Service Resident Agent Office San Juan at 787-360-6856. Callers can remain anonymous.