Coast Guard warns that pointing lasers at responders is dangerous and illegal

SAN DIEGO Ð The crew of a Coast Guard Air Station San Diego-based MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter lowers a trail line while approaching a Coast Guard Station San Diego 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew during training off the coast of San Diego, Tuesday, July 31, 2012. The helicopter crew lowered a rescue basket to the boat crew once they had control of the trail line. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Connie Terrell.MIAMI – The Coast Guard is warning the public that pointing handheld lasers at Coast Guard boat and aircrews is dangerous and illegal.

There have been three instances of lasers targeting Coast Guard assets in the past three weeks, two within the past 24 hours.

Tuesday, a Coast Guard 87-foot patrol boat was hit with a laser while patrolling near Sanibel Island, Florida. Crewmembers reported the green laser came from land. Also on Tuesday, while on patrol, an MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter crew reported being lased by a green laser originating from land one nautical mile south of Punta Salina, Puerto Rico.

On May 10th a Coast Guard cutter reported a laser strike while conducting a safety inspection of a recreational vessel in the vicinity of the Venetian Causeway in Miami.

There were no reported injuries associated with the incidents. All three laser cases are being investigated by Coast Guard Investigative Service.

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 prision.

Laser pointers are inexpensive to obtain and can extend over two miles in range. 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 onboard and the general public.

Anyone witnessing this crime is strongly encouraged to report it to local law enforcement.

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