Laser strike interrupts Coast Guard training operation, endangers crews

65 Traverse CitySAVANNAH, Ga. – Two Coast Guard helicopter crews were targeted by a person using a green laser pointer near Richmond Hill, Monday evening.

No crewmembers aboard either helicopter were injured.

The helicopter crews, based out of Coast Guard Air Station Savannah, were performing training when they noticed a green laser trying to track their flight path. Both aircraft attempted to maneuver to avoid a direct laser strike but, despite their efforts, were still hit by the laser. The mission was aborted and both aircraft returned to base with no further incidents or damage to the aircraft.

Air Station Savannah is working with local authorities and the Federal Aviation Administration to identify the responsible parties and prevent future incidents. The investigation, coupled with the initial aircrew reports, has helped authorities narrow down the area from which the laser originated.

“Aircraft lasing is a serious problem that aircrews face, unfortunately, all too often,” said Cmdr. Louie Parks, executive officer of Air Station Savannah. “These incidents not only interrupt critical training and operations, they put our crewmembers’ lives in serious danger.”

The impact of laser strikes to the eyes of crewmembers can severely limit their abilities to safely and properly operate the aircraft. A direct hit can cause glaring, temporary loss of night vision, flash blindness, and even cause permanent eye damage.

“If a laser strikes an aircraft during a critical life-saving mission, it can seriously degrade our abilities to execute the case and save lives,” said Lt. Trent Meyers, a pilot at Air Station Savannah. “We urge the public to exercise care when using lasers and to not point them at any aircraft.”

Crews from Air Station Savannah regularly train in the Savannah and surrounding low country area in order to maintain proficiency in search and rescue operations and other critical Coast Guard missions.

Intentionally targeting an aircraft with a laser is not only extremely hazardous to aircraft and aircrew, it is a federal crime and a violation of Georgia state law. Federal law allows for a punishment of imprisonment of up to five years. Anyone witnessing this crime is strongly encouraged to immediately call 911 to report the incident.

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