Multiple dangerous helicopter incidents prompt Coast Guard to seek help from community

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CLEVELAND — The Coast Guard is requesting help from the public to gather information about two recent incidents, involving green lasers directed at Coast Guard helicopters near Lenox Township, Michigan, and Clyde Township, Michigan, which put air crews in danger and resulted in aborted missions.

About 8:15 p.m. Oct. 17 a crew aboard a Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Detroit was conducting training near Lenox Township when a green laser was directed toward the helicopter. The pilot and co-pilot aboard the helicopter spotted the laser and immediately turned the aircraft away from it and returned to Air Station Detroit.

At 8:30 p.m. October 20th a different crew from Air Station Detroit was conducting training near Clyde Township when a green laser was directed toward the helicopter. The pilot, co-pilot, and aircrew members spotted the laser and immediately turned the aircraft away from it and returned to Air Station Detroit.

During both incidents the lasers appeared to track the helicopter as it moved. Both laser sources were traced back to areas of Lenox Township and Clyde Township.

Green lasers present a significant risk to flight safety, especially for helicopters working at low altitudes and aircraft taking off or landing and for boat crews operating at night. If any aircrew member’s vision is compromised during a flight, Coast Guard flight rules dictate that the aircraft must abort their mission. Laser pointers can cause the pilot to see a glare, afterimage, have flash blindness, or can even cause temporary loss of night vision. A delay during a search could also result in the death of the person or people the Coast Guard is attempting to save.

Additionally, aircrew members are taken off flight duty for a minimum of 24 hours and must have their eyes dilated and be cleared by a doctor before flying again. This temporary loss of flight crews has the potential to significantly affect the unit’s abilities to conduct search and rescue, training and homeland security missions.

Members of the public who witness someone committing this crime are strongly encouraged to immediately call 911 to report the incident.

The Federal Aviation Administration reports lasing incidents rose 931 percent from 2006 to 2013. Shining any laser at an aircraft is a federal offense under 14 CFR 19.11.

Several people have been convicted under this and similar state laws. These convictions have resulted in prison terms as long as five years, fines of up to $11,000 and five years probation.

Anyone with information about these cases should contact the Coast Guard Ninth District Command Center at (216) 902-6117. A monetary reward could be awarded if the information leads to an arrest and conviction.

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