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Laser-pointer incident forces Coast Guard helicopter to land

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 3:32 p.m. HST, Oct 24, 2012

Someone shined a laser pointer at a Coast Guard helicopter Tuesday night off Oahu, affecting two crew members and prompting the helicopter to return to base at Barbers Point, the Coast Guard said today.

The MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew was flying nearly two miles offshore of Oahu, the Coast Guard said.

The flight mechanic and rescue swimmer were affected, compromising their abilities to perform duties, the Coast Guard said. 

“Whether this was a malicious or just irresponsible act, it is critical that the public be aware of the seriousness of lasing an aircraft,” Capt. Timothy Gilbride, commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, said in a news release. “Not only does it risk the lives of the aircrew, it can delay rescue missions or disable crews, risking the lives of distressed mariners.”

Laser pointers can cause glare, after-image, flash blindness or temporary loss of night vision, all causing a great danger to the crew. If any aircrew member’s vision is compromised during a flight, Coast Guard flight rules dictate that the aircraft must abort their mission.

It is a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. The Coast Guard said people witnessing such an incident should report it to 911.

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