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Charges laid after laser pointed at HAWCS and patrol units
Investigators have laid multiple drug, weapons and Aeronautics Act charges following an incident where a laser was pointed at several officers.
On Friday, July 17, 2020, at approximately 2:50 a.m., Helicopter Air Watch for Community Safety (HAWCS) was responding to a call for service when a laser was pointed into the eyes of the Tactical Flight Officer working in HAWCS. Minutes later, a laser was also shone into the eyes of patrol officers who were in two different marked police vehicles in the downtown area. The Tactical Flight Officer was able to determine that the source of the laser came from an apartment located in the 200 block of 15 Avenue S.E.
Patrol units attended the apartment and conducted a door knock, however the occupants refused to answer the door. Later that day, investigators were able to collect additional evidence and as a result conducted a search warrant on the apartment.
The following items were seized during the search:
- 993.2 grams of methamphetamine, worth approximately $60,000
- $20,725 in Canadian currency
- A Class 3B laser
- Approximately 20 kg of an unknown substance, suspected to be a cutting agent
- A sawed-off shotgun
- A Browning .308 Winchester rifle
- Numerous rounds of ammunition
- Other items related to drug trafficking and fraud
“Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a serious offence that we will investigate thoroughly,” says Staff Sergeant Jodi Gach of the CPS District 1 General Investigations Unit. “In this case, investigators came together very quickly to identify the offender, and as a result a significant amount of methamphetamine and firearms were seized by police.”
Above: Police photo of laser seized from Kamran Sattar. Below: Similar-looking lasers are available on eBay's U.S. site. The seller states this laser is 5 milliwatts — the highest legal power for a laser to be sold as a pointer in the U.S.
There had been previous reports of laser interference in late June 2020.
From the Nanaimo News Bulletin and CTV News
He was said to have received injuries to his eyes; the nature and severity of the injuries were not reported.
Transport Canada opened an investigation into the incident.
From AeroTime News Hub, official CADORS report. See also Canadian airline pilots' March 11 2020 reaction to this and other laser incidents.
On February 15, 2020 at approximately 8:50 p.m., an Ornge aircraft was struck by a green laser in the area of Richmond and Sherbourne Street in the downtown Toronto area. The aircraft was on route back to base at Billy Bishop Airport after completing a call to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The aircraft returned to base without further incident. A report was filed with Toronto Police for investigation as well as a Directed Bright Light Illumination Report with Transport Canada.
As a result of the strike, an Ornge pilot and paramedic sustained an eye injury and required evaluation from a physician at a local Toronto hospital.
A video of the strike was captured by the flight crew and provided to Toronto Police.
Pointing lasers at aircraft can:
- Distract pilots
- Cause temporary or permanent blindness
- Create a glare in the cockpit affecting pilot vision
- Cause further injury to Ornge patients
- Distract or injure Ornge paramedic
Under the Aeronautics Act, if an individual is convicted of pointing a laser at an aircraft, they could face up to:
- $100,000 in fines
- 5 years in prison
- Or both
Ornge encourages anyone who witnessed this incident to contact Toronto Police and Transport Canada. Anyone witnessing lasers being pointed towards aircraft can contact their local police or Transport Canada.
In 2019, Ornge had three reported laser strikes on our aircraft. In 2020, there have been five reported laser strikes on our aircraft.
For more information about laser strikes, feel free to visit this Laser Strike Campaign page by Transport Canada.
From an Ornge press release. No further information on the status of the pilot and paramedic was available.
According to the Regina's captain, the aircrew had been wearing protective safety lenses "just in case."
The exact date of the incident was not reported but came sometime in mid- to late June 2019.
A report by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute said the laser came from a tanker, and that "there was no obvious link between alleged attacks [to U.S. aircraft in the South China Sea and near Djibouti] and the laser that was aimed at Canada's surveillance helicopter."
A CBC News article a day earlier said Canadian military "reported that someone on board a Chinese fishing boat pointed a laser at a Canadian CH-148 Cyclone helicopter operating near the Strait of Taiwan recently. No one was injured in that incident and there no was damage to the aircraft. It is unclear whether fishing vessel was part of the People's Armed Forces Maritime Militia, which operates a host of civilian vessels in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea."
It is not known if these were two separate incidents, or if there was a single laser incident with some confusion over whether the source was a tanker or a fishing boat.
From the Canadian Global Affairs Institute via The Maritime Executive, and CBC News
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police searched for, but did not find, a suspect.
From Global News
The Airbus A319 had 113 passengers onboard when the incident occurred in November 2017. The captain was able to safely land the aircraft.
The report said that several other aircraft also reported laser light at the same point in their approach, for two nights in a row. The light was reported to be coming from persons in a park.
From mid-November to December 6 2017, there were 23 laser illuminations of commercial aircraft in the Toronto area. Nationwide, there were 381 laser strikes as of the first week of December 2017, down from the approximately 600 incidents reported in 2015 and 2016.
From The Star
The next night, a green laser beam was pointed for 5-10 seconds at a commercial aircraft as it was preparing to land in Charlottetown, which is about 60 km east of Fernwood. The beam came from the Brackley Beach area about 15 km northwest of the Charlottetown Airport, at about 11 pm local time. Neither pilot in the WestJet aircraft looked into the light; they were able to land without incident.
RCMP on July 17 asked the public for help in finding the perpetrators of these incidents.
A follow-up news story quoted a former pilot as saying the person responsible should “face justice.” He said it was a “very dangerous thing to have happen to you, and they are so destructive… Make the penalties very severe when they’re caught.”
In Canada, shining a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense punishable to up to five years in prison and/or up to $100,000.
On July 18, a witness contacted RCMP to say he was on Brackley Beach from 10:00 to 11:30 pm. He said a child of about 10-12 years old was using a laser to point at several things, including two aircraft. He said the child was tracing the path of a plane, but was not trying to shine it in the cockpit.
The child and his or her family is not known. RCMP said charges might not be placed in this case: “It does appear that this specific incident was a child at play and not a direct criminal offence. That being said, the child was in the custodial guardianship of two adults and RCMP are asking that items of this nature not be used for entertainment and not be provided to young children as they are unaware of the danger that they can inflict."
The director general for civil aviation, Aaron McCrorie, said there were 333 reported incidents in 2012, 590 incidents in 2015, and 527 in 2016. He said there was only one reported laser/aircraft incident in PEI in the past five years; it took place in 2015.
McCrorie said there have been no accidents in Canada due to such incidents but there have been some cases of permanent eye damage to pilots.
From CBC News (initial report, follow-up, witness report, McCrorie quotes) and OHS Canada
Note: LaserPointerSafety reached out to Transport Canada for clarification about McCrorie’s claim of cases of permanent eye damage to pilots, since we are unaware of any such documented cases with civil pilots either in Canada or worldwide. On July 20 2017, we received an email response from Julie Leroux, Communications Advisor, Media Relations, Transport Canada:
“Laser pointers have serious effects that distract and temporarily blind pilots. While Transport Canada has received reports of pilots experiencing eye damage as a result of a laser strike, due to doctor-patient confidentiality, the department is not in a position to provide details about specific cases.
Generally, pilots report suffering from eye irritation or light sensitivity after being struck in the eye by a laser, which could seriously affect their ability to fly safely.
Mr. Aaron McCrorie, Director General, Civil Aviation, was referring to Canadian cases only.”
On July 26 2017, Leroux further clarified via email:
"Mr. Aaron McCrorie, Director General, Civil Aviation, was misquoted in the [CBC News] story you reference. During the interview he stated Transport Canada is aware of incidents that caused temporary damage to pilots’ eyes, but did not refer to a specific case of permanent blinding. Transport Canada is not aware of any cases where a pilot suffered permanent eye damage as the result of a laser strike."
She was arrested and charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight. Schenker faces a maximum jail sentence of five years, and a fine up to $100,000.
A police spokesperson said their helicopters experience about six laser pointer incidents each year. He said “It’s been fairly quiet lately, which is really good.”
From the Edmonton Journal, and RedDeer News Now via the Canadian Press
The severity of the medical complaint, and the pilot’s diagnosis and treatment, were not known. A WestJet spokesperson cited privacy concerns.
The Boeing 737 flight originated in Toronto. The laser was said to have come from “a wooded area in the middle of nowhere”, when the plane was at about 3,500 feet altitude.
According to CBC, there were 40 laser incidents reported in Alberta in May 2016, and 500 incidents in all of Canada in 2015. (According to the Ottawa Citizen, there were 502 laser illuminations in the Transport Canada CADORS database in 2014, and 663 incidents in 2015.)
Royal Canadian Mounted Police from the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo were investigating the incident.
From CBC, CTV News and the National Post
An infrared camera onboard the aircraft helped the crew locate the source of the laser beam. Ground officers found the pellet gun, which 19-year-old Nicholas Caranci had thrown to the ground as he ran away. The IR camera helped the helicopter crew direct officers to the teen’s location.
In an attempt to escape arrest, Nicholas Carianci ran from the court at right and hopped over a fence, after throwing his pellet gun with a laser sight into weeds (green circle). Thanks to the helicopter IR surveillance camera, police were able to pick up both the teen and the pellet gun.
Caranci was arrested and charged with mischief endangering life, unlawfully engaging in behavior that endangers an aircraft, and projecting a bright light source into navigable airspace.
From the Mirror
Sharma’s lawyer said the teen “was goofing around to see how high [the laser] could project into the sky”, and did not intend to create a hazard.
From the Winnipeg Sun
The incident occurred September 23 2014. The laser was pointed at the plane for around 2-4 minutes. Police are looking for the perpetrator.
Earlier in the month, on September 5, a Porter Airlines flight from Toronto was flashed with a green laser as it approached the Ottawa runway, according to CBC News.
A WestJet spokesperson said the pilots were cleared to fly and there was no permanent damage: “... there are real health repercussions for being exposed to a laser beam, so we do have a protocol in place where they will get checked out and there is also follow-ups.”
Click to read more...
The pilot was able to identify the source location of the laser. He then landed and sought medical treatment.
Ground officers stopped a vehicle and arrested the man.
From CTV News Toronto
In the first incident, around 11:30 pm, a laser beam was aimed at the cockpit of a landing plane. Police were able to find five youths on a roof in south Regina. Of the three boys and two girls, one of the boys had a laser pointer. No one was charged though police were still investigating.
In the second incident, just before 2:30 am, the laser light came from north Regina and was aimed at a plane flying over south Regina. No suspects were identified.
From CBC News Saskatchewan
There were no reports of the laser’s effect immediately available.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, “a similar 2009 lasing incident left an Ornge pilot with serious eye damage and grounded for several weeks after he was hit by a laser beam while flying at about 2,000 feet over the Gatineau Hills.”
Statistics from Transport Canada list 461 reported laser incidents in 2013 -- an increase from the 357 reported in 2012. The Air Canada Pilots’ Association has asked for criminal penalties and more government control over laser devices.
From the Ottawa Citizen
About one hour later, a driver reported being blinded by a light in the same area.
Police asked anyone with information to call their Crime Stoppers line.
From 660 News
These are the two most recent Edmonton incidents:
- On September 6 2013, the city police Air-1 helicopter was repeatedly hit by a laser in the west Edmonton area. Two teens were arrested, a 17-year-old male and a 15-year-old female; charges are pending.
- On September 7 2013, multiple arrests were made after Air-1 was hit for several minutes in north Edmonton. Three males, aged 18, 19 and 20, were charged with assault with a weapon, possession of an offensive weapon, endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight, and creating a hazard to aviation safety.
During the press event, police said that users ignore warnings that come with lasers, that they often don’t realize or understand the hazard, that a ban on lasers is not the answer, and that their pilots do fly with laser protective eyewear. Details are at this LaserPointerSafety.com story.
From the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun. Thanks to Keith Murland for bringing this to our attention.
A Calgary police officer holds up protective glasses of the type used by air crews to protect from laser pointers and other bright lights
Click to read more...
During the incident, the pilot put on protective eyewear specifically designed for laser incidents. The tactical flight officer was said to have “extreme anxiety” and was temporarily flashblinded during the incident. Afterwards he had “spotty blindness and a minor headache.” Police said the Class 3 laser was capable of causing permanent blindness and burning skin.
A video taken from the helicopter is at the York Region link.
Unusually, the laser illumination was said to have taken place at noon, according toThe Star.
Crew on the helicopter directed ground officers to a parking lot where Richard McIntosh was arrested. His green Class IIIB laser was seized by police.
From The Star and 680 News
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: Although The Star stated the incident took place at noon, this could be a misreading of the time on the police report. We have seen other stories where one news outlet said an incident occurred during daytime while others reported (correctly) that the time was, for example, 12:45 AM and not 12:45 PM.
The man was arrested on unspecified charges, most likely assault with a weapon and charges under the Aeronautics Act for aiming a bright light at an aircraft.
This was the fourth lasing incident for AIR 1 since February 1 2011.
From the Winnipeg Free Press and CJOB
He was sentenced to 15 hours community service work. He had faced a maximum penalty of CDN $100,000 and up to five years in prison.
Friesen told the court he was testing the range of the laser and did not realize that aiming at a helicopter could be dangerous. The judge agreed, saying “You do seem like you were genuinely surprised by the consequences of your actions.”
From the Winnipeg Sun. The original March 2011 story in LaserPointerSafety.com is here.
The April 21 2012 incident happened in Uxbridge, 75 km northeast of Toronto. It was looking for vandals when struck by a laser numerous times over several minutes. The helicopter set down at a nearby police station, and the pilot was taken to a hospital. He was released with no apparent damage, but a police spokesperson said it could take several days for damage to emerge.
20-year-old Melissa Perry of Uxbridge was arrested, and charged with lessening the ability of a crew member to perform duties, interfering with the duties of a crew member, projecting a bright light at an aircraft, mischief endangering life, assault with a weapon and common nuisance. It is unclear from news reports whether Perry was associated with the vandals.
From DurhamRegion.com, Global Toronto and Canada.com
Analysis from LaserPointerSafety.com: If the laser is really Class 3A (less than 5 mW maximum power), the pilot’s eyes were unharmed. The Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance for a 5 mW laser with a tight 1 milliradian beam is 52 feet. This means that laser safety experts have concluded that no eye injury could occur past 52 feet. If the pilot was airborne, his eyes were likely much farther than 52 feet from the laser. (Global Toronto reported the helicopter was at 5000 feet, but that is very high for vandal surveillance; 500 feet is more reasonable.)
Plus, as explained on the Laser Safety Calculations page, there are additional factors that go into the NOHD. The result of these factors is that a 5 mW laser would have to be within 16.4 feet of a person’s eyes before there was a 50/50 chance of causing a minimally detectable eye injury. This is not opinion; this is scientific fact based on how the NOHD is derived.
UPDATE, NOVEMBER 2012: On September 21 2012, Perry pleaded guilty to one charge of violating the Aviation Act by shining a bright light at an aircraft. She was fined $500. All other charges were dropped by the Crown. From DurhamRegion.com.
From CTV News
On December 1 2011, Alexander William Schiller of Langley, B.C. was arrested for the crime. The 30-year-old was charged under the Aeronautics Act with endangering an aircraft by interfering with a crew member, and by creating an airspace hazard. He also faces a criminal charge of mischief. Schiller’s court appearance is scheduled for September 2012.
It is unclear what caused the delay in arresting Schiller, or the delay in bringing him to trial.
The red “A” locates East 17th Ave. and St. Catherines Street, where Schiller is alleged to have aimed a laser pointer at an RCMP helicopter.
According to a CBC report, “only a handful” of Canadians have been prosecuted. A pilot spokesperson was quoted as saying “The justice system is sort of behind the times on this.”
From CBC News and LangleyAdvance
From 660 News and CBC News
The family came forward after police asked for the public’s assistance in finding the source of the beam. The family said they had just bought the laser pointer, and one of the younger children was pointing it into the sky. The said there was no intent to cause a problem and they now know better.
Because there was no criminal intent, no charges were brought.
From the Barrie Examiner. The paper also carried an earlier article describing the incident and how police were looking for the laser source.
There were 182 laser illuminations in Canada in 2010, according to Transport Canada. Fourteen of these took place in Alberta.
From the Calgary Herald
From the Toronto Sun, CJOB 68 and CBC News (which also has photos of the laser pointer and the man being arrested)
Roughly’s home is within a kilometer of Oshawa Airport
The teenager faces the following charges:
- Project Bright Light Source at Aircraft (Canadian Aviation Act)
- Interfere with Performance of Duties of any Crew Member (Aeronautics Act)
- Lessen the Ability of any Crew Member to Perform Duties (Aeronautics Act)
- Assault with a Weapon Causing Bodily Harm
- Mischief Endangering Life
- Common Nuisance
From 680 News and Oye! Times
UPDATE August 8 2011: Investigators announced the arrests of five more teens: Dale Branton, Alana Capesky, Andrew Capesky, Curtis Lee, and Aaron Mountjoy. Each person is 18 years old. The five teens were charged with the same counts as Roughly (see list above). According to the National Post, “Witness testimony and unspecified investigations led police to allege that the six accused took turns passing the laser around and aiming it at the helicopter.” From CityTV Toronto, Canoe.ca, DurhamRegion.com and the National Post
His lawyer said Saulnier had an interest in astronomy, and was “not thinking about the consequences, he’s just thinking and wondering whether his beam can hit what he thought was the belly of the airplane.... In hindsight, he knows the seriousness of it and accepts responsibility...”
From the Calgary Herald
UPDATE July 28 2011: Representatives of the Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada said Saulnier was not a RASC member, and did not represent responsible amateur astronomy. More details are here.
Provincial Judge Paul Sully said the August 19 2009 incident was "not as serious” as the prosecutor described, since the pilot did not lose control, but instead was "momentarily blinded from viewing his instruments [and] was able to complete his orbits.” In addition, the judge noted that the pilot was familiar with the dangers of laser light.
Judge Sully also rejected the prosecution’s notion that the man should have culpability: “The offender had a momentary loss of common sense which resulted from his failure to recognize the high standard of care needed when handling a laser.”Click to read more...
Sheldon Friesen, 26, faces provincial charges of assault with a weapon, and possible federal charges with a maximum penalty of a CDN $100,000 fine and/or five years in prison.
When asked why he aimed at an aircraft, Friesen said “Just to see the distance. You point it up into the sky and see the beam go forever. I don’t know how far forever is, so I see something in the sky that’s worth reflecting, well why not? .... It was supposed to be for simple entertainment rather than having to cause someone danger like that.”
It took only about five minutes from the time he first aimed at the helicopter, to his arrest by three ground-based units.
Just before his arrest, Sheldon Friesen demonstrates to police officers his laser pointer (green glow at bottom center).
From the Winnipeg Sun, Winnipeg Free Press, and Global News/Global Winnipeg
UPDATE, May 1 2012: Friesen pleaded guilty to directing a bright light source at an aircraft. He was sentenced to 15 hours community service. The judge agreed that he did not realize the danger: “You do seem like you were genuinely surprised by the consequences of your actions.” From the Winnipeg Sun.
York police said there have been four incidents so far in 2011, and more than 12 in 2010.
On Feb. 18 they put out a press release reminding parents that laser pointers are not a toy, and that charges can be brought for illuminating civilian and police aircraft. The charges include:
- Projection of a bright light source at an aircraft;
- Endangering the safety of an aircraft;
- Obstructing police;
- Mischief endangering life and;
- Assaulting police.
Saulnier said he bought the $100 laser for his work as a contractor and as an amateur astronomer. He cooperated with police and was “remorseful and took full responsibility for his actions” according to a police spokesman.
From the Calgary Herald
The Calgary Police Service’s Helicopter Air Watch for Community Safety (HAWC), was on patrol when hit by a green beam at 10:45 pm. The crew then put on protective glasses and began a 30-minute search during which they were hit two more times. During the incident, one runway was closed by the Calgary Airport Authority, as a safety precaution.
Police tracked the beam to McConnell’s home about 10 km (6 mi) away, arrested him and seized what they describe as a “high-powered laser”. McConnell claimed it was an accident: “I was playing with it inside the house and it hit a mirror. It’s not like I was inside pointing it at them. It’s pure coincidence.”
After the incident, the helicopter crew was grounded pending the results of eye tests to determine whether their vision was damaged.
From CBC News, the Vancouver Sun and the Calgary Herald
UPDATE May 31 2011: The Calgary Sun has a short article about initial judicial proceedings against McConnell. The trial phase should begin shortly. From the Calgary Sun.
UPDATE 2 June 19 2012: On June 18 2012, McConnell pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of mischief causing damage to property, and to projecting a bright light at an aircraft to cause a hazard under the Aeronautics Act.
He received a six month conditional sentence followed by six months of probation. The first two months of the conditional term will be under house arrest; the remaining four months he will have a curfew from 10 pm to 5 am. He also must complete 25 hours of community service and undergo counseling. Finally, he will not be allowed to possess laser pointers. Both McConnell’s lawyer and the crown prosecutor agreed that the sentencing conditions were an adequate punishment.
According to his lawyer, McConnell did not realize the seriousness of aiming a laser at an aircraft. He said the incident was due to “basically stupid curiosity.” From the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald.
It was not clear from the story what type of aircraft -- fixed wing or helicopter -- the pilot was flying at the time.
Captain Barry Wiszniowski of the Air Canada Pilots Association, stated "Our judicial system has to understand the severity of the consequences. It would be catastrophic if a pilot was impaired by a laser and lost all situational awareness."
More statistics and information from Canadian OH&S News.
David Mackow, 29, who pleaded guilty to the federal charge, was sentenced on Monday and ordered to pay the fine within 30 days or face jail time. He also has to forfeit his laser pointer.
In October 2007, Mackow shone the pointer, commonly used in boardroom presentations, from his Beltline apartment at the flight that was landing in Calgary.
The pilot reported the incident and Calgary police dispatched its HAWCS helicopter to investigate. Mackow then pointed the green beam into the helicopter.
More details are available from CBC News
CTV Toronto reported that "[t]his is estimated to be the sixth such incident in Toronto in the past year. About a dozen have occurred in Ontario, and more than 30 across Canada."
More details from CTV.ca