A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
The flight continued to Orlando's airport and landed about 15 minutes after the incident.
At FAA's request, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office was asked to investigate a possible location for the laser. Deputies found a house with a bright green porch light, but the residents said they did not own a laser pointer.
The pilot was referred for medical examination, as per WestJet's standard operating procedure.
WestJet released a statement: "Laser incidents pose a serious concern to crew and aircraft safety and have serious repercussions for those found to be shining lasers in a manner that could result in injury or damage. These incidents are reported immediately to local authorities for further investigation. Pilots are extremely focused during all phases of flight, but especially during take-off and landing, when most laser incidents occur. When any sort of light enters the flight deck, pilots are trained to look away and maintain focus but they must also maintain vigilant with respect to their surroundings and monitor the apron prior to landing. Pilots take on an incredible responsibility controlling an aircraft, and it is WestJet’s duty to ensure a safe work environment for them to operate in. Any pilot who reports being struck by a laser is required for safety and health reasons to have an ophthalmology evaluation."
From the Aviation Voice, WESH.com, News965.com, and ClickOrlando.com
COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM
It is almost a certainty that the pilot's eyes were not burned by the laser exposure. A laser beam that traveled 10,000 feet would have to be extraordinarily powerful to even potentially cause an eye injury.
Laser beams spread out with distance. At 10,000 feet a laser beam would expand to be at least three feet wide. Only a fraction of the beam power would go through the pupil of the pilot's eye. (In fact, of the original laser irradiance, only 0.003 percent would go through the pilot's pupil.)
What power would it take? A 190 watt laser with a very narrow 1 milliradian beam has a Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance of about 10,000 feet. This means the laser light is generally considered safe after the NOHD distance. This does not mean that just inside the NOHD there would be an injury. Laser safety standards have a built in "safety factor" or "reduction factor."
To have a 50/50 chance of causing the smallest medically detectable eye injury at a distance of 10,000 feet, the laser would have to be about 1,900 watts at a 1 mrad divergence.
By comparison, the most powerful handheld lasers currently available are in the 3 watt range with claimed wattage (not confirmed) up to about 6 watts. Most laser pointers used in incidents are less than 1 watt.
It may be that someone aimed a non-handheld, plug-in-the-wall laser beam at the pilot. Even here, 190 to 1,900 watts is fairly powerful. There are some industrial and research lasers much more powerful than this, but to the best of our knowledge the only non-handheld lasers involved in aircraft lasings have been from laser light shows. For such shows, 60 to 80 watts is about the most powerful from a single laser source. There were no reported outdoor laser light shows the night of the WestJet incident.
Some news articles gave an impression that, because the pilot's eyes were burned, he or she went for a medical examination. But as explained above, this is routine policy. WestJet requires "any pilot who reports being struck by a laser … to have an ophthalmology evaluation."
It could be that the pilot had an eye effect, such as irritation from the bright flash of light, or that the pilot rubbed his or her eyes so hard that they scratched their cornea — a painful condition which heals.
For more information
More information about laser eye effects on pilots is here. A quick summary is that 1) there have been no proven or documented eye injuries to pilots according to U.S. FAA, U.K. CAA and Transport Canada, and 2) top laser safety experts have written that "There is no evidence to suggest that lasers pointed at airplane cockpits damage pilots’ eyesight."
A table listing eye effects and incidents reported to U.S. FAA in past years is on the laser/aircraft incident statistics page.
The aircraft was on routine patrol when it was illuminated by laser light from an apartment balcony. Ground officers were directed to a high-rise condo where they found Vladamir Altman. He told officers he was the person who aimed at the helicopter.
On March 9 2019 the helicopter was searching for a car that had eluded a police stop, when it was repeatedly illuminated by green laser light. The search was abandoned so the helicopter could locate the laser suspect.
Ground units arrested David Gill of Leeds.
At trial he pleaded not guilty, but was convicted of endangering the safety of an aircraft.
From the Daily Mail
HOUSTON – A 20-year-old Houston man has entered a guilty plea to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Bryan Aldana, 20, admitted that on June 23 2018, he pointed a green laser light at an Airbus AS350 B2 helicopter while it was in the air.
On June 23, 2018, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) agents were flying a the helicopter on routine law enforcement patrol. At approximately 9:00 p.m., they were headed in the northwest direction along highway US-290 when agents observed a flash of green light coming from the left side of the aircraft. At the time, they were at approximately 1000 feet elevation and traveling at a speed of 70-80 knots.
The pilot reversed the aircraft back to the southeast direction and was illuminated again by the green laser, which was powerful enough to light up the entire cockpit. The light caused a glare in the pilot’s eyes and obstructed his vision, forcing him to turn his head and maneuver the Airbus away from it. The pilot also had to close and shield his eyes from the flashing green laser inside the cockpit.
The investigation led to the source of the light at a business near the intersection of Hollister and Pitner Roads in Houston. With the help of the Houston Police Department (HPD) and the store’s security cameras, Aldana was soon identified.
Video recordings show Aldana aiming a green laser up in the sky several times and a green laser pointer at the helicopter while sitting in a chair next to a silver sedan. He was also seen placing the green laser device through the opening of the silver sedan window on to the backseat.
Officers seized the laser and submitted it to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist to be examined. The scientist concluded the laser pointer is a Class IIIB laser system and produced a “laser beam” which could result in serious and possibly permanent retinal damage.
U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes accepted the plea and set sentencing for July 22 2019. At that time, Aldana faces up to five years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The FBI, HPD and DPS conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Porto is prosecuting the case.
In addition to the aircraft illumination, Eugene L. Robinson also aimed green laser light at police helicopters during the same night. He was indicted on four counts of interfering with the operation of an aircraft, and pleaded guilty to the Southwest illumination.
Robinson had purchased the laser for $20 and aimed it at the aircraft to see how far it would go. He called it "a boneheaded mistake … I wasn't trying to hurt anybody."
In addition to the jail time and probation, Robinson is required to make a public service announcement telling viewers not to aim laser pointers at aircraft.
From the Columbus Dispatch
Justin Shorey, 37, was arrested and charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
According to Fox News, in San Antonio there were 48 reports of lasers pointed at aircraft in 2016, 62 reports in 2017, and 74 reports from January through November 2018.
From Fox San Antonio. Thanks to Peter Smith and Leon McLin for bringing this to our attention.
On September 15 2018 officers were flying above Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, searching for men carrying knives, when their helicopter was illuminated with "dazzling" green light three times; each time lasting 3-5 seconds. The pilot took immediate action to avoid the light.
Ground officers arrested Dimitrov under the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act. He could have been jailed for up to five years and have been given an unlimited fine.
At trial on January 29 2019, Dimitrov pleaded guilty. His lawyer said Dimitrov thought he was aiming the laser at a drone which was an "extremely ridiculous" decision but that he was of good character.
During sentencing on February 18 2019, the judge said the outcome could have been "fatal and catastrophic" and gave Dimitrov a six-month jail sentence as a deterrent.
From BBC England News
Ground officers arrested 42-year-old Sherryol Elton Clack, Jr. with a green laser pointer.
Two weeks later, FBI agents interviewed Clack. He said his friend had purchased the laser pointer and claimed the light could reach the moon. Clack then decided to aim it at a helicopter. He said this was done out of "stupidity" and he did not intend to harm anyone.
Sherryol Elton Clack, Jr.
On February 15 2019 Clack took a plea deal for the offense of Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft. Details of the deal were not available. If the judge approves the plea deal, Clack will be sentenced later to a term of up to five years in prison.
In a January 29 2019 appeal, police said they are asking for witnesses of past laser events, as well as to notify police if they become aware of a current laser aimed at aircraft so officers can respond.
The six past incidents of concern are:
- At 7.30pm on 24 October 2018 when two military Apaches flying together near Enborne were targeted.
- At 6.45pm on 30 November 2018 a pilot reported a green laser being shone approximately five miles west of Newbury.
- At 5.45pm on 12 December 2018 a laser was shone at a military Apache helicopter traveling over Marsh Benham
- At 5.35pm on 12 December 2018 a laser strike took place against a plane in the Welford area
- At 5.45pm on 8 January 2019 a report was received that a laser was shone at aircraft flying over Newbury
- At 5.50pm on 9 January 2019 at a civilian helicopter in the vicinity of Newbury Racecourse
A police spokesperson said "We are keeping an open mind as to whether any of the incidents are linked."
From the Thames Valley Police
The aviation authority did not give any absolute numbers of laser incidents, though the statement implied there were multiple illuminations on October 28.
Persons caught aiming lasers at aircraft can be prosecuted under the Solomon Island Civil Aviation Act 2008, section 213. They can be imprisoned for up to 14 years and fined up to SI$300,000 (about USD $37,000).
News of the CAASI warning comes almost exactly one year after an almost identical announcement from CAASI.
On July 18, "numerous" Columbus Police Department helicopters were repeatedly illuminated by a green laser beam. (It is not clear if this happened before, during or after the illumination of the Southwest flight.)
Ground units located Eugene Lamont Robinson, 36, and confiscated a six-inch "Laser 303" device. He was found at a location about 10 miles from the airport.
A "Laser 303" is a generic type of handheld laser, usually well over the 5 mW U.S. limit for laser pointers. It uses one 18650 battery and costs as little as USD $10.
Robinson was indicted on four counts of Interfering with the Operation of an Aircraft with a Laser. This is a second degree felony; he could receive up to 20 years in jail if convicted.
Robinson will be arraigned on September 12 2018.
UPDATED May 2 2019: Robinson was sentenced on May 1 2019 to county jail for 30 days, and given one year probation. In addition to the jail time and probation, Robinson is required to make a public service announcement telling viewers not to aim laser pointers at aircraft.
US: UPDATED - Florida woman arrested for aiming laser at sheriff's helicopter. Knew it was wrong; charges later dropped.
Jacqueline Robledo, 33, of Lake Worth, was arrested. She told officers she was aware that the laser light could cause blindness. She was charged with misuse of a laser lighting device and was held on $3,000 bond.
From the Palm Beach Post, Tampa Bay Times and NBC-2.com
UPDATED August 12 2018 - Charges against Jacqueline Robledo were dropped on August 9 2018. There was no reason given. Robledo did not have any previous criminal history. From myPalmBeachPost.com
The California Highway Patrol received a number of calls from motorists who saw or were illuminated by the laser light.
James Gilbert Trujillo, 33, was arrested on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft in the June 6 incident. He will appear in court June 11.
From the Victorville Daily Press and San Bernardino Sun. This news item was also filed under the Non-aviation incident news section.
The incident happened during the week of April 8-14. There have been two previous incidents, also involving Hawaiian Airline planes.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it is illegal to aim laser beams at aircraft or their flight path. Penalties are up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
The first incident in American Samoa when an aircraft reported a laser beam happened in March 2011.
From Radio New Zealand
The unnamed man was a passenger in a car when he aimed at the helicopter. The aircrew radioed to a ground unit that stopped the car. The man told the officer that a misdemeanor warrant had been issued for his arrest.
He was charged on the warrant and for violating his probation. Apparently, he was not charged for the laser offense.
From the Omaha World-Herald
The NPAS crew contacted police in Preston, Lancashire who located and “detained the offender.” It is not known how much the persistent laser light disrupted the search for the woman. She was later found by a member of the public after a social media alert was posted.
From the Lancashire Post
US: Man shines laser near Sea-Tac Airport and at police helicopter: "Didn't think it was a big deal"
On March 13 2018, the Sea-Tac control tower notified the helicopter, Guardian 1, that a laser was being aimed at inbound aircraft. The approximate location was the Burien Transit Center bus station. The helicopter was able to locate a man, who pointed a green laser beam at the aircraft. Officers on the ground arrested the man, who was not named in press reports.
According to the arresting officers, the man said he was showing his friend a new laser, and the man was “accidentally” aiming near the airport. The man also said he deliberately aimed the laser at the helicopter but “didn’t think it was a big deal.”
The laser caused a brief interruption of SeaTac Airport flight duties and prevented pilots from looking outside the aircraft.
From the Sky Valley Chronicle, KIRO, and Q13FOX.
On August 15, 2017, the Lehigh Valley Health Network MedEvac 7 was preparing to land when it was illuminated by a green laser beam. There was no injury to the crew. Timothy M. Ebert was arrested and charged with risking a catastrophe, possessing an instrument of crime, and three counts of recklessly endangering another person.
Timothy M. Ebert
Ebert pleaded guilty to the laser-related charges, plus charges in five other cases including driving under the influence, fleeing or eluding police, driving under suspension, driving an unregistered vehicle, driving the wrong way, possession of a prohibited offensive weapon, possession of a small amount of marijuana, two counts each of delivery of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, and three counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.
In addition to serving prison time, Ebert must pay costs, $1300 in fines, $500 to the Substance Abuse Education Fund, perform 10 hours of community service and submit a DNA sample to authorities.
From the Republican Herald
In a statement the Acting Director of Civil Aviation Brian Halisanau said according to the Solomon Islands Civil Aviation Act 2008 Section 213, offender convicted of committing the use of high powered laser pointers against any operating aircraft would be liable to pay a penalty of SI$300,000 (about USD $37,000) or serve a 14-year term imprisonment.
Halisanau said the warning came as pilots recently reported cases of high powered laser green strike incidents on aircraft arriving and departing Honiara International Airport at night.
He said some of these incidents took place immediately after take-off, and probably before the pilots had fully transitioned onto instrument flight or when the aircraft was established on approach to the runway.
Halisanau added that this was dangerous, as direct eye exposure to one of these laser beams could result in momentary “flash blindness'” for the pilots at a critical stage of the aircraft approach or departure.
At about 9:40 pm on October 29 2017, and at 2:30 am the next morning, the pilots of a United Airlines plane reported green laser light being aimed at them.
The laser was traced to Rawit, who had been fishing in waters off Ruo in Chuuk State. Police said the laser was similar to “military grade” laser pointers; it was six inches long with a flashlight mode and red and green lasers.
Rawit admitted that each time he saw the plane overhead, he aimed his laser pointer at the aircraft.
In FSM, it is not illegal to own that type of laser pointer, but it is illegal to point it at an aircraft.
Rawit could be jailed for up to five years, and could be fined up to $10,000.
From Marianas Variety
The helicopter crew directed ground officers to a home in Bradenton, where the teen was arrested. According to a sheriff’s office spokesperson, the boy was not able to explain why he pointed the laser at the helicopter.
The unnamed youth was taken to the Juvenile Booking Facility.
From the Bradenton Herald
On October 22 2017, Roger Shane John struck a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department helicopter five to six times with a green laser, causing visual interference and disrupting an air support response to a domestic violence call.
At around the same time, John also aimed a laser 3-4 times at CalStar 12, an emergency medical helicopter.
Conviction would result in jail time of up to five years, and a fine of up to $250,000.
John had numerous prior run-ins with law enforcement, including convictions for domestic violence, identity theft, possession of a controlled substance for sale, being a felon in possession of a firearm and making threats with intent to terrorize.
Roger Shane John
The illuminations occurred as they flew over Ashdown Forest, open heathland 30 miles south of London. Police said “We believe the person or persons responsible were located in the Hartfield area.” They asked for anyone with information to call them.
From Crawley News 24
At about 12:45 am on October 22 2017, the helicopter was providing support to ground units responding to a domestic violence disturbance when it was continuously illuminated by a green laser beam. The tactical flight officer was hit three times in the eyes.
The pilot had momentary flashblindness and lost night vision. The tactical flight officer had watering eyes, discomfort and pain. There was no reported eye injury.
The helicopter broke off from its mission to pursue the laser perpetrator.
The beam came from the driver’s side of a car traveling north on Highway 99 in Fresno. Ground officers pursued Alvarez’s car, which began a high-speed chase. Twice during the chase Alvarez stopped to drop off passengers. The car eventually crashed into a median. Alvarez got out and ran towards neighboring homes. He was apprehended by officers in the backyard of a home after a short foot pursuit.
Alvarez had minor injuries from the crash and was taken to a hospital for treatment. At the hospital, a baggie was found with substances suspected to be marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Inside the car’s driver side door pocket police found a laser marked “Laser 303” with a green multi-dot beam (perhaps a diffraction grating making a star-field-like pattern) and a danger label.
After an FBI investigation, Alvarez was charged with violating federal law by knowingly aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft or its flight path. In addition, there were two previous felony warrants out for Alvarez’s arrest on other, unspecified charges.
From a report by Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica. The criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California is here.
UPDATED May 7 2018 — Michael Vincent Alvarez was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the October 22 2017 incident. From KMPH and the Fresno Bee.
Respiratory therapist Justin Misuraca was sitting in the co-pilot’s seat of a Flight for Life plane, helping the pilot watch for other air traffic, when a bright green light filled his vision. He closed his eyes and looked away; when he opened his eyes he was blinded for a few seconds.
A few days later he saw an eye specialist. Misuraca said the specialist told him “…there was a burn all the way to the back of my eye, and I’m missing 30 percent of my vision in an upside-down V.” He was told the burn was “half a millimeter from my optic nerve.”
This screenshot from the KUSA 9news segment “Next” shows Justin Misuraca with a triangular blur overlay that the program says represents the visual effect of the laser injury. The area is highlighted below between the green lines to better define the area.
Misuraca reported this in an October 25 2017 interview with a reporter, so the vision loss was still present over a month after the laser illumination.
The pilot on the September 15 flight also reported temporary blindness but has no permanent injury.
According to Flight for Life, there have been “at least a dozen times in the last couple of years” that the organization’s aircraft have been targeted by a laser beam. The source of the September 15 laser illumination is unknown.
From October 25 and October 26 reports by 9news.com
Coast Guard seeks tips, information on recent laser attacks on helicopters
MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. — The Coast Guard is asking the public for tips or information regarding recent laser attacks aimed against rescue helicopter crews.
The latest attack occurred Tuesday evening near the Arcata-Eureka airport as an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay was conducting a practice instrument approach.
The helicopter was southeast of the airport when a green laser coming from a wooded area about three miles east of McKinleyville, was shined directly at the aircraft. The pilots quickly landed so the crew members could receive medical checkups.
“Laser attacks against aircraft are a crime because of the danger they present to aviators and the public," said Capt. Greg Fuller, the commander of Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay. “Our aircrews put their own lives on the line on a daily basis to save others in distress. These laser incidents significantly impact our ability to respond and we ask the public's help in identifying the sources.”
It is a federal crime, as well as a violation of California state law to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. Punishment under state law ranges from civil penalties of $1,000 up to $2,000 and three years imprisonment. Federal law allows for a punishment of imprisonment of up to five years.
Lasers, including common laser pointers, can cause glare, flash blindness, temporary loss of night vision and more permanent damage such as blind spots, cataracts and partial or total loss of visual acuity.
The Coast Guard encourages anyone who sees someone lasing any aircraft to call 911 to report the crime immediately.
Information about some California aviation laser incidents, including arrests and convictions of laser aircraft attackers, can be seen here: http://laserpointersafety.com/news/news/aviation-incidents_files/tag-california.php
One pilot said “We want this to stop before we have to dig one of our aircraft out of the beach…. Incidents like this are happening more and more frequently, three different occasions recently, and that’s just our pilots – there are many more flying clubs and school at Blackpool Airport.”
An incident on September 22 2017 happened to a pilot flying prior to a fireworks competition. A laser came from the crowd, deliberately tracking the aircraft. He said “The whole cockpit lit up, it was a real shock.”
Three frames from the Sept. 22 incident show the laser, barely visible in the first photo, lighting up the cockpit window in the second photo and nearly obscuring all ground lights in the third photo.
Blackpool Airport is in Lancashire, in northwest England. There do not appear to be any suspects or arrests in the recent incidents.
From The Gazette
The helicopter was searching for a violent robbery suspect. The crew was forced to stop the search in order to identify the source of the laser.
Laser light from a direct hit overwhelms the camera lens for one frame of the CHP helicopter’s surveillance
A second later, the suspect can be seen (left) walking with what appears to be a child (right) in the middle of the road.
The CHP crew directed ground officers to a San Leandro house where the woman was arrested and a laser pointer was confiscated. CHP said the woman had other lasers in her home as well.
The FBI is investigating.
From the Mercury News and KRON (link to video is here)
On February 19 2009, Joshua Don Park allegedly pointed a green laser beam two times at the Apache helicopter as it was flying over the Bluffdale area, about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City. Pilot Ken Samson said “It was strong enough that it illuminated my window, but not the entire cabin.” According to Samson, the laser was brighter than a laser pen, but was not a “military grade” laser.
The air crew notified the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office of the approximate location. A deputy went door to door. When they encountered Park, the 30-year-old said he had a laser pointer to play with his cats. Park admitted that he had shined a laser at the aircraft.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Park “believed that the helicopter was way too far away for it to make an impact or even see [sic]”
Park was charged on March 11 2009 with one count of interference with the operation of an aircraft. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
From KSL.com (Feb 25 arrest report, March 11 charge) and Deseret News
UPDATED - August 31 2017: A National Guard pilot told the South Valley Journal that Park committed suicide shortly before he could be sentenced. Park died September 17 2009, according to a September 20 obituary in the Deseret News which included this photo:
The South Valley Journal article implied that Park’s suicide was linked to the laser incident, and that it changed how the National Guard reacted to laser incidents. The article stated “Since that sobering incident, no Utah National Guard pilots have reported lasing incidents to the FBI—but not for lack of occurrences.”
The incident happened around 11 pm on August 8 2017. An off-duty police officer happened to see the pair on a hotel balcony in Torremolinos, a coastal resort town about 13 miles south of the airport.
Photo from Spanish police showing laser light coming from a balcony
Two laser pens were seized:
Pilots of at least three commercial aircraft had complained about being dazzled with green light as they prepared to land.
While the British father and son were not arrested, Spanish National Police called it a “very serious violation” and said the fine could be from €30,000 to €600,000 (USD $35,000 to $600,000).
From Sky News, the Daily Mail and ITV News
They notified ground officers who located the vehicle, found a laser inside, and arrested 18-year-old Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero, aka Abrahan Nasser. The officers also found marijuana in the vehicle.
Abrahan Saloman Nass Romero
Romero was charged with pointing a laser at an aircraft — a felony — and with possession of marijuana up to one-half ounce. Records show Romero had previously been arrested for marijuana possession, for speeding, and for driving without a license.
Since January 2017 there have been 19 incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration of lasers being pointed at aircraft in the Charlotte area.
From the Charlotte Observer and WSCO TV
The control tower had called police around 10 pm after the two laser illuminations. Using binoculars, an air traffic controller had spotted a person in the area where the laser light came from.
Police picked up Gerardo Sanchez “because he was the only one walking near the airport” at the time. Sanchez had a laser on him, and told an officer he had been pointing the laser in different directions. He said he had aimed it in the general direction of an aircraft, and at the control tower several times. Sanchez said he was studying to be a pilot at the ATP Flight School, located at the airport; ATP had not confirmed whether Sanchez was a student.
Two air traffic controllers had laser light in their eyes. One pilot told police “the green laser did affect him for about one or two seconds because it was pointed at his eyes.” The other pilot saw the beam but the light was not pointed directly at him.
Sanchez was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver/pilot, which is a felony.
From the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Note: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, also located in Daytona Beach, lists a “Gerardo Sanchez” as a student of theirs who was hired April 2014 as an instructor pilot by the Saudi Flight Academy. The photo shows an older person who does not resemble the 23-year-old Gerardo Sanchez who claimed to be a student pilot. We are mentioning this to avoid any confusion between the two Sanchez’s.
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."
On July 5 2017, the helicopter pilots saw green laser light in the cockpit. They were able to trace it to a location in Johns Creek where ground officers arrested Marius Lizunas. He told them he was using a laser rangefinder to “check the range” to the aircraft.
Lizunas was charged with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.
On December 29 2016, Jay Scott Howell aimed the laser 11 times at the helicopter. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on February 7 2017 on one count of aiming the laser. The maximum penalty is up to five years in federal prison and/or up to a $250,000 fine.
Howell pleaded guilty on April 10 2017 to the charge.
While U.S. sentencing guidelines recommended an 18-24 month prison term, the judge sentenced Howell to one year of probation. The judge cited Howell’s age (53), limited criminal history and remorse for his actions. The prosecuting U.S. attorney did not object to the sentence, telling the judge “He’s the perfect candidate. I don’t anticipate ever seeing Mr. Howell again.”
If probation is revoked, Howell could serve up to the maximum sentence of five years.
From the Tulsa World
The aircraft was on patrol when it was illuminated around 10:30 pm. The beam was traced to a house. Ground officers arrested Darren Williams.
The teen’s father said Darren was unaware that it was illegal to aim a laser at aircraft. “It was an honest mistake. He is really remorseful about it.”
He was charged on both state and federal counts. On the federal charge, he could face up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000.
From News9, Fox25 and KOCO News 5
The incident happened February 21 2015. Asarel Felix Lombera used a $20 green laser pointer to track a police helicopter for about 15 seconds. The light entered the cockpit and momentarily dazed a crew member.
In February 2017 Lombera pleaded guilty. In his plea agreement, he said he was aware that what he did was dangerous and distracting. At sentencing in May, Lombera received a probationary sentence of community service and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
From The Daily Bulletin
Connor Grant Brown
Brown faces state charges of reckless endangerment, obstructing and hindering, and shining a laser pointer at an aircraft.
According to a trooper who was in the helicopter, the laser had a power of 100 milliwatts. The U.S. limit for laser pointers is 5 milliwatts. [The laser itself is legal, but it is illegal to sell lasers over 5 milliwatts as a “pointer” or for pointing purposes. And of course it is illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft in the U.S.]
The trooper also said “he experienced spots on his vision after the laser hit the helicopter, as if he had just looked at the sun. While most sun spots disappear in a few blinks, the spots from the laser did not. He also experienced minor pain that he described to be similar to windburn.”
The trooper said the helicopter pilot described his vision as “sandy.”
A statement of probable cause described Brown’s explanation to troopers regarding why he aimed the laser at the helicopter.
At about 1 am Brown woke up due to a “buzzing sound.” The unknown aircraft flew over his house “every minute, at some points shaking the windows.” Brown aimed his $20 internet-purchased laser “to signal the operator to stop flying so close to the house.”
After police showed up at his house, “my heart sank in my chest.” He apologized and said he did not mean to cause any harm from his “horrible, horrible mistake… From start to finish, what I did was wrong.”
From CBS Baltimore, Carroll County Times initial story, Carroll County Times follow-up story, and Carroll County Times editorial “Use common sense with laser pointers.” Thanks to Capt. Dan Hewett and Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
US: UPDATED - Convicted laser offender apologizes, saying he lost everything for three seconds of aiming laser at helicopter
According to an FBI press release, Barry Lee Bowser Jr., then 51 years old, aimed “the beam of a laser at Air-1, a Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter that was providing support to ground units responding to a man armed with a gun. At trial, the evidence established that the mission was diverted when the pilot of Air-1 was struck by direct hits from a powerful green laser that illuminated the cockpit and tracked the aircraft near the approach path to Meadows Field Airport. The laser strikes caused the pilot to experience flash blindness, eye discomfort, and pain that lasted several hours. In imposing sentence on September 28 2015, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill found that Bowser had obstructed justice before trial by concealing the laser and providing false statements to law enforcement and at trial through his false testimony about the offense.”
On September 23 2016, Bowser wrote to apologize, and to describe how his life had been ruined:
I'm writing this letter to apologize to the community of Bakersfield and to the Kern County Sheriff's Department —especially to the flight crew of KCSO Air One, piloted by Deputy Austin.
I was convicted of one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft and sentenced to 24 months in a federal penitentiary, then 36 more months of supervised release for a total of 60 months — five years — plus ordered to pay a special assessment fee of $10,000. I am very lucky the pilot was an expert and highly skilled at piloting the helicopter.
I also want to educate anyone who owns a laser and might be inclined to use it the way I did: Learn from my mistake. I am now just getting out of prison. I have paid dearly, for I have lost my girlfriend, my dog, my home, my vehicle. Everything I owned, everything I have worked for 30 years of my life, is gone.
For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life. I am now 54 years old and I have no one and nothing but the clothes I was given when I was released from prison.
From Bakersfield.com. Original LaserPointerSafety.com story about Bowser is here. There is a small discrepancy; the FBI said Bowser’s sentence was 21 months while Bowser stated it was 24 months.
UPDATED December 20 2016 — An extensive profile of Barry Bowser’s laser pointer incident, trial, and his life before and after his arrest, was published by Ars Technica. The 4,000 word article by editor Cyrus Farivar describes a convicted criminal and meth addict who said he was trying to go straight and clean.
On the evening of September 11 2014 he was bored and found a laser pointer which had been given to him as a dog toy. The dog soon tired of playing so Bowser aimed at a billboard, and two radio towers before he hit something in the sky — the Sheriff’s Office helicopter. When police arrived, Bowser told them he was testing the laser’s capabilities. During his trial in federal court, the case hinged on Bowser’s intent. (The applicable federal law states “Whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft … shall be fined … or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.)
Prosecutor Karen Escobar said the lasing was done knowingly: “[Y]our common sense tells you there was an aiming because there were direct hits of the aircraft, and there was more than one strike.” Bowser’s public defender said there was no intent — Bowser had not meant to aim a laser pointer at a helicopter. After 4.5 hours of deliberation, Bowser was found guilty.
As stated in Bowser’s September 23 2016 letter, the conviction and jail time was ruinous: “For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life.”
Farivar’s profile is one of the few in-depth examinations of a laser pointer arrest, conviction and aftermath. His article also links to an annotated transcript of day 1 and of day 2 of Bowser’s trial, and annotated related court documents. Farivar has previously reported a number of stories about laser pointer misuse for Ars Technica.
Evans, 25, of San Antonio, Texas, worked as a security guard in a medical clinic. Workers at the clinic told FBI agents that Evans had laser pointers of different colors and sometimes aimed them at employees.
On October 27 2015, Evans stood outside the clinic and lit up a WOAI-TV news helicopter three times with a green laser:
Evans in the clinic parking lot, aiming his laser pointer
The laser beam goes directly into the cockpit
The helicopter pilot was able to help ground officers find Evans’ location. Evans initially denied his involvement to investigating FBI agents. After questioning with a polygraph, Evans said he did hit the helicopter and in fact had previously aimed lasers at other aircraft as well.
Evans will be sentenced December 12. He could receive up to five years in federal prison and be fined up to $250,000.
This is the second guilty plea in Texas this month. Juan Peralez, 57, of La Joya Texas pleaded guilty on September 2 to aiming a laser pointer at a Border Patrol Helicopter.
From the Hastings Tribune, Houston Chronicle and News4SanAntonio
The incident occurred on June 20 2016, when the helicopter pilot had to take evasive action to avoid the green beam. Another crew member guided ground officers to the laser perpetrator, where Peralez was arrested.
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
On November 14, 2015, the OCSD helicopter was responding to a traffic accident, looking for any victims who may have been thrown from an overturned vehicle. The helicopter was illuminated multiple times by green laser light. The tactical flight officer called the multiple strikes “relentless.”
The helicopter crew was able to direct police on the ground to the backyard of a residence. Lopez was arrested on state charges of pointing a laser at an aircraft. After an investigation conducted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Ana Police Department and the FBI, Lopez was indicted on federal charges which culminated in his August 2016 prison sentence.
“This defendant knew that pointing the laser at the helicopter could cause the pilot blindness and endanger those operating the aircraft, but committed the crime anyway,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This was a senseless crime that warrants the sentence imposed by the court.”
United States District Judge Andrew J. Guilford, said the offense was a “distraction” to the people in the air and that “people could die.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark Takla of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.
From a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California
During the March 9 2016 incident, intermittent flashes from the laser caused the pilot to take evasive action. The search for a missing person was called off, and instead the crew tracked the laser beam to two men in a park in the Newfoundpool area of Leicester. When ground officers apprehended the men, each man said the other had been using the laser.
Martin Gary Jayes, 46, had 71 criminal convictions on his record and was drunk when arrested for the laser offense. He was sentenced to eight months in jail for recklessly or negligently endangering the safety of an aircraft and those traveling within it.
His neighbor Oktawain Kamil Plaskiewicz, 22, was sentenced to six months in jail.
The judge said the men’s actions had “grave risks” and was “life-threatening.”
Jayes’ lawyer said “This offense was committed in drink by someone who knew better. He’s badly let himself down.”
Plaskiewicz’s lawyer said “He knows he’s acted in a very stupid way. There was no intention to bring down a helicopter. If it wasn’t so serious it might have been a childhood prank.”
From the Leicester Mercury. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
The incident took place in Richmond Hill, Georgia. The Coast Guard urged anyone with information to come forward.
[Note: The publicity from this led to widespread news stories that the 20 total incidents which happened that night was a large number. In fact, it was only slightly more than the current 2015 average of 18.3 reported incidents per night. More on this in a story in the News/Statistics section.]
One person tracked the aircraft and tweeted the resulting map (below). It shows aircraft converging on Atlantic Terminal Mall, an urban shopping center across Atlantic Avenue from the Barclays Center sports arena near the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill areas of Brooklyn.
WNBC Chopper 4 pilot Dennis Protsko helped police locate the source of the laser, a group of people in the rear of the “Energy Fuel” health food restaurant on Fulton Street.
From WNBC Chopper 4
According to NBCNewYork, “the cook was found holding a frying pan with the laser inside it when police went to the restaurant. He told police pointing the laser was meant to be a joke, according to sources. “
Two people were taken into custody. The cook, 20-year-old Ossieo Silva of the Flatbush-Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn, was arrested. He was charged with two counts of reckless endangerment; one is a felony and one is a misdemeanor.
The New York Daily News quoted court documents as saying that Silva told police he never pointed a light at helicopters before, and he “thought it would be funny.” Bail was set at $20,000.
Some stories — and the tweet above — said three news helicopters, from WABC, WCBS and WNBC were involved in Brooklyn. Other stories said there were two helicopters, from WCBS and WNBC. The confusion may be due to the fact that WABC’s NewsCopter 7 was involved in an earlier New Jersey lasing incident. (It may also be that the WABC aircraft flew from New Jersey to the Brooklyn scene and thus was involved in both incidents.)
About thirty minutes before the Brooklyn incident, a laser was pointed at a WABC news helicopter flying over Elizabeth, New Jersey, which is about 12 miles straight-line from the Atlantic Terminal Mall and is near Newark Liberty Airport. The crew contacted police and assisted them in locating the source. A 26-year-old man was arrested and charged with interference with transportation and utilizing a laser toward an aircraft.
Still frame, paused from WABC NewsCopter 7 video
Beginning at about 10 pm local time on July 21, until about 1 am on July 22, eight aircraft flying near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport reported seeing green laser light. These included flights from American Airlines, Envoy (formerly American Eagle), Southwest Airlines and FedEx. The aircraft were at altitudes between 7,000 and 10,000 feet when they reported seeing the laser light.
Air traffic controllers routed other aircraft around the area where the laser beams originated. A DPS helicopter sent to investigate was also targeted by the laser beam, which led deputies to a home in Alvarado, which is about 35 miles south-southwest of DFW.
The three persons in the home initially denied doing anything wrong. Once deputies said there was video from the helicopter, Austin Lawrence Siferd admitted pointing a laser at the aircraft, “not realizing it was actually strong enough to reach the aircraft,” said a law enforcement spokesperson.
The local NBC station quoted Siferd’s fiancée, Brenda Arnold, as saying she purchased the laser for him: “I think that he probably did think that they were just looking at the stars. I really don't think he meant anything intentional. I really don’t.”
Siferd was charged with illumination of an aircraft by an intense light, a misdemeanor. Bond was set at $300. More severe federal charges are pending.
Austin Lawrence Siferd
According to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson, no one was injured by the laser light. She also said there had been 59 reported laser incidents in North Texas from January 1 to July 22, 2015.
From the Associated Press via the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News and NBCDFW.com
UPDATED October 14 2016: Siferd was sentenced to six months in federal prison. He had pleaded guilty to a felony indictment in March 2016. From CBSDFW and the Star-Telegram.
Pablo Cesar Sahagun, 26, was also charged with possessing seven “cricket bombs,” made by filling an empty CO2 cartridge with gunpowder or flash powder, and attaching a fuse. If convicted, Sahagun would face an additional ten years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of California press release dated July 21 2015
UPDATED - April 18 2016: Sahagun was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He had pleaded guilty on January 11 2016. From Bakersfield.com
All planes involved landed safely, and there were no reports of injuries [but see Updated information below]. Flight controllers did have to change the approach path so subsequent aircraft could avoid the area.
In a statement, the FAA said there were a total of 11 aircraft in and around New Jersey that reported laser illuminations. [Note: Due to the distances involved, it is not possible that all 11 were struck by the same laser beam.]
- Porter 141 was at 3,000 feet 15 miles southwest of Newark Liberty International Airport
- American Airlines 1472 was 20 miles southwest of Newark Airport
- United Airlines was at 9,000 feet seven miles from Newark Airport
- American Airlines 966 was at 3,00 feet 15 miles south of Newark Airport
- Delta Air Lines 504, Shuttle America 3489 and JetBlue 828 were at 3,000 feet four miles south of the Outerbridge Crossing [this is about 15 miles from Newark Airport]
- JetBlue 2779 did not report its location
- American Airlines 348 was at 9,000 feet over New Jersey heading to LaGuardia Airport
- One aircraft reported it was illuminated when it was over Ocean City [about 100 miles from Newark Airport]
- Republic Airlines 4632 reported it was at 9,000 feet seven miles northeast of Robbinsville [about 30 miles from Newark Airport]. The flight was heading to Pittsburgh, PA
In 2014, there were 28 laser incidents reported at Newark, 37 at LaGuardia and 17 at JFK Airport. As of mid-May 2015, there were 21 laser incidents at Newark, 36 at LaGuardia, and 5 at JFK.
From WWLP.com, CBS New York, My9NJ.com and WABC New York
UPDATED July 16 2015 6:51 PM EDT: ABC News stated that “the pilot of one plane reported having blurred vision, according to federal officials.”
Ground officers arrested Hines on four counts of endangerment: two for the police helicopter occupants, and two for the pilots of a fixed wing aircraft that was earlier hit by the laser.
The police pilots reported having headaches and seeing spots due to the laser exposure.
From the Foothills Focus
The contest took place on July 7 2015. One of the aircraft was a Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Ground officers arrested Rolando Espinoza, 22, and Shannan Winemiller, 21. Espinoza told deputies “he thought he heard that it’s illegal to point lasers at airplanes, but he wasn’t sure at the time.” Each man was charged with pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot, a third degree felony in Florida.
From January 1 to July 7 2015, there were 47 laser/aircraft incidents reported to the FBI in Central and Southwest Florida. Sixteen of these were in the Orlando area.
Rolando Espinoza, left, and Shannan Winemiller
From the Orlando Sentinel
According to the FAA, the four flights, all taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport were American Airlines 185, Shuttle America 4213, and Delta Airlines 2292 and 2631. No injuries were reported.
New York Senator Charles Schumer repeated his previous support for the US government to ban “long-range” lasers. He said “We have to do something soon and not after a plane crashes.”
In an apparently unrelated incident at about 11:30 pm the same night, a Sun Country Airlines flight reported being illuminated with a green laser,
From CBS News and Newsday. Thanks to Kyle Strober for bringing the Newsday story to our attention.
The incident happened February 10 2014. The helicopter was helping to locate an Alzheimer’s patient. The green laser light caused the pilot “to become momentarily dazed by the intense light and caused him to lose the abiity to see outside the cockpit’s windows.”
From Inland News Today
The information about the crew member report came from an FAA spokesperson, Ian Gregor.
However, according to Frontier spokesperson Jim Faulkner speaking later, the pilot did not suffer an eye injury. After the plane landed, the pilot went to a hotel and did not seek medical care. Faulkner also said the incident did not affect any other flights.
From 8NewsNow.com, Fox5Vegas.com, and the Las Vegas Sun. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.
US: Appeals court says 30-month sentence for aiming laser at aircraft is too long; defendent did not know of laser risk
Gardenhire’s photo on Facebook, according to the blog LA Weekly.com
The judges sent the case back to the U.S. district court in Los Angeles for a new sentencing hearing under a new judge. Under the original sentencing guidelines, Gardenhire had been recommended for 27 to 33 months in prison taking into account the reckless endangerment charge, or 4 to 10 months in prison without the charge.
The appeals court noted that, prior to the March 2013 laser incident, a friend of Gardenhire said that shining a laser beam into another person’s eye could lead to blindness. The appeals court then went on to say that information was different from “knowing that a laser beam can be distracting to pilots who are both enclosed in a cockpit and at least 2,640 feet away. Nor did the government submit any evidence of what even an average person would know about the effects of aiming a laser beam at an aircraft…. That one knows that the laser is dangerous when pointed directly in a person’s eyes does not mean that one knows about the beam’s ability to expand and refract, rendering it particularly hazardous for pilots in an aircraft miles away, or that the danger is heightened at nighttime because the pilot’s eyes have adjusted to the dark.”
The court specifically referred to the lack of any notice, label or other information regarding the risk of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft: “Gardenhire heeded the only warning he was given—not to shine the laser directly in anyone’s eyes—and he was not immediately alerted to any additional risks he was creating by aiming the beam at an aircraft.”
US: UPDATED Two California men arrested for aiming laser at plane, 1 also charged with drug possession
The evening before, a pilot was temporarily disoriented by a green laser at about 9:18 pm while landing at Tehachapi Airport. The pilot reported the laser illumination to police. A Tehachapi Police Department officer arrived and was flown around the area by the pilot. The plane was again targeted. The source, a residence, was identified. The plane landed again, and police went to get a warrant to search the residence.
A few hours later, at 3:20 am, police served the search warrant. They found the laser device along with a half pound of methamphetamine worth $20,000, cash totaling $1,400, scales and drug paraphernalia, and an 8 mm Mauser rifle and ammunition.
Arrested were Daniel Roy Mahler, 47, and Mario Guillermo Manero, 52. Both were charged with discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. In addition, Mahler was charged with possession of controlled substance for sales, and maintaining a drug house.
UPDATED April 13 2015: In February 2015, Manero pleaded no contest. [The penalty, if any, was not stated in the news story.] He was arrested again in April 2015 for possession of child pornography, found during a firearms compliance check. A search warrant was obtained and several items were seized to try and identify potential victims. From the Bakersfield Californian.
Humberside Police helicopter photo of laser glare from February 11 2015 illumination
The men, aged 31 and 46, will appear at Beverley Magistrates Court on May 20 2015 on charges of endangering an aircraft, which has a penalty of up to two years in prison.
From BBC News and the Bridlington Free Press
Case 1: Johnny Alexander Quenga, 28, of Fresno
On March 5 2015, the Fresno Police Department helicopter Air 1 was illuminated by green laser light about six times over ten minutes. One crew member, who had been illuminated by lasers numerous times in the past, suffered temporary flashblindness, afterimages, a headache lasting several hours requiring pain medication, and dizziness. He said the beam was much brighter than in his past experience. The pilot had a momentary loss of night vision, and flew a wide orbit to avoid the beam. The pilot directed ground officers to the location.
However, a patrol car on the way to the suspect’s home was broadsided at an intersection by a Toyota 4Runner. The Jaws of Life were needed to rescue one of the officers. Both officers in the car were treated at a hospital for serious injuries. The officer driving was knocked unconscious, had upper body and leg injuries, and some chipped teeth. The passenger officer had a broken leg and a fracture in his back that may require surgery. (The 4Runner driver and passenger suffered minor injuries.)
The Fresno Police Department car that was broadsided on the way to arrest a man who aimed a laser pointer at an FPD helicopter. Two officers were seriously injured. Photo from YourCentralValley.com.
When officers finally reached Quenga’s home, they found he was listening to police department radio traffic. He said “he could hear everything the officers were saying and knew they were looking for him and [he] had possibly hidden the laser.” Quenga claimed the laser beam came from a house behind him. He further said he worked as a security guard and knew he could lose his job for misuse of a laser.
After the Southwest pilot reported the laser illumination, the helicopter located the source and sent ground units to investigate. A 15-year-old boy visiting his friend was found with the laser.
Police “explained the danger and legal repercussions” of aiming a laser at an aircraft to the teens. Charges were not filed because neither youth had a criminal record, and the teens expressed “remorse” at their actions.
From Fox 5 San Diego
ABC 7 News later reported that the pilot was “okay now”, and that the source is believed to be an industrial park in San Ramon.
The California Highway Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were notified. The FBI sent out an aircraft to try to find the laser source.
The pilot was flying for radio station KCBS in the San Francisco Bay area. San Ramon is about 20 miles west of Oakland. The KCBS traffic reporter in the plane, Ron Cervi, said he did not notice the laser until the pilot turned to him and said he had been struck by a laser beam “right in the eye.”
From KCBS and ABC 7 News
The suspect, realizing he had been spotted, took off in his car — with the laser. However, ground officers caught Polson at the entrance to his subdivision and took him to jail, where he was charged with misusing a laser device which is a felony, and for opposing a police officer during an arrest which is a misdemeanor.
According to the Tampa Tribune, in September 2013 Polson sent an email to the newspaper saying he had been harassed for several years by law enforcement helicopters and aircraft. He said the harassment occurred daily but “made no sense” because he is “no threat to anyone.”
From ABC Action News WFTS Tampa Bay and the Tampa Tribune
On the evening of March 9, the Federal Aviation Administration notified the New York Police Department aviation department that someone was pointing laser beams at aircraft landing and taking off from LaGuardia Airport. A helicopter was dispatched to try and “draw fire.” Nothing happened for about 20 minutes, until the helicopter flew a path similar to an aircraft landing approach. On the second pass, a laser was aimed at the helicopter.
Both pilots were hit. Said one, “You feel a strong tingle in your eyes. You have a burnt spot where you can’t see. It is very dangerous for any pilot to be blinded.”
Ground officers went to the apartment of Frank Egan, 36. His mother invited the officers inside, where they found a device labeled “Laser 303.” According to police, Egan admitted using the laser pointer. He said it was purchased for $50 in an Orlando shop while on vacation.
He was charged with assault on a police officer, felony assault, menacing a police officer, reckless endangerment, and criminal possession of a weapon.
The next day, March 10, Egan told reporters that he did not aim the beam and that he was sleeping at the time of the incident.
From NBC 4 New York, the New York Post and the New York Times
UPDATED March 14 2015: Frank Egan’s roommate and brother-in-law, Elehecer Balaguer, 54, claimed that he was the one using the laser pointer. According to the New York Times, Balaguer swore an oath in New York State Supreme Court on March 13 2015 that he, not Egan, was responsible: “Frank had nothing to do with it. I was the one that did it. It was just a kid thing. It was a stupid thing to do.” Balaguer first denied aiming at aircraft, then after being asked two more times, confessed “I pointed it at the plane, yes, thinking it was a …” and his voice trailed off. He then said “But I didn’t mean to hurt anybody.” According to Egan’s lawyer, Egan never told the police he used the laser, contrary to the police statement after Egan’s arrest. From the New York Times. A related article in the New York Times published March 12 2015 was entitled “Powerful Lasers Easy to Buy, Experts Say.” The New York Post called the laser “military-grade” and said it had been purchased while on vacation in Orlando.
Elehecer Balaguer in court
Click to read more...
UPDATED March 17 2015: Balaguer was charged on March 16 2015 in federal court with aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. This has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. FAA officials said they had to redirect traffic in and out of LaGuardia on March 9 to avoid going over the Bronx, where Balaguer and Egan lived. Balaguer’s attorney said the suspect “uses methadone every day and takes medication for bipolar disorder”, and that he was “harmless”: “It was stupidity, not venality.” From the Wall Street Journal.
UPDATED May 5 2015: Balaguer pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. He could face up to five years in prison. The judge said sentencing guidelines call for between 2 and 2 1/2 years. He said sentencing of Balauger would not be routine “Given his psychiatric history, given his apparent lack of any wrongful intent, I can see one set of arguments being made; on the other hand I can see a different set of arguments because of the danger presented,” said the judge. Sentencing was scheduled for September 9 2015. According to the New York Post, Balaguer is a disabled ex-heroin dealer who has a history of schizophrenia and left school after ninth grade. From CBS New York, the New York Post, and the New York Times.
UPDATED April 19 2019: Frank Egan received a $227,500 settlement from New York City. His lawsuit said police had falsely claimed that Egan had admitted to owning the laser found during the arrest. Egan said his picture was widely spread in the media, his reputation had suffered, and his wedding and honeymoon were disrupted by the arrest. A Law Department spokesman said "…it was in the city's best interest to settle this case." From the New York Daily News.
Damien Wade Conley was in a pickup truck on Interstate 85 on November 20 2013 when, stopped in traffic due to the accident, he repeatedly aimed a laser pointer out the front window towards the helicopters. One pilot said “When he hit us with that laser, the first thing I saw was the whole cockpit lit up green.”
Two views from WYYFF’s Sky4 helicopter, showing the beam from Conley’s vehicle being aimed close to the aircraft, and then aimed directly into the camera.
The HH-65C Dolphin helicopters were based in Detroit. “During both incidents the lasers appeared to track the helicopters as they moved,” said the agency.
The Coast Guard has strict rules requiring helicopters to abandon their missions if illuminated with laser light. Anyone exposed is taken off flight duty for 24 hours, has their eyes dilated and must be cleared by a doctor before flying again.
From Ars Technica and the Lansing State Journal
An officer in the helicopter, deputy Christopher Marchese said the crew was searching for a suspect when the cockpit was suddenly illuminated with a “big green light”. He was illuminated directly in his right eye, and another crew member was also hit in the eye. When the beam hit again, Marchese was able to see the laser beam and follow it down to Leiva’s location. Ground officers arrested Leiva, who admitted shining his laser at the helicopter.
Jonathan Alan Leiva
From January 1 to November 14 2014, there were 317 laser/aircraft incidents in Florida. 49 of these took place in Broward County, and 18 in adjacent Palm Beach County.
From WSFN News, Aviation News via the Sun Sentinel
Ground police who were directed by the helicopter to the laser’s source. The boy was given a warning. Police described the laser as an “astronomy” laser used to locate objects in the sky.
From the Baltimore Sun, WFMD, and CBS Baltimore
The incident occurred at about 1 am on June 1 2014. A DPS crew responded to a report of a medical helicopter having laser beams aimed at it, near Amarillo’s Tradewind Airport. As it searched, the DPS helicopter was struck by laser beams two or three times.
Suspects on the ground got into a van and drove away. The DPS aircraft followed them, directing ground officers who closed in. A laser pointer was seen in the van. They arrested Matthew George Dodgen, 35, and Christopher Anthony Cantrell, 33.
DPS referred the case to the FBI. The grand jury indicted on charges of aiming at an aircraft, which has a penalty of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. The men were also indicted on an “aiding and abetting” charge.
At the home, police seized two green laser pointers, a rifle, and “several display knives.” There were no arrests as of the next day. Police said a 30-year-old man was assisting with their inquiries.
From the West Australian via Yahoo! News
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...
A Coast Guard helicopter flying over Arcata [California] was targeted by an individual with a laser Friday evening [September 19 2014].
The MH-65D Dolphin crew was returning from an operation in southern California when the incident occurred. The laser shined directly in the eyes of both pilots and appeared to come from Janes Road at Upper Bay Road in Arcata.
Lieutenant Josh Smith was one of the pilots. "We were at approximately 1500 feet returning to the base when a green laser shined from left to right across the cockpit, shining in both our eyes (the pilots). We tried not to look at the laser, but flying on the instruments while looking away from it (the laser) is very difficult." Coast Guard pilots often fly solely by looking at the cockpit instruments without outside visual cues, but are trained to look away from a laser targeting the aircraft to protect their eyesight. Even if not directly hit by a laser, being forced to look away from the instruments can result in the pilot literally flying blind.
Click to read more...
WKMG-TV’s helicopter was filming a football game at Paul J. Hagerty High School with the incident occurred. A screenshot of footage from the TV helicopter shows the bright green flash as the beam is aimed directly at the camera:
A second later, as the beam is aimed away from the camera, the laser location is visible in the crowd at the end of the bleachers:
A close-up of the video footage, taken just after the laser was turned off, shows the two suspects. The bright object at lower left inside the yellow circle appears to be the laser, held in the left suspect’s right hand.
According to the station, a sheriff’s department helicopter was also hit; presumably it was responding to the WKMG illumination. Deputies told WKMG reporter Shaun Chaiyabhat that they talked to two teenaged suspects, but the deputies think the teens might have passed the laser pointer to friends in the crowd.
Chaiyabhat said “The Sheriff’s Office is taking this very seriously because they say it could be a federal crime.”
UPDATED - September 22 2014: WKMG ran a recap and short update on the story. The laser was not only pointed at the helicopters, but “players on the field were also complaining of getting flashed by the bright light.” As of the update, no arrests had been made.
In the new incident, the helicopter was conducting a search when it was hit numerous times at about 2:30 am. The unidentified man was arrested at his home in Meadow Springs, northeast of central Mandurah.
From the Mandurah Mail and ABC News
On August 25 2014, a police helicopter searching for a violent offender was continually blinded by a green laser beam. The pilot took evasive action and “was under immediate distress.”
According to Moore’s lawyer, Moore had been outside with his dog, playing with the laser, when he decided to aim at the helicopter: “He didn’t think it would hit or reach the aircraft.”
When ground officers, directed by the helicopter pilot, arrived at Moore’s home, he said he was “stupid” and “an idiot” for aiming at the helicopter.
Moore faced up to three years in jail and up to AUS $36,000 maximum fine. The judge said “the risk of damage was huge” and that Moore “should be grateful this offence was dealt with in this court” [instead of jail].
From the Mandurah Mail
Seventeen-year-old Daniel Castillo first pointed the laser at an aircraft coming into to land at Southwest Florida International Airport in South Fort Myers. A Lee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was sent to find the source. Castillo then aimed three times at the helicopter. Ground officers were directed to his location where he was arrested.
The youth told WZVN TV that he was playing with the laser and did not mean any harm. His uncle said that Castillo did not know it was wrong: “It’s not like it was intentional to hurt someone, he didn’t know the consequence.”
A spokesman for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Division said that laser illuminations can be “very distracting and devastating... All of our crews have been hit with lasers at one point or another. It’s just getting worse and worse.”
From WZVN ABC-7
According to Brundage’s lawyer, the teen wanted to see if the laser light could reach the CMPD helicopter. It did; Brundage told his parents and they called police. His lawyer says the youth is a “really good kid who made a really dumb decision” and is “ready to face up to” prosecution.
Smith Hayden Brundage
The FBI joined the local police department in investigating the incident. The federal agency has not decided whether to file federal charges.
According to the FAA, there were 34 laser shining incidents to date in 2014, in North Carolina; nine of these occurred in the Charlotte area.
From WFMY News 2, Time Warner Cable News and WSOC-TV
The aircraft was on patrol at 2:35 am, at about 1700 to 2000 feet altitude, looking for impaired drivers, when it was illuminated by a laser beam. The pilot was able to use infrared imaging to see Huffman, standing outside of a mobile home. Officers on the ground said Huffman initially denied having a laser pointer, then he suggested the pilots mistook it for a flashlight. He said he was not aware the plane was a State Patrol aircraft.
Huffman lives with his grandparents. His grandfather told Q13 Fox News that Aaron was ““playing with a toy flashlight and that’s exactly what it was — it was a toy flashlight. Just one with, what do you call it, a laser beam? Well, now I can understand it since 9/11, but I’m 60 years old, I can understand it. I think ahead. He’s 20 something years old. He don’t think ahead.”
In the comments section of a News Tribute story about Huffman’s arrest, a commenter named Heather Huffman wrote “He has not done this before the laser wasn’t even $7 to buy had no warning label and he didn’t even know it would reach that far.”
Click to read more...
On June 7 2014, a California Highway Patrol helicopter was responding to an incident in Oakland when the flight officer noticed two green flashes aimed at the aircraft. Ground officers found a laser pointer in Palomino’s pocket.
The helicopter had to break off a search with the Oakland Police Department, to deal with the laser incident. In an affidavit, an FBI special agent stated that “the two officers in the CHP helicopter had to divert their attention back and forth between searching for the source of the laser and providing assistance to the OPD.”
According to the Contra Costa Times, Palomino was taking a selfie video during the incident: “In the video, Palomino yelled at the helicopter pilot, ‘Look at this laser!’ A woman can be heard in the background saying, ‘Don't do that! You know you could blind ... You('re) going to go to jail if you do that. Don't do that!’”
According to SFGate, “In a recorded telephone conversation from jail, Palomino asked his mother in Spanish if she had recorded a news segment about the incident, which he described as an ‘embarrassment,’ Koh wrote [in the affidavit]. ‘Palomino’s mother replied by stating, ‘You should be embarrassed for doing dumb a– things.’ “
Palomino is free on $10,000 bond with a condition of a 6 pm curfew. The teen was released into the custody of his mother, and will be arraigned on September 5 2014.
From NBC Bay Area and SFGate
UPDATED December 2 2015 — Palomino was sentenced to five years probation, including six months of community confinement in a halfway house, 200 hours of community service, and not owning a laser pointer. He also will be required to educate people about the consequences of aiming laser pointers at aircraft. From the Contra Costa Times
From WA Today
On August 24 2013, as a DPS helicopter flew over Garland, a green laser light illuminated the cockpit. The crew identified three persons on the ground and sent officers. When confronted, the three men did not want to identify who did it, until they were told the helicopter had video of the incident and suspects. Chavez then confessed. He was arrested and the laser pointer was confiscated as evidence.
Chavez had been arrested just a few weeks earlier, on August 3 2013, on suspicion of drunken driving. (He was passed out in a car that had crashed into a pole. He told officers he had three 12-ounce beers earlier. He could not remember what city he had started driving from. When asked if his trouble remembering was because he was drunk, Chavez reportedly said “Probably.”)
He had served a four-month sentence in Lubbock, earlier in 2013, also for drunk driving.
From the Dallas Morning News
On January 28 2014, the tactical officer onboard a police helicopter saw a laser and was able to warn the pilot, who avoided the direct beam. The laser was aimed twice more towards the aircraft. The tactical officer reported the incident as it occurred on the main flight path to Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield.
Ground officers were sent to the source of the laser light, where they found Leanne Martin and a “powerful” laser pen she had purchased on eBay. During trial, she said she had been using the laser pen to excite her dog, when she heard the helicopter. Although her boyfriend warned her not to aim at the aircraft, she opened a window and pointed the laser at the helicopter. When she realized it was a police helicopter, she stopped.
Her lawyer said “Miss Martin is full of remorse. She knows it was stupid. She did not realise how powerful the laser was and had not seen the warning sticker which says to ‘avoid eye contact.’ As soon as she realised it was a police helicopter she stopped because she knew she should not do it. She cannot believe how daft she was. This was a complete one off. She has no previous convictions. When police asked her if she understood how serious it was, she said ‘I do now.’”
The judge said it was careless and reckless behavior that could have been catastrophic.
Martin was sentenced to 12 months of community order (probation/supervision) and 120 hours unpaid work, £85 in court costs, and a £60 victim surcharge.
From the Worksop Guardian
The pilot located the beam at the Brookstone Estate in Peel Green. Ground officers found a 13-year-old with a laser. They confiscated the laser and spoke to the youth. No charges were immediately filed, but an investigation is ongoing.
The pilot did not need or seek medical attention.
According to the chief inspector, there were five incidents “in the past couple of months.”
From the Manchester Evening News
Police are investigating.
The Deseret News quoted the president of the Utah General Aviation Association, who said he had a laser aimed at his private plane while landing near Sandy, Utah. The beam entered the cockpit several times over about 10 seconds. "When the laser came into the cockpit, I realized immediately what it was, and specifically didn't look at it," Dave Haymond said. "In fact, (I) shielded my eyes with my hand. I knew what it was and how dangerous it was … and was able to protect myself from it. But it's a bad deal."
From the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News
James McDonald told arresting officers that the noise had been bothering him. He apologized, saying that he did not know that pointing a laser at an aircraft was illegal.
He was charged with pointing a laser light at a pilot, which is a third-degree felony in Florida.
From the Sun Sentinel
US: FBI searching for laser perpetrator after Delta pilot's vision "severely disrupted" on landing an NY LaGuardia Airport
The FBI announced on March 28 that they were searching for suspects in the Queens Boulevard area of Elmhurst, Queens, New York City. The bureau’s Joint Terrorism Task Force offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator.
From the Associated Press via MassLive.com, and Queens Chronicle. This incident was widely reported as an injury to the pilot, in press headlines such as “FBI: Laser flashed at Delta cockpit injured pilot landing airplane at New York’s LaGuardia Airport”
In February 2014, Sumpter was arrested after a police helicopter was hit by a green laser beam. He told the arresting officer that he was responsible. When the pilot arrived, wearing his flight suit, Sumpter asked him, “Were you the one in the helicopter?”
From the Tampa Bay Times
The crew of a Transaero Boeing 777-200 flying from Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport to the Egyptian resort of Hurghada alerted air traffic controllers that someone in Maykop, in the Russian republic of Adygea (in Krasnodar) was shining a laser into the cockpit. "The unidentified person tried to blind the Transareo pilots for 20 seconds as they few over Maykop at 10:12 p.m. at an altitude of 11,000 meters," an official at the air traffic control center told Interfax.
The flight was not disrupted and continued to its destination.
In the second incident, someone aimed a green laser beam into the cockpit of UTair ATR-72 turboprop as it approached the Nizhny Novgorod airport to land at 10:55 p.m.. The plane, which had taken off from Moscow's Vnukovo Airport, safely landed.
It was no immediately clear how many passengers were on the two flights. But depending on the cabin configurations, the 777-200 can carry 300 to 440 passengers and the ATR-72 carries 68 to 74 passengers.
Pilots have regularly complained about being targeted by laser pointers in Russia over the past year. No accidents have occurred, but the State Duma has approved in a first reading a bill that would toughen penalties for people convicted of pointing lasers at planes. Currently, offenders face a small fine.
From the Moscow Times
From the Moscow Times
From Yahoo News
At about 11:30 pm on April 19 2014, Peter Allan McArthur of Parmelia aimed a green laser numerous times at a police helicopter. Ground officers found McArthur with two handheld lasers; he told the officers that he aimed at the aircraft “to see what happens”.
During trial, the police prosecutor said McArthur should face a jail sentence due to the potential hazard.
According to his lawyer, McArthur’s laser misuse “could have had serious consequences but he did not intend for anything like that to happen. He did not intend danger.”
The judge let McArthur off with the $2500 fine, plus $147 in court costs and his lasers would be destroyed. She said she took into account that McArthur pleaded guilty and had a minimal record.
From In My Community
The helicopter crew was investigating an attempted burglary when they were hit “about four or five times” by a person in a car stopped at a traffic light. Parrott was charged with knowingly and willfully pointing a laser lighting device at the pilot of an aircraft, which is a third degree felony in Florida. Federal charges under the February 2012 law -- with a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $250,000 fine -- may also be filed. In addition, the state attorney’s office was considering charging the driver of the car, Steven Romano, age 55.
During the arrest, Romano’s car at right, has six police vehicles behind it.
This incident comes less than a month after an Orlando-area teen was arrested June 7 for aiming a laser at a Seminole County sheriff’s helicopter (just north of Orlando), and only two days after an Orlando-area teen was arrested June 30 for aiming a laser at an Osceola County sheriff’s helicopter (just south of Orlando).
From ClickOrlando.com and the Orlando Sentinel
UPDATED November 18 2014 - Parrott was found guilty of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States. Parrott faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 2, 2015. From an FBI press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida.
Trevor Ragno of Longwood, Fl. aimed a green laser light at a Seminole County Sheriff’s Office helicopter that was on patrol. Ground officers were directed to a home where Ragno was found and arrested. He was released on $1000 bond the next morning.
Officials said there have been five incidents of lasers being pointed at pilots in Seminole County, all of which led to arrests. [The timespan of the five incidents -- during 2014 or all-time? -- was not indicated.]
ClickOrlando.com has an online news story from WKMG-TV which includes video from the helicopter of the laser attack, and of a person running away from a home. Below are two screens captured from the video.
From ClickOrlando.com. Thanks to Tony Zmorenski for bringing this to our attention.
On June 5 2014, a green laser was pointed at a Tampa police helicopter. The crew radioed the laser location to ground officers, who found Bradley Alan Steffes, 29, of Brandon, FL. He told officers he was playing with the laser and pointing it at random objects. A search of his pickup truck revealed a laser pointer and the drug items.
The 18-county Tampa division of the FBI recorded 102 laser/aircraft incidents in 2013.
From the Tampa Bay Times
UPDATED June 27 2014: Steffes was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 26 2014. From the Tampa Bay Times
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
David Walter Fee, 22, was charged with aiming a powerful green laser pointer at Air 43, a CHP aircraft. The pilot suffered temporary blindness and the aircraft was forced to break away from investigating a burglary in progress. Also charged along with Fee was Andrew Zarate, 20, also of Fresno. The disposition of his case is not known.
Fee faces up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines when sentenced.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Fresno Office, California Highway Patrol, and Fresno Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Michael G. Tierney prosecuted the case.
From the Fresno Bee and the April 10 2014 U.S. Attorney’s Office press release about the indictment of Fee and Zarate.
UPDATED August 11 2014 - Zarate pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at a California Highway Patrol airplane. He was scheduled to be sentenced November 3 2014. Fee pleaded guilty to the same offense in June and was scheduled to be sentenced August 25 2014. From an August 11 2014 U.S. Attorney’s Office press release about Zarate’s guilty plea.
UPDATED September 29 2014 - Fee was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus two years of supervised release. From KMJ Now.
UPDATED November 3 2014 - Zarate was sentenced to one year in prison, plus two years of supervised release. From Ars Technica and ABC30.
Scotland: Community service for ADHD man who lased police helicopter, 8 weeks before copter crashed into pub
The incident occurred on October 1 2013. The helicopter pilot turned the craft away from the beam, to avoid the light. Other crew used infrared cameras to track the perpetrator and direct ground officers to his location. The officers found a laser pen in the possession of Grant Jones, 24, and arrested him.
The same helicopter crashed into a pub in Glasgow on November 29 2013, killing all three on board plus seven persons on the ground. There is no linkage between Jones’ laser illumination and the crash 60 days later, which was caused by both engines flaming out.
Click to read more...
On December 30 2012, an AirTran pilot reported that a green light was in his cockpit as he flew about 10 miles west of Palm Beach International Airport. A police helicopter sent to investigate was also affected by the light.
Fischer was located by ground officers, who reported that the man told them “he didn’t think it was serious and he was just being dumb.”
Michael R. Fischer
On April 18 2014, Fischer pleaded not guilty to a federal charge of pointing a laser at an aircraft. At that time, prosecutors said he could face a six-month sentence according to a story in the Sun Sentinel. It is not known why Fischer pleaded guilty on May 21 2014, although it may have been a plea bargain to further reduce his sentence.
Original arrest story, Jan 2 2013 from WPBF. Guilty plea story, May 21/22 2014 from the Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post. Update information below from a phone conversation, July 31 2014.
UPDATE -- July 31 2014: Fischer told LaserPointerSafety.com that he was sentenced July 29 in Fort Lauderdale, to two years probation and 50 hours of community service. He said, “What kept me out of jail was not having a [prior criminal] background. “ Fischer described his guilty plea as part of an agreement that helped to reduce the sentence. He said aiming the laser, which he bought for $5 from Amazon.com, at an airplane was “the worst mistake of my life. Now I am a convicted felon.”
In addition, the FAA is considering civil charges against him, for interfering with a flight crew. The fine would be up to $11,000 per violation.
According to Fischer, up until his arrest, he was unaware that lasing aircraft was hazardous or illegal. He urged that laser labels, product packaging, and marketing materials should be required to warn users against aiming at aircraft. His warning for others was “Don’t think you’re not going to get caught, because if you do it you’re going to get caught.”
Finally, Fischer said “Please let people know I would like to apologize to the pilots, the airline, and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s office.”
(Note: Fischer expressed similar sentiments in an interview with the Sun Sentinel, posted July 31 2014.)
According to police, green laser light hit the cockpit window around four times, shining for several seconds each time. The crew notified ground officers who found Michael James Saavedra, 22, and Dylan James Demone, 23, in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart.
Saavedra (left) and Demone leave federal court after their May 21 2014 hearing
Click to read more...
Saavedra told an officer that he aimed his laser at the helicopter. The police report said “Mr. Saavedra did not intend to harm anyone, nor was he aware it was illegal.”
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
As a result, the pilots of the Air-1 helicopter suffered flash blindness that lasted a few minutes, causing disorientation. The pilots were ultimately able to pinpoint the origin of the beams and, with the help of patrol deputies, identified Scott as a suspect.
Sentencing for Scott is set for July 21 2014. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California
On May 12 2014, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 24, was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. An FBI special agent said ““Coleman and Rodriguez demonstrated outrageous and willful disregard for the safety of aviators, Air George’s patients, and the public.”
In imposing sentence, Judge Lawrence O’Neill considered the opinion of Dr. Leon McLin, a Senior Research Optometrist for the Air Force Research Laboratory who testified at trial, that the laser pointer that Coleman used was an instrument capable of inflicting serious bodily injury and, indirectly, death due to a high potential for crash caused by visual interference.
Judge O'Neill found the high‑powered laser pointer was a dangerous weapon, and referring to the potential for a crash resulting from the pilots’ impaired vision stated, "I physically shudder to think of what could have happened."
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California
Stephen Slark of Southwick was charged with shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. He will appear in court on April 1 2014.
In addition, a 27-year-old companion was arrested but later released without charge.
From The Argus
The propeller plane was patrolling the northern part of Crimea when it was fired upon during daylight hours.
From The Aviationist
On November 17 2013, the helicopter was patrolling over the Boyle Heights area, which Wikipedia describes as a "working class, heavily Latino, youthful neighborhood of almost a hundred thousand residents east of Downtown Los Angeles." The aircraft was struck several times by a green laser beam that illuminated the cockpit.
The source was tracked to a home where George Sam Elali, 31, was arrested on state charges. After an investigation by the FBI and the sheriff's department, the state charges were dropped and Elali was indicted February 14 2014 by a federal grand jury.
From CBS Los Angeles
Prior to this, the longest sentence anywhere in the world for a laser/aircraft incident was four years, handed down in January 2010 to Jamie Allen Downie. For more information, see the page Sentences for laser offenses and click the tags on the left side to find jail terms of 0-6 months, 7-12 months, 13-24 months, 25-36 months, 37-48 months, and over 4 years.
UPDATED June 24 2015: Rodriguez’s 14-year sentence for reckless endangerment was overturned by an appeals court, saying there was no evidence that he had harmful intent as required by the law.
Based on the government’s sentencing recommendation, 8 years of Rodriguez’s sentence were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.
In addition, the government told the judge that “[s]entencing Rodriguez to a substantial prison term will send an important deterrent message that could not be more timely.”
The government stated at one point that Rodriguez should receive 20 years to life imprisonment based on its analysis, but they would be satisfied with 14 years.
Rodriguez’s lawyer countered that the guidelines had been misapplied and the sentence should be only 57 months (4 3/4 years). The lawyer contended that Rodriguez was in his backyard, playing with the laser to see how far it could go and he had no knowledge of laser/aircraft hazards.
Click to read more...
US: UPDATED - California man sentenced to 14 years for aiming 65 mW laser at Fresno police helicopter
The 14-year sentence is the longest ever imposed for lasing an aircraft, anywhere in the world. Rodriguez’s lawyer unsuccessfully argued that a term of 57 months (4 3/4 years) would be “harsh, but ... is arguably a just punishment.” The previous longest sentence was 4 years for Jamie Allen Downie, sentenced in January 2010.
Sergio Patrick Rodriguez
Federal sentencing guidelines take into account the crime itself as well as the defendant’s criminal history. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill said at sentencing that Rodriguez was “a walking crime spree.” Based on the government’s sentencing recommendation, 8 years of the sentence were imposed for the laser violation, and an additional 6 years were due to Rodriguez’s prior criminal history of gang affiliation and numerous probation violations.
A more detailed analysis of the 14-year sentence is here.
The Rodriguez case began August 25 2012 when a helicopter from the Children’s Hospital of Central California was illuminated by a green laser. Fresno Police Department’s Air 1 was sent to investigate.
It was repeatedly and deliberately struck by the light. The beam was traced back to Rodriguez, now 26, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23. Pilots from both helicopters said the laser strikes caused significant visual interference.
The laser’s power was later measured as 65 milliwatts. This is 13 times the 5 mW limit for lasers marketed as “pointers” in the U.S. This 13x power increase leads to a 3.6 times increase in the distance at which Rodriguez’s laser was a hazard (see Note 1).
US: UPDATED - Ohio man pleads not guilty to lasing news helicopter; judge orders him to stay away from lasers
Vecchiarelli, 46, was accused of aiming a green laser pointer at a news helicopter that was covering a high school football game on October 11 2013. The pilot said he saw the light several times. Police found Vecchiarelli in his driveway with a police scanner and a laser pointer. They said he confessed and gave them the laser.
News reports at the time said he was arrested on a charge of interfering with a flight crew. It is not known what happened to that charge.
He is currently free on $10,000 bond.
From WFMJ.com and TribToday
UPDATED July 29 2014: Vecchiarelli pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with an aircraft, during a July 24 2014 hearing in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. In return, a charge of obstructing official business was dropped. He will be sentenced later on the interference charge. From WFMJ.com.
UPDATED October 3 2014: Vecchiarelli was sentenced on October 2 2014 to probation for five years, has to do 200 hours of community service, must write an apology to his victims, has to pay a $1,000 fine, has an 11 pm curfew, and must stay out of liquor establishments. If he violates his probation, he could go to prison for eight years. From WFMJ.com.
Carl Floyd said “I was freaking out. At first, I didn't know what was going on, then they told me what was going on and I first I denied it because I was nervous. It was 100 percent accident, not intentional, to hit an aircraft or put anybody else in danger.”
The helicopter pilot said he was hit three or four times by the green laser light, and that he doesn’t believe it was an accident.
Floyd’s case will go to a grand jury, which will decide whether to indict him on federal charges with a potential penalty of up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
A map of the Tulsa area showing recent (2013) laser incidents
From NewsOn6.com and Tulsa World
UPDATED November 13 2014 - A federal jury deadlocked in July 2014. During the trial, Floyd said he was aiming at objects such as a cell tower, a mailbox and a tree, and he did not knowingly illuminate the helicopter. Just before a second trial in November, he made a plea agreement where he pleaded guilty; saying he “knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer at the flight path of a helicopter that I was aware was flying nearby.” He said he had suffered severe injuries in a July 21 2014 motorcycle accident. The prosecution agreed that in light of his medical condition, a probationary sentence be imposed. Sentencing is scheduled for February 20 2015. From the Tulsa World.
An FBI special agent who worked on the case said "I know a couple pilots that do have permanent injuries related to laser incidents because the intensity of the laser and the affects it has on parts on the eye."
From ABC15 and KVOA
No injuries were reported in the January 29 2014 incident.
In a Dallas incident that occurred the previous week. the co-pilot of a medical helicopter was treated at a hospital after having his right eye “burned’ by a green laser.
On May 20 2013, the helicopter was sent to investigate a shooting. As it hovered over Luton, a green laser beam dazzled the crew of three, leading to evasive action by the pilot. Officers on the ground traced the beam to 53-year-old James McIvor, a PCSO with British Transport Police. (A PCSO is a civilian member of police staff who is a uniformed non-warranted officer.)
James McIvor, PCSO, British Transport Police
McIvor told officers he had been using a laser pen to attract his elderly cat that was on top of his garage.
McIvor was convicted in December 2013 of acting in a negligent manner to endanger the safety of an aircraft. He was acquitted of a more serious charge of recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft.
From BBC News and Wikipedia’s PCSO page
After the helicopter was illuminated by the laser, the crew aimed a spotlight at a man standing alone on a hill. Over the P.A. system, the crew told the man to walk down the hill. He was detained by local security guards until police arrived.
He was identified as Edward Bebec. A small, high-intensity handheld laser was found on the hill. Bebec was charged with two felony counts of endangerment.
Michael Pruitt, 30, was heading to St. Paul University Hospital in Dallas with a patient when a laser was aimed from the area of Interstate 35 and Harry Hines Boulevard. Pruitt was struck in the right eye.
The helicopter made an unplanned landing at Dallas Love Field. The patient, Pruitt, and the flight nurse rose in an ambulance to the hospital, a distance of about 2 miles. At the hospital, Pruitt’s eye injury was examined.
A Dallas Police Department incident report says Pruitt sustained “a burn to his right eye” and was “unable to see out of it.”
A spokesman for his employer, Air Evac Lifeteam, said “Its my understanding he’s fine.” But Pruitt’s father said his son still cannot see out of his eye and has a headache: “We think his eye will be fine, but you never know until it heals. He’s been in a lot of pain.”
An FAA spokesperson said this was “the most significant injury we’ve seen in the DFW area.”
From NBCDFW.com and WFAA.com
On September 25 2013, the helicopter was called to find a missing person. The pilot was hovering at 1,200 feet over a densely populated area of Greenfield when a green laser beam targeted the aircraft. Over an eight-minute period, the aircraft was hit about ten times by the beam. The majority hit the outside of the helicopter though a video recording showed the interior illuminated for a couple of seconds.
A frame from the helicopter video of the attack. The complete video can be seen here.
While the helicopter maneuvered to avoid the laser, the missing-person search was not abandoned. No emergency or evasive action was taken, and the captain was in full control throughout the incident. However, the attack distracted the crew, caused distress and wasted search time and resources, according to the prosecutor.
The three-man crew identified the source location and directed ground officers to the home of Kevin Mark Griffiths. He pretended to be asleep and later produced the laser from a bedroom. He told police he had purchased the laser while on vacation in Spain.
Griffiths said it was a “foolish, impulsive and reckless action,” aiming at what he knew was a police helicopter.
At trial Griffiths admitted a charge of recklessly endangering an aircraft or persons inside. He was given a five-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work, and was fined £165 in costs.
From the Daily Post (with video) and Wales Online
The helicopter crew led ground officers to the man’s home. He will be summonsed for causing fear with a laser or light to people in conveyances.
From the West Australian
Police said that 18-year-old Andrew Decker hit the Air One helicopter at least four times. Ground officers arrested Decker, a college student, with the laser still in his hand.
In a statement emailed to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Decker said he was sorry and did not realize that what he was doing was dangerous. He said a neighbor tried to warn him it was a crime but he did not hear the man due to New Year’s celebratory firecrackers going off in his neighborhood of Holly Hill, a few miles north of Daytona Beach.
Decker wrote, “I just got that new laser and wanted to see how far the light would go. I would never do anything to hurt anyone. I just want to tell the helicopter pilot how sorry I am.”
His mother, a News-Journal employee, told the paper “I think it’s pretty clear he didn’t understand the severity of the situation.”
From the Daytona Beach News-Journal
UPDATED February 11 2014: Decker’s lawyer, David Damore, negotiated a pretrial intervention deal with prosecutors. Decker will pay a fine, do community service, and apologize in writing to the helicopter pilot. Upon completion of these actions, the charges will be dismissed. Damore said “Andrew is a good kid. This young man had no idea what he was doing and just wanted to see how far the light would go.” From the Daytona Beach News-Journal
The unnamed pilot was on approach to Newcastle International Airport. He told the Eastern Chronicle:
The weather was atrocious, with strong turbulence and crosswinds outside of the legal limits for my first officer. The aircraft was being battered by the gales and the landing conditions at the airport at the very margins required total concentration from the flight crews, and in particular, myself as the captain landing the aircraft with a large number of passengers inbound from the Mediterranean.”
He was then hit in the left eye, with a “searing pain”. He turned towards the light, looking at the source.
“My left eye was left sore and blurred but, mercifully, weather conditions eased and the landing was uneventful. On this occasion it was just a major distraction on a very difficult night when all my efforts should have been on getting the aircraft safely down.
“Had the attack happened minutes later, both eyes would have been affected and my co-pilot would have had to face the prospect of landing outside his limits, or diverting. The miscreant must have been very aware of the conditions and its only aim was to bring down the aircraft and its occupants.”
From the ChronicleLive and the Telegraph
On August 25 2012, an emergency transport helicopter from the Children’s Hospital of Central California reported being illuminated by laser beams. The police helicopter was sent to investigate. They too were struck. Rodriguez and Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, were located and arrested.
During the three-day December 2013 trial, pilots from both helicopters said that the laser strikes caused significant visual interference. Evidence presented indicated that the laser was “13 times more powerful than the permissible power emission level for hand-held laser devices.”
Sentencing was scheduled for March 10 2014. The interference charge has a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The aiming charges each have a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Clovis and Fresno Police Departments, Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Assistant United States Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Michael G. Tierney prosecuted the case.
From KERO ABC. LaserPointerSafety.com previously covered the March 2013 indictment. The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California is here.
UPDATED March 10 2014: Rodriguez was sentenced to 14 years in prison, on the charge of interfering with an aircrew. Coleman will be sentenced May 12 2014 and could receive up to five years on the aiming charge.
UPDATED June 24 2015: Rodriguez’s 14-year sentence for reckless endangerment was overturned by an appeals court, saying there was no evidence that he had harmful intent as required by the law.
Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: Assuming the article meant the laser was 13 times more powerful than the permissible power emission level for laser pointers, then the laser would have been 65 milliwatts. (The maximum for lasers marketed as “pointers” in the U.S. is 4.99 mW; there is no maximum for hand-held laser devices which are not marketed as pointers.) For a standard divergence of 1 milliradian, a 65 mW laser has the following hazard distances: It can be a nominal eye hazard up to 190 feet from the laser, causes flashblindness up to 890 feet away, causes interfering glare up to 4,000 feet away, and is a distraction up to 39,600 feet (7.5 miles) away.
The first pilot said the green laser was large and was concentrated on his aircraft for a prolonged period of time. A ground officer was sent to the area where the laser was reported to have been sighted. In the meantime, a second plane was hit. The officer then saw a green beam target a third plane, for about five seconds. He could not pinpoint the exact location, and the beam did not reappear.
The FAA was notified and the case is being investigated.
From the Journal Gazette
Jacob Finch of West Palm Beach, Florida, told TV news stations that he was using a green laser pointer to exercise his dog. He said “I guess the laser got over that fence and shot out.” Finch lives in the path of the airport, and was using the laser at about the same time as the reported incident, around 7 pm on December 9 2013.
Finch indicated he had no idea of the danger and would not do it again: “Oh my gosh, this possibly hurt somebody? I mean we were oblivious.... I feel horrible. It could have hurt somebody. No more lasers.”
As of December 14, there were no news reports indicating any arrests or other progress in the case from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
From WPTV.com, WWLP.com and WFLX.com
The perpetrator was not located.
This was the fifth lasing thus far in 2013 for aircraft stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point.
At about 10 pm, the Roseville Police received reports of a green laser being aimed at vehicles. As officers were responding, the CHP reported a laser pointed at them.
From the Celebrity Examiner
At 7:35 pm on October 15 2013, a Shuttle America (Delta Connection) airplane was on final approach, six miles from the runway, when the cockpit was lit up by green laser light. The crew said the laser source was west of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx (green marker in the map below)
At 10:37 pm the same day, a private aircraft two miles southwest of LaGuardia reported a green laser. The laser source was near the intersection of Broadway and Steinway Streets in Queens (red marker).
The two locations are about 7 miles apart directly or 11 miles by roadway; driving between the two sites would take about 20 minutes.
Click to read more...
No one on either aircraft was injured by the laser beam, according to the FBI.
There were 54 reported laser incidents involving LaGuardia thus far in 2013, with 18 reports at Newark International Airport and 17 reports involving John F. Kennedy International Airport.
From the Associated Press via Global News and ABC News, and from the Daily Mail. Click the “Read More…” link for the FBI press release.
In court in early October, David Camilleri of Rabat was described as a “semi-professional astronomer” who was aiming at stars. He said airplanes were not his target. Camilleri’s lawyer said the case was “being blown out of proportion.” He argued that if lasers were capable of bringing down aircraft, terrorists would use them to cause crashes. He also noted that footballer Lionel Messi was able to score despite having 10 lasers pointed at him during a match.
The trial is ongoing as of October 4 2013, so the outcome is not yet known.
From the Malta Independent
On August 21 2012, a Sun Country Airlines chartered Boeing 737 was illuminated by a green laser beam while at 12,000 feet over Suffolk County on its way to John F. Kennedy International Airport. A Suffolk County police helicopter was sent to investigate and also had a green beam pointed at it. The police pilot was able to trace the beam back to the home of Angel Rivas in Shirley, a community in the town of Brookhaven on Long Island’s south shore. After landing, the three persons on the police helicopter were treated at a hospital and released.
At Rivas’ home, patrol officer, Matthew Dewitt, confronted the 33-year-old, who denied aiming at the aircraft. No action was taken due to a lack of any other evidence.
On January 4 2013, Dewitt was responding to a call of an altercation at a convenience store. Rivas turned out to be one of the persons involved. When asked for ID, Rivas said he did not have any due to a suspended license, and then told Dewitt “You know me, you were at my house, I was the one who lasered the plane.” Rivas was immediately arrested, advised of his Miranda rights, and was taken into custody.
Click to read more...
He apologized and said he did not know it was illegal to point a laser at the helicopter.
Brace told police he wanted to see how far the laser pen could reach, and that he did not realize the effect it would have on the pilot. In sentencing Brace, the judge said: "I regret that the offense you are charged with can only be punished with a fine, many people will feel that is inadequate."
Click to read more...
On August 3 2013, a police helicopter was conducting a search in the Perth suburb of Woodvale when it was hit a number of times by a bright green laser light. The pilot had “immediate distress” and took evasive action. Ground officers arrested Manning at his home in Woodvale, and seized the laser. He was later found guilty in Joondalup magistrates court.
From WAtoday.com.au: Original Aug 3 incident; Sept 5 fine
UK: Couple found in bed, having aimed laser beam at search helicopter, then hiding laser pen under a mattress
On August 27 2013, they both pleaded guilty to shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle the pilot. Additionally, Gilbert pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. There is no prison term available for the offenses, only fines. They were fined a total of £305 (USD $473): a fine of £100 each, court costs of £85, and a victim surcharge of £20.
Click to read more...
A Norfolk police spokeswoman said “He has received a caution for recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or a person in an aircraft.”
From the Norwich Evening News 24
Feliciano was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, risking a catastrophe, and "related offenses." He could also face federal charges.
This comes four days after 20-year-old Luis Martinez was arrested for a similar type of police helicopter illumination.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, at 9:20 pm the helicopter was about 10 miles south of Newark Liberty International Airport when it was illuminated with a green and white laser at 1,600 feet.
About a half hour later, a Boeing 737 and an Embraer 135 were targeted with a green laser while on final approach to Newark Liberty airport. They were at an altitude of 3,000 feet, one mile east of Teterboro Airport.
The two incidents are probably unrelated, since Teterboro Airport is about 13 miles north-northeast of Newark Liberty, and the helicopter was 10 miles south of Newark Liberty.
From The Republic
Ground units arrested Luis Martinez, 20 and an unnamed other person. Martinez was charged with aggravated assault, possessing an instrument of crime, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person. He also could be charged on federal counts.
From the Daily Telegraph and WA Today
The pilot continued to fly in the area, to locate the laser, and was illuminated again. Farr was arrested by officers on the ground after a search of about 45 minutes.
Matthew L. Farr
Police said the laser was “ten times more powerful than the average store bought device.” [Assuming store laser pointers are below the FDA limit of 5 mW, that would put Farr’s laser at 50 mW. The beam from such a laser would cause visual interference at distances 3.16 times greater than a 5 mW pointer.]
WTVR spoke to Farr, who admitted shining the laser “only briefly” and said he was surprised “when the cavalry arrived” at his home.
If convicted on the misdemeanor, Farr could face up to a year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. Federal charges could also be filed.
From NBC12.com, WTVR CBS 6, and the Washington Post
UPDATED September 3 2013: Farr died in an automobile accident at around 2:30 am on September 2 2013. His SUV went off the road and hit a tree on a road near his home. More information is here.
On July 25 2013 Gonzalez pleaded guilty in federal court to intentionally aiming his laser at the two aircraft. He could receive up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 at his sentencing, scheduled for December 2013.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California, Gonzalez is the second person prosecuted by their office for violating the Feb. 2012 federal law which made it illegal to aim at or near the path of an aircraft. (The first was Adam Gardenhire, sentenced to 30 months in federal prison in March 2013.)
From the Los Angeles Times
A green laser beam was aimed at Dallas Police Department’s Air One at least four times over 10 minutes. The beam led back to Santodomingo’s house, where ground officers arrested him. The 22-year-old admitted to aiming at the helicopter, saying he wanted to see how far it would go.
“This young man’s conduct was extraordinarily dangerous and could have had disastrous consequences, which was reflected in the court’s sentence today,” said U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldana in a news release.
From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and DallasNews. A video of the incident is available here. LaserPointerSafety.com’s original account of Santodomingo’s February 28 2013 guilty plea is here.
Brian Alan Hart
The helicopter was on routine patrol over Fort Pierce when someone in a black pickup truck pointed a green laser beam at the aircraft, twice. Ground deputies arrested front seat passenger Brian Alan Hart, who had a green laser pointer in his boot. The arresting officer told hard the light could have caused a crash. Hart apologized and said that “he didn’t understand the magnitude of what he had done.”
A Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said laser incidents “happen about once a month.”
The “A” marks the location of the incident.
Arrollado’s location, on an apartment balcony in the city of La Mesa, was identified by officers using an onboard forward-looking infrared camera. They called in the La Mesa police. Arrollado admitted shining a 20 milliwatt laser at the helicopter and was arrested.
From ABC 10 News
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.
Ryan Paul Lucas
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department was searching for two missing boaters at around 11 pm. The pilot and observer said a green laser light blinded them three times. They were able to locate the source, a vacation rental property.
Deputies entered the house where Ryan Paul Lucas gave them the laser. The Sheriff’s Department quoted Lucas as telling the deputies that he “messed up and should not have shined the light at the helicopter.” Lucas was arrested and booked. One report said Lucas was 20 years old; another said he was 21.
The missing boaters were safety located, though it is not known whether they were found by the helicopter crew.
The suspect’s arrest location, marked “A”, is about 7-8 miles from theme parks at Walt Disney World
On May 18 2012, Michael Brandon Smith, then 35 years old, aimed a green laser beam at a St. Louis Metro Air Support helicopter that was investigating a burglary. The beam illuminated the cockpit several times. The vision of the pilot and observer was affected; the observer later said he had short-term vision problems. Ground units arrested Smith -- still with the laser in his hand -- at his residence in O’Fallon, Missouri. The incident diverted the helicopter from the burglary investigation.
Smith pleaded guilty in federal court in November 2012 to one felony count of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft.
From STLtoday.com and The Republic. The story was originally briefly reported in LaserPointerSafety.com.
A photo shows the beam aimed by Daniel Dangler
Click to read more...
On July 18 2012, a photographer in the helicopter saw the cockpit light up with a green light. He told the pilot not to look towards the beam. The beam location was identified and police officers on the ground questioned Dangler. According to prosecutors, Dangler said he didn’t realize the beam would harm anyone or that it was a crime.
He pleaded guilty on October 17 2012 and was sentenced April 10 2013.
The FAA has a separate civil case pending which could result in a fine of up to $11,000.
Philly.com reported that Dangler is “an unemployed high-school dropout with convictions for burglary, driving under the influence and marijuana possession.” The news source also quoted the photographer, Alasdair Nugent, as saying “It is almost the same as pointing a gun at a person.”
From MyFoxPhilly.com, Philly.com, Philly.com more detailed story, and CBSlocal.com. Note: MyFoxPhilly identified the helicopter as “SkyFOX”, Philly.com called it “Fox29” while CBSlocal identified it as “Chopper 3 HD”. From news coverage, it appears to be the same helicopter.
For the text of the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release, click the “Read More…” link.
Tristan, left, and Uresti
Margarito Tristan III, 23, was charged with illuminating an aircraft with a laser pointer, impairing the operator, and with possession of marijuana. Eugene Uresti, 22, was charged with resisting arrest and public intoxication. A third occupant of the car was released with no charges filed.
Tristan told arresting officers that he was trying to hit a star with the laser.
From the Houston Chronicle
UPDATED September 25 2013: Tristan was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, plus an additional two years of supervised release following his prison term. Details are here.
The entire video from the Air One helicopter can be seen here at YouTube.
The incident was captured on video. Above is a still frame from the video, showing the maximum laser impingement on the camera. (It should be noted that this is a very brief and atypical freeze frame; for most of the video the laser is waving around but is not aimed directly into the camera lens.)
When arrested, he was clad only in his boxer shorts. Santodomingo told officers “I wanted to see how far it [the laser’s beam] would go.” Sentencing is scheduled for July 25 2013; he could receive up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
From NBCDFW.com and the Dallas Morning News
UPDATED July 25 2013: Santodomingo was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
As of March 25, Gardenhire remains free on bond pending an appeal hearing in April 2013.
Gardenhire’s photo on Facebook, according to the blog LA Weekly.com
On March 29 2012, the North Hollywood teenager aimed a laser beam from his backyard at a Cessna that was landing at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. The pilot had vision problems lasting about a day, after being lased multiple times in the eye. The Pasadena Police Department sent a helicopter to investigate. Gardenhire again aimed at the craft, hitting the pilot six times. The pilot had protective equipment and was not injured.
Gardenhire lased the aircraft from his backyard (A) about 1.5 miles from the airport (black square).
According to his attorney, Gardenhire was unaware of the hazard: “[He] had no idea that the deceptively ordinary laser he had borrowed from a friend was powerful enough to be seen by, much less distract, a pilot thousands of feet away…. [A] severe sentence would be disproportionate to the conduct.”
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Mills said Gardenhire told FBI agents that the friend who loaned him the laser told him not to shine it at anyone’s eyes because it would blind people. She said Gardenhire telling the FBI he didn't think about the dangers doesn't mean he wasn't aware of the dangers and responsible for the consequences.
"One can imagine a drunk driver making the same excuse - that he just 'didn't think about the dangers' of getting behind the wheel in an impaired state. But disregarding a clear risk does not absolve one of responsibility for assuming it," Mills said, according to the Pasadena Star-News.
Gardenhire was arrested in April 2012. He was the second person indicted under the Feb. 2012 federal law making it illegal to aim at an aircraft or the flight path of an aircraft. (The first person was Orlando resident Glenn Stephen Hansen.) He and pleaded guilty in October 2012. He could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison under the federal law. U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson said in court that he sentenced Gardenhire to 30 months so as to send a message to other people.
From CNN, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Daily News, Wired and Burbank Leader. LaserPointerSafety.com previously covered this story in March 2012 when the initial incident was reported, and in April 2012 when Gardenhire was indicted.
One of the defendants’ lawyers said the charges were overkill. KGET reported that David Torres, attorney for Brett Lee Scott, said “The penalty in the federal system with respect to this particular crime, doesn't fit at all. And, I think that when you look historically as to why this particular crime was enacted, it was enacted because of folks like Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and folks that have these laser-guided missiles, things of that nature, where they didn't want folks pointing guided lasers up in the air, things of that nature. But, here you have teenagers doing this from time to time or other individuals who are unaware of what the law is.”
- Brett Lee Scott, 25, of Bakersfield CA. Alleged to have flashblinded sheriff’s office helicopter pilots for “minutes”, and causing disorientation. The laser strikes came over a 3-month period.
- Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, aka Javier Rodrigues, 26, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, both of Clovis CA. Alleged to have deliberately targeted a medical helicopter from the Children’s Hospital Central California, as well as a police helicopter sent to investigate.
- Charles Conrad Mahaffey, 22, of Clovis CA. Alleged to have aimed a red laser at a sheriff’s office helicopter, causing a law enforcement mission to be called off.
Additional details are in a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, reprinted below (click the “Read More…” link).
From KGET and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California
UPDATED November 4 2013: Charles Conrad Mahaffey pleaded guilty to the federal charge. He will be sentenced on January 27 2014.
UPDATED December 20 2013: Sergio Patrick Rodriguez was found guilty of attempting to interfere with a police helicopter. He and his girlfriend Jennifer Lorraine Coleman were also found guilty of aiming a laser pointer at the police helicopter. They will be sentenced March 10 2014.
UPDATED May 12 2014: Jennifer Lorraine Coleman was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Brett Lee Scott pleaded guilty and will be sentenced July 21 2014. From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California
Click to read more...
The judge warned that “those who target aircraft in this dangerous and reckless way should expect to go to prison.”
Jackson’s lawyer said the laser was aimed at the helicopter for a total of 37 seconds, in flashes lasting 1-2 seconds each, over a 17-minute period.
According to the prosecutor, pilots are required to have an eye test after a laser incident, before being cleared to fly again. Jackson was ordered to pay £30 to cover the cost of the pilot’s eye test.
The laser was described as “about 10 inches long and about as big around as a thumb.”
From The Republic and WAVE3.com
A video taken from the police helicopter, showing the laser beams, is here.
James Spiers and Joshua O’Hare-Knight
From the New Zealand Herald and Stuff.co.nz. Thanks to Mark Wardle of NZALPA for bringing the video to our attention. This is an updated story; the original LaserPointerSafety.com news item from May 2011 is here.
On January 26 2012, 19-year-old Pravikash Chandra aimed a green laser pointer, bought at a local store, at three commercial aircraft that were on final approach to Auckland Airport. A police helicopter was sent to investigate and was also hit by Chandra. The judge in the case said that “the lives of over 600 people were put at risk.”
Chandra pleaded guilty to four charges of endangering aircraft under the New Zealand Civil Aviation Act. He could have received one year in jail on each charge. While the judge felt that imprisonment was warranted in order to send a message, he instead gave Chandra a 4-1/2 month home detention sentence. In addition, the laser was ordered destroyed and Chandra was required to take any courses mandated by his probation officer.
Chandra said he did not know of the hazards: “I didn’t try to act like a smart ass, I just didn’t know.” His lawyer said the teen apologized to the pilots and said that what he did was “reckless and foolish behavior.”
From the New Zealand Herald. See a related story, where the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association called for Australian-style restrictions on laser pointer sales and possession.
On August 8 2012, three orange flares were spotted near Garden City Beach, S.C. A helicopter from Air Facility Charleston, S.C. arrived in the area when it was illuminated by a laser. Under Coast Guard rules, the helicopter broke off its mission and the aircrew underwent medical inspection. One crew member had direct laser exposure and was not cleared to fly again for roughly 12 hours.
A boat was sent to continue the search, but did not arrive at the scene until about two hours after the helicopter had left. At dawn, a second helicopter was sent out. Neither the boat nor the helicopter found anything unusual.
The commanding officer of the Coast Guard’s Air Station Savannah said “… every time we send our aircrews to the Grand Strand, we're telling them to fly into the equivalent of a storm, where it's almost guaranteed they'll be hit. We're simply asking the public to stop putting Coast Guard men and women in senseless and unnecessary danger."
From CarolinaLive. See a related story about the first two Coast Guard laser incidents, in July 2012, in the same area.
90 days in jail for Michael Cerise
The lasings happened on November 9 2011. A U.S. Airways flight carrying about 200 passengers altered its course by 90 degrees during final approach, to avoid the laser. A Frontier Airlines flight carrying about 130 passengers was also illuminated. A Phoenix Police Department helicopter sent to investigate was hit as well.
Cerise was found at his home with a laser hidden in his couch cushions. At first he said he had not pointed lasers at the sky, but in a later interview said he had aimed it upwards to test its distance capabilities.
Three pilots had temporary partial blindness due to the laser light. Authorities said there had been similar incidents in the area for eight months prior to Cerise’s arrest.
From CBS5, AZCentral.com and East Valley Tribune.
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
As of July 26 he had not been charged with a crime. However, an investigation is continuing, especially to find out if the boy was responsible for the July 15 lasing of a JetBlue flight that drew nationwide attention.
From Newsday, NBC New York and CBS New York
A sheriff’s spokesperson said of the laser light beam “It’s not different, really, than if you were to shoot an officer.” He said the lasers can cause permanent eye injuries and can cause a crash.
Since January 2011, there were approximately six laser incidents in the county. No crew members were injured, according to the spokesperson.
From Rancho Bernardo Patch and 10News.com
The First Officer was in command of the aircraft when two flashes of green laser light came into the cockpit, about 10 minutes before the plane landed safely at JFK. After landing, he went to a local hospital for an examination. Apparently, no other person on the flight was adversely affected by the laser light.
The FAA and FBI are investigating the incident.
Flight path of JetBlue Flight 657 on July 15 2012, from FlightAware
From myfoxny.com, NYCAviation.com, NBC 4 New York, and ABC News.
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: The FAA defines a laser eye “injury” as anything which happens to an eye, including temporary afterimages and watering eyes. According to this definition, around 1.5% of all laser illuminations of aircraft result in an eye “injury”. In 2011 there were 55 FAA-reported “injuries” out of 3,191 total laser incidents. From Jan 1 to June 28 2012, there were 20 “injuries” out of 1,519 incidents.
Almost all of what FAA calls “injuries” are in fact normal eye effects resulting from bright light exposure. For example, a person temporarily flashblinded by a camera’s flash would be “injured” according to FAA, although eye safety experts clearly state that an afterimage is temporary bleaching of photoreceptors and is not an injury.
Using a scientific definition of visible laser eye injury, meaning a minimally visible lesion on the retina, there have been no documented permanent laser eye injuries to pilots in any of the over 11,000 FAA laser incidents on record. This is according to FAA’s top laser/aviation safety expert. There have been roughly 3-5 temporary laser eye injuries where pilots had a lesion which was medically visible, and which subsequently healed to leave no spots or other adverse vision effect.
This is not to discount any eye effect or distraction of pilots -- aiming lasers at aircraft is a crime and a serious safety issue. But FAA should be more accurate, and give additional information, when providing information about pilot eyes affected by laser light.
- Two counts of interference with flight crew (20 years maximum penalty for each count)
- Two counts of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft (5 years maximum penalty for each count)
- Two counts of assaulting, resisting or impeding federal officers (25 years maximum penalty for each count)
The Virginian-Pilot reported that Bruce aimed lasers at the jets “more than a dozen times” since December 2011. He was annoyed by the their noise. The two counts of assaulting federal officers may be related to Bruce calling the air station to threaten to shoot at the noisy aircraft.
According to a press release, “it is believed that the Eastern District of Virginia is the second jurisdiction to indict” using the new Federal law passed February 14 2012, making it a criminal offense to aim a laser pointer at or near an aircraft.
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release, PilotOnline.com, and WAVY.com
UPDATE July 31 2012: Bruce pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. The other five counts were dropped in exchange for the guilty plea. Bruce will be sentenced October 19 2012. He could receive up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Pilots testified that they saw lasers at least 10 times from the area of Bruce’s house between December 29 2011 and June 5 2012. One of the pilots lased by Bruce reported that direct eye exposure was painful, distracted her during landing, and gave her a headache. A spokesperson for Oceana Naval Air Station said that, of 18 laser incidents in Virginia Beach since December 2011, 12 of the incidents were due to Bruce. There were 12 incidents total in 2011. From the Virginian-Pilot.
Such a spate of laserings is unusual, according to an Oklahoma City Police Department spokesperson: “It’s kind of rare that we would have this many all at one time.” Some commenters to a News9.com story speculated that the media attention given to the first two incidents may have triggered the second two.
From News9.now, the Norman Transcript, and a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma. For a full version of the press release, click the “Read More…” link below.
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: It would be interesting for the police to question Sullivent, to find out if he was aware of, or influenced by, the media reports of the June 7 laser incidents.
Click to read more...
The pilot located the house and called in ground units. While police were talking to a woman, Tyler John Pennywitt, 40, was seen running through the house. He was arrested while hiding in the shower.
Pennywitt said he had pointed a laser at aircraft “more than a dozen times” but that he did not know the laser could reach to the aircraft. While he was arrested for a Florida felony, misuse of a laser device on an aircraft, he could also face federal criminal charges.
Tyler John Pennywitt
This was the ninth laser incident reported by the Pasadena police in 2012. A police statement indicated that the helicopter crew had protective eyewear, but was not wearing them when the laser illuminated the aircraft.
After the helicopter landed at the Pasadena Heliport, the officer was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital for evaluation. Police said the officer was “not seriously injured” and that there was no permanent damage.
From KABC, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and the Pasadena Sun
Police in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan are searching for the perpetrators. They believe the laser beams came from around South Valley Airport.
From KTVU.com, the Salt Lake Tribune, and Fox13now.com
From the Kansas City Star
Hansen could receive up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In addition, he “agrees to make full restitution to the affected airline companies.” He may not face the maximum, since the U.S. agreed to downward adjustments in the sentencing guidelines in return for Hanson accepting responsibility for his actions.
As of May 16 Hansen has not been sentenced.
The Plea Agreement states that Hansen “temporarily blinded or distracted the pilots of commercial passenger airliners during a critical phase of flight as those aircraft took off from OIA…. On some occasions, the laser beam … caused pilots to lose their night vision and, on at least one occasion, resulted in a pilot’s removal from duty for medical examinations and to recover from temporary vision problems.”
When arrested on March 24 2012, Hansen told FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He said that “he did not know that the laser would harm the pilots or affect the aircraft.”
LaserPointerSafety.com’s original story on the March 24 arrest is here. The full text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).
Click to read more...
Moore pleaded not guilty to possessing or using a prohibited weapon without a permit, and threatening the safety of an aircraft and the person on board. The was refused bail. A court date of June 1 was set.
From the Herald Sun
POLICE INVESTIGATE LASER LIGHT ATTACKS - MIRANDA
Police are investigating two separate laser light incidents in Sydney’s south.
About 7:50pm, Sunday 6 May 2012, a Boeing 767 was on approach to Sydney Airport and flying over the Kurnell area when a green laser was pointed at the aircraft. The plane landed safely and police were notified about the incident. Despite police patrols of Kurnell, Bonna Point Reserve and the Botany Bay National Park the culprit of the laser attack was not located.
In another incident, about 12:45am today police were called to a petrol station on the corner of Port Hacking Road and The Kingsway after the store attendant reported a green laser light being shone at the premises. The beam was reported to have come from the vicinity of Kareena Road and despite patrols of the area police could not find any trace of those involved.
Police from Miranda Local Area Command are investigating both incidents and urge anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Members of the public are reminded that high powered lasers are prohibited weapons and cannot be possessed without a permit.
[End NSW Police Force press release]
The map shows the Kurnell region (red oval) where the laser was aimed at the aircraft,
and the location of the petrol station (“A” marker), relative to Sydney Airport (center of map).
Video from a CHP airborne camera shows the green beam at an instant of maximum intensity. The bright/dark line is an artifact from the camera sensor being oversaturated.
Switching to a high-resolution infrared camera moments later, the suspect can be clearly seen (white dot in center, just to the left of a house).
The CHP aircraft had been searching for the source of laser beams aimed at airplanes flying over Lodi, when they were repeatedly illuminated by a green beam. By switching between a color camera that captured the beam, and a high-resolution infrared camera that showed a suspect, ground units were able to move in on the suspect.
Charles Brill, 52, was arrested and charged with one state felony charge of willfully discharging a laser at an aircraft. Federal charges could also be filed under the new law signed Feb. 14 2012 by President Obama, according to a police spokesperson.
Brill told the arresting officer that the reason he pointed the laser at the aircraft was that "he liked watching the green color light and seeing how it sparkled.” The arrest report also said that Brill wanted "to use (the laser) as a reference point and see how far the laser beam could travel."
From KCRA.com and ABC News10.net. A News10.net news report video is here; the raw video from the CHP helicopter is here as well as at the KCRA page.
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.
Christopher Paton repeatedly aimed a 40 milliwatt green laser at the aircraft, over a period of about 10 minutes. The light dazzled the pilot and crew, and the flight path was adjusted. The laser was recorded by an on-board camera, enabling Paton’s house in Castlemilk to be pinpointed. The helicopter had been was searching for two lost 4-year-olds in Toryglen. After the search was completed, ground officers were notified. They found Paton in his back garden, where he admitted using the laser and was arrested.
From BBC News
Gardenhire had been arrested on state charges at his North Hollywood home about two hours after the March 29 lasing, and had been free on bail while the FBI and other authorities worked on the federal indictment. Each federal count carries a maximum prison term of 5 years, so Gardenhire faces a total of 10 years in prison. He could also be charged under a separate FAA civil suit for interference with an aircraft.
Gardenhire’s photo on Facebook, according to the blog LA Weekly.com
A post on Gardenhire’s Facebook page just before the federal charge said he was going to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in LA: “Twin towers tomorrow... Not looking forward !!!:/ whats poppin though?=)”. A post afterwards said “There on to me o.O”. On Facebook, he stated his Activity as “graffing” (complex graffiti) and his Interests as “Bitches and hoes”.
From 89.3 KPCC, the Glendale News, the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly.com, and 7th Space Interactive.
*The term “commercial-grade” is not a standard term in the laser field. An FBI spokeswoman told LaserPointerSafety.com that the term “was not a technical description but one to differentiate between a small personal laser one might use for an office presentation, as opposed to the kind used in the attack, which might be used for the grand opening of a department store or other commercial enterprise.” It is surprising to LaserPointerSafety.com that a teenager would have such a laser, which would require wall power (110 VAC) and would be bulky and thus harder to aim at an aircraft. We are trying to get more details.
UPDATED, October 29 2012: Gardenhire pleaded guilty to deliberately aiming at multiple aircraft. Sentencing was set for January 2013. From the Burbank Leader.
UPDATED March 26 2013: Gardenhire was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. The judge said he wanted to send a message to others. More details are in a LaserPointerSafety.com story.
The FBI office in Lima, Ohio is investigating the incident.
The incident happened about 10 pm on March 30 2012, near Pacific Avenue and Ventura Freeway. The helicopter crew was able to track the laser and inform ground officers. A group of men were running into a home when the police arrived. The 16-year-old told officers he was aiming at the moon when the helicopter appeared in the beam path. He was booked for discharging a laser at an aircraft.
The Glendale location is 7 miles east of the day-earlier North Hollywood location.
From the Glendale News-Press
According to deputies, a witness had told the teens to stop lasing, because they were breaking the law. It is unknown whether this was told to them before or after they illuminated the helicopter.
From Clay Today
The teen was arrested at a location (A) about 1.5 miles from the airport (black square).
The jet was illuminated twice while on approach to the airport. The helicopter was hit approximately six times. There were no injuries, or adverse effects on airport operations.
The teen’s name was withheld pending an FBI investigation.
From the Burbank Leader and North Hollywood Patch
UPDATED April 19 2012: Adam Gardenhire, 18, was charged on April 18 2012 with two federal counts of aiming a laser at an aircraft, in violation of a new law that took effect in mid-February. The teen faces up to 10 years in prison. More details are in a LaserPointerSafety.com story.
UPDATED March 26 2013: Gardenhire was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. The judge said he wanted to send a message to others. More details are in a LaserPointerSafety.com story.
Glenn Stephen Hansen
Glenn Stephen Hansen, 49, told arresting FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He had filed over 500 complaints against the noise. He told the agents that airplanes “purposefully flew lower over his house in response to the noise complaints.” He was aware that shining the laser at aircraft was “wrong” but that he “had no idea” that the light could affect the pilots and cause a hazard.
Hansen was arrested March 24 2012 on new federal charges signed into law Feb. 14 by President Obama. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
LaserPointerSafety.com is not aware of any other person being arrested for so many laser incidents. If Hansen is responsible for 23 incidents, that represents 3.4% of all U.S. incidents, and 96% of all incidents involving Orlando International Airport, during the period in question (from January 1 through March 23).
Hansen was arrested at a home about 7 miles southwest of Orlando International Airport (black square).
Click to read more...
The FBI investigation started after a January 8 2012 incident involving an AirTran departure that was 400 feet in the air when the pilot was flashed with a green light. He was tracked for 30-60 seconds, to an altitude of 2000 feet. The pilot took evasive actions including turning off all lights, making a sharp left turn, and asking for a change of course. The pilot told the FBI “he was concerned he could lose vision on the plane.”
The FBI focused on Hansen due to his previous noise complaints. Because of the accuracy of the laser “hits”, they believed Hansen was tracking flights on public websites. His home was placed under surveillance. At about 9 pm March 23 they observed a green beam coming from his house, shining towards an aircraft. (The pilot stated that the light illuminated the cockpit but did not go directly in his eye.) Hansen was arrested at about 4 am the next morning.
From the Orlando Sentinel and the criminal complaint/search warrant. The text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).
Pilot Paul Maddox told Bristol Magistrates’ Court that the light lasted about 15 seconds. An observer crew member said “the shafts of light were moving around the cockpit, restricting me from my task.” They were able to locate Bowering on the ground, where he was arrested. He told officers he had borrowed the laser pen and did not realize the beam would reach to the helicopter. According to his lawyer, Bowering was aware that lasing aircraft was illegal.
From This Is Bristol
Update April 10 2012: Bowering avoided jail “by a whisker” according to the judge, who sentenced him to a 12-month community order. He must attend a Thinking and Skills course, has a 90-day curfew between 9 pm and 6:30 am, and has to repay £200 in court costs. The judge said Bowering had been using the laser to play with his dogs, when he aimed it into the air. The initial illumination of the helicopter was an accident, but then it was repeated, the judge found. The pilot told the court that he had “temporary black spots” in his vision which almost caused him to stray into Bristol Airport’s airspace, which could have caused the diversion of a commercial flight that was on approach. From the Guardian
Before officers arrived, Standish dropped the laser into a drain. He denied the incident, but went to the Winsford Police Station the next day where he admitted aiming at the helicopter.
Standish was convicted of acting recklessly or negligently in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He was sentenced to six months in prison which was suspended for two years, and was ordered to do 150 hours of community service. The laser pen was confiscated.
From the Police Oracle
Late in the evening of September 7 2011, 21-year-olds Alex Cox and Luke Fortune aimed a green laser at an air ambulance trying to land in Calne. The men disagreed about whether the laser could reach the helicopter. Cox thought it would; Fortune thought it would not. In court testimony, the men also disagreed about which one of them aimed at the helicopter.
The pilot tried three times to land but could not due to the laser interference. An ambulance was called to pick up the patient, a man in his 70’s suffering a heart attack. It took 25 minutes to reach the Great Western Hospital in Swindon by road; it would have been 10 minutes by air. According to the ambulance service, it was “unlikely” that the helicopter would have been able to reach the hospital in time to save the man.
Cox and Fortune pleaded guilty to directing or shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. They told the court their actions were stupid and very dangerous, and that they were sorry.
A Daily Mail article about the case has a sidebar listing four “laser pen pests” who received sentences from four to eight months, in cases ranging over the April-November 2011 timeframe.
From the Daily Mail. The original LaserPointerSafety.com news item about the incident, from September 2011, is here.
Juan Luis Gomez
Ricky Kemp of Shirebrook caused a “minor irritation” to the pilot, the first time Kemp lased the helicopter. The pilot continued to an incident, but then was lased again by Kemp while returning to police headquarters. The pilot was able to identify Kemp’s location, and directed ground units who made an arrest.
Kemp pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering an aircraft and the people inside.
From This is Derbyshire
The prosecutor said if tried as adults, the two could have served a 1-year sentence. In addition to the 12-month referral, the youths were told to write an apology letter to the pilot, were fined £85 in court costs, and had their laser pen destroyed.
From Bedfordshire On Sunday
From the Otago Daily Times
Monday is president and CEO of Monday Restaurants LLC, according to STLtoday.
From CBS St. Louis and STLtoday. The original LaserPointerSafety.com news item is here.
18-year-old Pravikash Chandra was arrested and charged with four counts of endangering transport. Each charge has a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
A spokesperson for the Eagle said the crew had lasers pointed at them “all the time. It happens fairly often and it’s a risk to the crew.”
From the New Zealand Herald
UPDATE July 18 2012: Chandra pleaded guilty to all four charges of endangering transport. Sentencing was set for September 2012. A report on the laser’s characteristics, applications, place of purchase and use instructions will be prepared for the judge. From the New Zealand Herald and the Herald Sun.
Christopher Bryan Willingham, of Virginia Beach, said at a press conference after his guilty plea that “It was reckless disregard of the safety. I was unaware of the potential hazards and actually what it looks like to pilots. It emits a lot of light.” He will be sentenced May 18. Willingham could receive 20 years in prison.
Christopher Bryan Willingham
At the press conference, the commander of nearby Naval Air Station Oceana said they are frustrated with laser incidents. There were 13 reports of lasers being used near the base in 2011, plus four reports between January 1 and 25, 2012.
From the Associated Press via the Washington Post, and a detailed press release from the FBI. The “Statement of Facts” in the case, as filed in the U.S. Eastern District Court of Virginia, is here.
UPDATE May 19 2012: On May 18, Willingham was fined $5,000 and was sentenced in federal court to five years probation. From WSET, Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, and PilotOnline.com.
From CTV News
He pleaded guilty on December 8 2011 for aiming a green laser pointer three times at a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter in July. Gable had been expected to receive 200 hours on a work crew, in addition to the jail time. The TMZ.com report did not mention the 200 hours.
From TMZ.com and the Los Angeles Times. LaserPointerSafety.com has additional stories about Gable’s July 28 2011 lasing incident, his August 26 arraignment and his December 8 guilty plea.
During the November 6 2010 incident, the helicopter was flying 500 feet above the ground when hit four times by the laser beam. The pilot said he had spots in his eyes for a few seconds. They were disoriented and were forced off course, according to a March 3 2011 press release from the U.S. District Attorney’s office in Fresno.
From Bakersfield.com, KERN radio and Bakersfield Now
The three will be arraigned in court on January 9.
There had been concern over local airspace due to a January 8 political event at Free State Stadium with over 100,000 persons in attendance. The laser incident appears to be unrelated to a temporary Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) requiring general aviation and recreation pilots to file flight plans in advance.
From The New Age. According to a separate story in The New Age, this was only the second time that arrests have been made in South Africa for aiming lasers at aircraft. The first was in May 2010 during a World Cup event.
The January 3 2012 incident happened in Glendora, 23 miles east of Los Angeles. The police helicopter was near Citrus College when it was hit three or four times by a green laser beam aimed from a car. Ground officers stopped the car, found a laser pointer and arrested the passenger Jerrod Ferren, 31. He was charged with suspicion of using a laser light at the helicopter, and was held on $20,000 bail. During the stop, driver William Dixon, 26, was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence, and for possession of a controlled substance. Bail for Dixon was set at $10,000.
From the San Gabriel Valley Tribune
UPDATE: On January 4, Los Angeles TV channel KABC ran a two-minute segment about the Glendora laser arrest, and about laser illuminations in general:
It is about 1/2 mile from the helicopter’s location when it was hit (open red circle) to the home where Johnston was arrested (black square), in north Gainesville.
Johnston was arrested for a third-degree felony, misuse of a laser device.
The airborne officers had been assisting a search for vandals who damaged cars; the offenders were located by a police dog.
From the Sheffield Telegraph
The judge said Maricic’s actions were “extremely dangerous no matter how unintentional.”
From the New Zealand Herald
On December 5 2011, a small single-engine plane was preparing to land at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Long Island, NY. The pilot reported seeing a light aimed towards him (some sources say it was red, others say it was green). FAA officials informed Suffolk County police. The Suffolk Police helicopter sent to investigate was also targeted by the laser. They easily traced the laser back to its source, Smith’s home in St. James, NY. Ground units then moved in to arrest the 21-year-old. It took about an hour from the time of the FAA call to Smith’s arrest.
David Smith, arrested for lasing aircraft
Click to read more...
On December 9, Smith was charged with “obstructing governmental administration in the second degree”. Additional charges may be filed by the Port Authority Terrorism Task Force and perhaps the FAA and other governmental agencies.
US: UPDATED - Clark Gable's grandson pleads guilty; likely to get 10 days in jail and 200 work hours
Gable, 23, is the grandson of actor Clark Gable, famed as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind and for appearing in 66 other movies.
On July 28 2011, Gable was a passenger in a car driving through Hollywood when a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter was struck by a green laser beam. The two officers were temporarily blinded, according to police reports. Ground units were directed to the car by the helicopter. They found a laser pointer later measured to be 52 milliwatts. Gable and the driver, 23-year-old Maximilian Anderson, were arrested. Gable told officers that he had been aiming at the Hollywood sign, but missed.
In late July, Gable told reporters the incident was “a misunderstanding” and that he would learn from his mistake. Gable’s manager said “it wasn’t intentional. Nobody knew it was a felony.”
From Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, and AFP. LaserPointerSafety.com has news items on the July 28 arrest, and on the August 26 arraignment.
UPDATE, January 12 2012: Gable was sentenced to 10 days in jail plus three years probation, according to TMZ.com.
Click to read more...
The pilot was flashblinded so that he had to fly on instruments only. He called ground officers, and Nguyen was arrested within 30 minutes.
On November 24 2011 Nguyen pleaded guilty to interfering with an aircraft crew member, and to possessing and importing a prohibited weapon into Victoria. Prosecutors asked for a jail term of up to the maximum two years. Nguyen’s lawyer said his client was sorry: “You won’t get more genuine remorse … this was a spontaneous act of stupidity…”. The judge said Nguyen had good character and had not understood the consequences of his actions. He fined Nguyen AUD $2000 and he was ordered to donate another $1500 to charity.
Nguyen’s laser was said to be “60 times more powerful than the allowable limit.” (In Victoria, pointers over 1 mW are banned, so the laser must have been 60 mW.)
From the Herald Sun. The original story of Nguyen’s arrest in September was covered here by LaserPointerSafety.com.
UPDATED February 28 2012: Nguyen lost a February 27 appeal on the charge of interfering with the crew or the aircraft. At the hearing, his lawyer said Nguyen’s drunken actions were “spontaneous and stupid” and he had never intended to deliberately shine the laser into the cockpit. Two character witnesses testified on Nguyen’s behalf. However, the appeals judge was amazed that a “smart, talented and highly regarded person could commit acts with such potential for disaster.” The judge noted there were “unthinkable consequences” from the September 3 2011 lasing, and he was therefore obligated to convict Nguyen due to the seriousness of the incident. From The Age.
Bradley Raymond Walker
The laser continued to shine on the helicopter. The other deputy reported the laser location to ground units, who arrested Walker. According to the arrest report, when asked why he did it, Walker said he was “just being stupid” and apologized. He was charged with misuse of a laser lighting device.
From 10News and the CCSO arrest report
Local officials were upset. A Fife councillor said “It’s disturbing. Some action should have been taken against the individual and I will be making enquiries…” The local member of Scottish Parliament said she found it “absolutely astounding” that the man was not charged with a serious offense.
From Deadline News
Jorge Garcia, charged with one count of pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot, causing injury.
From STLtoday.com and STLtoday.com incident reports
UPDATE February 9 2012: Brian David Monday was indicted on one felony count of interfering with an airplane and a helicopter. The LaserPointerSafety.com news item is here.
Four commuter jets were illuminated on Friday between 6:06 and 7:56 pm. On Saturday, a commuter jet and a Boeing 757 were illuminated around 7:00 pm. The aircraft were between 1600 and 2500 feet when struck by the laser beams. There were no reports of injuries, eye effects, or flight deviations.
Aviation expert John Trepani said the clustering of the incidents was troubling: “That’s unusual and highly disturbing. Do we have people fooling around or do we have people who have bad intentions to airliners using a sighting, using a laser as a sighter, a weapon’s sighter, just to see the reaction, just to see if Homeland Security takes this seriously?”
Trepani was also troubled by the fact that all aircraft landed on Runway 4, which CBS called “one of the most difficult runways at LaGuardia” (although this claim was disputed by a pilot in the comments).
Anyone with information can contact local police and/or the FAA. LaserPointerSafety.com has a page about how to report laser incidents; the page includes FAA contact information.
From MSNBC.com and CBS New York
Benjamin Ireland; four months in jail
Benjamin Ireland and Ryan Whybrow, both 19 years old, looked stunned as the judge sent them to young offenders’ institutes.
The two were at a party and were drinking when they decided to point green laser pens at a police helicopter “for a laugh”. The pilot and crew were flashblinded by repeated and continued illumination. The pilot made an emergency landing. Ground units directed to the location arrested Ireland and Whybrow.
The two pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft. At sentencing, the judge said he was sending “a very clear message … to anybody else who is minded to behave in this way.”
From This Is Hull and East Riding
The agent directed ground officers to Berthiaume’s home in Madison Heights, Michigan. He later told officers that he had used the laser three times, then hid it in a bedroom dresser after seeing the helicopter spotlight on his house.
Berthiaume faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.
From the Detroit News
The incident happened on June 28 2011. An Essex police helicopter was flying over Chattenden when it was illuminated by green laser light in an “accurate and sustained attack.” The pilot lost his night vision and took evasive action. After returning to the scene, the helicopter was hit again. The beam was traced to Burnett’s home in Chattenden. He admitted to ground officers that he aimed at the helicopter. He said he had not believed the beam would reach that far.
Burnett pled guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He was sentenced on October 27 2011. The sentencing judge said Burnett’s actions could have been potentially disastrous and devastating.
From Kent Online
From the St Helens Star
UPDATE November 23 2011: Checkley pleaded guilty to “acting recklessly or negligently in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft”. He was sentenced to four months in jail, and his laser pen was destroyed by police. From the St. Helens Reporter
From 660 News and CBC News
On September 11 2011, the West Midlands Air Support helicopter was sent to investigate a report of a commercial flight that had been illuminated by a green laser. The police crew was themselves dazzled by a green laser, aimed from a car on the ground. They directed ground units to the car where Wayne Junior French was sitting. He admitted shining the laser at the helicopter.
The presiding judge in Birmingham Crown Court said French would have had a much longer sentence if convicted of dazzling the commercial flight. He said “I have no doubt at the time you didn’t think through what you were doing but it was a plainly deliberate act.”
French’s lawyer said French “does express genuine remorse and is absolutely terrified about custody. He hasn’t slept properly since he was arrested.”
From the Birmingham Mail
From BBC 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.
Daniel Abraham Garcia
Daniel Abraham Garcia, 24, was charged with suspicion of pointing a laser at an aircraft, a felony. Garcia told police he was “messing around” and did not know that pointing at an aircraft was illegal.
From the Orange County Register, Silicon Valley Mercury News, and KABC News
The teen was arrested on suspicion of endangering aircraft. He was released on bail until October 27.
From the Maidenhead Advertiser and BBC News
There were 182 laser illuminations in Canada in 2010, according to Transport Canada. Fourteen of these took place in Alberta.
From the Calgary Herald
An airline spokesperson said there was no effect on the pilots. A police helicopter searched for suspects but did not find any. A St. Louis County Police Department spokesperson said county police are not investigating. The FAA and FBI were notified. STLtoday.com quoted an FBI spokesperson as saying the agency was not investigating because “no one was arrested and no one was hurt.” However, KSDK said the FBI was conducting an investigation.
St. Louis has been a focus since July, when local authorities held a media campaign to inform the public about the dangers and consequences of aiming at aircraft.
From STLtoday.com and KSDK
From Military.com News
An air operations supervisor said “such acts defy belief.” He noted that police can easily locate laser offenders and ground units can arrive “very quickly.”
The Cambridge News said that in 2010, there were five incidents involving lasers being aimed at the Cambridgeshire police helicopter.
From the Coventry Telegraph and the Cambridge News
The man was charged with possession or use of a prohibited weapon without permit, and an act threatening the safety of an aircraft with a person on board. He was granted bail.
From 9News, ABC Sydney and NSW Police Force
The boy told police that he “had not planned to blind the pilot and had only directed the beam at the flashing lights of the airplane.” Police said his parents would be fined 500 rubles (USD $15) for negligence.
The deputy chief of police at the Barnaul airport, Andrey Spiridonov, said that tragedy was avoided by a miracle.
The laser pointer being displayed by police; the boy’s apartment building, mother and bedroom window. Larger versions are in a photo gallery at Altapress.ru.
Barnaul, Altai Krai federation, Siberia
It is about 4.5 miles from Barnaul Airport (red marker) to the boy’s apartment building (green marker) at 35 Sunny Glades. Click on map for a larger image.
Analysis, news links and additional details are after the jump (click “Read More…” below).Click to read more...
The incident came while the helicopter was searching for the source of a laser that illuminated a commercial airplane landing at Los Angeles International Airport. Rogers has not been accused or charged in that incident.
The sheriff’s department said there have been seven illuminations of their flight crews in the past 12 months, resulting in five arrests.
Rogers’ home in Compton (“A” on the map)
is about 9.5 miles from Los Angeles International Airport
From the Los Angeles Times
Pilot Paul Maddox was unable to continue investigating a car crime, and broke off his mission. He and two other officers were dazzled by the laser light. Webster said he aimed the laser for less than 15 seconds; the officers in the helicopter said it was around five minutes.
On September 22, Webster pleaded guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft. Sentencing is scheduled for October 14.
A news report said Webster, 45, was a drug user: “He said it had been a crazy day after he went out in the morning to score some heroin, but believes he was instead given ketamine, which didn’t treat him well.”
From This Is The West Country
Police received several calls that a group of people in a silver people carrier was shining a green laser on the A40 near Witney, at about 8 p.m on September 15 2011. Police also were contacted by air traffic control staff after an aircraft was targeted with a green laser at 8 p.m. The police declined to release details of the flight or its effect, if any, on the flight until statements had been taken from the pilots and crew. The fine for aiming at aircraft is up to £2,500.
From the Witney Gazette. This news item is being cross-posted in on the News/Non-aviation incidents page as well.
From the Idaho Statesman. A short video report is at KTVB.
Class 3B and 4 lasers (for visible continuous output lasers, above 500 mW) have been banned in Italy since 1998, according to AvioNews.
McDonnell-Jones admitted aiming the laser outside but said he did not see the helicopter. The pen was found hidden under a baby’s mattress in the man’s home.
From the South Wales Argus
From This Is The West Country
Risch and a second youth were apprehended June 20, 2010 after aiming a green laser beam at the aircraft six times. The second youth was released; Risch was arrested on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft and possession of small amount of marijuana. Risch was 18 at the time of his arrest.
He pleaded no contest on September 13 2010 to a felony count of discharging a laser at an aircraft. He was sentenced to 60 days on the sheriff's work project and five years probation. On November 30, his probation was revoked for failure to complete the terms of his sentence. He was put on the Sacramento Police Department “Most Wanted” list on January 17 2011.
From the Sacramento Bee (Risch is #9 in this “Most Wanted” slideshow), Sacramento Police Department. News of the original arrest from News10.net and Wopular.com.
UPDATE September 2 2011: Apparently, Risch has not yet been apprehended. LaserPointerSafety.com has not been able to find any indication of his removal from the Most Wanted list, or news items of any capture or arrest.
Fronte-Liporacci was arrested at a home (“A” above) near Orlando International Airport.
Beginning on August 24, pilots from Jet Blue, Southwest and Atlantic Coast Airlines had reported a total of four laser incidents. This prompted the August 28 search by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.
From My Fox Orlando and ClickOrlando.com
The charges stem from an incident July 28 where Gable aimed a green laser pointer at a police helicopter, temporarily flashblinding two officers on board.
From TMZ and Reuters
UPDATE August 26 2011: Gable pleaded not guilty to the charges at his August 26 arraignment. He was freed on $250,000 bail. His next court appearance will be September 8, at a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to go to trial. From the Contra Costa Times
UPDATE December 8 2011: Gable pleaded guilty to one felony count of discharging a laser at an aircraft. In return, other counts were dropped. At sentencing January 12 2012, prosecutors are expected to ask for a 10 day jail sentence plus 200 days on a work crew. See news item here.
UPDATE, January 12 2012: Gable was sentenced to 10 days in jail plus three years probation, according to TMZ.com.
Two teens were arrested, one 17 and one 19, for endangering air safety. They face up to 10 years in prison.
From The Voice of Russia and Austrian Wings
From the Toronto Sun, CJOB 68 and CBC News (which also has photos of the laser pointer and the man being arrested)
From 9 News and the NSW Police
Police are asking the public for any information. A police spokesman said the lasers were “powerful enough to cause permanent eye damage.”
From Taiwan News and Kiev Post
From Bray People. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.
This incident comes just over one week after an FBI/police media effort in St. Louis to inform residents about laser/aircraft hazards.
From STLtoday.com and KSDK TV (which has a video report online)
A Royal Navy spokesperson said the lasing was “extremely reckless and irresponsible behaviour…. Had we been in the middle of a rescue, this person’s actions could have jeopardized our ability to continue.”
Strathclyde Police were notified; as yet no suspect has been identified.
From BBC News. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.
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
According to police spokeswoman Sara Faden, the LAPD helicopter pilots observed “a green laser light shining on them and at that time they requested additional ground units to come to the scene. They observed a vehicle with two occupants and they found the laser that was shined on the airship and they were both taken into custody."Click to read more...
Judge John Maxwell said the account was not supported by video footage of the incident. The judge further warned Bough that he should expect a prison sentence.
From the Birmingham Mail
UPDATE August 24 2011: Bough was sentenced to 16 months in jail. Judge Maxwell said the situation was “intolerable” and added “If we are to avoid the terrible consequences that will sooner or later follow if people behave as you did, the court will do what it can to protect the public and punish the offender.” From the Birmingham Mail
According to the judge, “this was an extremely serious offence which could have ended in several fatalities” to those on board and on the ground.
From the Daily Express and Willesden & Brent Times
6 months for aiming a laser pen at a police helicopter
The judge called Oliver a “dangerous idiot” for illuminating the helicopter “for a considerable amount of time.”
In addition to the 6-month laser pen sentence, Oliver received another 6 months in jail on an unrelated theft charge.
From the Shields Gazette, Chronicle Live and BBC News. See also the Shields Gazette June 21 2011 story about Oliver’s guilty plea, and LaserPointerSafety.com’s original news item about the June 6 incident.
At sentencing, the judge noted that although Quantrill was “a perfectly decent young man ... showing off your newly purchased laser pen to friends”, it was important to set an example: “Others should know if they behave as you did they are likely to go to prison.”
From Chronicle Live
A police spokesperson said “I hope this sentence sends out the message to others that this sort of behaviour is not a game or a prank, it’s extremely serious .... they are committing a criminal offence.”
From Chronicle Live and BBC News
This screenshot shows Stouder at the FBI press conference where he apologized to the pilots. The full video is at KSDK.com
The conference was held to bring attention to the potential dangers of lasing aircraft. The agent in charge and the U.S. assistant attorney both stressed that the next person to be charged may face much stronger penalties than Stouder did.
From stltoday.com. A video interview with the FBI agent-in-charge is available at Fox 2 Now.
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.
Paresi, 20, faces university judicial board hearings with penalties that could include expulsion. He was also charged by University of Pittsburgh police with two felony counts of “causing or risking a catastrophe.” Finally, an FAA spokesperson said they will pursue civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation.
On July 17 2011, at midnight and again at 3 am, medical evacuation helicopters reported seeing green beams coming from the University’s “Cathedral of Learning” skyscraper. Police confronted a group of students leaving the building after the second laser incident. Parisi, 20, spoke privately to an officer and said that he was the one who had been using a laser pointer.
Parisi was also found to have a fake Virginia driver’s license. He was additionally charged by the police with carrying a false identification card.
The 42-story Cathedral of Learning is the tallest educational building in the Western hemisphere. Photo by Flickr user bombnomnom (Anthony Velázquez) under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
UPDATED February 28 2012: Parisi is awaiting trial on two state felony counts of “risking a catastrophe”. He could be fined up to $15,000 and receive up to seven years in prison on each charge. In addition, he faces $11,000 in fines from the FAA on each count. His attorney was quoted as saying “My client is a good kid. He just made a mistake. He obviously regrets anything that happened that night.” From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Two years probation, $250 fine and 240 hours of community service
Essential to the conviction was a video analysis done by a pilot who had been illuminated multiple times by Heeringa.Click to read more...
Rincon was held on $25,000 bail. His lawyer argued, unsuccessfully, that Rincon did not present a danger to the community since he has no previous criminal record.
San Diego police released a video of the laser illumination.
From CBS8 and NBC San Diego. Both sources have video showing the illumination.
UPDATE, July 27 2011: Rincon’s trial was set for September 15, according to NBC San Diego.
UPDATE 2, September 15 2011: Rincon pleaded guilty to the felony charge of discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. He will be sentenced on September 13 2012. If Rincon does not commit any new crimes during the one-year timespan, the charge will likely be reduced to a misdemeanor. That would reduce his maximum possible sentence from three years in prison (for a felony) to one year in county jail (for a misdemeanor). From Sign On San Diego.
Jeffs is also suspected of aiming a day earlier towards aircraft landing at Tucson International Airport; charges have not yet been brought.
The night before the arrest, commercial aircraft approaching Tucson International Airport reported lasers coming from the area of Ryan Field. The suspect’s home (A) is about 4 miles from Ryan Field, and is 11 miles from TIA.
The helicopter illumination, and subsequent tracking of Jeffs by night vision camera, was captured on video released by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department:
Click to see the full video
From the Green Valley News
A police spokesman said there had been reports of green laser beams pointed at LAPD and news helicopters in the Glassell Park area, in the previous two weeks. There was no immediate indication whether the arrested man was responsible.
From a NSW Police press release and Sky News Australia
The incident will be reported to the FAA laser database. There is no word of any additional charges that might be brought against the boy.
The four suspects, all in their 20’s, fled across the state border, pursued by police. Joy McElwain, Steven Springer and Brian C. Enlow were arrested in Jeffersonville, Indiana. They have been charged with first-degree wanton endangerment and fleeing police. Jason A. Hill was arrested separately; charges in the laser incident will be brought against him shortly.
In addition to the state charges, authorities are considering also bringing federal charges.
From WLKY.com, the Courier-Journal.com, and WHAS11 NewsClick to read more...
In June, Phoenix’s police chief said incidents will be dealt with severely: “We’ll charge them with endangerment, aggravated assault, and interfering with a flight crew.”
“A” marks the arrest location, about 9 miles from Los Angeles International Airport
LaserPointerSafety.com initially reported this as a “sting” operation, based on an NBC LA report that “the LAPD ran a high-flying sting to pinpoint the location of their two attackers.” However, other news sources indicated that there was no pre-planned effort to draw out laser users. DailyBreeze.com quoted a police spokesman as saying that “a police helicopter on regular patrol was hit with a green laser, and the crew was able to pinpoint the general location of the beam.... A second flight crew that was replacing the first unit brought protective glasses with them based on the earlier reports. The second crew was soon hit with the same green laser, and reported to police on the ground the exact location of the laser.”
The LAPD is contacting the FBI. Additional state and federal charges may be filed.
From DailyBreeze.com, NBC Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and KABC 7.
UPDATE July 28 2011: NoIR informs us that the glasses used were their “GlareShield” models. These were developed with input from LAPD pilots. More on laser protective eyewear for pilots is here.
UPDATE July 26 2012: Floyd Atkins was found guilty of one felony count of pointing laser beams at a helicopter. He will be sentenced August 3 and faces up to three years in prison. Alvaro Jimenez pleaded no contest to the same charge earlier in 2012. From MyNews3.
UPDATE November 1 2012: Floyd Atkins was sentenced on Nov. 1 to one year in county jail and two years probation. He also had to pay $200 in fines and fees. According to the deputy district attorney, Atkins “still doesn’t accept responsibility.” Alvarado Jimenez was sentenced in September 2012 to 60 days of Caltrans service and three years probation. From the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
When arrested, Anthony Gaffney, 25, told gardai that he did not realize the laser hazard: “I wasn’t trying to dazzle the pilot. I definitely didn’t mean to cause any hassle. I apologise for wasting police time”.
He was charged with “intentionally or recklessly engaging in conduct creating a substantial risk of death or serious injury to another”. During the two-day trial, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court Judge Patricia Ryan instructed the jury that the State’s case was not that Gaffney acted intentionally, but that he acted recklessly. She then read the legal definition: “conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk.”
The jury deliberated for an hour and a half before returning a not guilty verdict.
From BreakingNews.ie (before the verdict), and from Herald.ie and RTÉ (after the verdict)
Two felony charges were dropped: assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and discharging a laser. Foster could have faced more than four years in prison if convicted of these felonies.
Two misdemeanors, time served in jail, and 100 hours of community service
According to press reports, it is unclear if the man, Lenny Tavarez, knew that the laser could cause a crash. Tavarez was 19, and a recent high school graduate with no criminal record, when the October 2008 incident occurred. He was sentenced May 13 2011.
From Philly.com. A report of the original 2008 incident is at ABC 6.
Arrested were Alvin Kang, 25; Jeremy A. Smith, 24; and Mark P. Lawrence, 25. Each man was charged with unlawful use of a weapon and aiming a laser pointer at an officer.
From UPI, Chicago Sun-Times and Examiner.com
A spokesperson said that under Coast Guard rules, an illuminated aircraft must abort the mission. Crew members are taken off flight duty for at least one day, and must be examined by a doctor before flying again. “This temporary loss of crew has the potential to significantly affect the unit’s abilities to conduct search and rescue, training and homeland security missions.”
Due to previous incidents in Ocean City, the police and a local merchants association had asked members voluntarily to not sell laser pointers. But the president of the association noted that full compliance would not be possible unless there was an official ban or regulation.
From the Press of Atlantic City, Cape May County Herald, and Ocean City Patch.
UPDATE, June 21 2011: Bouda pleaded guilty in municipal court for interference with transportation. He was fined $1000 and must perform 15 days of community service. If he successfully completes the community service, the fine could be reduced to $500. In addition, he faces civil penalties from the FAA. (It is unclear from the news story whether or not FAA has actually begin proceedings against Bouda.) From Shore News Today.
Related LaserPointerSafety.com news stories about Ocean City and New Jersey laser troubles
- August 26 2010: Ocean City officials discuss city-wide ban on laser pointers after summer incidents.
- November 22 2010: State senate bill 2430 is introduced in November 2010 to ban laser pointers above 1 milliwatt.
- June 8 2011: Man buys laser in Ocean City, points it at helicopter, and is almost immediately arrested.
- June 11 2011: Residents report harassment; voluntary sales ban is not working.
- June 24 2011: Unanimous vote on the initial measure to ban Ocean City laser pointer sales and possession.
- July 14 2011: Unanimous vote on the “second reading” to make the Ocean City ban official.
- April 16 2013: North Wildwood NJ bans sale and possession of laser pointers above 1 mW.
- August 20 2013: New Jersey state legislature passes bill to ban laser pointer sales above 1 mW; sends bill to Governor for signature.
- October 17 2013: Governor Chris Christie vetoes bill to ban laser pointer sales, saying the 1 mW power limit was “arbitrary” and there was no criminal use of lasers between 1 mW and the federal limit of 5 mW in New Jersey.
Watson’s stepfather told Fox40 that Watson bought the laser the day before and was told “Don’t point it at anything in the sky.” The stepfather said of Watson, “He’s an alcoholic … he has no sense whatsoever when he’s drunk.”
A pilot on the helicopter said that a laser will “give you sudden headaches and temporary blindness. It’s very dangerous.”
From the Sacramento Bee and Fox40.com
Earlier, on June 2, two 14-year-old boys lased the aircraft, which had been searching for criminal suspects near West Denton. The on-board observer said “... a green light filled the cockpit. For a few seconds I couldn’t see anything, all I could see was a green light. My sight was obliterated and I was dazzled.”
The pilot was forced to break off their search in order to find the laser perpetrators. They landed at a nearby airfield. The two teens were arrested and may charged with recklessly acting in a manner to endanger an aircraft.
From the Evening Chronicle
A 45-year-old Garland man, Sammy Ladymon, was arrested and charged with “illumination of aircraft with intense light”, a Texas state misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 1 year.
Ladymon’s house (A) is about 14 miles in a straight line from Love Field (B)
The arrest came one day after the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would impose a civil penalty of up to $11,000 on persons lasing an aircraft. There was no immediate word as to whether Ladymon would face the FAA fine or other federal charges as well.Click to read more...
Five years probation
The judge ruled that Hazlitt’s laser pointer was not a “dangerous weapon” under the circumstances of the case. This finding helped reduce the severity of Hazlitt’s sentence. He could have received up to 20 years in prison for the November 21 2010 green laser pointer illumination, which occurred because he was “tired of hearing” the helicopter.
According to The Ledger, Hazlitt said at the sentencing that “his actions last year [were] the result of ‘very bad judgment.’” He has started a website, laserawareness.us, in order to apologize and to publicize the hazards and potential penalties of laser pointer misuse.
LaserPointerSafety.com carried a story about the original Lakeland laser incident here.
From NewsChief.com and The Ledger
The incidents happened on September 15 2010. Rhode Island State Police charged him with disorderly conduct, while he faced federal charges of “interfering with an aircraft with reckless disregard for safety.”
At a press conference held September 23, the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island said, “It comes down to personal responsibility. This is about conduct. It applies to [laser] pointers, a motor vehicle, pitchfork or anything else.”
From the Warwick Beacon and Providence Journal
UPDATE: On January 21 2011, Aquino pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence. Sentencing was scheduled for April 21, according to the Boston Globe. A Department of Justice press release said that Aquino “faces a maximum sentence of twenty years imprisonment; 3 years supervised release; and $250,000 fine.”
UPDATE #2: On September 12 2011, Aquino was sentenced to six months of home confinement plus five years probation. The judge also ordered him to continue undergoing mental health counseling, be drug tested 72 times each year, and perform 500 hours of community service. The prosecution had recommended two years in jail. The judge gave a more lenient sentence after hearing about Aquino’s good behavior in the year since the laser attack occurred. The judge did note: "What you did was not only incredibly dangerous, but also incredibly stupid. It’s time to grow up. Time to think about the consequences of what you're doing.'' From the Providence Journal
A Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson said “people didn’t realize what a hazard lasers can be to aircraft.”
From the New Zealand Herald
Police said that the penalty for endangering aircraft can be up to 14 years in prison.
From the Waikato Times and Television New Zealand
According to one news account, “the pilots’ night vision goggles went white and temporarily blinded them .... the deputies suffered irritation to their eyes.” According to another story, a deputy was hit in the eye with the laser beam. (It is not clear from the various news sources whether one or both deputies were wearing night vision goggles, and whether these were removed at some point during the event.)
Ground units were called to the location. A neighbor who saw the helicopter illuminating a house, and who saw multiple sheriff’s office cars speeding towards the house, looked outside and saw a green light: “I seen the laser flying around and we didn’t know what it was.” Officers found 29-year-old Michael Wayne Smith outside the house, “pointing an LED flashlight throughout the yard.” He was arrested and later charged with Public Order Crimes -- Pointing a Laser Light at a Pilot.
Michael Wayne Smith (Photo from Lee County Sheriff’s Office)
The arrest occurred one day after a commercial aircraft taking off from Sydney Airport reported being illuminated by laser light. Police had reports of green laser use in Bardwell Park, west of the airport, and tracked the use to the 27-year-old. His laser pointer was seized and tested, and found to be in the “prohibited weapon” category.
From the Herald Sun and a NSW Police Force press release
UPDATE, MAY 10 2011: Two men were arrested, 27-year-old Sergio Mitso Nagaoka and 21-year-old Lucas Fagundes Olhiara. They are Portuguese-speaking Brazilian citizens. Nagaoka was charged with using a prohibited weapon, and threatening the safety of an aircraft. Olhiara was charged with possessing a prohibited weapon without a permit. (Note: Some news reports transposed the 21-year-old’s name, writing it as “Lucas Olhiara Fagundes”. LaserPointerSafety.com does not know which version is correct.)
Update from the St. George and Sutherland Shire Leader
A police spokesperson called the event a “dangerous and irresponsible act... I urge parents whose children have laser pointers to remind them that engaging in this dangerous activity could lead to criminal charges.”
From the Essex-Middle River Patch and Southern Maryland Online
New South Wales prohibits the possession of laser pointers without a permit, and classifies them as dangerous weapons.
From the Sydney Morning Herald
The man, 26-year-old Corey Blake Hubley, was playing with his cousin’s laser pointer by aiming it into the sky. When he realized he had pointed it at a helicopter, he turned off the pointer, according to Hubley’s account. His cousin then told him that pointing at aircraft was illegal. When police arrived, Hubley admitted he had aimed at the helicopter.
Hubley was charged with endangerment, which is a felony.
Click to read more...
Frame from video showing a direct hit on the camera
The youths are standing under a streetlight, next to a car as they continue to aim at the helicopter
The infrared camera gets a close-up view as the youth on the right aims his laser
After realizing he may be in trouble, one of the youths starts running
The camera pulls back and is able to track him. He was later captured and fined £100 in youth court.
Click to play the YouTube video
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.
Hazlett will be sentenced at a later date.
From The Ledger
UPDATE, JUNE 2 2011: Hazlitt was sentenced to five years probation on the federal charge. He said the incident was “very bad judgment.” Update from The Ledger.
The reporter in the helicopter was surprised a laser could be so intense: “I didn’t realize how bright it was,” Tammy Rose was quoted as saying. “From the ground, it doesn’t look like it shoots that far into the sky. … I was surprised at how much it actually lit up the screens. It’s very dangerous. People don’t understand the gravity of the situation.“
Police went door to door after the 6:30 am Friday Feb. 25 2011 illumination, in an attempt to find a suspect. As of Monday Feb. 28 no results had been reported.
The animation above shows frames from just before and just after a direct hit on the news helicopter. For the complete video, visit the link below. (Don’t click on the gray “Play” button in the center -- it is part of the screen capture, and is not a working button.)
From 3TV (azfamily.com)
Four month sentence for Radu Moldovan
His lawyer said that Moldovan “wanted to see how powerful” the £4 green laser pen was. The laser beam was aimed at or near the aircraft multiple times. The local sheriff said “The consequences of a Tornado crashing at RAF Leuchars raises the most horrific possibilities of death and injury to the pilot, navigator and anyone passing underneath.”
From BBC News
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.
Click to read more...
If convicted, Foster could be sentenced to over four years in prison
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
A police helicopter was sent to investigate. NBC Los Angeles reported that the boy also aimed at the police helicopter. He was arrested in his backyard, while holding the laser. According to the Daily Mail, the boy thought that “the light would not go up to the height of the aircraft.”
The map below shows the area of the arrest (“A” on the map) in relation to the airport which is about 8 miles to the southwest.
NBCLA’s news helicopter, which was covering the arrest, was targeted by a second laser for about three seconds. (It is unclear whether this beam actually hit the helicopter. The photo below shows the view from NBCLA’s helicopter.) The second beam came from an area about one block away. Police searched the area but so far, no arrest has been made.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane was about 2 miles from the runway when it was hit. The incident was reported to local police.
As of January 19, no suspect has been identified.
From SB Nation and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
52-year-old Gerard Sasso aimed a Class 3B green laser, said to be “at least five to ten times more powerful than an ordinary laser pointer” [approximately 25 to 50 milliwatts], at a helicopter that was escorting a liquified natural gas tanker through Boston Harbor. The pilots took evasive action, but the cockpit was hit and filled with “an intense sparkling green light”. The pilots and Coast Guard were able to trace the source to Sasso’s apartment in Medford. He “falsely and repeatedly” told police he was not the perpetrator. However, officers saw a laser pointer and he then admitted lasing the aircraft. Eleven lasers were seized from his apartment.
News reports quoted prosecutors as saying that Sasso was the second person in the U.S. to be convicted of lasing an aircraft. They also pointed to the November 2009 sentence of a California man who received 2.5 years for shining a laser at two airplanes and temporarily blinding a pilot. [This may refer to federal prison sentences, since others in the U.S. have received jail time for laser/aircraft incidents. The Nov. 2009 reference is to Dana Christian Welch.]
From Island Crisis and the Boston Herald. Thanks to David Freihofer and Paul Berthot for bringing this to our attention.
UPDATE August 1 2012: Sasso’s case was appealed on grounds that the jury was given incorrect instructions at the January 2010 trial. The jury was told that it was sufficient for them to find that Sasso “willfully” aimed his laser at the helicopter. However Sasso’s public defender argued August 1 2012 in appeals court that Sasso had to willfully know that his actions would interfere with the aircraft operator. Thus, the jury should have been told to determine if Sasso knew the laser could interfere. An updated story is here at LaserPointerSafety.com.
19-year old Hidalgo Moreno and 17-year-old Nicholas Ramos were arrested in North Naples and were charged with “pointing a laser light at a vehicle or aircraft operator causing injury” a Florida felony with up to a five-year prison sentence, according to the Naples Daily News. The teens told deputies “they didn’t realize it was not legal to point a laser at the helicopter and they were just playing with it.”Click to read more...
Mark Clay Hazlitt was arrested and charged under Florida law with Misuse of Laser Lighting Device, a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Sheriff Grady Judd said “Mr. Hazlitt deliberately interfered with a search in which deputies were trying to locate a man who said he was going to take his life. The laser used was strong enough to disrupt night vision devices thus creating a very real danger to our air unit crew. He deliberately placed the lives of our pilot and flight observer in jeopardy, as well as those on the ground had the helicopter crashed. Hazlitt's behavior was reckless and his actions felonious. We will not tolerate anyone placing the lives of our deputies or residents in danger."
The suicidal subject was later located and was placed in protective custody.
From the Orlando Sentinel via Sun-Sentinel.com
Thanks to Tony Zmorenski for bringing this to our attention.
UPDATE #1, MARCH 18 2011: In January 2011, a grand jury indicted Hazlitt on a more serious U.S. federal charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. The penalty can be up to 20 years in prison. On March 18 2011, Hazlitt pleaded guilty to this federal charge. Sentencing was scheduled for later. Update from The Ledger
UPDATE #2, JUNE 2 2011: Hazlitt was sentenced to five years probation on the federal charge. The judge said the laser pointer was not a “dangerous weapon”. Hazlitt said the incident was “very bad judgment,” and has started a website, laserawareness.us, to publicize the dangers of pointer misuse. Update #2 from The Ledger.
Three years and one month in prison for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft
Valladares admitted hitting the helicopter but denied hitting the airplane. He pled guilty in June 2009 to one count of interfering with the safe operation of an aircraft. In addition to his 37-month sentence, he also will have three years of probation after his release.
In sentencing Valladares, U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb acknowledged the defendant’s “apparently sincere indication to turn his life around,” but said it was important to send the message that shining a laser at aircraft in flight is a “very serious problem (with) very, very serious consequences.”
On October 21 2009, the California Highway Patrol was conducting a felony traffic stop near Nighswander’s home. Two CHP officers, both licensed pilots, were providing aerial support in a helicopter approximately 700 feet above the ground. Nighswander pointed a green laser device with a range of up to seven miles at the pilots to see if they would react. He pointed the laser at the helicopter no fewer than four times, affecting the pilots’ vision and ability to control the craft. Fortunately, the pilots were affected at separate times, kept the helicopter in the air, and identified the source of the laser.Click to read more...
The indictment alleges that on August 30, 2010, Liebman struck a CHP Cessna 206 multiple times with a powerful green laser while it was flying .
This case is the product of a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the California Highway Patrol, and Federal Air Marshals with the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney Jean M. Hobler is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Liebman faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
From a U.S. Department of Justice press release
15 months in prison for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft
”This was a very serious crime that deserved prison time,'' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Pell.
The June 3 2009 incident caused the helicopter pilots to be “momentarily blinded” and to change course -- breaking off from assisting police in a burglary investigation. The helicopter then tracked the car from which the light came. Officers on the ground stopped the vehicle and found Wells and a laser inside. During an interview with FBI agents in January 2010, "the defendant admitted that he pointed a green laser at the helicopter, which he knew was a police helicopter," according to the plea agreement, which says "he acted with reckless disregard for the safety of human life." In July 2010, Wells pled guilty to the felony of willfully interfering with an operator of an aircraft.
From the Los Angeles Times; also at Gawker, Palm Springs Desert Sun and KESQ TV. Note: Sources differ on Wells’ age at sentencing; some say he was 19, others say he was 20. Sources also differ on the maximum penalty possible for interference with an operator of an aircraft; some say 3.5 years is the maximum, others say 20 years. And, sources differ on the date of the guilty plea; some say July 2010, others say September 2010.
22-year-old Shane Ramsay and 20-year-old Darryl Hodgkinson said they bought the green pointer for £20 and aimed it at the police helicopter “for a laugh”. Their attorney said the two men “had no idea what they did could potentially endanger the pilot’s eyesight.” A local police sergeant was quoted as saying “This his kind of stupidity is increasing in the aviation world. It is reckless and foolhardy and those who do so will be arrested and brought before the courts.”
From SWNS.com News Service
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.
Two years in prison for laser-caused endangerment
On May 24, a judge sentenced Brenner to two years on each count, with the two 2-year terms to run concurrently. In addition, Brenner was ordered to pay $500 in court-related costs.
From the Prescott, Arizona Daily Courier
According to WABC, on Saturday April 17, a JetBlue flight originating in Portland, Maine was landing at JFK “when suddenly the pilots were distracted by an intensely bright green laser”. According to tower transcripts, the pilot said the laser was “directly pointing right at us. I saw the flash to the left looked, looked out left as I was landing. Put my head down, put up the sun screen.” [Note: This is a good reaction. Although the pilot initially looked towards the light, the pilot then took steps to reduce the light’s effect.]
Frank Newton Anderson
The pilot, Kevin Poston, was patrolling over Orlando when he saw a lighting-like flash. “Almost initially I thought maybe we had hit something”, he was quoted as saying. Spotter Patrick Deans, in the back of the helicopter, said “it was like a green flash right in front of my face, startling.” He saw a vehicle on the ground, in a parking lot. Then the vehicle started to flee, giving Anderson away. He stopped in another parking lot to hide. When ground units directed by the helicopter confronted him, Anderson said the laser (found 100 feet from his vehicle) was not his. However, the laser’s packaging was found in his vehicle.
Anderson appears to be the owner of a Winter Park, Florida security company, Viking Protective Group. When arrested, he was wearing a shirt with “Security” printed on it, and in his vehicle were handcuffs, a mask, camouflage paint, knives, and a Glock gun. He was also ticketed for having an expired license tag.
WFTV reporter Kathi Belich, in reporting the story, said “I hate to use a bad pun, but on so many levels he’s not too bright.”
From WFTV News. The website includes a video from WFTV’s Kathi Belich
LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:
- Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
- December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
- January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
- June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
- September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.
According to CBS 3, the pilot was “blinded” which caused “difficulty in flying the air craft.” Police on the ground located Villalobos, who admitted to flashing the helicopter. He “thought it had been a news helicopter.”
From CBS 3
Police located the house where the lights were coming from. On March 4 they arrested Raymond Jeffrey Poli. He was charged on March 16 with interfering with the operation of an aircraft, endangering life, and obstruction of justice.
Wallace said he was “just being stupid” and that he had owned the green laser pointer for only a week before the Dec. 17 incident.
From the St. Petersburg Times
It happened early in the morning of January 28 2010, near International Drive and Interstate 4. The pilot was forced to break away from a law enforcement call, to avoid the “potentially blinding light”. An observer in the helicopter was able to track the laser to a “carload of young men” traveling on I-4. Other law enforcement officers stopped the car and arrested Azevedo.
News reports state “this is the fourth case of this type of crime in recent months. Last month [Dec. 2009] the Direct TV blimp was lasered on its final approach to Orlando Executive Airport after covering the Champs Bowl game in Orlando.”
Hosseiny, originally from Afghanistan, was in the UK after seeking asylum in 2002. As a result of his laser assault and subsequent convictions, he was served with a deportation notice.
In the March 2009 incident, the airplane pilot said he had a "momentary loss of concentration" due to a "dazzling green light" as the plane was landing at Cardiff (Wales) airport. The trial judge stated that "The consequences of such an action could have been catastrophic. Fortunately there was no catastrophe and the aircraft landed safety."
More details from BBC 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
More details at WBNS 10TV
The helicopter pilot was quoted as saying that if you shine laser pointers at pilots, "there's a good chance you're going to wind up in jail. At the worst, you could bring down an aircraft and kill a lot of people."
Full story from The Buffalo News
Air traffic controllers had to close one flight approach late on Friday, after up to four people targeted planes with lasers in an apparently co-ordinated attack. Pilots reported a number of green lasers were trained on their planes for about 15 minutes, from 10.30pm (AEDT). The lasers appeared to have originated from the Bexley area, in south-western Sydney.
"This was the worst attack in our experience," Air Services Australia spokesman Bryan Nicholson has told Fairfax News. "It was described by the pilots as a cluster attack which implies some sort of co-ordination or organisation."
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said such laser attacks on planes were increasing in frequency. "There are five to six reports every week around Australia," CASA spokesman Peter Gibson told Fairfax. "It is extremely dangerous as it can temporarily blind a pilot or distract them as they are coming in to land."
NSW Police Minister David Campbell vowed to change the law to classify powerful laser beams as illegal weapons. "These gutless and cowardly attacks have to be stopped," he said. "I am preparing a proposal to cabinet to consider making these items a prohibited weapon."
The maximum penalty for shining a laser at a plane is two years in jail.
From the Herald Sun and the Sydney Morning Herald
*2011 UPDATE: Investigation by US and Australian officials revealed that the "cluster attack" was caused by youths, riding their bicycles on a golf course at night, who stopped and took the occasion to illuminate landing aircraft. It might be noted that their local community had a history of acrimony directed at the airport authority due to the construction of a new runway which caused more flights over their residential area. In a Feb. 2011 presentation to the SAE G10T group, attended by LaserPointerSafety.com, FAA flight standards liaison Patrick Hempen said the truth about Sydney has not caught up with the news stories. “The attacks are usually spontaneous in nature, perpetrated by careless or malicious persons.” Hempen also investigated several laser events in the Mideast and found many of the so-called "deliberate attacks" to be similar; they were “events perpetrated by youths, in a party-like atmosphere, without care or knowledge of the havoc that they were causing.”
Irfan Bozan, a student from Turkey, pointed the laser at aircraft and passing cars.
Click to read more...
The pilots felt that it was only their night-vision goggles, which reduced the glare, that saved them from a “tragic crash”. Romanov was found guilty of culpable and reckless conduct and was fined the record amount.
From the Daily Record. Click the “Rescue” tag in the left hand column to find similar stories of disrupted rescue operations in the UK and elsewhere.
UPDATE: In late August 2009, Romanov’s lawyers appealed, saying “the fine was maybe suitable for the offense, but not enough consideration has been given to his financial circumstances.” A hearing was scheduled for September 10. From the Press and Journal.
From the Mirror.
A police spokesperson was quoted as saying “Shining a laser at an aircraft is extremely dangerous. The front windscreen has thousands of tiny scratches on its surface, which diffract the laser beam in every direction. Essentially, the laser beam lights up the whole of the windscreen in a bright glow, which can potentially blind the pilot."
From BBC News
The acting U.S. Attorney, Larry Brown, stated in a press release “Federal authorities have recognized lasing of aircraft as an increasingly serious problem and have formed a working group to investigate and prosecute offenders. This is because the focused beams of a laser remain powerful even at a long distance and can expose pilots to radiation [light] levels above those considered to be flight safe. Brief exposure to even a relatively low-powered laser beam can cause discomfort and temporary visual impairments, such as glare, flash blind, and afterimages."Click to read more...
All the planes were targeted during a 20-minute period Sunday night, and all landed safely. But the incident led to pilots simultaneously trying to avoid being temporarily blinded by the light while trying to help authorities pinpoint its source, believed to be about a mile north of the airport.
Air traffic controllers continuously cautioned pilots about the light during the episode, which lasted from 7:10 to 7:30 p.m. PT.
A pilot reported the source to be a block and a half west of an interstate. Airport authorities said they conducted two searches of the area but did not find the culprit.
Officials note that it is a federal crime to point a laser light at an aircraft, and pilots are required to report encounters with laser lights. Officials fear that the lights could cause an accident by blinding pilots or otherwise affecting their night vision.
The FBI has “made it a priority” to investigate laser incidents, according to CNN reporter Jeanne Meserve.. MSNBC reports that the Transportation Safety Administration is also involved in the investigation.
Additional details from CNN and MSNBC. A CNN video of the news story “Lasers aimed at planes”, reported by Jeanne Meserve, is also available from CNN’s website. The video adds information on the FBI which is not in the website print version.
UPDATE: On March 6 2009, police arrested Christopher C. Saunders on the felony charge of first-degree unlawful discharge of a laser. His apartment is in Burien, near the area where the lasers originated. According to the Seattle Times, Saunders told police he was “pointing the light in multiple directions outside a party and may have layered a plane.” From KOMOnews and the Seattle Times.
UPDATE #2: A March 25 2009 AP story stated that Saunders had been released with no charges filed against him. The story also noted that a laser was aimed at an Alaska Airlines flight landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The source of the laser was “near the source of previous laser reports.” From SignOnSanDiego quoting KOMO television.
Three years in prison for lasering airplanes and other offenses
According to the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) prosecutor's office, the laser incidents unfolded this way:
Dewalt bought a high-power laser off the Internet and brought it to a party June 4 2008. That night, flight crews of two planes about to land at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport reported that someone hit their cockpits with a laser. One airliner carried about 20 people, the other about 100.
About an hour later, a laser hit the cockpit of a MetroHealth Medical Center helicopter flying a patient to the hospital from Elyria.
The helicopter pilot told Cleveland police the area where the laser came from and when a pilot for the police helicopter flew over to investigate, he, too, was hit in the eye by a laser that was coming from a moving car.
Cleveland police stopped the car a short time later and found Dewalt in the back seat with a laser.
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com. See also Fox News.
Below is the YouTube video (click the play triangle to start the video). The laser perpetrator is located in the street intersection. The incident happens from about 5:00 to 5:04 in the video.
The illuminations are don’t appear to be as bright or disruptive as those in the UK helicopter footage here. However, no matter how low-powered the laser or how brief the illumination, lasers should NEVER be aimed at helicopters, aircraft or other vehicles.
Thanks to Andy Faulkner of Laser Shows S.R.L. in Bucharest for bringing this to our attention, and to Peter Broerse of DMXLASER in the Netherlands for the frame grab.
Click to play the full YouTube video:
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com
Some might say that the laser in this incident looked “manageable”. But there are a number of issues:
- The person might have bad aim. With care or a tripod, this could have been much worse.
- The laser might be relatively low-powered, such as 5 mW or less. If a higher-power laser was used, obviously the light would be much brighter.
- We are seeing what a camera sees. The human eye could be more bothered by the laser hits.
- The pilots are obviously distracted, in two major ways. The light itself is distracting, plus they are concentrating on this incident (trying to find the perpetrator). They are taking time away from “normal” police work to have to deal with this situation.
- If the police had been able to find the perpetrator, he or she would have been arrested. This would quickly turn a “prank” into a serious, expensive matter for the person. (Search this page for the categories Arrests and Fines and jail to see that this is a real possibility.)
As stated elsewhere in this website, levels of laser light which may seem reasonable to laser enthusiasts cause problems for pilots. The simplest solution is to NEVER aim a laser at an aircraft.
Thanks to “Nordhavn” from laserpointerforums.com for bringing this video to our attention
Zakary Patrick Babet, of Bella Vista, was yesterday convinced in Hornsby Local Court of interfering with a crew member while in an aircraft.
Magistrate Leslie Brennan called Babet a "fool", and labelled his actions as a "serious" offence.
Click to read more...
Pilot Captain Mark Westwood told the court: "The overall effect was temporary blindness. I lost outside visual reference and could not see the instrumentation displayed in the aircraft.”
After the first incident he had to fly blind, taking emergency evasive action to position the helicopter out of the beam. He added: "It was a very dangerous manoeuvre, but I had to do it to get myself out of that dazzle."
Click to read more...
Kiefer, 22, spent the night in jail and faces a third-degree felony.
Kiefer and his parents, Thomas and Kathleen, were taken by surprise. They said they weren't given a chance to read the search warrant and were forced outside as agents searched the house, threw their belongings on the floor and kicked in the door to Kiefer's room, while his mother stood out back shouting, "Don't break the door down, I have the key."Click to read more...
David W. Banach, 38, of Parsippany NJ is the first person charged in a rash of recent incidents in which lasers were shined at aircraft around the country. Justice Department officials said they do not suspect terrorism in any of the cases, but said Banach's arrest shows how seriously they take the matter.
Sentenced to two years probation; serious charges dropped
"We need to send a clear message to the public that there is no harmless mischief when it comes to airplanes," said Christopher Christie, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey.
Banach made an initial appearance in court Tuesday and was released on $100,000 bond. He was charged with interfering with a flight crew under the USA Patriot Act. He also was charged with lying to federal officers. The charges carry a maximum jail sentence of 25 years.
"In our environment at night where there's little light, if we're temporarily blinded, we may lose our ability to see the ground, see the instruments,” said Trooper Jonathan Aames.
The troopers on board the airplane are usually looking for speeders or drunk drivers, but last Saturday night, they used their infrared cameras to find Tony Rhodes, the person 2,000 feet below who was flashing their plane with the green laser pointer.Click to read more...
Police say the helicopter is being targeted by lasers almost weekly and want the government to follow Australia's lead in banning possession of the high-powered lasers and introducing a specific charge for laser-pointing.
"Because I don't want to crash, and that's exactly what's going to happen," says pilot and senior constable Shane Gayley. "Helicopters don't glide. There's only one way down and you're screaming all the way."Click to read more...