Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Atlantic City, New Jersey: Authorities investigating laser lights pointed at medevac helicopters

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It’s a danger that pilots who fly over the Jersey Shore are all too familiar with. 

“It’s not a joke,” said Lieutenant Justin Gordon, a U.S. Coast Guard Pilot. “It’s illegal. It’s unsafe. It’s dangerous.”

Officials say a medical helicopter was about to land at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center with a patient on board Tuesday night when someone pointed a green laser at the chopper several times. Police say the Medevac crew believed the light came from a spot near a motel on South Tennessee Avenue in Atlantic City. When officers checked the location however, they couldn’t find anything. They continue to search for suspects.

While no one was hurt during Tuesday night’s incident, Gordon says that wasn’t the case a few weeks ago when someone on the ground pointed a laser at his chopper as he was flying over the Shore. According to Gordon, his flight mechanic had to undergo medical treatment as a result of the laser’s glare.

“He was experiencing headache and pain in his eyes,” Gordon says.

Federal Aviation Administration says the glare from a laser pointer can completely incapacitate a pilot. Pointing one at an aircraft is a federal offense, carrying a prison term of up to five years.

“Every single summer it just keeps going up and up and up,” Gordon said. “If we’re close enough it can cause short or long-term damage to our eyes. The time they’re most likely to affect us is going to be the time when we need to be paying attention the most."

Federal Aviation Administration says there were more than 3400 laser incidents reported nationwide last year with 66 of those taking place in New Jersey.