A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: Teen arrested for "shooing" helicopter with laser pointer

An 18-year-old tried to “shoo away” a Sheriff’s Office helicopter with a 6-inch-long “high powered” laser pointer, because the noise was keeping him awake. Deputies soon arrived at Beau Richard Wallace’s home in Palm Harbor, Florida. They arrested him on a felony charge of misusing a laser lighting device, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

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

Israel: 15-year-old aims laser pointer at pilot

A 15-year-old illuminated a police helicopter in Bat Yam, a city south of Tel Aviv, on November 23 2009. The pilot tried to avoid the laser beam, but the boy kept aiming at the aircraft. When the pilot felt threatened, he called for ground assistance. A motorcycle officer found the boy in a playground, still attempting to hit the helicopter. The boy was detained. During questioning, he “claimed to have known that this was dangerous and expressed regret over the incident.”

Original Hebrew article from YNet; Google translation into English available here

US: 2.5 years in prison for Calif. man

A California man, the first in the U.S. to be convicted at trial for interfering with pilots by beaming lasers at planes, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on November 2 2009.


2 1/2 years in prison for laser interference with pilots

Dana Christian Welch, 37, of Orange, California was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Welch also is to serve three years of supervised release after completing his prison term, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherilyn Peace Garnett said.

Click to read more...

Canada: Pilot suffers retinal damage; off work for months

In early September 2009, an air ambulance pilot was illuminated by a laser while transferring a patient to an Ottawa hospital. A news report in early November said that he "suffered retinal damage ... is still off work nearly two months later .... [and] could remain off work for another three months."

It was not clear from the story what type of aircraft -- fixed wing or helicopter -- the pilot was flying at the time.

Captain Barry Wiszniowski of the Air Canada Pilots Association, stated "Our judicial system has to understand the severity of the consequences. It would be catastrophic if a pilot was impaired by a laser and lost all situational awareness."

More statistics and information from
Canadian OH&S News.

US: 3+ years in prison for California man

Balltazar O. Valladares, 30, was sentenced to three years and one month in prison for shining a green laser at a Sacramento CA sheriff’s helicopter on March 16 2009 [see report here]. The copter was hit while searching for the source of a laser that earlier in the evening had illuminated a Southwest Airlines flight landing at Sacramento International Airport.


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.”

From CrimeVoice.com

UK: Teenager apologizes to helicopter crew

A 17-year-old from South East Wales who shined a laser pen at a police helicopter in July 2009, has apologized in person to the crew. The youth, identified only as "Dennis" visited the crew as part of a "restorative justice programme" to show the implications of his actions.

The pilot was quoted as saying "Dennis has learned how dangerous this type of incident can be, and I hope that others will understand the same lesson."

Full story, with photo of the meeting, from
BBC News

UK: 63-year-old arrested for aiming flashlight (torch)

Torben Merriott, 63, was arrested for shining a flashlight (torch) at an RAF Apache helicopter, after being awakened at 1 am by two gunships which were on a military exercise. The arrest for was "suspicion of endangering an aircraft by dazzling the pilot." He was held for nine hours before being bailed out of jail. The charge carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail.

Merriott said the gunships sounded like an "earthquake" and were "10 feet above my garden" in his farmhouse near Eye, Suffolk. News reports said he used the flashlight to identify the aircraft, during the September 18 2009 incident.

The flashlight was readily available and cost £8.45 (US $13.86). Merriott owns a theatrical lighting firm that has lit flying helicopters at a Buckingham Palace event. He insists he did not put the aircraft at risk: "Don't tell the Taliban that all they need is an eight-quid torch to bring down multi-million-pound high-tech gunships."

Full story, with photo of Merriott and a torch, from the Daily Mail.

UPDATE: Charges were dropped two days after the incident. Merriott said he was considering making an official complaint:
"I cannot help feeling that to keep me locked up for nine hours is pretty vindictive, when I was happy to make a statement. It was heavy handed and I think they were trying to teach me a lesson."

Update from
EDP24

Australia: "Did not know the beam was strong enough to reach the plane"

A suburban Brisbane man pleaded guilty and was fined AUS $800 for “endangering the safe use of a vehicle by directing a beam of light from a laser,” after tracking a light aircraft on August 27 2009.

20-year-old Nicholas Paul Gregory told police he had aimed at the aircraft, but “he did not know the beam was strong enough to reach the plane.” At trial, his defense lawyer said Gregory had no intent to harm anyone: “He is still shocked at his own stupidity and the consequences of his own stupidity.”

Gregory could have received a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

From the
Brisbane Times

US: Columbus man aims gun, laser at 2 helicopters

A 22-year-old Columbus (Ohio) area man was arrested and charged with a felony, after shining a green laser gunsight onto a medical helicopter and then an investigating police helicopter. Officers on the ground found Jared T. Shapiro with the laser, attached to a high-powered rifle.

More details at
WBNS 10TV

US: Apparent copycat laser incident in Buffalo

For the second night in a row, someone shined a bright laser into the cockpit of Erie County (NY) sheriff's helicopter. The suspects appeared to be "copycatting" an incident the night before, when three Buffalo area men were arrested and charged with felonies.

The second-night suspects were not found, as of the following day.

More at
WIVB.com and the last two paragraphs of this Buffalo News story.

US: 3 men charged with felony in Buffalo

Three men from the Buffalo, New York area face felony criminal charges after pointing a green laser at a FedEx airplane and at a local sheriff's helicopter. The helicopter was used to locate the men, Timothy J. Voigt (42), his son Eric Voigt (20) and Bradley J. Campbell (28), who all face multiple counts of felony reckless endangerment. Local officials said the crime "is being reviewed by the FAA and the FBI, with the possibility of additional federal charges."

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

US: 2 Columbus men charged with felonies

Two men were arrested and charged with felonies, accused of aiming a laser pointer at a commercial airplane as it approached Port Columbus (Ohio) International Airport on September 14. They also are accused of pointing the laser at a Columbus police helicopter.

Dennis Smoke, 45, was arrested with Levi Milstead, 19. Each is charged with two counts of pointing a laser at an aircraft and one count each possession of criminal tools. Conviction carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

More details from
The Columbus Dispatch

UK: 180 hours of community service "for a laugh"

A 21-year-old UK woman was sentenced to 6 months in jail for shining a laser pen “for a laugh” at a police helicopter in Staines, just outside London Heathrow Airport. However, Natasha Forster’s sentence was suspended and she was ordered to carry out 180 hours of community service instead. The judge also ordered the laser to be destroyed.

A police inspector was quoted as saying “The sentence handed out sends a clear warning to anyone else considering such reckless behaviour. Endangering an aircraft is a criminal offence and it will not be tolerated.”

From the Richmond-Twickenham Times and The Independent.

UK: Man tracked, arrested after helicopter incident

A 32-year-old man was arrested in Reading, about 50 miles west of London, for shining a green laser beam on a police helicopter. The officers on board used cameras to guide ground units to the suspect. The man was charged with endangering police officers.

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

UK: 150 hours community service, avoids 8 months in jail

Peter Hind, 38, of Shirebrook in Nottinghamshire, UK, was sentenced to 150 hours of community service for aiming a green laser at a police helicopter. He would have received eight months in jail, except that he is the only caregiver for his 12-year-old son. The judge said “he made a stupid mistake but sending him to prison would punish his child more.”

From the
Mirror.

US: Felony arrest for shining laser at CHP helicopter

18-year-old Dustin Brown of Carmichael, California was arrested August 19 2009 for aiming a laser at a California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter. He was charged with a felony; the maximum penalty under state law is three years in jail; under federal law it is 20 years and a $250,000 fine.

The story noted that “at least six other people have been busted for pointing lasers at aircraft in the Sacramento area over the past several months.”

From CBS13 news in Sacramento, CA

New Zealand: Sentenced to 200 hours service for illuminating Wellington airplane

Vladimir Maricic, 25, was sentenced to 200 hours of community service for twice hitting a Mt Cook Airlines plane with a laser beam, as it flew near Wellington on March 4 2008. Maricic was aiming from a car park at the Mt Victoria lookout. He said he wanted to see how far the beam would reach, and that he did not intend any harm. He was charged under the Civil Aviation Act with causing unnecessary danger.

The judge said Maricic’s actions were “extremely dangerous no matter how unintentional.”

From the
New Zealand Herald

Australia: Student faces possible life imprisonment

A 26-year-old student faces possible life imprisonment on a charge of “prejudicing the operation of an aircraft” by shining a green laser pen at a Quantas aircraft as it neared Adelaide. Irfan Bozan was also charged with “acts to endanger life” and “carrying an offensive weapon”.


Irfan Bozan, a student from Turkey, pointed the laser at aircraft and passing cars.



Click to read more...

Scotland: £4000 (US $6500) fine for flashing laser at rescue helicopter

A 22-year-old was fined £4000 (US $6500, Euro 4500) for flashing a green laser beam at pilots in a rescue helicopter. On Nov. 1 2008, an RAF Sea King helicopter was carrying a teenager injured in a climbing accident. Rosen Romanov dazzled the pilots who were at an altitude of 1000 feet over homes in Caol, Fort William, in Scotland.

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.

Wales: 10 month jail sentence after laser hits plane

21-year-old Hossein Hosseiny was sentenced to 4 months in jail for endangering the safety of an aircraft by shining a laser into the cockpit of a landing airplane. In addition, he received another 6 months for supplying drugs that had been found by officers tracking down the laser pointer misuse.

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.

UK: Footage of Birmingham helicopter tracking suspect after being lasered

Birmingham police released a video showing two youths lasering a helicopter, then running and unsuccessfully attempting to flee.


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

For a transcript of the video narration, click the “Read More...” link below.

Related stories in the Birmingham Mail March 11 2009 and April 6 2009, and the Sunday Mercury May 7 2009

Click to read more...

US: Man indicted for interfering with Southwest flight

A 29-year-old man from Roseville, CA was arrested and indicted for shining a green laser at a Southwest Airlines flight and at a police helicopter looking for the source of the Southwest incident. The incident occurred on March 16 2009. On April 2, he was indicted by a grand jury.

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...

Canada: Five "hits" on Toronto approach

An Air Canada Airbus 320, was hit by five laser flashes as it approached Toronto Pearson International Airport. "Zero Five Zero, this is Air Canada Seven Five Four -- We've just taken two green laser hits," the pilot said, according to a recording made of an exchange between the aircraft and air traffic controllers.

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

US: 12 planes report a laser in Seattle. UPDATE: Arrest made

Pilots on 12 jetliners landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Sunday, Feb. 22 2009, reported that someone was shining a green laser light into their cockpits.

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.
.

US: 3 year sentence in laser case

A Cleveland-area man who shined a green laser into the cockpits of airplanes and a helicopter last June will spend three years in prison after pleading guilty to those crimes and separate drug-dealing charges. Justin Dewalt, 26, pleaded guilty to several felonies and was sentenced Friday, officials said.


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.

UK: 4 months jail; pilot turned controls over to co-pilot

A 19-year-old man who shone a laser pen into an aircraft, temporarily blinding the pilot, has been sent to a young offenders' institution for four months.

Ben Philip Vout targeted a KLM flight coming in to land with 40 passengers at Durham Tees Valley Airport in northeast England, in August 2008. He also shone the device at a police helicopter sent to investigate.

Vout, 19, and from Heslop Street in Thornaby had earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

Teesside Crown Court was told that the KLM flight had to be landed by the co-pilot.

From
BBC News