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US: News reports quote helicopter pilot who suffered two burned corneas from 1995 laser attack

During a December 10 2013 ABC News report about a JetBlue airliner being lased in Palm Beach, a helicopter pilot interviewed said he had two burned corneas from a laser attack. From the transcript:

Reporter Jim Avila: “We also spoke to helicopter pilot Steve Robertson who suffered two burned corneas from a laser attack.”
Robertson: “You take the vision out from a pilot, that aircraft’s ability to land is greatly compromised.”

A Google search turned up three stories about Robertson’s injury. A November 2010 Glendale News-Press article included the following:

Glendale Police Sgt. Steve Robertson is all too familiar with the consequences of pointing a laser at a helicopter.

Robertson's corneas were severely burned 15 years ago when his police helicopter was flashed with lasers. He said it felt similar to being hit by a baseball bat.

"It's no different than pointing a gun or shooting at a police officer," he said. "It could have the same outcome."

Robertson said he avoided crashing because he was flying with another pilot.

After being struck by the laser, Robertson was taken to a nearby hospital, where doctors scraped his corneas. He returned to work four days later and still has 20/20 vision, he said.

Robertson's injury was the last laser-related injury to the department's helicopter pilots.


A January 2011 NPR report also has information about the incident and injury:

Glendale Police Sgt. Steve Robertson remembers the first time he encountered a laser strike. He says his helicopter was hit by a powerful beam of green light one night while he was on patrol.

"It immediately [lit] up the whole cockpit and it hit both of my eyes and burned both of my corneas," says the veteran pilot. "Instantly, I was blinded. It felt like I was hit in the face with a baseball bat — just an intense, burning pain."

Robertson was momentarily incapacitated and would have crashed if his co-pilot hadn't been able to land the chopper. He recovered from his injuries. But since that incident back in the mid '90s, Robertson says he and his fellow police pilots in Glendale have been targeted dozens of times by people shining cheap, easy-to-buy lasers.


Sources: Dec. 10 2013 video report from ABC News. Nov. 2010 story from the Glendale News-Press. Jan. 2011 story from NPR. Not quoted above is a Feb. 2013 ABC News story; it may have used the same interview clip as the Dec. 2013 ABC News story.