Summer has arrived, and that means it's time for the beach, vacation and pointing lasers at the Coast Guard. Wait, what?
The Coast Guard doesn't get it quite either, but the break in the weather has led to a rash of incidents where civilians aimed laser pointers at Coast Guard officials, temporarily blinding the operators of two boats and a rescue helicopter. The Coast Guard Investigative Service is examining three incidents that have occurred over the past three weeks. They've also issued a reminder that aiming a laser at a boat or aircraft is punishable with five years in prison or a $250,000 fine. Intent is irrelevant.
“Chances are they are not trying to do anything malicious,” Petty Officer Mark Barney told Military.com. “But doing it to someone's face is always dangerous, especially when that person is piloting an aircraft.”
The announcement comes after two incidents occurred this week within 24 hours of each other. A MH-65 Dolphin rescue chopper was temporarily blinded by a small green laser being aimed from somewhere one mile south of Punta Salina, Puerto Rico (a rescue mission doesn't appear to have been underway at the time). That same morning, another green laser hit an 87 foot boat patrolling Sanibel Island, Florida.
Before that, in early May, someone aimed at a Coast Guard cutter that was inspecting a recreational vessel near Miami's Venetian Causeway. None of the incidents in question resulted in any injuries.
Pilots have complained that laser attacks, however brief, can create a myriad of problems. The most inexpensive laser pointers can beam a light for two miles, and commercial pilots have complained that the effect of the sudden light might last for much longer than the time it's in their eye.
A California man was sentenced to 14 years in prison for pointing a laser pointer at a police helicopter.