CG seeks green laser users

Tribune Staff • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:44 AM

At about 9 p.m. Aug. 17, an MH-65C Dolphin helicopter crew flying out of Coast Guard Air Facility Muskegon was conducting training with a Coast Guard boat when a green laser was directed toward the helicopter from shore. The Coast Guard said it endangered the helicopter crew.

At about 10:30 that night, the coxswain of the Coast Guard boat again spotted the laser illuminating the helicopter, this time appearing to track the helicopter as it moved. The source of the laser was traced back to Pioneer Park in Muskegon, where a group of people was observed around a campfire flashing a pattern of signals with a red light. When the Coast Guard crew approached the shoreline and shined a spotlight on the group, they scattered and fled the area.

Green lasers present a significant risk to flight safety, especially for helicopters working at low altitudes and aircraft taking off or landing, and for boat crews operating at night. If any air crew member’s vision is compromised during a flight, Coast Guard flight rules dictate that the mission must be aborted. A delay during a search could result in the death of the people the Coast Guard is attempting to rescue.

"We've been very fortunate that the green laser incidents haven't yet resulted in tragedy," said Cmdr. Joseph Deer, commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Station Detroit. "But whoever is committing these crimes is endangering the lives of their fellow citizens, as well as the air crews performing training and rescue missions. We're simply asking the public to help us put a stop to this reckless behavior by reporting it immediately if they see it happening."

Anyone who witnesses such an act is asked to call 911. Anyone with information about the Aug. 17 incident in Muskegon is asked to call the 9th Coast Guard District Command Center emergency line at 800-321-4400.

The Federal Aviation Administration reports laser incidents rose 902 percent from 2005 to 2011. Shining any laser at an aircraft is a federal offense. Several people have been convicted under this and similar state laws, Coast Guard officials said.

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