Coast Guard seeks info after laser pointed at helicopter crew in Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES, Wash. -- The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking information after someone pointed a green laser at a helicopter crew on its way to Air Station Port Angeles.

According to the Coast Guard, the flight crew onboard an MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter landed safely and were checked out by medical personnel. Nobody was hurt.

The laser strike was also reported to local police. The laser came from the area of 4th and Hill Street in Port Angeles, officials said.

“These types of incidents can be very dangerous to the safety of our aircrews and disrupts our ability to respond as a search and rescue asset,” said Cmdr. Mark Hiigel, commanding officer, Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles. “In this particular case the aircrew was medically grounded for approximately two hours. This resulted in Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and Sector Columbia River, located in Warrenton, Oregon, covering our area of responsibility until the Port Angeles aircrew was medically cleared.  We need the general public to understand that the dangers of playing with green laser lights goes beyond medical risks to our aircrews, it places all mariners at risk due to delayed response times should they become in distress."

Laser pointers cause great danger due to glare, afterimage, flash blindness or temporary loss of night vision. Coast Guard rules state that if a laser is pointed at a crew, they must abort their mission.

"Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a felony crime under 18 U.S. Code Section 39A, which states whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both."

Anyone with information is asked to call Coast Guard Investigative Services at 206-220-7170.