Coast Guard helicopter struck by laser

Coast Guard helicopter struck by laser
Lt. Dennis Westermann
Lt. Dennis Westermann

KALAELOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the fifth time this year, a Coast Guard aircraft was struck by a laser.

The latest incident occurred near Waimanalo Bay around 5 a.m. Saturday when a rescue helicopter was responding to a possible distressed boater.

"The frequency of incidents locally and nationally is increasing at a dangerous rate and the public needs to know that when we are hit by a laser, we are no longer effective at finding that lost family member or friend," said Lt. Cmdr. Roger Barr.

Coast Guard officials said that the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter was flying in the dark at altitude of about 400 ft. when crew members saw a green light zeroing in on their aircraft.

Lt. Dennis Westermann, one of the helicopter pilots said the laser hit a fellow pilot in the eye but he was able to recover.

The Coast Guard says such strikes can be very dangerous.

"Sometimes it can hit the windows a certain way and really shine up the cockpit," Westermann said.

"The worst case would be eye irritation, temporary loss of night vision, which would mean for us that we would have to return to base and cancel the mission."

Because no one was injured, the crew continued the search but were unable to find the distressed boater.

Because this is the fifth incident this year, Coast Guard officials are on extra alert and are urging anyone with any knowledge of the incident to contact Honolulu Police.

The Coast Guard also is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the incident.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense which could lead to arrest or fines of up to $300,000.

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