The U.S. Coast Guard says it had to abandon another air search because of green lasers along the South Carolina coast.
A Charleston-based helicopter crew had just begun searching near Garden City Beach at around 1:45 a.m. Wednesday when they were temporarily blinded by bright green laser beams and forced to land, officials said.
One crewmember was hit in the eye and couldn’t fly again until Wednesday afternoon. The Coast Guard said this marked the third time in three weeks someone on the shore has shone a laser into a cockpit, hindering its searches in the Grand Strand.
Green lasers can temporarily blind pilots, especially when they’re wearing night vision goggles. but in addition to that danger, the Coast Guard says the lasers are a hazard because it takes additional time and resources to dispatch new search teams after the first pilots have to land unexpectedly. In the most recent case, it took about two hours to send a boat crew to take over for the grounded pilots.
The Coast Guard has warned local governments they may have to limit search activities unless they can stop the problem. Cmdr. Gregory Fuller, commanding officer at Air Station Savannah, said he now requires aircrews to consider laser risk in the area before responding to a distress call.
“Every time we send our aircrews to the Grand Strand, we’re telling them to fly into the equivalent of a storm, where it’s almost guaranteed they’ll be hit,” Fuller said in a news release. “We’re simply asking the public to stop putting Coast Guard men and women in senseless and unnecessary danger.”
Shooting a laser at an aircraft carries penalties including fines and up to five years in prison.
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