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UIHC helicopter encounters laser

Published: Sep. 2, 2017 at 9:33 PM CDT
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Someone was shining a laser at a hospital helicopter, late Friday night.

Officials with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics said AirCare2 was on its way to Ottumwa's hospital at the time.

"It is impossible to understand why anyone would endanger the lives of our patients and staff in such a reckless and callous manner," said UIHC Spokesman Tom Moore in a statement.

Moore said the crew followed procedure and gave coordinates to authorities.

"They were told the person was caught," said Moore. "This wasn't the first incident in that area, and all involved are relieved that an arrest was made."

Pointing a laser into a cockpit is a federal crime, with a potential five-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine. Even so, several thousand laser incidents are reported each year to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Aviation Consultant John Nance told ABC News in 2015 lasers are becoming a serious problem for pilots.

"It's a sudden flash that can flash-blind you to the point that you can't really see what you're doing," said Nance. "If it gets both eyes, which is possible, the pilot’s going to be fairly well out of the loop."

In July of that year, the news organization reported on a spate of commercial planes flying over New York and New Jersey which spotted lasers beamed toward the aircraft. The FBI and FAA investigated the incident. One agent called it a laser "assault."