WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Laser beams are targeting helicopters and aircrafts over Palm Beach County. Shining these lasers at aircrafts is causing major problems in the air.
WPTV NewsChannel 5's own Captain Julie was hit last month. A Delta pilot coming into Palm Beach International Airport was struck recently which left him injured. Earlier this week two helicopters were hit, one was the Eagle from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.
It's so bad PBSO has a full time detective devoted to the cases, working with the TSA and FBI to find the suspects who may be kids having fun.
When the engines fire up and the helicopters lift off there's a new threat on the ground. An unexpecting beam of light left David Humphrey dangerously distracted.
"I caught something out of the corner of my eye which was penetrating the cockpit," said Humphrey. The aviation unit pilot is one of dozens involved in a case where lasers are targeting aircraft. This week alone, beams of light shot up from Lake worth near Haverhill and Malleluca hitting the Eagle and another helicopter on the same night. In some cases severe eye damage is reported.
"It's going to affect the safety of flights. It's going to burn your eyes. If it's a powerful enough laser it can blind you temporarily."
The incidents are scattered and they happen at different locations. South Florida is not alone. Across the nation lasers striking aircrafts has risen dramatically. "There were 200 incidents in 2007...That has grown to a thousand in 2010."
When we're involved in a laser incident were being taken away from our primary mission which is the apprehension of criminals, search and rescue missions."
When incidents do occur the control tower at PBIA is immediately notified which sends the sheriff's office eagle in the air. So far there have been no arrests this year but deputies know there are plenty of cases to study and plenty more to come.
"Any incident is serious. It is a felony and it is getting worse."
Those felony charges range up to $15,000 fines and 20 years in prison. It's no joke and a very serious charge, which is why PBSO is trying to make everyone aware of the serious nature of the problem and what it could lead to...the ultimate crash of an aircraft.
©2007 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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