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Laser strikes Flight for Life helicopter

A patient was not on board at the time of the incident and none of the crew was hurt.

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — A Flight for Life team was put in a dangerous situation when a laser was pointed at the helicopter. 

It happened the night of Tuesday, Nov. 29, as the crew based at Saint Anthony's hospital was returning from transporting a patient to Children's Hospital of Colorado. 

Nobu Saga is a pilot with Flight for Life, an emergency medical helicopter. He wasn't flying last Tuesday night but said he heard all about it from the crew.

"They had already began their descent, their approach phase to the pad downstairs and that's when they encountered a laser strike," Saga explained. "So I believe the nurse noticed first, told the pilot and the pilot then instructed the crew, everybody to look away from it and basically continued the approach to land."

A patient was not on board at the time of the incident and none of the crew was hurt. But Saga said the danger of a laser pointed inside a cockpit and blinding a pilot is very real.

"When the laser comes in it basically hits the window and it almost shatters,  it's very startling it gets reflected all over the aircraft and it basically kind of spreads," he explained. "So to be blinded in such a critical phase of flight it could lead to a crash."

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense punishable by up to $11,000 per violation and/or up to five years in prison. But the real penalty is the lives that could be lost in these situations. 

"A lot of time our patients, they're transported by helicopter because it's time critical so anything that delays that transport could potentially be detrimental to their outcome," Saga added. "They could very well be you one day, could be your family members, you just never know." 

Saga said when these incidents happen, they do file a report with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA said they've received more than 9,700 reports of laser strikes last year. That's the highest number of laser strikes ever recorded by the agency. 

"It's a horrible situation all around" 


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