Mercy Air ambulance hit twice by laser near Palomar Airport

Pointing laser at an aircraft is a felony

SAN DIEGO - A Mercy Air ambulance was hit twice by someone using a laser pointer near Palomar Airport while the helicopter was returning from transporting a gunshot victim from Oceanside.

The incident occurred at about 1 a.m. Wednesday.

"If you lose visibility for a few seconds up to ten seconds, it can be catastrophic," said sheriff's helicopter ASTREA pilot Stuart Rae.

Rae, who normally flies at night for the department, said his helicopter has been hit six to eight times during the last few years.

In 2010, San Diego was ranked in the top 20 locations for laser strikes among six different California cities.  

In the Mercy Air incident, a sheriff's helicopter was dispatched to the southeastern portion of Carlsbad where the strike was reported.

There were no further strikes. Rae said if there had been further strikes, aerial law enforcement officers can usually pinpoint the location rather quickly because of the sophisticated equipment on board.

"We find and arrest more than 50 percent of those who point lasers at law enforcement helicopters by locating where it's coming from and directing units on the ground to apprehend them," Rae said.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a felony and is subject to heavy fines and prison time for those who are caught.

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