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Laser pointers pose risk to pilots, Sheriff reminds

Posted on Monday, July 7, 2014 at 5:23 pm

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office wants to remind people who gets the crazy idea in their head to flash a laser pointer at a helicopter or other aircraft of two key points:

One, a pilot’s eyes can be seriously injured by the laser, and the blinding light can disorient the pilot and make the aircraft susceptible to a crash.

Two, it’s illegal.

Those points were reiterated last week when a Kissimmee teenager was arrested for doing just that.

Jasiel Medina-Quintana, 17, was charged with misuse of laser lighting devices and booked into the Osceola County Jail but was released to his mother’s custody due to his age.

On June 30 at approximately 10 p.m., Sheriff’s deputies were in the area of Lucille Street and East Carroll Street in Kissimmee investigating a disturbance. The Aviation Unit was assisting when the pilot advised a laser light temporarily blinded him.

The unit was able to identify the location of the laser to a residence on Dixie Lane in Kissimmee. Deputies made contact with the homeowner who indicated she was home with Medina-Quintana, her son, who told deputies he was playing in the backyard and shining the laser into the sky, but did not realize it was illegal to shine a laser at an aircraft. Based on his statements, Quintana was charged.

In an audio recording from the operation, the pilot notes that he had to break off the surveillance briefly while being hit with the laser. Within eight minutes, deputies responded to the house after the pilot pinpointed the address the laser light was shot from.

Sheriff Bob Hansell hopes the case will serve as a lesson to people not to shine such lights into the air and put pilots and those on the ground at risk.

“It is extremely dangerous to shine a laser light at any aircraft. It could result in temporarily blinding and disorienting the pilot which could result in a catastrophic or tragic event,” he said.