BOSTON (CBS) – A laser light was aimed at a medical helicopter flying to a Boston hospital early Wednesday morning.
The Boston MedFlight was bringing a patient to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center around 2:30 a.m. when a green laser was flashed into the helicopter’s cockpit, according to police.
“The laser appeared to be coming from the area of Storrow Drive, possibly from near the area of the brownstones across from the Esplanade,” State Police said in a statement to WBZ-TV.
“Cruisers were dispatched to check along Storrow from Charles Circle up to Kenmore and did not find anything.”
No one on board was injured, but officials with the company told WBZ this a “terrible thing” that has the potential to temporarily blind a pilot.
“It’s particularly challenging at night,” said MedFlight pilot Rick Ruff. “That’s where we’re seeing a lot of incidents with lasers that cause a critical risk to our operations.”
Ruff has been a Boston MedFlight helicopter since 1999.
“When it hits this glass, it reflects to a certain extent but then diffuses and floods the cockpit,” Ruff says.
“I don’t think that people understand the real impact of what these lasers can actually do to a pilot, a crew, and a patient during a critical phase of a flight,” Ruff added. “The overall fact that you’re putting at risk not only my life but the life of my crew and my patient is a definite source of frustration when these individuals do this.”
Rick Kenin is Boston MedFlight’s General Manager, but he’s also a helicopter pilot who has been “lazed”, as he calls it, three or four times over the years.
“When that intense light hits the eye, the retina specifically, it will burn the retina, similar to burning you skin, creating temporary blindness,” Kenin says.
“I have been ‘lazed’ while flying a helicopter and I have felt the burning of the eye and I was grounded,” Kenin says. “I didn’t have instantaneous blindness but I was grounded for a period of time after I was hit with a laser.”
WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong contributed to this report. You can follow him on Twitter @JimArmstrongWBZ.