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Danger from below

Flying at 5000 feet, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter was flashed by the laser from the ground last week.
Flying at 5000 feet, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter was flashed by the laser from the ground last week. Marc Stapelberg

THE Westpac Rescue Life Saver Helicopter Service has aired its concern that someone shone a high-powered laser at its crew as they responded to an emergency over the Coffs Coast.

Flying at 5000 feet, the chopper was flashed by the laser from the ground last week.

The incident happened as the emergency helicopter was tasked to search for an activated emergency locator beacon in the Coffs Harbour area last Tuesday at 1am.

As the helicopter narrowed down on an location for the beacon in the Sawtell/Boambee area, the aircraft was flashed by the laser.

Roger Fry from the Westpac Lifesave Helicopter service in Lismore said the effects of a crew member being hit by the laser in the eyes could cause serious problems for not just the individual, but everyone on board.

"I don't think people

think of the ramifications, we've only got one pilot on board, if they're affected by the laser, it it will make landing very difficult or potentially impossible,” Mr Fry said.

"This is not the first time this has happened down this way.

"We've been pinged at a few different places.

"When you're looking out is when you might be hit, it's not something you'll feel until it's happened.

"Lasers can travel great distances but you can often never see where the dot is. How these people can means they have a very good system which is a concern for helicopters and air crafts flying into the area.

At the weekend a teenager was arrested in Sydney after he allegedly shone a laser at a Polair helicopter.

The targeted aircraft notified police on ground who started investigations and a short time later, arrested a 17-year-old

boy and seized the laser pointer.

In 2008, the NSW government passed legislation making it possible for police to

search anyone they believe may be carrying a laser pointer.

Unless they have a legitimate reason for carrying one they can face fines of up to $5000.

A study by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau in 2016 found that from 2010 to 2014, laser strikes were the second leading cause of flight crew incapacitation.

For more information on lasers and the law, visit laserpointersafety.com



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