The plane’s pilot was temporarily blinded by a laser pointer while supporting Nottoway County Sheriff’s Office in the pursuit and search for a suspect.
The crew were able to identify the source of the laser strike following the return of the pilot’s vision and relayed an exact location and address to ground-based police. Following the initial attack, the laser continued to track the plane as it continued to assist the search.
Local and state police officers who arrived at the scene later arrested a woman found with a laser pointer, charging her with one felony count of ‘interfering with the operation of an aircraft’.
Authorities have notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the incident, and a formal investigation is underway.
A similar incident occurred in Florida earlier this month
In a separate incident in Florida, a 19-year-old was arrested on Monday 2 May for allegedly pointing a green laser at a Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) helicopter.
The aircraft reportedly came under attack by laser at around 01:00 hrs near Miami Gardens, during which the pilot was ‘struck in the eye’ by the beam. The pilot was later able to identify the vehicle from which the laser strike originated and requested assistance from police officers on the ground.
The suspect, Yeneisy Valdera, was found in the rear left passenger seat of the vehicle when police arrived at the scene, and a laser pointer was confiscated from her.
Police say that the aircraft’s camera showed Valdera pointing the laser at it, and she has now been charged with one count of ‘misuse of a laser lighting device’.
The FAA has warned of a significant rise in laser strikes on aircraft across the US, with 9,723 incidents were reported across the country in 2021 – a 41-per-cent increase in 2021 compared with the number of incidents recorded in 2020 (6,852), and more than triple the incidents reported (2,776) when records began in 2010.