(NAPA, Calif.) — A California Highway Patrol pilot said he was momentarily blinded and is still suffering some pain in his left eye after his aircraft was hit by a blue laser on a return flight to the airport.
“It’s pitch black. We’re flying and all of a sudden, it’s like the sun just came out,” pilot Jan Sears with the patrol’s Golden Gate Division Air Operations told CBS13 in Sacramento. “It took me a minute to get my bearings.”
Authorities said the laser incident occurred around 10:50 p.m. Monday as one of its aircrafts — an Air-31 — was on its way back to the Napa County Airport after finishing a search. Officers caught the incident on camera as the suspect continued pointing the laser at the aircraft, police said.
“The suspect pointed the laser directly at our aircraft striking our pilot in the eye. The pilot was able to maintain control of the aircraft due to the auto pilot being engaged,” California Highway Patrol said on its Facebook page Tuesday.
Sears, a pilot with the patrol for 12 years, and his team were able to identify the suspect’s location and directed the Solano County Sheriff’s Office there.
“We turned away from it as if we weren’t going to look for the guy and the guy kept, you know, pointing the laser at us repeatedly,” Sears told CBS13 in Sacramento.
Authorities said Solano officers immediately responded and located the suspect at the location of the laser strikes. The laser was allegedly found on the suspect, according to authorities.
Sears said he was still suffering pain in his left eye.
The Golden Gate Division Air Operations said in its news release that there had been several reports to the Travis Air Force Base tower of military and civilian aircraft being struck by a laser during the last few days.
“In a week, we’re probably lase’d once, maybe twice. Sometimes we catch them, sometimes we don’t,” Sears told CBS13 in Sacramento.
The division said the Solano Sheriff’s Office was investigating whether the man arrested was involved in those other laser strikes.
The suspect was arrested for two felonies — discharging a laser and aiming a laser at an aircraft — and booked into the Solano County Jail. He could face federal charges along with FAA fines, the Golden Gate Division Air Operations said Tuesday.
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