Laser temporarily blinds medical helicopter crew member

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(SALT LAKE CITY) — A paramedic was temporarily blinded after their helicopter was affected by a laser strike earlier this month.

A Utah AirMed helicopter was struck while transporting a patient to the University of Utah hospital. A crew member aboard the flight experienced temporary blindness and blurred vision from the laser.

“They were able to safely land in our hospital, and once they were able to transfer the patient, the crew member was seen in the emergency room,” Nathan Morreale, chief flight paramedic for Utah AirMed told ABC News.

The crew member is back on the job but has experienced lingering blindness in his peripheral vision, Morreale said.

“The safety of our patients and our crews are at the forefront of everything we do,” Morreale said. “Even though our crews are highly trained for circumstances and scenarios, there’s no amount of training that can prepare you for what happens when a laser hits your eye and causes temporary blindness.”

The Federal Aviation Administration said its Flight Standards District Office is looking into the incident.

Laser incidents have been on the rise in recent years, according to the agency. The FAA reported 6,852 laser incidents in 2020, up from 6,136 in 2019. It’s the highest reported number of incidents since 2016.

Intentionally aiming lasers at aircraft violates federal law. Individuals may face up to $11,000 in civil penalties per violation and up to $30,800 for multiple incidents.

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