The Maryland State Police helicopter crew conducting a mission from high above Carroll County about one o'clock in the morning suddenly found themselves blinded from below.
"A pilot and a trooper paramedic on board this aircraft were affected by multiple hits with this laser beam, and it affects your vision temporarily causing blindness,” said Elena Russo of the Maryland State Police. “It can burn your retinas. I mean it can do serious damage, and the consequences are not just for those people aboard the aircraft, but it could cause them to lose control of the aircraft."
When the misuse of the pointers became prevalent a few years ago, pilots at Martin State Airport invited ABC2 News for a demonstration.
Reporters witnessed firsthand how the brilliant green light of the laser bounces off the pilot and shiny objects inside the cockpit.
There's no mistaking its blinding effect when it’s directed into the eyes keeping pilots from seeing the many instruments across the flight station that keep the more than four-ton choppers in the air.
In the incident early Monday, someone directed such beams into the cockpit eight different times in succession.
"Once they pinpointed where the laser beams were coming from, they were able to communicate with ground forces to find this residence, find the suspect and apprehend him," Russo said.
Carroll County Sheriff's deputies tracked the beam to a home on Canterbury Drive in Sykesville where they recovered the laser devise and arrested 30-year old Connor Grant Brown.
The motive in this case?
Apparently, disturbing the suspect's sleep.
"The suspect in this case did let police know that he was annoyed that the helicopter was flying overhead," said Russo.
Brown now faces a series of charges including obstruction, reckless endangerment and directing a laser pointer at an aircraft, and that charge alone can carry a penalty of up to three years in prison under Maryland law.
RELATED: Why laser pointers can be dangerous
Police say that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified of the incident.
The pilot and crew chief have been identified as Todd Hyson and Sgt. Gregg Lantz both sustained eye injuries; they were taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital where they were treated and released.
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