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Utah AirMed crew member recently hit in the eye by handheld laser strike

Jan 25, 2022, 6:15 PM | Updated: 6:17 pm

Around 3:15 p.m. Saturday, February 4, a 34-year-old female sustained critical injuries after being...

Around 3:15 p.m. Saturday, February 4, a 34-year-old female sustained critical injuries after being struck by a snowmobile.Photo by Scott G. Winterton /Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY —  Someone is pointing a laser at medical transport helicopters. And officials say this type of laser strike has happened twice recently. 

A spokesperson for University of Utah AirMed, Frankie Toon, said a crew member was temporarily blinded after being hit in the eye. Another crew member wasn’t injured but was distracted by the laser.

“When something like this happens, especially during a critical phase of flight, the results can be catastrophic,” Toon said. “Not only for our patients and our team members, but our communities as well.”

Toon said the crew members were focused on the patient when the laser strike happened, and that at this point there are no leads. They do know, however, that it’s happening more often.

“It’s happening now more often than it did ten or fifteen years ago. I think the availability of these hand-held lasers is such that people just have more access to them,” she said. And she noted that small, handheld presentation lasers or ones used to play with a pet, are being used in this way.

Why would someone do this? Toon said her best guess is that they think it’s funny

Laser strikes are a federal offense and can result in fines of up to $11,000.

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Utah AirMed crew member recently hit in the eye by handheld laser strike