An air ambulance team has released footage of a moment their helicopter had a green laser pen shine at it during a medical emergency.
Responders from East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) were flying over Attleborough, Norfolk when the laser pen from the ground was spotted in an incident they warned could endanger lives. Video filmed mid-air shows the green laser being shone from the ground up directly towards the helicopter.
Norfolk Police confirmed they’re investigating the incident, which took place on 27 December at approximately 2.30 am. The EA said: “Lasers directed at aircraft can significantly impact flight operations by impairing the crew’s vision and compromising flight safety.
“This could mean a delay to those experiencing life-threatening medical emergencies receiving urgent out-of-hospital critical care that EAAA pilots and clinicians bring directly to the scene, ultimately putting lives at risk.”
The EA are a charity that responds to emergencies covering Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, and Bedfordshire. This is one of a spate of incidents where people have been shining their laser pens at helicopters.
Captain Seb Powderham, from EAAA’s aviation partner, Babcock International Group, said: “Lasers directed at aircraft can significantly impact flight operations. Most importantly, flight safety would be compromised if a laser hinders the pilot’s ability to operate due to impaired vision.
“Short-term effects include temporary flash blindness and potential distraction at a critical stage of flight. Long-term effects could include permanent damage to the eye.”
Norfolk Police have received seven reports since 2021, but this is the first time it has been caught on camera. All of those reports are from the same area. Elsewhere, in 2023, two men were arrested after they pointed a laser pen repeatedly at a police helicopter flying over South Shields, South Tyneside.
In September, Southampton Airport hit out at ‘incredibly reckless’ people who shone lasers into pilots’ cockpits, with five incidents reported to them in July and August 2023.
Owning a laser pen isn’t illegal. However, shining at any vehicle on land or in the air is an offence as it is unlawful when a laser pen distracts the driver, dazzles or hits them. In 2017, the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill came into force, meaning that someone who targets any form of vehicle with a laser device could face five years imprisonment and unlimited fines.
The police have been given additional powers to catch laser pen offenders. Officers don’t need to find proof of intention when pointing laser pens at vehicles.