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Laser pointed at Coast Guard crew in Florida

The Coast Guard said a boat crew from Station Sand Key was targeted with a laser from the shore Sunday night about a mile southwest of Clearwater, Fla.

The crew of the 25-foot boat experienced a 3- to 4-second blue, green laser burst while on patrol. The entire crew suffered a loss of night vision; half of the crew received a direct hit from the laser. The crew returned to the station for eye exams.

Aircrews in the area recently experienced the same hazard from people pointing lasers at helicopters and endangering the crews. Any laser poses a significant hazard to flight and boat crews, especially when the helicopter crews are operating at low altitude at night.

The Coast Guard said pointing a laser at any aircraft is a federal offense.

“It is important to point out that the people committing these crimes are not only putting the lives of our helicopter and boat crews in jeopardy, but they are also endangering the lives of their fellow citizens,” Lt. Kathleen Sullivan, a search and rescue coordinator at Sector St. Petersburg, said in a statement. “We’re asking the public to help us put an end to this reckless behavior by reporting the illegal use of lasers if they witness it happening.”