UW Med Flight crew says helicopter was ‘purposely targeted’ by laser pointer

Pilot checked out at hospital, deemed OK
UW Med Flight crew says helicopter was ‘purposely targeted’ by laser pointer

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a person or people who pointed a laser pointer at a medical evacuation flight Tuesday evening.

“We don’t know if it was a joke or not, but it’s very serious,” said Det. Sgt. Jason Kocovsky.

The Sheriff’s Office said the Med Flight was called to Scott Township at 5 p.m. after a 17-year-old boy was seriously injured in an UTV crash near Crown Road.

Lt. Wayne Smith said the med flight had to be rerouted to land at Chandler Park in the Village of Pardeeville because of weather issues. At that time, someone pointed a laser pointer at the Med Flight, affecting the pilot’s ability to see. The helicopter was utilizing night vision during the flight.

“The danger to the helicopter alone is alarming,” Smith said.

The flight crew said when they attempted to circle around the area, the laser pointer followed them.

“It appeared to the crew that they were purposely targeted by a laser that was tracking them,” Med Flight physician Ryan Wubben said.

The med flight services had to be canceled, and the injured teenager was taken to the hospital via ambulance.

“By far, the biggest concern to the crew wasn’t so much themselves. It was the fact that they weren’t able to go where they were called to go,” Wubben said.

Wubben said the pilot was checked out at the UW University Hospital emergency department and was deemed OK after the incident. He said aiming a laser pointer at someone could result in permanent eye damage to the retina.

Deputies were out investigating the scene Tuesday evening, and a deputy suffered a lower leg injury, requiring treatment at the hospital.

The sheriff’s office was required by law to notify the Federal Aviation Administration after the incident occurred, Smith confirmed.

It is a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. It is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison. Wisconsin state law also prohibits obstructing emergency or rescue crews.

Anyone with information may call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-293-8477 or Det. Sgt. AJ Agnew at 608-742-4166 ext. 3318.

The incident is still under investigation.

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