Shropshire Star

'Catastrophe' warning over laser pen attacks after air ambulance worker suffers eye injury

An air ambulance paramedic has warned laser pen attacks on its helicopter pilots could result in "catastrophe".

Karen Baker, airbase team leader and critical care paramedic for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity

Concerns have been raised over an increase in incidents of people shining the pens in the eyes of pilots flying ambulance and police helicopters and other aircraft.

One air ambulance medic suffered a burn to his cornea as he was attending a medical emergency a couple of weeks ago.

Now Karen Baker, an air medic from Midlands Air Ambulance, has issued a plea for people to stop committing these "thoughtless" acts.

Ms Baker, who is also head of clinical operations for the charity, attends some of the most serious and traumatic emergency incidents across Shropshire and the West Midlands.

She said: “While laser attacks are most likely to be caused by thoughtless actions rather than malicious intent, the consequences could be devastating as the light can easily damage the aircrews’ eyes, or distract the pilot and potentially cause a catastrophic incident. We are therefore appealing to the public not to shine lasers at aircraft.

“Thankfully Midlands Air Ambulance Charity hasn’t been affected by laser attacks in the past twelve months, but we have been victims of this in the past and are still keen to highlight the danger of pointing laser pens at all types of aircraft."

It comes after Yorkshire Air Ambulance technical crew member Alex Clark was sitting next to the pilot in their helicopter as it was flying at 1,500ft over Bradford, West Yorkshire, when the laser penetrated his night vision goggles and burned the cornea on his right eye.

Yorkshire Air Ambulance says this was the third laser incident in a week and the latest in a recent “disturbing rapid escalation” in attacks on its aircraft.

Last week a man from Walsall was given a suspended jail sentence for shining a laser pen at a police helicopter which was carrying out a search operation.

Wajid Beg was confronted by police outside his own house in Birchills at about 9pm on January 16 this year, targeting a helicopter hovering overhead "for no reason".

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard the pilot of the helicopter was distracted by the light being shone for at least ten seconds on six different occasions.

Beg, aged 39, of Miner Street, admitted recklessly and negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He was given a two-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay a community surcharge of £425.