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Man pointed laser at NY Army National Guard helicopter, police say

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter hovers while a wall of fire burns during the South Carolina National Guard Air and Ground Expo combined arms demonstration at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina, May 7, 2017. (Tech. Sgt. Nicole Szews/U.S. Air National Guard)
June 14, 2019

A laser beam pointed at a New York Army National Guard helicopter Wednesday night led to the arrest of a Mount Sinai man on charges of misdemeanor reckless endangerment, Suffolk County police said.

Robert Simione, 72, was issued an appearance ticket and ordered to appear Aug. 12 for arraignment in Suffolk County Court in Central Islip, police said Thursday.

The crew of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was on a routine training mission and wearing night-vision goggles Wednesday night when they were targeted by the laser, New York Army National Guard spokesman Eric Durr said Thursday.

“They basically just took a lock on where the beam was coming from and reported it to the police,” Durr said of the crew, which discovered the laser’s location  using their GPS system.

The Town of Islip reported the crime at about 9:45 p.m. as the helicopter flew about 10 miles northeast of Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, police said in a statement Thursday.

A helicopter with the Suffolk police aviation unit helped determine that the laser beam came from a Shore Road residence, officials said, and officers subsequently took Simione into custody.

There were more than 5,600 reports of laser pointers being directed at aircraft in 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft became a federal crime in 2012, according to the FAA’s website.

It is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Newsday has reported multiple laser-pointing incidents in Nassau and Suffolk counties since the act became a federal crime.

Laser beams can travel considerable distances and any dirt or even small flaws in an aircraft’s windshield can worsen the glare, experts said.

According to data from the FAA, 171 laser-pointer incidents occurred in New York in 2018, seven on Long Island. In 2017, there were six on Long Island. In 2015, lasers were pointed at four commercial aircrafts near Farmingdale, police said.

In August 2012, a Shirley man faced charges after he used a laser light on a jetliner and a police helicopter, authorities said at the time. Also in 2012, a St. James man was caught in the act and charged after he aimed a laser pointer at an aircraft, officials said. There were three additional instances in 2012 where lasers were directed at aircraft but no one was charged, authorities said.

The Army National Guard requires its pilots to fly a minimum number of hours every year with night goggles, Durr said.

The goggles can magnify the potential danger of a laser beam, he said, and the beams also can disrupt a pilot’s focus.

“Laser light can be damaging to anybody’s eyes,” Durr said. “If you’re flying, obviously anything that might distract you from what you are trying to do is a danger.”

With Titus Wu


© 2019 Newsday

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.