Coast Guard Investigating Laser Strikes on Lake Ontario Search and Rescue Boats

Mike Schuler
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July 29, 2022

The U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement are investigating two recent laser strike incidents against two USCG small boats participating in search and rescue operations in Lake Ontario.

The incidents took place June 11 and July 12. The Coast Guard said the first incident originated from Moon Beach, New York and the second from nearby Oswego. Attempts to locate the suspects remain ongoing.

In both cases, high-powered laser illuminated the small boats numerous times, striking the crew in the eyes. No injuries were sustained, but the Coast Guard warns that these types of actions are illegal and can cause severe effects to its safety and missions, not to mention eye injury.

“In every instance that a U.S. Coast Guard small boat is observed on the water, they are either performing a mission, training, or transiting,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mark Kuperman, Commander, Sector Buffalo. “As with all emergency responders, the work they do is in the best interests of the public. When struck by a laser, they cannot perform their job, and may in fact
have suffered eye injuries.”

Laws have been on the books making it felony to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft, with penalties of fines or imprisonement of not more than 5 years, or both. But a new law was passed in 2021 under the Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Authorization Act (CGAA) of 2020 states that aiming a LASER Pointer at vessels is a violation under title 46 U.S. Code, Section 70014, which makes it unlawful to “cause the beam of a LASER pointer to strike a vessel operating on the navigable waters of the United States.’’ The offense carries civil and criminal (felony) penalties as well.

Coast Guard Investigative Service Special Agents are working with local law enforcement to investigate the recent incidents.

“Just as a citizen would not intentionally endanger an ambulance or a firetruck moving at high speed to provide urgent care, Coast Guard boat crews are responding to life-threatening situations on the water,” said Kuperman

Anyone with information about the cases is encouraged to contact U.S. Coast Guard Sector Buffalo at 716-843-9391 or can make an anonymous report through CGIS Tips at the following CGIS TIPLINE website: https://www.p3tips.com/878.

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