Man arrested after pointing high-powered laser at Boston Coast Guard helicopter

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A Boston man was arrested for allegedly pointing a high-powered laser at a Coast Guard helicopter that was trying to land at Massachusetts General Hospital.

According to the United States Attorney Office District of Massachusetts, Coast Guard helicopter 6039 was attempting to land at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) as part of a routine training mission with four crew members on board on the evening of September 21, 2023.

Philip Gagnon, 59,  was reported to have knowingly aimed a high-powered green laser beam,  from inside his fourth floor apartment at the MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter as it descended towards MGH. The laser beam allegedly illuminated the side of the helicopter and shone through the helicopter’s windows. 

Due to the laser interference, the pilot aborted the landing and flew north for several miles, eventually landing at another Boston area hospital.

The charge of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft can result in a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. 

Gagnon was released from custody on conditions following an initial appearance in federal court in Boston.

In February 2024, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made an appeal to the public after reporting that the number of dangerous laser strikes aimed at aircraft in 2023 topped all previous records.

The FAA said it had received a total of 13,304 reports of laser strikes on planes in 2023, an alarming 41% increase from 2022.

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