A police helicopter pilot flying above South Shields on Monday 25 September managed to keep control when a laser pen was repeatedly shone in his eyes.
Two men, aged 38 and 28, have since been arrested on suspicion of carrying out a reckless or negligent act in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or a person in an aircraft.
The National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter had been assisting officers in the South Shields when the laser pen was shone repeatedly towards the pilot's eyes.
Officers explained such behaviour could lead to “catastrophic consequences” although on this occasion no-one was seriously injured.
Superintendent Dave Pickett, of Northumbria Police, said: “This was an incredibly dangerous incident that could have caused serious injury or even multiple fatalities.“Unfortunately we are seeing increasing numbers of reports involving NPAS or commercial aircrafts being targeted by laser pens – and I don’t think people understand the dangers that it poses.
“The NPAS helicopter is often up to assist police in their search for missing people or to track suspects. Ultimately, like the officers on the ground, they are there to help protect the public and save lives.
“Two men now face criminal proceedings as a result of shining a laser pen at the aircraft and I hope that everyone heeds this important message.
“It is not a funny prank or a harmless bit of fun – it is incredibly distracting, and your behaviour could ultimately cost people’s lives.”In 2022, there were 58 reported laser attacks against police aircraft across England and Wales.
NPAS Newcastle base manager, Sergeant Phil Emmerson, said: “Distracting a pilot whilst in flight is incredibly dangerous and causes a serious risk not only to the crew but to people on the ground as well.“Our sophisticated mapping and camera equipment on board allows us very easily to pinpoint offenders. We will always pursue action against suspects and support prosecution through the courts.
"This rightly can, and sometimes does, lead to imprisonment.”The men arrested have since been released on police bail pending further enquiries.
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