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Aircraft Laser Strikes On The Rise In Central Texas

Updated: Tuesday, June 3 2014, 10:56 PM CDT

With just the flick of a laser pen, a green beam of light temporarily blinded Sergeant Ben Dranguet while he flew an Austin police helicopter.

"It's scary when you're flying along and you get a bright light in your eye, it gets distracting," said Dranguet.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation attacks are taking flight.

"The number of attacks throughout the nation has increased dramatically," said Special Agent Michelle Lee.

According to the FBI there were 418 laser strikes in Texas last year -- 48 of those in Austin.

Last week the FBI arrested 25-year-old Gabriel Soza Ruedas on charges he pointed a laser at an APD chopper back in February.  Incidents seem to spike in the summer.

"We've found in the past when the weather is warm and folks get outside, drink adult beverages and have some fun, the number of laser attacks increase," added Lee.

Prompting the FBI to offer a reward leading to the arrest of any lawbreaking laser pointer.

Pilots are especially worried during landing and takeoff. That's when an aircraft is flying "low and slow" -- making it an easy target.

"It just reflects off the glass on the instruments and strikes pilot in the eye," added Dranguet.

An FBI spokesperson told KEYE TV some pilots have suffered permanent retinal damage due to a laser being pointed in their eyes. 

Knowingly pointing a laser at an aircraft is a felony offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

By Alex Boyer

Aircraft Laser Strikes On The Rise In Central Texas

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