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Teens aiming laser beam at aircraft identified

Two teenagers who were allegedly pointing a laser beam at aircraft flying into the Boise airport, distracting pilots, were identified thanks to a helicopter's GPS device.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The medical helicopter pilot had been warned by air traffic controllers that someone was aiming a green laser beam, likely from a hand-held laser pointer, at aircraft as they approached the Boise airport.

Dave Lund didn't have a patient on board because he'd just swapped out helicopters at Idaho Helicopter, the company that provides the pilots and aircraft for St. Luke's Regional Medical Center.

"The tower had told him that if he saw anything on the laser to let them know," said Larry Kelley, the president of Idaho Helicopter. "About that time, the laser magically appeared in his windshield."

Hovering about 1,500 feet above the ground, Lund used the helicopter's global positioning device to identify the source of the laser Saturday night. Then, as police approached the neighborhood, Lund turned on the helicopter's floodlights, guiding officers to the now brightly lit home.

A federal offense
After some investigation, police were able to find and seize the laser pointer and arrest two 17-year-olds, said police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower. The investigation has been turned over to the FBI, she said. It is a federal offense to point a laser at an aircraft.

"Whether you're an adult or a teenager, this is not a game," Hightower said. "Pilots can be at the least distracted and at the worst impaired."

One of the aircraft targeted earlier Saturday by the laser was a Northwest Airlines jet bringing passengers from Minneapolis to Boise, Hightower said. That jet landed safely.

"This is very dangerous," she said. "People need to know this is something police are going to respond to."

FBI spokesman Trent Pedersen in Salt Lake City confirmed the agency was investigating, but said he could not release any details.