A Gloucester County man faces charges that he shined a laser pointer at the crew of a Coast Guard helicopter conducting rescue training off Ocean City, N.J.
Eric J. Bouda, 21, of Mantua, was arrested Tuesday night by Ocean City police.
The helicopter, from the Atlantic City air station, was training with the crew of a commercial towboat service shortly after 9 p.m. when police received a call saying someone on the Ocean City boardwalk was shining a green laser pointer at it.
Officers found Bouda shining the laser pointer into the sky over the ocean, Ocean City Police Capt. Steven Ang said.
Bouda told police that he had just bought the pointer from a store on the boardwalk, Ang said. He was charged with interfering with transportation and released on a summons to appear in court at a later date. No telephone listing could be found for him.
Shining laser pointers at aircraft has become a nationwide problem. Last year, Philadelphia had 66 laser strikes in air space surrounding Philadelphia International Airport, the sixth-highest count in the country, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Los Angeles International Airport logged the most laser threats, 102, and Chicago's O'Hare was second with 98, according to the FAA.
On Nov. 14, a green laser was shined at Phoenix-bound US Airways Flight 257 as it ascended from Philadelphia, posing a risk to passengers and crew. The night before, a laser beam had struck the same flight as it departed.
Police have made some arrests in the incidents.
In October, a Philadelphia teenager was convicted of assault and other offenses after he shined a laser pointer into the cockpit of a Philadelphia police helicopter several times, temporarily blinding the pilot. At least two other Philadelphia juveniles have faced charges in similar cases, authorities said at the time.
In April 2010, a Camden man was arrested on allegations that he shined a laser at a New Jersey National Guard helicopter.
"Educating the public on how detrimental lasers can be to our aircrews is key," said Capt. Nicholas Bartolotta, commanding officer of the Coast Guard's Air Station Atlantic City. "Pointing lasers at aircraft jeopardizes the safety of the Coast Guard and commercial airliners and needs to be stopped."
Even the small laser pointers sold to the public can seriously hamper a pilot's' vision when pointed at an aircraft, Bartolotta said. The devices pose a significant risk to helicopters working low altitudes and aircraft taking off or landing.
If any crew member's vision is compromised during a flight, Coast Guard flight rules require that the aircraft abort the mission. Laser pointers can cause the pilot to see a glare or an after-image, have flash-blindness, or temporarily lose night vision.
It could not be determined whether anyone in the Coast Guard crew Tuesday was injured.