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Boston man arrested for allegedly pointing powerful laser at Coast Guard helicopter

Man arrested for allegedly pointing laser at Coast Guard helicopter landing in Boston
Man arrested for allegedly pointing laser at Coast Guard helicopter landing in Boston 00:28

BOSTON - A Boston man is accused of pointing a high-powered laser at a Coast Guard helicopter that was trying to land at Massachusetts General Hospital while on a training mission. Philip Gagnon, 59, is charged with one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.

According to a federal indictment, Gagnon lives in a fourth-floor apartment that overlooks a flight path used by helicopters landing at MGH. 

Pilot forced to abort landing

The MH-60 Jayhawk was at an altitude of about 400 feet and preparing to land at the hospital on the evening of Sept. 21, 2023 when a green laser beam came through the helicopter's windows. The pilot aborted the landing and instead flew to another Boston-area hospital. No one in the helicopter was struck by the laser. 

File photo of Coast Guard helicopter 6039 U.S. Coast Guard Northeast

Prosecutors say that Gagnon "knowingly aimed a high-powered green laser beam at the helicopter from inside his apartment."

Gagnon could face five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. He made an initial appearance in Boston federal court Monday and was released.   

Aircraft laser strikes on the rise

According to the FAA, aircraft laser strikes jumped 40% in 2023, with pilots reporting more than 13,000 incidents.

Laser beams can travel more than a mile and temporary blind a pilot or cause an injury while they're flying. 

"Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious safety hazard that puts everyone on the plane and on the ground below at risk," the FAA said at the time the incident was reported. "It is also a violation of federal law."

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