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Lake County Police Pilot Briefly Blinded By Laser

GARY (CBS) -- A police helicopter pilot was temporarily blinded when somebody pointed a laser at him while he was on patrol in Northwest Indiana last week.

It is the second time in recent months that lasers have been pointed at Lake County Sheriff helicopter pilots. The first incident occurred on 2010 when pilots were searching for a murder suspect in Dyer.

The latest incident occurred on Thursday while Sgt. George Nestorovich was on routine aerial patrol near the Gary Chicago Airport. Nestorovich was flying west near Fifth Avenue and Clark Road when a laser light from the ground illuminated the helicopter, striking Nestorovich in the left eye, according to a police report.

The pilot briefly suffered flash blindness and slight discomfort. Nestorovich and his partner conducted a search of the area, which was unsuccessful.

Lake County police have reported the incident to the Federal Aviation Administration and are investigating.

Last week, one person was sentenced to 30 days in jail for pointing a laser at a Chicago police helicopter and nearby commercial aircraft. That incident happened March 17 in the Hamilton Park neighborhood on the South Side.

Statistics show that in 2010 there were 98 reported aircraft vs. laser incidents in the Chicago area, ranking the area No. 2 behind Los Angeles, according to a news release from Lake County police.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime, which carries a maximum jail sentence of 20 years. It is also a Class B misdemeanor in Indiana to point a laser at a police officer.

There are no laws regulating the purchase of lasers, which can be purchased for less than $50, police said. The beams of light can travel over a half mile and can cause long-term eye damage.

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