Man denies pointing laser that hurt pilots’ eyes

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City man “vehemently denies” pointing a laser that injured the eyes of several pilots, including two in a police helicopter, according to his lawyer.

The New York Police Department said in a statement that Frank Egan of the Bronx “admitted to officers” that he owned the laser and used it on Monday night. But attorney Francis J. O’Reilly said Egan, who appeared Tuesday in Bronx Criminal Court, was sleeping at the time of the incident and was not home alone, according to The New York Times.

The Federal Aviation Administration had alerted the police to a laser beam flashing across the cockpits of several commercial jetliners.

Police spotted a laser coming from a Bronx apartment about eight miles from LaGuardia Airport.

Officers knocked on the door, were invited inside by a woman and saw a device on top of the refrigerator labeled “Laser 303” and “Danger,” the department said. They then questioned the suspect.

The Times said that noisy planes fly so low over the neighborhood that pedestrians can see the landing gear and make out the carrier’s name.

A resident, Rob Lenhard, 24, said he could understand why someone would resort to laser pointing.

“Honestly, I’ve gotten drunk a couple times and thought about doing it myself,” said Lenhard, who added that he does not own a laser.

But to authorities, “this is no joke,” said laser expert Dr. Samuel M. Goldwasser, a former engineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Goldwasser said it is easy to buy hand-held lasers that exceed the legal limit. They can distract pilots and cause “temporary flash-blindness,” he said.

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Information from: The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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