Tuesday 23 May 2017

Garda pilot 'dazzled' by laser at 1,000 feet, court told

Eavan Murray

A GARDA helicopter pilot told a trial how he was "dazzled" by a green laser while searching for a missing person, forcing him to take his hands off the controls at 1,000ft.

Captain Colm Duffy, a pilot with the Garda Air Support Unit, told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday that on September 12, 2009, he and his crew were called to the Blessington Road area of Tallaght, Dublin, between 12.30 and 1 am to help in the search for a missing person.

But he was forced to take evasive action while hovering at 1,000 feet after he was "dazzled" by the laser.

He told the court the light caused a temporary loss of vision and forced him to take his hand from the controls in an effort to block out the laser.

Anthony Gaffney (25), of Cloonmore Avenue in Tallaght, Dublin, denies a charge of endangerment, specifically behaving in a manner that could have caused substantial risk of death or serious harm to another person on the date in question.

Capt Duffy said he was then forced to fly the helicopter to a higher altitude of 1,700 feet to avoid the laser.

"When a laser hits windscreen it glares and makes it very difficult to see. I can't fly the aircraft if I can't see," he said.

Detective Garda Adrienne Condon, who was a member of the crew on the night of the incident, told Noel Devitt, prosecuting, that immediately following a green light hitting the windscreen of the helicopter she observed Capt Duffy raising his arm and looking "uncomfortable and distracted".

She said she then suffered pain to her eyes as well as a temporary loss of vision.

Video evidence, taken on night imagery equipment aboard the aircraft and played in court, showed a green light coming from the back of a house which was later identified as being Mr Gaffney's.

Consequences

Garda David O'Riordan agreed with Vincent Heneghan, defending, that Mr Gaffney co-operated fully with gardai and immediately apologised to the crew of the helicopter when the potential consequences of his actions were explained to him.

He also accepted that Mr Gaffney told gardai that he did not recklessly intend to cause any harm, that he "made no attempt at evasion" and was at all times polite to the gardai.

In his statement to gardai, which was read out in court, Mr Gaffney admitted shining the laser at the helicopter but claimed he was unaware of the harmful effect his actions could have. He told gardai: "I wasn't trying to dazzle the pilot. I definitely didn't mean to cause any hassle. I apologise for wasting police time."

The trial continues before Judge Patricia Ryan and a jury of six men and six women.

Irish Independent

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