Ornge sounds alarm after helicopter pilot hit in the eye with laser

Ornge sounds alarm after helicopter pilot hit in the eye with laser

Provincial air ambulance service Ornge is pleading with Ontarians to stop shining lasers at its helicopters, after a pilot was struck in the eye with beam of light earlier this month.

"It's a very serious issue, and it's one that needs to be addressed. It potentially could have very negative consequences if we ever had an accident," said Greg Hulme, standards pilot for Ornge.

The incident happened at around 8:50 p.m. on Feb. 15. That's when an Ornge aircraft was en route to Billy Bishop Airport after finishing a call at SickKids when someone started shining a green laser at the helicopter.

Ornge says the pilot was struck in the eye, and later needed to be evaluated by a doctor. Hulme told CBC News that the pilot was OK in the end. Ornge then filed a report with Toronto police and Transport Canada.

Compounding the issue, Hulme says, is a surge in this activity. Ornge has dealt with five laser strikes already this year, compared to three throughout all of last year.

"Our worry is those numbers are going to spike when the warmer weather comes," Hulme told CBC News.

WATCH: Laser strikes Ornge helicopter in Toronto

He said people need to realize how dangerous doing this can be.

"Everything about critical care transport is all about time — the time to get to the scene, the time to transport the patient to the trauma centre. If an aircraft has to overshoot a landing onto one of the downtown hospital landing pads, it can add minutes one to the delivery of that patient," he said.

"It could be the difference between life and death when minutes count."

adam.carter@cbc.ca