FBI investigating laser strikes on airplanes approaching Sav/HHI airport

Crime & Safety

EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) – The FBI is offering a reward for information relating to a series of laser strikes on airplanes coming into the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport.

The FBI said in a release that from November 2019 to January 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration reported three laser strikes on airplanes that were traced back to the same general area in Effingham County, about 10-15 miles northwest of SAV.

The first two incidents happened on small planes: the Cessna Citation C680 and Piper PA-28. Both happened between six and nine miles from the airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The third incident happened in late January when an Embraer E-175 was hit by a laser four miles north of the airport.

It is a federal felony to knowingly point a laser beam at an aircraft. When aimed at an aircraft, a beam of light from a handheld laser can travel more than a mile and illuminate a cockpit, disorienting or temporarily blinding pilots.

“The pilot is disoriented. He can’t see to properly land an aircraft. There could be 100, 150, 200 people on that aircraft. You could kill everybody on that plane. It could go down in a neighborhood and you can kill a lot of people on the ground, as well,” said Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie.

The FBI, in coordination with the FAA and Sheriff McDuffie, is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the suspect responsible.

The FAA says laser attacks happened in the Savannah area 9 times in 2019 and 10 times in 2018.

Anyone with information is asked to contact FBI Atlanta at 770-216-3000. Anyone who sees suspicious activity involving the use of lasers targeting planes is asked to call 911, a local police department or the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office at 912-754-3449.

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