The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating what appear to be a series of intentional laser attacks on pilots of commercial shipping vessels in the southern Chesapeake Bay, the Annapolis Capital reported Thursday.
At least seven incidents have been reported thus far in the past month, with the four most recent occurring early Wednesday morning, according to The Capital.
“During all incidents, the light was described as steady, powerful and somewhat painful to the eyes,” The Capital said.
A Coast Guard official said in a statement that a successful laser attack could “blind or distract a pilot which would prevent the pilot from seeing a smaller vessel.”
“This could cause a collision or other serious incident in the shipping channel,” said the spokeswoman, Lt. Trish Elliston.
The laser attacks are reminiscent of similar reported attacks in recent years on commercial airline pilots near major airports and are punishable with fines and jail time under federal law.
“The Laser Safety Act makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly and willfully cause or attempt to cause bodily injury by shining, pointing, or focusing the beam of a laser pointer on an individual operating a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft,” The Capital noted. “The penalty is a maximum 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.”