Vernon man arrested for shining laser at aircraft approaching YLW

Laser suspect caught in act

A Vernon man is facing a number of possible criminal charges after being caught red-handed using a powerful laser to harass aircraft approaching Kelowna International Airport.

RCMP tell Castanet they made the arrest with the help of the public after receiving reports that someone was using a powerful green laser to shine into the cockpits of commercial aircraft.

Police were called at 11:15 p.m. on Thursday by a representative from Nav Canada that someone was pointing a green laser at planes flying over Vernon.

"Shortly before midnight, a group of people searching for the origin of the laser encountered a person in Becker Park believed to be responsible for pointing the laser at the aircraft. Once discovered, the suspect left the area and the witnesses, from a safe distance, were able to point nearby officers in the direction of the suspect," says Const. Chris Terleski RCMP spokesperson.

Police say the suspect assaulted officers when he was being arrested.

"The suspect refused to comply with police and physically resisted the arrest until additional officers arrived and safely took the man into custody," said Terleski.

A passenger onboard WestJet flight 279 Thursday night tells Castanet the pilot came on the public address system after landing and let the passenger know if they experience any vision difficulties they should reach out to WestJet and the RCMP.

Sam Samaddar, airport director at Kelowna International Airport, tells Castanet this is the third incident of this nature in the past month.

"These aren't your run-of-the-mill laser pointers this is one milliwatt hand-held laser that is capable of burning a hole in a couch if you were to point it in your home," Samaddar said.

Samaddar says the flight path over Vernon is where pilots begin their descent to YLW and there are points when the mountains are higher than the planes.

"This is a serious offence that carries a serious charge including a potential $100,000 fine and five years in prison," Sammadar said.

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