PANAMA CITY, FL (WVUE) - The Coast Guard is reminding the public that pointing handheld lasers at Coast Guard boat and aircrews is dangerous and illegal.
In a news release Wednesday, officials at Coast Guard Station Panama City announced details of an incident in the Gulf of Mexico that occurred on Sunday, June 20, involving a disabled 15-foot boat.
There were four people on board, a 50-year-old father and his three children.
The father had lost communications with his wife on shore, and was attempting to paddle four miles back to shore.
Coast Guard Sector Mobile issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast and Station Panama City launched a 45-foot response boat.
Upon arrival Station Panama City launched two illumination flares and conducted a search with negative results.
While attempting to conduct the search, the response crew reported multiple laser strikes in the vicinity of the search area, all originating from shore, from at least two different sources.
Two members of the crew were struck directly in the eyes from the lasers and had to seek medical attention following the incident.
The father and three children on the boat were able to paddle back to shore and made it back safely to their vacation rental property.
According to the Coast Guard, pointing a laser at an aircraft or vessel is a federal crime and a felony offense.
If found guilty, offenders could be fined up to $250,000 and sentenced to several years in prison.
Laser pointers are inexpensive to obtain and can extend over two miles in range.
Pilots affected by laser strikes regularly report temporary vision trouble, including flash blindness and temporary loss of night vision.
In some cases, a laser strike can result in permanent damage to a person's eye sight.
The Coast Guard says it strongly encourages anyone who witnessed this crime to report it to local law enforcement.