Florida man allegedly points lasers at incoming passenger aircraft, police say

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A Florida man’s hobby of allegedly pointing lasers directly at incoming aircraft was recently caught after a Jet Blue pilot experienced the blinding rays of a laser. 

The Tampa Police Department said in a press release that 47-year-old Douglas Sollenberger allegedly pointed lasers at more than 40 incoming flights at Tampa International Airport since Jan. 1.

Police said the lasers posed a serious danger to both pilots and passengers.

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Douglas Sollenberger

Douglas Sollenberger, 47, was seen pointing the laser at the flight, which was landing after midnight on Thursday morning, police said. (Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office)

On Thursday, a Jet Blue pilot confirmed that he had been struck by the blinding light of a laser as he attempted to land at the Tampa, Florida airport.

Authorities said that despite the pilot’s impaired vision he managed to safely land.

While investigating, police pinpointed Sollenberger’s location and conducted surveillance on the suspect’s home.

On Thursday, authorities conducted a search warrant and found two lasers inside Sollenberger’s home, including the one they believe was used on the Jet Blue flight. 

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Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw said that this “could have resulted in a tragic accident.”

“These laser strikes are not only illegal but also incredibly reckless behavior that could have resulted in a tragic accident,” Bercaw said. “We are grateful for the tireless efforts of our officers and the FBI in bringing this case to a close.”

Lasers

The Tampa Police Department released photos of the lasers pointed at airplanes. (Tampa Police Department)

TPA Executive Vice President of Operations John Tiliacos thanked law enforcement for their “diligent work.”

“Tampa International Airport takes every measure to ensure the safety of flight, and we rely on our entire community to assist us in those efforts,” TPA Executive Vice President of Operations John Tiliacos said. “We’re thankful to our TPD and FBI partners, whom we work very closely with, for their diligent work in protecting our aircraft, passengers, and crews. Never point a laser at an aircraft!” 

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Sollenberger was charged with misuse of a laser lighting device and taken to the Orient Road Jail.





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