Media Contacts

Suzanne Winchester

Associate Director, Public Affairs
Email: Suzanne.Winchester@hsc.utah.edu

Jan 27, 2022 12:00 PM

In recent weeks, University of Utah AirMed helicopter crews have encountered two separate incidents of what are referred to as ‘laser strikes,’ where an individual or individuals on the ground purposefully point a laser device at a flying aircraft. During the first of these incidents, the laser hit a medical crew member in the eye. As a result of the laser, this crew member sustained a period of temporary blindness in one eye. After the flight, the crew member was admitted to the emergency department, where they were released for full duty after being evaluated. However, they did have blurred vision on the periphery of the affected eye for the next week.

Later in the same shift, the same crew reported another laser strike.  All members looked away from the laser, but they did report the laser was distracting. Both incidents occurred in the Sugar House area of Salt Lake City.

“Fortunately, no injuries were reported by patients during either of these flights, but these laser pointers are extremely dangerous to both the AirMed flight team and passengers,” says Nathan Morreale, chief flight paramedic. “Our crews are providing lifesaving care, often under urgent circumstances. We hope the public takes this seriously and refrains from this dangerous practice.”

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AirMed was established on June 16, 1978, as the eighth air medical transport program in the nation. AirMed services one of the largest geographical areas of any flight program in the nation, routinely transporting patients from Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, Montana, and Idaho. Flight crews transport trauma, burn, medical, pediatric, neonate, high-risk OB, and cardiac assist device patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with six helicopters and two airplanes placed throughout northern Utah and Wyoming. AirMed aircraft are equipped with the latest safety features, such as night vision goggles, GPS navigation, and terrain collision avoidance systems to ensure the highest level of safety for patients and crew.

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