Man allegedly aimed laser at ferry captains, injuring them

MUKILTEO — A man could face criminal charges after he allegedly aimed a high-powered laser into the eyes of two ferry captains last week.

One of the captains suffered a damaged retina and a third-degree burn to the eyelid, said Sgt. Christina Martin with the Washington State Patrol.

Investigators are talking with prosecutors to determine what charges may be appropriate and in which county they will be filed, she said. The man, described as being in his mid-20s, has not been arrested.

The U.S. Coast Guard also is looking into the case.

“This is the first time we’ve dealt with something like this with the ferry system,” Martin said.

The injured crewmen did not have to go to the hospital, but they will need medical follow-up, Martin said. The men were in separate wheelhouses when they were apparently targeted.

The incident happened just after 8:30 p.m. Oct. 22 on the regular run between Mukilteo and Clinton. The suspect was on the car deck of the Kitsap, which was headed to Mukilteo, Martin said. The captains were on the Tokitae, which was passing the other ferry on its way to Clinton.

“This is not a typical laser you’d see in a classroom or an office setting,” Martin said.

She described the laser as about 6 inches long and 2 pounds. The manufacturer claims the laser could light a match if held on target long enough, Martin said. The product packaging also says to use safety glasses and not to point it at faces.

“Luckily, it was at a bit of distance,” she said. “Something close up would have been more damaging.”

The man reportedly told a trooper “it was a new toy and he was just shining it into the water,” and it must have reflected onto the vessel, Martin said.

That statement doesn’t mesh with what was reported by the crewmen, she said.

Ferries system spokesman Ian Sterling on Wednesday said lasers can cause serious damage.

“People should know there are serious ramifications for this,” he said. “You could hurt someone and you could face criminal charges.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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