DALLAS (AP) — A helicopter crew tracing the path of a bright green light in the early morning darkness Wednesday guided deputies to a suspect in the shining of a laser at eight commercial planes flying near Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
No crewmembers or passengers were hurt but controllers changed the flight paths of the aircraft, which continued on to D/FW Airport, Dallas Love Field or Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
A Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter, which also came under the laser’s beam, directed Johnson County sheriff’s deputies to a rural home.
Austin Lawrence Siferd, 23, of Alvarado, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of illumination of an aircraft by intense light. Deputies confiscated a laser light, said sheriff’s Lt. Tim Jones.
Lynn Lunsford, an FAA spokesman, says eight incidents involved planes from American Airlines, former American Eagle carrier Envoy, Southwest Airlines or FedEx. The time frame was about 10 p.m. CDT Tuesday until 1 a.m. Wednesday. The ninth incident involved a DPS chopper.
“Once we started seeing multiple reports from the same geographic area, air traffic controllers began routing aircraft around that particular area,” Lunsford said. “We notified law enforcement, DPS happened to have a helicopter in the air. They flew over and the guy shined the laser at their helicopter so they knew exactly where it was coming from.”
Deputies who arrived at a rural Alvarado residence were met by three people who said they had been asleep, Jones said. Siferd later acknowledged pointing a laser at the planes, “not realizing it was actually strong enough to reach the aircraft,” Jones said.
Federal investigators also wanted to question Siferd, whose bond was set at $300 on the state charge. No attorney was listed in jail records for Siferd, Jones said.
The FAA is investigating incidents last week in New Jersey, where 11 commercial flights reported they were illuminated by lasers.