Wow. US Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay press release: 

A Coast Guard helicopter flying over Eureka was targeted by an individual with a laser yesterday evening.

The MH-65D helicopter crew was conducting routine training near Eureka, CA when the incident occurred. The laser originated in the area behind Walmart commonly referred to as Devil’s Playground and shined directly in the eyes of one crewmember. The aircraft returned to the Arcata Airport to allow the crewman proper medical attention after he reported pain in both eyes. In order to protect the health and safety of the crew any aircrew struck by a laser is taken off flight duty until cleared by a flight surgeon. This hinders the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to people in distress.

Laser pointers can cause glare, afterimage, flash blindness or temporary loss of night vision, all causing great danger to the crew. If a laser is shined in the eyes of an aircrew member, Coast Guard flight rules dictate that the aircraft must abort its mission.

It is a federal crime, as well as a violation of California state law to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. If an individual is caught purposefully lasing an aircraft, punishment ranges from being arrested or having to pay a civil penalty of $1000 up to $2,000 and 3 years imprisonment. Federal law allows for a punishment of imprisonment of up to 5 years. A list of California aviation laser incidents can be seen here. Anyone witnessing this crime is strongly encouraged to immediately call 911 to report the incident.

The Coast Guard wants to prevent future laser strikes and is working with the Federal Aviation Administration, Eureka Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigations to ensure the safety of Coast Guard crews and the public.