A laser was allegedly fired at the ferry Tokitae as it approached the Mukilteo ferry terminal. The State Patrol confiscated a laser from a man in his 20s and is investigating.
Two Washington State Ferries employees were injured when a man in his 20s allegedly shined a laser into both wheelhouses on the ferry Tokitae as it approached the Mukilteo terminal last Thursday.
The ferry’s chief mate suffered burns to his eye lid, said Ian Sterling, a WSF spokesman.
The captain ”had some eye discomfort as well,” Sterling said.
Both missed a day of work but are back now “and will be evaluated medically long-term to make sure there’s no lasting damage,” he said.
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The State Patrol is investigating the incident and has contacted a man troopers believe fired the laser, said Sgt. Tina Martin, State Patrol spokeswoman. No charges have been filed.
“Because this is not something that we’ve dealt with before, we need to talk to a prosecutor about what kind of charges (to pursue),” Martin said.
The State Patrol believes the laser was fired from the Kitsap ferry, which was traveling near the Tokitae at the time.
A trooper found the suspect, in his 20s, and a friend on the Kitsap’s car deck when the ferry arrived at the terminal.
“The owner of that laser admitted to having it. He turned it over to the trooper,” Martin said.
The laser is about 6 inches long and shines a blue light, Martin said.
“The owner of the laser said it was a new toy he had bought and says he was shining it at the water,” Martin said.
That’s not how the ferry captain remembers it, though.
“The captain said the laser was being shined into both wheelhouses for more than a minute,” Martin said.
The Coast Guard may launch a federal investigation.
“Our Coast Guard investigative-service agents are working with (State Patrol) with evidence and information coordination between the two agencies and will determine if federal investigation will follow,” said Lt. Dana Warr, a public-affairs officer with Coast Guard District 13.
Martin said this is the first time the State Patrol has investigated a laser being aimed at a ferry.
“That’s why (the trooper investigating) is in consultation with the prosecutor’s office. What do we charge this guy with?” Martin said.
Thousands of laser incidents have been reported by airplane pilots, however. “Occasionally, our Coast Guard helicopter pilots have been struck by laser lights in the past six months to a year,” Warr said.
Sterling said the situation could have been dangerous.
“These are people who are in charge of … a large machine carrying hundreds of passengers. Not someone you want to temporarily blind.”
Information in this article, originally published Oct. 29, 2015, was clarified Oct. 29, 2015. A previous version of this story said, based on information from the WSF spokesman, that an employee suffered third-degree burns to his eye lid. That information was removed because additional reporting resulted in the extent of the injury being unclear.