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Laser Injures American Peacekeepers

November 3, 1998

EAGLE BASE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ American helicopter pilots in Bosnia must wear glasses that protect against lasers, a NATO official said Tuesday after two peacekeepers were slightly injured by a laser aimed at their craft.

The lasers appeared to be stronger than the pen-type lasers that are readily available as toys or as hand-held pointers.

``We don’t know what type of laser was used in this incident. Because of strength, we are assuming it was not a small laser,″ NATO spokesman Lt. Col. Stephen Kerrick said.

However, NATO hasn’t ruled toy lasers out. Kerrick said that children playing with such a toy heard the helicopter and aimed it to see what would happen. ``There are a lot of people who don’t understand that the toys could be dangerous if improperly used,″ he said.

``We are assuming this was not any type of hostility,″ Kerrick said Monday from northern Bosnia, where most of the 6,900 U.S. troops are deployed.

The two UH-60 helicopter crew members sustained minor corneal burns last week near the town of Zenica.

Injured were the pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Steven McCoy, 37, of Downey, Calif., and crew member Sgt. Juan Villareal, 37, of San Antonio, Texas. Both are from the 1st Cavalry Division in Texas.

The two men have been temporarily removed from flight duty.

Maj. Sheena Thompson said that because of the incident, U.S. helicopter crew members must wear protective glasses during flights.

Update hourly