Washington ferry laser strike results in $100,000 fine

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(SEATTLE) — The captain of the port, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, issued a $100,000 civil penalty Tuesday to a Washington resident who intentionally struck the ferry Tokitae with a high-powered blue laser on Oct. 22.

Coast Guard investigating officers determined that Mark Raden of Freeland was aboard Washington State Ferries' M/V Kitsap transiting between Mukilteo and Clinton when he pointed the laser at the pilothouse of Tokitae, resulting in injuries to the ferry master and chief mate.

Coast Guard officials are seeking civil penalties for violation of a safety and security zone as well as interference with the safe operation of Tokitae while it transited between Mukilteo and Clinton. The final civil penalty amount will be determined by a Coast Guard hearing officer in Arlington, Va.

“Firing a laser at a vessel is extremely dangerous and directly interferes with the safe movement of commercial vessels and the Coast Guard’s ability to conduct search and rescue operations,” said Capt. Joe Raymond, captain of the port, Sector Puget Sound. “I encourage individuals who witness laser attacks on commercial vessels and Coast Guard small boats and aircraft to call 911.”

In addition to laser strikes on Washington State Ferries, laser strikes involving Coast Guard helicopters and rescue boats in Puget Sound have continued to increase over the last few years. Such strikes have adverse impacts on the conduct of Coast Guard law enforcement and search and rescue activities potentially affecting the ability to respond to a distress call or provide proper medical care of someone rescued. In addition, they can cause physical injury to any individuals struck.

By Professional Mariner Staff