Police zero in on laser incidents near King Shaka

2014-05-20 00:00

THE locations from which lasers are being pointed at aircraft coming into land at King Shaka International Airport have been identified by the police.

According to SAPS spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker, the police are aware of particular areas around King Shaka where people shine these lasers from, naming Durban North, Umhlanga, Phoenix, Ballito, Tongaat and Verulam.

Naicker said laser incidents have been reported by pilots to air traffic navigation systems since the new airport came into operation. “Since 2013 the incidents have increased,” he said, adding all police stations were informed when such incidents occurred but as yet there had been no arrests.

According to chairperson of the Phoenix, Verulam and Tongaat Community Police Forum, Omesh Singh, the issue has been discussed at meetings of the station commanders in the area. “They are trying to create an awareness of the issue,” said Singh. “It is a very serious matter and we want to sensitise the community about it and nab the culprits.”

Durban North CPF chairperson Haden Searle said his forum had been aware of the phenomenon for a “long period of time”.

Searle said one particular incident stood out although it involved a spotlight and not a laser. “A police helicopter was on a flight path over our area when a spotlight was shone into his cockpit and it really startled the pilot. He was able to pinpoint the area where it came from and we went and confiscated this massive spotlight.”

Searle said the man responsible claimed he was “just shining the spotlight into the air. But the pilot was adamant that he continued to shine the spotlight at his chopper and the pilot was quite worried about crashing”.

Talking about laser incidents, Searle said it’s “a potentially catastrophic bit of tomfoolery”.

The worst affected airport in South Africa when it comes to such incidents is Cape Town, according to Captain Margaret Viljoen, vice-chairperson of the Airline Pilots’ Association South Africa (Alpa). The second most affected airport is Lanseria, north-west of Johannesburg, followed by O.R. Tambo and Durban’s King Shaka International.

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