KHP plane hit with laser

A fixed-wing airplane from the Kansas Highway Patrol, like the one pictured, was disrupted by a ground laser Saturday while searching for an escaped Winfield Correctional Facility inmate.

A Kansas Highway Patrol aircraft was hit with an intentional laser strike Saturday night.

KHP said someone pointed a laser at one of their aircrafts while they were searching for an escaped convict in Winfield. 

Trooper pilot Ryan Tauer said they were involved in the search when the cockpit lit up similar to switching on a light at night. Tauer said the laser was being pointed from a residence northeast of the Winfield Correction Facility. 

When they flew around the first time they were hit, when they circled around again, the laser connected again.

They were able to locate the specific point of origin by using a map overlay on their tablet along with GPS. The Kansas Highway Patrol has four fixed-wing airplanes and one helicopter. One of the airplanes was stationed in Wichita the night of the escaped inmate so the KHP air service was able to respond within 20 minutes, Tauer recalled.

"I would like to charge the person responsible, but it is very difficult to prove who exactly should be held responsible," Tauer said.

"It was alarming but luckily we were not blinded by the light."

The FAA and troopers were notified and the residence will be getting a visit to educate the occupants of the dangers this can cause, he said. The FAA also logs this location in their database for future reference in the case that it happens again.

KHP wanted to remind people that it is a federal crime to point a laser at an aircraft.

If caught the offender could get up to five years in prison and fined up to $250,000.

The escapee, Robert Terrell, 36, was apprehended by law enforcement around noon Sunday, according to a Winfield Correctional Facility spokesperson. WCF staff were notified around 8:50 p.m. Saturday that Terrell jumped a fence on the west side of the correctional facility property.

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