PHILADELPHIA – (CBS) A Philadelphia police helicopter pilot has testified he thought he was going to crash when he was temporarily blinded by a laser pointed at his aircraft.

A 53-year-old Williamsport, Pennsylvania man is on trial in federal court charged with interfering with the helicoptor as it approached to Northeast Philadelphia airport in April of 2008.

Lt. Anthony Ginaldi said he and partner, copilot Officer Christopher Clemmens, were about 300 to 400 feet above ground, approaching the airport, when the laser light hit him in the eyes.  He reeled back and the craft turned right and the nose dipped.

“I was scared, let’s put it that way. I was scared to the point where I was afraid we were going to die at that point.  If Chris Clemmens wasn’t there to take over those controls, it could, it was going to be catostrophic.”

Officer Clemmens guided the helicopter to the ground.

The defense concedes that defendant James Gautieri did it. But defense attorney Thomas Egan said Gautieri, who was visiting a girlfriend,   didn’t realilze the danger. It was stupid, Eagan said, but Gautieri is not a criminal.

Story Contributor: KYW Newsradio Reporter Tony Hanson

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