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Laser shot at HAL not fired from Leone, says ASDHS director

Hawaiian says laser had “no effect” on its cockpit crew or the flight…”

The local Homeland Security Department (ASDHS) is conducting an investigation into the laser incident, which occurred the evening of Jan. 19 while a Hawaiian Airlines aircraft was heading for landing at Pago Pago International Airport.

Hawaiian spokesperson, Ann Botticelli told Samoa News early last week that the flight’s pilot reported that a bright green laser was pointed at the aircraft about 9:38 local time from the village of Leone. (See Samoa News edition Jan. 26 for details.)

This incident, which has angered many in the community, was raised by Sen. Levu Solaita during a Senate Public Safety/Homeland Security Committee hearing on Wednesday. He wanted to know from local officials about this matter.

ASDHS director Samana Semo Ve’ave’a said his department had received a report from the captain of the Hawaiian flight and it was then presented to his “agents for an investigation.”

Samana said the laser was fired from Leone — around the area of the bridge in Leone.  He said twice now his agents have been to the area, the bridge, during the night time when Hawaiian comes in for landing and ASDHS believes that the bridge was not where the laser was fired from.

He says the agents observed the flight path used by the plane heading to the airport and that there is no way that a laser could be fired from that direction of the bridge.

Samana says the agents are now looking at another area — around Malaeloa — as the possible site of the laser incident, adding that the Leone bridge area is too far out from the flight path of the plane.

He said ASDHS agents continue to investigate from where exactly the laser was fired.

Sen. Levu said this matter “is not a game” as it’s very serious, adding that the culprit(s) should be found.

Responding to recent Samoa News inquiries, Hawaiian local station manager Tuli Fruean provided early this week new updates, saying that the laser incident had “no effect” on the cockpit crew or the flight, “other than it (laser) was focused directly at the flight deck and the aircraft,” which was carrying 230 passengers and 12 crew members.

Airport manager, Tavita Fuimaono told Samoa News early last week that an airport safety officer was notified of the laser incident around 10:27p.m. on Jan. 19 by Fruean and this was about 30 minutes after the plane’s arrival.

Asked as to why it took 30 minutes before the Airport Division was notified of the incident, Fruean explained that upon plane’s arrival, “it took us close to 17 minutes to deplane our guests” — or passengers — and this includes all wheelchair passengers as well.

As he proceeded to board the aircraft, he said he was approached by the flight’s captain, who “advised me of the incident [and] our conversation took some time as I gathered more information as to the location and times.”

Fruean points out, “I contacted the Airport Safety Officer immediately after our conversation and passed this information along right away.”

FAA had already confirmed the laser incident and has referred the matter to local airport officials for a report.