Blake Everett Dergez, who was arrested in Vernon’s Becker Park on September 9th, 2021, remains in custody and is set to face trial on May 17th. Dergez has been charged with several offenses due to an incident of pointing a one milliwatt hand-held laser at planes flying over Vernon. The charges include five counts of assault with a weapon, assaulting an officer, uttering threats, possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose and engaging in behaviour that endangers the safety or security of an aircraft in flight under the Aeronautics Act – which could result in a maximum fine of $100,000 or five-years imprisonment.
Dergez has had multiple prior criminal records dating back to 2003 from various locations including Vernon, Penticton, Kelowna Abbotsford and Fort St. John; he also claimed to be the victim of police brutality during his arrest when he was already out on a release order for another charge. He is set to have another trial scheduled for August 21st and will appear for sentencing on April 19th.
The use of lasers that can create light powerful enough to cause damage is dangerous not only to individuals but also endanger aircraft safety. Laser pointers are classified as Class II (1-5 mW) or Class IIIb (> 5 – 500 mW) depending on their power output level and are subject to FAA regulations since they can disrupt pilots’ vision while they operate the aircraft in flight. These lasers can cause temporary flash blindness if pointed directly into the eyes and potentially even ignite fires by hitting fabrics inside the plane at high intensity levels. Pilots rely on their vision more than any other sensory input while flying making these laser pointers incredibly dangerous to aircraft; this is why it is illegal internationally and punishable by law if someone is spotted deliberately pointing them at airplanes or airports.