Louisiana boater arrested after shooting Coast Guard rescue helicopter

A boater in waters south of Louisiana has been arrested after federal officials say he opened fire on a Coast Guard helicopter while responding to a distress call.

The Coast Guard responded Thursday to a distress signal from a 40-foot sailboat located about 75 miles south of Southwest Pass, Louisiana on the Gulf of Mexico, according to a news release on Saturday.

When Coast Guard crews arrived on the scene in a rescue helicopter, they attempted to lower a radio towards the boat after noticing a person and two dogs on board.

The person then pointed “what appeared to be a firearm at the helicopter,” according to the statement, and the crew heard objects hitting the plane.

For aircraft and crew safety reasons, the helicopter immediately left the scene. After returning to Air Station New Orleans, the crew observed impacts on the helicopter rotors consistent with projectiles from a firearm, the release is continuing.

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The Coast Guard arrested the boater without incident on Friday when the Coast Guard Investigation Service returned to the scene in a response plane and boat, the statement continued.

Authorities have not named the boater, specified the charges they face, or explained why the boater allegedly fired shots at the helicopter.

“Safety of life was our number one priority during this challenging incident,” said Coast Guard Eighth District spokesman Lt. Phillip VanderWeit. “Thanks to the professional and skillful work of our teams and our inter-agency partners, we were able to bring this incident to a peaceful resolution.”

As of Monday, the incident was still under investigation.

Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Contact her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

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