Partygoers Blinded by a Laser-Light Show

Dozens of partygoers at an outdoor rave in the Moscow region last week have lost partial vision after a laser-light show burned their retinas, health officials said Monday.

Moscow health department officials confirmed 12 cases of laser blindness at the Central Ophthalmological Clinic, and Kommersant said another 17 were registered at City Hospital No. 32.

Attendees at the July 5 Aquamarine Open Air Festival in Kirzhach, 80 kilometers northeast of Moscow, began seeking medical help days after the show, complaining of eye and vision problems, health officials said. "They all have retinal burns, scarring is visible on them. Loss of vision in individual cases is as high as 80 percent, and regaining it is already impossible," a treating ophthalmologist told Kommersant.

Attendees said heavy rains forced organizers to erect massive tents for the all-night dance party, and lasers that normally illuminate upward into the sky were instead partially refracted into the ravers' eyes. "I immediately had a spot like when you stare into the sun," rave attendee Dmitry told Kommersant.

"After three days, I decided to go to the hospital. They examined me, asked if I had been at Open Air, and then put me straight in the hospital. I didn't even get to go home and get my stuff," he said.

Cosmic Connection, the promoter of the Aquamarine rave, was unreachable and did not list contact numbers on its web site. Industry web site Laserfx.com said focused laser light can cause eye damage almost instantly.

The owner of a local laser rental company said the accidental blindings were due to "illiteracy on the part of technicians." "It was partly the rain, but also partly the size of the laser. Somebody set up an extremely powerful laser for such a small space," said Valentin Vasilyev, who said his company did not provide the Aquamarine lasers.