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  • Serious Injury Closes Lab
Aug 2008
ROCHESTER, N.Y., Aug. 8, 2008 -- Operations have been suspended at the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) following an accident there Wednesday night that left a senior lab engineer seriously injured.

The University of Rochester (UR) said in a statement released today that Sam Roberts, 32, was performing a routine operation in the vicinity of the Omega laser at about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday when his coworkers heard a loud noise and found him under a heavy piece of equipment. They provided CPR until the West Brighton Fire Department arrived and transported him to Strong Memorial Hospital, where he was listed in guarded condition in intensive care Thursday afternoon.

According to media reports, the piece of equipment was about 3 ft long and weighed about 100 lb, and struck Roberts forcefully in the face.

The work being performed at the time of the accident is done several times a day, the university said, adding that the Omega laser was not operating at the time, and no hazardous materials of any kind were involved.

The Omega laser, one of LLE's primary research tools, is about 30 ft tall and 300 ft long. Its 60 laser beams can focus up to 40,000 joules of energy onto a target less than 1 mm in diameter in about one billionth of a second. It is used to deliver laser energy pulses to targets in order to measure the resulting nuclear and fluid dynamic events.

Roberts was loosening an air pressure valve when a metal bracket swung loose and dropped about 6 ft, according to, the Web site of Rochester's Channel 13 news.

"This is something that is not associated with the laser itself -- it's in the laser -- a piece of metal that holds a metal pipe that has light going through it during the experiments," Larry Arbeiter of UR told 13WHAM. "He was doing that routine adjustment when this bracket, for reasons we don't understand, broke away."

The equipment has been operating safely for approximately two years, and the accident took place in an area of the lab that is accessible only to experienced, trained professional staff, according to UR. OSHA was notified immediately, and both the university and OSHA are investigating the accident.

"This is the most serious injury to an employee in the 38-year history of the laboratory. As a precaution, laboratory director Bob McCrory has suspended operations in the area of the laboratory where the accident occurred until the investigations are complete," the university said.

McCrory met with LLE staff this morning, and counselors are being made available.

"Sam is a valuable and well-liked member of our team at the laboratory with over nine years of service, and our hopes and prayers are with him," McCrory said.

"My thoughts and the thoughts of everyone at the university are with Sam, his family, friends and coworkers," said UR President Joel Seligman. "We are all earnestly hoping for his recovery."

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