Las Vegas Hotel Knew of Pool 'Death Ray' Back in 2008

Hotel design channels sun into a powerful beam, scorching swimmers.

ByABC News
September 27, 2010, 4:28 PM

Sept. 30, 2010— -- A solar glare specialist who was denied a contact by a Las Vegas hotel to help it solve an intense sunlight issue -- now dubbed a "death ray" by employees there -- says the casino ignored his advice and went with a cheaper fix.

"It is one thing to ask experts in their relative field for advice; it is another to ignore their advice without justification," glass film manufacturer Nichols E. Ashton wrote the builders of the Vdara hotel back in November 2008.

Today, guests lounging at the Las Vegas pool reportedly are getting burned by concentrated sun rays strong enough to melt plastic drink cups and plastic newspaper bags.

Ashton is president of SSAF International, which ultimately did not get a contract for a protective window film to fix the problem.

"They didn't like the information. They didn't want to spend the money," Ashton told ABC News Wednesday night. "They thought the issue would go away. They thought nobody would get hurt."

Gordon Absher, a spokesman for the hotel's owner, MGM Mirage, said the company placed a reflective film over the windows that blocks about 70 percent of the light.

"The specifications for the window film used to mitigate our convergence, those specifications were written by a solar convergence expert that was hired to evaluate the situation and recommend mitigation," Absher said. "Once bids were received, the film we installed met and exceed those specifications. The film manufactured by others, including SSAF, did not.

"It is at best a mild inconvenience," he said. "If someone notices that the temperature has increased and they mention something to our staff, we offer to move them. We offer them an umbrella. We offer them an explanation of the unique convergence we deal with there.

"No one has had to seek medical attention," he added. "We've had no one file a complaint or injury claim."

He said that Vdara is not the only building in America to have the problem.

"This is hardly a unique situation," he said.

Ashton blamed the problem on poor design, saying the building was placed in the wrong position. He said there are no "sour grapes" over being denied the contract.

Absher said the company is well aware of the lingering problem. This was the first summer of operation and he said Vdara is investigating steps to solve the solar convergence.

But for now, guests are going to have to be careful as the ray moves across the pool area.

Bill Pintas felt burning in his hair during his experience with the hot spot.

After a recent swim in the pool just after noon, he went back to his lounge chair.

"I'm sitting there in the chair and all of the sudden my hair and the top of my head are burning," Pintas told ABC News. "I'm rubbing my head and it felt like a chemical burn. I couldn't imagine what it could be."

Bill Pintas' melted plastic newspaper bag.

Pintas learned he wasn't the first person to experience the magnified sunlight. At the bar, he explained the intense heat to some employees.

"They're kind of giggling and say: 'Yeah, we know. We call it the death ray,'" Pintas said.

They told him it even melts plastic cups. A plastic Vdara bag holding Pintas' newspaper also was burned through by the sun. The black letters bearing the name Vdara had entirely melted away.

Pintas isn't the only one to experience the so-called death ray at the City Center hotel.

A reporter from the Las Vegas Review-Journal made two trips to the pool and saw the 10-foot-by-15-foot hot zone.

As the Earth rotates, the hot spot shifts across the pool area. During the summer, it was noticeable for about 90 minutes before and after noon, the reporter discovered from pool employee interviews. The ray can increase temperatures 20 degrees in the zone.