A gay 20-year-old photographer in Swansea, Wales, was left without vision in his left eye after an attacker in a passing car spat a homophobic slur and threw gasoline in the young man's face Thursday.
"I got to a road crossing and I heard this car stop up behind me," Tyler Maddick, 20, of South Wales told Wales Online. "I heard this homophobic slur. Next thing I knew I’d got this liquid in my face. ... I could smell petrol but I thought that was from the car, then I started walking for a bit longer and my face started to burn up."
Although Maddick had his phone with him, it had run out of power, making it impossible for him to call for help until after he ran home, according to Wales Online. Thinking he would be fine, Maddick waited until the next morning to go to the hospital. Once there, he learned the attack had permanently cost his him vision in his left eye.
"I was told there and then I’ve lost all of my vision in my left eye," Maddick told Wales Online, noting that a previous infection had left him 90 percent blind in the same eye. "... [N]ow I can’t see anything."
Maddick's profession as a photographer could be adversely impacted by the loss of sight in one eye — though he was most upset by the violent and unprovoked nature of the attack.
"To be fair I think I was more angry than anything," Maddick told the online outlet. "I’m quite a strong-minded person and it wasn’t so much that they had done it, it was the fact that they targeted me, because if they can pick on me they can pick on anyone."
Police in Wales are investigating the attack as a hate crime, but have not yet made any arrests, according to Wales Online.
"This is quite horrific," Andrew Davies, a representative from The LGBT Unity Project Wales, told the U.K. online outlet. "It is unusual to see anything that violent. ... There’s still a lot of hatred that goes around."
Reports of hate crimes in Wales have recently risen, with 1,180 reported in 2012-13, according to Wales Online. But officials say the increases are likely the result of a campaign that encourages victims to report hate crimes, rather than an actual increase in the aggregate numbers of crimes committed.
Maddick, who had lived in the region for 15 years previously without incident, then moved out of Wales, returned to the Welsh town of Swansea just days before the attack. He says people have been supportive since the assault.
"I have had so many messages," he said. "I think I have had at least 40, my friends are being very supportive."
Maddick is currently seeking work as a freelance photographer.