Entries in Stage Collapse (4)


Sugarland Stage Collapse Reports Cite Inadequate Construction

Joey Foley/Getty Images(INDIANAPOLIS) -- Two consulting firms hired by the state of Indiana to investigate why the stage collapsed moments before country duo Sugarland was to perform at the Indiana State Fair last summer cited "ambiguity of authority" over who was in charge and unsuitable stage construction as contributing to the tragedy that killed seven people.

The two firms -- Thornton Tomasetti, an international engineering company, and Witt Associates, an emergency preparedness consulting firm -- presented more than 80 recommendations for changes in the State Fair's "inadequate" emergency safety plan and stage construction Thursday at the Fair Commission meeting.

Just as Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush were about to take the stage at the State Fair on Aug. 13, a powerful storm blew through the area and a huge gust of wind ripped down the stage scaffolding. Aside from the seven people that were killed, dozens were injured.

Witt Associates went over a timeline of events leading up to the stage collapse. State Fair officials, they reported, had expressed concern about the weather throughout the day of Aug. 13, and approached Sugarland tour manager Helen Rollins about delaying or canceling the show because of the threat of severe weather. Witt Associates said that Rollins' response around 8 p.m. the night of the show was, "It is only rain, we can play."

At 8:30 p.m., Witt Associates said, Indiana State Police Captain Brad Weaver, who was off-duty that night, approached Fair officials and said they needed to start "shutting it down." Around 8:45 p.m., Weaver approached the officials again and said, "We're calling this off," but the stage collapsed before they could make an announcement to delay the show.

Both Thornton Tomasetti and Witt Associates officials said they encountered problems in getting information from Sugarland's camp and the companies involved with building the stage, including Mid-Atlantic Sound Corp., which was fined as a result of previous investigation into the stage collapse by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Scott Nacheman, a vice president with Thornton Tomasetti, said that the stage structure became "overstressed and overloaded" in the severe weather and it was not built to code or inspected properly.

A maximum wind gust of 59 mph hit the stage the night it collapsed, Nacheman said. The stage was "capable" of withstanding 25 to 43 mph wind speed gusts, he said, but as wind speeds increased, the concrete jersey barriers used as anchors for the stage began to slide from "a matter of inches" to "upwards of 10 feet" until the structure finally gave way.

"Gravity has taken over, and there was no way for the structure to support itself," Nacheman said. "The structure was in a free fall position."

Sugarland's additional sound and lighting equipment added extra weight to the structure, Nacheman said. Without them, the stage "could have sustained a maximum of 53 mph" wind gusts.

State Fair executive director Cindy Hoye spoke only at the beginning of the meeting, saying the report findings "are extremely important for us to use as a road map to move forward...hindsight is an incredible teacher and that's all we have right now."

Numerous victims of the stage collapse filed a massive civil lawsuit on Nov. 22, 2011, claiming Sugarland and the companies involved with the construction of the stage were negligent and contributed to the accident.

Nettles and Bush are participating in a deposition Thursday and Friday in Charleston, W. Va., to answer lawyers' questions about their involvement in the decision-making to go on with the show.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sugarland: Negligence Claims for Stage Collapse 'Sensationalize the Disaster'

Joey Foley/Getty Images(INDIANAPOLIS) -- Grammy-nominated country duo Sugarland said the lawsuit that states they are partially responsible for the tragic stage collapse last summer that killed seven is trying to "sensationalize the disaster."

In a statement to ABC News, Sugarland's manager Gail Gellman said, "Sadly when a tragedy occurs, people want to point fingers and try to sensationalize the disaster. The single most important thing to Sugarland, are their fans. Their support and love over the past 9 years has been unmatched. For anyone to think otherwise is completely devastating to them."

Moments before Sugarland -- comprised of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush -- was to perform a concert at the Indiana State Fair on Aug. 13, a powerful storm blew through the area, and a huge gust of wind ripped down the stage scaffolding. Seven people were killed and 45 were injured -- one of which was an 8-year-old girl.

Numerous victims of the stage collapse filed a massive civil lawsuit on Nov. 22 in Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis, claiming Sugarland and the companies involved with the construction of the stage were negligent and contributed to the accident.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, which include the families or the estates of four people killed and dozens who were injured, allege that Sugarland, Live Nation, Mid-America Sound Corp. and other events companies failed to provide a safe stage area and ignored inclement weather concerns.

The concert should have been canceled and the crowd evacuated, the lawsuit stated.

On Feb. 16, Sugarland's lawyers responded to the claims and denied all accusations against the band, saying Sugarland had nothing to do with the stage's construction. Among their many other defenses, "some or all of the Plaintiffs' claimed injuries resulted from their own fault," because some "failed to exercise due care for their own safety" or "knowingly and voluntary assumed and/or incurred the risk of injury to themselves."

The band's lawyers also denied Sugarland was responsible for deciding whether or not to cancel the concert because of weather concerns, calling it an "Act of God."

"The incident at issue in this litigation resulted from a gust of wind of unprecedented intensity, which caused a structure that may have been improperly designed, maintained and/or inspected to fail. As such, this was a true accident or Act of God," the response reads.

The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted a six-month investigation after the incident. Their report, released on Feb. 8, found that the heavy equipment supporting the stage was not properly built and that Mid-America Sound Corp., an events production company that constructed the roof and rigging used to hold the lights and sound equipment, had not taken appropriate measures to inspect the stage area.

IOSHA determined that Sugarland did not employ the workers who built the stage and therefore was not responsible for the incident, but fined Mid-America $63,000 for three serious violations of industry standards.

A spokeswoman for Mid-America told ABC News that the company had not yet paid the fine, and is meeting with IOSHA next week to discuss the report.

Sugarland's attorneys are now seeking a jury trial, but declined to comment to ABC News about the allegations.

Lead vocalist Jennifer Nettles told Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts in a November interview that while she did not feel a sense of responsibility for what happened, she wept after hearing some fans were killed in the stage collapse.

Prior to the moment when the stage fell, the band was waiting underneath it, and was uninjured in the accident.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Indiana State Fair Death Toll of 5 Could Go Higher After 'Fluke' Storm

Joey Foley/Getty Images(INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.) -- Five people are confirmed dead from injuries sustained when winds of up to 70 mph blew down thousands of pounds of steel scaffolding, wooden beams, lighting, sound and other equipment of an outdoor stage at the Indiana State Fair Saturday.

Roughly 40 others, so far, have reportedly been injured, although Indiana State Police have said that number could rise, given that some might have been transported privately for emergency care, rather than in ambulances ordered by rescue workers.

Gov. Mitch Daniels said the wind gust was a "fluke" that no one could have anticipated. Rain had been in the forecast, but not the sudden high winds that damaged the stage.

"It's not clear to me at this stage how anyone could have foreseen a sudden, highly localized blast of wind in one place," Daniels said. "The weather service is very good. They were in constant contact, repeated contact with the folks here at the fairgrounds, and they were right about the arrival of the storm. It came 15 or 20 minutes after the tragedy."

While many people fled as the massive structure fell under the force of the winds, hundreds rushed to help the victims, many trying to lift the stage to free people trapped underneath.

"You had law enforcement, you had citizens, you had people jumping into lift pieces of equipment off the injured and the people who were killed in this tragic accident," State Police Sgt. Dave Bursten said.

Minutes before the country band Sugarland was scheduled to perform, fair officials warned concert-goers that an approaching storm might force their evacuation into a nearby building. They said they expected the show to go on, but the fast-moving storm changed all that.

"We saw the storm clouds building off in the distance but the wind picked up and we saw dust coming across the fair ground and some different things started to blow around," Neil Smith, sitting with his son about 100 feet from the stage, told Good Morning America Sunday. "The awning started to blow apart and the stage just came down."

The fair, which runs through Aug. 21, was immediately shut down but is scheduled to reopen Monday.

"It's a very sad day at the state fair and our hearts are really breaking, so we appreciate all of you giving us a day to regroup, so we are closed today," Indiana State Fair executive director Cindy Hoye said. "We will reopen at 8 a.m. [Monday], but we will start with a very special, public remembrance gathering at 9am on the free stage."

Hoye said officials are trying to determine exactly what went wrong to cause the stage rigging to collapse.

“The structure is owned by company called Mid-America," she said. The company is bringing their engineer out of Tennessee Sunday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stage Collapses Before Sugarland Concert; Four Reported Dead

Joey Foley/Getty Images(INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.) -- At least four people are reported dead and more than 40 more are injured following the collapse of a stage at the Indiana State Fair Saturday night prior to a concert there by the country music duo Sugarland.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the stage rigging collapsed shortly before 9 p.m., trapping some concert goers for nearly an hour.  Strong winds are to blame for the incident. Video taken following the collapse and posted on YouTube shows what appears to be heavy winds, as well as fallen scaffolding and torn roofing fabric. 

ABC News affiliate WRTV reports that the Marion County Coroner's Office confirmed the fatalities, with more possible.

Shortly after the incident, Sugarland tweeted, "We are all right. We are praying for our fans, and the people of Indianapolis. We hope you'll join us. They need your strength."  The duo's Jennifer Nettles later issued a statement through their publicist, declaring, "We are stunned and heartbroken for the fans and their families in Indiana. We hold those injured in our prayers at this very sad time. There are no words. It is tragic." 

The Indianapolis area was hit by severe thunderstorms Saturday evening, with winds forecast to reach as high as 60 miles per hour and one-inch diameter hail also possible.

Saturday night's incident comes in the wake of a similar stage collapse at the Ottawa, Canada Bluesfest on July 18 just after a concert by the rock band Cheap Trick.  High winds were blamed for that collapse, which injured several people.  Additionally, on August 7, high winds and rain cause the collapse of stage rigging prior to a concert by The Flaming Lips in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The audience was evacuated because of the weather prior to the collapse, so no one was injured.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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