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Governor: Wind Gust That Fell Ind. Stage A ‘Fluke’

01:31 PM Sunday 8/14/11 |   |

The wind gust that toppled a stage at the Indiana State Fair Saturday night, killing five and injuring dozens of fans waiting for the country band Sugarland to perform, was a “fluke” that no one could have anticipated, the governor and others said Sunday.

The wind was far stronger than that in other areas of the fairgrounds, said Dan McCarthy, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Indiana. He estimated the gust at 60 to 70 mph.

  • Stage Collapse

    In this frame grab from video provided by Jessica Silas, the stage collapses at the Indiana State Fair.
    August 13, 2011

    (AP Photo)

    | 

Gov. Mitch Daniels said precautions were taken before the storm, but no one could have foreseen such a strong gust focused in one place. Some witnesses have said that while a storm was expected, rain hadn’t begun to fall when the wind sent the stage rigging falling into the crowd of terrified fans.

“This is the finest event of its kind in America, this is the finest one we’ve ever had, and this desperately sad, as far as I can tell fluke event doesn’t change that,” Daniels said.

Four people were killed when the metal scaffolding that holds lights and other stage equipment fell, and a fifth died overnight at a hospital, Indiana State Police 1st Sgt. Dave Bursten said. The county coroner’s office identified the victims as Alina Bigjohny, 23, of Fort Wayne; Christina Santiago, 29, of Chicago; Tammy Vandam, 42, of Wanatah; and two Indianapolis residents: 49-year-old Glenn Goodrich and 51-year-old Nathan Byrd. Byrd died overnight.

Forty-five people were taken to hospitals, and some may have gone on their own, Bursten said. Indiana University Health said 12 of the 26 people treated at its hospitals were still there, including three at its children’s hospital. It did not provide information about their conditions.

Dr. Dean Silas, who lives in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield, Ill., said in a telephone interview Sunday that some people died immediately. He said he was seated in the grandstand and reached the damage area within five minutes. He saw three bodies already covered with plastic.

Silas said 75 to 100 people at the show immediately began to help. It took 20 to 25 minutes to free those who were trapped, he said. He and others carried some of the injured on makeshift stretchers to a triage area under the grandstand.

He estimated it took 10 minutes for the first ambulances to arrive and for a coordinated emergency medical effort to begin.

Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles sent a statement to The Associated Press through her manager, saying she watched recaps of the collapse on the news “in horror.”

“I am so moved,” she said. “Moved by the grief of those families who lost loved ones. Moved by the pain of those who were injured and the fear of their families. Moved by the great heroism as I watched so many brave Indianapolis fans actually run toward the stage to try and help lift and rescue those injured. Moved by the quickness and organization of the emergency workers who set up the triage and tended to the injured.”

  • Stage Wreckage

    Indiana State Police and authorities survey the collapsed rigging and stage at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis.
    August 14, 2011

    (AP Photo)

    | 

Nettles and Kristian Bush, who perform as Sugarland, canceled their Sunday show at the Iowa State Fair.

Sugarland manager Jason Owen referred questions about the accident to fair officials, saying in an email, “it was their stage and lighting rigs so it wouldn’t be right for us to comment.”

Fair director Cindy Hoye said it was too soon to talk about who was responsible for the stage and its rigging because the investigation had just started, but she had confidence in Mid-America, the company that owns the stage. Mid-America did not respond to messages left Sunday.

Concert-goers said opening act Sara Bareilles had finished performing and the crowd was waiting for Sugarland to take the stage when the storm hit just before 9 p.m. They said an announcer alerted them that severe weather was possible and gave instructions on what to do if an evacuation was necessary. But the announcer also said concert organizers hoped the show would go on, and many fans stayed put.

Witnesses said dirt, dust, rain and wind came barreling up the fairground’s main thoroughfare minutes later and the stage collapsed.

Jessica Alsman said the towering, metal scaffolding “kind of wobbled at first.” Then pandemonium set in as it fell.

“As soon as we saw the wind gust, the wind was in our faces,” Alsman said. She and three friends grabbed each other and formed a chain.

“You can’t imagine – we just thought it was going to rain or something,” Alsman said.

  • Indiana Stage Collapse

    Family members tend to their injured relatives at the Indiana State Fair.
    August 13, 2011

    (AP Photo)

    | 

Indiana’s position in the Midwest has long made it prone to volatile changes in weather. In April 2006, tornado-force winds hit Indianapolis just after thousands of people left a free outdoor concert by John Mellencamp held as part of the NCAA men’s Final Four basketball tournament.

And in May 2004, a tornado touched down south of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, delaying the start of the Indianapolis 500 and forcing a nearly two-hour interruption in the race.


Comments

  1. jaredoliveira wrote:

    04:54 PM, Aug 15, 2011

    Hmmm... angry ticket holders or 5 dead people... hmmmmm..... decisions, decisions. While hindsight is 20/20, if "angry ticket holders" was the reason for not canceling that is bulls h i t! I'd like to see that fly with the families of those killed and injured.

  2. Evster wrote:

    11:21 AM, Aug 15, 2011

    I agree with 'toogoogetmoo' 110%. To quote our dear "friend" Donald Rumsfeld, the unpredictability of weather is a "known unknown."

  3. toogoogetmoo wrote:

    08:07 AM, Aug 15, 2011

    First, my/our condolences to all families impacted by this tragedy.

    Second, how convenient for the fingerpointers to take their swings at who or what is to blame.  Comon people!; all indications are that the wind gust was a fluke.  Yes, there was a storm coming and the officials in charge made decisions based upon the information they had.  If they hade cancelled and the weather had passed without incident, there woudl be just as many angry ticket holders sqwalking that the show was cancelled why????  It's a no-win situation!  I've been to numerous outdoor concerts in windy/rainy/nasty conditions and they came off without a hitch.   So, do us all a favor and save your useless uninformed and opinionated comments until the facts are known!  If there is liability to be assigned, so be it - AFTER ALL THE FACTS ARE KNOWN.  Otherwise, STFU!  Accidents can and do happen...

  4. benjs wrote:

    08:05 AM, Aug 15, 2011

    A man-made structure, meant to withstand nature and all variabilities contained, failed to do so. Fluke? This was poor engineering, nothing more, nothing less. If there was inherent risk (which, in hindsight, clearly there was), either the show should have been cancelled, delayed, or the stage should have been adapted to remove this risk.

  5. saferway wrote:

    05:13 AM, Aug 15, 2011

    I can only speculate, but it looks like there can be 2 possibilities for these needless and tragic deaths;

    1)The stage design was faulty or not built properly and the Wind blew it over and people are dead due to negligence

    2) The Weather was beyond the safety threshold for the stage and the event organizers failed to call off the show and clear the area and people are dead to to negligence

    My thoughts and prayers to the families, we can never let this happen again.

  6. Kornmeal wrote:

    08:13 PM, Aug 14, 2011

    I agree should have lowered the roof  it less likely to colapsed like it did high wind + heavy aluminum swaying = the colapse

  7. jaredoliveira wrote:

    07:48 PM, Aug 14, 2011

    "a fluke that no one could have anticipated"?!?!

    THEY KNEW A MASSIVE STORM WAS COMING!!!!