The Ontario Ministry of Labour has ruled that weather – and weather alone – caused the main stage to collapse last year during Cheap Trick’s set at Ottawa Bluesfest in July.
Provincial engineers have examined plans and prosecutors examined reports from an inspector that signed off on the stage and apparently found no evidence of any structural issues that may have led to the collapse, the Ottawa Citizen reported.
“The assumption is that it was due to a severe weather event – something that is very difficult to predict,” a provincial representative told the paper.
The stage collapsed suddenly amid heavy winds and rain, leaving the band and crew running for their lives and several people with injuries requiring hospitalization. Miraculously, the structure fell backward onto trucks rather than into the crowd of thousands of concertgoers.
Environment Canada had issued a severe storm warning for Ottawa in the leadup to the collapse. Bluesfest Director Mark Monahan said during a press conference following the event that officials monitored the situation throughout the festival and made the call to shut down the show when the weather started coming in.
Upon hearing the news of the Ministry’s findings, Monahan told the Citizen he was relieved.
“However tragic the event was,” he said, “it is somewhat of a relief to know that no one was at fault and it was really an act of nature. It also allowed us to re-examine our preparations. We are now better prepared if something like that ever happened again.
“We weren’t party to the investigation so we didn’t know what the result would be,” he added. “But throughout the past year, looking back at the event, we were confident that we had acted responsibly.”
The festival reportedly instituted several new safety measures before this year’s Bluesfest, including hiring an independent engineer to inspect all stages, repositioning stages to cut down wind resistance and weighting stages with extra concrete ballast.
The Ministry of Labour is scheduled to meet with Ottawa officials to review safety standards for outdoor festivals and an advisory committee is examining provincial standards as well, the paper said.