As structural engineers begin their investigation into the collapse of a stage that killed five people at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Saturday night, Fox59 has been told a top fair executive was advised of the severity of the storm 30 minutes before the fatal wind gust hit.
Cindy Hoye is the fair’s exective director and ultimately made the call Saturday night to evacuate the Hoosier Lottery grandstands one minute after an emcee told the crowd the show would go on despite the advancing storm and three minutes before a wind estimated at 70 mph took down the stage.The country band Sugarland was poised to take the stage one minute later.
Fair security personnel had been advised by the National Weather Service at 7 p.m. and again at 8 p.m. that a storm containing lightning hail strong winds and heavy winds was approaching after 9 p.m. Fair Spokesman Andy Klotz said the fair’s own meteorologist told Exective Director Hoye that a storm was coming.
“He told me that we should expect a delay and he told them at 8:15,” said klotz. “He told me specifically he cited the rain. ‘We’re going to get rain and it most likely will be heavy so you may want to postpone.’ I know that Cindy Hoye and Captain Weaver from Indiana State Police were both part of that conversation.”
During the next half hour, Klotz said fair officials continued to monitor the weather and told the emcee to advise the crowd to seek shelter from the advancing storm but that the show would start in minutes. Immediately after that announcement, Hoye reacting to Weaver’s advice decided to shut down the show but by then it was too late and the wind gust struck nearly 30 minutes before the storm arrived.
Hoye said she told the emcee what to say to the crowd.
“He said what we wanted to have communicated and I provided the information to where we wanted the people to go,” said Hoye. “We’re going to go through all the process and take a look at all that and all the sequence of timing and so forth.”
When asked if she made the best timely decisions and was getting the best information for her staff, Hoye said “absolutely.”
Christy Moore of Noblesville said she was in the grandstands and noticed dark clouds lightning and winds and decided to evacuate before the emcee told the crowd the show would go on.
“If somebody had told us at 8:15 to leave, we would’ve left.”
While there is no official investigation into the administrative actions taken by Hoye and the fair staff in the hours and minutes before the tragedy, the probe into the collapse of the stage has begun.
“I have two of my investigators assigned full-time to assist in the investigation,” said State Fire Marshal James Greeson.
IOSHA, representing the State Department of Labor, is heading up the investigation with assistance by outside engineering experts.