Safety changes made after Westfield High stage collapse

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WESTFIELD, Ind. (September 8, 2015) – A new school year means new procedures for a Hamilton County high school. This past spring, 17 students were hurt when the stage collapsed during an end of the year performance.

“The incident that happened last year could not happen again under the procedures we’ve put in place,” said Mark Keen, superintendent of Westfield Washington Schools.

Officials figured out the cause of the collapse was a never cover on the orchestra pit.  The newly built cover wasn’t strong enough.  At that time, the auditorium’s director, Quinten James bought materials, designed and built the cover.  School officials say James built it a few months before the performance and they didn’t know about it.

“We have a new auditorium director at this point in time,” said Keen.  The prosecutor’s office decided not to press charges saying the accident "didn’t rise to the level of criminal culpability."

“He thought everything he did was the right thing. He was trying to help everybody out and he had the best of intentions,” said Keen.

School officials told FOX59 an engineering company has already inspected and approved the school’s new stage and more safety measures have been put in place.

“The stage is locked down and cannot be unlocked for removal purposes unless the maintenance department has approval from the director of business and he wouldn’t give that unless he knows from signing the form that can be done,” said Keen.

The stage has already been used this year welcoming students and staff back to school.

“I stood on the stage and I didn’t have any qualms about doing so,” the superintendent said.

While first responders were the unexpected guests the night the stage collapsed, Tuesday night they were the guest of honor.  During a volleyball game, first responders were recognized for their work.  Each officer, firefighter and paramedic were called by name as a student handed each a flower as a way to say "thank you."

OSHA told FOX59 it is still investigating the Westfield High case.