Story Summary

Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse

stage collapse sceneOn August 13, 2011, a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair just prior to the Sugarland concert, killing seven people and injuring dozens more. The collapse sparked a massive investigation into the cause and spawned a series of lawsuits seeking compensation for victims. The state of Indiana established two relief funds for victims and their families, although state law capped the damage at $5 million.

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INDIANAPOLIS (March 31, 2014) – Mid-America Sound Corporation agreed to pay a $50,000 fine following the August 2011 stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair.

The settlement came as a result of an investigation by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA). IOSHA cited Mid-America for several safety violations in February 2012 after a temporary stage fell at the Indiana State Fair, killing seven people and injuring dozens more. The crowd was waiting for a Sugarland concert to start when strong winds blew over the stage rigging.

As part of the agreement, Mid-America conducted a comprehensive temporary roof structures training course of designated employees. The company also prepared a safety operations management plan for future events. Additionally, employees attended a comprehensive five-day safety training course conducted by an outside organization on the erection of temporary roof structures. Mid-America pledged to provide similar safety training for other employees hired for such jobs.

The company will pay its $50,000 fine in four installments of $12,500, IOSHA said. The agency had originally proposed a $63,000 fine.

“It is stipulated by and between the parties that this order and the terms and conditions set forth herein are not intended to be, and shall not be construed by anyone as an admission of any wrondoing whatsoever by Mid-America Sound Corporation,” the agreement said in part. The agreement was made “in order to compromise and settle this matter economically and amicably.”

Michael Moon, the attorney for Mid-America issued the following statement about the agreement:

On March 20, 2014, Mid-America Sound Corporation and the Department of Labor entered into an Agreed Entry resolving litigation that resulted from IOSHA’s citations issued to Mid-America following the events of August 13, 2011 at the Indiana State Fair. While Mid-America contested the appropriateness of the citations and made no admission of any wrongdoing by entering into the settlement, Mid-America believed that it was important to move forward in a cooperative effort with IOSHA and to avoid the costs and expenses of further litigation.

Read the settlement here

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 11, 2014) — A Marion County court has ruled the State of Indiana isn’t responsible for defending or assuming the liability for the private company that supplied the stage rigging that collapsed at the Indiana State Fair on August 13, 2011.

A Marion County Superior Court judge ruled against Mid-America Sound Corp. and in favor of the Indiana State Fair Commission.  Mid-America Sound had claimed it had a contractual right to be protected by the State. In denying Mid-America’s motion, the court ruled Monday that the State Fair Commission is not responsible for indemnifying or defending the private company.

“Victims of the State Fair tragedy still can pursue this company for a judgment in civil court, but the court made it clear that the company cannot transfer or shift its liability or legal expense to the State and taxpayers.  This is an important ruling that upholds the prohibition set in statute that the State cannot indemnify a private company,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.

Legal proceedings will continue between victims and private companies in the consolidated litigation over the stage-rigging collapse, a case known as Polet et al v. Mid-America Sound et al.

Zoeller noted the State of Indiana already paid out its full $5 million in liability, up to the tort claim cap allowed by law, in the initial December 2011 settlement with 62 victims.

One year after its initial $5 million settlement, the State of Indiana in December 2012 distributed another $6 million in supplemental relief the Legislature had approved to 59 victims. In total, the State paid $11 million in public funds to State Fair victims, not counting private charitable efforts.

“As litigation between victims and private companies moves forward, the Office of the Attorney General will continue to appear and represent the interests of taxpayers, the State and the public as a whole, and we still encourage the private entities to attempt to resolve their legal disputes to the benefit of State Fair victims and their families without tying them up in court for years,” Zoeller said.

Two years after the deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair, the legal wrangling isn’t over.

Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. and subsidiary AGCS Marine filed a lawsuit in Marion County seeking to recover damages following the Aug. 13, 2011, collapse that killed seven people and injured dozens more. The companies insured equipment used by performers Sugarland and Sara Bareilles.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include the State of Indiana, the Indiana State Fair Commission, Mid-America Sound Corp. and the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 30. James Thomas Engineering Inc. was also named.

The insurance companies said the stage and rigging were faulty and believe the state breached an oral contract with Sugarland to make sure that the state would “provide suitable staging accommodations that would protect all persons and equipment involved in the production of the performance from any inclement weather conditions.”

The lawsuit said Sugarland “sustained property damage” that the state and State Fair Commission are liable for. According to court documents, the insurers said the stage was “erected with a jersey barrier system such that it did not provide adequate resistance to minimum code specified wind speeds.”

Industry standards require systems to withstand sustained wind gusts of up to 68 miles per hour. An independent report about the collapse from Thornton Tomasetti determined that the stage rigging began to give way at 33 miles per hour and couldn’t support itself once gusts hit 43 miles per hour.

The suit seeks money to compensate the plaintiffs for the damage and recoup other costs.

INDIANAPOLIS – Tuesday marked two years since the Indiana State Fair stage collapse, during which many changes have been put in place to keep you and your family safe.

Inside the Fairgrounds Coliseum, renovations are underway and fairgoers are getting a sneak peek inside.

“This is something that I was very interested in seeing,” fairgoer Faith Worl said.

For Worl, the changes hit home. She was at the fair, not far from the grandstand, when the stage collapsed in 2011 before the Sugarland concert.

“We didn’t know what was going on at first but obviously figured it out pretty quickly,” Worl said.

Seven people died and 58 others were hurt. In the two years since, safety has remained priority number one. It’s a priority that extends beyond Indiana, too.

“It was a tragic day. I, like many in the industry, had a very guttural reaction to the news of the collapse,” said Jim Digby with the Event Safety Alliance, nonprofit formed in 2011.

The group has members from around the world. During the same year of its formation, stages also collapsed in Canada and Belgium; Digby said that industry leaders wanted to do something to make things safer for crowds.

The Alliance wrote an Event Safety Guide, now in its final draft form. The guide was developed to help the people who set up and maintain stages keep them as safe as possible.

Still, Digby said there’s a lot that remains to be done.

“They are still happening and people are still putting together inappropriate stages,” Digby said.

In Indianapolis, safety has become a major focus. Coliseum Project Manager Rich Trombley said that he’s gotten a lot of questions from visitors to the construction project on that issue.

“Obviously (it’s) a solid structure. It can withstand the storms (or) whatever comes at us. This building has been here for 75 years and we’ve done nothing but to make it stronger,” Trombley said.

The Coliseum is on track to open next May and start paid concerts during next year’s fair.

For more on the Event Safety Guide, visit the group’s website.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Tuesday marks the two year anniversary of the deadly Indiana State Fair stage collapse and the deadline for anyone injured in the 2011 tragedy to file a lawsuit. 

Seven people were killed and 58 others were injured when severe weather hit during an outdoor Sugarland concert held on the Fairgrounds. A 59-mph wind gust and the stage’s rigging were blamed for the collapse.

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office has since paid out $11 million to victims through the state compensation fund.

Several civil lawsuits have been filed against Mid America Sound, the owner of the rigging; IATSE Local 30, the union who was in charge of assembling the rigging; and Lucky Star, the parent company of country duo Sugarland.

The civil cases are set to go to trial in February 2014.

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana State Fair stage collapse is prompting new national guidelines designed to increase safety at similar outdoor events.

The Event Safety Guide is an outgrowth of the collapse and other incidents involving outdoor events. On Aug. 13, 2011, seven people died after a temporary stage collapsed just before a Sugarland concert at the fair.

The disaster caught the attention of the entertainment industry—and representatives came to Indianapolis as part of a national push to standardize safety guidelines around the U.S.

The guide—from a group called the Event Safety Alliance of USA—also cited stage collapses in other locations, including Alberta, Ottawa and Toronto in Canada; Tulsa, Okla.; and the city of Hasselt in Belgium. The group refers to inclement weather, including gusting winds and lightning strikes that can present safety hazards.

The United Kingdom has a similar safety manual called the “Purple Guide” that has been in use since 1999. The group that put together the Event Safety Guide leaned on those guidelines while working to establish their own.

The guide’s standards are recommendations representing “best practices” for the industry, according to the guide. They will not, however, be mandatory.

The guidelines are currently in a review and comment phase that will conclude in August. The finished guide is expected by fall.

INDIANAPOLIS – An Indiana House committee gave its approval to a plan that would extend regulations on temporary outdoor stage rigging for another two years.

The rules create an eight-foot buffer zone that prevents people from standing in an area around stages. They’re designed to protect fans in case of a collapse and were developed in the aftermath of the Aug. 2011 stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair that killed seven people and injured dozens more.

The House public safety committee voted 11-0 to send the bill to the full House. The proposal would keep the temporary rules in place until 2016, giving lawmakers time to hold hearings and discuss the steps needed for permanent rules.

The State of Indiana this week is distributing $6 million in supplemental relief payments to eligible victims of the Indiana State Fair disaster. The 59 claimants including estates of seven deceased victims will share in $6 million the Legislature approved when it assigned the Attorney General’s Office the duty of distributing the funds.

“It was appropriate that the Indiana legislators decided to provide additional financial assistance to victims of the State Fair tragedy in light of all that victims have endured. Developing and implementing an equitable method for allocating the funds was a complicated process, but our objective that victims receive expedited funds without years of litigation was accomplished,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said.

This marks the second and final phase of state government payment to victims of the August 13, 2011, stage-rigging collapse before a concert during the Indiana State Fair. The $6 million supplemental relief combined with an earlier round of payment last year brings the total public relief to State Fair victims to $11 million.

In the first payment phase, in December 2011, the State paid out the entire $5 million available through its tort claim fund – meeting the cap set by state law – to 62 of the 114 claimants who had filed claims for injuries or fatalities stemming from the stage-rigging collapse.

Mindful of additional medical costs to injured State Fair victims since then, however, the Legislature in March passed a new law, House Enrolled Act 1376, that directed payment of another $6 million to eligible claimants by January 2013. The new law provided that the estates of the seven deceased victims who previously received approximately $300,000 each would receive approximately another $400,000 each, bringing their totals to $700,000 per estate, the amount allowed for death claims under the supplemental legislation.

Also, since the injured claimants with non-permanent injuries had approximately 65 percent of their out-of-pocket medical bills reimbursed last year in the first round of relief, the new law said that the second round of relief could provide payment for their remaining medical costs after insurance.

In providing $6 million for the second phase of relief, the Legislature authorized the Attorney General’s Office to set up a process which could include arbitration to distribute the funds to claimants – particularly those with permanent injuries – according to the guidelines in HEA 1376. The arbitration panel – William Baten of Indianapolis, Denise Page of Indianapolis and Eugene Stewart of Brookville – considered additional information such as medical bills and insurance-payment records claimants submitted. The panel also conducted in-person hearings with some claimants and their attorneys who wanted to offer evidence of permanent injury or ongoing medical costs. Of the 62 claimants eligible, all but three chose to participate.

Based on that evidence and the new law’s parameters, the independent arbitration panel evaluated the new information and calculated the supplemental amount each claimant would receive. About two-thirds of the amounts were adjusted due to insurance payments to claimants. This week, state payments totaling $6 million are being distributed to claimants through electronic deposits and checks. All 59 who opted to participate received some level of payment from the State. Since claimants previously agreed to accept the State’s settlement offer, the amounts are final and cannot be appealed.

Zoeller said arbitration allowed claimants and their attorneys to bring forward information about medical costs and obtain supplemental funds in a non-adversarial proceeding far more rapidly than is the case in traditional litigation.

“The State of Indiana has a different obligation to the public than a private corporation. In the public sector, there are more effective ways than lawsuits to equitably resolve disputes, and I am a proponent of using alternative dispute resolution through arbitration and mediation to ensure claims are handled fairly and without years of litigation,” Zoeller said. He also commended the consortium of claimants’ attorneys who diligently represented their injured clients and worked closely with the Attorney General’s Office and the panel throughout the arbitration process.

“Consistent with the core Hoosier value of helping neighbors in need, the Indiana General Assembly structured the $6 million supplemental fund to provide expedited relief to victims of the State Fair tragedy, and the Attorney General has carried out this distribution assignment promptly by putting victims first,” Senator Luke Kenley said. Kenley, R-Noblesville, is chair of the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee and was one of the architects of the supplemental compensation legislation.

“I believe the arbitration process commissioned by the Attorney General’s Office provided a fair and effective means to distribute the supplemental relief funds in a timely manner. In particular, I appreciated that the arbitration panel was able to assess all of the claims on an individual basis, and provide in-person hearings to any claimant who wanted one, within a relatively short period of time – particularly when compared to the timetable of traditional litigation. The arbitrators then applied these specific findings in accordance with the framework established by the Legislature,” said William Baten, chair of the arbitration panel.

In the $5 million first phase of relief in 2011, Zoeller’s office was assisted by Kenneth Feinberg, the nationally renowned expert who designed victim compensation plans after 9/11 and the BP Gulf oil spill and who donated his services to the State. Although Feinberg was not directly involved this year in developing the $6 million second phase since the new law already determined the parameters, Zoeller said the guidance Feinberg provided served Indiana well.

“We learned a great deal from Ken Feinberg’s previous work in designing a process that distributes funds equitably and treats victims with dignity, and we applied his insights here in concluding this supplemental round of relief on schedule,” Zoeller said. Next month was the deadline in the new law to distribute supplemental relief.

Although claimants accepting payments had signed releases and agreed to not pursue further legal action against the State of Indiana, victims and their attorneys still can proceed with their private litigation against numerous other private defendants regarding the State Fair stage collapse. Zoeller’s office as legal counsel to the State of Indiana will continue to represent the State’s legal interests in various legal actions arising from the disaster.

Many people are still asking if enough was done to warn fans about the approaching storm at the Indiana State Fair last Saturday.

One concert attendee captured the announcement to the crowd about the weather, moments before the Hoosier Lottery Grandstand collapsed.  The video provides chilling insight into what was happening just before the collapse and it is raising more questions Wednesday, as Indiana State Fair officials recount their actions the night disaster struck, killing five people.

“As you can see to the west there are some clouds,” said the announcer in the video. “We’re hoping for the best that the weather is going to bypass us. But there’s a good chance it won’t.”

The cell phone video of the announcement captures the moments before disaster struck the Indiana State Fair stage.

Other than the menacing sky overhead, the announcement was the only warning the crowd would ever get of the storm bearing down on them.

The announcement finishes with words that have a chilling ring.

“So please, get ready, because in just a couple minutes, we’re going to try and get Sugarland on stage. Have a great show.”

Fair officials say that announcement was made to the crowd at 8:45 p.m.

The stage collapsed just four minutes later.

Governor Daniels warned people not to jump to conclusions.

“Before we start with any witch hunts, let’s gather all the facts,” said Gov. Daniels. “Let’s realize these were extraordinary circumstances going on meteorologically and otherwise.”

State Fair officials say their investigation will cover questions on when the crowd should have been evacuated.

One of the people injured in Saturday’s stage collapse is still in critical condition at IU Methodist Hospital.

Friends say 22-year-old Jenny Haskell’s injuries are severe, and she has not woken up since the stage came crashing down onto her.

However, her friends say they have to stay strong for Jenny, after already losing a friend in the Indiana State Fair stage collapse.

Jenny was standing next to Alina BigJohny at the concert Saturday.  Alina died from injuries sustained in the collapse.

Now friends of both young women say they are fighting through their grief to support Jenny and her family.

Kayla Sollars feels shared pain for her two friends with two different outcomes.  She says she is holding on to hope for Jenny’s recovery. Jenny’s close friends said doctors told them Jenny’s injuries are about an eight out of 10 on the severity scale.

Jenny was standing next to Alina during the Sugarland concert at the Indiana State Fair, before the stage came crashing down.  Emergency crews rushed Jenny to Methodist Hospital in critical condition.

Jenny suffered multiple fractures, including to her pelvis. She also has unstable blood pressure and swelling to her brain.

On Tuesday, her family updated nearly 3,000 supporters through a website stating:

“Good morning friends and family. We had a tough day, but we are well past 48 hours and Jenny is still fighting! Please continue to pray. We know God is great and we believe all things are possible. We are very humbled by your ongoing support.”

Those close to Jenny describe her as light-hearted, full of laughter and a dedicated friend.  Jenny is a senior at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., studying sports medicine.