Indiana State Fair Collapse – The Aftermath

Well it seems after many months action  is happening. But in the eyes of this writer it seems a bit bizarre what has happened. We all know the tragic story surrounding this stage collapse, which resulted in the tragic loss of life. Since this incident there has been a lot of finger pointing. And it still is continuing. In two recent articles that were released in the last day or so. According to one source the stage that was built did not conform to code. The article in Pollstar  states :

The stage rigging that collapsed and killed seven people during last summer’s Indiana State Fair wasn’t built strong enough to meet state building codes, according to engineering reports released April 12.
Scott Nacheman, an engineering VP with Thornton Tomasetti, told the state fair commission that the metal rigging structure didn’t meet requirements that it withstand wind gusts of 68 mph.
Winds reached an estimated 59 mph when the rigging collapsed onto fans awaiting a concert by the country duo Sugarland, Nacheman said. Dozens of people were also injured in the Aug. 13 collapse.”

The article also states that part of the rigging started to give way at 33mph (approx 54kmh) and it no longer had the ability to support its own weight, the ballasts used were inadequate. It was also found that the synthetic webbing ratchet straps and wire rope guy lines used did not have sufficient strength to resist the wind gust, even though it was actually less magnitude than code-specified requirements. The structure was not the only thing investigated, the decision making process was also looked into. This included the fair’s emergency plans and response. Again quoting Pollstar, this publication states:

Indiana State Fair executive director Cindy Hoye wanted to delay the concert, according to Witt’s Kenneth Mallettebut Sugarland representatives resisted, he said. He quoted a band representative as saying, “It’s only rain; we can play.”
Hoye agreed to start show at 8:50 p.m. as Sugarland wanted, Mallette said. However, fair officials later decided to evacuate. Because no formal protocol for delays was in place, Witt’s Charles Fisher said, there was an “ambiguity of authority” in making the call, according to the Indianapolis Star.
“Before they got to make the announcement, the structure collapsed,” Mallette said.”

In Soundprolivesocial it has quoted a press release from Sugarland who were going to perform on the fateful night:

Sugarland released the following statement Thursday: 

“In all the back-and-forth between the lawyers, the suggestion’s been made that we’ve somehow been trying to avoid having to answer questions about last summer’s terrible tragedy. This is simply not true. There is no one who wants to get to the bottom of what happened more than we do, which is why we’re ready, willing, and able to give these depositions today and tomorrow. The judge has put limits on what can be discussed, but within those limits, we intend to be as honest and open as we can. We want all the facts to come out, not only for the sake of all the victims and their loved ones, but also so we can make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.”

The article also made the following statements, which are very interesting:

The Indiana State Fair Commission hired Witt Associates and Thornton Tomasetti to investigate the stage’s rigging and the actions taken before and after the collapse.  

Chairman Andre Lacy began the meeting at the Indiana State Fairground, stating “our months of waiting are over.”  Lacy said the “intensive investigations” were not intended to place blame on anyone, but instead, put the commission under a microscope so they can learn and prevent another tragedy in the future.  

Lacy said the companies hired to investigate the tragedy were chosen because of their reputations.  He said the reports are significantly important for those who lost their lives and the investigations will serve as blueprint.  Lacy stated the findings will help others across the nation and the world when hosting entertainment events.
a lot of testing was conducted in order to judge the integrity of the structure, including wind analysis, laser beam measurement of components of the stage, collection of weather data, etc.  Nacherman stated wind speeds reached 59 miles per hour at the time of the collapse.  However, the company found, the structure was able to withstand wind speeds reaching 68 mph.

The company found the wind shifted the jersey barriers located around the stage, which held the stage’s cables.  The report revealed the shift caused the stage’s load to redistribute and shift, ultimately leading to collapse.  Additionally, the report found the roof’s failure did not directly cause the collapse, because the stage was already falling.

Thornton Tomasetti said Mid-America Sound, the company who built the structure, was faulty in their construction of the stage.  The company noted no professional inspection company was hired to evaluate the structure once it was built. 

A previous investigation by the Indiana Department of Labor found deficiencies in the construction and the inspections of the ill-fated stage.  The Indiana State Fair was fined $6,500, the stage hand’s union was fined $11,500 and the owner of the stage, Mid-America Sound Corp., was fined $55,000 for providing an unsafe workplace environment.   
More findings of Thornton Tomasetti’s report will be released Thursday afternoon. 

However, the company found the overall state of preparedness was not adequate for the amount of people attending the Indiana State Fair.  The report revealed the emergency plans and procedures were not fully developed and not used on Aug. 13.   Additionally, Mallette stated the commission did not use emergency protocol to make weather-related decisions. 
Witt Associates said the response to the collapse was overall successful.  The company stated emergency crews responded immediately and acted in a timely manner to transport patients and evacuate the crowds. 

As a result of the tragedy, the State Fair has already begun to implement changes in its severe weather and its crowd control policies. During the 2012 Indiana State Fair, concerts will be held at other offsite locations, including the Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. 

So does this mean anything to the industry in Australia (where I am based). Well I believe it does. There are many events that are held outdoors in Australia. From major concerts to the humble church Carols by Candlelight event. All of these events need to have, firstly a staging system that is designed to coop with similar problems, but there needs to be put into place a plan at each of those events to cater for the worst. There needs to be someone responsible that everybody will listen to, and who is not afraid to say “Sorry the event is cancelled”. Therefore there also needs to be emergency plans put into place and an efficient communications system. Therefore all stakeholders know what will happen and also to relay the correct information to people attending the event.

Australia has been very lucky when it comes to these sort of events, but we need to be vigilant and self regulate ourselves. We as an industry need to realise our responsibility to everybody at these events. We also need to make the effort to inform those others doing the smaller events etc. We need to help educate others and assist them.


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