Indiana Relief Fund Makes Second Payment

Indiana State Fair officials said a relief fund for the victims of August’s deadly stage collapse would distribute all the money it has Monday.

The fund has paid about $564,000 to 28 people, and the remaining $400,000 in the state-administered fund will be paid out on a prorated basis to people who have already received money, State Fair Commission chairman Andre Lacy said.

“The balance will be paid out today,” Lacy said.

However, the State Fair Remembrance Fund — which collects donations that are then distributed by the Relief Fund — will continue to accept donations for about a year, and another payment might be made, fair officials said.

Fair officials said another 28 people applied for aid but were turned down. Fair Commission attorney John Trimble said about a half-dozen were turned down for lack of documentation or other reasons not connected with the payment protocol set up with help from victims compensation specialist Kenneth Feinberg. That protocol emphasized aid for families of the seven people killed and those with serious physical injuries.

Strong winds toppled stage rigging before a scheduled Aug. 13 concert by country duo Sugarland, killing seven people and injuring dozens more.

Feinberg acknowledged some people who were injured didn’t receive any money because they weren’t admitted to a hospital, but fair officials couldn’t say how many were disqualified for that reason.

Officials said 87 percent of the payments went for death claims or people who spent more than 10 days in the hospital.

“There’s only a certain amount of money,” Feinberg said. “This is not just an opportunity to seek a pot of gold. You do the best you can with the limited resources you’ve got.”

Feinberg said he believed most of the victims understood the financial constraints faced by officials. He said he had met earlier in the day with two victims, one of whom had received money but said it was inadequate and another who hadn’t spent time in the hospital and was turned down.

“I think we did the best we could,” he said.

Beverly Wheeler of Ladoga said she was turned down for aid even though she had to spend several weeks on crutches and was told it was because she hadn’t been admitted to a hospital.

“I guess I understand they had to draw the line somewhere,” she said. “It was kind of an inconvenience, but compared with the people who lost limbs and lost lives…”

The Indiana attorney general’s office still is working out a system for paying out tort claims, Feinberg said. He said that is more complicated because victims must agree not to sue the state in return for payment.