Fair Collapse,
2 Years Later

Two years have passed since the deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair that killed seven fans and injured scores more, and repercussions are still being felt – at the Indianapolis fair and in the courts.

The grandstand hasn’t hosted a concert since the Aug. 13, 2011, storm that blew down rigging and the stage structure on top of fans and equipment between sets by opener Sara Bareilles and Sugarland.

The 2013 fair includes no big-name music acts, though concerts are expected to return next year as indoor events when a $53 million renovation of the fairground’s coliseum is completed. Indiana has paid out some $11 million to victims and their families from a compensation fund and lawsuits remain pending against Sugarland and the companies that made or set up the stage, including a new one filed Aug. 9 in a Marion County court.

Fireman’s Fund Insurance and subsidiary AGCS Marine filed suit to recover unspecified equipment-related losses.

The suit names defendants including the Indiana State Fair Commission, IATSE Local 30, Mid-America Sound Corp., James Thomas Engineering and six other companies.

According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, the complaint states the stage collapse caused substantial damage to insured video screens and to the performers’ instruments and sound equipment.

The Fair wasn’t required at the time to have the stage inspected because it was a temporary structure.

Rules have since been instituted governing temporary outdoor stage rigging structures. Fireman’s alleges negligence and product liability on the part of firms involved in designing and building the stage rigging.

The company claims the state breached an oral contract with Sugarland to “provide suitable staging accommodations that would protect all persons and equipment involved … from any inclement weather conditions.”

State fair spokesman Andy Klotz said he wasn’t aware of the lawsuit, but he noted that the fair no longer uses temporary staging of any sort. Two investigative reports found the stage rigging that collapsed in high winds didn’t meet industry safety standards and that fair officials lacked a fully developed emergency plan.

The state fair has added two positions – a chief operating officer and a director of safety and security – who are directly involved in safety matters, Klotz said.

“All of the things that we have implemented over the last two years are all attributed to lessons learned,” he said.