Fines Fly For Sugarland Stage Roof Collapse

The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a report and levied fines Wednesday against numerous entities involved in a stage roof collapse that killed seven and injured 58 people last summer at the Indiana State Fair.
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By Clive Young.

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New York (February 9, 2012)—The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a report and levied fines Wednesday against numerous entities involved in a stage roof collapse that killed seven and injured 58 people last summer at the Indiana State Fair.

The collapse, which took place just before an August 13 concert by country act Sugarland, was caused by winds in excess of 60-70 miles an hour. Following a six-month investigation, IOSHA has placed fines upon the staging vendor, Mid-America Sound Corp. (Greenfield, IN), the Indiana State Fair Commission, and Local 30 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, In all, the fines total $80,800.

IOSHA placed most of the blame upon Mid-America Sound, fining it $63,000 for three "knowing violations," stating that the vendor had shown "failure to develop and implement an Operations Management Plan, the failure to develop a risk assessment plan, failure to maintain and use current engineering calculations and documentation, and failure to provide appropriate, qualified supervision."

In a news conference, Labor Commissioner Lori Torres said, "The evidence demonstrated that the Mid-America Sound Corp. was aware of the appropriate requirements and demonstrated a plain indifference to complying with those requirements.”

In response, Mid-America Sound released the following statement:

"We disagree with the findings issued today and strongly object to their classification as knowing violations.

"Mid-America Sound was consistent and clear with the Indiana State Fair Commission about the limitations of the temporary roof structure in high winds or severe inclement weather.

"Each year for nearly a decade, we warned the Commission, in writing, that “The roof or top shall not be used in high winds and or severe inclement weather. High winds meaning 25 MPH and above.” In the case of the structure used for the Sugarland concert, the threshold was 40 mph for evacuation.

"On the evening of the incident one of our employees reconfirmed with State Fair leadership that if there was lightening or wind speeds of 40 mph or more, the area should be evacuated.

"Despite these warnings, the Indiana State Fair Commission, who controlled the venue, and Sugarland, who controlled the concert, refused to postpone the concert and failed to implement an evacuation plan away from the temporary roof structure."

Mid-America Sound also issued Indiana State Fair Commission Executive Director Cynthia Hoye's testimony, which the company felt laid the blame for the tragedy squarely at the feet of Sugarland. According to Hoyt’s testimony, Sugarland twice refused to delay the concert due to concerns about singer Jennifer Nettles having to repeatedly warm up, and for potential delays in arriving at their next show, the Iowa State Fair. Sugarland was not fined by IOSHA.

Local 30 of IATSE was fined $11,500 for four violations and not ensuring that the roof was properly secured, with Torres telling reporters that the union was acting as an employer at the facility, which the union denied in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "We aren't the employer," Local 30 representative John F. Baldwin, told the paper. “We were acting under [Indiana State Fair Commission’s] supervision. They supervise us through one of their subcontractors."

Likewise a union lawyer, Bill Groth, told area TV station WTHR the state fair was using the Union to deflect attention for the tragic events, stating, “The State Fair Commission and State Fair personnel are ultimately responsible here. And they're looking for scapegoats and we happen to be first in line." The Union plans to appeal the fine.

The Indiana State Fair Commission itself was cited for failure to take into account "all conditions and the related appropriate safety measures,” and was fined $6,300.