Sorry Governor Daniels, We’re In the Business of Keeping Our Fans Safe – Indiana State Fair Collapse Continues

Don’t forget this image, people:

Don’t forget this one, either:

I’m overwhelmed with the awesome response that was given to the article from yesterday about the disaster at the Indiana State Fair at the Sugarland show.  I’ve got my hands in as many places as I can right now to keep on top of this situation, but there are some large mysteries surrounding this misery.

However, have you read the news in the AP wire (thanks Fox) about how now they’re looking at the collapse?  This has become a media salvage operation for Governor Daniels and his crew.  Sorry folks, this really upsets me, especially the language in his statement about the collapse.  From the report at the AP wire:

“Our first job is to get back in the business of living, get back in the business of the state fair and back in the business of caring for each other,” he said.

Since we’ve already arrived at the blame game part of the disaster with the Governor and the State Fair promoter people, I think we have two fingers that can be pointed.  Sorry, Governor Danielsyou get finger #1.

You know what, I understand that you’re just trying to salvage face at this point.  What you need to understand, sir, is that our industry, the Entertainment Industries as a whole, doesn’t do too well when these kinds of events happen, especially when they could have been avoided.  Nate Byrd’s donation of his life for the sake of a State Fair show is a donation that you should be clamoring to give back with every second of future shows you ever have a hand in producing.  I want you to know that, everyone in the industry wants you to know that, and I hope that you never forget that a show is LESS important than what you observed on Saturday.

Let’s take a look at some chain of command stuff here before we start blaming stagehands and riggers.  I think that is very, very important.  So, the chain of command broke down WAY before the time to blame riggers and stagehands.  Now is there stuff we don’t know?  Sure.  Everything is speculation at this point.  But five people are dead.  It’s time to get some answers now.

  1. Promoters.  It’s your fault for this happening.  Since you didn’t call this show at least on hold when that weather is visible, the blood is on your hands.  What you’re going to find is that there are many people under you who were probably suggesting that the show be held, at least until the weather passed.  Another show was cancelled just a bit away from your site, and those promoters gave their audience at least 30 minutes to get there before any weather reached the site.  Did that not surprise you?
  2. State Safety Officer.  What was it that you were doing that was more important that this?  You can get weather reports and warnings for free via text message if you happen to have an old phone.
  3. Public Safety Officer.  What were you doing when the weather was an hour away?  Your responsibility was public safety.  Five are dead.  I’d say you failed.
  4. Venue Manager.  You should have had your weather reports right up in your face, ready to tell the promoters that you were going to stop the show, and that was that.  Getting the PA down, getting the roof down, and getting the hands off of the deck are all things you should have been reporting to both the promoter(s) and the crew chief to execute.
  5. IATSE Steward onsite.  This one hurts me, but it’s true – what the IA stewards say onsite goes for all IA hands.  People should have been out of that rig when that weather was coming.
Promoters are not Gods, everybody.  They can be told no.  I mean, what’s the worst they’re gonna do, fire you?  My guess is that there are a lot of people who wish they would have gotten fired right now.

For the record, the Entertainment Industries are all about protecting our fans from the art they desire while we execute it like only we know how.  But we’re professionals about it, and we know when you need to pull the PA down, drop the roof and lighting, and just deal with angry fans for the sake of the fans until the storm passes.  Sugarland still would have rocked the heck out of it.

Sorry folks, but there are some issues with this AP article that have to be addressed.  I’m gonna go through these really quickly here, but the world needs to know how pissed our industry is with this mess.

From the AP article:

As the fair reopened Monday, investigators and the families of the dead and injured were still seeking answers to hard questions: Was the structure safe? Why were the thousands of fans not evacuated? Could anything have been done to prevent the tragedy?

State fair officials have not said whether the stage and rigging were inspected prior to Saturday’s show. Fair spokesman Andy Klotz said initially that the state fire marshal’s office was responsible for inspections, but he backtracked Monday, saying he wasn’t sure whose job it is.

A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security said neither the fire marshal nor Homeland Security officials conduct inspections. And the city does not have the authority to inspect items on state property.

“We do have our own requirements within the city for temporary structures, and we do have our own permitting requirements,” said Kate Johnson, spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Department of Code Enforcement. “But in this situation, we don’t have that authority because it’s state-owned property.”

As they investigate, inspectors for the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration will be looking at the weather and any potential structural or design flaws in the stage, among other things, experts said.

Another emerging issue is whether fair organizers responded quickly enough to forecasts of an approaching storm, especially since a different concert nearby was canceled because of the weather.

People, Mother Nature is gonna trash anything when hurricane strength winds blow through somewhere, but what the media needs to understand is that the reason this happened is a combination of things that we will probably soon discover in the follow-up.  Biggest issue right now?  WHY WAS THE RIG STILL IN THE AIR WHEN THAT STORM WAS COMING?!  Did you see that big blue tarp in the video flap around in the wind like a sail?  My professional guess would be that it was among the reasons for the sideways fall of that structure, the sail catching wind and pulling the rig out of balance.  But let me just say this out loud again so that all government agencies and OSHA and all of the people who will still be blaming our industry for this mess for a long time coming:  WHY WAS THE RIG STILL IN THE AIR WHEN THAT STORM WAS COMING?!

Here’s finger #2 – at the promoters for this event.

I am making a public call to the media and to the world – WHY DO WE NOT HAVE AN ANSWER FROM A PROMOTER ABOUT THESE THREE QUESTIONS?

WHY was the RIG STILL IN THE AIR when the storm was coming?
WHERE were the safety organizations’ representatives when this weather was coming through?
WHY was the RIG STILL IN THE AIR when the storm was coming? 

Was it worth the deaths?  Was it worth the mess?  Here’s the REAL kicker for your sleepy time – you DO REALIZE that Sugarland would have still played a great show if you would have taken the time to lower the PA, drop the roof, just for the time the storm was coming, and then rocked the crap out of your fairgoers’ faces.  Nate Byrd would also be running spots still, too.

We need to be concerned about a few things here:

  • Does it concern anyone else that the very same people who keep saying “oh hey, I don’t know WHO’S job roof safety is” are the very same people who are going to be investigating the disaster?  What I’m gonna be looking for is for OSHA and the Indiana people involved with this to be reaching out to parties in the Entertainment Industry to help them with the engineering and consulting.
  • We need to be concerned that there is already backtracking in public statements.  This is going to get worse.  Governor Daniels’ constant “let’s be moving on and healing from this tragedy” makes me even more suspect.  Sorry Gov’nah, this is more than just votes and political popularity.  Our industry is on the carpet for the lack of due diligence that the fair promoters exhibited in NOT GETTING THAT ROOF IN when the storm was coming.  We will NOT let you hang us out to dry on this one, especially when you chose to exhibit such negligence in this situation.
  • Kate Johnson’s statement:
    “We do have our own requirements within the city for temporary structures, and we do have our own permitting requirements,” said Kate Johnson, spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Department of Code Enforcement. “But in this situation, we don’t have that authority because it’s state-owned property.”  Um, no.  More pass-off.  We can expect a lot more of this kind of garbage, I’m afraid.
  • Was the structure safe?  We’ll find out the answer to that soon, to be sure.  What is obviously a big issue is WHY THE RIG WAS A FULL HEIGHT IN THE ONCOMING STORM.  It’s Indiana, people, not Denver, where the mountains can hide rain.

I’m so disgusted with the just monster fountain of crap that’s engrossing this horrific incident.  It’s up to US to make sure we can filter the BS.  Anything and everything we can do is what is prescribed now.  If we leave this in the hands of the people who are obviously doing such a great job of managing the fair now, I fear it’s only going to be a matter of time before I’m writing about the next bunch of music lovers who were killed in a roof collapse.

Governor Daniels, this was not a freak accident.  This was negligence.  Promoters, I’m gonna be waiting for your answer.  We all are.

38 replies
  1. Cap Spence
    Cap Spence says:

    I concur 100%.

    Why was the rig still in the air?
    Why was the backdrop still up? (Require ALL softgoods to be on battens so they can be dropped in seconds)
    When the roof section blew off left, why didn’t it release from its offstage truss?
    Bad homework, Bad management. Sorry.

  2. CAVEMAN
    CAVEMAN says:

    THANKS BRO YOU SAID IT ALL LAST YEAR I HAD A CREW AT THE PONTIAC SILVER DOOM WE HAD A RIG FALL ON US BECAUSE OF PEOPLE WORKING FOR THE STAGE AND ROOF CO. DID NOT AND WERE NOT QUALIFIED AND DID NOT DO WHAT MY RIGGERS TOLD THEM IT COULD OF MADE A DIFFERENCE BUT WE WERE LOCAL HANDS AND NO ONE WANTED TO HEAR IT FROM US WE KNOW WHAT WERE DOING BUT THEY DIDN’T THINK SO IN THE END WE FOUND OUT WHO DIDN’T KNOW, THEM!!

  3. Erich Friend
    Erich Friend says:

    Another question that needs answered is why the power was not cut to the stage until nearly 1/2 hour AFTER the collapse? Although nobody was harmed from an electrical incident, the potential for sheared power cables electrifying the metal structural wreckage was enormous.

  4. Michael
    Michael says:

    Everybody I’ve talked to in our industry has been wondering the same thing, why was that roof still up? Why were there people in the rig? They apparently had a backup plan in case of weather, why didn’t they use it??

  5. Jayson
    Jayson says:

    Every one keeps talking about “bringing in the roof”! Unless you have enough time this is one of the worst things you can do when a storm is barring down on a stage set up like this. S.O.P. should go like this:

    1) Bring in the back drop and cut loose any sound bay scrims (There were none on this roof at the time of it’s collapse)
    2) Bring in the PA. To the ground. Do not slack the chains. If you look in the videos you can see all those heavy boxes swinging in the breeze. On the ground they become more counter wight.
    3) Bring in the lighting truss. Again more counter weight. (And the truss spots would have been down!)
    4) The skin should be rigged to start to fail at a curtain wind speed ( 45 – 50 mph?) There goes about $4000 in the wind but at least now that sail is no longer on the structure.
    5) Get every one away from the roof structure and let it ride out the storm. If you start bringing in the roof and winds hit while the skins are still on and the guide wires are stack, you basically have a really big Box Kit. If it fails and falls and now one is under it and no one is heart than it is just an insurance claim. (You do have insurance for this right?)

    There are a lot of experts saying what should have been done. Having spent a LOT of time working in, on and under these types of roofs it saddens me to see this happen. I have seen structures s similar to this stand up to some extreme weather. Unless you were there and know the details it is just speculation to what brought the roof down.

    One thing is for certain and I think this article points at it quite well. Points out the total brake down or disregard of responsibility. When working out doors on an event, how hard it is look at the black clouds rolling in and think maybe we should take a moment and think about this. It is not like this part of the world never sees these types of storms.

    The one person or persons that this article has not pointed a finger at is the operator of the roof. Who was in charge of the structure? The owner or there agent should have been there when there are people working on it or there is an audience. We may all consider our self’s experts but they were ultimately driving the ship. They are the ones that have to stand up the promoters and venue and make the call to start doing the right thing while there was still time. It is like getting in to a car, running over a bunch of school children and them pointing fingers at the crossing guard. Ultimately they will have to be held accountable for not doing the right thing.

  6. Pete
    Pete says:

    Agree totally!! We have all said that there may have been a need for guy wires, less load, etc. But the rig as it was would have been fine if the thing was down when the wind hit. And they knew it was coming. It has been surmised that the band’s video wall kept it from being dropped to low trim, then it should have been nixed. Sorry band folks, no trading some show “flash” for safety. I am in Texas and we have 30 to 40 MPH winds on a normal clear day. In these cases, the skin comes off and the frame is holding some lights up only. I had one event complain this spring but across town a different company’s roof went over in the same wind. Luckily, it went backwards into some cars and no one was hurt. We may never work for that job again, but I will not have blood on my hands when I know it is not right.

  7. Lynn Wilkinson
    Lynn Wilkinson says:

    Glad to see something besides 30 second soundbites about this. Never should have happened in the first place.

  8. John
    John says:

    As a stage rigger, there are a ton of problems I see with this, and Jim I think you have pointed out nearly every one.

    I would only add that with any roof system, there is always a rigger on site. I have had to pull rigs due to weather before – once live on ESPN. It sucked, the promoter hates me for it and I probably won’t get work from him again. But to date, I have not killed, injured, or endangered anyone with my rigging.

    From the images, I can clearly see that there was NO GUY WIRE SYSTEM. In a flat state with high wind potential, I simply cannot imagine why no top tied ballast was used. A simple tension line of 1/2 steel and a couple of cinder blocks may have given them enough time to clear the crowd before the rig came down. It would have only added perhaps another hour and 1000 bucks onto the load in.

    So just below the IA steward, I would put the stage rigger. That is still several steps down the ladder from the person who was ultimately responsible for making the call – the promoter. And shucks, the show still got cancelled. Hopefully the lawsuit will finish them off so that they never are put in that tough position again of people’s lives verses money.

  9. Brad
    Brad says:

    My main concern about all these roof collapses is “WE” in the industry dont see the final results of the investigations. The strongest weapon against these tragedies is information. I think that these investigations should be published for ALL to see. via youtube or something. Then and only then all persons involved with putting up these structures will know what is the correct way is has to be done.

    I have read many posts on many sites this week.. Most of what is being said is supposition and uninformed conclusions. I have not read direct facts yet. In the end WE ALL need the facts to make the safe decisions to do our jobs. What i read in most of the forums are some great ideas on how to handle these events in the future. The most important information for the industry is how the failures occurred and what could prevent them in the future.

  10. Jason
    Jason says:

    -From what I’ve seen and read, there were guylines on the windward side of this structure. [correct me if I'm wrong] I’m guessing they must have been undersized and were tied to gravity anchors of too little mass, but that is all conjecture.
    -To me there is no reason to expect people to pay for a show in 30 mph winds. Therefore there is no reason to have loads in the air in 30 mph winds. Reports say the gust that toppled this structure was over 60 mph. The photos I’ve seen clearly show a very angry thunderstorm approaching. You get the picture.
    -Myself, I’ve never had to call a show due to foul weather, hope I never have to. But I have stood with tour, and production management to work out a timeline for doing just that. Those people were aware of the risks, and they made me aware that the show would go on unless truly necessary. Reasonable people can have this discussion, and will make appropriate decisions. Having truss spot ops in the trusses 30 minutes before a nasty storm is NOT the decision of a reasonable person. The fact that this gust hit before the predicted arrival of the storm just exemplifies the reason to be proactive in planning for such an event.
    Thank you Jim for keeping us up to date, and for providing a forum for those of us who are “armchair quarterbacking” this terrible event.

  11. Tim Flanagan
    Tim Flanagan says:

    As someone who used to do concert staging (conventional roofs…very much like those…Total to be exact) I agree with this statement:

    WHY was the RIG STILL IN THE AIR when the storm was coming?

    But to be more exact…why was the backdrop still up? That was the first thing we as staging guys would insist on when a cell was coming in…that the backdrop be brought in. I really feel like that alone would’ve decreased the wind force on the structure exponentially and the lights and audio staying up were not as crucial to the disaster.

    Also, why didn’t they skin completely pop off? We always used wind rated bungees that would allow the skin to pop up when the force of wind got too high?

    Those are the two things that I felt as a guy with several years experience in staging, and fifteen years in our industry, that brought this roof down.

    I’ve seen roofs ride out some serious wind (though not as big as they saw here). The roof stayed up, the audio stayed up, the lighting stayed up…we just dropped the backdrop (though on one occasion we did bring the roof down). And the roof rode those bursts of weather just fine.

  12. Tim Cain
    Tim Cain says:

    EVERYTHING BEING SAID IS TRUE, IT IS EASY FOR ALL OF US TO SIT BACK ON MONDAY MORNING AND CALL THE SHOW. BUT WE HAVE ALL SEEN THE SAME THING HAPPEN, WHO EVER WAS IN CHARGE OF THIS SHOW IS NEGILGENT, PRODUCTION COMPANY, STATE FAIR, EVEN THE BANDS PRODUCTION PEOPLE, ALL OF THEM. I THINK AFTER WATCHING THE VIDEO OVER AND OVER, IF THEY HAD JUST CUT THE SKINS OFF AND DROPPED THE P.A. AND LIGHT RIG , THE STORM WOULD HAVE PASSED. OK THE P.A. WOULD BE WET , SO WHAT. EVERY BODY’S P.A. HAS BEEN WET, MAYBE A HOUR LATER THE SHOW WOULD HAVE WENT ON. EVERYBODY WOULD STILL BE ALIVE !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    THIS MAKES US ALL LOOK BAD AND WITH THAT SAID THAT SUCKS AND SUCKS A BIG ONE

  13. Shayne
    Shayne says:

    Good article man. I agree with the point that the rig needed to be lowered long before the winds even came as they knew there was a storm coming. Obviously it couldn’t be done when the winds started because by then, it was much too late. Motors run 16′ per minute. With the roof and all of its components (such as video wall, lighting trusses and sound arrays) all at 40’+ this would have taken around 3 minutes (in a perfect world with a ton of hands on stage managing all the gear as it comes down….so obviously MANY more people would have died had they tried to drop it at the last minute.)

    I watched this same scenario happen in Atlanta several years ago on a rig that I was the lighting programmer at FOH. The backdrop, although a mesh, became a sail and combined with its pulling, the video wall and sound arrays swinging, the roof pitched just a tiny bit, perhaps 1-2º and the wind got under it and yanked the whole thing down. It happened on a slightly overcast day with no storms in the area….until the “microburst” came along that crushed our rig.
    I’ll never work on an outdoor rig again that has a backdrop tied to a stage. BUT, we had guy wires anchored in the ground AND to water ballasts. They pulled clean out of the ground and the water ballasts got pulled like a skateboarder behind a car…and our stage was MUCH smaller than this so I really don’t feel the “structure” itself was to blame. The massive sail of the top and backdrop generate more energy than any amount of tie-offs (that a one-off budget would allow) can secure at that height. A roof of that size should have never had a full backdrop or hanging video wall and as stated before, the sound should have been ground supported as well and not flown off the rig to enable emergency lowering.

    Yes, big winds come out of nowhere with the force of a neutron bomb that will level temporary stages like this in seconds. I’ve seen them, and no, there is nothing that can be done in those instances. But in the event that a huge storm is on the horizon there are a great deal of precautions that can be taken to ensure the safety of the crews and spectators and in this case these were not taken.

    I have to agree with your question: WHY was this roof not lowered at least 30 minutes prior to this storm? They KNEW there was a storm coming. Why would you even take a chance like that especially in the midwest, an area known for brutal thunderstorms with high winds?

    I truly hope the proper people take the blame for this (such as the promoters, “safety officers” and venue management) and proper policies and procedures are implemented and enforced going forward to prevent future tragedies like this from happening and more lives from being lost.

  14. Rich
    Rich says:

    National Weather Service says that in the event of a Severe Thunderstorm Warning, people should immediately seek shelter–a severe storm is imminent. Acording to published timelines (http://www.theindychannel.com/download/2011/0814/28862249.pdf), at 8:39 pm, NWS issued a Severe Thundstorm Warning. At 8:45–a long 6 minutes later–the venue made an announcement suggesting that the show would go on (full text of the appalling announcement can be found at http://www.jconline.com/article/20110817/NEWS/108170330/Fair-officials-state-police-ignored-experts-recommendations?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE). At 8:49, the stage collapsed. I’m surprised–no, that’s not true: I’m absolutely appalled–that no one announced the NWS warning, postponed the performance, and told people to seek shelter. I can’t believe this isn’t criminal behavior of some kind. Guy wires or not, if concertgoers had been told to seek shelter, and hadn’t been told to expect Sugarland to perform within a few minutes, lives could have been saved.

    Additionally, having worked at a theatre that produces an outdoor production over the summer, I can tell you that insurance policies are available to cover loss of income at an outdoor performance due to weather cancellation. There was minimal–if any–financial risk to the promoter in cancelling the concert other than some potential bad press. And, if I’m reading this all situation right, there’s plenty of bad press to go around now, anyway. At least if they’d cancelled, that’s all there would be, not five dead bodies and dozens of injuries.

  15. Jay
    Jay says:

    I’ve read your blogs Jim, and it seems like you don’t have a complete handle on outdoor roof structures. You do seem to be really good at pointing your finger, however. John says there were no guy wire cables. Unless you were there don’t go by the photos, no one can see if there are cables in place by lloking at the photos that are currently available. As for moving the roof in foul weather, well, then you have the big box kite that someone else referred to. if it’s guyed properly it should withstand the wind until it reaches it’s wind speed limit. Additionally, it takes time to move a roof, and if the roof is rigged correctly it’s first dogged of over the headblocks. Someone has to climb each tower and remove that safety first. This roof appears to have 10 towers – that would take a bit of time to do. Then the lighting rig and sound rig have to first be lowered before you move the roof because the load probably exceeds what the motors are rated for.

    I will agree with everyone that the show should have been called and everyone cleared out of the area until the front moved thru. If that had been done then the only loss would have been the gear, and that can be replaced.

    At this juncture the most important thing that can happen is for the facts to be made public so we can all learn how this happened, what can be done in the future to prevent it and raise the standards in order to insure the safety of our audiences.

    This is a game-changer for sure and all of us will pay the price for it.

    • Jim
      Jim says:

      I’m perfectly okay with pointing the finger when they had over an hour to get the process started of having riggers go up each tower and do what needed to be done to get the damned roof coming in. Read some of the weather reports, there is no way that the roof should have been up with people around it. I gotta call BS on “not knowing about roof structures” though, do you make such a comment because I suggested the roof be brought in? I’ve probably had just as many hundreds of shows outside like you have, and sorry, but a structure like that of that size should have been partially disassembled to protect the people and the equipment.

  16. Clint
    Clint says:

    Why were the supporting legs 12″ truss and the climbers ( horizontal ) truss 24″ .. sounds under rated to beguin with .. And yes the roof should have been brought in ..

  17. Antonio
    Antonio says:

    for $30000 or less
    retails and labor for redundant systems ,ballast tanks and steel and rigging , the roof would have been destroy, but it would have stayed in the air , the rigg should have been pinned, there shoud not even been motor’s on that roof it had been up for weeks at less.

    no one had to die

    $30000 = 5 dead , 40+ hurt ,, for $30000

  18. Nate
    Nate says:

    The responsibility to put the show on hold or to make adjustments to the rig belongs to the representative of the company that owns the rig…in this case mid america sound. sure the promoter should have been evacuating the place well before this happened but we all know that a promoter isn’t going to do that. As a staging professional i can see what appear to be a lot of potential flaws in that rig from the pictures alone but i’m not going to make judgements because i wasn’t there…but if it were my stage there’d have been no people for it to fall on…it may still have fallen but nobody would have gotten hurt…i know this because i wrote my company’s operations management plan that requires our clients and their vendors to agree that i have the final say in evacuations and other weather mitigating actions. all production/rental houses that operate demountable roof systems NEED to have something like this in place…after all nobody else knows it’s capabilities…you think the rigger read the engineering report on the wind loads associated with that stage? neither do i. just my 2 cents.

  19. Nate
    Nate says:

    oh yeah…in answer to your question about why the roof was in the air.

    it’s more dangerous to lower it because you need to remove the lateral force restraining system(guy lines) to do so(at least with my system). the production gear however should have been lowered.

  20. Nate
    Nate says:

    geez it seems i have lots to say tonight…

    guy lines, no matter how many you have, are USELESS if they are anchored into the ground.
    guy lines, no matter how many you have, are USELESS if they are anchored to weight that can slide

    physically attaching the ballast to the truss is the only way to make them effective.

    if anyone doubts what i’m talking about i got the engineering reports to back it up…my system without a windwall is good to 90MPH with a safety factor of 2.

  21. Tim Padrick
    Tim Padrick says:

    Don’t believe everything you see – or don’t – in a picture – and don’t play expert based on a picture. I spoke with someone who was on site before the show. He reported that there were at least 20 guy wires on the structure.

  22. Jake
    Jake says:

    Those of us in the industry hate to blame other stagehands or riggers, but I gotta say, looking at the rig, it was an unsafe design to begin with. A good rigger woulda/coulda/shoulda said something about the lousy engineering during load-in, but even if they did, doesn’t mean someone at the top listened to them.

    I read that the rig was a skeleton, designed to allow each act to add their own lights and other gear. That means even for a temporary structure, it should have been built like a permanent structure, strong enough to withstand a wind storm. Watching the videos and looking at photos, I see several problems:

    1. The roof was vaulted, umbrella shaped. What happens when wind catches your umbrella? It blows sideways just like a parachute on a race car. That’s a lousy design to begin with.

    2. The line array made the whole rig front heavy and based on the video, it looked like people were smashed by the speakers, moreso than the truss. I hope in the future, temp structures will rig the PA completely separately from the roof and lights. Without the weight of the PA, it might have not fallen and even if it still did, there would have likely been less casualties. In most arena rigs, the PA is separate from lights and set.

    2A. Jim, this addresses the question of lowering the roof – it would have been impossible with the huge line array. It would take a horizontal chain motor to pull the speakers back and place them face down on the ground before the roof could be lowered. Again, keep PA on a separate rig.

    3. If there were guide wires, they or the shackles or the ground weights weren’t the right load capacity to hold this rig, obviously. I’m sorry, but all outdoor gigs simply need to take weather into account, period. I’m tired of people blaming mother nature and an act of God. If you are going to have an outdoor structure in the Midwest during tornado season, you need to prepare for 60 mph winds.

    4. Engineering 101: diagonal braces. There was not mechanism to connect the vertical and horizontal beams. Correct me if I am wrong here, but isn’t the only point of contact the chain motor and guide casters? Once it is raised, it’s not like there is a corner block inserted. A rig this size should have had diagonal corner braces. Yes, it would make it impossible to lower the roof, but it would have prevented it from falling over.

    In conclusion, this was an engineering failure. A wind-catching roof on top of a heavy rig without adequate diagonal bracing is asking for trouble.

  23. scott walsh
    scott walsh says:

    Everyone’s an expert the morning after. In my humble experience, bad shit gets covered up all the time, until someone’s hurt or killed, then someone gets the blame – whether or not they deserved it.

    Rigger who survived(so far):
    Indiana University Health Steve Stover / Room A5216 PO Box 1367 Indianapolis, IN 46206

  24. Jake
    Jake says:

    Once upon a time, there were three little pigs who went off to build their concert stages.

    The first little pig built his structure with horizontal aluminum truss beams supported by chain motors on vertical truss beams without additional guide wires or support, which was not very strong.

    One day, the big bad wolf came and said, “Little pig, little pig, let me come in.”

    “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin,” said the first little pig.

    “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your stage roof down.”

    And he did. And he got the little pig and ate him all up, as well as five of his friends.

    The second little pig built his house of aluminum truss beams weighed down with a line array speaker system and covered by a vaulted canvas, which was in danger of capturing a wind gust and falling over.

    One day, the big bad wolf came and said, “Little pig, little pig, let me come in.”

    “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin,” said the second little pig.

    “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your stage roof down.”

    And he did. And he got the little pig and ate him all up, and forty of his friends were taken to the hospital with critical injuries.

    The third little pig built his house of aluminum truss beams, supported by diagonal beams connecting the vertical and horizontal beams, a flat top canvas and speaker system rig separate and independent from the rest of the structure, which was very strong.

    One day, the big bad wolf came and said, “Little pig, little pig, let me come in.”

    “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin,” said the third little pig.

    “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your stage roof down.”

    But no matter how much the wolf huffed and puffed, the stage roof did not blow down.

    And the third little pig lived happily ever after in his well engineered structure designed to handle huffing and puffing.

    The end.

  25. crushtheboat
    crushtheboat says:

    Im no engineer but just looking at this photo begs the question of why those 2 stage right audio supprt legs and a falling free with no visual damage to their integrity? Wouldnt the aluminum bend before the grade 8 bolts failed? At the very least, should we be seeing the gusset plates bent or the chords twisted? I was just wondering what these remains look like up close. Maybe its there but just not visible in this photo. Can anyone find out what happened or what these truss ends look like?

    • Jake
      Jake says:

      I wondered the same thing and my guess is that they didn’t use the larger washers and the nut and bolt ripped through the hole. Aluminum would surely tear before the bolts broke.

    • Arigger
      Arigger says:

      The towers are plated truss. the plates likely tore right off. Note that the spigoted trusses in the horizontal members held up.

  26. Jay
    Jay says:

    Hello Jim,

    Getting back to you regarding my comments. Most anyone in the staging business will tell you that bringing a roof in during foul weather is almost a guarantee that something bad will happen. It does seem that they had adequate time to call the show and evacuate the audience and why that wasn’t done is only speculation at this time.

    Yes, I called you on your apparent lack of knowledge of roof systems. That particular rig looks like to would have taken every bit of 1/2 hr. to 45 min. to bring in, and that’s provided they had at least 10 riggers there. I am going to assume (yes, ass out of U and Me) that the roof was dogged off over the headblocks, so 10 towers = 10 riggers. Then sound, lights and the rear cicle truss had to come it. Not a speedy process.

    Would have been MUCH BETTER to evacuate the audience, clear the area and let Mother Nature come thru. If you loose the roof so be it. Better than the now six people who perished.

    As a group we all have to stay on this and insist that the findings and cause of failure be made available to all of us in this business. We need to know what happened and how it should be prevented in the future.

    In the meantime I hope that finger pointing will cease until we know the real causes. Granted, some seem apparent, but until we really know we should standby and see what the conclusions are; then instead of pointing we can now accuse.

  27. Indybeth
    Indybeth says:

    My husband and I are personal friends (for over 18 years) of the people that own the company responsible for the stage at the Indiana State Fair.   I know zero about staging, rigging, or lighting, but I do know the integrety of these people.  I also know that they are deeply anquished by the events of August 14th.  They were present at the memorial service for the victims held at the State Fair two days after the event.  No one knew they were present, no one knew that they were personally grieving for the loss of life. 

    This company is greatly respected in the industry.  They are known as a top-notch outfit.  If, after all of the investigations have been completed, they are found to be fault-free (as I am confident they will), their lives will still have been destroyed.  And it breaks my heart. The phrase “nice guys finish last” has never rang so true. 

    I know that the families of those who died are looking for someone to blame.  That is natural when we lose someone we love.  I just hope that the blame isn’t prematurely mis-placed and that my friends will eventually be cleared and be able to find peace.  Knowing them as I do though, there will never be peace for them, and that is a cruel irony.   

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  1. [...] learn more about this horrific incident:Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse, Five Dead.  Now What? Sorry, Governor Daniels, We’re in the Business of Keeping Our Fans Safe – The Indianas … Indiana Homeland Security Says Outdoor Stages are Not Structures – More on the Indiana Stage [...]

  2. [...] someone is willing to get up and call this thing what it is. You know what, I understand that you’re just [...]

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