Sensationalizing Death – WSJ’s Article on Sasoun’s Fatal KÁ Accident

Sasoun and her final fight outfit

Sasoun and her final fight outfit

Our industry is entertaining enough; that’s why we’re called Entertainment.  But, we are human, and we do make mistakes.  Those mistakes are at the heart of the Wall Street Journal’s latest article on the death of Sarah Guillot-Guyard at Cirque du Soleil’s  back in June 2013.

When something so tragic happens, wouldn’t you think that the death and subject matter enough would merit a story without really having to do much to it? It’s disappointing to see Alexandra Berzon’s article in the Wall Street Journal on Sarah Guillot-Guyard’s death be so sensationalized. One would think that an article in such a publication would preclude that kind of pulp. Right? Am I dreaming past the “If it bleeds, it leads” kind of reporting?

It’s not really her fault, I guess.  What people like to read about is other people bleeding.

I like what Alexandra Berzon normally says, I mean she is a constant writer on the plight of oil workers in our country, her WSJ work on that alone is pretty tremendous.  But why treat oil workers like human beings suffering the plight of working so hard in an industry that treats those workers like shit, and write a story about KÁ that makes our people and our work seem like the perfect setting for an episode of The First 48?  That’s rough, dude!  If anything, you’ve just made it harder for us who research and write within our industry by betraying the trust of the people you were interviewing, because you sure apparently did betray the trust of those who let you in, and completely let you in.  That part seems pretty painfully clear, from company member Erica Linz on Facebook.  I’ve quoted here here en toto:

There is a written companion to the WSJ KÁ video… The first sentences are everything, EVERYTHING that was wrong with the media response after the accident. I won’t post it outright because those first words dump painful salt in a wound that a lot of us carry. (My friend Diane has posted a free link in the comments. If you are like me, you’ll read it even if it’s upsetting, and I don’t want you buying a subscription to Wall Street Journal to do so.)

Shame, shame on you Alexandra Berzon. You assured me and we spoke at length before I agreed to do your interview about how you were not going to treat Sasoun’s story as an “if it bleeds it leads” headline. You decried the actions of journalists who had and assured me that you were asking to speak to those who loved her so you could portray her as a real person and stitch together the sincere truth. Your first line eradicates any illusion of integrity you aimed to portray in those conversations. Blood and gore will always get attention… You may as well have put naked chicks and flashing lights around the article for hype if you were going to approach it with the level of class you did. I’ve seen porn ads more subtle. Even your choice of including the word basement in that first paragraph… an image that connotes childhood fears, darkness, isolation and the work of serial killers. Very clever… Surely the fatal accident wasn’t tragic enough to get people to read on it’s own.

I am appalled by you.

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Let me say — I don’t have a Pulitzer like Alexandra Berzon. I mean, come on – my website is called JimOnLight.com for feck’s sake — really creative naming, I know. But seriously, read this – what’s the tone set here?  It’s like reading some Tarantino:

Sarah Guillot-Guyard lay dying on the floor of a basement inside a darkened Cirque du Soleil theater here, one leg broken and blood pooling under her head.

It was June 2013, and the 31-year-old mother of two had fallen 94 feet in front of hundreds of horrified spectators after the wire attached to her safety harness shredded while she performed in the dramatic aerial climax of the company’s most technically challenging production, “Kà.”

It was the first fatality during a Cirque show, and it capped an increase in injuries at Cirque with the “Kà” production. The show had one of the highest rates of serious injuries of any workplace in the country, according to safety records kept by Cirque that were compared with federal records by The Wall Street Journal.”

Here’s a bit of a video on their story:

There are a couple of really odd things about the reporting on jobs numbers too, things that when you look at numbers and no backstory, it seems like it could potentially be feasible.  Check out the chart posted in the WSJ story:

WSJ-workplace-accidents-KA

This graph is saying that per 100 workers, KÁ had an increasing injury rate, per 100 workers, of about 35 per 100 in 2010, 48-50 per 100 workers in 2011, and almost 60 per 100 workers in 2012.  However, this is a odd selection of things to compare KÁ to, especially with respect to workplace injuries.  Why not Stunt personnel, Commercial Divers, Military contractors?

Compared to Nursing and Residential Care facilities, Manufactured Home Manufacturing, Police Protection (a pretty broad category, frankly) Skiing facilities, for whatever reason, Construction, and Foundries, holy crap, KA has a SERIOUS increase in workers per 100.  But the industries that the Wall Street Journal chose to select have tens of hundreds of thousands of workers!

Here’s the thing:  As far as Ka goes, there’s about 80 employees.  All techs and non-artistic management are MGM employees.  Just to make this make a little more sense to anyone who is interested in making some sense out of these numbers, here’s the 2013 US Department of Labor’s Employer-Reported Incidents Report.  It’s a PDF link, comb through it just a little and you will instantly see a problem with the way these KÁ stats were derived.

Also, for all of you nerds like me out there who like to see just behind the veil of journalism — although in this case, it’s more like a Fox News kind of play…  here’s the raw data:

2012 US Department of Labor Employer-Reported Injuries Report

2011 US Department of Labor Employer-Reported Injuries Report

2010 US Department of Labor Employer-Reported Injuries Report

Please, comb through these and see if you find the same really odd comparisons here to industries with hundreds of thousands of workers.

OSHA Stats

Here’s some interesting data from the Occupational Safety and Health Organization that we all know as OSHA:

Worker injuries, illnesses and fatalities

4,585 workers were killed on the job in 2013 [BLS 2013 workplace fatality data] (3.3 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers) – on average, 88 a week or more than 12 deaths every day. (This is the second lowest total since the fatal injury census was first conducted in 1992.)

817 Hispanic or Latino workers were killed from work-related injuries in 2013–on average, more than 15 deaths a week or two Latino workers killed every single day of the year, all year long.

Fatal work injuries involving contractors accounted for 16 percent of all fatal work injuries in 2013.

Construction’s “Fatal Four”

Out of 4,101* worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2013, 828 or 20.2% were in construction―that is, one in five worker deaths last  year were in construction. The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites were falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between. These “Fatal Four” were responsible for more than half (57.7%) the construction worker deaths in 2013*, BLS reports. Eliminating the Fatal Four would save 478 workers’ lives in America every year.

  • Falls — 302 out of 828 total deaths in construction in CY 2013 (36.5%)
  • Struck by Object — 84 (10.1%)
  • Electrocutions — 71 (8.6%)
  • Caught-in/between — 21 (2.5%)

Top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards violated in FY2014

The following were the top 10 most frequently cited standards by Federal OSHA in fiscal year 2014 (October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014):

  1. Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  2. Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  3. Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  4. Respiratory protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  5. Powered industrial trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  6. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  7. Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  8. Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry (29 CFR 1910.305) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  9. Machinery and Machine Guarding, general requirements (29 CFR 1910.212) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  10. Electrical systems design, general requirements, general industry (29 CFR 1910.303) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

Frankly, there is a modicum of trust that people place in you when they invite you in to cover something so tragic as a fall death in the Entertainment Industry.  Here’s how an industry writer does it; now Alexandra, I totally respect the way you do things in every instance except for this one, but here’s an opportunity to learn how to deal with this industry.  This is from Jacob Coakley, one of the most prolific Entertainment industry writers to which I subscribe — this is from Jacob’s article Battle Tested:

So what did Cirque do to insure an accident like this couldn’t happen again? The first and foremost factor in the accident was the speed at which Guillot-Guyard was ascending. Cirque has completely eliminated the possibility for performers to gain that speed. The final fly-out of artists off the top the platform is now fully automated, with limiters on the speed at which an artist can approach the grid. “This involves a zone large enough under the grid that no one can enter above a specific speed without being governed. If they do run to the zone at full speed, the software shuts them down.” And there’s a second software system monitoring the limiting software—if the first doesn’t shut down in an over-speed situation then the second one kicks in. “This can react quicker than a person on an emergency-stop switch, although we still have those in place, too, during the act,” adds Pearson. 

They have also changed the behavior of winches when artists are still in front of the wall as well, though they haven’t automated that. “For us and the artists, it was important that they retained control of their winch lines throughout the majority of the act,” Pearson says. “This allows them to react with their bodies for the start and end of a move at high speeds. In doing so, it was still possible for collisions in the choreography to occur, so we engineered out the severity of those collisions by ensuring that if one person makes a mistake, the winch software and hardware will not allow them to continue until that error has been corrected. So ultimately it doesn’t remove human error, but makes sure that human error is not going to cause something worse to happen.”

They did this by changing how the winches operate under extreme load changes, replacing the primary and secondary brakes for new upgraded ones that won’t allow movement on the winch with the weight of two people on a line. The system also now uses no-load payout so if one of the lines sees zero weight on it, it will stop operating. 

In terms of hardware, they lowered the winches to replace a small diverter wheel with a larger pulley block also bolted to the grid steel frames. 

“We looked at every angle to see what could introduce an excessive shock load in the operating system and then worked with our engineers and manufacturers to remove the possibility of those forces being introduced during the act,” Pearson says. And to make sure the artists were comfortable with equipment, they brought in the manufacturers of each component in the system to explain how the system had been designed and how equipment choices were made to ensure safety. “We also brought the winches out of the grid, so we could show people up close what had happened and how we had mitigated it. This went all the way down to what bolts are used, what specifics are looked at in cable choices and how we maintain a 10:1 safety ratio. For some this was the first time they had touched the equipment at that component level, so we have identified that this will be an important part of new artist orientation in the future.” 

Yet he admits that as a company that flies people, there will always be a level of risk. “We continue to focus on training and ensuring the most up to date upgrades on every piece of equipment. We take into account everything we can think of, such as power outages, to ensure that in those circumstances everyone knows how to respond and everyone in the air is safe. This is maintained through rigorous protocols such as rescue procedures, operational protocols and equipment enhancements, like artists wearing wireless communications so we can talk to them in the air as well as retaining a first response team on the show and holding monthly rescue trainings for any act that may require an artist to be helped down from a wire.”


 

The Slideshow

WSJ provided a bit of moving graphics along with the story to, you know, help the illiterate understand.  I’ve taken the liberty of taking screenshots of the non-animation sections, hence screenshot…  for those of you unfamiliar with the story, this part actually helps:

WSJ Slide 1

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Reversed Decisions in the Indiana State Fair Disaster

indiana-state-fair-collapse-falling

More news from the giant clusterf*ck that is the collapse of the Sugarland rig at the Indiana State Fair a few years ago…  seven people killed by falling equipment and truss, and more than fifty injured, as you can imagine.  Honestly, nothing surprises me nowadays when it comes to this stuff, I mean for feck’s sake — Indiana just passed a law allowing for the discrimination of gays, so really, there’s no surprise anywhere.

Let’s watch that clip again, shall we?

Seems like more than a few years ago now…  events like this shaping the future of our business, as they should, as we all try to stop them from ever happening again.  We can at least try to do it here in the USA, where we have more control over how things go down, at least on the production site.

indiana-sugarland-lifting-truss

The story, paraphrasing:
  • Mid America’s rig crashes in 2011 due to several factors, weather and construction being two majors
  • Mid America Sound claims it had an indemnification clause with the State of Indiana.  This means that Mid America SOund claims it had an agreement with the State of Indiana to cover any and all legal defense costs in the event that a nightmare like this took place.
  • State of Indiana says “no, you did not have that indemnification.”  State sues Mid America Sound.
  • March 2014:  Marion County Judge Theodore Sosin ruled against Mid America Sound and for the State Fair Commission.  Mid America Sound disagreed, and appealed.
  • An Appeals court overturned this decision:
    Monday, the Court of Appeals reversed Judge Sosin’s order, noting that he did not explain the reasoning for his decision.The majority opinion for the Court of Appeals says the Tort Claims Act does not apply here to limit the state’s financial exposure. The justices said there are other “genuine issues of fact regarding the validity and enforceability” of the agreement between Mid-America and the State Fair Commission. It is those issues they are ordering to be sorted out by the trial court.

    Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik filed an eight-and-a-half page dissenting opinion. She says she questions whether the indemnity clauses are enforceable because they were on the back of an unsigned invoice, and that she believes this is kind of situation Indiana’s tort claim law was intended to address.

    “I believe that this case is nothing more than Mid-America’s attempt to shift tort liability to the Commission – a tort in contract’s clothing, if you will,” Vaidik wrote.

Crazy, no?  Also kind of amazing was the limit that the State itself placed on Tort claims for victims of this nightmare.  Way to go, Indiana!  Hate the gays AND make sure that you have limits in place for paying people for the DEATHS of their loved ones.  You’re a winner in somebody’s book I’m sure, Indiana.

indiana-state-fair-lifting-all

The article from WTHR, Channel 13 News, read it in its entirety here:

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller says he plans to appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court a state Court of Appeals ruling that could leave taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars more in damages from the 2011 stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair.

In a 2-to-1 decision, the justices determined the state may be responsible for the civil liability and legal defense of Mid-America Sound, the company that constructed the stage rigging. The Court of Appeals ordered the issue back to the trial court for further consideration.

The issue arises out of a civil lawsuit filed by victims of the stage collapse or representatives of their estates against Mid-America Sound and other companies and people involved in the August 13, 2011 concert. The country group Sugarland was preparing to take the stage when powerful winds knocked down the stage rigging. It collapsed into the crowd, killing seven people and injuring more than 50 others.

Mid-America Sound claims it had a contractual agreement with the state for indemnification, meaning that Mid-America contends the state agreed to take financial responsibility for any civil liability and legal defense of the private company.

The Indiana State Fair Commission disagreed.

Zoeller issued a statement saying he “strenuously” disagreed with the Court of Appeals ruling. “Our position is Indiana law is clear that the State cannot indemnify a private party, nor was there any agreement here to do so, and we will continue to fight the stage rigging contractor’s attempt to shift its legal responsibility for the State Fair tragedy onto the public,” Zoeller wrote.
Attorneys from Zoeller’s office made several arguments against Mid-America Sound, including that the indemnity provisions were “unconscionable” and “violated the Indiana Tort Claims Act.” The state also claimed that any such agreement was outside the commission’s authority. The attorney general’s office says indemnity for Mid-America would expose the State to an undetermined amount of damages, which is goes against the tort rules.

In March 2014, Marion County Judge Theodore Sosin ruled against Mid-America and in favor of the Indiana State Fair Commission, saying the state is not responsible for indemnifying the private company.

Mid-America Sound appealed that decision.

Monday, the Court of Appeals reversed Judge Sosin’s order, noting that he did not explain the reasoning for his decision.

The majority opinion for the Court of Appeals says the Tort Claims Act does not apply here to limit the state’s financial exposure. The justices said there are other “genuine issues of fact regarding the validity and enforceability” of the agreement between Mid-America and the State Fair Commission. It is those issues they are ordering to be sorted out by the trial court.

Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik filed an eight-and-a-half page dissenting opinion. She says she questions whether the indemnity clauses are enforceable because they were on the back of an unsigned invoice, and that she believes this is kind of situation Indiana’s tort claim law was intended to address.

“I believe that this case is nothing more than Mid-America’s attempt to shift tort liability to the Commission – a tort in contract’s clothing, if you will,” Vaidik wrote.

The Attorney General’s response to the Court of Appeals ruling notes that the State already paid collapse victims up to the statutory limits. In December 2011, the State paid $5 million, the maximum allowed under Indiana’s tort claim act. In 2012, state legislators approved another $6 million to help compensate victims and that money was distributed in December 2012.

Who knows what will happen now…  it’s up to the courts to waste time and let this drag on forever.  Stay tuned.

A Quick Letter to Robin Williams

Robin-Williams

Robin Williams, I know you’re gone now, but I wanted to tell you something.

Your jokes and movies made me so happy during times in my life where everything was dark.  In many ways you and I are similar; we both make people happy sometimes at the expense of our own happiness.  Hearing that you passed really kicked my butt, man.  I wish that you and I could have become friends so that when you were down I could have given you a hug and said “hey man, come on.  forget this.  let’s go laugh this off and we’ll both feel better.”

There are so many people in this business that are just like you, Robin Williams.  We love to make people happy.  But then at the end of the day, sometimes there’s nothing to make the laughmakers laugh.  It’s a great tragedy of life.  As I get older, there are more of those great tragedies of life that come and go, things that we have to become accustomed to simply due to their permanence and inalterability.  There are so many things in life that we don’t realize are permanent unchangeable facts of life, like depression, like suicide, cancer, anxiety, exhaustion, alcoholism, addiction…  the list goes on and on, especially in our beloved industry.

I’m gonna miss you, man.  I’m so sorry that we didn’t get to be friends.

JimOnLight

___

If you’re a Robin Williams kind of guy or girl and you need a hug, drop me an email, ok?  I can’t take another friend or good person leaving us like this anymore.  There’s also the Suicide Prevention Hotline if you’re feeling like there isn’t another way.  I can assure you that there are myriad other ways.  Please believe me.  There are other ways, and if you need, I will put a panel of huggers together and we will hug this shit out of your mind.  We’ll do it together.

We can do it together.

NSFW – Not Safe for Working #3

Another hilariously dangerous week in the world of Entertainment!  As I get ready to head out to Fort Worth for this year’s USITT 2014 conference, another week of jaw-dropping dangerous situations appears to us all on the Not Safe for Working series on JimOnLight.com, brought to you in part by the Dodgy Technicians Facebook group!

Aaaaaaaaand we start out strong with some crispy 230V.  Nah, nothing wrong here.

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“Hey Mark, how’s the insulation on that lead?”
“Well, it’s disintegrated.”

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This…  this was at ProLight+Sound 2014.  How the — what the — isn’t this supposed to be a professional show?!

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Television seating.

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Cat5e.  Good for network traffic, and now, safety cabling.

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Cable ties.  Apparently also good for load bearing.  WTF!

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More from this year’s ProLight+Sound 2014.  WTF!

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Reach Lars, REACH!  ACHTUNG!

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This.  This is what my nightmares look like:

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See this?  That’s fucking radio antenna truss.  See the ladder?  That’s a ladder.
I have no idea where this is, but these guys are about on the level of the idiots in North Carolina who thought that their work was completely up to snuff.  Another Bobby McLamb and L&N Productions job?  Haaa, who knows.

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Two bends and some tape.  No, no, that’ll hold.

Holy shit.

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I had to put my tape translation skills to the test on this one.  It says “phoned in.

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Um, no.  No.  No, no, no, no, no.

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Ladies and gentlemen, a forklift masterpiece!

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Next week, we’ll see what happens when you use tape to hold up truss!

We Should Be Sick Of This Shit By Now – Thoughts on the Death of Sarah Jones

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I have gotten two messages now asking me why I hadn’t commented on the death of Sarah Jones.  Sarah was the camera crewwoman struck by the train outside of Doctortown, Georgia on February 20 during the filming of Midnight Rider, and her death is opening up all kinds of those “oh, well holy shit, there weren’t permits” barrels of monkeys that you would assume would be opened when someone is tragically killed.

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This is Joyce Gilliard, she was a hairdresser on the film.  She was almost killed in the train bridge, too.  She had her arm snapped in half by the train, and then fell onto some steel cables under the tressel.

Well folks, I have only one real answer to why.  It’s simple.  Researching death and disasters and accidents where people were ripped limb from limb or fell 100 feet onto a concrete floor or had thousands of pounds of rig fall on them from trim height at a fairthis kind of stuff makes me hurt inside.  I needed a break.  It sucks looking up these kinds of facts, learning about so-and-so-who-was-up-and-coming-in-their-field because the next time, it’s going to be another so-and-so-rising-star with a different name that will have an equally gut-wrenching, tear-pulling story.  This shit gets old, let me be the first to tell you.  Researching the disaster at the Indiana State Fair truly made me sob a few times, it’s hard to hear those stories and write those words.

Here is the part where I comment organizations like the Event Safety Alliance for doing what they do, which is trying to stop this nightmarish stuff from happening in the first place.

As a whole, we are an industry that waits until stuff gets really broken before we fix it, and usually the fix comes either after a death, series of deaths, or a majorly serious catastrophe like the Indiana State Fair disaster or the Radiohead stage collapse.  Suck it up, haters, it’s a fact.  Most industries are, ours is no different until we make it so.

Why is it though that people generally wait so long to act on potential items of aggravated disaster?  There are really too many questions that need answered here to be done in a human lifetime – why do companies who were previously denied access to film on a train bridge get caught filming on that bridge, ultimately causing deaths?  Why  Is it the cost of doing things safely?  You have to admit, we persist and thrive in a relatively dangerous environment with myriad variables all having a potential for a seriously negative outcome.  What we do in Entertainment can sometimes be one of the most potentially hazardous environments there is due to the nature of what we do and what we make — doesn’t that alone demand that we follow every procedure, every line item, every method possible, EVERY TIME to save the lives of our people, our brothers, sisters, husbands, and wives who make the stuff the producers and executives make shit tons of money selling?

Here’s what I know in my heart:  this stuff that we do, that we love, that we love to love and hate all at the same time — our work has ZERO worth when it has to be measured in the number of lives it took to make it.  Don’t put yourself in a situation where you have to be concerned about your safety in this business.  I hope I’m not breaking the news to you now, but the people at the very top care about the money, not you.  There are more yous to do the job, ask any one of the thousands of unemployed entertainment techs out there.  Please though, remember that all of this is just entertainment, it’s just business.  When you get killed in an accident because you sacrificed yourself for the sake of the art, the people who paid for you to make the art are going to be sad for sure, but are still going to be sad all the way to the bank while they cash the checks you got for them with your life…

…and you won’t see a dime of that money because you’ll be dead.

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I’m sorry everybody, but I just don’t wanna write about this one.  This article is the authority on the subject so far that I have seen.

Thinking of You, Shuttle Challenger Crew

Mission patch for the failed mission, STS-61, of shuttle Challenger, on January 28, 1986

Mission patch for the failed mission, STS-61, of shuttle Challenger, on January 28, 1986

It was this day back in 1986 that we said hello and goodbye to the crew of the shuttle Challenger (OV-099) as she blasted off into the atmosphere, only to be felled by a faulty rubber seal that engineers knew would not perform at the temperatures in the morning of that launch day.

Challenger_flight_51-l_crew

Shuttle Challenger crew:

It’s hard to watch the videos of the explosion having watched as a little boy live.  But it’s interesting nonetheless.  I highly recommend watching The Challenger Disaster on Amazon, William Hurt ROCKS that role.  The two videos below are the best news coverage videos of the event that I could find — I hope each of their souls found rest.

Thanks NASA and Wikipedia.

BREAKING NEWS | London’s Apollo Theatre Ceiling Collapses, 30+ Injured

london-apollo-theatre

Unfortunately, the ceiling dome at the Apollo Theatre in London’s West End has collapsed, injuring an estimated 30+ people.  The Apollo was having a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and around 8:15-ish, some crackling noises were heard and the ceiling came down on top of theatregoers.

We hope that everyone is ok, and we’ll report as much as we can find about the incident.  Roxy and I are sending our best positive karma to the Apollo Theatre right now.  There’s some crazy tweets coming out of London:

From The Guardian:

People left the building crying, coughing and helping each other away. Many were trying to make contact with family members as some were still trapped inside the building.

One 29-year-old man, who would only give his name as Ben, said: “It was about halfway through the first half of the show and there was a lot of creaking.

“We thought it was part of the scene, it was a seaside scene, but then there was a lot of crashing noise and part of the roof caved in. There was dust everywhere; everybody’s covered in dust.

“We got out fairly quickly, I think everyone was quite panicked.”

A 38-year-old said: “We were in the stalls. It’s a balcony that’s come off. Some of the structure’s come down.”

Police were on the scene within minutes and began cordoning off the theatre.

London fire brigade confirmed that eight fire engines had been sent to the scene.

Martin Bostock, who was in the audience at the Grade II listed theatre with his family, said he suffered a head injury after he was hit by falling debris.

He told Sky News: “I was in the lower stalls with my family in the early stages of the show. It was just terrifying and awful.

“I think the front part of the balcony fell down. At first we thought it was part of the show. Then I got hit on the head.”

From Reuters:

(Reuters) – Emergency services were called to London’s Apollo Theatre on Thursday after people were injured by falling masonry, police said.

“We are aware of casualties,” a police spokesman said.

A Reuters reporter at the scene said emergency vehicles had blocked off the street where the theater is located.

A witness told Sky Television that part of a balcony in the auditorium appeared to have collapsed.

“I think the front part of the balcony fell down,” Martin Bostock, who was in the audience, told Sky. “It was hard to see anything through the dust.”

The Apollo is currently showing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

(Reporting by William Schomberg; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Update, 5:01pm EST Thursday, 12/19/2013 — all those trapped under the ceiling in the Apollo have been freed:


Some news footage:

Let’s hope that everyone’s ok, there haven’t been any reports of fatalities.

photo credit

PLOT TWIST in NC Stage Collapse – Promoter Convicted Previously for Extortion and Wire Fraud

from WCNC Charlotte - Shelby stage collapse photos

from WCNC Charlotte – Shelby stage collapse photos

I’ve been covering every bit of information I have gotten on the stage collapse that happened – I thank each and every production tech, every audience member, and every industry vet who has weighed in on the accident.  I was lucky enough to have a large pool of on-hand folks to call on to comment on this mess.  Unfortunately, the mainstream media publications don’t have this pool of information, and once again, the major funded publications have printed information that just isn’t accurate.  Print and TV publications like the Charlotte Observer, WCNC Charlotte, WSOC-TV, et al have published comments by the promoter, Bobby McLamb, whose attitude is just short of being criminally negligent when it comes to the safety of the people he’s promoting concerts for — and comments by the production company’s owner, James Little, who made claim in the last article published by the Charlotte Observer, for example, stating that there were 12 towers holding up the roof when it was blown over.

That comment made me go back and look at the first images of the collapsed stage.  Let’s do it together — and check my math here, but I count FOUR TOWERS holding that stage up, not twelve.  There are TWO towers that appear as if they used to hold up the FOH “truss,” and another TWO towers that appear to have held up the upstage “truss.”  Count with me here — there are not even 12 towers IN these photos.

the L&N Productions stage

I see a total of FOUR towers in this shot.

L&N Productions' "Safe stage"

Let’s play COUNT THE TOWERS HOLDING UP THE ROOF.  I count 4, not 12.  Where oh where did the other 8 go?

This kind of crap just sickens me.  As one of my anonymous sources on the road with one of the bands involved in this near fatal accident said, “you can count on this guy using this truss again and again.”  Sadly, this is probably true.

I did some research into Bobby Mclamb‘s past, and I found some very troubling information.  Mclamb was convicted of extortion and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in a Federal RICO (that means Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) case back in 2004 that stemmed from good ol’ Bobby exerting his influence over state fair decision making.  Mclamb ran for North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner and lost to a woman named Meg Scott Phipps; once he lost, he joined her campaign as an aide, then all of the f*ckery began.

I wonder why no major news outlet put two and two together on this? 

From the Lexington Dispatch, March 19, 2003, via Google Newspapers:

lexington-dispatch-3-19-2003

Here’s just a little more information on this case — it sort of reads like TiVO programming instructions until you understand that Mclamb served time for influencing entertainment decisions at the state level.  From a 2003 article in the Carolina Journal:

RALEIGH — A federal grand jury has indicted two former aides to Agricultural Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, a U.S. attorney said at a press conference Tuesday.

The charges against Linda Johnson Saunders, of Louisburg, and Bobby C. McLamb, of Raleigh, include conspiracy, extortion, wire fraud, and mail fraud, said Frank Whitney, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The charges are related to the 2000 Meg Scott Phipps Campaign for Commissioner of Agriculture. Saunders was treasurer of the campaign. She was appointed special assistant to the commissioner as a paid employee of the Department of Agriculture after Phipps took office. Saunders resigned for health reasons Dec. 1, 2002.

She is charged with five counts of mail fraud and four counts of wire fraud in connection with post-election fund-raising to pay off the campaign debt of McLamb, who was Phipps’s Democratic primary opponent.

She is also charged with money laundering and structuring transactions to avoid federal currency reporting requirements including the handling of $26,000 in cash from a Phipps fund-raiser.

One scheme detailed in the indictment included post-election contributions solicited and received by the Phipps campaign that were diverted to pay McLamb’s $75,000 Centura Bank Loan and $25,000 BB&T bank loan. Saunders concealed the diversion of the funds by filing false reports with the state Board of Elections, according to the indictment.

McLamb joined Phipps’s campaign after he lost to her in the primary. Phipps appointed McLamb assistant commissioner of agriculture after she won the general election. Phipps fired McLamb on Jan. 31, 2002.

Phipps and McLamb both had significant input into the operation of the State Fair, according to the indictment. Both are charged with violating the Hobbs Act, a federal statute that prohibits state officials from using their official power to extort money from people who have dealings with the state.

Shortly after Phipps was inaugurated in January 2001 news reports raised questions about her fund-raising. In June 2002 the State Board of Elections held a three-day hearing and fined the Phipps campaign $130,000 for campaign finance violations. Law-enforcement officials then took interest.

If you check out Bobby Mclamb’s website, he is indeed a comedian, and a motivational speaker.  I ran a background check on him, he is indeed the owner of Artists and Attractions, the papers and the TV news has already put that forth:

bobby-c-mclambWhat is scary is that he’s already been convicted of doing shady business deals once in the entertainment industry.  Do you think that perhaps allowing L&N Productions to construct rigs for him for 20 some odd years has put anyone else in danger of collapse or misinstalled equipment?  Mclamb was quoted in the Daily journal:  “…Bobby McLamb says he’s confident that L&N Productions of Hickory did a good job of putting the stage together…  McLamb is with Artists & Attractions of Raleigh and says he had never seen a roof collapse over a stage.  McLamb says he’s used L&N for more than 20 years and will continue to do so.”

Something else that Mclamb said was posted in the Charlotte Observer on August 18:

Some blamed L&N Productions Inc. of Hickory for shoddy construction of the stage. Others accused concert officials of not monitoring weather conditions.

McLamb has heard the rumors, but discounts negative comments from “people who look at online pictures and were not there at the fairgrounds when this happened.”

He stands by L&N, a firm he’s used at shows for more than 20 years and plans to keep using.

“They’re very professional,” McLamb said.

Well, Mr. Mclamb, we are an industry of experts and trailblazers, with chumps who do dangerous work mixed in — you choose to use a contractor who puts your eventgoers’ lives in danger.  Many of us have been doing this long enough to know when we see photos of accidents that better decisions have been made; you don’t have the experience that we do to make those decisions.  You shouldn’t dismiss our intelligence so quickly.  What you do when you pick people like L&N Productions to do the work for you while you stuff more money in your pockets is drive up ticket prices for future events, skyrocket insurance prices for other promoters, and give our industry a really bad name with YOUR sneaky backwards behavior.

Here’s some examples AGAIN of what Bobby Mclamb feels is professional, giving our entire industry a punch right in the throat.  Remember:  Bobby Mclamb thinks this is “very professional.”

It’s come down to this — since no one is going to do anything about this and no one is going to stop L&N Productions and Bobby Mclamb from doing shows that are equally as unsafe as this, below you will find the phone numbers and email addresses of L&N Productions, publicly posted from their website.  Give them a call and drop them an email, tell them to not only get their shit together, but to start acting responsibly in the face of the Entertainment Production industry that we all call our own.  This world is way too small for people like this to give the rest of us a bad name.  The media isn’t going to do anything for us, we must take care of this ourselves.  Tell your fellow production and touring friends to be careful around any gigs associated with L&N Productions.  The photos speak for themselves.

L&N Productions828-328-3235

James Little (Owner): james@landninc.com
John Little: john@landninc.com

Also, since Bobby McLamb, the promoter, has stated in the Charlotte Observer that he “has used L&N Productions for 20 years and will continue to do so,” give him a call and let him know that he should reconsider L&N Productions until they decide to do their work with a little more safety and security.  Here’s his contact information, he’s the president of Artists and Attractions in Lillington, North Carolina:

Artists and Attractions (also answering to this phone number is B+R Management, another Entertainer/Amusement Park management company Mclamb is involved with somehow)
Phone:  919-845-8378
artistsanda@aol.com
http://www.artistsandattractions.com

For more on Bobby Mclamb’s corrupt entertainment industry decision making (from http://www.crime-research.org/news/2003/03/Mess2201.html)

RALEIGH, N.C. – An offer by a winning politician to a vanquished candidate to help repay campaign debts has resulted in federal fraud, extortion, money laundering and conspiracy charges.

Charges against two former aides of Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps were related to fund raising during and after Phipps’ 2000 campaign, a federal prosecutor announced Tuesday.

Former campaign treasurer Linda J. Saunders was charged with 17 counts. Former commissioner candidate and assistant commissioner Bobby McLamb was charged with two counts – extortion by a public official and conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Frank Whitney said.

Phipps was not charged. During a hearing before the state Board of Elections last year, Phipps repeatedly denied knowing about her campaign’s payments toward McLamb’s loans.

But the indictment said Phipps called and wrote to Centura Bank, where McLamb owed $75,000, asking that the loan be extended.

“My husband Robert and I are holding a series of fundraisers now and after the election in November to assist Bobby in retiring this debt and feel we should have no trouble raising the money to satisfy his debt to Centura Bank,” Phipps wrote in an October 2000 letter to the bank.

During the elections board hearing, Phipps said she and her husband talked with McLamb and a campaign contributor about helping McLamb. But she said she never agreed to use her campaign money to pay off McLamb’s debt.

“I would have been terribly upset had I known that,” Phipps said in June. “My husband and I have much more of an amount of campaign debt and it should have gone to us first.”

According to the 42-page indictment, the alleged crimes began after Phipps’ campaign told McLamb the campaign would help repay his debt. McLamb received the assurance May 2, 2000, the night of the primary after McLamb offered to support Phipps in the general election.

The indictment said the Phipps’ campaign diverted at least $86,000 in contributions to repayment of McLamb’s $100,000 debt. McLamb had separate $75,000 and $25,000 bank loans and Phipps called at least one bank asking that the loan be extended while her campaign raised money for it.

An attorney for McLamb said he hadn’t seen the indictment and couldn’t comment on the charges. An attorney for Saunders didn’t return a telephone call and numbers for Saunders in Raleigh and Louisburg weren’t answered.

McLamb’s first court hearing is scheduled for March 24, according to the court clerk’s office. No hearing had been scheduled for Saunders.

Federal prosecutors said McLamb was issued a summons to appear for his hearing, while an arrest warrant was issued for Saunders. The summons gives the defendant a chance to come to court voluntarily, while the warrant tells marshals to detain the defendant.

“I’m not surprised that the indictments came down,” said David Long, McLamb’s attorney. “My client has been interviewed.”

Whitney said the U.S. Justice Department has made official corruption a priority, right behind terrorism and cybercrime, and that the charges weren’t what he normally sees.

“In my 12 years in the Justice Department, I am not aware of any charges like this in North Carolina … two senior state officials indicted for allegations of extortion,” Whitney said.

Saunders, a longtime assistant to Phipps, and McLamb were accused of soliciting money they said would go toward retiring Phipps’ campaign debt. But state campaign finance reports filed by the campaign didn’t disclose the payments to McLamb.

The indictment also said after Phipps was elected in 2000, Saunders told fair midway companies they would have to contribute to help Phipps repay debts to be considered for a contract for the 2002 fair. Phipps replaced the longtime provider of midway shows with a new company.

Saunders, 43, also was accused of accepting two cashier’s checks totaling $14,500 from unidentified donors who wanted to influence the awarding of the midway contact for the North Carolina State Fair, according to the charges. McLamb, 42, also received a $20,000 check from someone seeking a vendor contract at the fair, the indictment said.

The indictment said Saunders funneled $22,000 in cash “through a complicated structure of financial transactions” to avoid a bank currency transaction report.

McLamb had received a $75,000 loan from Amusements of America, the New Jersey-based midway operator that won the midway contract for the 2002 North Carolina State Fair, the indictment said. One of the bank loans was to repay that loan, which was funneled through the owner of a private county fair. The repayments were sent back through the same route, the indictment said.

Whitney said the indictments resulted from a nine-month investigation by state and federal law enforcement. Whitney also said the investigation is continuing and declined to say if more people would be charged.

The counts against Saunders carry a maximum prison sentence of 175 years and fines totaling $5 million. McLamb faces maximum penalties of 25 years in prison and fines of $500,000. Whitney said neither defendant, if convicted, would get the maximum sentence.

It wasn’t the first investigation of Phipps’ campaign. Last year, the state Board of Elections fined her campaign $130,000. The board said the campaign had taken $84,202 in cash from donors it could not identify and more than $14,000 in illegal corporate contributions.

Phipps, 47, is the daughter of former Gov. Bob Scott and granddaughter of Kerr Scott, who served as governor and U.S. senator. She declined to comment on the indictments, citing the ongoing investigation, but said “I have faith in our system of justice ….”

Also, here’s the original indictment, in PDF:
http://www.masstort.org/Downloads/StratesLawsuit.pdf

More:
http://www.carolinajournal.com/articles/display_story.html?id=413

From the State Attorney’s Office:
http://www.justice.gov/usao/nce/press/2004/2004-Mar-03.html

http://www.justice.gov/usao/nce/press/2004/2004-Oct-19.html

And a little bit more on Phipps, who started all of this mess in the first place – Star News, October 23, 2003:

star-news-10-23-2003

UNPRECEDENTED IDIOCY – Shelby Stage Collapse Organizer Says ‘Safety Protocol Was Followed’

from WCNC Charlotte - Shelby stage collapse photos

from WCNC Charlotte – Shelby stage collapse photos

This article shot me out of bed like a cannon.  Bobby McLamb, the promoter for this potential death machine, says that the rig that tumbled last weekend in Shelby, North Carolina followed safety protocols, and that L&N Productions out of Hickory used all “industry standard” practices.  The mainstream publications need to get ahold of me or another expert in the industry to put an end to this crap.  They are printing garbage that makes the promoter and L&N Productions look like they did no wrong!!!

Get a load of this, from the Charlotte Observer:

The event in Shelby was part of the American Legion World Series concert series and featured three Christian rock bands, including the headliner, the top-selling national group MercyMe.

Eddie Holbrook, co-chair of the local American Legion World Series executive committee and a Cleveland County commissioner, said L&N Productions had worked last year’s Montgomery Gentry concert at the American Legion World series.

“They’ve been very satisfactory,” he said. “We’ve had no problem.”

Holbrook said performers and stage managers expressed no reservations about the stage.

Also, he said the weather had been a concern. Holbrook said officials had been tracking storms on weather radar.

A line of storms in the area of Greenville, S.C., appeared to be edging north of Shelby, he said.

When a severe weather alert for Cleveland County flashed on the radar, Holbrook said, “we immediately started getting people off stage.” The surrounding area with electrical equipment was also evacuated, he said.

The National Weather service had no reports of damaging wind gusts – 50 mph or stronger – in Cleveland County on Aug 10. But an automated weather station on the north side of Shelby measured a wind gust of about 35 mph between 3 and 4 p.m.

At the fairground, which is on the east side of Shelby, a “quick burst of vicious wind” got under the stage roof and “disassembled it,” Holbrook said.

Law enforcement and emergency personnel were already at the fairground. But thankfully, nobody got hurt, Holbrook said.

Looking back, “I don’t know of anything we would have done differently,” he said.

MUST this be posted again?!  Here’s one of the first pages of the Genie tower safety manual:

genie-tower-wind-safetyMore from the article at the Charlotte Observer — apparently L&N’s rig adheres to building codes, according to James Little of L&N Productions:

James Little, owner and president of L&N Productions, Inc., said the company has been in business more than 25 years, carries liability insurance and has done events all over the U.S. Local code officials aren’t required to inspect temporary stages, Little said, but some, like Hickory, do inspect the structures.

Wherever L&N sets up a stage “we adhere to building codes,” Little said. “Ultimately, people can be hurt, and you have to be cautious in what you do.”

In Shelby, Little said the fire marshal inspected the stage, which met industry standards and had been assembled by L&N employees and 30 members of the Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department.

The stage’s roof was held up by 12 18-foot-tall Genie Super Towers, not four as stated by some on the Internet, Little said. The towers were secured by straps tied to 4-foot metal stakes driven into the ground.

Wind bent the stakes, but didn’t pull them out of the ground, and all the straps held, he said.

According to Little, the roof shifted 10 feet and lodged against a lighting pole, about 5 feet above the stage. No musical instruments or electrical equipment were damaged, and 10 light bulbs out of 108 were broken, Little said. Although he doesn’t have a total damage estimate, he said six of the towers, valued at $3,000 each, are out of commission.

A spokesperson for the Genie lift company said the super towers aren’t designed to support structures like roofs.

But Little said what was used at the fairground wasn’t a load-bearing roof, but a stage cover, and that the towers weren’t supporting the entire rig. He said the Genies supported canvas and lights individually and that the practice was common in the industry.

WHY does the media keep posting this shit without getting ahold of one of us experts in the media?!

THIS is what happens when your rig is NOT UP TO INDUSTRY STANDARD SAFETY PRACTICES, LET ALONE EVEN FOLLOWING THE MANUAL ON THE GEAR YOU USE!  These photos are from L&N’s OWN WEBSITE!  Did the media not even do their research?!

GAH!  This is infuriating!  PLEASE, mainstream media, YOU ARE NOT EXPERTS LIKE WE ARE!  Start asking around!

Last Week Recap – Roxy and I Escape Death, Shelby Stage Collapse, and Shoddy Rigging

Oh, friends and neighbors, it’s been a crazy last week here on JimOnLight!

Just to catch you up:  I started a new job last week, Laura and Roxy and I have settled into our new apartment, and we’re 15 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean.  That alone is going to provide us some serious peace and tranquility, at least until Hurricane Season!  Hopefully the Hurricane Center will add my suggestions to the naming conventions list…  Hurricane Ru Paul should be making his or her way up the coast any day now!

Let’s recap on last week’s posts – we found out that L&N Productions in North Carolina had some photo evidence on their website of their crappy rigging that nearly took out some of the performers from the band The Afters, followed by some unbelievable images of the stage collapse L&N was involved in…  the promoter called it “weather related,” but as John Huntington from the awesome blog Control Geek noted, that’s a bunch of BS.  And, AND, this weekend I missed my death by about 15 seconds, as a couple of thugs who stole a car wiped out on our street (which is a 25 mph zone) going about 70.  Check them all out below!

Last week’s top posts:

ANOTHER STRUCTURE FALLS:  Roof Made from Construction Genie Towers Falls in North Carolina

from WCNC Charlotte - Shelby stage collapse photos

from WCNC Charlotte – Shelby stage collapse photos

 

MORE Contradiction in the Shelby, North Carolina Stage Collapse:  Weather, Equipment, NEGLIGENCE

from WCNC Charlotte - Shelby stage collapse photos

from WCNC Charlotte – Shelby stage collapse photos

And, from the weekend:

If Roxy Had Pooped 15 Seconds Later, We’d Both Be Dead Now

Crashed Mustang

Crashed Mustang

Stay tuned, as always — we’re going to have a lot more great stuff this week on JimOnLight!  Thanks for reading!