Stage Collapse in China with Full Choir, 8 Injured

I was hoping we’d have more information by now, but something to remember with this story is that it happened in one of the most media-controlled countries on Earth…

A full choir was rehearsing on Saturday when that full choir free-fell into the space under the stage in a gruesome-looking stage collapse.  Honestly, we’ll probably not know the source of this accident, the investigation of this accident, or the condition of the people in this accident.  Furthermore, another reality to keep in mind is that there’s nothing we can do about any of that.  Here’s hoping that we hear something regarding the condition of the people injured in this pretty scary event:

Another view of the incident:

One has to wonder about how that went down. At once, the entire Policeman’s choir plunged into the deck:

The Police Choir, rehearsing for their upcoming event...

The Police Choir, rehearsing for their upcoming event…

Second frame -- the Police choir all at once descending into the floor

Second frame — the Police choir all at once descending into the floor

AFTERMATH -- the choir has disappeared from the stage view in a two seconds, leaving screams and patrons hurrying to their aid

AFTERMATH — the choir has disappeared from the stage view in a two seconds, leaving screams and patrons hurrying to their aid

We sincerely do hope everyone is ok…  but I have very little hopes of getting much more true information out of this situation.  Stay tuned.

From China Insider:

A video of the accident, which was widely circulated on social media on Monday, shows the heavily loaded stage collapsing suddenly and sending choir members tumbling amid screams from the audience and choir.

In the video, three choir members were seen rushing to the stage after singing had already started. Seconds later, after one of the three latecomers had taken their place, the stage collapsed. A crash was heard when the stage hit the ground.

All 80 choir members were from a local police force, state media said.

The choir was rehearsing for a singing contest to mark Labour Day under the theme of “Chinese Dream” – a phrase coined by President Xi Jinping and later promoted by governments of all levels around China.

In October last year, 16 music fans plunged to their deaths when a ventilation grate they were standing on collapsed during an outdoor pop concert in South Korea.

The victims fell 20 metres into an underground parking area when the grate gave way while they were watching girl band 4Minute. At least a dozen others were injured.

In the United States late last month dozens of people were injured when a stage collapsed during a high school rock performance in the state of Indiana, US media reported.

From the CCTV+ news site:

Eight singers were injured when a lifting stage of a theater in southwest China’s Guizhou province suddenly dropped to the ground level on Saturday afternoon.

The accident occurred when some 80 singers were rehearsing on the lifting stage in the grand theater of Bijie city around 15:00. All the singers were seen suddenly descending with the falling stage and disappearing from sight except for the conductor.

Medical workers rushed to help, and the accident caused eight injuries, two of them seriously.

The cause of the stage failure is being investigated.

Stay tuned, anything we find we will update at the top.

Think Globally, Pee Locally: Urine-Powered Disaster Zone Lighting

girl-carrying-water

An invention that I see becoming pretty popular in places where human overpopulation creates a torrid scenario for both waste management and lighting, let alone just having any lighting itself… solving the problem of lighting in places where there is no power (or even fuel to make the power) just does not get the kind of funding that it deserves.  This is urine-powered electricity.  From Reuters:

A toilet that uses urine to generate electricity will soon light up dark corners of refugee camps after being tested by students in the UK. The pioneering toilet, the result of collaboration between global aid agency Oxfam and the University of the West of England in Bristol, uses live microbes which feed on urine and convert it into power.

Led by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, the scientists developed microbial fuel cells that use bacteria grown on carbon fiber anodes that feed on urine, breaking it down and generating electricity which is stored in a capacitor. They used up to 24 of these microbial fuel cells in 2013 to prove that urine could produce enough electricity to power a mobile phone. For the pee-power toilet they are using 288 fuel cells, though a thousand-unit cell stack is planned for the next version of the device.

This is the work of Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos from The University of the West of England, Bristol:

Ok, for those of you that didn’t watch the video, from Power Technology:

The technology works by utilising specialised, naturally-abundant microbes, housed within the anodic chamber of the fuel cell as a bio-catalyst. When fed urine, the microbes naturally consume it as part of their normal metabolic process, which in turn generates electrons. When connected to a cathode, these electrodes are given a path and generate a current.

Urine has never been exploited for power purposes before now. Although it has been proven technically possible, can it be scaled up and is it practical? In this second phase of research the scientists want to prove the answer is yes to both of these questions. They will now be working to maximise the power output, which will inadvertently have the advantage of improved breakdown of the waste material, thus making it safer for disposal.

The ultimate aim, however, is to develop and refine the process to make enough energy to charge a battery, and in the future, be installed into domestic bathrooms to harness the urine and produce sufficient electricity to power showers, lighting or razors.

“The beauty of this fuel source is that we are not relying on the erratic nature of the wind or the sun; we are actually re-using waste to create energy,” said Dr Ieropoulos.

Why does it deserve funding?  One reason – lighting creates safety.  Families feel they can protect themselves during times like this when there is illumination.  We are humans; darkness is our #1 largest predatory fear bred by evolution, and we’ve been praying to the light during the darkness for millions of years, regardless of species.  Look at North Korea, for example, even though this isn’t what the article is really about — what do you think the lack of power and light does for people?  It allows you to enslave them:

north-korea-won-earth-day

Proper management of human waste in places where a major disaster event has happened also happens to be the second most important thing to provide.  There are emergency waste management guides for conflict zones and disaster event zones all over the place, which should give an idea of the importance of something along these lines, providing a use for waste and a positive item to the zone itself.

 

Here’s a bit of an eye-opening reason why waste management in disaster regions is important… from Johns Hopkins/Red Cross (PDF link) on getting a community in a disaster zone involved in their own management quickly, which is what the Professor’s work does, by providing light:

Experience has shown that wide-ranging benefits result when communities actively involved in their own health and participate in water and sanitation projects. Using participatory approaches to engage the community has many benefits. Such approaches give community members the opportunity to build and strengthen problem-solving skills Public health guide for emergencies I 381 Water, sanitation and hygiene in emergencies 8 and empower them to take action. While communities, initially, might have limited capability to respond, giving them the opportunity to be involved helps with their own recovery process (see the mental health chapter for additional thoughts on the community recovery process). Through community involvement, water and sanitation programmes and projects can gain a thorough understanding of the needs, concerns and values of the beneficiaries. The local skills and capacities that exist among the disaster-affected population can also be identified and strengthened. Strong community involvement is critical for projects being sustainable long after external assistance stops.

The Good Professor’s work is being funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation too (and has been since 2013), which is super cool!  From the Foundation website news section:

“Today, 2.5 billion people practice open defecation or lack adequate toilet facilities  so we are always looking for new ways to ensure that less human waste winds up in the environment, untreated,” said Brian Arbogast, director of the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Innovations don’t need to be complicated or expensive in order to be impactful which is why we are so excited about the range of approaches these projects represent.”

GCE grants fund innovative ideas to tackle persistent global health and development problems. Phase II grants are awarded to Phase I winners whose projects have shown progress and are particularly promising. Phase II projects also show a strong alignment to the foundation’s strategic priorities and maintain the innovation and excitement of the great idea that was funded during the first phase.  We also look for projects which have demonstrated the development of partnerships and collaboration that would help move projects toward implementation.

New Phase II grants were awarded to five organizations working to improve water and sanitation conditions in the developing world:

  • University of the West of England, Bristol in the U.K. to develop microbial fuel cells that can be powered by urine. The electricity generated can be used to power sanitation of the waste, and even to charge a cell phone.
  • Beijing Sunnybreeze Technology Inc. in Chinato develop a waterless toilet including an inexpensive mini waste processor.
  • North Carolina State University in the U.S.to improve and develop a low-cost, portable auger-based technology that can reliably and hygienically empty a wide variety of pit latrines and septic tanks which contain waste with a range of moisture contents.
  • Rice University in the U.S. to extend the capabilities of a solar steam sterilizer into a self-contained human waste-to-fuel converter for the manufacturing of clean, safe biofuel to satisfy demands for energy sources and agricultural fertilizer in the developing world.
  • National University of Mexico in Mexico to develop a digital tool for water survey facilities around the world, so that faster and more reliable water quality analysis is available for efforts to reduce enteric diseases worldwide.
  • The University of Delaware in the U.S. to develop and implement breathable membranes that could not only protect groundwater from contaminants but also accelerate the drying and disinfection of human waste.

urinicity 600

Also, a cool interview from Financial Times with Professor Ieropoulis — it’s quick, read it:

CB: How did the idea for recharging electrical devices using urine come about?

Dr Ieropoulos: As a research group, we have been working with this same fuel cell technology for 12 years, feeding it with different “fuels” and putting it to the test by powering electronic devices. The types of fuel we have been experimenting with are different kinds of organic waste such as domestic waste water, rotten fruits, prawn shells, dead insects and grass clippings.

Urine was just another candidate “fuel”. However, the level of power output improvement was so good that we were able to charge a commercial battery [of a mobile phone] directly, for the first time.

CB: Does the fuel cell have a special name and how does it work?

Dr Ieropoulos: The technology is known as the Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) and works on bacterial metabolism. Effectively, live microbes, which we collect from the natural environment, inhabit the inside of these devices and break down the organic fuel for their growth and maintenance, which is exactly what they do in nature.

One byproduct of the bacterial respiration comes in the form of electrons, which are transferred on to the electrode surface inside the MFC. These electrons flow through a circuit, which produces the electrical current.

CB: As the Gates Foundation has supported the project, can we expect to see it mainly being applied to developing-world problems, where mains electricity is hard to find?

Dr Ieropoulos: This is the ultimate goal for the work carried out under the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant, and not only as a means of electricity generation but also as a technology that can improve sanitation. But in addition, the work carried out under the UK EPSRC grant is primarily focused at developing this technology for the developed world.

CB: Do you know how Bill and Melinda Gates feel about your project?

Dr Ieropoulos: We do indeed, and this is through Dr Carl Hensman, our programme officer from the water, sanitation and hygiene programme. The co-chairs and trustees, Bill and Melinda Gates, are kept regularly informed and feel excited about our project, as they do for all the projects funded under the different programmes of the Gates Foundation.

CB: How might it be applied in the developed world?

Dr Ieropoulos: We consider the MFC to be a platform technology [something that enables products and processes to be developed from it], with numerous applications in different sectors of society.

The electricity is generated because the constituent microbes break down – and therefore treat – the organic waste, hence one area of focus is waste water treatment.

As the energy generated can be used for powering or recharging electronic devices, low-power electronics is another area of application. Biosensing is a third. This is exploiting the immediate response of the micro organisms to the presence of different compounds.

More recently, it has been demonstrated that MFCs can synthesise chemical compounds, while generating electricity. This means that elemental recovery [turning waste products into useful resources again] is an area that is beginning to grow. So, there are several avenues that can be explored in order to implement the technology in the developed world.

CB: Do you see this as a “disruptive” technology? Could it be an idea that will change the way people produce batteries for torches, say, or make domestic electrical appliances?

Dr Ieropoulos: At community level with waste water treatment, we do not necessarily see the MFCs as a disruptive technology at present, but rather as a complementary solution that can be part of a hybrid system. There is still some way to go before it can replace an existing technology such as batteries, but the EcoBot work we have been developing over the years has shown that small robots can be powered directly by MFCs, without any other form of power supply onboard. This is part of our self-sustainable systems work.

CB: Is it satisfying to see what from the outside seems a completely outlandish idea bear fruit?

Dr Ieropoulos: It is exciting, and this is the very essence of scientific research. To think about the difficult or even impossible and push the boundaries of current knowledge to see if it can work.

CB: How would you like to see this development being used in 10 years’ time? Does it have applications for helping counter global warming, for instance?

Dr Ieropoulos: In this timeframe, we would definitely like to see the technology deployed at different scales, in both the developing and developed worlds. There are so many sectors that MFCs can contribute to, either by cutting down energy consumption, increasing the efficiency of waste utilisation or even assisting in the recovery of useful nutrients from organic matter.

This is a technology that turns waste into useful commodities and it would be extremely beneficial to integrate it in existing processes, as it can help cut global warming.

Take a moment too and just view the contributions that Professor Ieropoulis has made to the field:
https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=73ox1OgAAAAJ&hl=en

Hat Tips:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/20/us-uk-peepower-urinal-idUSKBN0NB13F20150420
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/d704de86-6695-11e4-9c0c-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3YQq0cL52
http://www.power-technology.com/features/featureurine-tricity-golden-power-from-human-waste-4159093/featureurine-tricity-golden-power-from-human-waste-4159093-1.html
http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Media-Center/Press-Releases/2013/12/Gates-Foundation-Awards-Grants-to-Waterless-Toilets

World Health Organization Guide on Emergency Waste Management:
http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/2011/tn7_waste_mangt_en.pdf

United Nations and Humanitarian Affairs Guide on Emergency Waste Management:
https://docs.unocha.org/sites/dms/Documents/DWMG.pdf

 

What Happened at Cirque’s KA, from A Thoughtful Tone

ka-final-fight

After reading the piece this last week from Alexandra Berzon on Sarah Guillot-Guyard‘s passing in the accident at Cirque du Soleil’s KA, there needed to be less frustration in my head towards why we always end up getting the bloody end of the media.  From Indiana’s high school stage collapse to the Sugarland disaster at the Indiana State Fair, to numerous accidents and disasters across the world in our industry… unless it’s an article about how much death or blood happened at certain accident, a piece of advertising, or an article that only reaches our audience in industry trade publications, we really don’t get that much good press.  In those instances, it’s great to have writers like Kevin Mitchell in our business, because he’s able to take confusing and angering data and numbers and turn it into categorized emotions that we can all read peacefully, around 120/75 beats per minute.

Thanks for writing this, Kevin.  From Kevin Mitchell’s Stage Directions article, which you need to read whether you’re in Entertainment or not:

What they discovered was that during Guillot-Guyard’s high-speed exit up and off the platform (which was a designed part of the show), she came into contact with the underside of forestry scenery. That sent a force up the cable, which went from the cable through a pulley wheel across to a second smaller pulley wheel—at which point it should have gone down to the winch. The winch had a no-load protector on it that, had it seen that force, would have shut the winch down. In this instance, though, what happened was that final pulley wheel collapsed forward. As it collapsed forward it allowed the cable to jump out of the wheel and find the sharp edge of the pinch point where that equipment had collapsed. The edge cut the cable and Guillot-Guyard fell.

Pearson wants to be very clear about this sequence of events “because I heard several things in the early stages that had been reported: Sarah had been traveling faster than everyone else, she slipped free of her safety gear—none of that was true,” Pearson says. “The cable did not snap, the harness did not fail, none of the connections failed. The cable was cut because it was able to jump out of its pulley wheel and find the sharp edge it was never supposed to have seen.”

Head on over to Stage Directions now and read the rest of this piece.  Go on, check it out.

A Stage Collapse, Full of Students, at An Indiana High School

indiana-stage-collapse

What’s most important here?  No dead students.  One critical injury was reported, but we don’t know what that is yet or if that was downgraded.  For their families and loved ones, this is tremendous and I am super glad to say that rather than the alternative!

The Reuters news story on this accident for a primer:

Another news report — ABC News:


ABC Breaking US News | US News Videos

I’ve been waiting on this until there was a wee bit more information, but it looks like for now, what’s out is what we’re gonna see until Monday — or until someone gets ahold of the technical director for that venue, which I can imagine is going to be near impossible while this goes full speed legal.

Come on, you know that this is going to be mired in legal conflict!

I do caution you though — we are going to be fed several iterations of this story because it involved a high school, potential contracts and bids for all kinds of work done in high school theatres, and consultant/engineering firm reputations that might have had a stake in this work. The same exact thing happened in Indiana, we really only found out what the hell happened years now after the event. Typical, huh?

From an article at ABC7 Chicago:

Video shows a large group of students clapping and jumping around as the concert-dubbed “American Pie” ended. As a female student sang along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” the stage gave way and students dropped out of sight.

Others on stage who didn’t fall into the orchestra pit and the audience were visibly stunned. Then people started yelling for help.

“I just saw, just this shock. This look of shock and this moment of silence after it had collapsed. A moment of confusion. Then began screaming from parents and faculty and staff and a rush to the stage,” Vox Pop said.

“I saw that people’s feet were stuck under a lot of wood. I lifted a lot of wood off of a lot of people,” Charile Fehr said.

Investigators said Friday they are looking into why the stage couldn’t hold the weight and when it was last inspected.

Westfield Washington Schools Superintendent Mark Keen says the orchestra pit cover that collapsed was only a few years old.

Questions remain about whether it was ever subject to inspection. Indiana drafted rules on temporary, outdoor stage rigging equipment after stage rigging collapsed onto fans awaiting a performance by country duo Sugarland during the 2011 Indiana State Fair, killing seven people.

But state Homeland Security department spokesman John Erickson says those rules do not apply to schools’ permanent, indoor stages.

Also, from WTHR, on the injuries sustained at Westfield High School:

St. Vincent reported three patients at its Indianapolis location and ten at its Carmel hospital. Five patients who are 18 years old are in good condition; the conditions of eight patients under 18 are unknown (due to privacy regulations). Several of those at the Carmel location have “orthopedic-type” injuries. They are not expected to be life-threatening.

Two patients went to the Riverview Health Emergency Department on their own and are currently being evaluated for their injuries. IU North treated one patient, who has been released.

One student tweeted that he was released with a concussion.

That sucks, but that’s also way better news than the alternative.

Take a few moments and watch some views of this accident:

Here’s another:

Like I said, we’re going to get bits and pieces of this after the media gets finished with their commentary relating this high school stage accident to the tragedy at the Sugarland show at the Indiana State Fair back in 2011. Right now though, as of Saturday, April 25 at 12:38pm, the general comment right now from Reuters is that “an official at the school district declined to comment on the number of students injured and whether any of them were still hospitalized.” Of course, I will update as more information becomes clear.

Don’t fall victim to the lack of information, keep sharp and maintain a stable yet adapting understanding of the lack of information.  This is paramount, and a responsibility of all of us.

This needs to be said to all of the media outlets, from CNN to NBC, Huffington Post, The Drudge Report, to most definitely Fox News and all of the affiliates across America who keep saying this same phrase — and literally, it is almost a verbatim translation across all of these stories:

“This incident is reminiscent of the horrible stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair that claimed the lives of seven and injured over a hundred.”

First of all, no, this stage collapse at an Indiana high school it isn’t anything like the Indiana State Fair collapse. Not at all. No one’s dead, and furthermore, no one died in the horrific smashing way that happens when several thousand pounds of aluminum and steel falls at free fall from around 30 feet onto human bodies. I’m sorry that’s such a real image, but that’s really what happened, people.

Second: You’ve sensationalized this event to be just like the Indiana State Fair rig collapse, which it is not, even by Fox News standards. The two events happening during a live event is the only similarity these events share. This even was obviously the case of an overloaded orchestra pit cover with way too many people creating an overload on top of said pit cover, and whatever structural supports underneath failed to support the load.  In contrast, at the Indiana State Fair disaster, serious wind events caught flat surfaces on the rig, which, being at show height, became a pendulum of uncertainty to which seven people were turned into death statistics while 58 others were injured as the entire rig literally fell over forward. Not “over a hundred” too, by the way, it was 58.  This happened after expert technicians familiar with the equipment and practices loaded the show in, outdoors, onto a standard strong temporary structure — not indoors in a theatre that had seen this gig happen “exactly” this way after three years, according to a source involved with the show:

Lead singer Nicole Gruszka had stepped forward to go into the audience just moments before.

“Literally a second later, the orchestra pit just collapsed in on itself,” she said.

Gruszka said the students had practiced the scene several times on the stage before the performance.

“We’ve closed the show like that all three years that we’ve done it. We rehearsed that at dress rehearsal. There were never any issues with that exact process,” she said. “We thought the worst thing that could happen was someone would miss their cue and not end up on stage.”

Seriously it’s time to start getting people to do your research who don’t spend time researching on Facebook, news journalists.  Take a minute to get your facts altogether before throwing those news bits out there.  I think you’re going to find that with the new ways Google thrives on content and punishes your duplicate content, you could not be absolutely first in putting something out to the new modern audience that is molded by SEO practices and put out a quality, accurate, informative story instead.  There are several of us who specialize in the kind of research you need done, so call one of us.  Just what the hell are you folks out there in the media thinking?  You do want to be news, right?  Not just uneducated opinion?  There are so many of us who work in this field who are experts in the material you just make assumptions on, give one of us a call.

There are people like Erich Friend who are engineers specializing in theatre and venue safety who can make better speculations that you can; rigging consultants like Bill Sapsis who know rigging and structures backwards to upside down and all other permutations better than you do; just reach out, believe me it will make your stories more readable and less laughable to a lot more people with intelligence.  I mean, any PA collecting a press junket for you would run across people from Tait Towers as experts in the field, which is comprised of pure unadulterated genius by the way, and the Event Safety Alliance is the hottest, fastest growing organization in our industry to mitigate workplace accidents in the Entertainment industry.  They take phone calls, too!  And EMAILS!  ALL of those people!

indiana-stage-collapse-high-school

From the engineering of the stage rig to the considerations for weather, to decision making that failed, to the professionalism that goes into the construction of the rig itself — these two events are dissimilar. Those students were standing on a covered orchestra pit, jumping up and down and dancing, and no one knows a damned thing about what the underneath of that pit cover looked like. When you engineer something correctly in a situation like this, with load limits and consideration taken into making sure that load level isn’t overcome by a dynamic factor like jumping people, the structure can withstand the event because it is thought through to survive just that kind of event.

There have been quotes from people related to the accident about how the stage had vertical supports and “worked kind of like scaffolding.” Ok, great — but I’ll admit I’ve been under many an orchestra pit in my years in this business, and it’s a crap shoot on how those things are held up. “If it can withstand an orchestra on platforms and a grand piano, what’s the big deal, right?” Compression leg joints not engineered correctly or not having enough of that kind of vertical support can create just the scenario you watched happen in the video.

Again, we’re smack dab in the middle of media sensationalization, and it continues to happen at the expense of our entire industry.  Be careful when you see reports making all stage collapses related, which takes the professionalism of all of us that work in this profession and painstakingly try to create while maintaining safe and secure nothing but the same kind of high school work you see in the video. It really isn’t like that out there, world — we actually do maintain an incredible amount of safety conscious venues and environments, we don’t put on productions to hurt and kill people.

Hat tips:

http://eventsafetyalliance.org/

http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/national-international/westfield-high-school-stage-collapse-301169211.html

http://www.reuters.com/video/2015/04/24/stage-collapse-injures-students-at-india?videoId=363980250

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/24/us-usa-inidiana-collapse-idUSKBN0NF08920150424

http://gawker.com/dozens-injured-in-indiana-high-school-stage-collapse-1699896480

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/more-than-a-dozen-hurt-when-stage-collapses-at-indiana-school/

https://twitter.com/zachrader22/status/591446395112054784

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/12-hurt-stage-collapses-indiana-high-school-30548660

http://news.yahoo.com/more-12-hurt-stage-collapses-indiana-high-school-071648662.html

http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2015/04/23/stage-collapse-reported-at-westfield-high-school/26212371/

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.

ka-final-fight

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

WSJ Slide 1

WSJ Slide 2

WSJ Slide 2

WSJ Slide 3

WSJ Slide 3

WSJ Slide 4

WSJ Slide 4

WSJ Slide 5

WSJ Slide 5

WSJ Slide 6

WSJ Slide 6

WSJ Slide 7

WSJ Slide 7

WSJ Slide 8

WSJ Slide 8

WSJ Slide 9

WSJ Slide 9

WSJ Slide 10

WSJ Slide 10

 

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.

taping-the-cable

Um, no.  No.  No, no, no, no, no.

tilted-stage-truck

Ladies and gentlemen, a forklift masterpiece!

tipped-over-audio

 

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

sarah-jones-service-poster

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.

survivor-guillard

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.

midnight_rider_train_tracks_above

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.