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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/

Awesome Glo NightLight from ThinkGeek!

Our master safety ninja Erich Friend sent a link to this great toy from ThinkGeek’s Geek Kids section – the Glo Nightlight with Glowing Balls!  Ok, I’m not 3-7 years old (well, perhaps mentally most days) but I want one of these!  Daphne, when are we getting matching Glo NightLights?!?!?!

Check out this video – the Glo NightLight is about $80 bucks:

GAH!  I’m not supposed to like stuff like this as a 34 year old man, right?!  CRAP!  I want a whole forest floor full of these!!!

From the ThinkGeek product specs:

  • For Ages 2 and Up [SWEET FOR ME!  WOOHOO!]
  • Multi-colored interactive night light
  • Base charges up the balls, which can be removed and placed anywhere
  • No electronics in balls means they don’t get warm and they won’t break
  • Select your favorite color or let the colors circulate
  • Phosphorescent balls glow for up to 30 minutes when out of base
  • Low energy LED base
  • 9v power adapter included
  • BPA-free, Phthalate-free, PVC-free
  • Dimensions: 8.2″ x 8.5″ x 9.8″

ThinkGeek didn’t send me one of these or ask me to write this post.

If Duct Tape Could Slap Your Hand Before You Apply It…

Ok, I know we’ve seen stuff much worse than this in our lifetimes as professionals working with light – but this is pretty stupendously wrong.  My buddy Erich Friend, an engineer, safety consultant, and CEO of Teqniqal Systems writes a blog about Theatre Safety at – you guessed it – the Theatre Safety Blog!  Erich posted the monstrosity below as a quick reminder on what not to do, ever.  Never.

Can you count the things wrong in this picture?

duct-tape-no-no

Check out The Theatre Safety Blog – Erich’s a knowledgeable dude!