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VIDEO: Massive Stage Fire at Mumbai Political Rally

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IMAGE: KUNAL PATIL/HINDUSTAN TIMES/GETTY IMAGES

This weekend, a huge stage fire absolutely destroyed equipment, structure, and pretty much everything that it could consume, in Mumbai during a political rally.  These videos are unreal – pay particular attention to the rigging of the gear as it is on fire.

Fortunately, the news is saying no one was reported hurt.  Bollywood rockstars Amitabh Bachchan (who tweeted a TON during the fire) and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis were on stage moments before the fire began:

From an article at The Indian Express:

The fire started just after the performance of actor Amitabh Bachchan. It spread rapidly, spread by a strong wind till the whole stage – a creation of Bollywood  set designer  Nitin Desai — was gutted.

“I was waiting in my make-up van. My performance was in an hour. Then my staff told me that there is a fire. So, I stepped out to see. And sure enough the stage was on fire. And it’s so windy the fire spread at an alarming speed,” said actor Aamir Khan.

“The event was underway when fire broke out, we ran to save our lives. We don’t know the reason for the fire,” said an eyewitness.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated the Make in India Week yesterday as a showcase event for the government’s flagship manufacturing scheme.

Ugh.  Look at this:

Some photos — the initial post was here at ProLightingSpace, check it out:

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A massive fire broke out on Sunday evening during a cultural programme at Make In India week event in Mumbai. The fire broke out below the stage during the programme.Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and governor C Vidyasagar Rao who were present during the programme were quickly moved out of the area. Express photo by Prashant Nadkar,Mumbai, 14/02/2016

From an article at The Hindu — heads up, this link sucks in Chrome for some reason.

Around 8.20 p.m. on Sunday, fire broke out under the stage when a troupe of dancers was performing on the stage. Police personnel immediately rushed towards the stage bringing the performance to a halt. The strong evening wind fanned the fire and within seconds the entire stage along with the strobe lights were engulfed in a billowing blaze. Sounds of explosions were heard due to the presence of gas cylinders at the venue.

Chaos reigned, and within minutes thousands of spectators who were spread over the beach enclosure made a quick dash for the exits and were evacuated from the spot. The Mumbai Police and Mumbai Fire Brigade took control of the evacuation and of dousing the fire respectively.

Four fire tenders were at the spot and 14 more were rushed to Chowpatty, along with 10 water tankers and eight jumbo tankers. The police barricaded the area and diverted traffic. Chief Fire officer P. Rahangdale said the fire was controlled in 38 minutes. Around 8:56 pm, Deven Bharti, Joint Commissioner of Police, Law and Order, told Mr. Fadnavis, “All well.”

The Bombay High Court had denied permission for the event. However, the Maharashtra government sought the Supreme Court’s nod for the event.

A visibly shaken Chief Minister called the incident “extremely unfortunate” and ordered “a comprehensive inquiry” into the cause of the fire. “It is extremely unfortunate as an important cultural event was being held. We began the evacuation process immediately. All the civilians and artists were safely evacuated. A fire audit of the event was conducted four days ago and a disaster management plan was prepared. We have ordered an inquiry into the causes of the fire, to find out if there were any lapses and if SOPs (standard operating procedures) were followed. Further action will be taken based on the probe. There was a spark under the stage and because there was cloth and wood, it spread rapidly,” Mr Fadnavis told reporters.

The incident has cast a shadow on the Make In India Week, the Centre’s big ticket investment programme for Maharashtra, though Mr. Fadnavis assured that it will not impact the event. “A comprehensive inquiry into the incidence of fire will be conducted to ascertain reasons,” Mr. Fadnavis tweeted. “All Make In India programmes will be conducted as scheduled.”

A massive fire broke out on Sunday evening during a cultural programme at Make In India week event in Mumbai. The fire broke out below the stage during the programme.Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and governor C Vidyasagar Rao who were present during the programme were quickly moved out of the area. Express photo by Prashant Nadkar,Mumbai, 14/02/2016

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A massive fire broke out on Sunday evening during a cultural programme at Make In India week event in Mumbai. The fire broke out below the stage during the programme.Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and governor C Vidyasagar Rao who were present during the programme were quickly moved out of the area. Express photo by Prashant Nadkar,Mumbai, 14/02/2016

A massive fire broke out on Sunday evening during a cultural programme at Make In India week event in Mumbai. The fire broke out below the stage during the programme.Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and governor C Vidyasagar Rao who were present during the programme were quickly moved out of the area. Express photo by Prashant Nadkar,Mumbai, 14/02/2016

A massive fire broke out on Sunday evening during a cultural programme at Make In India week event in Mumbai. The fire broke out below the stage during the programme.Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and governor C Vidyasagar Rao who were present during the programme were quickly moved out of the area. Express photo by Prashant Nadkar,Mumbai, 14/02/2016

A massive fire broke out on Sunday evening during a cultural programme at Make In India week event in Mumbai. The fire broke out below the stage during the programme.Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and governor C Vidyasagar Rao who were present during the programme were quickly moved out of the area. Express Photos by Pradip Das,14/02/16,Mumbai

Stage Accident in China – 1 Killed, 13 Wounded

I’d just like to say to Jolin Tsai:
You are lucky you’re alive to sing right now, your minutes have been being handed out to you.
I hope your people design something a little less dangerous and a little more geared to prolonging your career.

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Updated photo above from the Shanghaiist

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Unfortunately I have terrible news coming from Nanning City, China for a Jolin Tsai concert being set up.  The photos are horrible, it’s a twisted hunk of mess.  Another stage accident in China.

These kinds of things are why companies should be throwing fuck-tons of money at the Event Safety Alliance.  Just ship it in container trucks.

From ProLightingSpace and XinghuaNet:

NANNING, Oct. 29 (Xin hua) — One person was killed and 13 others injured on Thursday when a stage lighting under construction for a concert by Taiwanese pop singer Jolin Tsai collapsed in south China’s Nanning City.

The accident happened at around 5 p.m. in the Guangxi Sports Center in Nanning, capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, when workers were building the structure, according to local government sources.

One of the injured is in a serious condition while the rest suffered minor injuries.

Tsai’s concert was scheduled for Saturday. She took to her microblog to express sadness at the accident.

Photos are tough.

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More news as we get it.  First spotted on ProLightingSpace.

Updates from The Theatre Safety Blog, two new images:

Post Collapse View over cases

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From South China Morning News:

A worker was killed after stage lights collapsed as staff were setting up for a concert by the Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai in southern China.

The accident happened on Thursday afternoon at the Guangxi Stadium in Nanning, the news website Chinanews.com reported.

Firefighters, rescue workers and police pulled 14 people free caught under equipment, the report said.

One person died at the scene and another was seriously injured.

The concert, scheduled for Saturday night, has been cancelled and ticket buyers can request a refund, the organisers said in a statement.

Police are investigating the accident.

Tsai, often referred to as “Asia’s Dancing Queen”, has been likened to top American singers such as Beyoncé.

Tsai wrote on her social media account on Thursday night: “Please pray together for the victims.”

Updates as we get them.

 

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!

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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/

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:

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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!

MORE CONTRADICTION in the Shelby Stage Collapse – Weather, Equipment, NEGLIGENCE

from WCNC Charlotte - Shelby stage collapse photos

from WCNC Charlotte – Shelby stage collapse photos

I had to start an entirely new post for this information…  this all needs to be shared.  The original post is here, please share with your friends, family, and industry contacts.  Make SURE that you never go near a stage constructed like the ones you’ll see below, because your life depends on it.  Do the math here, folks — thousands of pounds of quickly moving metal and plastics versus your skin, bones, blood, and tissues.  Which do you think is going to win?  Your God will not protect you from faulty rigging, equipment installation, and malfeasant negligence.

Let’s take a look at some info from the contractor’s website, L&N Productions.  The proof of negligence is right there on the website, just thumb through the photos.  James and John Little, along with production manager Mark Doran, showcase several images on their website of past gigs they’ve done — and this interesting little blurb on their website homepage:

“L & N Productions has operated in it’s current form since 1992 and is fully covered by General Liability & Workman’s Compensation.  Our professional and personable staff prides itself in providing high quality sound and lighting, helping to make your event a success. We specialize in festival style events, focusing on smooth transactions and attention to detail. We keep your artists satisfied and your event on schedule. We are there for you!”

Do you think that they’d still be covered under General Liability and Workman’s Comp if the people who administer those coverages knew they were using equipment in this fashion, AGAINST the manufacturer’s recommendations?  Very fortunately for L&N Productions, they haven’t had a collapse in the past.  Take a look through these images, tell me what YOU think.

Yes, that roof is being held up with spansets, and the yellow strap looks suspiciously like truck ratchet strap.  Are those towers just sitting in the grass with NOTHING under the WHEELS?!  YES, yes they are.

from-L-N-Productions-website-10

More Genie tower roofing OUTSIDE, with yellow truck strap guy wires.

from-L-N-Productions-website-9

Another shot of the OUTDOOR Genie tower rig.  YOU ARE NOT TO USE GENIE TOWERS OUTDOORS!
Can they NOT read the safety guide?!

from-L-N-Productions-website-8

 Please note the spansets holding up the sail – or roof, depending on your level of expertise.
WHERE ARE THE OUTRIGGERS???

from-L-N-Productions-website-7

This one scares the shit out of me — triangle truss “propping up” the tarp roof, not at all secured to anything (take a look for yourself), with yellow truck strap guying, complete with the standard indoor Genie towers used outside.from-L-N-Productions-website-5

This shot should stop them from ever doing shows again — strap as guying on the front corners of the roof structure, cantilevered on four indoor Genie towers OUTSIDE, putting every person on that stage at risk.from-L-N-Productions-website-4

An indoor arena rig — straps on the PA.
WHERE ARE THE OUTRIGGERS???from-L-N-Productions-website-3

More outdoor usage of INDOOR GENIE TOWERS.  AND, just sitting in the grass on the field, nothing under the wheels, AGAIN.
WHERE ARE THE OUTRIGGERS???from-L-N-Productions-website-2

INDOOR Genie towers OUTSIDE again, and another INDOOR Genie tower holding up the OUTDOOR PA.from-L-N-productions-website-1

Something that is troubling the daylights out of me is the Genie towers used in these photos — they are not the SuperTower family of INDOOR Genie lifts, they are CONTRACTOR GENIE LIFTS with a working load limit of 650 pounds.  Check out the images below of CONTRACTOR TOWERS, and compare them with the crank towers you see in the photos above:

contractor-genie-2

contractor-genie

These images below here are Genie’s SuperTower (ST) brand of towers, which are the approved INDOOR TOWERS for entertainment:

Genie-Super-Tower

Genie-SuperTower

Notice anything different?  SuperTowers have heavier telescoping tracks, more sturdy outriggers, and ARE FOR ENTERTAINMENT.  The ones used by L&N Productions are CONTRACTOR TOWERS.

Here’s another thing that needs to be put out there… the promoter’s claim that the weather caused the accident are FALSE.  That means they are NOT TRUE.  Here’s why – fellow blogger, lighting expert, and storm chaser John Huntington posted an AWESOME contradiction to the claims that weather had anything to do with this collapse.  My guess is that the promoter and the production company are covering each other’s collective asses.  From John Huntington’s excellent blog Control Geek:

Annotated-mercyme-weather

According to Wikipedia, EHO is the Shelby-Cleveland County Regional Airport, and the Cleveland county fairgrounds are a couple miles away to the north east, about the position of my crude red arrow.   The light blue, bowing north-south line to the left of the purple arrow is a gust front or outflow boundary, generally caused by cool air descending from the storm and indicated on radar by reflections from bugs and dirt in front of the storm.  Crucially, this gust front arrives with high wind gusts before the rain arrives (this is exactly the same situation found at the Indiana State Fair tragedy; you can see my radar loop here).  So if you just watch the radar on a crude phone app and don’t know what to look for, you might miss this critical feature.  But it’s an indication of high winds in front of the storm (as a chaser I’m often surfing this area trying to get a photo, since sometimes an amazing looking shelf cloud forms is in that area, see here for photos from a similar event from earlier this summer).  Here’s the whole loop of the radar, and it’s pretty obvious that something’s coming for quite a long time.  The yellow arrow is the approximate location of the show site; with my mouse, I point out the gust front:

ClevelandCounty2013 from John Huntington on Vimeo.

While another part of the same storm system was under a severe thunderstorm warning (60 MPH+ wind) at the time of the collapse, the show site area apparently was not. Patrick Moore, of the National Weather Service saidthat winds at the site gusted to about 35-40MPH (well below the severe threshold), which should not cause any quality stage roof to collapse.  But, as I noted in the previous entry, it appears that the stage roof was supported with Genie-style towers.  Those are chronically mis-used pieces of gear, and one of the common failings in amateur outdoor usage of these lifts is not accommodating for the intensity of lateral loads caused by the winds, nor the vertical lift possibilities.  Joel Bench, MercyMe’s stage manager, reported “The wind just picked up, the roof lifted a little bit, Then it started tilting and just kind of eased down.”

Thank you for this insight, John.  Folks, make sure to check out John Huntington’s blog, he is a very intelligent dude.  Also, check out Erich Friend’s post on the accident for some excellent insight and video content — Erich runs the Theatre Safety Blog, which is an excellent source for all things event safety.

Please share this with your people.  Stay safe out there, everybody.  I think the Event Safety Alliance needs to be all over this guy’s company.

A Grim Reminder of the Latest Deaths in Our Beloved Industry Before Summer Work Kicks Off

indiana-state-fair-collapse-falling

HEY!  YOU! 

You there, with the rigging bag.

You there, with the crescent wrench and fearless attitude.

You there, sporting the “supervisor” face but looking at your cell phone when motors are moving.

You there, new guy and new girl, who are googly-eyed at the awesomeness but should be watching their own backs and paying attention to the work.

The summer season of outdoor music and theatre has started, and no matter if you’re doing corporate shows, theatre, music, or art production, this post needs to serve as a reminder.  Along with orgs like PLASA and the Event Safety Alliance, JimOnLight.com is doing everything they can to NOT have a summer like the last few we’ve had – and what I can do is provide a reminder of the hell that we as an industry have seen, not to mention the families of those killed in these accidents and disasters lately.  If I might reiterate, what we do is entertainment; it may pay the bills, but if you see something less than safe happening or took place in putting something together that you might not feel 100% about once it was finished, SPEAK UP NOW!

YOUR DUTY:  It is your duty to the safety of others and your own personal safety to keep your head in the game once you are onsite.  This includes WEATHER concerns, Safety concerns,

To address an email I got from a guy out there who prefers to remain anonymous out there, who asked me what would happen if a person got fired for refusing to do something unsafe.  My response was something along the lines of:

  1. You are probably working for a company that is a time bomb of fail waiting to happen — don’t be the fuse, and don’t feel bad about not wanting to die at work.
  2. Regardless of Fact #1, you should probably consult an attorney before you go thermonuclear.  Most attorneys do so for free.
  3. Call people like OSHA, PLASA, USITT, anyone you can think of if something shady is going on.  So you lose your job – don’t for a second think that the industry won’t be behind you for saving lives.
  4. You can file unemployment in a case like that – a company doing shady safety work will sooner than later be discovered, it would not be in their interest to fight your claim.  But, your mileage may vary, and frankly, some people have better luck than others in life at these things.
  5. Feel good that you aren’t in that situation anymore, and get right back out there and find another gig if you lose yours.  Do the right thing.  Having deaths on your conscience is good for no human, no matter how little of a part you played in the process.

That’s my opinion, anyway.  That’s what I’d do.  An industry that won’t take care of people who keep it safe is not an industry anyone should participate in, regardless of the possible profits.  Money is less valuable than lives.

Here’s a reminder of sacrifices have been made to further the standardization of safety in our business – please forgive me if I overlooked one close to you, all you have to do is email me and I will append this post.

APRIL 5, 2013: 
RIGGERS, TAKE HEED:  Houston Dean Williams slipped and fell to the stage floor while moving around a beam in San Antonio at the AT&T Center.

RIGGERS-NOT-SKYDIVERS

MAY 6, 2013:
A man was killed when a PA stack fell on him
at a protest rally in Moscow.

russia-man-killed-protest

APRIL 17, 2013:
Boston Marathon Bombings claim the lives of three marathongoers, wounding several dozens.  Let’s not forget, this was at an entertainment function.

Boston Marathon Explosions TOPIX

March 15, 2013:
A video wall came apart and fell on stage hands
in Miami for Ultra Music Festival.  No one killed, fortunately, but several people were hurt.

ultra-music-festival-accident

June 16, 2012:
1 dead, 3 wounded at a Radiohead concert in Toronto, Ontario
.

radiohead-stage-collapse-toronto

December 15, 2011:
1 person was killed and 8 people injured when truss collapsed
in Trieste, Italy at a Jovanotti concert.

trieste-jovanotti-collapse

August 19, 2011:
5 people killed and 70+ injured when a storm blew over a stage
at the Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium.

pukkelpop-collapse-5

Perhaps the worst of them all lately…  August 15, 2011:
At the Sugarland show at the Indiana State Fair, a storm blew over an outdoor stage loaded with audio and lighting truss, killing 7 people and injuring 58.

indiana-state-fair-collapse-falling

May 13, 2010:
A young lighting tech in West Palm Beach fell to his death from a catwalk while working on a show.

andy-hollingsworth1.jpg

July 27, 2009:
A Pepsi Battle of the Bands in Guangzhou, China experiences a huge, sudden storm that tips over LED screens and injures several dozen.  Reports of people killed were removed from the web, so I think it’s fair that we can assume several people died in this accident.

pepsi-battle-of-the-bands-accident

July 16, 2009:
At a Marseilles, France tour stop for Madonna’s Sticky and Sweet tour, a stage roof collapsed, killing 2 stage hands involved in the load-in.

madonna-stage-collapse1.jpg

Let’s also never forget the Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake truss collapse in August 2003:

timberlake11.jpg

Just don’t forget.  Also, don’t forget that you are responsible for yourself out there, and when you’re putting equipment together, keep in mind that your diligence will mean the difference between you and others going home on the bus and going home in the ambulance – or even worse, getting a ride home with the coroner.

Be safe out there, Road Warriors!