Indiana State Fair Tragedy: Seven Dead After Stage Collapses at Sugarland Concert

By Jennifer Blomquist
By Krystal Shull
By Scott Sarvay
By Megan Trent

August 15, 2011 Updated Dec 5, 2013 at 3:44 PM EDT

INDIANAPOLIS (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Investigation continues with a total of six different agencies looking into the cause.

A preliminary report could come within the next few days but the release of the final report could take months.

It happened in the blink of an eye, but what information did fairground officials really have before the concert stage collapsed?

Indiana State Fair officials say they were receiving updates from the National Weather Service beginning at 5:30pm Saturday.

A Thunderstorm Watch was issued in Marion County at 5:57.

At 8:00 fairground officials were told the storm would arrive at 9:15 with 40mph winds.

At 8:39 a Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued, and at 8:45 fairground officials gave audience members evacuation instructions, but did not cancel the event.

Four minutes later the stage collapsed under reported 70mph winds.

On site emergency crews responded immediately and back up was called.

Stage power was cut at 9:13 as rescue teams searched the debris.

By 11:46 all victims had been treated, sent to the hospital, or pronounced dead.

For a more complete timeline, click on the NewsLinks page.

INDIANAPOLIS (Indiana's NewsCenter) - An investigation is underway into that deadly collapse of the State Fair's concert stage.

Officials say a powerful gust of wind of up to 70 miles-per-hour blew down the stage roof and lighting scaffolding onto the crowd.

An announcer had warned of the possibility of severe weather but planned to start the show as scheduled.

But minutes later, the sky turned black, the wind came and the stage fell apart.

The Marion County Coroner's office identifies the victims killed in the Indiana State Fair stage collapse as 23-year-old Alina Bigjohny of Fort Wayne, 29-year-old Christina Santiago of Chicago, and three Indianapolis residents: 42-year-old Tammy Vandam, 49-year-old Glenn Goodrich and 51-year-old Nathan Byrd.

Byrd was the fifth person who died overnight following the accident. Reports indicate he was a spotlight worker who was somewhere on the stage when it came down before the band Sugarland was set to play.

"Indiana and the nation's finest fair suffered an unthinkable tragedy last night. Our first and final thoughts today will be with those we've lost and the families and friends of those we've lost in this terrible accident," said Gov. Mitch Daniels, speaking at a news conference Sunday morning.

"What needs saying most about last night's freakish accident was that we saw on display the best qualities of both public and private Hoosiers. By every account the response by every responsible entity - Mayor Ballard's outstanding police and fire forces - our own Indiana State Police, the security force of the State Fair itself, emergency management personnel, was instantaneous and highly professional. It's equally important to say what I heard over and over and over again last night - that individual Hoosiers ran to the trouble, not from the trouble, by the hundreds, offering in many cases their own professional skills. I've heard it from everybody I've debriefed this morning. People rushing up, 'I'm a nurse, I'm a doctor, I'm a trained EMS responder.' But also people who simply pitched in," said Daniels, struggling to contain his emotions.

"It's the character that we associate with our state. People don't have to be paid to do it. We want to say thanks to each of you and I know that those who were rescued and those who would have been more seriously hurt without their help have family who are profoundly grateful today and I am on their behalf."

The Indiana State Fair closed Sunday and all activities canceled.

"First and foremost, we continue to ask Hoosiers across the state for their continued thoughts and prayers for the family members of the deceased as well as the injured that are continuing to have aid renedered to them at local hospitals now," said 1st Sgt. Dave Bursten, Indiana State Police.

Sugarland released a statement on their website Saturday night: "We are alright after our stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair tonight. Many of our fans and friends in Indianapolis may not be. Please keep them in your thoughts, prayers, or whatever form of strength you are able to send. They need you. Thank you."

Singer Sara Bareilles, Sugarland's opening act, had just finished her set when the gusts of winds moved through. "We are shocked and saddened by this horribly tragic circumstance," she posted on her website. "My heart aches for the lives lost or injured as well as their families."

Forty-five were reported injured with anything from cuts and bruises to fractures and severe head trauma.

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