FRONT of HOUSE — March 2012
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Finger-Pointing over Indiana Staging Collapse Continues

INDIANAPOLIS — Amid conflicting claims over what was discussed, and by whom, in the moments before the main stage structure at the Indiana State Fair collapsed in high winds Aug. 13, killing seven and injuring 58, attorneys for Sugarland, the country duo preparing to perform after Sara Bareilles finished her set, suggested that the victims themselves were partly to blame.

Cindy Hoye, the State Fair Commission’s executive director, had testified Jan. 16 in a deposition for a lawsuit against Mid-America Sound Corp., the staging supplier, that Sugarland’s management resisted delaying the start of the band’s performance, citing concerns about Jennifer Nettles’ warm-up routine and the disruption in the band’s travel to its next gig.

While speaking before the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA), however, which ended up levying more than $80,000 in fines against the staging company, the stagehand’s union and the state fair commission, Hellen Rollens, Sugarland’s tour manager, denied any discussion over delaying the show.

IOSHA, which focused on risks to worker safety and the deaths of security guard Glenn Goodrich and spotlight operator Nathan Byrd, but not the public at large, levied fines against Mid-America Sound ($63,000), IATSE ($11,500) and the State Fair Commission ($6,300) for safety violations. The state has already paid out the maximum allowed under Indiana law, $5M, to victims and families.

Although state lawmakers are considering allocating an additional $5M to $10M for those who suffered long-term injuries, Sugarland remains a target for litigation. The band’s attorneys, who have requested a jury trial in a civil lawsuit, have termed the overhead staging collapse an “act of God.” They also suggested that the victims themselves “failed to exercise due care for their own safety” by remaining in their seats.