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Stage collapses at fair; 4 die

Sun., Aug. 14, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS – Authorities said they have confirmed at least four deaths after a stage collapsed Saturday night during a storm at the Indiana State Fair, where the country group Sugarland was set to perform.

About two dozen people were reported injured in the incident at the fairgrounds in Indianapolis. Strong winds caused the stage rigging for the outdoor concert to collapse, trapping and injuring concertgoers.

No one was performing at the time. The opening act had finished, and the crowd was waiting for Sugarland to take the stage.

The Indiana State Police did not immediately return phone messages to the Associated Press to comment on the deaths. But the Indianapolis Star and WTHR TV reported that three people died, based on information released by authorities. Details on the conditions of those injured were not immediately known.

The collapse came as thousands of concertgoers were being evacuated from the fairground grandstand to a nearby coliseum when a wind gust brought down the stage rigging. The rigging fell onto an area where some fans were seated.

“It was like it was in slow motion,” concertgoer Amy Weathers told the Star. “You couldn’t believe it was actually happening.”

Those who were injured were being moved to a tunnel below the stage, the newspaper reported.

Associated Press photographer Darron Cummings was in the audience attending the concert as a fan shortly before the collapse. He said an announcer gave the crowd instructions on how to evacuate if the weather worsened, but said they hoped to get Sugarland on stage soon.

Cummings said he and his friends went ahead and sought shelter in a nearby barn after seeing the weather radar.

“Then we heard screams. We heard people just come running,” Cummings said.

Witnesses told WTHR that some of the injured were in a VIP section in front of the stage known as the “Sugar Pit.” The witnesses said a wall of dirt, dust, rain and wind came up the main thoroughfare of the fairgrounds just before the collapse.


 

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