- Associated Press - Sunday, August 14, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Authorities said they have confirmed at least three deaths after a stage collapsed Saturday night during a storm at the Indiana State Fair, where country act 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 concert-goers shortly before 9 p.m.

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

Indiana State Police spokesman David Bursten told The Associated Press that a “strong gust of wind upset the rigging above the stage at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and caused a collapse of the structure over the stage.” The incident left at least three people dead and about 24 injured, he said.

Bursten said the injuries ranged from “very serious to cuts and scrapes.”

Emergency crews were called to the scene, and workers were setting up a command center to tend to those who were injured.

The collapse came as thousands of concert-goers 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,” concert-goer 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 told the AP.

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.

“Panic kicked in when they seen the dust bowl coming in from the Midway,” concert-goer Darryl Cox told WTHR.

Another person at the concert, Emily Davis, told WTHR that there was lightning and the sky had gotten dark but it wasn’t raining when the wind suddenly toppled the rigging.

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