Concert-goers said opening act Sara Bareilles had finished performing and the crowd was waiting for Sugarland to take the stage when an announcer alerted them that severe weather was possible and gave instructions on what to do if an evacuation was necessary. But the announcer also said concert organizers hoped the show would go on, and many fans stayed put.
The timeline shows the announcement was made at 8:45 p.m., and the gust hit four minutes later. Witnesses said dirt, dust, rain and wind came barreling up the fairground’s main thoroughfare and then the stage collapsed.
Jessica Alsman said the towering, metal scaffolding “kind of wobbled at first.” Then pandemonium set in as it fell.
“As soon as we saw the wind gust, the wind was in our faces,” Alsman said. She and three friends grabbed each other and formed a chain.
“You can’t imagine _ we just thought it was going to rain or something,” Alsman said.
Indiana’s position in the Midwest has long made it prone to volatile changes in weather. In April 2006, tornado-force winds hit Indianapolis just after thousands of people left a free outdoor concert by John Mellencamp held as part of the NCAA men’s Final Four basketball tournament.
And in May 2004, a tornado touched down south of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, delaying the start of the Indianapolis 500 and forcing a nearly two-hour interruption in the race.
Associated Press writers Cliff Brunt and Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis and Caitlin R. King in Nashville, Tenn., and AP photographer Darron Cummings contributed to this report.