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Stage builder cited in Indiana State Fair collapse
Question of the Day
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The company that built the stage ahead of last summer’s deadly Indiana State Fair collapse appeared to be indifferent to safety standards, the state Department of Labor said Wednesday.
The agency cited Mid-America Sound Corp. with three major safety violations in connection with the collapse of outdoor stage rigging Aug. 13 when a powerful storm swept into the fairgrounds. The stage toppled onto a large crowd of people who had gathered to watch the country duo Sugarland perform, leaving seven people dead and 58 injured.
“The evidence demonstrated that the Mid-America Sound Corp. was aware of the appropriate requirements and demonstrated a plain indifference to complying with those requirements,” Labor Commissioner Lori Torres told reporters at the release of an Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration report on the collapse.
The department issued a $63,000 fine against the Greenfield, Ind.-based company. Mid-America did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.
Ms. Torres said the OSHA report investigated workplace violations but was not aimed at determining what caused the collapse.
It also issued a small fine against the Indiana State Fair Commission for failing to conduct proper safety evaluations of its concert venues. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 30 also came under fire, accused of five workplace violations.
Bill Groth, a union attorney, said the report found that the union, not the commission, was the employer of the stagehands who were working Aug. 13 when the stage collapsed. Mr. Groth said the commission controls the fairgrounds and that the union was being made a scapegoat for the mistakes of others.
“Local 30 is not an employer. They’re a labor organization, a union,” Mr. Groth told WTHR-TV. “I just think it’s reprehensible. The state ought to look in the mirror, because that’s where the culpability begins.”
The union also was issued a small fine.
Sugarland was not penalized. The agency said the band didn’t employ the workers and wasn’t responsible for building the stage.
State officials have hired two out-of-state companies to review the stage collapse and the state’s emergency response to the disaster. International engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti is conducting an investigation of the rigging collapse, and national emergency planning advisers Witt Associates is reviewing the state’s emergency plans and its response to the collapse.
Ms. Torres said fair officials didn’t have an adequate plan for evacuating the area as a severe thunderstorm packing high winds and lightning approached the fairgrounds
“Plan or no plan, the wind blew over the stage structure,” she said. “It was their duty to evacuate timely.”
Associated Press writer Tom Davies contributed to this report.
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