Company: Sugarland resisted delaying state fair concert

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Country duo Sugarland resisted delaying the start of a concert last August at the Indiana State Fair despite threatening weather that later caused a deadly stage collapse, the fair's top official testified in a lawsuit against the company that built the stage rigging.

During a Jan. 16 deposition, Indiana State Fair Commission executive director Cindy Hoye testified that a representative for a concert promotion company working with the fair twice approached Sugarland about the fair's desire to delay the show. But Hoye said the band expressed concerns about how a delay would affect the time lead singer Jennifer Nettles needed to warm up and complicate the band's travel to its next show.

"They were trying to get to Iowa to play the Iowa State Fair, and so they said they did not want to delay," Hoye testified as part of a lawsuit filed against Mid-America Sound Corp., which built the roof and rigging used to hold the lights and sound equipment used in the Aug. 13 concert.

The company released a portion of Hoye's deposition Wednesday after the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Mid-America $63,000 for three serious violations of industry standards, which it said contributed to the stage collapse that killed seven people and injured 58 others.

The six-month investigation found the company, the stagehands union and fair officials share blame for the collapse, which occurred when a powerful storm swept into the fairgrounds and knocked over the outdoor stage rigging just before Sugarland was to perform.

Hoye said that the fair offered to pay for extra stagehands in Des Moines to reduce the time needed to set up the stage, but the band declined.

Myra Borshoff Cook, a spokeswoman for Mid-America, said the company released Hoye's comments because "we thought it was important for people to see the bigger picture."

Representatives for Sugarland did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press. Stephanie McFarland, a spokeswoman for the fair, also had no immediate response.

State Labor Commissioner Lori Torres said OSHA's report, the first of three independent investigations into the tragedy, was intended to improve workplace safety, not assign blame. However, it issued small fines against the fair, company and union.

The report said Mid-America failed to adequately address safety standards. It found fair officials didn't sufficiently plan for emergencies and were too slow to order an evacuation of the grounds when powerful winds blew in ahead of a storm.

The report also said the union hadn't adequately trained members how to work at heights or provided them with fall protection.

None of that, however, could have necessarily prevented the collapse, Torres said.

"The state fair commission believed they had more time than they actually had based on weather conditions," Torres said. "This is not the same as saying that even if it had developed the proper protocol no one would have been injured. But clearly an earlier evacuation ... would have changed things."

OSHA fined the Indiana State Fair Commission $6,300 for failing to conduct proper safety evaluations of its concert venues.

The company said it told the fair commission and Sugarland about the temporary roof's limitations in severe weather, advising that the area be evacuated in the event of lightning or winds topping 40 mph. Those warnings were reiterated the night of the concert, the statement said.

Despite that, they "refused to postpone the concert and failed to implement an evacuation plan away from the temporary roof structure," the statement said.

Torres agreed that fair officials lacked an adequate evacuation plan and that the decision to evacuate the grandstand was ultimately up to Hoye, the executive director. She didn't respond to a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 30 also came under fire, accused of five workplace violations.

The report found that the union, not the commission, was the employer of the stagehands who were working Aug. 13 when the stage collapsed. But union attorney Bill Groth called that "absurd."

"Needless to say, Local 30 feels it is being scapegoated by this administration, whose agents' own gross negligence in failing to vacate the premises in the face of the imminent storm cannot be explained away," Groth said in an email to The Associated Press.

Torres said the agency determined the union was the stagehands' employer because it selected the workers for the job and filed W-2s, workers compensation and other documents, among other factors. The union was fined $11,500.

Sugarland was not penalized, though the band has been named in some lawsuits over the accident. The agency said the band didn't employ the workers and wasn't responsible for building the stage.

Jeff Carter, IOSHA's deputy commissioner, said the union had indicated it would contest the findings and state fair officials had requested a meeting with OSHA officials. Mid-America had not responded, he said.

Torres noted that state inspections of temporary structures such as the stage rigging weren't required at the time of the collapse but that a bill to require such inspections is pending in the Legislature.

Officials said the OSHA probe was prompted largely by the deaths of stagehand Nathan Byrd, who fell when the roof collapsed, and security guard Glenn Goodrich, who was working nearby.

State officials have also 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 are reviewing the state's emergency plans and its response to the collapse.

Fair commission Chairman Andre Lacy said in a statement that those investigations will "give us the information we need to develop a comprehensive plan to take us forward."


  • Responsibility
    IndyMoon, you are spot on. The band should have no input on whether the show goes on. Seems easily understood that the Fair is mostly responsible. I'm also uncomfortable with the fact that a structure is allowed to be used that requires evacuation at a mere 40 mph. That was 'a disaster waiting to happen' in my humble opinion.
  • Mess All Around
    The Fair deferred to Sugarland's manager to make the call to delay, and he went with the self serving decision to play on as scheduled. Another guilty party.
  • Contracts
    For those that have never been involved in a contract, it is about two sides coming together and negotiating a deal that satifies both sides. Depending on what each side desires the contract ends of defining the agreed upon terms.
  • Band
    How common is it to give the band authority over whether the show is canceled? That's a misalignment of interests. The band's goals are to get paid and get to the next gig. Those goals may conflict with the requirement to ensure safety for all.
    • Who Did It?
      It was him, it was her, it was them! Has anyone considered asking Mother Nature to please take the stand?
    • ..???
      Who calls the shots the band or fair management?
      How does this Hoye still have a job?
      What a clown show... Shameful.

    Post a comment to this story

    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

    2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

    3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

    4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

    5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!