Indiana stage builder cited in state fair disaster

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The State Labor Department says the company that built the stage ahead of last summer's deadly Indiana State Fair collapse showed "plain indifference" to safety standards.

Commissioner Lori Torres said Wednesday that Mid-America Sound Corp. has been cited with three major safety violations in connection with the collapse of outdoor stage rigging in high winds that killed seven people Aug. 13. A crowd had gathered at the stage to see the country duo Sugarland perform.

The department issued a $63,000 fine against the company. Mid-America did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

It also fined the Indiana State Fair Commission $6,300 and a stagehands union $11,500 for safety-regulation violations, bringing the total fines accessed by the state to $80,800.

Officials say the commission failed to conduct proper safety evaluations of its concert venues and should have planned better for severe weather.

The six-month investigation by the state does not address a cause of the stage collapse but takes into account workplace safety violations it believes were committed by the three entities. The state launched its probe because of the deaths of stagehand Nathan Byrd and security guard Glenn Goodrich.

“A discussion to evacuate should have been made well before the wind gusts hit the stage area,” said Lori A. Torres, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor.

Mid-America Sound received the most serious violations because it did not provide cross-bracing for the stage as recommended by the manufacturer, did not consider the soil conditions at the location, and did not consider the weights of equipment attached to the stage, the report said.

Earlier Wednesday, an attorney for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 30 said the union was being made a scapegoat.

“Local 30 is not an employer. They're a labor organization, a union,” Bill 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.”

But state officials countered that the union is an employer because it is listed as such on unemployment insurance forms and files income tax forms, in addition to providing supervision and training for workers.

The state has never fined a union before, Torres said, but it has previously launched investigations against state entities, including the Indiana Department of Transportation, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Transportation.
Torres said the investigation took six months, much longer than normal state investigations, because of the complexity of issues involved and an uncooperative union.

“Our investigation was hampered, in part, because we did not get to talk to all of the stagehands,” she said. “The union refused to cooperate.”

The state did not fine Lucky Star Inc., the business entity of the band Sugarland, because as the performer it was not responsible for the safety of stage workers, Torres said.

The State Fair Commission, Mid-America and the union have until March 6 to either pay the fine or contest it. The union has indicated that it will in fact challenge the penalty, Torres said.

The three were notified of the state’s findings just within the past few days.

Meanwhile, Indiana senators are pushing regulations designed to avoid another tragedy like the stage collapse.

Democratic Sen. Tim Lanane's proposal would require the state Division of Fire and Building to issue permits for temporary structures. It would also allow local inspectors certified by the state to check structural integrity.

The Senate voted 45-5 Tuesday in favor of the plan. It now moves to the House for consideration.



  • Facts and Truth
    Let's be honest, the state has already admitted they were at fault for not inspecting the stage and not evacuating the fans contrary to thier written policies.

    This was determined within 30 days of the events tragedy.

    These reports should have been released along time ago.
  • Not removed
    The article about the union attorney was not removed. It is still on the website and there is a link to it in this article.
  • nice job
    Nice job at removing the "Union Blamed" story IBJ had posted earlier; speculation can really bite you in the hiney, can't it?
    • no brown m & m's
      Listening to the radio, I heard the story behind rocker David Lee Roth’s notorious insistence that Van Halen’s contracts with concert promoters contain a clause specifying that a bowl of M&M’s has to be provided backstage, but with every single brown candy removed, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation to the band. And at least once, Van Halen followed through, peremptorily cancelling a show in Colorado when Roth found some brown M&M’s in his dressing room. This turned out to be, however, not another example of the insane demands of power-mad celebrities but an ingenious ruse.

      As Roth explained in his memoir, Crazy from the Heat, “Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, thirdlevel markets.

      We’d pull up with nine 18-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move thegear through. The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function.” So just as a little test, buried somewhere in the middle of the rider, would be article 126, the no-brown-M&M’s clause. “When I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl,” he wrote, “well, we’d line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error… Guaranteed you’d run into a problem.” These weren’t trifles, the radio story pointed out. The mistakes could be lifethreatening. In Colorado, the band found the local promoters had failed to read the weight requirements and the staging would have fallen through the arena (from checklist manifesto)
      63 K because of an act of God. Mid America was/is the best at what they do. I hope they can recover and emerge as the best again. I cant tell you how many times I have been relieved to see this company in charge of the many stages, large and small that I've performed on in the past twenty years. Through wind rain and storms as well I may add.

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