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State Fair victims could receive funds in next few weeks

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Donations to benefit victims of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse could begin to be distributed within the next two weeks, but determining a cause of the accident is likely to take several months.

A State Fair Remembrance Fund now containing more than $800,000 in donations likely will be distributed before the state begins to pay out a maximum $5 million in damages allowed by law, Kenneth Feinberg said Wednesday afternoon.

Feinberg, an expert who administered victim-compensation funds following 9/11 and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, is serving as an unpaid consultant to the state on claims associated with the concert tragedy as well as offering advice on distribution of the remembrance fund.

Feinberg said the challenge will be determining who’s eligible to receive money from the two pools of funds.

“There’s a limited amount of money here,” Feinberg said. “How much will go to death claims and injury claims? We will have a final answer to those questions in a matter of weeks.”

Strong winds toppled a state fair stage onto fans waiting to see country act Sugarland perform at the Grandstand Aug. 13, leading to seven deaths and leaving dozens injured. Some of the injured may require care for the rest of their lives.

Feinberg also met with Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller for the first time on Wednesday to begin developing a protocol to distribute state settlement payments.

A date to begin allocating those funds has not been set, said Bryan Corbin, spokesman for the attorney general.

“The priority is going to be on payments to families of the fatality victims and to those most seriously inured,” he said. “That’s where the priority will be, because there’s a finite amount of money (available).”

Indiana law caps total damages to a state entity at $5 million with a $700,000 cap per individual claim.

At least 15 tort claims have been filed against the state on behalf of the victims. Several other lawsuits have been filed against several other parties besides the state fair in an effort to win larger judgments.
 
Meanwhile, Scott Nacheman of New York engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti Inc., said it would be six to eight months before they could determine a cause of the accident.
 

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