Chicago Woman Among 5 Killed When Concert Stage Collapses At Ind. State Fair

Updated 8/14/11 12:25 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The wind gust that toppled a stage at the Indiana State Fair Saturday night, killing five and injuring dozens of fans waiting for the country band Sugarland to perform, was a “fluke” that no one could have anticipated, the governor and others said Sunday.

Among the dead was a 29-year-old Chicago woman.

The wind was far stronger than that in other areas of the fairgrounds, said Dan McCarthy, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Indiana. He estimated the gust at 60 to 70 mph.

Gov. Mitch Daniels said precautions were taken before the storm, but no one could have foreseen such a strong gust focused in one place. Some witnesses have said that while a storm was expected, rain hadn’t begun to fall when the wind sent the stage rigging falling into the crowd of terrified fans.

“This is the finest event of its kind in America, this is the finest one we’ve ever had, and this desperately sad, as far as I can tell fluke event doesn’t change that,” Daniels said.

Four people were killed when the metal scaffolding that holds lights and other stage equipment fell, and a fifth died overnight at a hospital, Indiana State Police 1st Sgt. Dave Bursten said. The county coroner’s office identified the victims as Alina Bigjohny, 23, of Fort Wayne; Christina Santiago of Chicago; Tammy Vandam, 42, of Wanatah; and two Indianapolis residents: 49-year-old Glenn Goodrich and 51-year-old Nathan Byrd. Byrd died overnight.

santiago1 Chicago Woman Among 5 Killed When Concert Stage Collapses At Ind. State Fair

Christina Santiago (Facebook)

Santiago, the victim from Chicago, worked at the Howard Brown Health Center. The organization held a vigil Sunday evening on the North Side.

Forty-five people were taken to hospitals, and some may have gone on their own, Bursten said. Indiana University Health said 12 of the 26 people treated at its hospitals were still there, including three at its children’s hospital.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mary Frances Bragiel Reports

Dr. Dean Silas of Deerfield, who was sitting in the grandstand, says he and scores of others began attending to the victims on the infield after the stage collapse.

“It was just chaos and pandemonium,” he told WBBM Newsradio.

Within minutes, he says, EMS officials were on the scene doing their job.

Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles sent a statement to The Associated Press through her manager, saying she watched recaps of the collapse on the news “in horror.”

“I am so moved,” she said. “Moved by the grief of those families who lost loved ones. Moved by the pain of those who were injured and the fear of their families. Moved by the great heroism as I watched so many brave Indianapolis fans actually run toward the stage to try and help lift and rescue those injured. Moved by the quickness and organization of the emergency workers who set up the triage and tended to the injured.”

Nettles and Kristian Bush, who perform as Sugarland, canceled their Sunday show at the Iowa State Fair.

Concert-goers said opening act Sara Bareilles had finished performing and the crowd was waiting for Sugarland to take the stage when the storm hit just before 9 p.m. They said 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.

Witnesses said dirt, dust, rain and wind came barreling up the fairground’s main thoroughfare minutes later and the stage collapsed.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller Reports

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.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

More from Steve Miller
  • Ro Ro

    I was at the Illinois State Fair today and looked up in the sky and said there is a pretty bad storm coming and I prepared for it. Five minutes later someone come over the loud speaker and said there are some potentially severe storms coming, and explained what to do. By looking at the line of storms on doppler radar in Indianapolis, clearly whoever was in charge should of had mandatory seek shelter Immediately. It is just pathetic that with the technology that we have these days, events like this still occur. Secondly I drove for hours to get to the Fair and checked doppler and no storms on the map. Guess maybe next year they will be better prepared!

  • Zachary Lassiter

    Video of a stage collapse that hurts dozens and kills four at the Indiana State Fair

  • JeanSC

    I figured out years ago that in Chicago, if you see a squall line coming, it’s going to hit you. Like a train, their speed can surprise you as they approach. When there’s a potentially hazardous object like that stage superstructure nearby, you can’t wait until the wind is “close.” The many people there also should have prompted immediate evacuation. I don’t know what the radar showed in Indy. It seems officials at ballparks are more solicitous for the safety of people (as well as their precious grass) when calling rain delays or moving to sheltered areas promptly. Weird. One day in South Dakota, I saw a big thunderstorm building up – from 55 miles away. It took me hours of driving to reach it. Here in the Midwest, we can’t see that far. We have much less lead time to get to safe places.

  • Dan Rakow

    This Tragdey should of been prevented and they also should of sounded Storm Warning Sirens even if there were a Severe Thunderstorm Warning especially when You thousand of Patrons at a State Fair.

  • Leg bone connects to the thigh bone

    Next time read the instructions first, you should not have any extra bolts left over when finished.

  • Chicago Woman Killed At Ind. State Fair Was ‘Brilliant As She Was Beautiful’ « CBS Chicago

    […] those expectations turned tragic Saturday evening when the stage set up at the fairgrounds in Indianapolis collapsed onto the crowd, killing Santiago and f…. Dozens of people were injured, including Santiago’s partner, Alisha Brennan, who was in stable […]

  • m

    A fluke?
    I work in this industry of stages and rigging.
    I wonder if the truss was secure enough.

  • Officials Probe What Led To Deadly Stage Collapse At Indiana State Fair « CBS Chicago

    […] But witnesses said dirt, dust, rain and wind came barreling up the fairground’s main thoroughfare … […]

  • Services Planned For Chicago Woman Killed At Indiana State Fair « CBS Chicago

    […] Concert-goers said opening act Sara Bareilles had finished performing, and the crowd was waiting for… […]

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live