First Lawsuits Filed In Ind. Stage Collapse

VALPARAISO, Ind. – The first lawsuits were announced Friday in connection with last weekend’s Indiana State Fair stage collapse, as the fatal accident claimed a sixth life.

One of the suits was filed on behalf of Tammy Vandam of Wanatah, Ind., who died when a mountain of scaffolding toppled and pitched into the crowd Saturday evening in Indianapolis as hundreds waited for a Sugarland concert to begin.

State officials blamed a freak gust of wind, but the attorney who represents the family of Vandam, who had a teen daughter, insists tragedy could have been prevented. He says fair organizers and the people who built the stage must be held liable.

“This was not an unforeseeable, unpredictable fluke,” Valparaiso attorney Kenneth J. Allen said at a news conference. “It was quite the opposite. It was not only foreseeable, it was preventable.”

A separate lawsuit was filed on behalf Vandam’s partner, 49-year-old Beth Urschel, whose toe was severed but reattached and who suffered other injuries.

She says her emotional pain is indescribable. Urschel took Vandam to see Sugarland, her favorite band, perform at the state fair. She says they knew rain was coming but couldn’t have anticipated what would happen next.

“All of a sudden I heard screaming, and we felt the wind,” Urschel said, becoming emotional. “I looked up, and here’s this stage starting to fall. Where do you run? Where do you go? You just pray that you survive.”

Also Friday, published reports said Jennifer Haskell, 22, died Friday morning at a hospital in Indianapolis. The Ball State University student had been gravely injured in the stage disaster.

She was the sixth to die. Four people died immediately when the stage fell, including 29-year-old Chicagoan Christina Santiago. A stage hand died later.

The lawsuits filed Friday seek more than $60 million.

An investigation continues into the accident. Allen said he would ask a judge to order that evidence be preserved.

  • Chris

    Great so no more concerts at fairs for anyone else because these people can’t take responsibility for getting out of a storm on their own.
    Sue the wind if you want someone to blame.

  • Larry Fredricks

    I think in the future, all of these stages should be built out of steel reinforced concrete, just to avoid the impending lawsuits that come when a 70 mile an hour wind happens to come along. Jackpot justice is out of control. People have gotton to the point where if someone dies, there has to be a cash payout. We no longer consider anything a horrible freak accident. I think they should be suing Mother Nature!!

  • DJ

    These people have a legitimate claim. The stand was made for the inside. Not the outside.

  • Lisa Ladonski

    This whole thing was an accident, why sue and drag out the grieving process?

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