August, 2011 Indianapolis stage collapse: Death toll could rise from Sugarland concert accident
Officials in Indianapolis said early Sunday that the toll could rise beyond the four confirmed dead after rigging and scaffolding collapsed onto a crowd waiting for the country band Sugarland to perform at the Indiana State Fair. "I want to be very forthcoming -- we could have other deaths,” said Indiana State Police Sgt. Rich Myers. "We hope everyone will be praying for the injured.”
In a dramatic scene captured on a video, the towering stage equipment tumbled forward onto fans against a backdrop of darkened skies, a massive dust storm and gusty winds. One woman could be heard saying, "Oh my God, oh my God!”
Shortly after the accident, Sugarland said on Twitter: "We are all right. We are praying for our fans, and the people of Indianapolis. We hope you will join us. They need our strength.”
In the choas afterward, scores of concertgoers rushed to the stage to lift broken scaffolding and equipment off people, Myers said during a televised press conference about five hours after the 9 p.m. accident. "People put themselves in jeopardy…and it’s gratifying to know that at a moment’s notice people will jump in to help others,” he said. No one was performing at the time of the collapse. The opening act had finished, and the crowd was waiting for Sugarland to take the stage.
At the same time, the weather was worsening; there had been heavy rain and winds were picking up. State police were monitoring radar weather reports on their Smartphones. They had just decided to evacuate the grandstands and were putting officials in place to carry out the plan. But it wasn’t fast enough. "What hit wasn't a storm, it was a significant gust of wind," Myers said. "That gust upset the rigging and structure up on the stage and caused the collapse." State police said that those hospitalized had suffered a range of injuries from minor to critical.
Athough there were no accounts of missing people, authorities were searching the fairgrounds early Sunday for possible victims. "We are making sure no one was in a state of confusion, injured or dazed and could have wandered,” Myers said. Officials are putting together a detailed timeline of events and weather reports leading up to the accident to gain an "understanding of everything that occurred.”
He did not have information about how the stage structure was assembled, but said investigators will probe those issues. Associated Press photographer Darron Cummings was in the audience as a fan shortly before the collapse. Cummings said he and his friends sought shelter in a nearby barn after seeing the weather radar.
"Then we heard screams. We heard people just come running,” Cummings said.