Did the Indiana State Fair Tragedy Have to Happen?
Officials begin probe into stage collapse that killed 5
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2011 6:34 AM CDT
Indiana State Police vehicle sit in front of the grandstand at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011.   (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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(Newser) – State officials are investigating Saturday's Indiana State Fair stage collapse in an effort to determine if there was any way the tragedy, which killed five people, could have been avoided. "I'm not clear how anyone could have foreseen a sudden, highly localized blast of wind," said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who praised both fair officials and the National Weather Service for monitoring the weather accurately, noting that the wind gusts came ahead of the predicted storm. However, the Indianapolis Star notes that 15 miles away, fans waiting to watch an outdoor performance of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra were asked to go back to their cars at 8:15pm—more than 30 minutes before the deadly wind gust hit the state fair stage.

The storm was predicted to hit the state fair at 9:15, the Wall Street Journal notes, but at 8:39pm, the NWS issued a severe thunderstorm and high winds warning for the county. At 8:45, the crowd waiting to watch Sugarland perform was warned that the severe weather could arrive and was given instructions on where to find shelter if need be. But the warning itself wasn't severe, says one concertgoer: "They didn't say anything like a tornado is coming or that we had to leave right away." At that same moment, however, a fair official and police commander were making plans to evacuate the grandstand and were planning a follow-up announcement—but it was too late. Four minutes later, at 8:49pm, a 60mph to 70mph wind gust brought the stage down. Officials will also look for any possible flaws in the structure itself, and the company that provided the rigging will also investigate.
 

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