(Indianapolis, Ind.) - Why did the stage at the Indiana State Fair collapse?
That’s the question on the minds of many people who attended the concert where five people were killed and dozens more injured Saturday. The stage rigging fell forward into the crowd below as sudden wind gusts estimated up to 70 MPH roared into the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Purdue University engineers said the stage should have been capable of withstanding winds above that speed.
The state is hiring an engineering firm to help investigate the collapse. Indiana State Police are also going to be working with the Marion County Coroner's Office and four other state agencies including the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor.
It appears the stage was never inspected. Homeland Security officials said Monday no permit was needed for the structure.
"There is no permitting process," IDHS spokesperson John Erickson told the Indianapolis Star. "There is no regulation on it. We do not regulate putting up of scaffolding in a business or an entertainment setting or anything of that type."
Neither Homeland Security nor the Indiana Fire Marshal's office are required to inspect outdoor stages.
WRTV 6 in Indianapolis reports that the City of Indianapolis does require a permit for temporary structures, but their inspectors were not responsible for reviewing structures on the state-owned fairgrounds.
The stage setup was built and provided by Mid-America Sound Corp. of Greenfield, Ind. The company is doing its own investigation into what went wrong.
Two concerts which were to take place this week on that stage have been cancelled – Janet Jackson and Lady Antebellum. A concert featuring rock acts Train and Maroon 5 will be relocated to other venues which could include Conseco Fieldhouse or Verizon Wireless Music Center.
Following the tragedy, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Indiana State Police First Sgt. Dave Bursten said it was nearly impossible to predict the wind that caused the collapse.
It may not be long before the first lawsuit in connection with the collapse is filed. The family of 51-year-old Nate Byrd, one of the five who died, has hired attorney Tom Hastings.
Hastings said fair officials should have been better prepared with the concert taking place outdoors.
“When that was constructed outdoors, high winds are a known risk,” he said.
Hastings plans to hire independent investigators to look at what caused the tragedy.
Meanwhile, Nate’s father, Alvin Byrd, will mourn the loss of his son. The two spoke briefly before Nate went to work as a stagehand for the concert.
“I told him he ought to quit that job. He said ‘Well Dad I’m going to climb this 40-foot rope now and I’ll see you tonight,” Byrd recalled.