Report: Improper Rigging and Inadequate Preparations Factors in Stage Collapse

Who is at fault for stage collapse prior to scheduled Sugarland concert in Indianapolis debated.

Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles gave a deposition on Thursday (April 12) about what she knew and when she knew it regarding the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair prior to the group's scheduled concert on August 13, 2011. Seven people were killed in the tragedy and dozens of others injured.

Reports from two organizations hired to complete an analysis of the fair's response to the incident cite improper construction of the stage rigging and inadequate emergency preparations as leading to the tragedy.

Washington, D.C.-based emergency preparedness and management organization Witt Associates was hired a week after the incident to complete an independent analysis of the fair’s response. Witt Associates’ Charles Fisher said that the fair did not have an official procedure in place for delaying concerts, which led to an "ambiguity of authority," according to the Indianapolis Star.

According to structural expertise organization Thornton Thomasetti vice president Scott Nacheman, the stage rigging was not built to withstand the windspeeds required by the building codes; with speakers and screens attached the highest winds the rigging could withstand was 20 mph to 40 mph. Nacheman said a maximum wind gust of 59 mph hit the stage that evening, according to The Indianapolis Star.

Fair Commission Board chairman Andre Lacy said that Indiana State Fair executive director Cindy Hoye will continue in her position, though she had offered to resign. Hoye's name came into the spotlight when a document came forward that quoted her as saying that Sugarland’s tour manager would not delay the concert, according to The Seattle Times.

According to Lacy, a severe thunderstorm warning was issued at 8:39 p.m. on Aug. 13. Hoye wanted to delay the concert, but Lacy contends, Sugarland representatives resisted. According to Witt Associates, when concert promoter Eric Milby was asked to relay weather concerns to the band, Sugarland's tour manager's response was, "It is only rain, we can play,” reprts WISH TV in Indianapolis.

Sugarland released a statement prior to the depositions saying they intend to be “as open and honest as we can."

"In all the back-and-forth between the lawyers, the suggestion’s been made that we’ve somehow been trying to avoid having to answer questions about last summer’s terrible tragedy," the duo contended. "This is simply not true. There is no one who wants to get to the bottom of what happened more than we do, which is why we’re ready, willing, and able to give these depositions today and tomorrow. The judge has put limits on what can be discussed, but within those limits, we intend to be as honest and open as we can. We want all the facts to come out, not only for the sake of all the victims and their loved ones, but also so we can make sure that nothing like this ever happens again,” the statement said, according to The Indianapolis Star.

Kristian Bush is expected to give his deposition Friday (April 13). Full copies of the reports from both Witt Associates and Thornton Thomasetti are available via in.gov.

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