A strong gust of wind caused a deadly stage collapse in Indiana, killing five people.
Wind gusts between 60 and 70 mph toppled the stage where an estimated 12,000 people were waiting to see the band Sugarland on Saturday night. About four dozen people, some critically injured, were taken to hospitals.
Four of the victims died at the scene: Alina Bigjohny, 23, of Fort Wayne; Christina Santiago, 29, of Chicago; Tammy Vandam, 42, of Wanatah; and 49-year-old Glenn Goodrich of Indianapolis. Nathan Byrd, a 51-year-old stagehand from Indianapolis who was atop the rigging when it fell, died overnight.
Mike Zent, of Los Angeles, said the storm instantly transformed what had been a hot, sunny day. "Just everything turned black. ... It was really cold, it was like winter, because I had been sweating all day. Wind blew over the ATM machine," he told the Associated Press.
The fair cancelled all activities Sunday as officials began the long process of sorting out what happened and fielded difficult questions about whether the tragedy could have been prevented.
The stage toppled at 8:49 p.m. Saturday. A timeline released by Indiana State Police shows that fair staff contacted the weather service four times between 5:30 and 8 p.m. At 8 p.m., the weather service said a storm with hail and 40 mph winds was expected to hit the fairgrounds at 9:15 p.m.
First Sgt. Dave Bursten of the Indiana State Police said the lack of damage to structures on the fair's midway or elsewhere supported the weather service's belief that an isolated, significant wind gust caused the rigging to topple.
"All of us know without exception in Indiana the weather can change from one report to another report, and that was the case here," he told the AP.
Meteorologist John Hendrickson said it's not unusual for strong winds to precede a thunderstorm, and that Saturday's gust might have been channeled through the stage area by buildings on either side of the dirt track where the stage fell, at the bottom of the grandstand.
The owner of Mid-America Sound Corp., which installed the rigging, expressed sympathy for the families of those killed or injured. Kerry Darrenkamp also said the Greenfield, Ind.-based company had begun "an independent internal investigation to understand, to the best of our ability, what happened."
The Indiana State Fair was reopening Monday for the first time since the freak accident, with a special pause made to honour and remember the five people killed in the accident.
Gov. Mitch Daniels and others were set to attend the memorial Monday morning at the state fairgrounds. The fair was to reopen afterward.
Daniels stood by the fair and its officials as they prepared to reopen:
"This is the finest event of its kind in America, this is the finest one we've ever had, and this desperately sad ... fluke event doesn't change that," he said, quoted AP.
Fair officials said the Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration and state fire marshal's office were investigating the accident which could take months.