Indiana stage collapse leads to fines against builder, commission

The company that built the stage that collapsed at the Indiana State Fair during a powerful storm last summer, killing seven people, has been cited for workplace safety violations along with the State Fair Commission and the union that worked at the site, officials said Wednesday.

The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied fines against all three entities for their roles in the Aug. 13 collapse, which occurred as the country duo Sugarland was waiting to perform. Fifty-eight people were injured.

The largest fine, $63,000, was levied against the company in charge of building the stage. Mid-America Sound Corp. was cited for three violations for failing to provide appropriate supervision and develop a risk assessment plan.

"The evidence demonstrated that the Mid-America Sound Corp. was aware of the appropriate requirements and demonstrated a plain indifference to complying with those requirements," state Labor Commissioner Lori Torres told reporters during a telephone news conference.

The company said it strongly disagreed with the state's action and blamed the State Fair Commission.

"Mid-America Sound was consistent and clear with the Indiana State Fair Commission about the limitations of the temporary roof structure in high winds or severe inclement weather," spokeswoman Myra Borshoff Cook said in a statement.

"Each year for nearly a decade, we warned the commission, in writing, that 'The roof or top shall not be used in high winds and or severe inclement weather. High winds meaning 25 mph and above.' In the case of the structure used for the Sugarland concert, the threshold was 40 mph for evacuation."

On the evening of the accident, an employee again told state fair officials of the danger from high winds, Cook said. "Despite these warnings, the Indiana State Fair Commission, who controlled the venue, and Sugarland, who controlled the concert, refused to postpone the concert and failed to implement an evacuation plan away from the temporary roof structure," she said.

The State Fair Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The commission was fined $6,300.

"The State Fair Commission failed to have conducted an adequate life safety evaluation and plan prior to the event," Torres said. "The commission simply did not establish and maintain conditions of work for its employees that were reasonably safe and free from recognized hazards."

Also cited was Local 30 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which was fined $11,500. Torres said the union "clearly acted as an employer" at the site, a contention the union disagreed with and said it would appeal.

"We aren't the employer," John F. Baldwin, the business representative of Local 30, said in a telephone interview.

"We were acting under their supervision," he said of the state agency. "They supervise us through one of their subcontractors."

The state OSHA investigates workplace violations but does not determine what caused the collapse.

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