Two more individuals who were seriously injured when a temporary stage collapsed at the Indiana fairgrounds last week have died from their injuries, bringing the number of total fatalities to seven. In the wake of these two tragic deaths comes an article in this morning’s Indianapolis Star that raises an interesting question, “Should the Indiana State Fair build a permanent stage?”
According to the article, after high winds brought down stage rigging and scaffolding last Sunday night, harming fans waiting to hear the country band Sugarland, state officials have begun discussing whether to build a permanent, more stable stage as some other states have done.
In our view, while a permanent stage could offer additional safety benefits and may be a good idea, the lack of a permanent stage at the fairgrounds was not what caused this tragedy. Rather, the facts already known about this tragedy reveal it would have been prevented had basic safety precautions been followed. Based on media reports, not only were weather conditions inadequately monitored by fair officials, but no reasonable emergency plan was in place for evacuating and handling large crowds in the event of inclement weather. Furthermore, initial evaluations of the temporary stage indicate it may have been negligently designed, as it was not built to withstand foreseeable weather conditions, such as high winds.
Thus, the problem was not a lack of a permanent stage, but rather a lack of reasonable care for the safety of those attending the State Fair by those responsible for ensuring their safety. Consequently, before Indiana considers spending money to build a permanent stage, they should first take responsibility for their role in this tragedy and immediately set up a $5 million fund to compensate the dozens of people injured and the families of those killed as we first called for in our August 16, 2011 blog.
After all, in recent years in air disaster cases a system has been devised that provides for immediate monetary payments and emotional help for victims soon after a plane crash. The money for these immediate payments comes from the airline long before fault issues are decided. Under these circumstances, Indiana should adopt a similar system by making its $5 million damages fund immediately available without strings attached to the families who have fallen victim to this needless and senseless tragedy the Indiana government and others could have prevented. This will provide important financial assistance to those harmed for their accumulating accident related expenses while they pursue their additional legal claims for damages, and it should be the Indiana government’s highest priority at this time.