Usually, the Indiana State Fairgrounds are alive and sunny with activity on an August Sunday. Instead, this morning the mood was gray and somber as the skies above. All because of the tragic events of Saturday evening.
I was there in person when a very somber Governor Mitch Daniels, accompanied by First Lady Sheri Daniels, Indiana State Fair Executive Director Cindy Hoye and officials from the Indiana State Police and other agencies held an emotional press conference Sunday in the wake of the tragedy at the fairgrounds’ Grandstand.
Officials announced hat the Fair will resume operations tomorrow (Monday). The fairgrounds will open at 8am. There will be a special Remembrance Service at 9am at the Free Stage to honor those who died and were injured where the stage rigging at the fair’s Grandstand collapsed yesterday (Saturday) night during a freakish windstorm.
Five persons died in the tragedy. There were: Nathan Bryd, 51 and Glenn Goodrich, 49, of Indianapolis; Tammy Vandam, 42 of Wanatah, Indiana (near LaPorte in northwest Indiana), Alina Bigjohny, 23, Ft. Wayne and Christina Santiago, 29, of Chicago. Forty-five persons were injured and transported to area hospitals.
I walked over to the Grandstand and saw the aftermath. Hundreds of those wooden folding chairs out in a huge pile on the muddy grandstand’s track. The crumpled aluminum stage rigging. Normally it stands every stories tall. Now just a pile of twisted metal on the ground. Mostly on the concrete stage, but some lying in the track where people were sitting and where lives were lost and folks hurt.
The musical group Sugarland still had several semi trailers which held their equipment, rigging, lights and video screens. Much of which is twisted wreckage now.
At the press conference, Governor Daniels praised police, fire and medical first responders for their quick actions and heroism but also praised the selfless efforts of Hoosiers. “We saw the best qualities of public and private Hoosiers”, said Daniels. “The response by everyone was outstanding, instantaneous and highly professional.
“Hoosiers ran to the trouble by the hundreds to help, “a visibly moved Daniels said.
Fair Executive Director Hoye was backstage when the stage rigging collapsed. She was rescued from dander by a State Police Captain. Hoye said that the Fair was working with the Indiana Office of Occupational Health and Safety, along with the State Fire Marshall to determine what happened. Mid-America was the company that erected the stage rigging. The company has worked with the fair o for over ten years on the stage rigging at the both the Grandstand and the fairground’s Free Stage.
Speaking of the tragedy Hoye said “hearts are heavy” and she also praised first responders and spectators for their efforts.
Regarding upcoming events at the grandstand, Hoye said that the future of those events “have not yet been finalized”.
We’ll have more about the tragedy at the Fairgrounds tomorrow on Afternoons with Amos at 1pm.