INDIANAPOLIS (BNO NEWS) — Five people were killed on Saturday and dozens more were injured when strong winds caused a stage to collapse at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis, officials said.
The incident occurred at around 8.49 p.m. local time when a massive gust of wind brought down an outdoor stage that was set up for a concert by the country music band Sugarland at the state fairgrounds. Dozens of concert-goers rushed to lift the wreckage and help those trapped underneath.
“The winds came, the big dust storm moved from the west and, no sooner than that, hit. The winds hit and the canopy over the stage was just like a big sail. It just picked it up, twisted it and right on top of everybody standing in front of the stage,” one witness told WTHR 13.
Indiana State Police First Sergeant Dave Bursten said five people were killed while 45 others were transported to hospitals with injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to fractures and severe head trauma. The youngest victim to be injured was a seven-year-old child.
The Marion County Coroner’s Office identified the youngest fatality as 23-year-old Alina Bigjohny from Wayne, Indiana. The other fatalities were identified as 42-year-old Tammy Vandam of Wanatah, Indiana, 49-year-old Glenn Goodrich of Indianapolis, 29-year-old Christina Santiago of Chicago, and 51-year-old Nathan Byrd of Indianapolis.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels expressed condolences to the families of the victims of the tragedy. “Indiana and the nation’s finest state fair suffered an unthinkable tragedy last night. Our first and final thoughts today will be with those we’ve lost and the families and friends of those we’ve lost in this terrible accident,” he said.
Sugarland posted a brief message on their Twitter account after the accident, saying: “We are all right. We are praying for our fans, and the people of Indianapolis. We hope you’ll join us. They need your strength.”
According to the National Weather Service, which had issued a severe thunderstorm warning 10 minutes before the accident happened, winds are estimated to having been between 60 to 70 miles (96 to 112 kilometers) per hour at the time of the accident, which is near hurricane strength. Preparations were being made to evacuate the area when the stage collapsed.
“The coordinating investigative agency is the Indiana State Police,” said Bursten. “Other investigative agencies are the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, the Marion County Coroner’s Office, the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Each agency will be investigating within the scope of their area of expertise.”
The Indiana State Fair is closed on Sunday but will resume at 8 a.m. local time on Monday with a Remembrance Ceremony at the Free Stage in the northwest corner of the fairgrounds.