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Indiana State Fair Marks One Year Since Fatal Stage Collapse

Indiana State Fair
Joey Foley, Getty Images

It’s been one year since the rigging above Sugarland’s stage toppled onto excited fans waiting for the band to begin their show at the Indiana State Fair. Seven were killed and dozens were injured in the tragic accident. Tonight (August 13), they’ll be remembered during a pause in the activities at the 2012 Indiana State Fair.

Executive Director Cindy Hoye tells Indiana Public Media that everything will stop at 8:46PM, the time the first response call took place. “We’re going to stop the carnival rides, the shuttle buses and we‘re going to pause as a family,” she says.

Five people were killed instantly when a heavy gust of wind ripped the roof off of the stage, which buckled the support system in place to hold the lights and speakers that extended over the first rows of fans. Alina BigJohny was a 23-year-old college graduate preparing to begin teaching English to middle schoolers. Christina Santiago was a celebrated advocate for gay rights. Tammy VanDam was a mother who was at the Sugarland show to celebrate her 42nd birthday. Forty nine-year-old Glenn Goodrich was working security at the show, as he’d done dozens of times before. Nathan Byrd — 51, from Indianapolis — was on top of a light rig when it fell.

BigJony’s sister, Christy Collins, recently told the Indiana News Center that she and her family will be at the remembrance Monday night. “I still, every single night, pray that God gives us all the strength because even though it seems like a year to everybody, to the families that went through it, and friends, it doesn’t seem like a year,” she says. “It seems like maybe a couple weeks, a month.”

In the days after the accident, 22-year-old Ball State University senior Jennifer Haskell and 24-year-old Meagan Toothman died from injuries.

Hoye says that the entertainment industry has learned from the mistakes made leading up to the collapse. “I‘ve read stories about people being far more careful when it comes to weather, evacuating audiences,” she says, adding that all of her staffers now have proper safety training.

There are no longer performances in front of the grandstand at the Indiana State Fair. Lawsuits are still pending to determine fault, but reports from two organizations cited the stage structure and security procedures as two areas that were deficient.

Sugarland have since been back to the fairgrounds to play for the victims and their families. They are named in lawsuits, but have denied being involved in decisions that lead to the injuries.

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