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Sugarland’s Tour Manager Becomes the Focus of Indiana State Fair Lawsuit

Sugarland
Brad Barket, Getty Images

The focus of the Sugarland lawsuit concerning the August stage collapse at the duo’s Indiana State Fair show is now turned away from the band and instead pointed at their tour manager, Hellen Rollens — the very woman credited with saving the lives of every band member that tragic day.

Lawyers representing the families of the seven people who died, as well as the dozens of people who were injured, are seeking damages, but in order for them to get retribution, the blame has to be pinned somewhere and on someone. Fingers have pointed from Sugarland to the State Fair to the company that built the stage rigging, which was later found to be ill constructed and not up to code.

Fair officials are claiming they had a promoter go to the band twice with weather concerns and the suggestion to postpone, but were twice told the band would play in the rain. In Jennifer Nettles’ videotaped deposition last week, the singer said she didn’t know what message was relayed to fans about the show. Both Nettles and Bush claimed they were never asked to delay the show, according to the Huffington Post.

“I don’t feel it’s my responsibility or my management’s responsibility to evacuate the fans in case of danger. Do I care about their safety? Absolutely,” Nettles said. When asked if she blamed her fans for waiting so long, she responded, “No. Of course not.”

In February, the fair’s executive director, Cindy Hoye, claimed that she asked the band’s representative Eric Milby to delay the show. A report released last week suggested that Milby and Rollens did consider postponing, but that ultimately Rollens said the band would go on. When she kept Sugarland backstage for a moment before the show for a prayer circle, the rigging collapsed and it was that decision on Rollens’ part that saved the lives of every band member.

Attorney Kenneth J. Allen, who is representing victims of the stage collapse, still holds that the ultimate responsibility lies with the band, saying, ”I think the plot will thicken on the part of Hellen Rollens, but I think at the end of the day, she’s an employee. The band had the ultimate authority to say we’re not performing, and Kristian Bush admitted as much.”

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