Fair officials in Indiana are suggesting the collapse of a stage at their State Fair was a “freakish act of God.” Sugarland was set to play but the wind hit just right to knock the scaffolding over and end result was five people dead and at least 40 injured. The article states that it’s the third such incident in the country this year. One happened in Oklahoma during a Flaming Lips concert but I don’t know where the other one was so I can’t search for specifics. Unless they meant three in North America?
Ottawa hosted a blues festival a few weeks ago where a stage blew down on Cheap Trick during a sudden storm. One report of someone with a pierced abdomen but no deaths.
A woman died at Alberta’s Big Valley Jamboree in August of 2009 when a speaker fell on her and news sources have been announcing the lawsuit coming up about that one. Three different companies are facing multiple charges regarding worker safety. The city of Camrose and the Jamboree organizers are also getting dinged and the family hopes $5 million will be rewarded.
Part of me thinks some of this has to do with the way people behave at concerts. If they’d stop crowding the stage they’d be far enough away from falling parts if something did happen to the setup. Stands to reason. Blame the set-up people for not having adequate barricades to keep fans away from a potential risk, or, in the case of the Jamboree, don’t sell tickets for the balconies closest to the stage. Then again, incident-free shows are far more likely to occur so why would organizers feel compelled to take extra steps for every performance? Sometimes it’s just hard to gauge if a cloud bank is going to deliver the money, as it were. A real windfall…
Outdoor stages like the one that collapsed are engineering feats: They must be portable and lightweight, yet support the weight of tens of thousands of pounds of equipment.
Industry standards for determining safe wind speeds are voluntary, and the building codes in many cities don’t give much guidance on temporary structures of this sort.
“It is inconsistent across the country,” said William B. Gorlin, vice president of the entertainment division of McLaren Engineering Group, which designed part of the stage for the current tour by Irish rock band U2. Mr. Gorlin said he wants state and municipal building inspectors to adopt his industry’s standards on building outdoor stages.
Cheap Trick has cancelled their set in Vancouver for September on account of the fact that the same company responsible for Ottawa’s BluesFest owns Vancouver’s equipment, too. While it’s unlikely to happen twice to the same band, I can see why they’d choose that route. Hopefully this incident will help push for better safety practices and smarter weather-sturdy designs.