Questions are continuing to pile up in the days following the tragic Indiana State Fair stage collapse that claimed six lives and injured many more. Unfortunately, few answers have been provided, especially in regards to the fair’s handling of the situation of the incoming storm, in light of severe thunderstorm warnings issued by the National Weather Service.
Using words like “freakish,” “unforeseeable” and “fluke,” officials have tried to shift blame away from themselves and make the whole tragedy seem to be an accident that could not have been prevented in any way. However, it appears that they are at least responsible for not following their own documented protocol, or, according to many, simple common sense. A spokesperson for the fair admitted as such, before refusing to give any more interviews regarding the weather or other aspects of the incident.
Now, video has been released of the announcement made by officials minutes before the stage fell. The crowd of 12,000 was told that evacuation was a possibility, but it was never shared that a severe thunderstorm warning had been announced by the National Weather Service.
In the video, taken on a concertgoer’s cell phone, the announcer comments on the clouds building to the west, but also tells the crowd to enjoy the show and that they are hoping that the country duo Sugarland, the headliner, will be on stage soon. The full video is available on YouTube.
According to Jason Puma, a meteorologist working for the National Weather Service in Indianapolis, the whole point of issuing severe weather warnings is to give people time to take cover and be safe. Puma stated that the fair had been calling for updates about once per hour up until about 8:00 p.m., then stopped calling when the storms strengthened. He mentioned that they did not hear from the fair again until after the stage had collapsed. The fair had their own meteorologist onsite, as well, to provide updates.
Puma expressed his frustration that despite issuing the warning, the strongest thing the Weather Service can do, lives were still lost. “Our main goal here is to protect lives and property,” he said.
Forecasters have stated that huge gusts like the one that downed the stage are very common before thunderstorms, particularly in the Midwest. In fact, a 77 miles per hour gust was recorded in Plainfield just minutes prior to the collapse of the stage.