Two years after the deadly Indiana State Fair stage collapse, new legal disputes are cropping up and victims are still working to recover.
Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. and subsidiary AGCS Marine, which insured equipment used by Sugarland and Sara Bareilles, filed a lawsuit in Marion County seeking to recover unspecified equipment-related losses, The Indianapolis Business Journal reported.
The defendants include the Indiana State Fair Commission, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 30, Mid-America Sound Corp. of Greenfield and seven other companies. The companies were involved in designing and erecting the temporary stage that collapsed amid powerful winds on Aug. 13, 2011, killing seven people and injuring nearly 60 others.
State Fair Commission spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland referred calls for comment to the Attorney General’s office, which represents the state in litigation. That agency’s spokesman, Bryan Corbin, said officials there had not seen the lawsuit and would respond in court.
Spokeswomen and attorneys for the union that set up the temporary stage and the company that designed it, James Thomas Engineering in Knoxville, Tenn., did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The stage collapse already has cost the state $11 million in compensation payments to victims or their families. Indiana limits legal claims against the state to $5 million total per incident, but state legislators last year approved an additional $6 million for victims. A charity fund raised another $1 million.
This year’s state fair is taking place without any large outdoor concerts at the grandstand or any big-name music acts. Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis hosted last year’s acts. Big shows are expected to return to the fair next year as indoor events when a $53 million renovation of the fairgrounds coliseum is completed.
One of the youngest of the nearly 60 people injured Maggie Mullin, who is now 5 years old – was uncomfortable during her first visit since then to an outdoor concert at the Newton County Fair last week before eventually warming up, said her mother, Laura Magdziarz.
Maggie suffered a badly gashed left arm that has healed over, but still hurts sometimes and is a little weaker than her right arm. She’s about to start kindergarten in the northwestern Indiana town of Morocco.
Magdziarz told The Indianapolis Star that she wants Maggie – and her two other sisters who were also at the state fairgrounds – to grow up without a fear of fun places like concerts.
“I’ve done everything I can with the girls to replace the bad memories with good ones,” said Magdziarz, who was also injured in the collapse and next week will undergo her sixth surgery since then.
Two investigative reports found the stage rigging that collapsed in high winds didn’t meet industry safety standards and that fair officials lacked a fully developed emergency plan.
Since then, the state fair has added two positions – a chief operating officer and a director of safety and security – who are directly involved in safety matters, said Andy Klotz, the fair’s spokesman.
“All of the things that we have implemented over the last two years are all attributed to lessons learned,” he said.