No Evacuation Ordered in Fatal Festival Tent Collapse in Chicago Suburb

January 20, 2016

Police communications show law enforcement authorities were aware of a powerful August storm heading toward a suburban Chicago festival, but didn’t order an evacuation ahead of a fatal tent collapse, according to a newspaper report.

One person died and nearly two dozen others were injured in the Aug. 2 tent collapse in Wood Dale.

Authorities also didn’t direct people to a nearby school, despite having a tentative agreement to use the facility for shelter, according to a story in The Chicago Tribune. The newspaper cited 87 pages of documents and audio records from a 911 call and police communication obtained through an open records request.

Lawsuits on behalf of the victims allege that organizers shouldn’t have gathered visitors together under a poorly secured tent. Though the tent vendor, Classic Party Rentals, has denied the claims.

“They supplied tents, tables and various equipment,” attorney Michael Progar said of Classic Party Rentals, “but they obviously didn’t organize anything.”

The city of Wood Dale’s manager’s office and a committee of elected officials coordinate Prairie Fest, however the city isn’t a defendant in the lawsuits.

Patrick Moran, an attorney representing the city, said police officers didn’t direct anyone into the tent. He declined to discuss the lack of a formal evacuation.

Killed in the collapse was 35-year-old Steven Nincic of Wood Dale. Family members and attorneys for another person seriously injured, 81-year-old Lorraine Nocek of unincorporated Melrose Park, claim injuries led to Nocek’s Jan. 4 death.


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