Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!" - Ollie

StageCo has been sued in Texas state court by Christie Lites for damages sustained when a 90-foot lighting tower erected by StageCo collapsed prior to a nationally televised motocross event at the historic Fort Worth Stockyards in June, 2009.
Christie Lites, Plaintiff in the lawsuit styled Cause No. 096 246397 10; Christie Lites Dallas, Inc. d/b/a Christie Lites v. StageCo U.S., Inc.; In the 96th Judicial District Court in and for Tarrant County, Texas alleges that StageCo was negligent in the design and construction of the tower. A specialized lighting array and equipment owned by Christie Lites, elevated atop the tower was totally destroyed.

Christie Lites CEO Huntly Christie commented that it was extremely fortunate that the collapse of the tower occurred just days prior to the scheduled event, with only physical damage to the lighting array, grandstands, and general admission area.  Had the tower collapsed during the event it might have caused severe injury, and possible loss of life, to spectators and field personnel.  The tower collapse was initiated by wind gusts that blew as a storm passed through the area.  Engineering analysis of the structure, tie-downs, and other safety precautions have not been made public.

Christie Lites has an outstanding safety record in the industry.  Prior to this incident it has never had to take legal action against a fellow industry vendor.  Attempts to resolve this matter amicably have been frustrated since the filing of the lawsuit.

Tom Bilsen, Stageco Operations Manager states: “Stageco takes its responsibilities very seriously, we are fully insured, so all parties will be appropriately protected and reimbursed.  “Following this unfortunate incident we initiated our own investigation; there are multiple parties and multiple factors under consideration such as unpredicted wind gusts, and most importantly, there were no injuries. This law suit relates to the collapse of one of eight towers days before the event which took place as planned.  We anticipate the judges will need time to resolve this complex matter.”

Christie Lites is seeking actual damages in excess of $500,000, and to ensure that this type of incident does not jeopardize public safety for future events, $1,000,000 in punitive damages.  Actual damages likely include the actual cost and the lost revenue cost of the destroyed lighting equipment, and the extensive overtime labor required to clean-up the wreckage, ship-in new equipment, and set-up for the show a second time under a very compressed time-table.  There was no mention at this time of the costs or law suits by other show support vendors like those supplying the viewing stands, seating, or other nearby damaged structures.  The disassembly of a toppled structure is very hazardous, as well, and requires special precautions against additional worker injuries during the salvage and clean-up operations.

Inquiries or witnesses to the event should be directed to Scott Douglas Cunningham, The Cunningham Law Firm, 7500 San Felipe, Suite 1010, Houston, Texas; (713) 273-8950, counsel for Christie Lites.

The past few years have had numerous show tents, towers, and other venue structures that have been toppled by high winds and inadequate anchorage.  It should be no surprise that towers, canopies, and tents must be well secured against high winds.  Failure to provide adequate anchorage and structural integrity for temporary structures has resulted in numerous deaths, injuries, and significant property damage.

It is imperative that promoters, staging companies, and other industry professionals take note of the risks involved with outdoor events when it comes to the unpredictability of natural forces.  It is essential that someone be stationed where they can scan the horizon for threatening weather activity, have continuous access to weather radar reports, and have the authority to call a show and evacuate an event site should inclement conditions arise.  Event evacuation plans must have time-tables that estimate the amount of time required for an orderly egress from the venue, as you don't want patrons caught out in the open on the way to transportation or more robust shelters.
Physical threats to the public and staff alike include:
  • Hail ( a 4" ball of ice can do a lot of damage!  This blogger was witness to the 1995 MayFest Hail Storm in Fort Worth where hundreds of people could not get to safe shelter and were pelted by enormous ice balls - see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1995_Mayfest_Storm)
  • Wind (can blow people over and blow chairs, tables and other loose items into people)
  • Lightning (can knock-out power and emergency power, and electrocute people)
  • Rain (can provide a path for power to electrify nearby items, cause flooding of pathways and egress routes, and result in canopy collapses, cars and people being carried away in rushing water)
  • Dust (kicked-up by wind, can temporarily blind and cause panic due to reduced visibility)
An any of these weather threats can instigate crowd mentality panic and rushing for exits, which, in turn, can cause people to push, shove, and possibly crush someone that has fallen into the path of the surging crowd.  Proper Emergency Crowd Control Planning is a must for outdoor events.

Related Posts:

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget staging itself collapsing in wind, as happened in this nearby incident which had deadly consequences: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/08/02/stage-collapse.html