Monday, August 15, 2011

Third Stage Collapse in 5 Weeks Injures 45, Kills 6

Following the weather induced collapse of stages in Ottawa, Canada and Tulsa, Oklahoma, this event at the Indiana State Fair on Saturday, August 13, 2011 should be a wake-up call to promoters, Health and Safety administrators, and insurance companies that shoddy stage construction, ill-prepared emergency plans, and apparently non-existent weather monitoring by qualified individuals has to be curtailed.  Lives are at stake and people are being injured and killed.

More pictures and news reports about this most recent debacle can be found here:
ABC News:
CNN News: (Kudos for best video image!)

Further thought provoking commentary by this blogger and others can be found on fellow blogger's site: Jim On Light (

What has this author upset are the bone-headed attitudes that are portrayed by the participants and onlookers:  They seem to accept that these stage collapses are 'no big deal' or that they are somehow 'unforeseeable' or 'unpredictable' events.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels described the canopy collapse at the State Fair as a "freakish accident."  “I’m not clear how anyone could have foreseen a sudden, highly localized blast of wind,” Daniels said.  REALLY!?  NOT clear?  An he is the Governor of the state.  I guess an IQ test isn't a prerequisite for the job.  Has he not heard of weather radar?  Wind shear radar?  Wind Speed Radar?  Or maybe good old common sense:  "We can see a storm coming right at us, and it is a huge storm cloud, and we have 25 tons of lighting and sound gear suspended 60 feet in the air with a 1/4 acre sail attached to it while being supported by a dozen skinny aluminum truss columns"?  How does that work for you?  I'm not even sorry for saying this is stupid.  It is.

After the Tulsa, Oklahoma windstorm that tore a video display frame from the upstage area and sent it crashing to the ground, Ivins, the Flaming Lips' bassist, said the video-screen collapse was unpreventable. "It was a freak thing that happened," he said, adding that the Lips are working on repairing the rolling video screen for their next festival gig, in Somerset, Wisconsin, in about two weeks. "Maybe the stage could've been facing a different direction. We could have tied the screen down, but it would probably have taken the whole stage down. We try to take as many precautions as we can, all the time. It's just sometimes there's stuff out of your control. You just never know what's going to happen."  Really!?  Dang, dood, why do you even get out of bed in the morning (or maybe afternoon) if you don't know what is going to happen.  Yeah, life is unpredictable, but basic physics is VERY predictable.

These kinds of incidents (not accidents) ARE Predictable and Preventable.  It's called engineering, review, and planning.  We know weather happens.  We know it is powerful.  We know if something blows over or collapses and lands on someone it will very likely injure or kill them.  What is so hard to understand about this!?  With attitudes like those promulgated above, it is no wonder that more people don't get killed at concerts.

Demand more safety planning and review.  This stuff doesn't just 'happen' -- it happens when you DON'T plan for it.

Here is a superb article by William Gorlin that was published in October 2008 that addresses many of the structural and operational considerations of temporary structures:
A Mighty Wind (Load)

1 comment:

  1. Please note that there is an entertainment industry standard developed through the ESTA/PLASA Technical Standards Program that addresses the engineering and safety of Ground Supported Roof Stuctures.

    Here is the standard and description:

    ANSI E1.21-2006, Temporary Ground-Supported Overhead Structures Used To Cover Stage Areas and Support Equipment in the Production of Outdoor Entertainment Events, establishes minimum design and performance parameters for the design, manufacturing, use, and maintenance of temporary outdoor stage roofs. Roofs are useful for supporting audio and lighting equipment and for keeping sun and rain off performers and equipment at summer music festivals, but strong storms can turn them into missiles or rubble. E1.21 is designed to ensure that only violent storms are a problem and that appropriate safety measures are in place to prevent or limit damage when these storms arise.

    Note that this ANSI standard attempts to ensure that "safety measures are in place to prevent or limit damage when storms arise." The big question with all these disastrous failures is, Were there pre-planned safety measures in place and being followed when venue staff became aware that a severe weather event was approaching?"

    ANSI E1.21 - 2006 can be found aT:


    Steve Nelson
    3dx Scenic Studio
    Educational Theatre Association