Monday, July 18, 2011

Ottawa BluesFest Stage Canopy Collapses During Storm

Sunday, June 17, 2011, Ottawa, Canada - A storm blew over an outdoor concert and collapsed the stage canopy on Sunday afternoon.  Three people suffered minor injuries, and the remainder of the show was cancelled.  Here is a mobile phone video shot by Ben DiTommaso:

This really shows how fast a weather event like this can take down a structure.

The extensive article in the Ottawa Citizen ( describes the storm's arrival and the crowd management issues.  It is interesting that the local weather reports indicated a fast approaching (100 km/h) system with wind gusts up to 140 km/h. Yet the Festival director, Mark Monahan, referred to the storm as "an unexpected event."  The question needs to be asked as to why the organizers didn't consider evacuating the site earlier?  It was easy to see from the weather information available that the system was going to pass right over the city.  This would have been an excellent opportunity to use the big video screens to announce the impending weather and request that the crowd take-cover.  Event organizers should have pre-composed informational video frames and audio announcements to address this, and other emergency information.

Additional videos, interviews, and and print coverage can be found at the CTV news web site:

As mentioned in previous posts, it takes time to clear an area and secure stage canopies and towers, so there MUST be a willingness and effort on the part of the show management to pre-emptively protect the public.  If one of the tall towers that were supporting the speakers were to have blown-over onto the crowd, the injuries could have been substantial.  NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF MOTHER NATURE.

Follow-up:  2012-11-21:


  1. John Huntington's 'Control Geek' Blog also provides some excellent weather assessment for this event. Check it out at:

  2. July 9, 2012 - Ontario Ministry of Labor authorities have concluded their investigation of the July 18, 2011 stage collapse of a Groupe Berger-made staging structure during a Cheap Trick performance that injured three people, and determined that there was no evidence of structural issues contributing to the collapse. Instead, the blame for the incident was put on freakish weather, and no individuals or companies are being charged with wrongdoing.

    Groupe Berger’s Stéphane Berger expressed relief with the findings and reaffirmed the company’s efforts to provide structures that will withstand stronger winds. “We will always remember this event and will use it to prevent other events” from happening.”

    Organizers for the 2012 Bluesfest have reinforced the main stage with 308,000 pounds of concrete ballast — more than 100,000 pounds more than what is normally deemed sufficient. They have also re-oriented the position of the stage in hopes of cutting potential wind resistance, and they hired engineers to inspect all six stages and meteorologists to monitor the weather during events as an extra precaution.