INDIANAPOLIS – Two years have passed since the Indiana State Fair’s deadly stage rigging collapse, with surviving victims and the fair still dealing with the aftermath.
A memorial plaque at the fairgrounds grandstand honors the seven people killed when strong winds blew over the rigging just before a scheduled Sugarland concert on Aug. 13, 2011. The grandstand is no longer hosting large outdoor concerts, and this year’s fair that runs through Sunday doesn’t include any big-name music acts.
Those shows are expected to return next year as indoor events when a $53 million renovation of the fairgrounds coliseum is completed.
Fair spokesman Andy Klotz said the lack of concerts wasn’t expected to have a big impact on attendance for this year’s fair as concert goers accounted for an estimated 4 percent of the fair’s overall crowds in the past.
“It’s not a huge, huge impact but a lot of those people would not come to the fair otherwise so you’re exposing your event to those folks who maybe wouldn’t come,” Klotz told WISH-TV.
One of the youngest of the nearly 60 people injured – now-5-year-old Maggie Mullin – 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 also about to start kindergarten in the northwestern Indiana town of Morocco.
“Surprisingly, she is doing pretty well,” Magdziarz told The Indianapolis Star.
Magdziarz said 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,” she said.
Magdziarz also was injured in the collapse, suffering two leg fractures and three shredded ligaments. Two years later, Magdziarz is headed next week into her sixth surgery.
The state has paid out some $11 million to victims and their families from a compensation fund and lawsuits remain pending against Sugarland and the companies that made or set up the stage. 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.
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 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.