Civil engineer comments on stage collapse


WEST LAFAYETTE - Seven different agencies are at the scene of the stage collapse trying to figure out what could have caused the Indiana State Fair tragedy to happen. An engineer that pointed out a few potential problems with the rigging.

Investigators spent the day sifting through the debris which has not been moved after it fell Saturday night. Several agencies or groups will be conducting investigations into what happened.

Mid-America Sound Corp. of Greenfield, the company that set up the stage, is conducting its own probe. The Indiana attorney general's office, the state fire marshal, Indiana Occupational Safety and Health and the Marion County coroner's office are also conducting their own investigations under the auspices of the Indiana State Police.

Dr. Mark Bowman is a professor of civil engineering at Purdue University's Bowen Laboratory for Structural Safety.

"Lateral bracing is provided in brace-type structures where you'd have physical horizontal braces. Sometimes in a temporary structure like this you might use something like cables that wouldn't be very visible," he said.

Dr. Bowman couldn't tell from looking at images of the scaffolding before the collapse if there were cables present. If there weren't, "it could be important in that unless those towers have enough lateral strength in and of themselves. I assume an engineer looked at this initially and checked that."

Permanent and temporary structures like the one that collapsed Saturday night are designed to withstand winds of 70 mph. That standard is set by regions throughout the country.