Families respond to IOSHA State Fair findings

Glenn Goodrich and Nathan Byrd

What's ahead for the survivors and the families of those killed in the Indiana State Fair stage collapse? The results of the investigation could guide dozens of legal battles for compensation.

The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration's investigation focused on the deaths of two workers caused by the collapse of the stage at the State Fair.

Glenn Goodrich and Nathan Byrd both were killed while on the job. Attorney Carl Brizzi, who represents Heather Goodrich, Glenn's widow, says the findings set the stage for further litigation.

"It's more evidence that the decision to evacuate was not made in a timely manner. It's more evidence that weather reports were not heeded. More evidence that the stage was not erected or secured properly," said Brizzi.

So the question remains: What role will this report play?

"It could be helpful to the plaintiffs in proving fault. Before there is liability you still need to connect the fault to the incident, so the findings by IOSHA do not guarantee there would be liability against any of the companies that were the subject of the findings. But if I were on the plaintiffs' side of the lawsuit that would be favorable for me to bring into the litigation because it could be useful toward establish negligence," said Andrew Klein, IU law professor.

Goodrich was working for ESG Security at the time of his death. ESG was not mentioned in the IOSHA findings. Nathan Byrd was employed by International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees local 30. He was in his seat at the very top of the structure running lights when it toppled to the ground.

His brother Randy already knew in his heart last August what the IOSHA report would reveal.

"If they saw there was a storm an hour and a half away, they should have canceled. They didn't do that. It was poor judgment, poor management, poor organization, you know, a bad call," said Randy Byrd.

For its part, IOSHA levied nearly $80,000 in fines - a paltry sum compared to the loss of two lives. But Jeffry Carter, Deputy Commissioner of Labor, said the fines addressed workplace violations only.

The two ongoing investigations may change that. Witt Associates is exploring the fair's preparedness and response to the tragedy. Thornton Tomasetti Inc. is probing the design and construction of the stage.