Fifth person dies after Indiana State Fair tragedy
INDIANAPOLIS - Five people are dead and over 40 are injured following a stage accident at the Indiana State Fair Saturday night.
Gov. Mitch Daniels, speaking to the media Sunday morning, called it an "unthinkable tragedy."
"Indiana and the nation's finest fair suffered an unthinkable tragedy last night. Our first and final thoughts today will be with those we've lost and the families and friends of those we've lost in this terrible accident," said Gov. Daniels.
Police identified those killed in the accident: Tammy Vandam, Glenn Goodrich, Alina Bigjohny, Christina Santiago, Nathan Byrd. Their families have been notified. (Click here for more details on the deceased.)
Forty-five were reported injured with anything from cuts and bruises to fractures and severe head trauma. The mother of a 17-year-old who suffered a broken back said her son may not walk again.
The Indiana State Fair is closed Sunday. All activities have been canceled. Indiana State Fair Executive Director Cindy Hoye said the fair will reopen Monday morning at 8:00 am with a special remembrance ceremony scheduled for 9:00 am at the Free Stage.
Hoye said that the majority of state fair programs will still occur, "but specific details on the concerts and other activities in the grandstands have not been finalized. We will continue to update you when we have definitive information."
The fair issued this statement on their homepage Sunday:
"You have no doubt heard about the tragedy that struck our fair Saturday evening. We mourn for the victims and their families and ask for your prayers. The fair will be closed on Sunday as we figure out how best to proceed.
We are currently planning to resume the fair in some form on Monday, August 15. More information on that is forthcoming. Thanks to all those who have assisted us and continue to do so in our time of need."
Hoye also said an investigation is underway.
"Today we are working with IOSHA who are looking at the contractor for the structure. We are also working with the state fire marshal's office to being their internal investigation of this temporary structure as well," she said.
True Hoosier heroes
State and fair officials praised the hundreds of people who went rushing to the aid of fellow concert-goers once the stage collapsed.
"What needs saying most about last night's freakish accident was that we saw on display the best qualities of both public and private Hoosiers. By every account the response by every responsible entity - Mayor Ballard's outstanding police and fire forces - our own Indiana State Police, the security force of the State Fair itself, emergency management personnel, was instantaneous and highly professional. It's equally important to say what I heard over and over and over again last night - that individual Hoosiers ran to the trouble, not from the trouble, by the hundreds, offering in many cases their own professional skills. I've heard it from everybody I've debriefed this morning. People rushing up, 'I'm a nurse, I'm a doctor, I'm a trained EMS responder.' But also people who simply pitched in," said Daniels, struggling to contain his emotions.
"It's the character that we associate with our state. People don't have to be paid to do it. We want to say thanks to each of you and I know that those who were rescued and those who would have been more seriously hurt without their help have family who are profoundly grateful today and I am on their behalf," the governor added.
"First and foremost, we continue to ask Hoosiers across the state for their continued thoughts and prayers for the family members of the deceased as well as the injured that are continuing to have aid rendered to them at local hospitals now," said 1st Sgt. Dave Bursten, Indiana State Police.
Hoye was backstage at the time of the collapse and was still visibly shaken by the traumatic events as she spoke to the media Sunday morning.
"We are very much in mourning the loss of the victims and we are praying with their families. It's a very sad day at the State Fair and our hearts are really breaking," Hoye said.
"Personally I was here right backstage and I want to also acknowledge the extraordinary efforts by the joint command center, IMPD, IEMS, IFD, State Police, the State Fair team, where safety is always number one."
"Our hearts are very, very heavy today. Personally, I saw those Hoosiers last night, governor. Extraordinary effort by countless people. I even had a woman grab my hand and said, 'let's pray for a minute," she added.