Gov. Daniels hires outside firm to review fair procedures


INDIANAPOLIS - 13 investigates what a meteorologist says he recommended to state fair organizers as a storm closed in on the fairgrounds before Saturday night's Sugarland concert.

Also, the state has hired a crisis management team to join the investigation.

State Fair officials say they had made a decision about the weather Saturday night but did not get it announced to the crowd before a downburst struck, taking five lives and injuring many more. Meteorologist Paul Poteet, who was monitoring the weather for insurance purposes, said he was asked for his opinion of what fair officials should do.

"When they asked my advice I said I would delay the second part of the show of Sugarland coming on the stage, just to sort of wait the storm out and see what happened, because my feeling was even if they could get on they would to stop anyway I thought, because of the weather, so why not just wait," said Poteet.

The same weather system that struck with such ferocity in Indianapolis also passed through the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. They used the public address system to shut that fair down in ten minutes. In Ohio, the State Fair that was held from July 27th to August 7th was shut down no fewer than three times because of threatening weather.

In Texas the concert stage protocol is stated in the 49-page Emergency Procedure Manual. 30 mph  winds mean lowering of the retractable stage, scrims and speakers. 40 mph winds mean the concert is canceled.

The winds that struck the Indiana State Fairgrounds Saturday night were estimated at 70 mph.

"Because I oversee our state's counter-terrorism and security council, after every incident no matter how small or how large we took a look at what was in place.  What could be done differently," said Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman.

Even the National Weather Service concurs.

"I think their operations will be reviewed and our operations will be reviewed," said Dave Tucek, National Weather Service.

Outside firm hired

Meantime, Gov. Mitch Daniels has hired an outside firm to investigate the Indiana State Fair concert stage collapse that killed five people and injured more than 40 others.

That came after questions were raised about how objective the state could be in essentially policing itself.

Daniels' office said Thursday he contacted James Lee Witt, a former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to hire Witt Associates to conduct a "comprehensive, independent analysis of the state fair's preparedness and response" to the collapse.

Witt's company will provide a report to Daniels and his Fair Commission on state fair procedures and how decisions were made.

Attention has centered on how fair officials reacted to worsening weather conditions before a wind gust brought the stage down onto the crowd Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.