State Fair spokesman: Severe weather protocol was followed

Andy Klotz, Indiana State Fair

INDIANAPOLIS - State fair officials say they were following protocol regarding the decision to evacuate the grandstands at the Sugarland concert.

Andy Klotz, Indiana State Fair spokesperson, spoke about the moments leading up to Saturday night's tragedy at the fairgrounds where five people died and over 40 were injured.

Klotz says fair officials were following protocol, and that they faced the same situation the previous week on three different occasions when severe thunderstorms rolled in.

"At 8:45 the announcer went out there to make the announcement that we had directed him to make, which was that severe weather was on the way and that you can go seek shelter in the structures outside the grandstand. We directed them to three specific buildings right outside the grandstand in very near order. Some people took that advice and went to the Pepsi Coliseum and other places to escape the coming weather.

At the time, the announcer on stage did not realize that in a mere moment or two, we had made the decision to evacuate the grandstand and we were on our way to the grandstand to make that announcement, to find the announcer to make the announcement that this isn't just a suggestion - we are evacuating the grandstand. In those three minutes, that's when that undetectable straight line wind or weather phenomenon occurred and hit the stage and brought down the roof," Klotz said.

Regarding the decision not to evacuate sooner, Klotz said, "If you look at the damage, you'll see how isolated that was. That was the only thing that was affected - the roofing structure over the grandstand stage. The very large tent which is used for catering right next to the grandstand didn't have a flap out of place. We followed a protocol very directly. It was working. This was a freakish act of God and I don't know how it could have been prevented. We all want those answers, and we will look at everything we have in our policy and we will make sure we refine it to try and avoid this again."