Sugarland, state fair director have different accounts of stage collapse


Country duo Sugarland has denied negligence claims against it, responding to a lawsuit by saying that a fatal stage collapse last year at an Indiana State Fair was "a true accident, or act of God."

See the full response here.

Several families of victims from the August incident have filed a lawsuit against Sugarland, contending it was negligent in the stage collapse that left seven people dead and more than 40 injured.

The incident occurred after a storm toppled scaffolding just as the country band was about to take the stage.

In its response, Sugarland contended that the incident was caused by a "gust of wind of unprecedented intensity," according to court documents.

The band also said "they had nothing to do with the construction of the venue" and did not have the final say if the show should happen or not.

Earlier this month, Indiana State Fair Commission paid a $6,300 fine imposed after state workplace safety regulators concluded the fair failed to conduct an adequate safety evaluation at the fairgrounds.

Also the Indiana Department of Labor has announced penalties totaling $80,800 in the incident, saying various companies and the state fair itself failed to comply with safety precautions. Mid-America Sound, the company that built the stage, and the stagehands union, were fined.

Court and state documents reveal differing accounts of what happened.

In an affidavit from a lawsuit against one company, the fair's executive director, Cynthia Hoye, said she twice sent the show's promoter to talk to Sugarland in an effort to delay the show and they insisted they wanted to go on. That's according to Hoye's deposition.

But in a separate document contained in a state report on the incident, Sugarland tour manager Helen Rollins said no one asked the band to delay its set.

The lawsuit, filed last November, seeks unspecified damages.

In a related story, an Indiana House committee is set to consider a proposal to require that all large, temporary outdoor stages pass inspections before they are used for performances.

The House public safety committee has a public hearing set for Tuesday on the bill. The state Senate approved it last month.

Some lawmakers say they were surprised to learn that no inspections were required for the large stage that collapsed August 13 at the state-owned fairgrounds.

Bill sponsor Senator Tim Lanane of Anderson says lawmakers are working to ensure that statewide standards don't interfere with inspection regulations that exist in some cities, including Indianapolis.

(CNN iReporter Jessica Silas and Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)