Victim compensation expert to help State Fair determine fund distribution

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INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana State Fair is bringing in a well-known expert to help them determine how to get hundreds of thousands of dollars to victims of the stage collapse.

13 Investigates first broke the news Tuesday that not one penny of that victims' fund had been distributed. Now there are new plans to get that money to the people who need and deserve it.

Those who were injured from the stage collapse say they need money now. Many can't work or have lost wages. They're having a tough time paying bills. Hoosiers have been generous, giving more than $263,000, but it could still take some time before anyone sees that money.

Beverly and Ned Yingst are seeing the damage firsthand for the first time. They're upset to hear the state will now administer the victims' fund.

"Any time you give stuff to the state or to the federal government you've lost it. You might as well not think about getting it back. It's all tangled up. It ought to be handled by individuals," said Beverly.

On Tuesday, Gov. Mitch Daniels signed an executive order transferring donations from the Central Indiana Community Foundation to the newly created Indiana State Fair Remembrance Fund. The state can give away money more easily than a foundation.

"The only purpose of the fund is to facilitate payments to the accident victims," said Andre Lacy, Indiana State Fair Commission chair.

But there's still no timeline for distribution. Kenneth Feinberg, who helped distribute victims' funds after 911, the Virginia Tech shootings and the BP oil spill will head up the Remembrance Fund.

Feinberg may be the nation's foremost expert in victims' fund allocation, but his work takes time. After Virginia Tech, it was about a year before victims saw any money. After 9/11, it took nearly three years.

In the past, victims have had to prove their involvement in the incident, income levels and losses from wages. The remembrance fund is separate from any lawsuit or settlement with the state.

"The pressure to get the money to the victims is there, and I think that rush will expedite the process," said State Sen. Jim Merritt (R), State Fair Commission member.

Feinberg will be working free of charge. In addition to divvying up the remembrance fund, he will also figure out how to divide $5 million, which is the maximum the state can pay out in any one incident. He has the grim duty of determining the value of a life or a person's injury, and he has quite a bit of experience.

Separately, Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced Wednesday that Feinberg will serve as a consultant to his office to develop a protocol for resolving legal claims filed against the state as a result of the accident.

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