Some State Fair victims left out of compensation fund - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Some State Fair victims left out of compensation fund

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Ken Feinberg Ken Feinberg
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INDIANAPOLIS -

Nearly a million dollars of public relief donations are now disbursed, and all of the money is going to families of the State Fair stage collapse.

The Indiana State Fair Commission divided up what's left. But half of those who filed claims for their injuries did not receive one dime.

The claims expert who devised the plan sat down to talk about the difficulty in turning dozens away.

The families of Glenn Goodrich, Alina Bigjohnny, Christina Santiago, Jennifer Haskell, Nate Byrd, Tammy Vandam and Meagan Toothman can't measure their losses.

"What is a life worth? What is a horrible physical injury resulting in hospitalization worth?" asked Washington, DC claims expert Ken Feinberg, trying to describe the difficulty in dividing up the Indiana State Fair relief fund.

The State Fair Commission decided it's worth a second round of payments for those who suffered most.

Unfortunately, it also means the injured, like stagehand Enoch Vinnegar who spent six hours in the emergency room after the stage collapsed with him in it, will not receive any of the remaining $400,000 donated by the public.

By phone, Enoch Vinnegar expressed disappointment.

Weeks ago, he sat down to talk about his knee surgery and ongoing back problems, showing 13 Investigates where his leg was cut down to the bone.

"I still have those injuries, and I'm still healing from the injuries," he said at the time.

"I do not for a minute minimize their injuries. There's a limited amount of money. You have to make Solomonic judgments as to how to distribute the money. Is it perfect? No. Would others think of a different way? Yes," said Feinberg, who developed compensation formulas following 9-11 and the Virginia Tech shootings.

He met with Enoch Vinnegar and another unnamed individual Monday morning.

Feinberg says the unnamed person had received funds, but didn't think it was enough.

Hours later, he sat down with the bottom line, and called the process fair but not perfect.

Here's how the fund was dispursed:

A total of $978,000 was collected from public donations. A total of 56 people filed claims only 28 people received money. Previously they were paid $564,000.

Monday, that same group of claimants will split another $400,000.

"That suggests you left half the people walking away with nothing," 13 Investigates said.

"Don't assume that the people that didn't ask for a meeting were unsatisfied with the protocol," Feinberg responded, even though he said he couldn't be sure one way or the other.

The State Fair Commission says it reached out to the 28 denied to explain the rules.

Commission Attorney John Trimble says some of those who didn't qualify were missing critical documentation, or were not actual claimants.

How many?

"At least a half a dozen," responded Trimble.

The clear majority, though, are in the same shoes as Enoch Vinnegar.

"I do think most people do appreciate what we had to do here, in some sort of rough justice," concluded Feinberg.

Most of the money paid out, nearly 87 percent went to the families of those who died and those with catastrophic injuries who required more than ten days hospitalization.

The State Fair Relief Fund will remain open for donations through October of next year. It's unclear at this time, how those donations or the $20,000 collected from text donations during the Sugarland concert will be handled.

The Attorney General's office is expected to release information about the negotiations for the State's $5 million liability fund in the coming weeks.

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