Stagehands union refutes state's fair collapse findings - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Stagehands union refutes state's fair collapse findings

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Stagehand Nathan Byrd was one of seven people killed in the collapse. Stagehand Nathan Byrd was one of seven people killed in the collapse.
INDIANAPOLIS -

The results of the investigation into the deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair is set to be released today, but 13 Investigates has uncovered who state investigators say is to blame for the deadly State Fair roof collapse.

"I just think it's reprehensible," said Bill Groth, attorney for IATSE Local 30. "The state ought to look in the mirror, because that's where the culpability begins."

Just hours before Indiana's Occupational Health and Safety Administration releases its findings into the August 13 collapse, IATSE Local 30, the local stagehands union under investigation says it is being blamed and used as a scapegoat.

"Local 30 is not an employer. They're a labor organization, a union," said Groth.

In an exclusive interview with 13 Investigates, Local 30 representatives reveal they're being accused of five violations.

"[This is] an attempt to deflect attention away from themselves," said Groth. "The State Fair Commission and State Fair personnel are ultimately responsible here.  And they're looking for scapegoats and we happen to be first in line."

For the last six months, IOSHA has been investigating the death of stagehand Nathan Byrd and the injuries to eight other union workers at the State Fairgrounds. The agency even issued a search warrant at union headquarters.

"They're making suggestions that we had some ultimate decision-making control over the manner that structure was erected and that's just blatantly absurd," Groth said.

It had to determine who actually employed the workers - the union or the State Fair Commission?

"They controlled the premises. They were responsible for ensuring the safety of everyone who came onto the State Fairgrounds," Groth said.

"The stage manager for Sugarland, according to their rules or the rider that they have with them, is the final say-so as to what happens.  So technically, are we working for them? We don't really...can't answer that.  But the check that pays the employees for that is issued by the Indiana State Fair Commission"

But in a one-page, handwritten document sent to union leaders, IOSHA writes, the "Employer did not maintain a log of injuries and illnesses or provide fall protection and training for heights greater than four feet. The employer did not conduct protective hazard assessments or determine soil conditions when placing guy-wires and anchors and finally, the employer failed to designate a competent person for construction of the load-bearing roof."

"The State Fair officials had ample warning and notice. They made the decision to proceed with the show. The winds obviously wreaked havoc on that roof structure, but now to suggest it was faultily constructed and that Local 30 had some responsibility for that, that's just outrageous," Groth said.

Now, for the first time, Local 30 business manager John Baldwin confirms a heated feud on the Sugarland stage as the storms rolled in. At issue is bringing stagehands Nathan Byrd, Enoch Vinnegar, Steve Stoyer and Kyle Covert down because of lightning.

"I had two people, members of mine who were on site, trying to argue the point to get our guys into safety and we were overruled," said Baldwin. "It's just comparable negligence on somebody's part to say, 'Stand by, we're going to start this show'."

The state is expected to file the official order against the Union and other possible entities Wednesday morning. Some of those additional findings will likely deal with the death of security guard Glenn Goodrich.

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