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Remembering the Indiana State Fair stage collapse 10 years later

Rob Klinestiver, of McCordsville, and his then- 12-year-old daughter Leah were in the second row, waiting for the band when the stage came down.

INDIANAPOLIS — It was the single moment that changed so many lives forever.

And ten years later, Rob Klinestiver still remembers every single detail.

“I'm looking over my shoulder as the stage is coming down at us. It's like this slow-motion thing keeps coming and coming and coming. And I’m like ‘I can’t clear this thing,” he said.

Klinestiver, of McCordsville, and his then-12-year-old daughter Leah were in the second row, waiting for the band to take the state fair's main stage when the wind began to howl.

Within seconds, the stage rigging came crashing down as fans ran for cover.

“I was probably the last person to clear it without injury. It landed two feet behind me,” Klinestiver said.

The two feet that possibly saved their lives.

Credit: WTHR

In the seconds that followed, Klinestiver scrambled to get his bearings, told his daughter to get to safety, and then got straight to work.

“With my medical training, I guess I was in a good place to really start helping,” he recalled.

"Hey we got a doctor! Watch out!" someone is heard screaming on cell phone video as dozens of people work to free the injured.

For 90 minutes, Klinestiver, a critical care doctor, worked with all those others, including an off-duty state trooper and a nurse.

“I get out there and look at this woman and it starts pouring rain. And I look at the sky and say ‘Are you kidding me, God? What else?’ And right then, here come two paramedics with a gurney and the equipment we need. And I'm like, ‘All right. Got it,’” Klinestiver said, looking up to the sky.

Four people died that night along with three others in the days that followed.

But 58 were injured and survived. Among them, Maggie Mullen, who was just three years old at the time.

Klinestiver has kept in touch with Mullen and her mom.

Jaymie Polet and her mother Jill also survived, despite serious injuries that night.

“I broke both my legs. I had a torn Achilles and a skull fracture as well,” Jaymie told 13News in 2018.

Years later, the wounds have healed, and the bond between all of these one-time strangers has remained strong.

Each year, the Polets send cookies to the medical workers who treated them that night.

An image of the fallen scaffolding from the Sugarland stage setup at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in August 2011.

For the tenth anniversary, the Polets, who now live in New York, are flying back to Indianapolis to deliver cookies in person.

Klinestiver said it's important to come back and for Hoosiers to look back.

"(It's important to) reflect on what happened, to honor and remember those that died and those who were injured,” he said.

And to reflect on the good that happened that night.

"All the people who came in to help without thinking that they were putting themselves in danger,” he said. “I mean that rigging was unstable."

He believes there's another lesson to be learned for everyone.

"You never know, right? There are people who went to this concert and never went home," he said. “I've tried to keep that in mind and make the most of every day and be thankful of every day we’ve got."

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