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Daniels: Changes Planned in Response to Stage Collapse

From the Associated Press

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is outlining a handful of changes the state is taking following last year’s deadly state fair stage collapse.

Daniels says he has ordered the state Department of Homeland Security to begin reviewing temporary outdoor structures like the stage rigging that collapsed Aug. 13.

He also said firings at the state fair commission could be a part of an overhaul he’s now considering. He did not say whether that included State Fair director Cindy Hoye.

An independent investigation released last week found the state fair had no clear chain of command for deciding when to evacuate fans. A separate probe found that the rigging which killed seven people and injured close to 60 people was not built to withstand the 59-mph winds that knocked it down.

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Sugarland To Testify Next Week In Stage Collapse Suits

From the Associated Press

Members of the country duo Sugarland will give video depositions from West Virginia next week in lawsuits over the Indiana State Fair stage collapse that killed seven people and injured dozens of others.

Sugarland members Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush will testify April 12 and 13 from Charleston, West Virginia.

The testimony will focus on whether Sugarland resisted delaying the start of their Aug. 13 concert despite threatening weather. The stage and rigging collapsed onto fans amid high winds ahead of a thunderstorm.

A judge ordered the depositions last month in lawsuits against Mid-America Sound Corp., the company that owns the stage and rigging that collapsed.

Mid-America denies it did anything to warrant the stage collapse.

(Photo from www.sugarlandmusic.com)

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Hearing Set on Sugarland Deposition Request

A hearing is scheduled tomorrow in Indianapolis on a request that the country music duo Sugarland give depositions in lawsuits over last year’s deadly Indiana State Fair stage collapse.

Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush say they want to wait until May to testify because they’re preparing to tour. But attorneys for the company that built the stage rigging involved in the August 13 collapse want them to be deposed next week.

A Sugarland spokesman says Nettles and Bush aren’t refusing to give depositions but “are simply refusing to be bullied into doing so on short notice.”

Seven people died and dozens more were injured when the stage rigging collapsed in a gust of wind as Sugarland was preparing to take the stage.

(Information for this story came from the Associated Press)

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Local News Politics

Indiana General Assembly Winding Down

With information from the Associated Press

Indiana lawmakers are working toward final agreement on several tax and spending issues in the last days of this year’s legislative session.

House and Senate budget leaders have agreed on a plan to prohibit school districts from charging fees for full-day kindergarten in a bill directing millions of dollars in state money to the program. That bill also makes a one-time additional payment of $6 million for victims of last summer’s deadly state fair stage collapse.

Negotiations continue on the proposed phase-out of the state inheritance tax and changing the automatic taxpayer refund championed by Gov. Mitch Daniels so that the state would need more money in the bank before refunds would kick in.

And a panel of lawmakers continues negotiations on a compromise statewide smoking ban.

Legislative leaders are planning to adjourn the 2012 session this week.

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Sugarland Lawyers: Fans’ Inaction Led To State Fair Injuries

From the Associated Press:

Attorneys for the country duo Sugarland say the injuries fans suffered in a deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair were “their own fault.”

Sugarland’s attorneys say some or all of the injuries happened because fans failed to take steps to ensure their own safety before high winds toppled stage rigging onto the crowd awaiting the band’s Aug. 13 concert.

Seven people died and 58 were injured.

In a Feb. 16 response to a civil suit filed in November, they also say fair officials and stage rigging builder Mid-America Sound Corp. were responsible for the stage setup. They call the wind that toppled the structure an “act of God.”

Sugarland’s attorneys are seeking a jury trial. The stage collapse is the focus of several investigations.

The band later issued a statement, saying it’s devastated that people “want to point fingers and try to sensationalize” the tragedy, and that its fans are the “single most important thing” to the duo.

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Local News Politics

OSHA Issues Citations, Fines For Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse

From the Associated Press:

The Indiana Labor Department says the company that built the stage ahead of last summer’s deadly state fair collapse showed “plain indifference” to safety standards.

Commissioner Lori Torres said today that Mid-America Sound Corporation has been cited with three major safety violations in connection with the collapse of outdoor stage rigging in high winds that killed seven people Aug. 13. A crowd had gathered at the stage to see the country duo Sugarland perform.

The department issued a $63,000 fine against the company.

It is also citing the Indiana State Fair Commission and a stagehands union for safety regulation violations.

Officials say the commission failed to conduct proper safety evaluations of its concert venues. Smaller fines were issued against the fair and the union.

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Stage Collapse Report To Be Released Wednesday

From the Associated Press:

Indiana regulators will release a report Wednesday on their investigation into August’s deadly stage rigging collapse at the Indiana State Fair.

The state Department of Labor said today that the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s findings will be released during a Wednesday morning briefing at the Statehouse.

The briefing will include an outline of IOSHA’s findings and the announcement of any safety orders issued as a result of its probe.

Seven people died and 58 were injured after the stage rigging collapsed Aug. 13 during high winds at the state fairgrounds.

Two out-of-state companies hired by the state are also reviewing the collapse and the state’s emergency response to the disaster.

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Nearly All Stage Collapse Claimants Accept Indiana Settlement Offers

The Indiana Attorney General’s office says all but two of the claimants from last summer’s state fair stage collapse will accept settlement offers from the state.

Spokesman Bryan Corbin says 63 claimants have confirmed they’ll accept the offers, including the estates of seven people killed in the August 13 incident just prior to a Sugarland concert.

The other 58 will be compensated for their injuries, based on severity.

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Local News Politics

Payment Offers Made To Indiana Stage Collapse Victims, Families

From the Associated Press

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is offering payments of $300,000 to the families of the seven people who died after a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair, with more available for those who were hospitalized for days before their deaths.

Zoeller says the rest of the money from the state’s $5 million tort fund will go to those injured in the collapse.

The payments announced today were set in consultation with claims expert Kenneth Feinberg and with victims’ lawyers based on medical expenses submitted to the state.

The offers must be accepted or rejected by Monday.

The state’s liability for the Aug. 13 collapse before a Sugarland concert is capped by law at $5 million. Some victims are challenging that cap and an Indianapolis lawmaker says he wants it changed.

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Certain Indiana State Fair Concerts Moving Indoors

In response to the August stage collapse that killed seven people, the Indiana State Fair Commission is moving outdoor concerts indoors for next year’s fair.

Strong winds toppled rigging in an outdoor stage at this year’s fair in Indianapolis. In addition to the seven deaths, dozens of people were injured.

Next year, big-name concerts will be held indoors at the Conseco Fieldhouse. The venue is several miles away from the fairgrounds, but a free shuttle will be offered. Smaller concerts will still be held at the fairgrounds, though the commission hasn’t decided what to do with the grandstand on which the stage collapsed.