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Setting the Stage for Tragedy: Causes of Temporary Structure Collapses

Over the years, holding special events outdoors has become increasingly popular, from backyard weddings to the Bonnaroo Music Festival. But while many property owners have the space to hold an event, they may not have the permanent structures necessary to accommodate their needs or the needs of attendees. In such cases, event hosts may choose to set up temporary structures, such as stages, tents, and kiosks, to fit the event. Unfortunately, if these structures are incorrectly assembled, defective, or used in dangerous conditions, people can be severely injured or even killed. Potential causes of a temporary structure collapse include:

  • A mistake made during construction or assembly
  • Missing, worn, or damaged parts
  • Failure to account for weather conditions that could compromise the structure’s integrity
  • The structure is not designed to accommodate the number of people using it
  • The ground is not suitable to support the structure

While it is easy to picture the devastating aftermath of a high rise building or interstate bridge collapse, it may be harder to envision the serious damage that can be caused by the collapse of a stage, tent, or other temporary structure. That is, until we saw footage of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse, which occurred last August.

The large temporary stage was erected for a concert to be given by the country music duo Sugarland, but before the band took the stage, a large gust of wind toppled hanging equipment and the entire structure collapsed into the crowd of concertgoers below. Tragically, seven people died and dozens were injured.

Last week on November 22, victims along with families of the deceased filed a lawsuit accusing Sugarland, the concert producer Live Nation, ESG Security, the stagehands union, and other companies involved in the concert of negligence. While investigators are still analyzing the wreckage to determine the exact cause of the collapse, the suit alleges that the defendants failed to build a safe stage and should have done a better job of monitoring weather reports.

Construction Defect & Disaster Expert Witness

Event holders have a responsibility to provide and maintain a safe environment for guests. Pierre Handl, P.E. evaluates disasters in California and nationwide, determining if faulty construction or building failures contributed to a catastrophe. If you are involved in such a case and need a structural expert to advise you or appear as an expert witness, contact Engineering Expert Witnesses today for a free initial consultation.

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