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2011: ISP releases timeline of Indiana State Fair stage collapse

Posted at 4:16 PM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-11 17:40:27-04

Editors Note: This story was originally published on Aug. 15, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana State Police released a timeline of events that led up to the collapse of the stage at the Indiana State Fair, resulting in the deaths of five people and 45 more people being injured.

ISP 1st Sgt. Dave Bursten said the timeline is a key part of the investigation of the collapse that involves the Indiana Attorney General's Office, the Marion County Coroner's Office, the Indiana State Fire Marshal's Office, and the Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

The timeline indicates that Indiana State Fair officials first contacted the National Weather Service in Indianapolis for a fair-weather update on Saturday evening about 5:30 p.m., less than 30 minutes before the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma issued a severe thunderstorm watch that included Indianapolis.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, NWS in Indianapolis told fair officials that a thunderstorm would be in the area of the fairgrounds between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and that the storm would have heavy rain, lightning, strong winds, and hail of up to 2 inches, according to the timeline released by ISP.

Fair staff was told of the severe thunderstorm watch by an auto-dialer shortly after 7 p.m. and again a little after 8 p.m., according to information provided by ISP.

At 8:30 p.m., ISP officers were moved to the grandstand to assist security and other personnel in the evacuation of concert attendees.

A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Marion County at 8:39 p.m.

At 8:45 p.m., the concert emcee announced to attendees that severe weather was moving in, and attendees were told "how and where to seek shelter," according to the released timeline.

The stage collapsed at 8:49 p.m., four minutes after the announcement from the stage.

Within a minute, the Indiana Fire Department was alerted of "a collapse with injuries at the fairgrounds."

At 8:51 p.m., IFD workers who were on-site responded to the collapse, and additional IFD and EMS units were dispatched to the scene.

By 8:54 p.m., crews had confirmed a collapse with multiple injuries, according to ISP's timeline.

At 8:55 p.m., the Indianapolis Metro Police Emergency Response Group arrived at the scene of the collapse.

The Marion County coroner was called to the collapse at 9:06 p.m., and power was cut to the stage at 9:13 p.m.

Someone from the coroner's office arrived at the scene at 9:15 p.m.

At 10:03 p.m., the incident was upgraded to a "Mass Casualty Incident Level 3."

Two minutes later, all patients had been transported from the scene, including all five who died.

Indiana Task Force One was called to search the rubble at 10:26 p.m., with the search beginning a half-hour later.

At 11:27 p.m., the search was completed, and rescue operations concluded at 11:46 p.m., ISP said.

A secondary search of the Indiana State Fairgrounds was completed at 1:53 a.m. Sunday.

The investigation will be exhaustive, including multiple agencies.

"Investigations of this nature can take weeks or months to complete, and there will be no information released related to specific aspects of this ongoing investigation," Bursten said.

Each of the agencies involved will work within the scope of their expertise.