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Update: 5 dead in Indiana fair stage collapse

August 14, 2011

Fans waiting to see Sugarland run away after high winds blew the stage over at the Indiana State Fair Grandstands, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, in Indianapolis. About a dozen people are reported to have injuries after the stage collapsed. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Matt Kryger)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Authorities say they have confirmed at least five deaths after a stage collapsed during a storm at the Indiana State Fair, where the country group Sugarland was set to perform.

About two dozen people have been reported injured in the Saturday night incident at the fairgrounds in Indianapolis. Strong winds caused the stage rigging for the outdoor concert to collapse, trapping and injuring concert-goers shortly before 9 p.m.

Indiana State Police did not immediately return phone messages to The Associated Press. But the Indianapolis Star and WTHR are reporting that three people have died. They initially were reporting that four had died, but later changed their reports to three dead based on information released by authorities.

Four people were killed and a dozen injured after a stage collapsed during a storm Saturday night at the Indiana State Fair, where the country group Sugarland was set to perform, the Indianapolis Star and WTHR reported.

Strong winds caused the stage rigging for the outdoor concert to collapse at the fairgrounds in Indianapolis. Fans were trapped and injured in the incident shortly before 9 p.m. It happened before the band had taken the stage.

Details on the conditions of those injured were not immediately known. Indiana State Police told The Associated Press they were still working to gather information and did not have anything to release yet.

Emergency crews were called to the scene. Workers were setting up a command center to tend to those who were injured.

Thousands of concert-goers were being evacuated to a nearby building because of high winds when the rigging for the stage fell onto the track where some were seated.”It was like it was in slow motion,” concert-goer Amy Weathers told the Indianapolis Star. “You couldn’t believe it was actually happening.”

Those who were injured were being moved to a tunnel below the stage, the Star reported. A hole was being dug to try to reach those trapped beneath the rigging.

Associated Press photographer Darron Cummings was in the audience attending the concert as a fan shortly before the collapse. He said an announcer gave the crowd instructions on how to evacuate if the weather worsened, but said they hoped to get Sugarland on stage soon.

Cummings said he and his friends went ahead and sought shelter in a nearby barn after seeing the weather radar.”Then we heard screams. We heard people just come running,” Cummings told the AP.

Witnesses told WTHR that some of the injured were in a VIP section in front of the stage known as the “Sugar Pit.” The witnesses said a wall of dirt, dust, rain and wind came up the main thoroughfare of the fairgrounds just before the collapse.”Panic kicked in when they seen the dust bowl coming in from the Midway,” concert-goer Darryl Cox told WTHR.

Another person at the concert, Emily Davis, told WTHR that there was lightning and the sky had gotten dark but it wasn’t raining when the wind suddenly toppled the rigging.

“It was horrible, people were running and going crazy,” she said.

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