Updated: October 19, 2011 3:22AM
INDIANAPOLIS — The wind gust that toppled a stage at the Indiana State Fair Saturday night, killing five and injuring dozens of fans waiting for the country band Sugarland to perform, was a “fluke” that no one could have anticipated, the governor and others said Sunday.
The wind was far stronger than that in other areas of the fairgrounds, said Dan McCarthy, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Indiana. He estimated the gust at 60 to 70 mph.
Gov. Mitch Daniels said precautions were taken before the storm, but no one could have foreseen such a strong gust focused in one place. Some witnesses have said that while a storm was expected, rain had not begun to fall when the wind sent the stage rigging falling into the crowd of terrified fans.
“This is the finest event of its kind in America, this is the finest one we’ve ever had, and this desperately sad, as far as I can tell fluke event doesn’t change that,” Daniels said.
Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles sent a statement to the Associated Press through her manager, saying she watched recaps of the collapse on the news “in horror.”
“I am so moved,” she said. “Moved by the grief of those families who lost loved ones. ... Moved by the quickness and organization of the emergency workers who set up the triage and tended to the injured.”
Nettles and Kristian Bush, who perform as Sugarland, canceled their Sunday show at the Iowa State Fair.
Concert-goers said opening act Sara Bareilles had finished performing and the crowd was waiting for Sugarland to take the stage when the storm hit just before 9 p.m. They said an announcer alerted them that severe weather was possible and gave instructions on what to do if an evacuation was necessary. But the announcer also said concert organizers hoped the show would go on, and many fans stayed put.
Witnesses said dirt, dust, rain and wind came barreling up the fairground’s main thoroughfare minutes later and the stage collapsed.