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Meeting planned over safety improvements at Indiana State Fair

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:36 PM EST, Fri February 10, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Indiana State Fair organizers to meet with state workplace safety officials
  • Documents reveal differing accounts of what happened before August 2011 stage collapse
  • State fair officials pay fine levied by workplace safety board, create emergency management job

(CNN) -- Indiana workplace safety regulators will meet with representatives of the Indiana State Fair sometime in the next two weeks to discuss safety improvements in the wake of last August's fatal stage collapse just before a Sugarland concert, a Department of Labor spokesman said Friday.

The Indiana State Fair Commission requested the meeting on Thursday, said Labor Department spokesman Bob Dittmer.

Also on Thursday, the commission paid the $6,300 fine imposed by the Indiana officials after state workplace safety regulators concluded the fair failed to conduct an adequate safety evaluation at the fairgrounds. It's that evaluation state fair officials will discuss with the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Dittmer said.

The commission has created a new emergency management position and conducted emergency evacuation training for state fair employees. But Dittmer said IOSHA officials have been focused on investigating the fatal August 2011 accident and can't yet say if the commission has done all it needs to do.

Seven people died and more than 40 were injured when a storm toppled scaffolding just as the country band Sugarland was about to take the stage.

On Wednesday, the Indiana Department of Labor announced penalties totaling $80,800 in the incident, saying various companies and the state fair itself failed to comply with safety precautions.

Two workers were among those killed in the collapse.

Sugarland was not cited by IOSHA. According to Labor Commissioner Lori Torres, the band did not come under the scope of the agency's enforcement.

Meanwhile, court documents released this week show the ongoing legal battle over the collapse.

In an affidavit from a lawsuit against one company, the fair's executive director says she twice sent the show's promoter to talk to Sugarland in an effort to delay the show.

Twice the answer came back -- we want to go on, according to the deposition by Cynthia Hoye, the executive director of the state fair.

But in a separate document contained in the IOSHA report on the incident, Sugarland tour manager Helen Rollins said no one asked the band to delay its set.

Sugarland representatives did not immediately return a telephone call from CNN on Friday seeking comment.

In the documents released this week, Hoye says she twice sent the show's promoter, Eric Milby, to talk to Sugarland representatives as the 8:45 p.m. concert time approached, but that the band sent word back they wanted to go on, in part because they had a show the next day in Iowa.

Hoye said fair officials offered to pay for extra stagehands to help set up the Iowa show or shorten the scheduled 90-minute set.

"So it was trying to encourage them to accept what the venue wanted, which was a delay," she said. "Eric came back and said they want to go on."

Rollins did not address the specifics of Hoye's claims in the account of a telephone interview conducted with investigators released as part of the IOSHA report. The handwritten notes only indicated that Rollins said "No" when asked if anyone had suggested delaying the show as the storms rolled in.

In November, the families of four people who were killed filed a separate lawsuit against Sugarland, contending it was the performers' responsibility to decide whether the show would go on and that they had "ultimate control over the lighting" that fell on many of the victims.

Sugarland's representative has said the country duo would offer no comment about the lawsuit.

CNN's Jake Carpenter and Jackie Castillo contributed to this report.

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