Sugarland Blame 'Act Of God' And Careless Fans For Deaths, Injuries
Representatives for Sugarland on Tuesday had to immediately clarify statements deflecting responsibility for this past summer's Indiana State fair stage-collapse tragedy from the band and its crew.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the controversy started when Indiana news station WRTV obtained documents containing statements by the hit country act's representatives blaming the structural collapse that injured more than 50 fans and killed seven on Aug. 13, 2011 on a combined unexpectedly fierce winds and irresponsible concert-goers. Specifically, the documents deemed the "gust of wind of unexpected intensity" to be "a true accident, or act of God."
"Some or all of the plaintiffs failed to exercise due care for their own safety," one statement read. "Some or all of the plaintiffs knowingly and voluntarily assumed and/or incurred the risk of injury to themselves."
A pending civil suit claims that concert promoters and the company whose crew assembled the stage share liability for the injuries and deaths because both parties overloaded the stage, didn't properly monitor the mounting 60-70 MPH winds, and let the show go on instead of evacuating for the audience's safety, reports EW.com. Sugarland have maintained since the incident that "they had nothing to do with the construction of the venue."
Following the statement about audience responsibility, band manager Gail Gellman attempted damage control.
"Sadly when a tragedy occurs, people want to point fingers and try to sensationalize the disaster," Gellman said. "The single most important thing to Sugarland are their fans. Their support and love over the past nine years has been unmatched. For anyone to think otherwise is completely devastating to them."
Following the initially reported statements, South Bend, IN attorney Jeff Stesiak - who is involved with the civil suit - responded via the Chicago Tribune that "It's unusual to put the blame on victims. The concert wasn't canceled and they weren't told to leave. I can't imagine what the victims did to be at fault. They had a duty to warn fans. An open and obvious danger is more like walking along a road and seeing a downed power line and walking over it anyway. The storm wasn't like that."
A deposed Indiana State Fair official claimed under oath that officials twice told the band that the show should be delayed, but that the band wanted to perform. That runs counter to a claim by Sugarland's tour manager that nothing of the kind was ever discussed.