I just watched The Indiana State Fair Commission's meeting live stream on Indianapolis WTHR , where Thornton Tomasetti gave a fascinating report on the structural failure, and Witt Associates gave a report on the operational failures. I live tweeted interesting things from the presentation.
I haven't been able to get my hands on full structural report yet, (see followup below) but the basic summary, in an excellent presentation from Scott Nacheman of Tomasetti was that the ballast blocks ("jersey barriers") and guy wires were inadequate, and slid under the wind load, leading to the collapse. I've personally had to jump on 1000 pound concrete ballast blocks to keep them from sliding as a high wind blew an inflatable structure, so this is not surprising. But the headlines are already coming out saying that the "Collapsed Stage didn't meet code" (and of course, the STAGE didn't collapse--it is made of reinforced concrete) but one thing that wasn't clear from the verbal presentation (or I missed it) is that it wasn't even clear which codes even applied to the site, which is apparently Indiana state land even though it's in the middle of Indianapolis. [Update 5:39pm--the Witt report says that "The type of structure that collapsed was exempt from Indiana building code regulation." Emphasis added. So how could it not meet code?] It does seem from what I heard of the report that this was a design and engineering failure--they didn't seem to lay much blame on the installation crews.
To me, though, as I wrote last year, this was an operational failure above all else, and I stand by what I wrote about this issue last year, in Indiana State Fair Collapse--State Fair Management Has Blood on Its Hands. The Witt presentation detailed an astonishing and catastrophically dysfunctional leadership and management structure, incapable of dealing with critical issues like severe weather in a timely manner. Tragically, no one seemed to be willing or able to make the decision to evacuate, until they literally were walking on the stage--after being under a severe warning for several minutes--to announce the evacuation as the structure blew over.
The leadership failures were so extensive I don't see how anyone can be accountable except Cindy Hoye, the fair's executive director. At the meeting, local millionaire Andre B. Lacy, State Fair Commission Board Chairman, announced that she had offered to resign, but he had not accepted her resignation. Instead, he is peter-principling her up in the organization and hiring a "Chief Operations Officer" to handle the fair this this year. This is pathetic--no one is taking any responsibility, and Lacy should be fired. I guess the law suits are still to come, and it's such a quagmire that it's likely to get very ugly for a very, very long time.
If anyone finds a copy of the reports online, please let me know and I'll link them here!
One part of the Witt assesment has been posted on IndyStar here (all documents posted in a followup below), as part of one of the better articles on the findings; you can read the article here. The key statements for me are:
The type of structure that collapsed was exempt from Indiana building code regulation. A survey conducted as a part of this assessment found inconsistent regulation of these types of structures across the country, even as stage productions are becoming more elaborate and complex.
Witt Associates found in this assessment:
- Although the Indiana State Fair Commission (ISFC) had taken some steps had been taken to prepare for an emergency on the Fairgrounds, the overall state of preparedness was not adequate for an event of the size and scope of the Indiana State Fair.
The ISFC’s lack of formal protocols regarding decisions to delay, postpone, or cancel the major productions, combined with problematic communications regarding weather forecasts, resulted in an ambiguity of authority and decision‐making.
ALL of the documents are now online here.