High Winds Cause Deadly Stage Structure Collapse in Brazil



After a string of weather-related stage structure collapse tragedies in the US (which documented and commented on in a series of blog posts which you can read here), and a great reaction by the Event Safety Alliance and others, I really hoped I had written my last posts about weather-related stage structure collapses.  But via Pollstar this morning comes news of a deadly collapse at the tragically named Atmosphere Festival in Brazil (statement on their FB page here), videos here:

A DJ suffered fatal head injuries after a stage collapsed during an electronic music festival in Brazil. Three others people were injured when the metal structure over the stage crashed down during a storm at the packed Atmosphere Festival in Esteio. Revellers filming the party scene captured the terrifying moment it crumpled to the ground in high winds.

I don't know how to get to Brazilian radar archives, but as a storm chaser, I can tell just looking at the sky that a strong storm is in the area, and in the video you can see how strong the winds are. Clearly either the stage structure was improperly constructed or the winds were too strong for its design rating.  And, while I don't know the Brazilian weather service works, but according to this article, there was a weather alert in place, saying (via google translate) "for Sunday (17), a change in the weather is expected, with possibility of thunderstorm with gusts of wind and hail"  But, in any case, there is absolutely no excuse for a tragedy like this in this day and age, when all the risks and hazards have been made obvious through previous tragedies.

Stage Roof Collapse at Back To the Bricks Festival in Grand Blanc, Michigan

I hate to see yet another stage roof collapse but it sounds at least that the producers of the Back to the Bricks Festival near Flint, Michigan show handled it correctly yesterday.  They got warning of an approaching severe storm, they cancelled the show, got the audience out, and then later the stage roof blew down and apparently no one was hurt.  This is the way it's supposed to work.

There are always weather conditions that can cause any structure to collapse (tornadoes can scrub well built buildings down the foundation), so as I've written here so many times what's really important is that organizers are watching conditions and ready to put in an action plan.

Screen shot from this very short video clip.

Deadly Walker Brothers Circus Tent Collapse at the Lancaster Fair Grounds In New Hampshire

Well it's late summer, and that means, sadly, I'm writing about yet another tragic show and weather related disaster.  There's been so many of these tragic events that I have a whole blog category devoted to them.  This time, it's the collapse of the Walker Brothers Circus tent, which injured many people and killed a father and his daughter (and of course there was the recent deadly tent collapse near Chicago).

I don't have much to add to this horrible tragedy, except to address the usual "it struck without warning" statement which I've already seen in a TV station report. While it's quite possible that this small circus (only about 100 people were apparently inside) did not warn its guests (which is to me, their responsibility), there certainly was a warning.  

With five minutes of research I found that the National Weather Service office which covers all of New Hampshire is the Gray/Portland, ME office. Looking at this great warning archive site, I found that a warning had been issued for 21:23 UTC yesterday, which is 5:23pm local time.  A severe thunderstorm warning means, "large hail, at least 3/4 inches (0.75 inches) in diameter, and/or damaging winds, at least 58 mph, or 50 knots."

Here's a Google Earth image showing the warning polygon, which clearly includes the fair site the circus was using:

According to the Manchester Union Leader newspaper, the tent collapsed at 5:46pm, twenty three minutes after the site went under a severe thunderstorm warning.  20 minutes is plenty of time to take action IF the show organizers had a plan; it seems they did not.

People go to shows to be entertained; audience safety once inside the venue is the promoters' responsibility.  These promoters clearly did not take that responsibility seriously.  Fortunately, we're seeing other, responsible, event organizers (like recently at Lollapalooza) routinely take this threat seriously, and this is great.

Update, 11pm: I looked up the show site for the Wood Dale Prairie Fest, where the other fatal tent collapse was, and sure enough, that site was under a warning starting at 2:21pm local time; the collapse was reported at 2:35pm.  And as Erich Friend points out on his Theatre Safety blog, this show site is just west of Ohare airport so they could have easily had access to O'Hare's high res terminal doppler radar.

Carson & Barnes Circus Tent Opening In Strong Winds

I've worked in show business for 30+ years and have "The show must go on" in my blood.  But there are times when the show at least should be delayed. Here's an example apparently from the 7:30 show in Angleton, TX at the Carson & Barnes Circus from "Laura Cucagirl Solis" on Facebook:

Well so much for having a good time at the circus ... the whole tent started collapsing here is a video of what I caught

Posted by Laura Cudagirl Solis on Friday, April 17, 2015

Thankfully, according to a local media report, no one was injured, but severe weather was predicted for the Angleton area yesterday, and in fact there's reports of pretty significant hail from the SPC, including this one that (if I'm doing the UTC time conversion right) was 10 minutes after the show start time:


Apparently the tent structure survived fine, but this was certainly a scary event for the audience, and it seems to me that the ringmaster should have held the show, addressed the issue, and initiated a pre-determined action plan.  I was nervous too with an acrobat in the air when the tent structure was most certainly moving a lot and rain was entering the tent.

I've written a so many blog posts about severe weather and show safety that I have a whole category on them (click here to see).