Sixth death in Indiana State Fair stage collapse, Missouri State Fair reopens after evacuation


Image Credit: Joey Foley/Getty Images

A sixth life has been lost from injuries suffered in the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair. Jennifer Haskell, 22, a senior at Ball State University, died Friday morning. According to the Star Press, she was best friends with another of the victims, Alina Bigjohny, 23, who died last Saturday when wind toppled the stage before Sugarland’s set. In a statement, Haskell’s uncle, Mike Whited, said: “After a long courageous battle, Jenny Haskell died at 8:15 this morning from her injuries sustained from the tragedy at the State Fair. Jenny’s family would like to thank everyone for their support and prayers during this difficult time. Continued support and prayers for the remaining victims would be greatly appreciated.”

The stage collapse, a result of a 70 mph gust of wind, has been deemed a “fluke event” by Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, who also praised the bravery of other onlookers who jumped in to help the 40 concertgoers injured in the tragic accident. As we all know by now, six days earlier, the Flaming Lips avoided near-catastrophe when a sudden storm blew their 15-foot video screen from the back of the stage at Tulsa’s Brady Block Party. About a month before that, a thunderstorm brought down the entire stage during Cheap Trick’s set at the Ottawa Bluesfest. And just yesterday, a severe storm claimed five lives at Belgium’s outdoor Pukkelpop music festival, which has since been canceled.

Looking for some good news, the National Weather Service is considering the evacuation of about 4,000 people to a safe shelter at the Missouri State Fair late Thursday night a success story, even if a concert featuring blues-rock guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd at the Pepsi Grandstand had already ended when winds of at least 70 to 80 mph hit the fairgrounds at 1 a.m. local time. The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning 29 minutes before the storm struck Sedalia, Mo., Christopher Vaccaro of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tells EW. The State Fair Safety Officer was in contact with the NWS, he adds, and had more than an hour advance notice of the storms. There were no fatalities or serious injuries, but there was widespread damage to campers, trailers, tents, and fair booths. “Because of our seamless coordination with our partners, the Highway Patrol and Fire Safety, we were able to make the public aware early of the possible threat of storms and safely evacuate facilities to ensure everyone stayed safe,” fair director Mark Wolfe said in a statement. The fairground remained closed until 3 p.m. local time today while officials waited for electrical power to be restored. Country star Luke Bryan will headline the grandstand tonight as scheduled.

On Aug. 17, the National Weather Service launched an initiative to build a “Weather Ready Nation,” with the overall goal of improved precision when it comes to weather and water forecasts and effective communication of risk to local authorities. “Severe weather alerts issued by the National Weather Service can only be effective if decision-makers and individuals take proper precautions,” Vaccaro says. “Part of the Weather Ready Nation initiative is to strengthen the end-to-end process in which forecasts translate into life-saving actions.” The NWS was spurred into action by the following facts: The U.S. has experienced nine separate natural disasters in 2011, each with an economic loss of $1 billion or more, which ties the record set in 2008; Munich Reinsurance America, one of the top providers of property and casualty reinsurance in the U.S., reports the number of natural disasters has tripled in the last 20 years, with 2010 holding the record with about 250; and the average thunderstorm losses have increased five-fold since 1980. For the first half of 2011, there have been $20 billion in thunderstorm losses, up from the previous three-year average of $10 billion.

Read more:
Indiana State Fair tragedy: Can you protect people from Mother Nature?
Pukkelpop officially canceled after stage collapse, death toll at five


Comments (30 total) Add your comment
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  • MT

    My heart is breaking for these girls and the victims. One thing, you think you’re going to a concert with your best friend and then this happens. Too tragic.

    • etm

      I agree, MT. Sometimes life is so friggin unfair. I feel terrible for the victims and their loved ones.

  • Jane

    I’ll bet somebody in the next 5 years uses that picture on a CD cover. It doesn’t look real, but more like a beautiful, demented painting. What a tragedy!

    • Joey Foley

      I hope! That’s one of my images. It sucks to make money that way, but it’s my job.
      Maybe somebody cam see something or learn something from my images of this terrible event. We was suppose to photo this from the front, so I could have also been a victim.

  • Doctor Who Fan

    Horror people go to have a good time and lose their lives. RIP

  • Pslightly Psycho

    What a tragic week for concertgoers worldwide. Storms and high winds need to be a safety consideration from here on out so more fans don’t die or get injured.

  • zeke

    Just awful…one minute you want to see a concert and the next minute, your life ends.

  • lori

    @Jane I wish you were that lady that died instead

    • harsh much?

      @lori, what a horrid thing to say. It is a very interesting picture, also like a dali painting. the original poster also says it was a tragedy. nothing about them personally wanting to use the photo, but that someone might. Did you think at all before you commented?

      • shallow much??

        people were crushed to death under that stage you have characterised as surrealism or some other relevatistic theory.. It’s sad how some of you are so personally detached from the tragic reality of the situation that the best you can manage in response is a rationalisation of only what is seen in jargon and nonsense. It’s like saying the 9/11 tower collapse would make a nice album cover someday. Those were someone’s children, and loved ones. Some of you need to get a grip. Some of you are really lacking in humanity. And some of you understand and have real feelings of your own, on very rare occasions.

      • wow

        I said nothing about my own personal feeling about it. Frankly, i think it was a horrible tragedy, and quite nerve racking, as I have been to several concerts with rickety stages. I cannot imagine what it was like to be there, and my heart goes out to everyone involved. However, in my post I was only trying to defend someone else who made a comment about the photo itself, and someone else says they wished that commentator had died. I don’t think anyone would ever use the 9/11 attacks as an album cover, but you have to admit that the photos are surreal and merit a moment of pause. The photo of a collapsing stage is frighting and strange, also because we know what is about to happen, but also because it takes something we all have seen and twists it. Something that was supposed to bring people together and bring them joy caused such pain, both emotional and physical for many people.

      • shallow much??

        i call b s on that entire diatribe

    • SaM

      this story would not have got this much coverage without these images

  • Heidi

    wow lori that’s a bit harsh!

    I think the sets and stages, as cool as they are, have gotten a bit out of control – too big, too complex… bigger is not always better when you are talking an outdoor concert.

    • Maddy

      I’m starting to agree with you Heidi. I was in the front row at the Cheap Trick concert in Ottawa last month, and it was just alarming how quickly the wind caught the scaffolding and tore down the 16-foot stage (there were three injuries but no fatalities, probably because the stage thankfully fell backwards instead of towards the audience). I’ve been attending the festival for 5 years and every year it gets bigger and subsequently the stages get bigger. Something that is meant to be a temporary structure just isn’t built to withstand 70 to 90 kmph winds……..

    • Lori

      Fu-ck yourself you f-ucking cow.

    • Lori~

      Tongue my browneye you ugly cun-t.

  • dee

    They have stages that can withstand these winds. People just don’t wanna pay.

  • Sammy “Snake Eyes” Gravano

    C’mon baaaby! Sammy “Snake Eyes Needs One More corpse to make $30 million smackaroos! C’mon lucky 7, gimme a number seven! Just for Sammy?

  • Sir Wisdom Chief

    The lesson to be learned here is don’t take fat chicks to concerts man, I’m telling you all that ass don’t just stop all of a sudden when the music starts man, you know? Something had to give on those fat chicks in the stands and it cost others lives. Too bad for the victims out there ya here?

  • Sir Wisdom Chief

    HAARP perhaps?

  • Meier

    I was wondering whether or not EW was going to learn of and report this sixth death. As a longtime Indianan, I’d like to thank all the reporters of this site and magazine for taking the time to show some admirable and selfless respect to the victims and their families. My friends are losing their friends through this tragedy, and the more the knowledge is passed on, perhaps the greater a chance there will be to meet these disasters beforehand.

  • diane

    Leann Rimes concert in South dakota was delayed the other night due to storms and high winds..the show did go on..later but safe was everyone

    • amy

      MODERATORS!!!!!! DO YOUR JOB!!!!!!

  • Sarah

    My heart goes out to these victims and their families. What a horrific tragedy.


    Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I to find It truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to give one thing back and help others such as you helped me.

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