Sugarland Devastated By Fair Collapse Comments - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Sugarland Devastated By Fair Collapse Comments

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(AP Photo/FILE) (AP Photo/FILE)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Country duo Sugarland said it is devastated that people "want to point fingers and try to sensationalize" an August 13 stage collapse that killed seven people and injured 58 before the band's show at the Indiana State Fair.

The band issued a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday after its attorneys responded to a lawsuit by saying that injuries to fans were at least partly "their own fault."

Sugarland manager Gail Gellman said fans are "the single most important thing" to the duo.

The collapse occurred when high winds toppled rigging holding lighting and other equipment. The band's attorneys call the winds an "act of God" and say fair officials and Mid-America Sound Corp. were responsible for the stage setup.

"Some or all of the plaintiffs' claimed injuries resulted from their own fault," according to the band's response.

The statement, part of a February 16 response to a civil suit filed by survivors and families of some of those killed, comes in sharp contrast to earlier statements by lead singer Jennifer Nettles and appears to be an attempt to cast blame elsewhere.

Nettles told The Associated Press in a statement issued through her manager two days after the collapse that she was "moved by the grief of those families who lost loved ones. Moved by the pain of those who were injured and the fear of their families. Moved by the great heroism as I watched so many brave Indianapolis fans actually run toward the stage to try and help lift and rescue those injured. Moved by the quickness and organization of the emergency workers who set up the triage and tended to the injured."

Attorneys representing at least 20 law firms across Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky filed the complaint Nov. 22 in Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis alleging breach of reasonable care to the victims. The suit names as plaintiffs dozens of people injured and the families of some of those killed, and it seeks unspecified damages from Sugarland, producers, stage riggers and others associated with the show.

Jeff Stesiak, a South Bend attorney involved in the suit, said the band's response was strange given the circumstances of the fans' injuries.

"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," Stesiak said Tuesday. "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."

Lawyers for the band are seeking a jury trial.

In a January 16 deposition on a lawsuit against the company that built the stage rigging, Indiana State Fair Commission Executive Director Cindy Hoye testified that Sugarland resisted delaying the start of the concert despite threatening weather.

Hoye said a representative for a concert promotion company working with the fair twice approached Sugarland about the fair's desire to delay the show. But Hoye said the band expressed concerns about how a delay would affect the time Nettles needed to warm up and complicate the band's travel to its next show.

Sugarland tour manager Hellen Rollens told investigators with the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration that there was no discussion of delaying the show.

Earlier this month, Indiana regulators released a report saying Hoye and other fair officials were too slow to order an evacuation.

IOSHA fined the State Fair Commission $6,300 for failing to conduct proper safety evaluations of its concert venues. It also called the commission's emergency plan inadequate.

The agency also cited Mid-America, the company that erected the stage rigging, and the union whose members worked on the structure for various workplace violations.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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