Indiana fair honors 5 killed in stage collapse

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Hundreds of mourners gathered Monday at the Indiana State Fairgrounds to remember five people killed when high winds caused an outdoor stage to collapse onto an audience awaiting the start of a country music concert.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told the roughly 500 mourners that the tragedy has broken the hearts of the state’s residents. He became emotional as he praised those who rushed to the stage to help the injured.

“I cannot tell you how proud I am,” Daniels said, his voice cracking, “to be the employee of six and half million people like that.”

Daniels said Saturday’s stage collapse was especially sad because the state fair is “a family reunion of all Hoosiers,” where farmers and city dwellers gather for fun.

Steven and Amanda Potaczek of the band 1,000 Generations opened the service with “Fail Us Not,” a song they wrote when one of their friends died in 2008. Amanda Potaczek said the song is keeping trust in God when tragedies happen.

“Stuff like this does not defeat him,” she said.

Wind gusts between 60 and 70 mph toppled the stage Saturday night as an estimated 12,000 people were waiting to see the band Sugarland. About four dozen people, some critically injured, were taken to hospitals.

As Monday’s service drew to a close, five young people lined up in front of the stage holding bouquets of flowers in honor of the dead as the victim’s names were read aloud.

Indiana’s first lady Cheri Daniels, who presides over fair events each year, said there are two options when tragedy strikes: to give up or rebuild.

“We have decided that we want to take heart and rebuild,” she said, as the state fair reopened following a one-day closure.

Daniels ordered flags at the fairgrounds flown at half-staff in honor of the victims.

Four of the victims died at the scene: Alina Bigjohny, 23, of Fort Wayne; Christina Santiago, 29, of Chicago; Tammy Vandam, 42, of Wanatah; and 49-year-old Glenn Goodrich of Indianapolis. Nathan Byrd, a 51-year-old stagehand from Indianapolis who was atop the rigging when it fell, died overnight.

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