Tragedy at Indiana State Fair: Stage collapse kills 5

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Five people are dead and more than 40 are injured after the main stage collapsed Saturday night at the Indiana State Fair.

Thousands of fairgoers gathered for a Sugarland concert as a line of thunderstorms with winds that gusted as high as 77 miles per hour moved into the area.

Witnesses described a chilling scene as winds moved in and suddenly the metal framed canopy and trusses began falling to the ground. Dozens of fairgoers were trapped underneath the roof.

Indiana State Police say approximately 40 people were rushed to Indianapolis hospitals with injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to extremely serious injuries.

"We could have other deaths," said Indiana State Police sergeant Dave Bursten said as he described the extent of injuries.

Weather warning
Fair officials told the crowd gathered for the concert that the show would be delayed as strong storms were moving toward the fairgrounds. Some of those in attendance took the opportunity to leave the grandstands and sought shelter.

Forecast 8 Chief Meteorologist Steve Bray reports wind gusts approaching hurricane force were measured in Speedway and Plainfield 10-15 minutes before the storms moved in.

Hoosiers helping Hoosiers
Moments after the stage's canopy came crashing down, hundreds of fairgoers rushed to lift the metal structure off of those trapped beneath. Others grabbed folded chairs, metal barricades and anything else that could be used as a makeshift stretcher to carry the wounded.

Emergency workers quickly established a triage center as more and more injured people arrived for treatment.

Patients were rushed to Wishard Hospital, IU Health's Methodist Hospital and Riley Hospital for Children. Representatives of each hospital tell 24-Hour News 8 that they saw scores of "walking wounded," or people who arrived at the hospital on their own accord.

Closed for business
In a news conference early Sunday morning, Bursten announced the State Fair would be closed Sunday. Only essential personnel or those who have to tend to animals housed at the fair will be allowed on the fairgrounds.

The State Fair is slated to reopen Monday. Fair officials are planning a public prayer service to be held once the fair reopens.