6th person dies from Indiana fair accident

August 19, 2011 (VALPARAISO, Ind.)

Jennifer Haskell, a 22-year-old senior At Ball State University, died Friday morning from her injuries.

Indiana police have not said how many of the four dozen injured remain in the hospital.

Also Friday, the first lawsuits have been filed on behalf of victims of the stage collapse.

Beth Urschel, 49, of Valparaiso, is one of the plaintiffs. She was near the front of the stage and said the collapse happened with little to no warning.

"I looked up, and here's the stage starting to fall," Urschel said. "Where do you run? Where do you go? You just pray that you survive."

Urschel suffered a broken clavicle, tissue damage to her arm, broken and severed toes, and 40 stitches. Her partner, 42-year-old Tammy VanDam, was standing next to Urschel and died, leaving behind a 17-year-old daughter.

"This was her birthday weekend - I was taking her down to see her favorite band," said Urschel, choking back tears.

Friday, their attorney filed a lawsuit seeking $50 million, plus punitive damages. Named in the suit is the State of Indiana, the Indiana State Fair Commission, and a dozen companies involved in the concert.

The suit alleges that fair officials ignored repeated warnings from the National Weather Service that severe weather was approaching and failed to notify concertgoers that a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued. The suit also alleges the stage was designed and constructed poorly.

"The fair officials and organizers acquiesced in the erection of a house of cards that they called a stage. Little more than a swath of fabric attached to flimsy scaffolding," said lawyer Kenneth J. Allen. "It was an outrage, but they allowed it to be built."

The band Sugarland, which had been scheduled to perform around the time of the stage collapse, is not named in the suit. The group returned to the stage Thursday night in New Mexico, dedicating their song, "Love", to the memory of the victims.

"We want a complete, top-to-bottom review of what happened, why it happened, the timeline," said Ted McKinney, a member of the Indiana State Fair Commission.

The Indiana State Fair commission has hired a prominent engineering firm as well as a public safety firm run by former FEMA director James Lee Witt to investigate the cause of the collapse.

Allen accused the state of hiring those firms in an effort to protect it from liability.

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