(INDIANAPOLIS) — Grammy-nominated country duo Sugarland said the lawsuit that states they are partially responsible for the tragic stage collapse last summer that killed seven is trying to “sensationalize the disaster.”
In a statement to ABC News, Sugarland’s manager Gail Gellman said, “Sadly when a tragedy occurs, people want to point fingers and try to sensationalize the disaster. The single most important thing to Sugarland, are their fans. Their support and love over the past 9 years has been unmatched. For anyone to think otherwise is completely devastating to them.”
Moments before Sugarland — comprised of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush — was to perform a concert at the Indiana State Fair on Aug. 13, a powerful storm blew through the area, and a huge gust of wind ripped down the stage scaffolding. Seven people were killed and 45 were injured — one of which was an 8-year-old girl.
Numerous victims of the stage collapse filed a massive civil lawsuit on Nov. 22 in Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis, claiming Sugarland and the companies involved with the construction of the stage were negligent and contributed to the accident.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, which include the families or the estates of four people killed and dozens who were injured, allege that Sugarland, Live Nation, Mid-America Sound Corp. and other events companies failed to provide a safe stage area and ignored inclement weather concerns.
The concert should have been canceled and the crowd evacuated, the lawsuit stated.
On Feb. 16, Sugarland’s lawyers responded to the claims and denied all accusations against the band, saying Sugarland had nothing to do with the stage’s construction. Among their many other defenses, “some or all of the Plaintiffs’ claimed injuries resulted from their own fault,” because some “failed to exercise due care for their own safety” or “knowingly and voluntary assumed and/or incurred the risk of injury to themselves.”
The band’s lawyers also denied Sugarland was responsible for deciding whether or not to cancel the concert because of weather concerns, calling it an “Act of God.”
“The incident at issue in this litigation resulted from a gust of wind of unprecedented intensity, which caused a structure that may have been improperly designed, maintained and/or inspected to fail. As such, this was a true accident or Act of God,” the response reads.
The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted a six-month investigation after the incident. Their report, released on Feb. 8, found that the heavy equipment supporting the stage was not properly built and that Mid-America Sound Corp., an events production company that constructed the roof and rigging used to hold the lights and sound equipment, had not taken appropriate measures to inspect the stage area.
IOSHA determined that Sugarland did not employ the workers who built the stage and therefore was not responsible for the incident, but fined Mid-America $63,000 for three serious violations of industry standards.
A spokeswoman for Mid-America told ABC News that the company had not yet paid the fine, and is meeting with IOSHA next week to discuss the report.
Sugarland’s attorneys are now seeking a jury trial, but declined to comment to ABC News about the allegations.
Lead vocalist Jennifer Nettles told Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts in a November interview that while she did not feel a sense of responsibility for what happened, she wept after hearing some fans were killed in the stage collapse.
Prior to the moment when the stage fell, the band was waiting underneath it, and was uninjured in the accident.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN