Moments before winds estimated at 60 to 70 mph knocked over the stage framework and lighting rig at the Indiana State Fair, award-winning country duo Sugarland were getting ready to perform their headlining set and holding their traditional pre-show prayer circle.
They were safely underground and aware of the severe weather situation, thanks to the band's tour manager who, according to a source, "decided to hold everyone back from going on stage for a few minutes to see what the weather would do -- a decision that probably saved our lives."
A minute later, the eyewitness describes to the Hollywood Reporter, "There was a splash of rain, and a horrible noise, and people came running down the ramp… then we saw a truss fall and then the whole thing went down and blacked the ramp out."
Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush along with their five band members were safely contained in a "concrete bunker" beneath the ground, but many of their 40 stagehands and techs were already setting up for the 9:00 p.m. set. "They jumped into the pit and moved rubble and equipment to try and help those fans up front," says the observer. "The Sugarland crew and EMTs on site were heroes."
Four concert attendees are reported to have died and another 40 taken to area hospitals. "It was a perfect blue sunny day until this, it's just heartbreaking," says the source, who adds that watching the video footage later was "surreal."
A Sugarland staffer referred to the band's tweet following the collapse, which read: "We are praying for our fans, and the people of Indianapolis. We hope you'll join us. They need your strength."
A representative for the Indiana State Police announced that the fair will be closed on Sunday and will reopen Monday with a service to honor the deceased.
In July, a stage at the Ottawa Bluesfest in Canada collapsed due to high winds while the band Cheap Trick was playing, and last week, Oklahoma band Flaming Lips experienced a toppled rig at a show in Tulsa. No one died at either event.