Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, August 25, 2011

U-M staffer found ‘pocket of safety’ to survive Indiana tragedy

Richard Lindsay credits his job experience for saving his life, after high winds from an approaching storm caused the stage to collapse Aug. 13 at the Indiana State Fair, sparking a tragedy that drew nationwide attention.

Seven people have died from injuries due to the stage collapse. More than 40 were injured.

Lindsay, technical director with University Productions, and his wife, Annissa Morgensen-Lindsay, were in the front row. As storms approached, Lindsay says he thought of his training and experience that suggested the best move would be to seek cover against a concrete wall abutting the stage — something he shared with those around him moments before the structure collapsed.

“I had told people around me that if this comes down you want to duck under here. That’s me doing what I usually do. I teach students that when you’re loading in scenery and doing your lighting it can be a dangerous workspace, always be aware of your surroundings” he says.

“We ducked against the concrete apron of the stage and pulled three to four people down under us. All the debris and the big long trusses fell around us. It was a little pocket of safety.”

Lindsay says the concrete wall broke the fall of some large equipment. While the speakers and some cables did rest on top of him and the others he herded to safety, Lindsay and his wife escaped only with bruises and strains.

“I felt things fall on top of us. Moments later somebody on the stage asked if we were alive. Somebody from above us pulled enough of the pieces off of us so we could unpin ourselves,” he says.

The couple was at the fair to see the group Sugarland. Lindsay says that while he and his wife aren’t country music fans, they became enamored with the group, especially after seeing one of their shows earlier this year.

He said several friends he and his wife met at the show were severely injured in the incident. “It was horrific,” Lindsay says, adding he didn’t sleep well in the days following the stage collapse.

“I’m trying to look through the horror. I saw the best of people. There were all these people who stood up and really went to rescue folks,” he says.

Lindsay was seen by local medical staff and followed up by visiting his primary care physician upon returning to Ann Arbor. “We had strains and bruises. I had a whole bunch of stuff whack me on the head,” he says, adding, “Luck was on our side.”

“I feel lucky to be part of the University of Michigan and have access to wonderful resources that are helping me through my healing process.” Lindsay says.