INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - "We want the truth, whatever that might be, and that is our commitment," Indiana State Fair Commission Chairman Ted McKinney said Friday as he outlined the state's goal in the investigation of the stage rigging collapse last weekend at the Indiana State Fair.
The news conference came a day after Gov. Mitch Daniels brought in an independent, objective team to investigate state fair leaders' decisions and actions before and after the collapse.
That team is Witt Associates, a company founded by James Lee Witt, formerly the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the Clinton administration.
"We'll be looking at weather forecasts, who got what information when, what was being communicated and so forth," Charles Fisher, vice president of Witt Associates.
The hiring appears to be a change in direction for Daniels. Hours after the collapse, he said: "It's not clear to me at this stage how anyone could have foreseen a sudden, highly localized blast of wind in one place."
In the days that followed, 24-Hour News 8 has discovered that though a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for the fairgrounds area at 8:39 p.m. Saturday, fair organizers did not tell the crowd waiting to hear the group Sugarland at the grandstand that night that warning had been issued. Instead the crowd was told the show would go on.
Wednesday, the governor told 24-hour News 8 he was learning new information. And on Thursday, he hired Witt Associates to conduct an independent investigation of fair organizers' decisions and procedures.
Fair organizers frequently have told the press that the accident could not have been foreseen. Does the hiring of an independent investigative agency signal a change in that position?
"We would have wanted to hire people of this caliber regardless, despite what's been said or what might have not been said," said Ted McKinney, a member of the Indiana State Fair Commission.
McKinney also provided an update on a separate investigation being conducted by engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti, which is considering the integrity and engineering of the stage rigging that collapsed Saturday, claiming six lives.
Scott Nacheman, a vice president with the firm, told reporters a perimeter had been established around the accident site, and the firm is closely monitoring who goes in and out. At this stage of the investigation, he said, they're taking pictures and logging everything on site. Later they'll begin analyzing what they've found, he said.
McKinney said the Fair Commission has not set a budget for the investigation, saying simply that they wanted to learn the truth. When questioned further, he said the commission had yet to enter into a contract with Witt.
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