WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) – A lawsuit has been filed against the Westfield Washington School Corporation after the theater stage at Westfield High School collapsed during the school’s spring concert.
One of the parents field the lawsuit on Thursday seeking damages for the student that was hurt during the collapse.
On April 23, 2015, seventeen students were injured while they were performing the musical “American Pie“ on the school auditorium stage when the orchestra pit collapsed under them.
- FULL COVERAGE: Westfield stage collapse
The lawsuit states that police found that the stage was improperly constructed by an employee. The parent also claims that the school didn’t supervise the employee properly.
In November, the Indiana Department of Labor said they would drop the $11,700 in fines after finding that the school reinstalled a properly built and supported stage cover. The Indiana Department of Labor and Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration presented the fines in October. The Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration launched a formal investigation just days after the collapse.
The agencies had inspected the stage and said a new cover was installed without proper safety procedures and wasn’t strong enough to hold the weight of students.
In May 2015, officials said they would not press any criminal charges after learning of the failed installation. Police said the incident was “catastrophic” but not worthy of criminal charges. No injuries during the stage collapse were life-threatening.
According to the lawsuit the school corporation has 20 days to respond. The parent has also requested a jury trial for the lawsuit.
WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) – Officials in Westfield said on Tuesday that no criminal charges will be filed in the high school stage collapse last month that injured more than a dozen students.
Westfield Police Department Capt. Charles E. Hollowell said the investigation revealed the collapse was the result of a failed pit lid that was designed by a school employee and students in January 2015. The original cover was removed to accommodate a production that needed an orchestra pit. Officials said the up-stage header was not securely anchored to the primary structure. They said it was only attached to a non-structural trim piece and there was no structure support installed.
Hollowell said while the result of stage construction was “catastrophic” it was not criminal, and therefore no criminal charges will be filed by the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office.
Andre Miksha, chief deputy prosecutor, explained in more detail in a document released to the media. It said, in part:
“In some circumstances, recklessness can give rise to criminal culpability. … Here, the harm that could result from a catastrophic failure of the stage is quite severe. However, given the planning and construction steps taken throughout the process of building the stage, it is doubtful that the state could prove that those constructing the stage did so in plain and conscious disregard. While the disregard did involve deviation from acceptable standards of conduct, the burden to show that the deviation was substantial will be too tall a task for the evidence in this case.
Accordingly, while the result of the failure of the stage’s construction was catastrophic, the failed construction and maintenance of that stage did not rise to the level of criminal culpability. This office, therefore, declines to file criminal charges against the individuals involved in its construction and maintenance, recognizing that civil remedies for what appear to be breached duties of care may be available to those injured.”
Westfield police also released 911 calls from the night of the collapse. You can listen to those below:
Mark Keen, superintendent at Westfield Washington Schools, also spoke Tuesday.
“Most of the why questions we can’t answer. We know the what happened, but why it happened,” said Dr. Mark Keen, Westfield Washington Schools. “Until we interview the people we won’t be able to really answer those questions.”
Keen noted that four things must immediately happen. Officials have already contacted the manufacturer of the stage to ensure it can be installed back to a usable way. Officials say they’re going to ask them to review the installation procedures. Moving forward, any time the stage is used, a facility request sheet must be filled out and an administrator must sign off on it. Finally, there must be a regular inspection of the stage.
“Once we complete a thorough investigation, we will take whatever appropriate course of action,” said Dr. Keen.
Seventeen students were injured in the incident at Westfield High School at the end of April. Students were performing the musical “American Pie” on the school auditorium stage when the orchestra pit collapsed under them. Keen said 16 of the 17 students have since returned to school.
Blankie Mancia’s daughter Catherine Cortez was on stage when it collapsed.
“For me to see her falling like that it was really, really scary. I would say all the parents were,” said Mancia.
Mancia agrees with the prosecutor’s decision to not file charges.
“You never know what’s going to happen during those shows,” said Mancia.
The school district will take necessary action after its own investigation, Keen said.
“We think our parents deserve that,” Keen said. “We think the students involved deserve that.”
Keen also said as weeks go on, they won’t let this incident be forgotten.
“We want to make sure that this never happens again,” he said.
The auditorium is still off limits to the public, officials said since it was built in 1997, there have been 2,800 events on the stage and this was the first incident like this.
Watch officials’ full press conference below:
WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) – Westfield High School performers were back on stage on Saturday, more than one week after a devastating stage collapse in the auditorium.
Two of the high school students who performed in Westfield’s ‘American Pie’ performance on the evening of April 23 performed at the one year anniversary celebration for the Grand Junction Brewing Company.
The brewing company’s owner, Jon Knight, said, “My daughter happened to be one of the performers during American Pie. She was involved in the stage collapse so it hits pretty close to home for us.”
Knight said his daughter suffered a mild concussion from falling after the stage she was performing on collapsed. Knight said his daughter is doing great.
Blake Rice, a Westfield High School senior, was one of the two students who performed at the one year anniversary celebration on Saturday. He was also on stage at the time of the collapse.
Rice said being back on the stage is “just a little bit chilling just because, you know, I haven’t been on stage since then because I don’t do a whole lot of performing during the school year. But it’s going to be interesting trying to get back into the swing of things again.”
Indiana’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a formal investigation into the cause of the stage collapse at Westfield High School that sent 16 students to the hospital.
It’s not known when a cause for the collapse will be determined.
WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) – Indiana’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched a formal investigation Monday into the cause of last week’s stage collapse at Westfield High School.
The decision comes after the agency said last week it did not have the authority to investigate the incident, which sent 16 students to the hospital with various injuries.
“Because it appears at this point that no employees were involved, Indiana OSHA does not have jurisdiction to conduct a formal OSHA investigation,” Indiana Department of Labor Public Relations Director Bob Dittmer told 24-Hour News 8 Friday.
IOSHA reversed that stance on Monday.
“Based on additional information gathered at the scene and over the past few days, IOSHA has launched a formal safety investigation of the Westfield stage collapse,” wrote Indiana Department of Labor Public Relations Project Manager Amanda Stanley in a statement to 24-Hour News 8. “This change was prompted as a result of discovering that employees were involved in the erection of the stage. This investigation will help to verify whether IOSHA has jurisdiction over the matter and if any OSHA regulations were violated.”
Last week, local theaters across the region said the incident would likely prompt a stronger focus on safety industry-wide.
According to Westfield Washington Schools Superintendent Mark Keen, the Westfield High School stage was built in 1997.
Additional agencies are still searching for an official cause of the incident.
“IOSHA will continue cooperating and assisting Westfield High School, the State Fire Marshall’s office, the State Police, and other state and local agencies also investigating,” Stanley said.
No timeline has been released yet on when the determination on a cause might be made.
WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) – While investigators are working to determine why the high school stage collapsed, families are trying to put the scary night behind them by leaning on each other for support.
In the beginning, there was so much unknown including the amount of people hurt during the collapse and the extent of the injuries.
Now that the dust has settled, the worry parents and teachers felt shifted to a feeling of pride on how the community came together.
A few laughs before first pitch were more than welcome at the varsity softball game on Friday, but parents like Jeff Jellison know a win might not be the only thing on their minds.
“I think there is around the community, there’s a little bit of a somber attitude,” he said.
Less than 24 hours had passed since an endless sea of flashing lights flooded the high school.
Inside, the musical ‘American Pie’ was wrapping up the final number when all the excitement and joy disappeared as the stage collapsed beneath dozens of students.
“I would tell you I think it’s only by the grace of God that there weren’t more serious injuries that occurred there with a 12 foot drop,” said Superintendent Mark Keen.
According to Jellison and several others, the injuries will heal and so will the community.
“People are very positive, very supportive. We know we can go to our community and they’ll help us if we need that,” said Keen.
“I think the credit goes back to those policemen and those firemen last night and the people that were in the audience,” said Jellison.
Many of those same people who jumped into action call the city home, and that’s what they want to define them.
Not the moment when the stage fell through, but how they all came together when support was needed most.
“We’re a community that cares about our neighbors, our kids, our schools. I think that just is the definition of Westfield,” said Jellison.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A local stage director said the stage collapse in Westfield prompted a stronger focus on safety in the theatre he works at. He is hopeful something positive can come from the unfortunate incident.
Chris Fretts is the technical director for the Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT) and part of his job is making sure an accident like the one in Westfield does not happen at the IRT.
“It’s a very unfortunate event,” Fretts said. “It’s certainly not the kind of thing that we in the industry like to see.”
He said every structure has its limits and the key is being prepared come show time.
According to Fretts, the IRT stage has never collapsed and for various productions, it has held two tons of dirt and even cars.
“You’ve just got to be alert and aware of what those capabilities are,” he said.
For those shows, the crew increased protection beneath the stage. Sometimes they have to add two-by-fours for support or do additional research to ensure safety.
Fretts said safety is always a concern at IRT, and the recent collapse will make him even more concerned about safety.
“Also, hopefully it will raise more awareness in the industry in other people who work on stages and on orchestra pits,” he said.
According to Westfield Washington Schools Superintendent Mark Keen, the Westfield High School stage was built in 1997.
Fretts said that is not too old of a structure, as long as it is properly maintained, and the stage at IRT was built in 1980.
WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) – Classes resumed on Friday while investigators began looking into the Westfield High School stage collapse, hoping to bring clarity to the incident.
A stage collapsed in the Westfield High School auditorium on Thursday night, leaving 16 students with minor injures and witnesses shocked.
The students were performing “American Pie, the musical” and were dancing on stage during the final musical number, when the stage collapsed over the orchestra pit.
Westfield Superintendent Mark Keen spoke to the media on Friday after the school day was over.
Keen said it was “only by the grace of God” that people were not more seriously injured.
“We were very lucky,” added Keen.
He said the stage cover helped break the 12 foot fall for students on the stage.
“I was up really high up in the stands and then all of the sudden they were all just having a great time and then boom just the stage went out and everyone went down and it was just crazy it was chaotic and everything,” said Cameron Snyder, a senior at Westfield High School.
Investigators and forensic engineering are looking at the structure of the stage for the cause of the collapse, and are collecting inspection records. Keen was hopeful that investigators would have a timeline within two weeks for when the investigation might end.
“We are doing everything we can to keep kids safe. We have a high focus on students and counselors are at the high school all the time. The teachers wanted to make sure kids had a positive experience today (in class) and today was a typical day,” said Keen.
Keen stated that until the police release the area in the auditorium it will be restricted to students, but that it will not interfere with any other part of the high school.
WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — Governor Mike Pence said he is relieved that no serious injuries or loss of life was reported following a stage collapse Thursday night at Westfield High School.
“We were relieved beyond words that no loss of life or serious injuries occurred during the stage collapse at Westfield High School last evening. I commend all the emergency personnel who quickly responded to the injured students in such a professional manner,” Pence said in press release.
A stage collapsed at Westfield Washington High School Thursday night, leaving more than a dozen students injured. Luckily officials confirmed that only minor injuries were reported.
Pence said that the State Fire Marshal, Indiana State Police and Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration will review the incident.
“Our public safety team will continue to work jointly with the Westfield officials to investigate this incident. Hoosiers may be assured that the Fire Marshal’s office from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, State Police and state OSHA investigators are thoroughly investigating the causes of this incident and will make every effort to prevent this or worse from happening in the future,” Pence said.
City officials said they expect the investigation to begin Friday.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – As many watch the Westfield stage collapse footage, some are eerily reminded of an all-too-similar mishap. It happened in California at an Anaheim high school March 8, 2014.
Video showed about 250 girls from Rosary High School performing at a rally at Servite High School when the stage collapsed into the orchestra pit. About 25 people were injured in that collapse, but similar to the Westfield students, they only sustained moderate injuries.
Later an investigation revealed a flaw in the construction of the stage apron, which covers the orchestra pit.
WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) – By Friday morning, most of the students injured in Thursday’s stage collapse in Westfield, had been released from the hospital.
Senior Reid Markus was one of them, at home Friday morning after spending the night in the ER.
He said he suffered a fractured femur and a sprained wrist after the stage collapsed underneath him and other students during the finale of a musical performance show at Westfield High School.
“All of a sudden, I just hear a loud thud, and the floor collapses beneath my feet. It happened so quickly. I was on ground before I knew what happened, and there were people on top of me. I was helped up by two of my best friends, who had to carry out because i was in tremendous pain,” said Reid.
His mom, Anna Markus, said she’d left to take a younger sibling home, when she got her son’s call.
“I just knew something, from the tone of his voice, something really bad had happened,” she said.
She headed back to the school, where firefighters and paramedics and police had already arrived.
“As a mom, you’re just like, oh my gosh what can I do, what can I do?”
“It was comforting to know there were rescue people there every step of the way,”
Reid says he’s glad for the support of those who helped him and his friends.
“Without them, I don’t know what I’d do,” he said.
The musical performance ‘American Pie’ is an annual event put on after months of practicing by students.
Both Reid and his mom hope everyone remembers just what an amazing show they’d put on.
“It was an amazing show, and they did work so hard on it. I hope people remember how great the performances were,” said Anna.Some video included in this story courtesy of @saracamden.