Area residents who witnessed the Indiana State Fair stage collapse first-hand spoke with palpable shock and sadness Sunday.
Saturday night’s collapse claimed the lives of five people, including Tammy Vandam, 42, of Wanatah.
And among the dozens injured was Caitlyn Kahlenbeck, 21, of Mishawaka, who reportedly remained in critical condition Sunday night in an Indianapolis hospital.
A family member told WSBT-TV that Kahlenbeck was responsive but still unconscious.
Here are eye-witness accounts of several people who attended the concert and watched the tragedy unfold.
Scott Carpenter, who attended the concert with his wife, Suzi, both of Wanatah
“My wife and I were directly against the far right-hand side of the stage inside the pit area. We could see the storm front approaching as Sara Bareilles concluded her performance. As we watched the stagehands change the stage over to the ‘Incredible Machine’ stage configuration (the title of Sugarland’s CD) we could see the dark clouds rapidly approaching from the West. A fair representative informed the crowd that it appeared we were going to get some storm activity and that if they had to they would have us leave the concert area and seek shelter in buildings behind the grandstand, then start the concert after(ward).
“Approximately 15 minutes later you could feel a drastic shift in temperature and the sky suddenly became dark as the front covered us. I grabbed my wife’s hand and told her we should go to the back of the pit area so that we were one of the first to leave the area. She agreed that the show would likely be delayed or canceled.
“I stopped to take a few pictures of the impressive Sugarland stage setup. At that very moment as you can see in the picture we were blasted with sand and an incredibly strong blast of wind. My wife and I began to run. Just as we exited the pit area I looked behind me to see the stage structure begin to move. I yelled, ‘The stage is going to fall!’ We then began to run for the pit exit.
“At that moment we were surrounded by screams. Over my shoulder I was able to see the entire structure collapse a mere 10 feet behind me. I watched one or two people disappear beneath failing structure. We then became part of a large group of people frantically trying to get away from what could only be a tornado in my mind. I looked behind me once again and was overwhelmed with an enormous sense of shock and sadness as I knew many people were injured or were killed beneath pile of metal and speakers.
“We both had problems seeing as our eyes were full of sand and my wife’s foot was bleeding. Still thinking that there was a tornado we managed to make our way to the other side of the grandstand into the nearest building. Our vantage point from being down so close was drastically different then from the video we now see online and in the news. For the past 24 hours we have been in a state of shock and sadness for those who were injured or worse.”
The Carpenters said Vandam, who was one of the five people killed, lived two miles from the Carpenters.
“Although we do not personally know Tammy, we know who she is. This is a small community and everybody seems to know everyone in it. We were unaware that she was at the show, let alone in the pit area with us. Our thoughts and prays are with her family.”
Mike Tierney, who attended the fair with his wife, Beth, both of New Carlisle
“We were standing outside (the Arts/Crafts building) under the cover in front of the building and saw the cloud of dust suddenly kick up and start flying over the livestock barns. It made many people think it was a tornado and head for cover.
“Within seconds emergency vehicles were all headed toward the grandstand. We had no idea what had happened at the time, but suspected something big.
“When we finally headed to the car, we started to hear about the stage. We were parked directly behind the stage, just a couple rows from the buses. If the stage had fallen the opposite direction, it would have hit our car."
Cheyenne Pelis, 15, who is starting her sophomore year at Mishawaka High School.
“Everybody around us was talking about this big storm that was coming in. One of the guys in front of us had the radar on his phone and it showed that it was headed right for us. All of a sudden around 8:45 the sky looked like a black cloud. Someone got on the stage and said if the rain hits there were three places we could go until the rain was over, and then they would start the concert.