INDIANAPOLIS – Steel cables that were part of the stage rigging structure that collapsed and killed seven people at last year’s Indiana State Fair were stolen last weekend from a warehouse where the wreckage from the collapse is being stored under a court order, state police said.
The theft from an Indianapolis warehouse was discovered Monday, State Police Capt. Dave Bursten said Friday. He said investigators believe the thieves weren’t targeting the stage wreckage, but were instead searching for metals to sell and spotted the coiled cables after stripping the warehouse of its electrical wiring, leaving it without power.
“They broke in for the purpose of stripping the electrical wiring from the facility and then while they were there, criminals being criminals, it was ‘Oh, there’s something else we can steal,’ ” Bursten said.
He said it appears that the thieves “circumvented” the building’s security system.
The wreckage was moved to the warehouse months after high winds ahead of a severe thunderstorm toppled stage rigging on Aug. 13, 2011, onto fans and others awaiting the start of a concert by country duo Sugarland. Seven people were killed, including a young woman from Fort Wayne, and about 60 were injured.
Stephanie McFarland, a spokeswoman for the Indiana State Fair Commission, did not immediately respond to questions sent to her Friday regarding the thefts.
Kenneth J. Allen, a Valparaiso attorney for some of the collapse victims, called the theft troubling because the cables are evidence in lawsuits filed over the collapse.
“Certainly it’s evidence that’s related to this catastrophe and in that regard given the gravity of the harm that was done it’s very important,” he said. “My responsibility is to supply the jury with all the evidence so that they can make a fair and informed decision. And when I don’t have all of the evidence that prejudices the jury’s ability to make a fair and informed decision.”
Allen last year sought and obtained a court order from a LaPorte County judge to protect the wreckage for investigations into the collapse and lawsuits filed in the case. Crews moved the wreckage from the fairgrounds to the warehouse months after last year’s accident.
Allen said that unlike many other states Indiana lacks a tough law that holds agencies or individuals accountable if they “negligently lose or destroy evidence.”
“Laws that allow the negligent to escape their accountability encourage carelessness,” he said. “It appears to me that there was some measure of negligence in protecting this evidence.”