3 investigations launched into collapsed Alberta stage

EDMONTON — Three parallel investigations have been launched by the Alberta government into the fatal stage collapse at the Big Valley Jamboree during Saturday's severe storm in Camrose, Alta.

Occupational Health and Safety had previously ordered Panhandle Productions, the promoter of the annual music event, to hire experts to determine what caused the collapse and how to avoid a similar event.

The result of that investigation would then be reviewed by health and safety authorities to determine if it was complete.

On Tuesday, amid criticism from the Alberta Federation of Labour and after government investigators had spent more time at the scene near Camrose, located about 85 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, a second, separate investigation was ordered by the department.

This one will attempt to answer the same questions as Panhandle's experts do, but will be paid for and staffed by the government.
Winds hit speeds of 100 km/h when the stage collapsed.

Municipal Affairs has also asked for an investigation from Panhandle Productions, due in a month, because a temporary stage falls under provincial building codes.

"We're looking to know whether a permit was granted, whether inspections were carried out and how the stage was designed and built," said spokeswoman Jessica Spratt.

The provincial government's practice of asking companies to do their own investigations, as two out of the three are, was criticized Tuesday.
"It's outrageous that an employer would be the one doing the investigation," said Nancy Furlong, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "It's a conflict of interest. It's craziness."

Furlong said an investigation partly paid for by those who are potentially responsible fails to hold up public faith. However, Chodan said the final decision on charges, and if all reports are comprehensive, still rests with the government, not the private sector.

Donna Moore, 35, of Lloydminster, Alta., was killed by falling equipment when the stage gave way.

At least 75 people were hurt during the storm late Saturday afternoon. Camrose Police have concluded their investigation with no charges.
The company responsible for the stage, Premier Global Production, has said there was nothing that could have prevented the collapse because of how quickly the wind arrived.

Brian Andrews, general manager of the Nashville-based company, said the three minutes of warning his workers received before the wind hit was simply not enough. It takes at least 20 minutes to bring down the sails, lights and other roof apparatus in case of approaching extreme weather.

"There just wasn't time," said Andrews, who was at the scene. "That was the worst wind I've ever seen."

Edmonton Journal, Tues Aug 4 2009
Byline: Ryan Cormier

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