Sugarland's Stage Manager Made Split Second Decision That Saved Band From Collapse
Sugarland's stage manager Hellen Rollens made a split-second decision to hold the band back from taking the stage at the Indiana State Fair on Saturay because of bad weather -- and it may have saved their lives.
The band's manager, Gail Gellman, said some people thought it was safe to go on-stage, but Rollens acted on her instinct and kept them off. Seconds later, 60 to 70 mph wind gusts knocked over the stage, killing four people and sending 48 to the hospital. Another person died overnight in the hospital.
As they heard the stage crashing, Sugerland's Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush and their crew fell to the floor and tried to take cover under a wall because they were afraid the stage was falling on them.
"There was no running out anywhere," Gellman told the Associated Press on Monday. "No one knew what happened. It was just the moment when your eyes get big."
The group met up at their tour bus later.
"As a tour manager, it's super important to understand what the weather conditions are when you play outside. We've always talked about not putting the band on during wind, lightning or heavy rain," said Gellman.
"Everybody was standing in a prayer circle getting ready to go onstage, and Hellen, as she was walking down the ramp, the stage fell. So her decision to hold them for literally a minute saved every band member and crew's life," she added.
Gellman has watched Nettles struggle with the news of the accident.
"There are moments I can see great clarity in her eyes, and there are moments I can see her tears well up so much that I just don't know what to do," Gellman told the AP. "She's just processing and wants to encourage people to be together, to support each other."
Bush returned to his Georgia home to spend time with his children after the accident.
Gellman thinks the the stage fell because of the weather, not because of of a structural issue. Indiana officials are still investigating.
"I would pose the same question to every band that goes out there, Keith Urban, Kenny [Chesney]. We all tour during the summer. We all play outside. We're all cognizant and very aware of what we hang and what we do," she said. "We have restrictions and requirements [from every venue] and we stand by every single one of them."
The set for Sugarland's "Incredible Machine" tour was destroyed when the stage collapsed. They had to cancel a Sunday show at the Iowa State Fair, but are "hoping and preparing" to play a scheduled stop in Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday.