Sugarland Tour Manager Under Scrutiny for Stage Collapse Lawsuits
Lawyers are seeking millions in damages for the families of seven people who died -- and dozens of victims who were injured -- in the horrific stage collapse at last summer’s Indiana State Fair on August 13.
Although country duo Sugarland’s tour manager Hellen Rollens was credited for saving the lives of the band, since it was her decision to keep them backstage for a prayer circle just moments before the accident, she is now being investigated as a key player in the incident.
"Her decision to hold them for literally a minute saved every band member and crew's life," Sugarland manager Gail Gellman told The Associated Press in August.
State fair officials say they had a concert promoter ask the band twice to delay the concert because of concerns about severe weather, but were rejected. Investigative reports unveiled last week reveal that Rollens told a state fair representative, “It’s only rain. We can play.”
"I don't know if anybody was told anything," Sugarland lead singer Jennifer Nettles said in her video testimony released last week.
When asked if she felt responsible for the safety of the fans given the heavy equipment on stage, Nettles said: "I don't feel it's my responsibility or my management's responsibility to evacuate the fans in case of danger. Do I care about their safety? Absolutely."
Sugarland duo Nettles and Kristian Bush said they were never asked to delay the show, according to spokesperson Allan Mayer.
After months of investigation, reports released last week faulted the fair for a lack of clear safety protocols and confusion over who was in charge. Reports also said the stage design was grossly inadequate.
A key factor in the outcome of the lawsuits will be determining who was responsible for the decision not to delay the concert.
According to a report released last week, Eric Milby (a representative for a concert promotion company) and Rollens discussed putting off the show, but Rollens said the band wanted to go on and was willing to play in the rain.
"The biggest thing is we got those reports, which have a timeline of what people said, and it appears that it's different than what Kristian and Jennifer are saying in their depositions," attorney Mario Massillamany said.
"We know there are inconsistencies," he said. "We just don't know which version of events is most accurate."
Rollens has not yet been deposed, attorney Kenneth J. Allen said.
"I think the plot will thicken on the part of Hellen Rollens, but I think at the end of the day, she's an employee," Allen said. "The band had the ultimate authority to say we're not performing, and Kristian Bush admitted as much."
Mayer, Sugarland's spokesman, said Rollens was not acting as manager on the band's current tour but was still employed. Mayer denied that the band was responsible.
"The decision to delay the show is typically left up to the venue," in this case the fair, he said.