U.S. feds seek fines against circus company after deadly tent collapse

CONCORD, N.H. -- Federal safety officials have proposed more than $33,000 in fines against a Florida-based circus operator for a tent collapse that killed two people and injured dozens in New Hampshire.

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Robert Young, 41, and his 6-year-old daughter, Annabelle, died Aug. 3 when a storm with winds up to 75 mph blew through the Lancaster Fairgrounds, toppling the tent just minutes after about 100 people had settled in to watch the first of two planned shows. Young and his daughter were from Concord, Vermont. Fifty other people were injured, including two circus employees.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Thursday that Sarasota-based Walker International Events failed to properly erect the tent and ignored severe weather and high-wind warnings from the National Weather Service. Inspectors determined that the company failed to use required tent stakes, properly anchor the stakes or replace damaged stakes.

The agency also found hazards that put circus employees at risk of electric shock, burns and cuts, such as the use of inappropriate electrical equipment in wet areas and a lack of fire extinguishers in areas where employees worked with open flames.

"No enforcement action will bring the victims home to their families and community, but we want to send a message to this and other employers to follow proper procedures at all times and take effective and appropriate action to prevent an incident such as this from every happening again," said Rosemarie Ohar Cole, OSHA's New Hampshire director.

The company has 15 business days from the time it received the citations Feb. 4 to respond and to challenge the proposal. A phone number for the company was out of service Thursday, but an OSHA spokesman said company officials will be meeting with OSHA on Feb. 24 to discuss a settlement.

After the collapse, Lancaster fire officials said Walker International did not have a place-of-assembly permit required by state law for the performance but had received the permit for shows in 2010 and 2011.


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