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Stage collapses at Ottawa Bluesfest

Jill Colton, staff writer

July 19, 2011 — The main stage at Ottawa Bluesfest collapsed during a severe thunderstorm Sunday night, injuring several people at the concert.

Still of collapsed stage from Cheap Trick's Facebook page.
Still of collapsed stage from Cheap Trick's Facebook page.

In just a matter of seconds, a stage at Ottawa's Bluesfest came crumbling down on Sunday night.

Thousands of fans attending the Cheap Trick concert went running for cover as a wicked storm barreled through. At least three people were treated in hospital for minor injuries and released.

Concert-goer Ben DiTommaso witnessed the collapse first hand.

“When the wind picked up, some people started to leave the concert kind of orderly and Cheap Trick was on and then they had run off the stage and the stage collapsed. It was just a matter of seconds before they had run off the stage and it had collapsed,” he said.

Members of Cheap Trick said on their Facebook page that they were merely shaken up and weren't hurt. One of their drivers however, spent the night in hospital.

Marc Messier, Ottawa Fire Services Public Information Officer, said a second search under the collapsed stage confirmed no one was trapped underneath.

The Weather Network spoke to one of the volunteer co-ordinators at Bluesfest who said it was absolute chaos on the ground. “One of the main stages collapsed because of the impact of the severe thunderstorms...”

On Monday, the Ontario Ministry of Labour sent a team to the festival grounds to investigate the incident.

In a press conference Monday morning, Mark Monahan, executive director of Bluesfest, said festival organizers followed protocol and shut the performance down when it became apparent severe weather was moving in. He added the stage was inspected daily and there was no reason to expect anything would go wrong.

Radar showed a large cluster of severe cells marching towards the city during the evening hours.

“And Environment Canada had a severe thunderstorm warning out for the city of Ottawa at around 6:30 pm on Sunday evening saying that a storm will reach the city at around 7 to 7:30 pm and the wind gusts could be gusting up to 140 km/h with possible hail,” says Elena Lappo, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

There were also reports of downed trees in the Ottawa area. Many pictures flooded Twitter showing smashed cars and windows.

Bluesfest officials cancelled the remaining performances Sunday night, including the headlining act.

The 12-day festival has grown into one of country's premiere summer music events.

With files from CTV Ottawa, the Canadian Press and Andrea Stockton

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