Lawsuits Filed in Indiana Stage Collapse

By Charlie Wojciechowski
|  Friday, Aug 19, 2011  |  Updated 7:45 PM CDT
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Beth Urschell, 49, and her life partner, Tammy Van Dam, 42, were near the front row when the storm struck. Van Dam was killed.

Beth Urschell, 49, and her life partner, Tammy Van Dam, 42, were near the front row when the storm struck. Van Dam was killed.

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Two lawsuits filed Friday in LaPorte County (Ind.) Circuit Court are the first in connection with last week's stage collapse that killed six and injured dozens.

Beth Urschell, 49, and her life partner, Tammy Van Dam, 42, were near the front row when the storm struck. 

"I looked up and saw the stage starting to fall," Urschell painfully recalled.  "Where do you run? Where do you go?"

Urschell was crushed by the stage parts. One of her toes were severed. Van Dam was killed.

Van Dam's estate and Urschell are seeking damages in excess of $50 million in two separate suits, according to attorney Kenneth Allen.

Allen called the stage a "house of cards" that never should have been built.  He said the National Weather Service warned fair office not once, but twice, about severe thunderstorms approaching.

"This was foreseeable," said Allen.  "The severity of the lightning alone should have been enough to cancel the event," he said.

Another woman killed in the collapse, 29-year-old Christina Santiago, was an employee at Chicago's Howard Brown Health Center.

A sixth woman, Jennifer Haskell, passed away Friday morning.

Allen said he expects to be filing more cases in connection with the incident.

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