(June 3, 2012) – The widow of a man killed when an April 28th storm knocked over a party tent is suing the bar where the collapse occurred, as well as the company that leased and installed the tent.
About 100 people were injured in the tent collapse, and a 58-year-old man was killed at the scene from blunt force trauma. Witnesses say that more than 200 people, many who had attended a baseball game at a nearby stadium, were packed into the tent listening to music as the winds hit at about 4:00 pm. This was a popular place to celebrate after the St. Louis Cardinals baseball games.
One witness told a news reporter that the music in the tent was so loud, that no one heard the storm coming. When the tent ripped from its moorings, tent poles were sent flying wildly through the crowd, hitting many people in the head. The tent wound up hanging from a train trestle.
One person was killed, 5 others critically injured, 17 people rushed to the hospital, and another 100 were treated for minor injuries.
According to the Associated Press, the owner of the bar said that firefighters told him that the victim was killed by lightning, not flying debris. On Monday, the owner of the bar said it looked as though the ropes that helped anchor the tent snapped.
The city’s building code requires that tents larger than 1,000 square feet were made to withstand wind gusts of up to 90 mph. The National Weather Service center reported winds Saturday reached 45-50 mph.
Tents as large as the one at this bar cannot be erected without a building permit. The building permit was issued on April 11th. The city said that an inspector checked the tent for fire hazards and said it was safe for occupancy. For installation issues, the city said it is up to the owners and contractors to use good practices to make sure the tents are set up properly. The city inspects tents to determine if there are enough exits and if they’re well marked, but city inspectors do not look at whether the tent was erected under manufacturers specifications. That work is up to the contractor. The tent was supposed to be able to withstand winds of up to 90 mph, in compliance with the city’s building code.
When storms blew into downtown St. Louis on Saturday afternoon, the victim was in the bar’s beer garden tent with his brother. The brother told family members that he noticed a gust of wind lift up part of the tent. The brother reached down to hold onto a pole, in an effort to keep the tent in place, but heard his brother say that it would be impossible to hold it down. Seconds later, they were both knocked to the ground. The brother suffered a bruised eye. The victim died of a blunt force trauma at the scene. The victim’s daughter said her dad was a retired ironworker who had worked on bridges. He was married to his wife for 36 years. They raised three girls, now 27, 29, and 33 years old. The victim was looking forward to attending the wedding of one of his daughters.
The daughter says that speculation that her father suffered a heart attack during the tent collapse is not true. Doctors told the family that he might have suffered a lightning strike. The medical examiner told the family that he also suffered a contusion to the head.
A witness at the scene wanted to state that the crowd was not a bunch of drunken people who had no idea the storm was coming. They saw the storm coming but it just intensified too quickly. “From the drizzle it went to a very hard downpour, and within 5-10 seconds that gust came in.” He said that the main tent and the smaller tent started to lift in the air and people were screaming, poles were flying. He explained it as “pure chaos, blood all over the place.” This witness said that after he found his wife and saw she was okay he went to help the victim with three family members, one of whom was a part-time firefighter. They performed CPR on the victim for approximately 15 minutes.
This is such a tragedy that never should have happened. If the tent was supposed to be able to withstand winds of up to 90 mph, how did this occur? Who do you think is at fault in this mishap? The contractor? The inspector? The owner of the bar? Leave your thoughts on our blogpost.