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Charges filed in fatal festival stage collapse

Charges were filed Friday against organizers of a country music festival after a stage collapse killed a woman during a concert two years ago in Alberta.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Charges were filed Friday against organizers of a country music festival after a stage collapse killed a woman during a concert two years ago in Alberta.

Donna Moore, 35, was crushed by falling scaffolding when a fierce storm tore through the grounds at the Big Valley Jamboree near Camrose, Alberta, on Aug. 1, 2009. The single mother from Lloydminster, Alberta, was sitting near the stage.

Another 75 people, including members of Hollywood actor Kevin Costner's band, Modern West, were injured.

The 33 charges under provincial health and safety legislation are against three companies involved in putting on the show.

Premier Global Production, which was responsible for the stage, and event organizer Panhandle Productions face a total of 27 charges. Most of them relate to failing to ensure the health and safety of workers. Premier faces two additional charges of failing to ensure that stage equipment and rigging could withstand any stresses it might face due to inclement weather.

A contractor directing Premier's activities also faces six charges of failing to ensure compliance under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

All three companies are due in provincial court Sept. 28.

The maximum penalty is $524,200 (CA$500,000) and/or six months in prison for each charge.

Panhandle Productions declined comment when contacted Friday. Premier Global and the contractor could not be reached.

A lawsuit on behalf of Moore's sons, who are 10 and 16, was filed last week. It names the City of Camrose, the concert's promoter, the company responsible for security and several companies that built the stage. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

When the storm ripped through the concert venue, singer Billy Currington was playing the last song of his set when the stage collapsed on top of him, leaving the country star with a minor concussion.

His bassist, Alex Stevens, was pinned under the wreckage for 30 minutes while crews worked to free him. Stevens underwent surgery on his left arm.

Modern West was the next band scheduled to take the stage before the terrifying windstorm swept through the site. Costner was on the stage when it collapsed and was caught under some debris but was not injured. His publicist Arnold Robinson said at the time that two of his crew members were hurt.

The strong blast of wind collapsed the main stage so quickly that organizers did not have time to warn thousands of fans crowded around it.

This year's Jamboree with headliners Gary Allan, Jason Aldean and Toby Keith began Thursday. Barrie Harrison, a spokesman for occupational health and safety, said the site was inspected two days ago and everything appeared to be in compliance.

"We are hopeful that this will be nothing other than a good weekend for the Big Valley Jamboree," he said.

Earlier this summer, three people were injured when an outdoor stage collapsed in Ottawa, Ontario, at the annual Bluesfest music festival.

Ontario's Ministry of Labour is investigating the incident.