Circus operator contesting fine over deadly tent collapse

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – A Florida-based circus operator is contesting more than $33,000 in fines proposed by federal safety officials for a tent collapse that killed two people and injured dozens in New Hampshire last year.

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 a show. Young and his daughter were from Concord, Vermont. Fifty other people were injured, including two circus employees.

Ted Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said the meeting between agency representatives and Walker International Events took place Wednesday.

“They did not reach a resolution, so the company is contesting the citation,” Fitzgerald said. The company’s notice will be forwarded to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, which would assign it to an administrative law judge who would hear the case if a settlement can’t be worked out.

OSHA said 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.

A number listed for Walker International is no longer in service, and the business’ Facebook page is down. Several lawsuits have been filed against Walker stemming from the tent collapse. A lawyer representing Walker in those cases said she was not at the meeting Wednesday and had no comment.

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