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Circus fined for fatal tent collapse

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A fatal circus tent collapse that killed two audience members and injured dozens, including two circus employees, has drawn a proposed $33,800 fine from federal health and safety regulators.

The circus tent that collapsed in Lancaster, New Hampshire during a sudden downdraft of air called a “micro-burst” on Aug. 3, 2015, was not properly erected, and the circus operator, Walker International Events Inc., did not follow repeated National Weather Service storm warnings, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in a news release on Thursday.

Agency inspectors determined that Myakka City, Florida-based Walker International Events did not erect the tent in accordance with the professional engineer's design and diagrams, including failing to use the required tent stakes, properly anchor the stakes, remove and replace damaged stakes and disassemble and take down the tent amid expected winds exceeding 60 mph, according to the release. The company assembled the tent and began the performance even though the National Weather Service issued seven severe weather and high-wind warnings during the day and preceding the microburst, according to the release.

OSHA issued citations for 14 serious violations of workplace safety standards after also identifying other hazards, including ungrounded or misused electrical equipment, the use of inappropriate electrical equipment and connections in wet areas, lack of eye protection, unmarked exits, and lack of fire extinguishers inside the tent where employees worked with open flames, according to the release.

“Walker International Events' failures to erect the tent correctly and heed warnings of severe weather needlessly placed at risk the lives and well-being of its employees and everyone else in and around the tent that day,” Rosemarie Ohar Cole, OSHA's New Hampshire area director, said in a statement. “No enforcement action will bring the victims home to their families and community, but we want to send a message to this and other employers to follow proper procedures at all times and take effective and appropriate action to prevent an incident such as this from ever happening again.”

The company could not be reached for comment as its listed number was not in service, its website appeared to be inactive and the latest update to its Facebook page dated Oct. 2, 2015.