Indianapolis—State fair officials introduced nationally recognized firm Witt Associates Friday afternoon as the firm that would look into the procedures, decision-making and response by officials before, during and after the collapse of the stage at the Indiana State Fair.
Ted McKinney, a state Fair commission member, said they hired the firm to conduct a comprehensive, independent study. This, in the wake of, multiple requests for an independent agency to take on this role.
Representatives of Witt Associates said they are beginning their portion of the investigation by requesting important documentation and figuring out who they will need to interview.
By Monday, they hope to have the site assessed and a team picked out.
Because their contract has not been finalized with the state, it is unclear how much they will be paid.
"We'll be looking at all factors, we'll be looking at weather information, we'll be looking at what had been done in terms of planning, and we'll be looking at individual responsibility because it was such a big production, you have multiple agencies with jurisdiction involved," said Charles Fisher, Vice President of Witt Associates.
The firm CEO James Lee Witt was a former FEMA director under President Bill Clinton.
His Washington, D.C.-based firm performed an independent review of a fatal fire in a Chicago skyscraper in 2003 that killed six government employees, and the they advised the state of Louisiana about its overall response and recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"These tragedies we know are rare, and at the same token, we know from every tragedy will come some positives, and I think that's the role we're going to look at," said Kenneth Mallette, Witt Associates Vice President for National Business Development Preparedness Services.
The firm will prepare a report for the fair commission and the governor. It may include recommendations, but it is unclear how long that process might take.
Representatives with Thornton Tomasetti said they will start work on the stage where the collapsed happened on Monday. So far, there work has been focused on the perimeter.
The engineering firm has also helped organize a credential system at the site to make sure its staff and the state agencies involved have full access.