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Big Valley Jamboree cancelled after stage collapse
Sonia Sunger, ctvedmonton.ca
Published Sunday, August 2, 2009 9:47AM MDT
Organizers in Camrose have cancelled the remaining performances at the Big Valley Jamboree after a stage collapse and death Saturday night.
One person was killed after a fierce storm system in central Alberta brought down the main stage at the Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, trapping several people Saturday evening.
The stage collapsed at around 6 p.m. just as American country singer Billy Currington was wrapping up his set.
People at the music festival say the storm came out of no where and caught everyone off-guard.
"One minute the sun was shining, next thing you know, dark clouds - I honestly thought it was a tornado," said witness Travis Ulliac.
Witnesses say the stage tipped forward and then collapsed backwards while dozens of people were sitting in designated seating on top.
"There was probably 150 people on the stage at the time," said Ian Dalsin.
Within moments Dalsin says he was only able to see a few feet in front of him as heavy winds and dust caused blackout conditions.
"We had to get out of there as soon as we could," he said. "There was stuff flying everywhere - garbage cans, advertisements, everything."
Emergency crews wer on scene attending to those who were injured. Reports say as many as 80 people may have been injured.
At least 15 people have been taken to hospital, and many others are feared trapped under debris. Four people have been classified as "critically injured."
Country singer Jessie Farrell said she watched the stage collapse from her trailer and said it collapsed inwards like it was in an "explosion."
"The stage is in a million pieces," she said.
She told CTV News Channel Saturday evening that there was about a minute warning of a storm coming, which she described as like "bombs going off."
"Lightning, hail, thunder . . . it looked like a tornado," she said. "Debris was flying everywhere."
Farrell said about 15,000 people were attending the show. The Jamboree is Canada's biggest country music festival.
On her Twitter account, she said Currington's face was bloodied but he appeared to be OK otherwise.
CTV News reporter Adam Kuzina who was at the music festival at the time of the collapse, says emergency crews could be seen pulling a body out on a stretcher shortly after the collapse.
RCMP have now confirmed that one person was killed in the incident.
The injuries and the death have many people who attended the festival outraged. One attendee, Christain Haylett, says people should have been notified about the storm warning well in advance.
"The stage should have been evacuated," said Haylett. "It should have been done quickly and it wasn't and there are people here who are responsible for that."
CTV News spoke to officials with STARS air ambulance who say they landed in Camrose at about 7:30; they say the weather prevented them from landing any earlier.
Actor and country singer Kevin Costner was due to perform Saturday evening. There are reports Costner went to the hospital to comfort those who were hurt.
Environment Canada had issued severe thunderstorm warnings for areas ranging from the County of Stettler, Lacombe County as well as Camrose County. Winds in these areas were being recorded between 60 to 100 kilometres per hour.
According to Environment Canada cold air moving in from northern Alberta and central British Columbia is combined with the warm moist air to create favourable conditions for severe thunderstorms.
Several areas west of Edmonton have been pelted with hail, gusty winds and heavy rain.
Residents in Stony Plain seem to be the worst hit. Many residentssay the large hail caused damage to the siding of their homes and some residents in Stony Plain have reported having their roofs ripped off, causing their home to flood.
Flooding has also been reporting in Edmonton and Devon.
The warning comes just two weeks after a major storm ripped through the city and surrounding areas. That storm snapped trees and brought down the entrance to the CN Tower in downtown Edmonton.