Ministry of Labour probes Bluesfest stage collapse

Justin Sadler, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:33 PM ET

OTTAWA - The Ministry of Labour is investigating after the main stage collapsed at Ottawa Bluesfest Sunday night during a violent windstorm, injuring three people.

Though paramedics reported one man suffered life-threatening injuries, festival director Mark Monahan said Monday all three people were released from hospital with only minor injuries.

Considering there were about 10,000 people in the crowd at the time the stage toppled backwards in high winds and rain, Monahan said he's glad no one else was hurt.

Calling it a freak accident, he said the stage was inspected daily and there was no reason to believe there was anything amiss.

Festival staff will be reviewing procedures going forward to make sure this doesn't happen again and will work to implement any recommendations that should come from the ministry investigation.

Monahan said he would also look to improve communication between his staff and Environment Canada's weather office.

The office issued a weather watch, and then a severe weather warning, for the area Sunday night, but Monahan couldn't say how quickly his staff moved to clear the stage.

Meanwhile, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is reflecting on his close call during the show, where he had the best seat in the house – atop a tower by the stage – until it almost blew over.

Watson and two of his staffers, Danielle McGee and Joel Thirsk, were at the festival presenting honours and stuck around for Cheap Trick, who were on stage when it blew over.

The city hall trio were given seats in a raised area over the crowd.

"It was a great view, but you could tell this storm was coming," Watson said Monday.

McGee said the weather changed in a heartbeat.

"I thought, let's just run as fast as we can off this thing," McGee said.

No one even realized what happened across the field.

"We heard it collapse. It was sort of a mad dash," Thirsk said.

"I was just concerned for the mayor to make sure he got out OK."

Watson said he's thankful the stage didn't fall forward on the crowd.

"What I noticed was the staff and the volunteers and security people were very calm and organized," Watson said.

Police, firefighters and paramedics are also praising the organizers.

The same storm blew a path of destruction across the region, with high winds knocking over trees and trailers Quebec's Val des Bois camping area.

About 40,000 people without power at the storm's peak, and 10,000 were still unplugged Monday.


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