Collapsed circus bleachers should have been inspected twice a year, city official says

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As the city continues to investigate how a set of bleachers holding 420 people collapsed during the final performance at Circus Juventas, officials are releasing more information about the safety of the bleachers.

Yesterday we reported that the bleachers hadn't been inspected since 2006 when they were first purchased. According to a Pioneer Press report today, city inspection officials said the bleachers should be inspected by the city every time they are set up. The Circus sets up the bleachers twice a year for their annual performances.

The collapse sent six women and a baby to the hospital Sunday night. None of them had serious injuries, but several reported broken wrists and concussions.

Circus Juventas said their staff inspects the bleachers each time they are set up and staff walk under and over them every day looking for problems.

More from the Pioneer Press:
Dick Lippert, a St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections deputy director in charge of inspections, said: "We think anytime you put up risers, you should have a permit to do that so we can inspect it. Just because you put it up one way one year doesn't mean it's the same every year."

Asked who was responsible for knowing inspections are required and making sure they happen -- the city or the organization -- Lippert said temporary bleachers are usually set up by bleacher companies who know they need permits and inspections.

"Had we known they (Circus Juventas) were putting it up twice a year, we would have made them get permits and inspected it," Lippert said.
Minnesota Public Radio and the PiPress both had more stories from people at the performance describing what they saw and heard as the structure collapsed.



From the PiPress:
Delaine Woods, 18, of Olympia, Wash., whose mother worried more about the plane crashing than the circus when she sent him and his 22-year-old brother to visit her sister in St. Paul. He was sitting in the back row:

"After the entire performance -- which was fantastic and unbelievable and I'm really glad I went -- the majority of the crowd was giving a standing ovation and stomping and clapping in unison. Suddenly, we heard a crash that sounded like someone's chair had fallen off the back of the bleachers and we felt a shift in the whole thing. My brother and I instinctively braced for impact as we started to fall. ... As soon as we landed and we checked our family, we started helping people. The entire cast of the circus came into the crowd and was helping people. That was really cool that everyone jumped to attention so quick."
Read the rest of the witness accounts here.
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