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Students performing in April at Westfield Ind High School immediately before the cover over the orchestra pit collapses
<p>Students performing in April at Westfield (Ind.) High School immediately before the cover over the orchestra pit collapses.</p>

Stage collapse at Indiana high school resulted from employee's alterations

Investigators say the changes to the stage at Westfield High School were ill-advised, but do not merit criminal charges.

Police in Westfield, Ind., say that the stage collapse last month at a local high school auditorium was the result of faulty alterations to the cover of an orchestra pit carried out by a school employee.

Investigators say the new cover to the orchestra pit at Westfield High School, installed in January, was not anchored properly, which made it susceptible to collapse. That's what happened on April 23 as students taking part in a musical performance filled the stage. More than a dozen students suffered minor injuries when the pit cover gave way.

In determining the cause of the collapse, authorities ruled that the actions of the school employee, identified by local media as the auditorium director, did not warrant criminal prosecution.

"While the result of the stage construction was catastrophic, the failed construction and maintenance of that stage did not rise to the level of criminal culpability," a news release from the Westfield police concluded.

Police say the school employee purchased materials and built a new orchestra pit cover with the help of students.

"The original pit lid and understructure support system was removed and was later replaced with the newly constructed pit lid," police say. "This construction failed, resulting in the collapse because the up-stage header was not securely anchored to the primary structure and was merely attached to the non-structural trim piece. Additionally no understructure support system was installed beneath the new construction."

The Indianapolis Star reports that 17 students sustained injuries--none life-threatening--in the collapse, and all but one of them has returned to school.


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