Vermonters Die in Circus Tent Collapse

The victims were identified as a father and daughter from Vermont

The New Hampshire State Fire Marshal said 41-year-old Robert Young of Concord, Vermont, and his elementary school-aged daughter, Annabelle, died Monday night when high wind brought down the metal bones of a tent set up for a traveling circus in Lancaster, New Hampshire. Pipes and steel infrastructure fell onto the audience.

The father and daughter died from blunt force trauma, Fire Marshal Bill Degnan said. Dozens of others were injured.

Tuesday, investigators scanned the fairgrounds with a helicopter and blamed a micro-burst of perhaps 75 to 90 miles per hour.

"The path was very clear when you looked at it from the air," Degnan said of the wind pattern. "In how it took down some trees on a riverbank and then spread out going across the field and ultimately took down the tent."

Meagan Marion told NBC News she was at the circus, where she said her mom was hit in the head by a falling pole and needed hospitalization.

"Stuff like that, they've got to watch out for," Marion said of summer storms. "Especially when there's a lot of people."

Marion said she considers herself lucky. "I was, and my son was, but my mom wasn't, and that's what's really bugging me," she said, fighting back tears.

Investigators were interviewing witnesses Tuesday, but had to duck for cover themselves when another powerful storm briefly rumbled through, bringing lightning.

Degnan said the circus, Walker Brothers International out of Sarasota, Florida, did not have a permit to hold the circus in Lancaster. Walker Brothers cancelled shows Tuesday evening in Bradford, Vermont and Wednesday in Grafton, New Hampshire, according to the entertainers' website.

Before going to New Hampshire, the circus company was at the Topsham Fairgrounds. Maine officials say the circus tent passed safety inspections, but in light of the Lancaster Fairgrounds fatal collapse, they say maybe it’s time to re-evaluate their process.

Officials also said a severe weather warning went up 20 or so minutes before chaos erupted, but there were no evacuations.

Marion said when an acrobatic performer sensed trouble, she told people to run, but it was too late for the Youngs.

"It's a tragedy that should never have happened," Rev. Thomas Jackson of the Lancaster Church of Christ told necn. "And the loss of two in one family is devastating. Our sympathy goes out with them."

Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, called this "incredibly heartbreaking news" and said, "I can’t imagine the pain and grief that this tragedy has caused the family, friends, and loved ones of these two Vermonters."

Degnan said criminal charges may result from this emergency, but said more information on that wouldn't come until after the conclusion of the investigation.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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