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updated: 8/22/2011 9:42 AM

Stage collapse survivor from Island Lake: 'I tried to run'

Mom, son recall moments before Indiana fair stage collapse

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  • Karen Brunn and her 12-year-old son, Josh, say they feel lucky, despite the broken bones and other injuries they suffered when a stage collapsed on them Aug. 13 at the Indiana State Fair.

      Karen Brunn and her 12-year-old son, Josh, say they feel lucky, despite the broken bones and other injuries they suffered when a stage collapsed on them Aug. 13 at the Indiana State Fair.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Karen Brunn was knocked unconscious when the stage collapsed Aug. 13 at the Indiana State Fair. She said she woke up in a chaotic triage area unable to locate her 12-year-old son.

      Karen Brunn was knocked unconscious when the stage collapsed Aug. 13 at the Indiana State Fair. She said she woke up in a chaotic triage area unable to locate her 12-year-old son.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Karen Brunn and her 12-year-old son, Josh, say they feel lucky, despite the broken bones and other injuries they suffered when a stage collapsed on them Aug. 13 at the Indiana State Fair.

      Karen Brunn and her 12-year-old son, Josh, say they feel lucky, despite the broken bones and other injuries they suffered when a stage collapsed on them Aug. 13 at the Indiana State Fair.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 

Twelve-year-old Josh Brunn sat in a wheelchair at the kitchen table of his Island Lake home Sunday, playing chess with his grandpa.

His broken right leg was raised, covered with bandages and held by a brace.

On his head, a gash was hidden beneath his mop of light colored hair.

His mom, Karen Brunn, also bore the mark of a head wound, but her wounds in general were less severe: four broken ribs and shoulder bruises.

"Every day is a little bit better," she said.

All things considered, it could have been much worse.

Josh and his mom were among the scores of Sugarland fans injured Aug. 13 when a gust of wind caused a stage to collapse at the Indiana State Fair. Seven spectators were killed.

The memories of what happened for both are dim. Josh said he saw the tragedy begin to unfold from his seat near the front of the stage.

"I tried to run away, but I couldn't," he said.

Karen said that when Sugarland was about to take the stage, the master of ceremonies said there might be severe weather. After he left, the crowd chanted, "No rain. No rain."

"Obviously that didn't work," she said. "We should have chanted, 'No wind.' At that time we just saw dark clouds, but then we looked to the left and saw these swirling winds, which looked like a tornado."

She remembers people yelling, "Get down. Get down."

"I remember seeing the stage and thinking, I hope (the lights don't) fall," she said.

Karen was knocked unconscious by the falling stage apparatus. She came to amid a chaotic scene in a triage area at the fairgrounds. Emergency personnel asked her name and eventually transferred her to an Indianapolis hospital.

"I kept thinking, 'This is a nightmare,'" she said.

At the ER, she kept telling hospital personnel she didn't know her son's whereabouts. They started calling people, and eventually he was located.

The next morning she watched video of the collapse, describing it as "unreal."

"It was amazing to hear that people had actually died," she said.

The state fair concert was to be the 35th time she's seen Sugarland in the past five years, she said. She described the country act and its fans as almost like a family to her. In her living room are flowers sent by Sugarland to the Brunn family. The band also contacted her after the stage collapse.

Tim Brunn, Karen's husband and Josh's father, did not attend the concert. He said he received a call from a mutual friend of the Sugarland fan club notifying him of the accident.

A short time later he received a call from the hospital where Josh was about to undergo surgery for his broken femur.

For Josh, the routine of life will be altered for some time. He will spend a few more weeks in a wheelchair and a couple months after that on crutches.

He won't be attending school right away, but eventually he will bused to school at Frassati Catholic Academy in Wauconda. Basketball is probably out until next year.

Still, Josh said he feels lucky.

"I feel bad for the people (who were hurt or killed)," he added.

Karen said she has not given any thought to legal action.

"We are looking forward to the future, and I am looking forward to my next Sugarland concert," she said.

That will be in Atlanta in October, the last show of the band's current tour. It will be indoors.

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