Family files wrongful death suit in Wood Dale fest death
A wrongful-death lawsuit filed in Cook County alleges Wood Dale festival organizers and a tent vendor knew a powerful storm was coming and mistakenly herded visitors under a poorly secured tent that collapsed Aug. 2, killing one man and injuring 22 others.
Nicole Nincic, whose 35-year-old husband, Steven Nincic, was struck and killed by a falling tent pole at Wood Dale's Prairie Fest, filed the suit Tuesday.
Three other people who attended the festival Aug. 2 and were injured are included as plaintiffs in the complaint, which names McCook-based Classic Party Rentals and Chicago Special Events Management as defendants. The lawsuit seeks a minimum of $50,000. Not named in the suit is the city of Wood Dale.
Chicago personal injury attorney Louis C. Cairo, representing Nicole Nincic and the other plaintiffs, was unavailable for comment Thursday, but the lawsuit alleges the companies "failed to design, manufacture, supply, construct and rig the party tents in a reasonably safe fashion and condition." Once constructed, the suit claims, the tent was never inspected.
City officials previously said the tent's electronic connections were the only items inspected before the fest.
The lawsuit also claims each of the companies lacked "reasonable and adequate emergency response plans" to get people to safety in inclement weather conditions.
Chicago Special Events Management CEO Hank Zemola said he feels badly for those affected by the tragedy but he expects his company to be removed from the suit "rather quickly."
"We only did marketing and sponsorship for (Prairie Fest). We were not even on site," Zemola said. "The entire event was put on by the City of Wood Dale. Our name is attached to it because we've helped them for years.
"They're a great community, though, and I'm sure they had an impeccable evacuation plan."
Wood Dale Police Chief Greg Vesta has said the city had an inclement weather evacuation plan but declined to discuss details.
The Daily Herald filed a Freedom of Information request with the city Aug. 5, requesting a copy of that plan. The city responded Wednesday evening saying officials were seeking an additional five business days to make the plan available.
City Clerk Shirley Siebert referred calls on the request Thursday morning to city attorney Sean Conway. Conway did not return calls.
Representatives from Classic Party Rentals were not available for comment.