Circus Operator Agrees To Pay $24,000 Fine in Deadly Lancaster Tent Collapse

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By Chris Jensen

The operator of a circus tent that collapsed in Lancaster last year killing a Vermont father and daughter has agreed to pay a $24,000 fine and no longer dispute complaints that his company violated safety standards, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration said Wednesday.

Earlier this year OSHA accused John Caudill, Jr., the owner of the Florida-based Walker International Events, of 14 “serious” safety violations. They included failing to anchor the tent stakes properly and not cancelling the show despite warnings that severe storms were likely.

“This case serves as a reminder to employers everywhere that severe weather can present significant safety and health hazards to their employees, and that they must take adequate precautions to address those hazards,” said Michael Felsen, the New England regional solicitor of labor.

In addition to the death of 41-year-old Robert Young and his 6-year-old daughter Annabelle, about three dozen people were injured.

Originally, the federal agency sought $33,800 in fines. But it reduced the amount of fines not directly related to the tent collapse. Those included not properly marking exit signs.

OSHA said the company is not currently operating and has agreed not to resume operation without correcting its mistakes and adopting a “comprehensive safety plan.”

Earlier this year, state Fire Marshal William Degnan told that he concluded after his investigation that negligent manslaughter charges were warranted.

A Coos County Grand jury indicted Walker on a single felony count: failing to obtain the permit for putting on the show. The case has yet to come to court.