The deck prior to the current modification had an additional emergency exit with a ramp. The present deck has no cover/roof from the elements.
People in an evacuation situation would not be carrying anything but their children. Soft drinks, food and snacks would most likely be dropped in the grandstand, steps on the deck and ramp. The danger of slipping, tripping and ultimately falling on the steps or deck and being trampled would be a disaster.
Once the stampede started and people poured through the grandstands on to the choke point on the deck to the ramp, individuals might start climbing over the rails. Some might start throwing the strollers and carriages over the railings to clear a path, and the result would be that more people would be injured with the strollers and carriages trying to exit.
This might not happen today, tomorrow or next year, but at some point in the future, it could happen.
We have a chance right now to take and make every effort to divert this accident with positive planning.
I addressed the county legislators, who are the landlords of the fairgrounds. I was informed that the fair management is required to carry insurance so the county won’t be held liable. Not good enough.
When and if a tragedy strikes and the worst scenario — loss of life, especially of children — the lawsuits will fly from the fairground management, the town, county level and New York state. When this starts, it will grow from ground level and escalate right into the Governor’s Office.
The questions will be asked: “Did you know about this?” and “When did you know it?”
Our elected and appointed officials in Clinton County have a fiduciary responsibility, as trustee of the people, to protect them:
▶ A manager entrusted to control property or to act on behalf of and for the benefit of another.
▶ Relating to the relationship between a trustee and the person or body for whom the trustee acts.
I recommend that the fairgrounds evacuation plan be reviewed by the state safety engineer and the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department for their evaluation and opinion.
John Farley is accessibility consultant for the North Country Center for Independence in Plattsburgh.