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UPDATED: Palos Hills Friendship Fest Tents Collapse, Workers Injured

Tents began to collapse around 8:40 a.m. Monday morning at the site of this weekend's Palos Hills Friendship Fest, sending several workers to the hospital.

 

In an instant the sky grew dark, the rain began and the wind picked up.

About 15 to 20 workers were taking down tents Monday morning after this weekend’s when poles began to blow over and tents started to collapse.

Jon White, a Palos Hills Public Works employee, was under the largest of the tents when it began to fall.

“It got dark really fast, started to rain one corner of the tents came down and we all started to run,” White said. “It was very scary.”

Workers on the scene said several people were rushed to the hospital.

The site of the fest, 10900 S. 88th Ave., is strewn with half standing tents, tipped over tables and chairs as well as a knocked over row of Port-a Johns.

UPDATED 10:11 a.m.: According to a release from , six workers sustained minor injuries and were transported to either or Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn. No Moraine faculty or staff were injured.

UPDATED 10:45 a.m.: Chief Patrick O'Connor of Moraine Valley Community College's Police Department says the injuries sustained by workers do not initially appear to be serious.

"Most were released at the scene, all were speaking when they were transported," O'Connor said.

The fest sits on Moraine Valley property.

Mayor Gerald Bennett said the fest was coming off a record year with attendance hitting an all-time high. About 8,000 visitors walked through the fest grounds on Sunday alone.

"We like to make sure we get the grounds cleaned up right away," Bennett said. "That is why they were out bright and early."

Bennett said other areas of Palos Hills also sustained some storm damage including downed trees.

"Harlem Avenue is a mess," Bennett said.

Bennett says the injuries were the result of the fact that the tent was already partially dismantled when the winds struck. The tents that had not yet been touched were in fairly stable condition, Bennett said.

Bennett said he believes two of the workers injured were public works employees.

A sherriff's officer was also injured on the scene, O'Connor said.

UPDATED 1:43 p.m.: Two of the of the injured workers were from the Sheriff's Work Alternative Program (SWAP) and another is the Cook County Sherriff's Office deputy who was supervising them, according to a statement from the Sherriff's Office. 

Seven SWAP workers were on the scene at the time working. The two workers and the deputy are expected to be released from the hospital today, according to the release.

View more up close images in the photo gallery of the aftermath.

Dave July 12, 2011 at 11:51 AM
The unfortunate part is, this event could have been handled better if the workers were informed of the severe weather coming into the area. There was a severe thunderstorm warning issued at 7:44am which included this area with the threat of 70mph winds and 1in hail. This was at least 30 minutes before the incident occurred. True it may not have looked that at the time of 7:44am, but also the severe thunderstorm warning message also posted the storm was traveling east at 70mph. People need to be aware of weather warnings and such, or else another Plainfield tornado situation may occur again. Figure it happened in August of 1990, no one under the age of 21 would know what that was like.
Palos Hills Resident July 12, 2011 at 09:21 PM
It is unfortunate, but HELLO .... if you didn't see the sky coming towards you would be any indication that a storm was coming. The way that sky was moving yesterday morning and the way it looked, I would NOT be under a tent seeking shelter. I would be running like hell to my car or a sturdy building for shelter. Also, I would imagine that other city employees heard the weather on their way into work and could have informed those out there taking things down .... or even the Palos Hills or Moraine Valley Police Departments could have sent someone over to inform the workers of the impending storm ...
Dave July 12, 2011 at 09:38 PM
That sort of is my point, as the warnings were issued, they would be coming across EAS activation systems and SAME equipped weather radios, and just plain old scanners monitoring 162.425Mhz (Lockport/Romeoville, IL transmitter). The problem is a lot of communities are more reactive instead of proactive. The warning systems are there (radio, TV, internet, pagers). They should have been implemented better, if they even were implemented. A side-note, I would not have been running for a car, but for a solid structure in this case, like some permanent building. Much safer than a car in high wind situations with possible hail.
Phil Caldamone July 14, 2011 at 01:46 AM
Mr.Bennett's facts seem to be very confusing.I was there that day when this entire episode took place.At no time was this tent partially dismantled.They were waiting for the swap workers to get there to be the human slaves and do the brunt of the work.The only thing's taken down when the swap workers arrived were the tables and chairs.It is obvious Mr.Bennett is trying to protect himself as well as Classic Party Rental the company that put the tent up.I was very seriously injured with multiple bulging disc's in my back as well numerous other problems.The truth of this matter will all be coming out very shortly.As far as the swap workers are concerned..They were forced from a secure van by officer Petersen to run into the tent as the rain was coming down.It was like a war zone in there and how I didn't lose my life I'm not really sure.This mayor has his facts twisted.Why on earth we were in there when all supervising personnel at thbe scene could see a storm was right over us.The Mayor,Classic party Rental,and The Cook County Sheriff's Office need to step up to the plate for there ignorance,and incompitence for me almost losing my life for menial BS.

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