Alina R. BigJohny

Alina R. BigJohny

Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana, USA
Death 13 Aug 2011 (aged 23)
Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, USA
Burial Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana, USA
Memorial ID 74907859 · View Source
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Stage collapse at Fairgrounds kills 5, injures 45 people

During a concert at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, a Severe Thunderstorm blew in and a horrible wind front before the rain came caused the collapse of the rigging which killed 5 people and injured 45 others.

Journal Gazette

Alina R. BigJohny, 23, passed away Saturday, August 13, 2011 in Indianapolis. She was born August 4, 1988 in Fort Wayne. She was a 2007 graduate of Wayne High School and was the salutatorian of her class. She was also the captain of gymnastics team, editor-in-chief of the school paper and senior class president at Wayne High School. She graduated in May 2011 with honors from Manchester College. She was planning on teaching seventh grade this fall at Wilson Middle School, Muncie. She is survived by her father, Robert (Gohar Hakobyan) BigJohny, of Sherwood, AR; mother, Polly A. BigJohny, of Fort Wayne; sister, Christy (Terry Collins) BigJohny, of Fort Wayne; brother, Antonio Guerrero, of Fort Wayne; grandfather, Stepan BigJohny, of Armenia; great grandmother, Margaret Baghoomian, of Glendale, CA; nephew, TJ Collins of Fort Wayne; and several aunts, uncles and cousins. Funeral Service is 11:00 am Friday, August 19, 2011 at Klaehn, Fahl and Melton, Winchester Rd. Chapel, 6424 Winchester Rd. Visitation is 2-9 pm Thursday at the funeral home. Burial in Highland Park Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials to TJ Collins Educatin Fund c/o Christy BigJohny.

Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne woman dies after Indiana State Fair stage collapses

BigJohny died Saturday when the stage collapsed before a Sugarland concert at the Indiana State FairA Fort Wayne woman was one of five people who died after a stage collapsed before a Sugarland concert Saturday at the Indiana State Fair.

Alina BigJohny, a 2007 Wayne High School graduate and Manchester College graduate, died when a strong winds caused the stage rigging for the outdoor concert to collapse before the country group Sugarland was set to perform.

The Marion County Coroner's Office has confirmed that BigJohny died in the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair Saturday night.

According to a profile page from Manchester College, the 23-year-old graduated Wayne High School in 2007 and Manchester in 2011. She studied English secondary education and wanted to be a high school teacher.

The Indiana State Police said there were 45 people taken to area hospitals following the collapse. A man died overnight from injuries he suffered, 1st Sgt. David Bursten said during a Sunday morning news conference.

The Marion County Coroner's office identified the other victims as 29-year-old Christina Santiago of Chicago, two Indianapolis residents: 42-year-old Glenn Goodrich and 51-year-old Nathan Byrd and Tammy Vandam, 49-year-old, of Wanatah in LaPorte County. It was Byrd who died overnight, according to the Associated Press.

Fair officials said they were working with Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the investigation of the collapse. The company in charge of building the stage has done work at the state fair for 10 to 15 years, fair officials said.

An online autobiography from BigJohny detailed early trials in her life, including her parents' divorce. And she talked of being involved in a senior prank at Wayne that almost cost her the chance to walk in graduation.

She also talked about going to Armenia, which is her heritage, after high school.

"Through change, challenge and opportunity I have learned to take what I am given and do my best with it. Growing up I stood out from my peers in all positive ways, and as an adult, I hope to do the same. I have proved to myself and others around me that if I want something badly enough I can achieve it. That is what I plan to do with the rest of my life," she wrote.

"As I venture out into the real world, I will take with me what I have learned so far in my life and apply it to my decision making. I hope to become a successful teacher and by successful, I mean one who instills in my students knowledge and skills to be prosperous in their lives. With the qualities and traits that have been instilled within me I will move through the next steps of my life, always looking back for reminders and reassurance and always looking forward with faith and hope."

Danielle Stoy, a Manchester College graduate, was best friends with Alina BigJohny. The two met the first day Stoy was on campus and

learned they were suite mates. They'd been friends ever since.

"She was funny, spontaneous. She was just amazing," Stoy said. "She always had a smile and she'd do anything for anybody. She loved her family like there was no tomorrow and they were her top priority."

BigJohny, who turned 23 on Aug. 4, double majored in English and education at Manchester College and was just hired to teach 7th grade at a school in Muncie, Stoy said.

Another friend, Jennifer Haskell, was critically injured in the stage collapse. Stoy has been at the hospital in Indianapolis since learning of the stage collapse when she got off work early Sunday morning. She said she knew the two women had close seats and was concerned when she arrived home and heard the news. The two women were in the Sugar pit at the concert, the fan club area.

"It was one of their favorite bands, they knew every song," Stoy said.

Two hours before the stage collapse, Stoy and BigJohny had talked on the phone about the last time they were at a concert, July 17 for Tim McGraw. And the two spent BigJohny's birthday weekend together in Grand Rapids, Mich., with a handful of other friends.

"Right now, I'm just here for my friends' families," Stoy said.

"That's what my friends need right now."

Fans were trapped and injured in the accident shortly before 9 p.m., before Sugarland was to take the stage.

Hundreds of concert-goers rushed to tend to the injured, lifting the steel scaffolding off them and providing medical care. Emergency crews set up a triage center in a tunnel below the grandstand.

Witnesses reported seeing many people with head and neck injuries and broken bones.

Witnesses said some of the injured were in a VIP section in front of the stage known as the "Sugar Pit."

Ali Batenhorst, 27, of Indianapolis told The Journal Gazette that just before the concert was about to start the sky darkened. "You could

see the clouds rolling in with the lightning," she said.

Right after officials made an announcement about the approaching storm, gusts blew through the concert area, kicking up a white cloud of dust and sand, Batenhorst said.

She and her friends, including Journal Gazette reporter Devon Haynie, left the covered grandstand and retreated to another building.

That's when the wind caused the stage to collapse, she said. "I heard people yelling and screaming and running," she said. "If we would have waited, like, another minute it would not have been good."

Batenhorst said she and her friends reached a pavilion where other concert-goers making cell phone calls and were reuniting with their companions.

Fort Wayne teen Matt Wood was at the fair Saturday with his younger brother and friends. Wood was helping his friends prepare for an early-morning dairy cow show that was supposed to take place Sunday morning.

"I saw people coming out of where the concert was and we had no clue what happened," Wood, 17, said. "All these officers were yelling at us to get in the barn and for about an hour the barn filled with people."

Wood said he didn't hear any loud crash.

"I honestly thought that it was just raining hard so people were coming in," he said. "It's sad that those people lost their lives and all those people got hurt."

The fair was closed today, but will reopen at 8 a.m. Monday. A remembrance will take place at 9 a.m. at the public stage.

Please remember the other victims who died during the collapse:

Christina Santiago
Glenn Gardner Goodrich
Nathan Lee Byrd
Tammy Vandam
Jennifer M. "Jenny" Haskell


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  • Created by: GenealogyGirl
  • Added: 14 Aug 2011
  • Find a Grave Memorial 74907859
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Alina R. BigJohny (4 Aug 1988–13 Aug 2011), Find a Grave Memorial no. 74907859, citing Highland Park Cemetery, Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana, USA ; Maintained by GenealogyGirl (contributor 46564531) .