LANCASTER, New Hampshire (AP) -- Fire officials said Tuesday it's not clear why a circus operator in eastern United States proceeded with a show minutes after the National Weather Service put out a severe storm warning. Strong winds collapsed the circus tent, killing two spectators and sending about 32 others to hospitals.
New Hampshire's fire marshal Bill Degnan said it's the responsibility of the circus operator to monitor the weather. The show started seven minutes after the storm warning Monday afternoon some 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of the state capital Concord. The storm blew through with about 100 people inside the tent.
"I see these very large metal poles that are in the ground and go through the top of the tent; I see them starting to come out of the ground and fly up, into the air toward us," witness Heidi Medeiros, attending with her 3-year-old son, told a local TV station. She said 10 to 30 seconds later, the pole slammed onto the bleacher where she and her son had been sitting.
Degnan also said Tuesday no request was made to state or local officials for an inspection of the tent and it was unclear whether authorities were been notified of the show. Degnan said these questions would be part of the state's investigation, as well as the tent's setup, and a building and fire code assessment.
The circus operator, Florida-based Walker International Events, did not provide immediate comment.
Walker's president, John Caudill Jr., has a history of transgressions, primarily while operating another company, Walker Brothers Circus, Inc. A decade ago, Caudill and his associates agreed to pay a $25,000 fine for a series of violations while operating without an Animal Welfare Act license.