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Change in plea by circus tent owners could affect payment schedule for fines

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
March 16, 2017
LANCASTER — On March 31, a sentencing regarding the company involved in the 2015 tent collapse that killed two people in Lancaster will take place; however, a change in the original plea has been submitted.

In the original plea, John Caudill, Jr., the President of Walker International Events, would have been asked to pay $25,000 in fines — $10,000 would be paid right away, and monthly payments would ensue until the fine was paid in full.

The change in plea could involve how the payments are made. The Florida based company was indicted on one felony count and seven misdemeanor counts for failure to comply with state laws regarding circus tents after deciding to move forward with a show at the Lancaster Fairgrounds in 2015, despite reports of impending severe weather.

The incident took place in early August, when roughly 100 people were in attendance before the storm hit. More than 50 people were injured during the event, and six year old Annabelle Young and her father, 41 year old Robert Young, Jr., passed away as a result of injuries sustained when the tent collapsed.

Charges the company has to answer to include violating fire control regulations and operating a place of assembly with more than 50 people without the proper permit.

Walker was ordered to pay the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health administration $24,000 due to violating workplace laws. Besides being charged in several civil suits, Walker's total fine amount could have exceeded $200,000. The plea agreement states that Caudill is banned from operating a circus in the state of New Hampshire.

The Lancaster tragedy was not Caudill's first brush with legal trouble; in recent years, he was ordered to pay $25,000 after operating a circus without an Animal Welfare Act license. He was also charged with not providing his animals with proper care.

The Young family has filed a wrongful death suit.

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