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1 dead, 75 injured in Canada stage collapse

CAMROSE, Alta. -- Events have been canceled today at the Big Valley Jamboree in central Alberta following a stage collapse Saturday that killed one person and injured some 75 others.

Big Valley Jamboree stage collapse
A woman receives medical attention after the main stage flipped in a storm during the Big Valley Jamboree on Saturday in Canrose, Alta. (Associated Press)

CAMROSE, Alta. -- Events have been canceled today at the Big Valley Jamboree in central Alberta following a stage collapse Saturday that killed one person and injured some 75 others.

The stage caved in after wild winds suddenly slammed into the country music festival in Camrose, about 70 miles southeast of Edmonton.

The event producer, Panhandle Productions Ltd., said today that two people were in critical condition in hospital.

Fans screamed and sought cover, fearfully looked skyward for what they thought might be a tornado as they searched for friends and loved ones.

"We said we better get out of here so we were all racing for the exit," Lori Trelenberg of Sherwood Park, Alta., said Saturday.

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"It was devastation. It was strong and powerful. The stage just sort of crumbled."

CFCW radio personality Danny Hooper was actually on the stage preparing to introduce an act when the storm hit.

Hooper was advised to warn the crowd of an approaching storm but only got a chance to say a few words before the winds hit the stage.

"I can't describe the sky -- it was brown and purple and green," Hooper said on CFCW.

"The massive wind blew me backward. They said they are still looking for bodies underneath the stage."

Today's activities were canceled by the promoter, who said they were deeply saddened by the events of Saturday night.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families, fans and friends impacted by this incident," said event Producer Larry Werner in a statement.

Hollywood actor Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West, were getting ready to take the stage when it caved in.

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Costner's manager, Nick Meinama, said both he and the actor were caught underneath the stage.

"He was unhurt. I was unhurt. We wiggled our way out," Meinama told CTV News Sunday.

"We found that our road manager and guitar player had been hurt, but the ambulance and the paramedics were here instantly to take them to the hospital," he said.

Claire Beaudoin was sitting only three rows from the stage when the storm struck.

She and her friends sensed there was something wrong but just couldn't believe their eyes when the storm hit, sending musical instruments, chairs and other debris flying.

Beaudoin remembered seeing people falling.

"What went through my mind was 'Oh, my God No!' It was really scary. People were crying."

Heavy rain deluged the area about an hour as emergency crews treated the injured and combed through the wreckage for survivors.

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The site was cordoned off by police as searchers worked through the night under blazing spotlights hung from massive cranes.

Police asked that concertgoers, who had pitched tents and parked RVs at the festival's 6,000 campsites, stay put until the weather cleared to avoid traffic snarls.

Fans retreated to their campsites to talk about what happened. While some people were subdued around their camp fires others were partying hard, laughing and joking with their friends.

Vancouver, B.C.-based country music singer Jessie Farrell, who had performed earlier in the day, said being there was a terrifying experience.

"It felt like bombs were going off around us in this concrete and steel building," she told CTV News. "Huge hits of power hitting the building, and then the lights were off.""

Farrell said that Nashville, Tenn., musician Billy Currington and his band were finishing their set when the power went out and the stage collapsed. A member of the band was removed from the wreckage with a badly injured and bloodied arm.

The event is billed as Canada's largest country music festival with attendance estimated at 15,000.

Social networking sites were quickly abuzz with reaction to the reports of the storm and its aftermath.

On Twitter, the Oak Ridge Boys sent this message: "Our prayers are with the Big Valley Jamboree. We have been there six times, including last summer. We know these folks."

Another musician wrote, "our thoughts and love go out to the artists, crews and fans."

Several people sent in comments to the festival's Facebook site, including, "our thoughts and prayers are with everyone at BVJ."

Environment Canada had issued a thunderstorm watch for the area before the high winds, heavy rains, hail and lightning disrupted what had been a hot summer day.

Conditions were eerily similar on the Civic Holiday long weekend 22 years and one day earlier, when scorching weather spawned a giant tornado that ripped through Edmonton, killing 26 people, injuring about 200 others and causing widespread devastation.

The severe storms were also blamed for the death of a toddler in Calgary on Saturday.

High winds blew a 18-foot piece of metal from an 18 story building under construction.

It fell on a group of people on the sidewalk below, killing the little girl and injuring two others.

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