Critically Injured Sugarland Fan Makes ‘Miracle’ Recovery After Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse
One of the fans who was critically injured during a stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair in 2011 is celebrating what amounts to a miraculous recovery.
Andrea Voss Vellinga of Pendleton, Ind. is still slowly recovering from the traumatic brain injury she suffered that day, but tells the Evansville Courier & Press, “I’m blessed just to be alive.”
A huge fan of Sugarland, Vellinga had special passes to a VIP section called the Sugar Pit, which was right up next to the stage at the fateful gig on August 13, 2011. Just before the country duo were expected to take the stage, high winds caused the rigging from the temporary structure to topple into the audience, killing seven people and injuring 58 others. Vellinga was among the most seriously injured of the survivors, suffering multiple broken bones and skull trauma so severe that she had to be identified by her wedding ring and boots.
She returned home in May after a lengthy hospital stay, and after extensive rehab, Vellinga says she is grateful for the recovery she has made thus far. When she was undergoing physical rehabilitation, a nurse who had treated her during her initial hospital stay brought her flowers, saying, “These are for my miracle girl.” Vellinga, who has no memory of the incident at the State Fair or the following weeks, didn’t understand at first.
“She told me my intracranial pressure was so high they didn’t know if I was going to make it,” she relates. “So now it makes sense. It is a miracle I survived considering how badly I was hurt.”
Her head trauma is so extensive that it requires her to wear a helmet, and Vellinga still can’t control her left arm. She struggles with short-term memory and a number of other challenges. “I had to learn how to walk, talk, eat, speak — pretty much everything again,” she reveals. “I’ve certainly improved, but I still have a way to go.”
Still, she says with the support of her husband and family, she hopes to be able to drive, run and play volleyball again eventually. Vellinga also says she might like to have another child, but for now, she says she’s just counting her blessings.
“My friend who got me the tickets told me she keeps asking herself, ‘Why Andrea? Why did it happen to her?’ And you know I’ve asked myself that same question many times,” Vellinga admits. “But then one day she said, ‘I finally think I understand. I think it happened to you because God knew you could emotionally make it through it. A lot of people couldn’t.’”
The “miracle girl” adds, “Her saying that meant a lot to me. It made me think that being so close to those people who died, God saved me for a reason and I’ve got to make the most of it now.”