Tent Collapse Did Trap 70 at Sun 'n Fun

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There were some scary moments for about 70 people, including nine former Women Air Service pilots in their 90s, when the storm that ripped through Sun 'n Fun on Thursday collapsed the tent structure in which a luncheon was being held in the WASPs' honor. The event was sponsored by the Wings of Dreams Aviation Museum of Keystone Heights Airport in Florida. Bob Oehl, an executive volunteer with the museum, said he and others fought to keep the aluminum structure and tent supported while most of the attendees huddled under the tables. He said he called 911 as rain, hail and furious winds collapsed the structure around them. Initial reports of a building collapse trapping 70 people were refuted by Lakeland Police and Sun 'n Fun staff, possibly because the facility was not a permanent structure. "But it happened," said Oehl.

Oehl said many of the people trapped were elderly, and able-bodied people all chipped in to protect them as well as possible. They were able to escape from an opening in the tent fabric before first responders arrived. Everyone was soaked from the torrential rain but no one was seriously hurt. Oehl said the museum lost a large tent and other property that it can ill afford to replace. Meanwhile, work continued through the night to restore the Sun 'n Fun grounds for the resumption of the show Friday.

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