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Storm Rips Through Sun ín Fun

Substantial damage reported, but no serious injuries

March 31, 2011 (3:48 p.m. CDT) - A massive storm cell blew through the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In at Lakeland, Florida, Thursday morning, halting the event and causing serious damage to aircraft and property, but no serious injuries, according to reports from local news sources. The National Weather Service confirmed that at least two tornadoes moved across Polk County. Photos and video taken at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in the wake of the storm confirm damage to numerous aircraft attending the fly-in – many severely. Also damaged were numerous exhibition tents and some buildings, and power and Internet service was down.

Late Thursday afternoon, Sun ’n Fun officials told EAA staff on the scene, including EAA President Rod Hightower and EAA Founder Paul Poberezny, that fly-in organizers were asking all people to leave the field Thursday so emergency and hazmat crews could inspect the site and determine the damage.

Although all remaining Thursday activities at Sun ’n Fun were canceled, the event is expected to be open again on Friday morning. Crews will be working through the night to first ensure the safety of the site, followed by debris pickup, and then assist with damaged aircraft.

 “EAA members on the scene have been out in force, doing what they do best in support of their fellow aviators,” Hightower said. “We are offering whatever support we can to Sun ’n Fun as it seeks to resume operations.”

The approximately one dozen EAA staff members working at the event were quickly accounted for and did not suffer any injuries. Sun ’n Fun officials reported that only seven people were transported to area hospitals for injuries, with none of the injuries serious. The show’s organizers said all persons on the site at the time of the storm have been accounted for as well.

A photo gallery showing fly-in damage can be seen here. Regular updates will be posted at www.EAA.org/lakeland. EAA will continue to update this story as it receives additional confirmed information.

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