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Radiohead call on Live Nation to “admit their part” in 2012 death of drum tech Scott Johnson

By | Published on Wednesday 6 November 2019


Following the recent UK inquest into the death of Radiohead drum tech Scott Johnson, who was killed when staging collapsed at a Toronto show in 2012, the band themselves have issued a statement. They call on those involved in the production of that show, including live giant Live Nation, to formally “admit their part in this terrible incident”.

Johnson died when the roof of an open air stage set up at Downsview Park in Toronto collapsed shortly before doors were due to open for the Radiohead concert. The show’s promoter Live Nation, production firm Optex Staging & Services Inc and an individual engineer working on the show, Domenic Cugliari, were all charged under Ontario’s Occupational Health And Safety Act in relation to the incident.

The case eventually reached court in 2015, but after various delays it was then abandoned in 2017 due to a new legal precedent in Canadian law designed to stop criminal cases from dragging on indefinitely. At the time, Radiohead said that the decision to call off the case was “an insult to the memory of Scott Johnson, his parents and our crew. It offers no consolation, closure or assurance that this kind of accident will not happen again”.

A subsequent inquest in Canada made various recommendations as to what regulators could do to stop such a tragedy from occurring again in the future. However, nothing as yet has come of those recommendations.

A separate inquest then took place in the UK last month in Johnson’s hometown of Doncaster, at which coroner Nicola Mundy was pretty forthright on what led to the drum tech’s death back in 2012. She stated: “Inadequate advice coupled with wholly inadequate construction techniques led to the collapse of the roof system which led to Scott Johnson’s death. It’s quite clear from what I have heard that the design and construction itself had inherent deficiencies within them”.

Noting that conclusion, Radiohead said in a statement on Twitter yesterday: “After seven years, two inquests and a trial that, as a result of a technicality, was never concluded, we finally have an answer”.

They then went on: “At the beginning of the process, Scott’s father Ken said that all he wanted was for those responsible to hold their hand up, admit responsibility, and to make sure that it never happens to anyone else. We all acknowledge that no one intended for Scott to die”.

“To date, only Optrex staging company owner Dale Martin has taken any ownership of his role in the tragedy”, they continued. “At the Toronto inquest, he said: ‘The system failed. Not just the truss. My people. Me. I’m responsible’. It is time for those others responsible to finally and publicly admit their part in this terrible incident”.

The band concluded: “We invite them to offer their apologies to Scott’s family and friends for what they have endured, and to our surviving crew for the physical injuries and the mental trauma they have suffered”.

Expanding on the statement, the band’s Philip Selway is quoted by CBC as saying: “In some ways, this is our last chance to comment on it. It has been a very long process – in particular for Scott’s parents, Ken and Sue – and I think it’s addressing our last feelings on what has happened”

“At the heart of it all, there is Scott, there’s Scott’s parents, who’ve lost their son, us as a band, and us as a wider kind of touring family, as well as with our crew, who’ve lost Scott”, he added. “And actually having an honest response to that, it would mean just a huge amount. It would feel as though it was honouring Scott’s memory”.

Johnson’s father Ken welcomed the band’s call for a public apology from those involved in producing the 2012 show. But, according to CBC, he isn’t expecting statements to be forthcoming from either Live Nation or Cugliari, who previously expressed regret but not responsibility for the incident.

However, he added that he nevertheless hopes that the recent clear conclusions reached by the UK inquest would put pressure on all parties to plough ahead with the recommendations made in the aforementioned Canadian inquest. Because doing so would, it’s hoped, stop any similar tragedies from occurring in the Canadian live sector in the future.