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Too much kit and too little time may have caused collapse of Radiohead stage

By | Published on Thursday 21 June 2012


Various commentators in Canada have speculated that the fatal stage collapse before last weekend’s Live Nation-promoted Radiohead concert in Toronto was caused simply by having too many lights attached to the rigging, or possibly because technicians had too little time to set up such a complicated lights show.

As previously reported, Radiohead’s drum tech Scott Johnson was killed and three others were injured when the roof to the outdoor staging set up for the band’s Toronto show crashed down about an hour before audience members were due to be admitted.

According to CBC, the Ontario Labour Ministry, which is leading the investigation into the accident, is focusing on four companies that were involved in setting up the outdoor staging. These include Toronto-based Optex Staging & Services, Vancouver-based Nasco Staffing Solutions, overall promoter Live Nation, and Ticker Tape Touring, one of Radiohead’s own companies.

None of those four companies have provided much comment to date on the incident, presumably believing doing so would be inappropriate while the Labour Ministry’s investigation is ongoing. However, a US spokesman for Radiohead said: “[The band] is unable to comment concerning the stage structure at Downsview Park. Radiohead installs its production into the performance space as provided by the venue and/or promoter”.

Unnamed sources have told CBC News that staff from the company hired to manage the lighting for the show had expressed concerns that the stage structure would be bearing too much weight if it was to carry all of the kit Radiohead take on tour, but that an engineer had nevertheless given the set up the all clear. Meanwhile, two other experts have told the Canadian news channel that they feel the speed with which the Radiohead stage set up was built could also have been a factor.

Toronto-based civil engineer David Bowick told them: “The thing that’s unique about this type of facility is the speed that it goes up and the speed that it comes down. And it might very well be that the pace of the industry is just too fast to allow normal protocols to do their job. [And] a very small human error could precipitate a chain reaction”.

It remains to be seen if there are any general lessons to be learned from last weekend’s tragedy, and whether any of the companies involved in the event will be held liable.

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