Toronto

Engineer in fatal 2012 Radiohead stage collapse in Toronto guilty of professional misconduct

Domenic Cugliari, an engineer who signed off on a Radiohead concert stage that collapsed and killed drum technician Scott Johnson at a 2012 Toronto show, has been found guilty of professional misconduct. The band and Johnson's family said the findings and the admissions have come eight years too late.

Engineer Domenic Cugliari apologized, but family of victim Scott Johnson says justice wasn't done

The discipline committee with the Professional Engineers Ontario said Domenic Cugliari did not notice several errors and omissions in design drawings for the outdoor stage that collapsed at a Radiohead concert on June 16, 2012, killing drum technician Scott Johnson. (Richard Young)

An engineer who signed off on a Radiohead concert stage that collapsed and killed a drum technician in Toronto eight years ago has been found guilty of professional misconduct, but the findings and the engineer's acceptance of them come too late to provide justice, according to the band and the family of the man who died. 

Domenic Cugliari agreed last week to conclusions reached by the discipline committee of the Professional Engineers Ontario in the June 16, 2012 incident that killed Scott Johnson.

Johnson, 33, was tuning a drum kit for the band before a concert at Toronto's Downsview Park when the massive outdoor stage structure collapsed on him. Three others were injured.

Last week, the discipline committee found Cugliari had not noticed numerous errors and omissions in design drawings for the stage and consequently failed to revise the plans.

It also found Cugliari did not examine trusses holding heavy lighting equipment and failed to realize those trusses were incorrectly connected to other beams.

Wait for accountability has taken toll: victim's father

Johnson's father said the drawn-out process of seeking accountability in their son's death — which has included a court case and an inquest — has taken a toll.

"Not knowing the outcome for eight years does destroy you," an emotional Ken Johnson said in a phone interview from his home in Doncaster, England.

Scott Johnson was working as a drum technician for Radiohead when he was killed in a stage collapse in Toronto in 2012. (Submitted by Ken Johnson)

The elder Johnson noted that Cugliari's agreement with the discipline committee's findings could have helped bring justice had it come earlier.

A court case fell apart after the matter took too long to get to trial. As a result, occupational health and safety charges were stayed against Cugliari, as well as the show's promoter Live Nation and contractor Optex Staging. 

"If this had been said on day one of the court case, they wouldn't have gotten away with ... getting the case thrown out because it was going on too long," Johnson said.

A coroner's inquest into Johnson's death heard last year that plans for the stage were riddled with mistakes, the wrong building components were used in key areas and the construction was running behind schedule.

Cugliari testified at the inquest that he did not check to see if the correct parts were used because he trusted the contractor.

The criteria of the inquest was not to lay blame, and a jury returned with a slew of recommendations designed to prevent future deaths.

Engineer apologizes

The Professional Engineers Ontario discipline committee found that Cugliari signed off on a "field review report" sent to the contractor that said the stage was "structurally sound."

At the committee hearing, Cugliari said he was sorry for what happened.

"At this time, I would like to sincerely apologize to the Johnson family, to the families of the other injured workers, as well as to the engineering profession," he said, according to his lawyer, Scott Thompson.

"I regret having issued the field review report stating that the stage was structurally sound and satisfactory for its intended use without thoroughly ensuring that the proper pick-up trusses had been installed. For that I am truly sorry."

Ken Johnson said the apology has little meaning.

"We do not know what pain he was in or for how long," he said of his son. "We were not there to help him, how sad." 

'Admissions are 8 years too late,' Radiohead says

Radiohead also said Cugliari's words fell short. 

"These admissions are eight years too late," the band wrote on social media.

"If the evidence now accepted by Mr. Cugliari had been agreed at the original court case brought against him, Live Nation and the contractor Optex Staging, it would have been complete in one day, with a very different outcome and some justice would have been delivered." 

Last year, at the outset of the disciplinary committee proceedings, Cugliari had tried to get out of the proceedings, filing a motion saying Professional Engineers Ontario had no jurisdiction because he had retired. The committee dismissed the motion.

Cugliari had his engineering licence revoked as a result of the commitee's findings, and his company, Construction Control Inc., which declared bankruptcy in 2018, lost its licence.

Should the company wish to apply for a certificate with the association, it would have to pay a $5,000 fine.

Ken Johnson, seen in Toronto during the 2019 inquest into his son Scott's death, said that an apology offered by the engineer who signed off on the stage that collapsed has little meaning. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Johnson said he couldn't believe the only penalty that ultimately resulted from the collapse that killed his son was the revocation of a licence from a retired engineer. He said he and his wife are left with just memories of their only child and sad trips to the cemetery.

"They say that time is a healer," Johnson said through tears.

"If anyone wants to make that statement, they should come along to the graveyard and have a chat with him. It doesn't get better, it really does not. It's a rotten, awful, awful situation."

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