Radiohead calls for public apologies over Toronto stage collapse
U.K. coroner says 'wholly inadequate construction techniques' and technical advice caused death
In the wake of a U.K. coroner's inquest into the Toronto death of British drum technician Scott Johnson, Radiohead is calling for all parties involved to "publicly admit their part" in the incident and to apologize to Johnson's family.
"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," Radiohead wrote in a statement released Tuesday.
Johnson was killed instantly on June 16, 2012, when a stage constructed for a Radiohead concert at Downsview Park in north Toronto collapsed just before a final soundcheck. Three others were injured.
Initially, the concert promoter, Live Nation, the staging company, Optex Staging, and the engineer who signed off on the stage design were charged with 13 offences under Ontario's provincial health and safety laws.
The charges were ultimately stayed after two court cases failed to reach a verdict. The first trial was suspended after the original judge was appointed to a higher court; the second trial was thrown out after the defendants successfully argued the case had faced unreasonable delays.
"It is time for those others responsible to finally and publicly admit their part in this terrible incident. We invite them to 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," the statement read.
The statement comes two weeks after the conclusion of a coroner's inquest in Johnson's hometown of Doncaster, U.K. That inquest blamed his death on "inadequate" technical work and advice.
"In some ways, this is our last chance to comment on it," said Radiohead drummer Philip Selway. "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."
Selway said he hopes the band's statement prompts one last action.
"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. And actually having an honest response to that, it would mean just a huge amount," Selway said. "It would feel as though it was honouring Scott's memory."
In April, an Ontario coroner's inquest into Johnson's death heard from more than two dozen witnesses and made 28 recommendations.
While representatives of Live Nation and engineer Domenic Cugliari took the stand at the inquest and spoke with regret about the tragedy, the head of Optex Staging, Dale Martin was the only person to admit to any culpability in the collapse.
Then in October, Nicola Mundy, the senior coroner for York District in the United Kingdom, concluded that "inadequate technical advice on construction and design, coupled with wholly inadequate construction techniques led to the collapse of the roof system, which caused Mr Johnson's death."
The U.K. coroner had heard testimony from both Selway and Ken Johnson.
Johnson said while he appreciates the band's call for a public apology over his son's death, he isn't expecting one from Live Nation or the engineer.
"I think that the responsibility lies with them, really — not with me. It doesn't make any difference to us. It really is down to them, how they view these recent comments and whether they acknowledge them or not," Johnson said.
Johnson also said the conclusion of the second U.K. inquest was "comforting" and that he hopes it provokes action on this side of the Atlantic.
"I do hope that it adds more weight to the parties to push forward the recommendations from the Canadian inquest," he said.
There is still one outstanding proceeding on the books following Johnson's death.
Professional Engineers Ontario, which regulates the profession in the province, has scheduled a discipline tribunal hearing for Domenic Cugliari on Dec. 9.
With files from Sylvène Gilchrist