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Radiohead drum tech death inquest comes to a close

An inquest into the death of Radiohead drum technician Scott Johnson has brought “some closure” and suggestions to improve live event safety procedures

By Anna Grace on 11 Apr 2019

Radiohead drum technician death inquest, Scott Johnson

Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool tour


image © David Urrea

An inquest into the death of Radiohead drum technician Scott Johnson, who was killed in a stage collapse, has resulted in a set of non-binding recommendations to update best practice for the live entertainment industry.

Johnson was killed when the stage roof collapsed before a Radiohead show at Toronto’s Downsview Park in June 2012.

A court case brought against Live Nation, Optex Staging and Services and stage engineer Domenic Cugliari was stayed – meaning no charges would be brought forward – in 2017, sparking outrage from Radiohead and the technician’s father, Ken Johnson.

On March 25, Ontario’s chief coroner began a new inquest into the cause of Johnson’s death. A five-person jury heard testimony from Radiohead drummer Philip Selway and the drum technician’s father, among others.

The Toronto jury returned on 10 April with a verdict of ‘accidental death’ and a set of 28 non-binding recommendations for the live entertainment industry, aimed at bolstering oversight pertaining to safety requirements for temporary stages in Ontario.

Proposals included the establishment of a working group to update best practice for live events, changes to the building code and occupational health and safety laws pertaining to temporary stages, as well as suggestions aimed at engineers.

“For us, we sort of accept that life is different and we expect that emotional rollercoaster, we don’t see a way out for that”

Ken Johnson told reporters he “would be disappointed” if nothing changed as a result of the investigation. Johnson advises on scaffolding safety in the UK and is expected to continue aiding organisations in Canada with the implementation of live performance venue safety.

“For us, we sort of accept that life is different and we expect that emotional rollercoaster, we don’t see a way out for that,” said Johnson.

“I think it just brings some closure, at least. There’s hardly a month gone by in the last seven years where I’m not involved in some dialogue about Scott and what’s happened, so I quite look forward to perhaps not having that dialogue.”

All parties involved in the original court case pleaded not guilty to charges brought under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for wrongdoing.

Radiohead released a statement commending the inquest as “constructive, thorough and fair-minded”.

“It [the inquest] revealed the negligence and failings that lead to Scott’s death,” reads the band’s statement, which goes on to say that “a verdict of accidental death was returned, which feels frustratingly insufficient given that the stage collapse was shown to be preventable.”

The band stressed that “it’s up to all of us now to make sure that these recommendations are implemented.”

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke voiced his outrage at the lack of legal action during the band’s first performance in Toronto since the incident, stating that “the silence is fucking deafening.” The band dedicated their 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool to Johnson’s memory.

 


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