Radiohead says commission’s findings into accident ‘too late’ for victim’s family

Radiohead last played Toronto in July 2018 and they had a clear message: They felt someone should be held responsible for the death of technician Scott Johnson six years prior. 

The band was scheduled to play Downsview Park in June 2012 when part of the stage collapsed, killing Johnson, 33, and injuring three others. He had been a part of the band’s touring support for many years and the band considered him a friend. 

Radiohead didn’t appear in Toronto until 2018 and singer Thom Yorke took the opportunity to remind the sold-out audience that “the people who should be held accountable are still not being held accountable.” 

Lawsuits were filed and blame was cast; an investigation was reopened and in 2019, after a UK coroner’s inquest into Johnson’s death, the band urged the people responsible to “publicly admit their part” and issue an apology. This itself was years after LiveNation and Optex Staging, the company responsible for setting up the event, were initially charged with 13 legal violations of Ontario’s health and safety laws, charges that were stayed when two court cases failed to come to a verdict. 

Earlier this week, on November 16, the Discipline Committee of the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario had a hearing into the actions of Domenic Cugliari, the man responsible for the design and approval of the stage for that Downsview Park show. 

During the hearing, Cugliari “acknowledged…his catalogue of errors and the negligence on his part that led to the stage collapse and Scott’s death,” the band said Friday morning. 

“These admissions are 8 years too late. If the evidence now accepted by Mr. Cugliari had been agreed at the original court case brought against him, Live Nation and the contractor…it would have been complete in one day, with a very different outcome and some justice would have been delivered.” 

But now Cugliari has retired and cannot be held responsible, the band says, calling it a “sad day” for Johnson’s family, including his parents, Ken and Sue.

The CBC previously reported that the coroner’s inquest “heard 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,” a perfect storm that led to an ultimately preventable death. 

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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