For the last three weeks, a coroner’s inquest has been looking at what happened when a temporary stage collapsed ahead of a Radiohead show at Toronto’s Downsview Park on June 16, 2012. Phil Selway’s drum tech, Scott Johnson, died when a video monitor weighing over 2,200 kg fell on his head. Three others were injured.
A gigantic legal boondoggle followed, resulting in all charges being thrown out. No one was ever held accountable. No one was fined or went to jail. But at least there was this coroner’s investigation into what went wrong in hopes that such tragedies can be averted in the future.
Testimony revealed that pieces were missing from the stage, wrong construction materials were used, and there was no outside sign-off on the structure.
The jury handed down a total of 26 non-binding recommendations. Among them are the following:
- All companies that build temporary stages in the province of Ontario should be specially licensed to do the work.
- Workers who work in performance venues should go through a certification process similar to what electricians have to take.
- The creation of a permanent provincially-funded group that examines practices in the live music industry, including building temporary stages. It should be up and running by December.
- Changes to the Ontario building code in regard to temporary structures like stages.
- A trained supervisor should be on-site through the entire construction process.
- Mandatory inspection of stages by an outside engineer.
- New educational opportunities for engineers and riggers involved in this kind of work.
But will these measures be put into place? Again, the recommendations are non-binding. Ken Johnson, Scott’s father, says he will keep an eye on Ontario to make sure that there’s follow-through. Let’s hope there is.