Radiohead ‘shattered’ after drum tech’s death in Toronto stage collapse

June 18, 2012 – Globe and Mail

ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

A stage built to accommodate rock superstardom before a crowd of 30,000 takes a small army and several days to construct from the ground up. Dozens if not hundreds of crew members measure the exact location, lay concrete blocks as ballast and build up the raised floor, supports and a roof before trained riggers clamber up latticed scaffolding to suspend loudspeakers, lights and visual displays.

The stage set up for Radiohead’s Saturday show would have been right on schedule by late afternoon. The structure otherwise ready to go, the technical crew travelling with the band was doing final audio and lighting adjustments in preparation for a sound check.

It took seconds for the entire stage to crumple in on itself; white canopy laden with screens and lights tipping forward onto the stage, bringing scaffolding down with it.

The accident crushed Radiohead’s drum technician Scott Johnson to death: The 33-year-old resident of Doncaster, England, the only crew member pinned beneath the rubble amid the dozen or so onstage at the time, was declared dead on the scene. Paramedics cited a “crushing injury.”

The accident sent another of the band’s crew, a 45-year-old man, to hospital. Two other men were treated on scene for minor injuries and released.

A spokeswoman for Radiohead said Sunday evening she was fairly sure the injured man was released from hospital and on his way back across the Atlantic with the rest of the band – “shattered,” according to a statement released by the band, by Mr. Johnson’s death.

Three inspectors and two engineers from Ontario’s Ministry of Labour took over the investigation as the structure was deemed stable enough on Saturday night. They will take apart the debris and scrutinize engineering drawings in a bid to determine whether the worksite was safe, and whether those working on and around the stage were properly trained. There is no timetable for the investigation; the results of a probe into the collapse of an outdoor stage at Ottawa’s Bluesfest last year is still with the Ministry’s legal department.

More than 30 hours following the terrible accident, it remained unclear on Sunday exactly who is responsible for what aspect of the structure itself.

The concert, Radiohead’s last on an 11-show North American tour, was organized by Live Nation, which refused to comment and referred all questions to the band. Both Downsview Park, the hosting venue, and Radiohead’s spokeswoman referred questions about the stage to Live Nation.

“Radiohead doesn’t set up stages,” the band’s spokeswoman Laura Eldeiry said in a text message.

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