Radiohead 'Shattered' by Death of Drum Tech in Toronto Stage Collapse
Toronto Police and emergency personnel are working to determine the cause of the stage collapse that killed Radiohead's drum technician and injured three other crew members at Downsview Park Saturday afternoon, just an hour before gates were scheduled to open for the British band's concert.
The band said it was devastated over the death of Scott Johnson, a U.K. citizen in his 30s who was trapped under the rubble and pronounced dead at the scene.
"We have all been shattered by the loss of Scott Johnson, our friend and colleague. He was a lovely man, always positive, supportive and funny; a highly skilled and valued member of our great road crew," the band said on its website. "We will miss him very much. Our thoughts and love are with Scott's family and all those close to him."
Tony Vella, spokesman for the Toronto police, told reporters that a 45-year-old man who was hospitalized with a head injury was improving, while the other crew members injured were treated at the scene.
"The one thing that we're going to be doing is working closely with the Ministry of Labour, trying to determine exactly how that stage came down, and we're urging any witnesses that were in the area to come forward," Vella said at an early evening press conference on the grounds. "It's going to take us a large amount of time to determine exactly what occurred." He urged witnesses to contact Toronto police.
The Live Nation-promoted concert was scheduled to begin with openers Caribou at 7:30 p.m., followed by Radiohead at 8:30. No concert-goers had yet entered the grounds. The weather was sunny, clear and calm.
"The roof part of the stage collapsed," Toronto Fire Services spokesman Captain Mike Strapko told Reuters. "It's like an arch made out of round piping similar to what they use for scaffolding," he said, adding that the structure was rigged with lighting and other equipment. "So that's what came down and did crush the one individual."
"From our understanding, at this point in the investigation, there were a number of people on the stage preparing for a concert," Vella said. "They were setting up when the top portion of the stage collapsed on top of them. Unfortunately, four people were hurt [including the dead man]. The remainder of the people, when they heard the stage coming down, ran from the area."
Peter Rotolo, EMS Commander and onsite commander for this incident, said emergency personnel were already onsite for the concert when, at approximately 4 p.m., they responded immediately to the collapse, treating the injured staff.
"Unfortunately, one patient was pronounced [dead] at the scene by the paramedics, in conjunction with the coroner's office and Sunnybrook base hospital - and together with Toronto Fire Services, Toronto Police Services collectively we looked after the other patients that approached us, and others who came to us after the fact," Rotolo said. "One patient was transported to Sunnybrook with non-life-threatening injuries. Two were treated at the scene and were not transported to the hospital. We are remaining on the scene for a standby purpose for the investigation along with Toronto Fire services and Police Services and the Coroner's office."
Vella said questions relating to what kind of permits were required and obtained; the exact number of people on and around the stage; who build the stage; who owned it; whether charges were pending, and other details could not be answered at the time of the press conference. However, several sources told Billboard that the stage was provided by Optex Staging and assembled by crew from event-staffing company Nasco.
"The big question is how [the collapse occured]," Vella said. "That is something we will be working closely with the Ministry of Labour to determine exactly how this occurred to prevent any future cases.
"We're still at the early stages at this point, so we still need to conduct a full investigation before we can say anything else. Again, there are a number of officers on the scene; they're speaking with a number of people that were on the stage that managed to escape at the time, as well the forensics are on the scene taking photographs. So it's going to take some time. Once we have all the details, we will have a better understanding."
Last summer saw a number of fatalities and injuries due to stage collapses, with five people killed at a Sugarland concert in Indiana, three dead at a festival in Belgium, and eight injured at a Cheap Trick concert in Ottawa.