Radiohead Return to Toronto, Demand Accountability For Fatal 2012 Stage Collapse: 'The Silence Is F---in' Deafening'

Thom Yorke Radiohead

Thom Yorke of Radiohead performs at the United Center on July 6, 2018 in Chicago.

Radiohead had harsh words for the people responsible for the death of their drum tech Scott Johnson and held a moment of silence in his memory at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena on Thursday night (July 19), the first of two-sold out concerts in the city since the tragic stage collapse in 2012 at Downsview Park.    

After saying very little throughout the two-hour concert, as the second encore drew to a close frontman Thom Yorke addressed the 18,000-plus crowd who had already quieted down, expecting something was coming. 

“Six years ago, we wanted to do a show in Toronto. The stage collapsed, killing our colleague and friend. The people who should be held accountable are still not being held accountable in your city,” Yorke said, in strong, measured words. “The silence is fuckin’ deafening.”

Then, without instruction or invitation, the band — Yorke, Philip Selway, Colin and Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien — stood stationary, heads bowed, arms by their side, for a moment of silence, the majority of the crowd clueing in for the minute-and-a-half, which was broken periodically by shouts of “we’re sorry” and “we love you.”  When it was over, one final yell was heard: “Scott Johnson.”

“Thank you for that,” Yorke said of joining them in paying their respects, before launching into the apropos song “Karma Police” to conclude the night.

Radiohead last played Toronto 10 years ago. The Downsview Park tragedy took place before 40,000 fans had even been let into the grounds and was supposed to be the group’s final show of that North American leg. Weather was sunny and clear. 

According to the 65-page Ontario Ministry of Labour Operations Division Central Region report, when the scaffolding and roof collapsed Johnson was struck and killed by the weighty video monitor. 

The Ontario Ministry of Labour, the Canadian government department that develops and enforces workplace health and safety standards, looked into the roles of at least four companies involved in the staging and staffing of the concert.

After a year of investigation, Live Nation, Optex Staging & Services and the engineer, Domenic Cugliari, hired to design the stage, were charged with 13 offenses (later dropped to 10) under Ontario health and safety laws. The trial began in June, 2013 in Ontario Court Justice.  All defendants pleaded not guilty.

But with three days remaining in the trial, judge Shaun Nakatsuru was appointed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. No longer having jurisdiction, he declared a mistrial. The newly-appointed judge, Ann Nelson, ruled in favor of the defendants' application to drop the case under 2016's Supreme Court of Canada's landmark Jordan decision that ruled an accused person is entitled to a trial without unreasonable delays.

In 2017, the charges were stayed. Justice, to date, has not be served for Johnson, his parents, and Radiohead. The chief coroner of Ontario will hold an inquest into the death, but a date has not been set.

Radiohead no longer uses Live Nation for its North American tours.


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