Before Radiohead’s scheduled 2012 set at Downsview Park in Toronto, the stage collapsed, killing the band’s drum technician, 33-year-old Scott Johnson. The Ontario Ministry of Labour brought charges against promoter Live Nation, scaffolding company Optex Staging and Services, and engineer Domenic Cugliari in 2013. After multiple delays, a judge stayed the charges in September 2017, ruling that the case took too long.
Ontario’s chief coroner began a new inquest on March 25 to investigate what caused Scott Johnson’s death. The five-person inquest jury heard more than two weeks of testimony, including statements from Radiohead drummer Philip Selway and Ken Johnson, the drum technician’s father.
As BBC News reports, the jury returned today (April 10) with a set of 28 non-binding recommendations. One proposal was the creation of a working group to determine and update best practices for the live performance industry. Ken Johnson, who advises on scaffolding safety in the UK, was invited to participate in the group. A number of the jury’s other recommendations focused on improving oversight of safety rules for building temporary stages in Ontario.
As the Canadian Press reports, Ken Johnson told reporters outside the coroner’s court today that he “would be disappointed” if nothing changed as a result of the investigation. “For us, we sort of accept that life is different and we expect that emotional rollercoaster, we don’t see a way out for that,” he said. “I think it just brings some closure, at least. There’s hardly a month gone by in the last seven years where I’m not involved in some dialogue about Scott and what’s happened, so I quite look forward to perhaps not having that dialogue.”
Live Nation has denied any wrongdoing, stating in 2013, “We absolutely maintain that Live Nation and our employees did everything possible to ensure the safety of anyone who was on or near the stage involved in the tragic incident that led to the unfortunate death of Mr. Scott Johnson.”
Radiohead have expressed dismay and outrage multiple times. In 2018, at their first performance in Toronto since the incident, Thom Yorke said to the crowd, “The people who should be held accountable are still not being held accountable in your city. The silence is fucking deafening.” Philip Selway sat down for an interview about Johnson with the BBC last summer. “It’s very frustrating. The court case broke down on a technicality,” Selway said, referring to how the court case against Live Nation and other parties allegedly responsible for the incident came to a standstill last fall. “So there have been no real answers. Without the answers we can’t ensure that an accident like this can’t happen again.”
Radiohead dedicated their latest album, 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool, to Johnson’s memory.