Parents of man killed in Radiohead stage collapse demand apology
Scott Johnson landed his dream gig, touring with one of the biggest rock bands in the world, Radiohead. He died on June 16, 2012, during the setup at Toronto's Downsview Park at the final concert of the band's North American tour. (Photo courtesy of Ken Johnson)
The parents of a man who died after a stage collapsed at a Radiohead concert in Toronto said Tuesday they have yet to receive an apology from those responsible for their son's death.
Scott Johnson, a drum technician for the British rock band, was killed when the stage structure -- and tonnes of equipment -- crashed down on June 16, 2012. Three other members of the band's road crew were injured in the collapse.
Ken and Sue Johnson said the companies and engineer who designed and built the faulty stage should publicly admit their role in their son's death.
"I hope people would have apologized from day one," Ken Johnson said in a telephone interview from his home in Doncaster, England. "It would have had more sincerity. But nothing yet."
His comments followed a U.K. coroner's inquest that concluded there were multiple problems with the temporarily constructed stage that ultimately led to Johnson's death.
"Inadequate technical advice on construction and design coupled with wholly inadequate construction techniques led to the collapse of the roof system, which caused Mr. Johnson's death," coroner Nicola Mundy said.
Ken Johnson welcomed the coroner's statement.
"It's the first time anybody has been bold enough to say what everybody's thought all along," he said.
Ontario held a coroner's inquest last spring into the circumstances surrounding Johnson's death, but the criteria of such inquests is not to lay blame. A jury laid out a slew of recommendations designed to prevent future deaths.
That inquest heard the plans for the stage were riddled with mistakes, the wrong building components were used in key areas and the construction was running behind schedule. The stage's engineer, Domenic Cugliari, testified he did not check the right parts were being used because he trusted the contractor.
Charges were laid under the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act against the show's promoter, Live Nation, contractor Optex Staging and Cugliari. They were later stayed because the matter took too long to get to trial.
Both Ken Johnson and Radiohead applauded the lone person involved to take responsibility for the collapse, the owner of Optex Staging, Dale Martin.
"The system failed. Not just the truss. My people. Me. I'm responsible," Martin told the Ontario inquest.
Radiohead said Tuesday in a statement it is not enough.
"It is time for those others responsible to finally and publicly admit their part in this terrible incident," the band wrote. "We invite them to offer their apologies to Scott's family and friends for what they have endured, and to our surviving crew for the physical injuries and the mental trauma they have suffered."
The Johnsons agreed.
"I think the inquest in Canada, people were still fooling themselves that they weren't responsible," Ken Johnson said. "Once the case was closed, I feel that some of the others genuinely didn't see it was their problem, but it was their problem, the errors were proven."
Seven years after their only child's death, the Johnsons continue to struggle.
Ken Johnson said he is still working, trying to keep busy. But his wife, he said, "feels very bitter,"
"It is how it is," he said. "It's a strange place to be."
This report by The Canadian Press was originally published on Nov. 5, 2019.