TORONTO – The lead singer of Radiohead sharply criticized the lack of progress in determining how a stage collapsed and killed a drum technician in Toronto during the British band’s first concert in the city since the fatal incident in 2012.
Prior to the band’s encore at ScotiaBank Arena Thursday night, Thom Yorke used an expletive to describe the silence as “deafening,” and told the crowd that “the people who should be held accountable are still not being held accountable.”
A moment of silence followed Yorke’s remarks, but it was frequently interrupted by shouts from the crowd and prompted one man to loudly demand that fans “shut up.”
British drum technician Scott Johnson, 33, was killed on June 16, 2012, when part of a massive stage structure crashed down just hours before Radiohead was due to perform at Downsview Park in Toronto’s north end. Three others were injured.
Johnson’s father said Thursday that he expects a coroner’s inquest into the incident to begin early next year.
Ken Johnson said he spoke with Ontario’s chief coroner on Wednesday – a day before the band returned to Toronto – and was told the tentative window for the inquest has been set for February or March. A representative for the office declined to confirm the timeline.
Starting the proceedings would be a step towards what Johnson hopes will acknowledge the series of events that led to his son’s death, and ensure safety precautions are in place to prevent a similar accident from happening again.
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“They can’t bring Scott back – that’s obviously painful,” Johnson said in an interview from Birmingham on Thursday.
“But it needs to be clear. I think people need to see what’s happened.”
Thirteen charges were laid in the case against the show’s promoter Live Nation, engineer Domenic Cugliari and contractor Optex Staging under provincial health and safety laws.
The subsequent trial was derailed when the presiding judge declared he had lost jurisdiction over the case given his appointment to a higher court. That decision led to a senior justice declaring a mistrial and a new hearing was planned.
Last September, those charges were stayed after a judge ruled the matter took too long to get to trial.
The development shifted the focus to a coroner’s inquest, which is an independent investigation designed to bring public attention on the circumstances of a death, rather than to assign blame.
Johnson, who himself has spent roughly 18 years as a technical adviser for the U.K. scaffolding industry, said he hopes the inquest will bring some closure in a case where he believes no one has taken responsibility for the incident.
He said he remains in touch with Radiohead’s band members and was invited to attend the Toronto concert as a guest. He declined the offer to focus on the pending inquest.
“As much as I’d love to have been with them,” Johnson said, “I thought, it’s going to be a pretty tough night for them anyway. I don’t think I could probably add anything or make any better for them or the crew really. It’s something they’re going to find they’re going through on their own.”
Johnson said Radiohead, which is also scheduled to play Friday at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, are “just as committed” as his family to seeing an outcome. When the ruling was issued last year the Johnson family spoke out against it, as did the band and the Ontario Federation of Labour, which represents 54 unions in the province.
“For me I’d like to see the case finished,” Johnson said. “But I don’t see that happening.”