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RADIOHEAD CREW MEMBER DIES, 4 INJURED IN STAGE COLLAPSE
A massive stage collapse hours before a Radiohead concert was to begin left one person dead and three others injured, officials said.
The stage collapse at Downsview Park hours before what was supposed to be a Radiohead concert crushed one man to death and injured three more. A spokesperson for Radiohead identified the victim Sunday as Scott Johnson from South Yorkshire, England, a 33-year-old a drum technician for the band. He also worked for Keane, another British band.
An unidentified 45-year-old man was still in the hospital Saturday evening with non-life-threatening injuries. Two other men were treated for minor injuries on the scene and released. All of the victims were crew members setting up the stage, police said.
A venue worker, Ms. Peacock, said there were about 10 crew members on the stage when it collapsed. It seemed they were about to do a sound check - electronic twangs piping through the speakers were what made her look up just before the structure fell. The loud crashing noises shocked Peackock and her sister back to reality. The two were supposed to be bartenders at Radiohead's Saturday night concert - a first for Ms. Peacock's younger sister, who just got her SmartServe certification. Instead, they watched an outdoor stage become a death trap. "We didn’t see any ambulances speeding off immediately, which led us to believe either everyone's okay or people are pinned," Ms. Peacock said.
It turned out to be the latter: As the top portion of the stage fell, it trapped one man beneath the debris. While a team of paramedics was already on the scene in preparation for the concert and tended quickly to the other hurt crew members, they couldn’t reach the last victim until police and firefighters managed to extricate him.
Lindsey Bradbury, an employee at Handpicked management, was preparing to work in one of the beer tents when she noticed the commotion. She said people were hanging screens on the stage just prior to the collapse. Once the stage fell, she could hear people yelling "First aid!"
Police spokesman Tony Vella confirmed that the crew were setting up the stage when it collapsed.
“They were setting up when the top portion collapsed on top of them. Unfortunatly, four people were hurt. The remainder of the people, when they heard the stage coming down, ran from the area,” Vella said.
Dusty Lalas, an employee with Toronto Radio Station “The Edge,” which was sponsoring the concert, said the structure suddenly caved in.
“There was a loud crash and it sounded like sheet metal and lightning and we just saw the stage collapse,” Lalas said.
Radiohead tweeted that “due to unforeseen circumstances tonight’s concert at downsview park tonight has been canceled. Fans are advised not to make their way to the venue.”
Radiohead’s website had listed the concert as being sold out, with 40,000 tickets sold.
Jaime Rivest, 33, said at around 4 p.m. the stage suddenly came down, crumpling and falling onto itself. “It was like a tornado hit the stage and in just moments the stage came down with metal everywhere,” she said. Rivest said security officials rushed to evacuate the area. She said there was possibly about 1,000 people there hours before Radiohead was to take the stage at 9:30 p.m. The doors for the show opened at 5 p.m. and other acts were scheduled to perform.
Police said the park wasn’t full, but there was a considerable crowd of people already waiting for the show amid sunny and clear conditions.
Viljakainen said the Ministry of Labor would investigate to determine the cause of the collapse.
Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of Scott Johnson, the crew and Radiohead. The people behind the scene are the unseen heroes of the concert world. They are the ones that do the "dirty work" which very frequently entail potentially dangerous situations. This tragedy has yet to be explained, but hopefully they can ascertain what happened to avoid any furture catastrophes.
There have been a number of concert stage collapses in recent years.
In Canada, one person died and several people were injured when the stage went down at Bluesfest in Ottawa last July, and one person died and more than a dozen were injured in 2009 when a powerful windstorm caused the main stage to collapse at the Big Valley Jamboree near Camrose.
Six people died last August when the stage collapsed at a Sugarland concert in Indianapolis; five died in Belgium when a storm swept in and toppled the stage at the Pukkelpop Festival.
~ Information gathered from AP, various news sources. Photo of Emergency Personnel at scene: Associated Press