A coroner’s inquest into the fatal stage collapse at a Radiohead concert nearly seven years ago began Monday in Toronto.
The British band’s drum technician, Scott Johnson, was killed when a massive structure crashed down on him on June 16, 2012 — just hours before Radiohead was set to take the stage at Downsview Park.
Prabhu Rajan, chief counsel for coroner David Cameron, lead off the inquest, making note that the accident had happened about four kilometres from where the inquiry took place.
He said that Johnson was on stage that afternoon when the elevated roof came “crashing down quickly and without warning.”
He was killed when the roof “literally fell on top of him,” he said.
“Our view is that Scott should not have died, did not have to die, that his death was preventable,” Rajan said.
While there was no intent to build a dangerous structure, Rajan said there were likely a number of deficiencies in the building of the stage. That included certain structural pieces not used, plans for the stage not approved by the same engineer, some plans approved 20 years earlier, and an overall lack of oversight.
Scott had ‘overriding belief in fairness’
Despite a year-long investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour and 13 charges being laid, the courts failed to provide answers.
After two trials, all charges were stayed because the matter had taken too long to go through the courts, bitterly disappointing the band and Johnson’s parents.
Scott’s father, Kenneth Johnson, flew in from England to attend each day of the inquest. He was the first witness, breaking down at times when describing his son.
He focused not on the accident, but on Scott, who he said had an “overriding belief in fairness.”
Music was part of his son’s life from an early age, he said.
Kenneth Johnson became emotional recalling the time Scott’s mother was dealing with breast cancer and their son, with his long hair, would cut his off if she lost hers through chemo treatment.
“(His mother) thought things couldn’t get worse,” Johnson said in tears.
Inquest will hear from 25 witnesses
The ministry report — a summary of a much larger engineering report prepared by provincial engineers after the collapse — outlines numerous issues with the design and execution of the stage structure that was to suspend more than 27,000 kilograms of equipment in the air.
The inquest, which is expected to last three weeks and hear from roughly 25 witnesses, will examine the circumstances surrounding Johnson’s death, but will not assign blame.
A jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar incidents.
Since his son’s death, Kenneth Johnson said, donations that have poured in have gone to schools to buy 20 electronic drum kits.
“Hundreds of children over the last five years who’ve learned to play drums,” he said.
Johnson, and Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke have been highly critical of the judicial process.
This story originally appeared on CBC