TORONTO — A man hired to tune Radiohead’s pianos for a Toronto show nearly seven years ago says he heard the stage creaking in the wind shortly before the structure collapsed and killed another technician.
Wayne Ferguson told a coroner’s inquest into the death of Scott Johnson that he noticed the creaking after a light breeze hit the outdoor stage’s back curtain around 3:30 p.m. or 3:45 p.m. on June 16, 2012.
As the inquest began Monday, Ferguson testified that he was asked to leave the stage around 3:50 p.m. so that others could perform a soundcheck, but Johnson — who was stationed near him — stayed behind to play the drums.
Ferguson and his daughter were sitting at a picnic bench facing the stage shortly afterward when there was a loud noise, he said.
“We heard a huge crack and within, like, two seconds the whole roof collapsed,” Ferguson told the inquest.
He described seeing beams piercing through the back grid of the stage and immediately calling 911.
A paramedic who was one of the first at the scene testified he found Johnson trapped under the stage with no vital signs.
“There was nothing we could do for him, especially because we couldn’t extricate him,” Stephan Krasl told the inquest.
Johnson, who was Radiohead’s drum technician, died just hours before the band was set to take the stage at Downsview Park.
Charges in the case were stayed because the matter took too long to get to trial.
The inquest, which is expected to last three weeks and hear from roughly 25 witnesses, will examine the circumstances around Johnson’s death, but will not assign blame.
A jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar incidents.
Johnson’s father and Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke have been highly critical of the judicial process.
“I still have a problem with that, that causes me great concern that the case wasn’t completed,” Ken Johnson said Monday outside the coroner’s court. “So yeah it’s painful but I’m quite happy that events here will resolve all that.”
When the British band played in Toronto last summer for the first time since the incident, Yorke did not hold back.
“The people who should be held accountable are still not being held accountable,” he told the crowd at Scotiabank Arena in July 2018.
After an investigation, 13 charges were laid under provincial health and safety laws against the show’s promoter, Live Nation, contractor Optex Staging and engineer Domenic Cugliari.
The case went off the rails when the presiding judge at trial declared he had lost jurisdiction after being appointed to a higher court. Another judge declared a mistrial and a new hearing was planned.
Defence lawyers argued the charges should be stayed because the delays violated their clients’ rights to a timely trial, which was expected to wrap up in mid-2018, five years after the charges were laid.
The new judge agreed, noting the Supreme Court of Canada’s so-called Jordan decision, which set a ceiling of 18 months for proceedings in provincial court.
Paola Loriggio ~ The Canadian Press