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Inquest into the death of @radiohead drum tech Scott Johnson now underway. Jury of three women and two men. Dr David Cameron presiding over this inquest.
David Cameron: “to the family and friends of Scott Johnson I want to truly give my condolences. I know time doesn’t really heal all wounds.”
Cameron is giving instructions to the jury. He reinforces this inquest is not about laying blame but about working together to answer questions and come up with recommendations.
Quite a mix of people here in the court room — a number of people connected to the band crew here to observe... including people who were there the day the stage came crashing down.
Cameron instructs all parties to glare at anyone whose phone rings... a moment of levity and etiquette in what will likely be an emotionally heavy day.
Prabhu Rajan, Chief counsel for the Coroner, now outlining the events leading up to Scott Johnson’s death when 70,000lb stage crashed down and killed him.
Rajan showing time lapse videos now of the stage construction.
Rajan: there was no third party overview of this stage structure because it was constructed on federal land and Ontario code did not apply.
Rajan: some workers involved in construction of this stage did not understand the design.
Rajan: expects recommendations coming from this inquest to include greater engagement by the federal government to ensure third party oversight for temporary structures on federal land.
Rajan: different parts of this stage were approved by different engineers — some parts approved 20 years ago.
Rajan: inquest to shine a light on the death and find out what went wrong.
David Cameron now briefing the room on the scope of the inquest: what it is about and what it isn’t about.
Cameron says Inquest will drill down into the rules governing “demountable” event structures and the process of inspection, approvals and oversight of these structures on municipal, provincial, and federal land.
Cameron: addresses the issue around the Jordan ruling which hamstring the previous legal case around the Downsview collapse.
That is not in scope of the inquest but Cameron notes that the gap that exists in court that forced a new trial being called is being addressed by the AG’s office. Cameron urges the government to continue working toward closing this gap.
At issue: the sitting judge was appointed to a higher court and was not allowed to see out the last 3 days of the trial... forcing a new trial which lead to an 11b ruling.
Ken Johnson is now on the stand. His voice is shaky. He apologizes for his tears ahead of time. Scott was Ken and Sue’s only child.
Ken on Scott: “it was clear that he touched people and left a mark”
Scott’s open and warm face flashes on the screen as Ken talks. Ken tells the story about the time Scott wanted to bring his first girlfriend home. Ken had asked to speak with the girl’s father. Scott laughed. The joke being the girlfriend was in her late 30s
Ken says Scott shifted from the viola to the guitar (more attractive to the girls) and then to the drums.
Ken says Scott started a job at a music shop selling drums in his last year in school. I visited it two years ago and he is still sorely missed there.
Ken naming all the bands Scott worked with as a drum tech: Keane, The Killers, and of course Radiohead.
Ken has a video of Scott playing drums in a band on X Factor. Scott a confident and assured presence on the stage. Ken jokes Scott was trying to slow the band down a little.
Ken: “it saddens me to think I squashed Scott’s life down to a few pages.”
Ken, by the way, is a scaffolder who writes safety rules for scaffolding in the UK so he has some insights into the stage design and set up.
Ken remembers the call he and Sue got the day the stage collapsed. It came at 5am. Scott was missing, he was told. Then police called. His voice breaks. Wants to thank police in Canada and the Uk for their professionalism.
Sue, Ken says, is still half expecting Scott to come home.
Ken inherited a vast collection of drums cleaning out Scott’s apartment in Manchester.
Working with Radiohead and fans, Ken bought electronic drum kits for schools and communities so kids can learn to play in Scott’s memory.
Hundreds of children over the last five years have learned to play drums, Ken says. Thank you, he says.
Rajan asked Johnson to talk about his role in the UK scaffolding industry. Ken Johnson works on safety standards in the UK and Europe. “I’m the face of the scaffolding industry in the UK” he says. “It’s pure coincidence.”
Cameron thanks Ken for talking about Scott. Rajan asks for a break in proceedings.
Rigger Shannon Cogan and Piano Tuner Wayne Ferguson now about to testify at the Inquest.
Cogan was responsible for helping assemble the stage. Ferguson was hired to tune pianos. Both were present for the collapse.
Ferguson says schedule was running behind the day of collapse. Ferguson and crew waiting in the catering tent to get stage access. Scott was there.
Around 1:30 crew started to access the stage. A lot of the instruments still not uncrated. “It was a very active stage” Ferguson says as people scrambled to get set up for sound check.
Ferguson: there were 15-20 riggers on the stage hanging things, setting stage up. “Usually that’s completed... that’s all set up”. Ferguson says stage usually quite when he gets there so he can tune properly.
Ferguson has been tuning pianos for 38 years. “I take care of all the A-list bands that come in to Toronto.”
Ferguson was on stage for an hour and twenty minutes. Scott Johnson was there next to him the whole time setting up drum kits.
Ferguson has a video which he is about to share with the inquest.
Ferguson’s video first frame shows the roof of the stage.
Ferguson says a light breeze picked up and the back curtain of the stage picked up like a mast. The structure made a big creaking sound.
Ferguson used camera to find out what was happening above him because he has a bad neck. He started to hear “a bit of a noise like a cracking noise”
Ferguson: you will hear people speaking and then you will hear what I was hearing — video taken 45 min before stage collapsed.
It’s hard to hear creaking sounds over the piano keys.
Cogan the rigger says he was working on one of the wings of the stage around this time.
Ferguson left the stage while a white noise check was being performed. He was told to come back at 530. He didn’t chat much with Johnson while they were in the stage. They were kidding around a little. “He was a clown”
Ferguson: it wa a beautiful day, he was looking over the field. Joyous.
Ferguson: Left via stage left, the side the piano was on. “We were all making compromises because the show was so behind schedule.”
“We heard a huge crack” Ferguson says and the whole thing came down “sounded like a rollercoaster.”
Ferguson: stage left fell all the way and all the beams and light equipment thrust through the back screen.
Ferguson has imagined many times what would have happened if he hadn’t left the stage when he did.
Cogan points out where he was on the stage before it collapsed. He tells Rajan he wasn’t secured to anything while he was up there. Rajan quips it is best to move on from that obvious safety issue and focus on line of questioning.
Cogan was dealing with two pieces of scrim that needed to be reattached at the time. He didn’t hear anything prior to collapse.
Cogan saw the stage collapse. “I was waiting in bungees... I was staring at stage... I saw back wall”
“There was a movement that happened just before it collapsesd. It touched Scott on the back and he turned” says Cogan
Cogan crawled down to help and reached another survivor on the stage.
Ferguson: all I knew was best thing was to call 911. Described the stage as quiet. It was a confusing place. I don’t know what to do. I was in shock.
Ferguson says the incident has affected him. “I am afraid when I go on stage. Stages are a dangerous place.”
Cogan says this incident has changed the way he does his work. Doesn’t want to elaborate.
David McCaskill — lawyer for Ministry of Labour asking questions now, “Did you get the feeling things were being rushed?”
Cogan said he was pressing to get the job on time. He was taking direction from Optex Staging. He admits he would not have gotten all the tasks he needed to do on time.
Cogan says those tasks that might not get done would not have structural implications.
Ferguson says at the time he didn’t have to wear hard hat when entering stage area. He says rules have changed.
Medic Stephen Krasl now taking the stand.
Krasl was the first emergency services employee to attend to Scott Johnson. He was an advanced care paramedic at the time.
He was assigned to an overtime shift that day.
Krasl arrived just before 4pm. His team was supposed to be there in case private company handling medical needs was overwhelmed.
As Krasl was pulling over he saw the stage shudder. Everyone started yelling. “It was very quick”
“As soon as we realized stage collapsed i got hard hats for me and my partner.” Krasl says bent metal all over the place.
First patient under the stage.. barely conscious. Another was able to get off stage.
Krasl: since that day I have become less paramedic in urban rescue has a lot of structural collapse training.. how to safety remove patients from a structural collapse.
Krasl climbed up stage. Someone told him a person was trapped. He says he crawled through and came across Johnson. The only part he could see was his left arm. He was trapped under a big monitor.
Krasl says Johnson had no pulse. They had to move the monitor to see if he had no pulse because circulation cut off. But they couldn’t lift it. It was too heavy. They had to wait for technical assistance.
The monitor was lifted with some cribbing just enough so they could run cardiac monitor in to Johnson’s body.
Krasl says Johnson’s vital signs were absent. “There was nothing we could do for him.”
Krasl says Johnson was pronounced dead at 4:26 in the afternoon.
We are about to break for lunch. After that we will hear from @philipselway
Rajan says he invited the federal government to participate in the inquest and it declined.
While we are on break, here is the first doc we filed on the collapse for @CBCTheNational. cbc.ca/player/play/11…
And here is the follow up piece we did last summer for @CBCTheNational cbc.ca/player/play/12…
Afternoon sesssion about to get underway at the Scott Johnson Inquest.
Dr. Cameron clarifies a point on toxicology carries out on Johnson. There were no dugs found in his system.
Radiohead drummer @philipselway now sworn in to Inquest. He just flew in last night to be here today. He has a written statement he will read to the court.
Selway: “I am angry”
Selway says Scott wasn’t just his drum tech, he was also his good friend.
Selway expresses frustrations with the Canadian legal system and the way in which this has unfolded.
Selway: “the loss of Scott has caused immeasurable pain and grief”
Selway: “losing Scott was like losing a family member” 30 other Radiohead crew members were on the stage at the time of the collapse.
Selway talks briefly about Brian Collins, the rigger who was seriously injured in the collapse. Here is Brian’s story: cbc.ca/1.4422863
Selway has gathered victim impact statements from various crew for today. He is now reading those statements to the inquest.
The thought the safety of audience might also have been at risk also bothers Selway. He expresses, on behalf of the band and crew, love to Scott’s parents, Ken & Sue.
There is a strain of anger in Selway’s voice as he talks about the need for accountability and justice. “ I am outraged... by the compete failure of the justice system.”
There is a strain of anger in Selway’s voice as he talks about the need for accountability and justice. “ I am outraged... by the complete failure of the justice system.”
Selway talks now about how Radiohead has engaged its own engineer to make sure its stages are sound. Safety, he says, is always on the band’s mind.
Selway wraps up. Questions now from Rajan: what do you hope this process achieves?
Selway: I want a full understanding of where the breakdowns began, and I want strong recommendations to prevent this from ever happening again. That is the only positive that can come out of this process.
Selway finished now. Half an hour break requested to set up engineering panel which will include models.
Coming up at the inquest: I’m told we will hear differing opinions on the engineering behind the Downsview stage.
Inquest has resumed and we are looking at engineering evidence on the big screen. Mike Lundy &
Saeed Khorsand sworn in. Lundy is an inspector with the Ministry of Labour and Khorsand is an engineer and inspector with the Ministry.
Khorsand now walking us through the 3D computer image he made of the stage consisting or eat and west towers, platform and roof structure.
Khorsand spending some time describing the roof structure which built on the floor and later raised. We know from the Ministry of Labour report that the primary cause of the collapse was due to crushing of the pick-up trusses supporting the roof grid system.
Khorsand explaining what cathead beams are: two steel channels bacaknto back that form one beam. Catheads in this model sit on a truss which looks like a lattice work made of metal. You see this kind of scaffold grid around many construction sites.
Cathead beams hang over the side of the truss a little so cables can hang.
Khorsand now zeroing in on the pick-up truss which is what failed in the collapse, according to MOL report.
Khorsand: roof was assembled and then lifted to trim height for the show. They it is supposed to get locked in place. A chain and ratchet assembly connected to base beam was to lock it all in place.
Khorsand is zooming in on the weight gauges (dynamometer) used in the structure to measure distribution of weight.
Inquest taking a short break while we digest all that technical language and my French colleagues try to translate “cathead beams” and “pick-up trusses.”
Khorsand explaining how to read engineering plans. There were 7 plans for this stage.
We are now looking at the engineer’s seal on one set of the plans. An engineer’s stamp tells users the design was done by a professional engineer.
The plans called for a drawing beginning with 5G. Instead MOL received a drawing beginning with 4G. MOL never received that 5G plan. Questions raised as to whether it existed.
You can see here that one of the drawings refers to 5 - G -01- 7570-01 ... which the Ministry of Labour says it never received during the course of its investigation.
Another drawing for the plan was submitted and not stamped by the engineers. Khorsand says the drawings on it are not accurate. Truss sizes are off by 3 feet. Tubing was also smaller.
Now looking at plans for loading pattern for another truss system. This one also not stamped by engineer but has been marked as approved.
Inquest adjourned for the day.
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