Radiohead’s Phil Selway speaks of “anger and frustration” at inquest of drum tech Scott Johnson

Scott Johnson died after a stage collapsed in Toronto in 2012

Radiohead drummer Philip Selway has spoken of the shared “anger and frustration” at the opening of the inquest of their tech Scott Johnson, who tragically died when the stage collapsed on him before a show in Toronto in 2012.

The band’s drum technician Scott Johnson died in June 2012 after a stage roof collapsed on him ahead of a concert at Toronto’s Downsview Park. The 33-year-old from Doncaster had also worked with Keane and many other touring artists. Three other people were also injured in the Downsview stage collapse.

In 2013, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour brought legal charges against Live Nation, scaffolding company Optex Staging and Services, and engineer Domenic Cugliari under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. Live Nation denied any wrongdoing in the proceedings. In 2017, charges were ‘stayed’ as proceedings took too long to come to trial.

The Radiohead stage collapse in 2012 (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

Now, a new inquest has begun. The inquest is expected to last three weeks and hear from around 25 witnesses to examine the circumstances of Johnson’s death. A jury is able to make recommendations to prevent similar incidents, but will not assign blame.

As the BBC reports, drummer Philip Selway gave testimony yesterday – where he spoke of the “anger and frustration” felt by the band, crew and Johnson’s family, as well as their despair at the “complete failure of the justice system”.

“The system has failed Scott, his family and other industry workers,” said Selway.

Speaking of the day of the accident, Selway described how the band “heard a very loud sound of breaking glass, which reached a crescendo”, before discovering what had happened. “The collapse has made us vulnerable where we used to feel secure,” he continued.

He added that the band has since altered the way that their stages are designed to minimise risk, as well as hiring a tour enginer to ensure safety whenever third parties are involved.

Paying tribute to Johnson, Selway said that he was “on top of his game”.

Speaking to the press outside the inquest, Selway added: “At the heart of it, there is the loss of Scott. We’ve heard the testimony of Mr Johnson, Scott’s father – and that really brings home the impact that that’s had on his family.

“I’ve been speaking to crew members who have worked with Radiohead that day, asking for their memories of that day and their feelings since. It’s just had such an enormous impact on everybody who has involved. I am pleased that this is happening now.”

Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood
Radiohead on stage in 2012

Last year saw the band speak out to call for action and justice over Johnson’s death.

Speaking onstage back in July at their first Toronto show since the incident, Thom Yorke said: “We wanted to do a show in Toronto, the stage collapsed, killing one of our colleagues and friends.”

“The people who should be held accountable are still not being held accountable in your city. The silence is fucking deafening.”

This follows similar comments made by Selway.“It’s very frustrating. The court case broke down on a technicality,” he said. “So there have been no real answers. Without the answers we can’t ensure that an accident like this can’t happen again.”

In ‘staying’ the trial, Ontario judge Ann Nelson said: “It is important to emphasise that timely justice is not just important to persons facing charges. It is also important to our society at large. No doubt, this decision will be incomprehensible to Mr. Johnson’s family, who can justifiably complain that justice has not been done.”

In a statement last year, Scott’s father Ken Johnson said: “They can’t bring Scott back – that’s obviously painful. But it needs to be clear. I think people need to see what’s happened.”