LimeLife Reporter: "I Was Supposed to Go to That Radiohead Concert"
Drum technician Scott Johnson, 33, was crushed during accident
It was a warm, beautiful afternoon in Toronto, Ontario. The sun was shining, people were wearing shorts (we don't always have snow, polar bears and Kraft Dinner in Canada), and I had some time to kill before visiting a Radiohead concert later that evening in Downsview Park, a notable outdoor location in the city that can hold more than 40,000 spectators.
As I hung around Christie Pits Park with some friends while awaiting the first appearance of the group in Toronto since 2008, one member of our entourage was fiddling with his smart phone, when he ended up delivering the chilling news to us: The stage at Downsview Park collapsed. Scott Johnson, a 33-year-old drum technician for the band, was killed. Three other stage workers were injured. The expected cancellation of the sold-out concert was then announced on Radiohead's Twitter account, leaving some around the city in shock and disbelief that this unfortunate accident literally just transpired.
According to The Globe And Mail, one 45-year-old victim is still in the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, while the other two were treated at the scene.
Though Downsview wasn't full at the time of the collapse (The accident happened around 4 PM, and the show wasn't set to start until 7:30 PM,) a considerable amount of people were gathered around the area, awaiting the show. Security was quick and efficient in moving all spectators from the area after the accident as police, fire fighters, and paramedics arrived unto the scene.
It's currently not known what caused the collapse, as weather conditions couldn't have been a part of it (no strong winds or storms were nearby). Ontario Ministry Of Labour investigators inspected the wreckage on Saturday evening, trying to figure out how this all could have happened.
As thousands of fans that planned to be in attendance for the concert wandered aimlessly around the city, rumors began to spread online about the British band possibly making an appearance at another concert that was occurring at a different location of Toronto later that night in Dundas Square. A free show was already organized as a way to cap off the five-day-long North By Northeast music festival, with alternative rockers The Flaming Lips performing in the heavily populated area. This journalist ended up making new plans on the fly and decided to make his way to the area (After dining at The Golden Turtle for some much-needed Thai food, and since the show wasn't set to start until 9 PM, I also engaged in a few rounds of Bocce Ball at another park.)
After noticing what appeared to be a sea of people ahead of me, I knew that we were in for what was sure to be an experience that would temporarily take people's minds off of the tragedy that occurred at Downsview just hours previous to this congregation at Dundas Square, if even just for a minute. When the spectacle eventually began, it was an experience that included things such as massive balloons filled with confetti, and the lead singer being passed around the audience while being inside of a giant see-through bubble (yes, you read that correctly). I can honestly say that I've never been a part of such a huge mass of humanity before Saturday night's free show by The Flaming Lips, as people piled up from the bottom of the stage all the way back to the buildings at the end of the street, trying to just get a glance at what was happening on stage (we thankfully also had a giant screen to let the viewers actually see the members of the band).
Wayne Coyne, the lead singer of the group, ended up expressing their sympathy over the stage collapse earlier in the day, and for the death and injuries of the victims.
"This unthinkable thing that happened today, we can't all help but be affected by it," said Coyne. "Peace be with their hearts tonight."
The "Radiohead appearing" rumor ended up being exactly what it was expected to be (a rumor), though the Lips ended up playing a cover of "Knives Out", to the delight of the many thousands of spectators.
It was a whirlwind of a day that at times seemed unreal, and ended up showing visitors that whether a concert was cancelled or not, a human life was lost. More importantly, a scarier thought is when you think about what had been averted -- If the stage at Downsview collapsed later in the evening when more than 40,000 people would have been packed in the area, the disaster would have been far worse.
Ticket company Live Nation have promised refunds for those that purchased tickets to the cancelled show.