TORONTO - Inconsistent labour and safety standards are endangering those toiling behind the scenes as performers put on increasingly ambitious shows, an industry expert said a day after a deadly stage collapse in Toronto.
Part of the massive outdoor structure came crashing down Saturday afternoon during setup for a Radiohead concert, killing a British drum technician and injuring three other workers.
As Ontario labour officials combed through the wreckage Sunday, one expert said pressure to produce flashy performances on short deadlines may play a role in what appears to be a "recurring problem" of dangerous stage collapses in recent years.
Adding to the problem is a lack of clear government or industry guidelines when it comes to safety precautions and procedures, she said.
"In some cases, it is not clear who's going to say, 'That's not OK,' or 'That doesn't meet the standard'," said Janet Sellery, a safety consultant specializing in the arts who is based in Stratford, Ont.
"I think there's a lot of performances and events that may go on with a lot of fingers crossed," she added.
Inspectors with Ontario's Ministry of Labour were examining the Downsview Park venue Sunday, trying to determine what caused the stage to suddenly crumple just before the gates opened.
The falling debris crushed Scott Johnson, a drum technician in his 30s, whom the band called "a highly skilled and valued member" of its road crew.
In a statement posted on their website Sunday, Radiohead said they were "shattered" by Johnson's death.
"He was a lovely man, always positive, supportive and funny," the message read. "We will miss him very much. Our thoughts and love are with Scott's family and all those close to him."
The sold-out show was cancelled before it even began, forcing ticketholders — many of them from out of town — to turn back.
A ministry spokesman said the investigation into the incident is "fairly complex" and it could take some time to figure out exactly what happened.
Investigators are looking to see whether safety regulations and standards were followed and staff were properly trained, Matt Blajer said.
But Sellery, who sits on a committee advising the province on safety standards for the entertainment industry, said the regulations don't necessarily address the challenges involved in putting on a show.
"Because of the unique situations that the live performance and event industry involves, it's not clear to a lot of people how to implement them (regulations)," she said.
"So even though people want to be compliant, you read something and it's clearly written about a construction site," which can be confusing, she said.
Even more challenging is the slow process for updating standards so they keep up with a rapidly evolving industry, she said.
"It's not something that there's a lot of political or bureaucratic energy behind," she said.
"Doing live performance and events has always been about pushing boundaries and I think that's a good thing, but you have to make sure... that the health and safety practices keep up with that."
There've been a number of stage collapses in recent years.
Six people died last August when the stage fell at a concert in Indianapolis and five died when a storm toppled a stage at a festival in Belgium.
In Canada, several people were hurt when the stage went down at Bluesfest in Ottawa last July and one person died in 2009 when a windstorm collapsed the stage at the Big Valley Jamboree in Alberta.
Prior To The Collapse: Tracey Hamilton
Before The Collapse: Nicole Rose Hogeveen
"We have all been shattered by the loss of Scott Johnson, our friend and colleague. He was a lovely man, always positive, supportive and funny; a highly skilled and valued member of our great road crew. We will miss him very much. Our thoughts and love are with Scott's family and all those close to him."
An aerial shot from the Canadian Press:
The man killed in yesterday's collapse was Scott Johnson, Radiohead's drum tech.
|@ brooklynvegan : Flaming Lips paying tribute to Radiohead by covering "knives out" to 1000s at free s @ Yonge-Dundas Square http://t.co/0WPH1xV9|
|@ TorontoPolice : The #Radiohead concert has been CANCELLED. Rumours that they will be playing at Yonge/Dundas Square are FALSE! Please RT ^tb|
All of the individuals injured were crew members, according to the Globe and Mail.
"One 45-year-old man is in hospital with non life-threatening injuries; two other men suffered minor injuries, were treated on scene by paramedics and released.
Police have not released the names of the victims."
“The area is rendered safe. Unfortunately one person has been killed,” Const. Tony Vella told the media Saturday evening.
Police will work with the Ministry of Labour to determine the cause, and witnesses are encouraged to come forward.
Expect traffic delays around the area.
|@ ThatEricAlper : Radiohead cancellation info: TM automatically returns ticket price to credit card. In-person point of purchase beginning June 22.|
|@ CP24 : Police say a man in his 30s died as a result of stage collapse. A 45-year-old-man taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.|
|@ niamhsays : I'm here at scene, disappointed fans milling about. Chopper overhead. Stage looks like heap of twisted metal #Radiohead #DownsviewPark|
|@ matthewstasoff : The stage collapse at Downsview should not have happened. Weather was perfect. That is why this is a tragedy http://t.co/EL47sKeF|
|@ ThatEricAlper : Ironic fact: Radiohead's Ok Computer was released 15 years ago today. #Downsview Park|
|@ alancross : EMS says the piping/scaffolding holding up the lighting rig collapsed. Downsview Park is federal land. Ministry of Labour to investigate.|
|@ waynecoyne : So sorry to hear about the bad shit at the Radiohead stage ..... Fuck!!! All respect!! All love!!! Our thoughts are with you.....|
|@ alancross : Looks like all of #Radiohead's gear was onstage at the time of the Toronto stage collapse. http://t.co/VUI8MzIq|
Lindsey Bradbury was expected to work at one of the beer tents at the Radiohead concert and said screens were being hung on the stage before the incident, Globe and Mail says.
|@ jianghomeshi : Such a tragic turn to what's been such an incredible week for live music in Toronto. Thoughts are with those working on ground at Downsview.|
|@ radiohead : Due to unforeseen circumstances tonight's at downsview park tonight has been cancelled. Fans are advised not to make their way to the venue.|
"Spinner spoke to Zach Carothers of Portugal. the Man, who are playing the outdoor stage at Younge-Dundas Square today, about the stage collapse.
'We never really thought about it before last year until those several terrible things happened, so yes it's a worry. It's just a terrible thing everyone going out and expecting a really fun time at a rock show. It's terrible. I've already heard reports that one person died, and our hearts go out to their family. Hopefully everyone else is alright.'"
|@ TorontoPolice : We are still gathering details re:stage collapse at Downsview Park. Concert has been cancelled. Will update with later ^tb|
|@ BreakingNews : Photo appears to show collapsed stage at Downsview Park in Toronto - @zakeaa http://t.co/LrLeJpZF|
Concert promoters LiveNation have issued this press release, according to TheGridTO.com.
"DUE TO UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES, THE RADIOHEAD SHOW AT DOWNSVIEW PARK TONIGHT HAS BEEN CANCELLED.
FANS ARE ADVISED NOT TO MAKE THEIR WAY TO THE VENUE.
REFUNDS WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE AT POINT OF PURCHASE.
FURTHER INFORMATION IS TO FOLLOW."
One person has been sent to Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital, Global News reports. Two more are being attended to at the park.
|@ jianghomeshi : CBC News now confirms 3 hurt at stage collapse at Downsview. #Radiohead show in Toronto will NOT go ahead. This is terrible news for fans.|
|@ BreakingNews : Report: 1 person pronounced dead after stage collapse at Downsview Park in Toronto before Radiohead concert - @CP24|