Engineer in fatal Toronto Radiohead scene collapse guilty of malpractice

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TORONTO – An engineer who signed a Radiohead concert scene that collapsed and killed a drummer has been found guilty of professional misconduct, but the finding did little to reassure the family of the deceased man. Domenic Cugliari last week approved the findings of the Professional Engineers Ontario Disciplinary Committee in the June 16, 2012 incident that killed Scott Johnson.

Johnson, 33, was tuning drums for the band ahead of their concert at Toronto’s Downsview Park when the massive outdoor stage structure collapsed on top of him. Three others were injured.

Last week, the disciplinary committee found that Cugliari did not notice many errors and omissions in the stage design drawings and, as a result, did not revise the plans.

He also found that Cugliari did not examine the trusses with heavy lighting equipment and did not realize that these trusses were poorly connected to other beams.

Johnson’s father said the lengthy process of finding responsibility for their son’s death – which included a court case and an investigation – has taken its toll.

“Not knowing the outcome for eight years is destroying you,” said an emotional Ken Johnson in a telephone interview from his home in Doncaster, England.

Elder Johnson noted that Cugliari’s agreement with the disciplinary committee’s findings could have helped bring justice if it had come earlier.

“If that had been said on the first day of the trial, they wouldn’t have come to terms with… dismissing the case because it was taking too long,” he said.

A court case collapsed after the case took too long to be tried. As a result, occupational health and safety charges were suspended against Cugliari, along with Live Nation show promoter and entrepreneur Optex Staging.

A coroner’s inquest into Johnson’s death last year learned that plans for the scene were riddled with errors, the wrong building components had been used in key areas and construction was behind schedule.

Cugliari testified during the investigation that he did not check if the right parts were used because he trusted the contractor.

The investigation’s criterion was not to blame, and a jury returned with a series of recommendations aimed at preventing future deaths.

The Discipline Committee of Professional Engineers Ontario concluded that Cugliari had signed a “field review report” sent to the contractor that said the scene was “structurally sound.”

At the committee hearing, Cugliari said he was sorry for what had happened.

“For now, I want to sincerely apologize to the Johnson family, the families of other injured workers, as well as the engineering profession,” he said, according to his attorney, Scott Thompson.

“I regret that I released the field review report stating that the stage was structurally sound and satisfactory for its intended use without fully ensuring that the appropriate collection trusses were installed. For that, I am very sorry. ”

Ken Johnson said the apology made little sense.

“We don’t know what pain he suffered or for how long,” he said of his son. “We weren’t there to help him, how sad. ”

Radiohead also said Cugliari’s words were insufficient.

“These admissions are eight years too late,” the group wrote on social media.

“If the evidence now accepted by Mr Cugliari had been accepted in the initial legal proceedings against him, Live Nation and the contractor Optex Staging, it would have been complete in one day, with a very different result and some justice. was delivered. »

Last year, at the start of the Discipline Committee proceedings, Cugliari attempted to withdraw from the proceedings, filing a petition saying Professional Engineers Ontario lacked jurisdiction because he had retired. The committee rejected the motion.

Cugliari had his engineering license revoked following the committee’s findings, and his company, Construction Control Inc., which declared bankruptcy in 2018, lost its license. If the company wishes to apply for a certificate from the association, it will have to pay a fine of $ 5,000.

The elder Johnson said he couldn’t believe the only sanction that ultimately resulted from the collapse that killed his son was the revocation of a retired engineer’s license.

The couple are left with memories of their boy – their only child – and sad trips to the cemetery.

“They say time is a healer,” Ken Johnson said through tears.

“If anyone wants to make this statement, they should come to the cemetery and talk to them. It’s not getting better, it’s not really doing well. It’s a rotten, horrible, horrible situation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 24, 2020.

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