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Companies that build temporary stages should be licensed, coroner’s inquest says

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  • TORONTO — A coroner’s inquest into the death of a drum technician who was crushed when a stage collapsed before a Radiohead concert in Toronto is recommending that companies that build temporary stages for events undergo licensing.

    Jurors examining the circumstances surrounding the death of Scott Johnson also suggest that riggers who work on performance venues in Ontario go through a certification process similar to what’s in place for electricians.

    The jury issued 26 other recommendations that largely echo those proposed at the inquest by the coroner’s counsel and other parties earlier this week, all aimed at preventing such deaths in the future.

    The recommendations are not binding, but Johnson’s father, Ken Johnson, said Wednesday he will be monitoring the situation to ensure they aren’t simply shelved. He suggested Radiohead would also stay on top of the issue.

    “I think I would be disappointed,” if the inquest didn’t lead to change, he said outside the coroner’s court.

    He expressed some relief that after nearly seven years, a long and convoluted legal process over his son’s death has come to a close. But he said the inquest and the preceeding court case had also helped distract from his grief.

    “For us, we sort of accept that life is different and we expect that emotional rollercoaster, we don’t see a way out for that,” he said.

    “I think it just brings some closure, at least. There’s hardly a month gone by in the last seven years where I’m not involved in some dialogue about Scott and what’s happened, so I quite look forward to perhaps not having that dialogue.”

    Scott Johnson was onstage when the structure’s roof, which bore tens of thousands of kilograms in equipment, came crashing down just hours before Radiohead was set to perform on June 16, 2012.

    He died of a crushing injury to the brain and head, according to the inquest jury. Several others were injured.

    Among the recommendations issued Wednesday was the creation of a provincially funded, permanent working group examining the processes involved in the live performance industry, including the construction of temporary stages like the one that collapsed.

    The group, to be established by December, would include Ken Johnson and experts from the entertainment and staging industries. It would be tasked with addressing concerns raised during the inquest, such as the need to have a trained supervisor on site at all times during construction of temporary stages.

    The jury also recommends changes to the building code and occupational health and safety laws as they relate to temporary stages. Those changes would include requirements that such structures be designed by an engineer and inspected by one before they are used.

    There are also a number of recommendations aimed at the engineering profession, including the development of specialized criteria and educational opportunities for those working on temporary stages.

    Over several weeks of testimony, the inquest has heard plans for the stage contained several errors, the wrong construction materials were used in building the roof structure and there was no independent oversight of the project.

    Charges were laid under occupational health and safety laws against the show’s promoter, Live Nation, contractor Optex Staging and Domenic Cugliari, the engineer who signed off on the stage plans. They were later stayed because the matter took too long to get to trial.

    Johnson’s family and Radiohead have been critical of the judicial process, saying they felt no one was being held accountable for the deadly incident.

    Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press


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    PEI Green party candidate John Underhay and son killed in canoeing accident

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  • CHARLOTTETOWN — Prince Edward Island’s Green party has suspended campaigning for Tuesday’s provincial election, citing the sudden death of one of its candidates.

    The party confirmed Saturday that Josh Underhay and his young son died in a canoeing accident on Friday afternoon.

    Green party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker issued a statement saying he was bereft when he learned of their deaths.

    “Josh has been a dear friend and colleague of mine for many years, as a volunteer, musician, passionate cycling advocate and Green party supporter,” Bevan-Baker said.

    “He has touched the lives of everyone who knew him, including the students he taught, fellow musicians and members of the party … Josh brought humour, enthusiasm and boundless energy to every situation.”

    Bevan-Baker said the Greens would suspend all election-related activities for the remainder of the campaign.

    The province’s three other major parties suspended all campaign events scheduled for Saturday.

    The RCMP issued a statement Saturday saying two canoeists were reported missing Friday after they failed to show up at an agreed pick-up point along the Hillsborough River, which cuts through the middle of the Island and empties into the Northumberland Strait near Charlottetown.

    Firefighters, police and a volunteer ground search team were called in to look for the pair.

    Police would not identify the victims, but a Green party official confirmed Underhay and his son were later found in the water near their capsized canoe.

    Though they were wearing flotation devices, both were declared dead at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown, police said.

    Police asked for the public’s help as they continued their investigation, saying they’d like to hear from anyone who saw a red canoe on the Hillsborough River on Friday afternoon.

    Underhay, a married father of two boys, had been the Greens’ candidate in District 9, Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park.

    According to a profile on the party’s website, he was a teacher at Birchwood Intermediate School in Charlottetown, as well as an experienced musician and a student of languages, speaking English, French, Spanish, Mandarin and Czech.

    “I simply cannot imagine how much (Underhay) will be missed,” Bevan-Baker said.

    “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and I know we will all join together to provide each other with support and comfort during this terrible time.”

    The Canadian Press


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    PEI Green party candidate Josh Underhay and son killed in canoeing accident

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  • CHARLOTTETOWN — With only a few days before voters were to go to the polls in Prince Edward Island, the Green party suspended all campaigning Saturday after the sudden death of one of its candidates and his young son.

    The party confirmed Saturday that Josh Underhay and his son died in a canoeing accident on Friday afternoon.

    Voting day is Tuesday.

    Green party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, whose party has been leading in the polls, issued a statement saying he was bereft when he learned of Underhay’s death.

    “Josh has been a dear friend and colleague of mine for many years, as a volunteer, musician, passionate cycling advocate and Green party supporter,” Bevan-Baker said.

    “He has touched the lives of everyone who knew him, including the students he taught, fellow musicians and members of the party … Josh brought humour, enthusiasm and boundless energy to every situation.”

    Bevan-Baker said the Greens would suspend all election-related activities for the remainder of the campaign.

    The province’s three other major parties suspended all campaign events scheduled for Saturday.

    The RCMP issued a statement saying two canoeists were reported missing Friday after they failed to show up at an agreed pick-up point along the Hillsborough River, which cuts through the middle of the Island and empties into the Northumberland Strait near Charlottetown.

    Firefighters, police and a volunteer ground search team were called in to look for the pair.

    Police would not identify the victims, but a Green party official confirmed Underhay and his son were later found in the water near their capsized canoe.

    Though they were wearing flotation devices, both were declared dead at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown, police said.

    Police asked for the public’s help as they continued their investigation, saying they’d like to hear from anyone who saw a red canoe on the Hillsborough River on Friday afternoon.

    Underhay, a married father of two boys, had been the Greens’ candidate in District 9, Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park.

    According to a profile on the party’s website, he was a teacher at Birchwood Intermediate School in Charlottetown, as well as an experienced musician and a student of languages, speaking English, French, Spanish, Mandarin and Czech.

    “I simply cannot imagine how much (Underhay) will be missed,” Bevan-Baker said.

    “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and I know we will all join together to provide each other with support and comfort during this terrible time.”

    Progressive Conservative Leader Dennis King issued a statement saying the tragic loss of Underhay and his son marked “a heart-breaking day for all Islanders.”

    “It is a reminder of how fragile life is and how often we take it for granted,” King said. “Josh was a dedicated teacher and community leader who had a love for life and a passion for people. He was an advocate, talented musician and friend to many.”

    The Green party has been leading in opinion polls since August, but the race remains too close to call when the margin of error in recent surveys is factored in.

    Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Liberals will be seeking a fourth term on Tuesday, which has prompted some critics to suggest the party has overstayed its welcome.

    The close numbers have also raised the possibility of a minority government, which would mark a historic moment for the Island. The last time a minority was elected in P.E.I. was 1890.

    The Conservatives have been plagued by infighting for the past eight years, churning through no fewer than six leaders, including King, who was elected in February.

    However, the party enjoyed a boost in the polls the following month, leaving them in a virtual tie with the Liberals.

    As for the Island’s New Democrats, led by Joe Byrne, their poll numbers have remained at single digits for the past year.

    — By Michael MacDonald in Halifax

    The Canadian Press


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