Lawsuits Filed In Fatal SXSW Auto Crash
December 22, 2014 at 8:30 AM (PT)
The first victim lawsuits filed since four people died at the SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST music festival last MARCH accused organizers of safety lapses after a driver crashed through a barricade and into a crowd of concertgoers, according to a report in ASSOCIATED PRESS.
Would-be rapper RASHAD CHARJUAN OWENS remains jailed on murder charges since the crash that authorities claim occurred while he fled police during an attempted midnight traffic stop. Hundreds of music lovers were milling outside the club district at the time.
The crash also left nearly two dozen people injured, and organizers of the AUSTIN festival have faced questions since the accident about how they have managed the event's transformation into an international showcase for musical acts, films, technology and corporate brands.
One of the wrongful death lawsuits was filed by the family of STEVEN CRAENMEHR, a DUTCH music executive who was riding a bike when struck, alleging that SXSW organizers skimped on traffic safeguards while causing overcrowding downtown.
"A festival organizer or traffic design consultant of ordinary intelligence would have anticipated the danger," the lawsuit says.
Lawyers for SXSW released a statement that expressed grief for the families but did not address the lawsuit's claims. "What happened on RED RIVER was a terrible tragedy, caused by RASHAD OWENS' utter disregard of human life. Our hearts continue to ache for those injured and the families of those who lost their lives. We look forward to his prosecution for his awful crimes."
The lawsuits were filed in both state and federal court for unspecified damages.
Authorities say OWENS gunned his gray HONDA Civic through a barricade after an officer on a drunken-driving patrol tried stopping the car. His blood alcohol level was .114, above the state's legal driving limit of .08, according to police.
A SXSW safety report from city officials released in SEPTEMBER found that alcohol consumption and overcrowding had left AUSTIN facing a "critical point where public safety could be compromised" if changes were not made, though festival organizers called the report "incomplete" and said it failed to address root issues.
The organizers say more than 350,000 people were drawn to the festival this year for official showcases and free events. Next year's music festival begins MARCH 17th.