Families of the victims of this year’s fatal car crash at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas have launched a lawsuit against festival organisers claiming they were negligent in the implementation of proper safety precautions.
Rashad Charjuan Owens is facing life in prison, and is accused of being the driver who, upon fleeing police, drove a car into the crowd at South By Southwest, killing four people and injuring 17 others. One of the people killed was 35-year-old Dutch music executive Steven Craenmehr.
The lawsuits were filed by eight victims, including the families of three people who died. They name the festival organisers, the driver and a local engineering company that developed South by Southwest’s traffic management plan as responsible parties, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
“The owners, planners, and organisers of a downtown urban music festival should have recognised that risk given their nearly three decades of experience holding the festival,” reads one of the suits. “If SXSW had adhered to industry standards and utilised adequate traffic control measures, Steven Craenmehr would be alive today.”
“We want to hold South by Southwest accountable for the deaths that were the result of an absolutely preventable tragedy,” Scott Hendler, an Austin attorney representing Craenmehr’s family, told the Statesman.
The lawsuits are seeking damages of an unspecified amount and come at a precarious time for the festival, as they seek to implement new safety policies that could drastically change how the music festival operates in the future.
According to KVUE, SXSW have issued a statement in response to the lawsuit, expressing their sympathies for the families while putting the burden back on Rashad Owens. “What happened on Red River was a terrible tragedy, caused by Rashad Owen’s utter disregard of human life,” reads the statement.
“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.”