A heavy 30 foot plus camera jib (boom/crane) fell into the audience this morning at the start of Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark’s concert during SXSW. At 1 a.m. the giant metal rigging smashed into the first few rows of people standing in front of the stage immediately knocking them to the ground. The extent of the injuries are unknown at this time but it appeared that there were no fatalities. There was blood and people were being led from the scene in stretchers.
I was shooting video at the show and was acutely aware throughout the night of the intimidating jib and it’s position just above the heads of the audience. People were complaining about having to duck to avoid the giant metal arm and its wiring. In my opinion, it was an accident waiting to happen. The jib operators were either inexperienced or just plain reckless.
Marconi19d commented on The Daily Swarm website: “Thank you boom operator! You grazed my head about 5 times as the wires dangled from the huge camera rig that floated above us…but that was not enough, so why not go for it all and just drop the whole thing on me and several people who shed blood at Stubbs for SXSW. My first one and I will never forget this!:”
One concert goer who mistook me for a reporter told me she overheard the crew operating the jib complain that they had had problems with it all evening.
Several photographers were prevented from photographing or filming the scene by the cops and venue security. A reporter for the Austin Statesmen was reputedly ejected for trying to shoot photos. Who were security protecting? The injured? Or the venue, the jib operators, SXSW and the sponsors of the show?
Andy McCluskey of OMD joked “Shall we wait for the lawsuits or shall we start?” When he realized the severity of the situation he turned somber and the band left the stage.
With the cops and security playing tough guys, I may be the only one on the scene to have shot footage of the incident as it happened. I will gladly give it to anyone who was injured in this sad sad accident if it can help in any way.
My fiancee Mirgun was literally a matter of inches from the falling boom. It was gutwrenching for both of us. I was shooting video in another location and there were several minutes in which I was in a panic thinking she might have been injured. The photo at the top of this article was taken by her just as the boom crashed in front of the stage. You can see the hands of someone trying to lift it off of themselves. Damn.
The medics handled the situation efficiently and compassionately. Other than a few overzealous cops and junior G-Men in t-shirts that shouted “security”, the men and women whose jobs it was to rescue the injured were swift and sure.
Update: Austin 360 reports that SXSW did not authorize the video shoot. “We did not know about this video shoot,” said Roland Swenson, spokesman for SXSW who added that there are about 400 crews who are doing video shoots at venues throughout the conference. “It didn’t come through our process. He said that the Steve Madden company that sponsored the show at Stubbs hired another firm, On Slot, to do the video shoot. The video production company (On Slot) set up the equipment. We looked at the equipment and couldn’t tell if it was equipment failure or user error.”
According to KXAN television, four people were injured and the injuries were not life-threatening.
Update 3/21: Andy McCluskey of OMD discusses the camera jib accident and his SXSW experience:
Andy - Once we realized what had actually happened, and that there were people who needed medical treatment it was obvious that we could not start playing. I guess that if there was any ‘luck’ involved.. it was the fact that the camera crane fell before we actually started.. it would have been much more confusing and slower to resolve if we were into the set. I expected the concert to be canceled. We just waited to see if the injured were going to be OK.. (I hear that they are OK). Once the police said it was fine to play we decided that we should at least do something for those who had paid money and waited until 1.30AM.. Even though the 2AM curfew would not be pushed back! It felt rather weird at the beginning, but slowly the band and audience started to re-connect.. it was actually a great 7 song set! And an even greater relief that no-one is permanently hurt!
Interviewer - How would each of you you sum up your SXSW experience?
Andy - Strange gigs, at stupid times, in crap venues with impossible turn around times..Otherwise.. just lovely.
Interviewer - What steps do you hope SXSW will take to improve things in the future?
Andy - It seems that it is now so big that in reality it is a waste of time for new or unsigned bands as people only have time to find the gigs by bands that they have heard of.
Interviewer - Do you think you’ll ever return to SXSW?
Andy - No.
Update 3/21: Austin print and TV media continue to downplay the injuries sustained by the four people injured by the camera boom collapse calling their injuries “minor.” I am beginning to wonder whether there may be a cover-up going on in Austin to protect the reputation of the local cash cow that is SXSW.
Patrick Fagerberg sustained this injury when the camera boom fell directly on his head. In the video footage of the boom falling into the crowd, Patrick is seen taking a direct hit. At this time, Patrick is undergoing neurological tests to determine just how serious his injuries are. He is having trouble speaking and forming complete thoughts. I spoke with him briefly today and I could tell he’s suffering. No one in the media has made contact with him other than Dangerous Minds. Why is Austin media avoiding this story?