The drunk driving crash that left four people dead and almost two dozen injured at this year’s South By Southwest is now being brought to court. The Associated Press reports that seven lawsuits have been filed against the organizations who put together the festival, accusing them of serious safety lapses that led to Rashad Owens crashing through a barricade the night of March 13th after fleeing from police officers following a traffic stop. Owens has been in jail since the crash on capital murder charges.
The lawsuits say that the crash was “a preventable, foreseeable tragedy” and that “a festival organizer or traffic design consultant of ordinary intelligence would have anticipated the danger.” The lawsuits contend that the festival organizers did not follow the Federal Transportation Administration and Texas State guidelines for traffic control and that “rigid barriers” should have been used. “The only way to force a private company like South By Southwest to take action in the future is to hold them accountable for the failures in the past,” attorney Scott Hendler told KXAN.
In addition to the traffic safety violations, the lawsuits also claim that “excessive alcohol consumption in and around SXSW should be well known to SXSW due to excessive DWI and Public Intoxication arrests in the years leading up to 2014.” In September, the City Of Austin released a report that identified “crowd management issues, including traffic congestion” as the biggest problems that were a factor in the incident. The next month, SXSW announced that they would be attempting to limit the amount of unofficial shows by putting a limit on the amount of permits issued by the city for events.
SXSW issued the following statement to KXAN in response to the lawsuits: “What happened on Red River [Street] was a terrible tragedy, caused by Rashad Owen’s 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.”