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Suits point wrongful death finger at SXSW organizers

The South by Southwest music festival is a rather big deal; not just in Texas, but internationally. It wasn't always that way. As the SXSW website observes, it all started in 1987 with 700 registrants. There were reportedly fewer than 200 bands featured that year.

This past March, though, the Austin event reportedly attracted more than 2,000 bands and organizers say the crowd numbered in excess of 350,000. Unfortunately, for all the fun that was provided, there also was tragedy.

Readers may well recall that four people were killed and nearly two dozen others were injured when a car went careening through a crowd of festivalgoers in the city's club district. Authorities say the suspect was being chased by police after fleeing from a traffic stop. He's said to have been legally drunk at the time and has been jailed ever since on capital murder charges.

It likely comes as no surprise that lawsuits have now followed. But it's not clear from the news items whether the driver of the car is named in any of the civil actions. The reports do say that the organizers of the SXSW festival are cited in the cases filed earlier this month. The suits allege that planners failed to properly accommodate the safety of the public.

Specifically, one suit claims that any experienced festival organizer or traffic consultant with ordinary intelligence should have been anticipated that disaster could strike.

A safety report conducted for the city and issued in September says the combination of alcohol consumption and the size of the crowd at this year's event suggests changes are needed for the sake of public safety going forward.

But festival organizers say the report is lacking and doesn't address root issues, so it isn't clear whether any improvements may be coming for the next festival in March. Perhaps the lawsuits now pending will bring some accountability.

Source: The Daily News, "Fatal South by Southwest crash brings first wave of lawsuits," Associated Press, Dec, 18, 2014

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