SXSW Faces Lawsuit Regarding Last Year’s Drunk-Driving Incident

The first wave of victim lawsuits are being issued to South by Southwests music festival after the deaths of four people and two dozen injuries by a drunk driver. They are suing the festival due to inadequate safety conditions and safety breaches. The drunk driver, Rashad Charjuan Owens, smashed through a barricade and into a crowd of concertgoers with a blood alcohol level of .114, sufficiently above Texas’ legal driving limit of .08. Owens has been in jail for capital murder charges since March, the month of the crash. According to authorities, Owens fled police when officers attempted a midnight traffic stop, which happened to be right around the music festival’s grounds where hundreds of attendees were walking around a crowded local club district.

One of the deaths that occurred happened to Steven Craenmehr, a Dutch music executive who was riding his bike at the time. His wife and mother allege that SXSW organizers skimped on traffic safeguards for the event. They felt as if the festival under prepared for the heightened safety needs that result from clogging the downtown Austin area with festivalgoers.

The lawsuit, filed in both state and federal court, read, “A festival organizer or traffic design consultant of ordinary intelligence would have anticipated the danger.” As a reaction to the lawsuit, lawyers for SXSW released a statement that expressed grief for the families but failed to address the lawsuit itself. The statement said, “What happened on Red River 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.”