Earlier this month, Rashad C. Owens made his first public appearance in court since his arrest in March when he was charged in the deadly crash that killed four music festival-goers and injured nearly two dozen others during South by Southwest. The legal complexities surrounding the case don’t end there, however. Now SXSW and the city of Austin are potentially facing a civil lawsuit.
Following the incident, the festival immediately gathered the support of its attendees and put together a fundraiser, SXSW Cares, to go toward the victims (and their families). Behind its big-business façade, there seemed to be genuine compassion in their efforts of the organizers. In approximately three months’ time, SXSW Cares gathered over $150,000 in community donations, according to its website.
Now that the media hype has died down, Dallas-area lawyer Keith R. Herbert is gathering evidence for what might turn into the aforementioned civil lawsuit against the city and the festival. According to Herbert, the tragedy is a direct result of safety being sacrificed. The attorney is also representing Fort Worth resident and victim Kartisha Davis, and the family of Davis’ boyfriend, DeAndre Tatum, who was one of the four victims. “This was an accident waiting to happen,” he said.
SXSW and the city of Austin have yet to respond to Herbert’s request to begin talking, according to Herbert. And if it comes down to it, Herbert said, he will be forced to file the lawsuit through the courts. For now, he’s reached out to other attorneys representing other victims, and he’s begun looking into studies that might help answer why this tragedy happened.
In addition to SXSW Cares, the Austin City Council approved a full-scale review of the day of the crash and other issues with this year’s festival, by gathering community feedback on how to increase overall safety and security during the festival.
Aaron Claycomb is a D Magazine intern.