Driver Involved in 2014 SXSW Crash Sentenced

More than a year-and-a-half after what happened on the morning of March  13, 2014 at Austin’s South by Southwest Festival, the driver who caused so much pain and hurt has been sentenced. On Friday (Nov. 6), the man on trial, Rashad Owens, learned his fate after a Travis County jury deliberate for three hours. Not surprising, the jury found him guilty of capital murder that resulted in four people losing their lives and 25 others suffering from injuries.

Since the state decided to forgo the death penalty, according to KXAN, Owens was sentenced to automatic life in prison with no chance of parole. The conviction means that Owens can spend anywhere from five to 99 years in prison.

For those not familiar with what happened that fateful morning during the annual festival in downtown Austin, police reportedly noticed a man had pulled into a near-by gas station in a silver Honda in an effort to evade an officer that was working a D.U.I. checkpoint. As it turned out, during the trial, Owens was not only under the influence (.114, over the .08 legal limit), but the silver 2012 Honda Civic that was involved was stolen.

Owens then proceeded to drive the vehicle in the wrong direction on a one-way street, resulting in him going through a previously set up barricade and into a crowd of people. At the time, there was a large gathering of people outside The Mohawk where rapper Tyler, the Creator was slated to perform.

Since the crash, several lawsuits have been filed both in federal and Texas state court. As of last December, a total of seven lawsuits were filed against the festival’s private companies (SXSW Holdings INC. and SXSW LLC), the traffic consulting firm (Traffic Design Consultants, LLC), and the person who headed the project, Patrick Lowe.

Multiple Lawsuits Filed Against SXSW

South By Southwest is supposed to be a time to let loose and enjoy music, films, and the interactive conferences that are held, but this year’s festivities took a turn for the worse when a drunk idiot tried to evade police at a D.U.I. checkpoint which resulted in him killing several people and injuring dozens more.

Now, almost a year after the horrific incident took place, seven lawsuit have been filed again SXSW by the families of those killed in the fatal crash that took place in the early hours of March 13, 2014 on Red River, according to the Associated Press.

The wrongful death lawsuit have been filed in both federal and Texas state court.

But, the festival and their private companies, SXSW Holdings INC. and SXSW LLC aren’t the only ones being named in the suits, the traffic consulting firm, Traffic Design Consultants, LLC and the person who headed the project, Patrick Lowe, have also been named.

One of the suits claims that the tragedy was “foreseeable and predictable” and that all those involved, especially the festival, ignored safety regulations and industry standards by not using “rigid barriers.”

“A festival organizer or traffic design consultant of ordinary intelligence would have anticipated danger” cites one of the lawsuits.

They also claim that the festival and everyone involved should have anticipated that something would happen due to all the excessive alcohol consumption that was going on. The suit even cited that Austin is the “number one for alcohol consumption in Texas.”

But, it sill does not end there. The lawsuit also says that the festival’s Right-Of-Way permit puts them in “legal possession of the street where the crash occurred.”

“The only way to force a private company like South by Southwest to take action in the future is to hold them accountable for their failures in the past,” states Scott Hendler, the attorney for one of the families.

“Otherwise, there’s no incentive for them to do anything different.”

Lizzy Plug, the wife of one of the first victim’s identified as Steven Craenmehr mirrored her attorney’s sentiment.

“South by Southwest is accountable for this tragedy, in my thoughts.”

In the response to the lawsuit SXSW have released the following statement:

“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.”

In September, a report sanctioned by SXSW done by the city of Austin revealed that crowd management issues including traffic congestion attributed to the crash.

The report also revealed that the city might also have some blame because of the overcrowding of venues and the high consumption of alcohol compromised the

Due to the report, the festival has already planned to minimize the amount of unofficial event surrounding them including the FADER Fort and the Hype Hotel. As of now, SXSW is asking for the city to limit the amount of permits distributed for events that require temporary permits.

As for the man behind all of this tragedy, Rashad Owens, he is currently in jail on capital murder charges. He is also being sued by the families.

Two Dead, 23 Injured in Crash at SXSW

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UPDATE:

The identity of the two victims as well as the driver of the vehicle have been revealed.

The first victim of the crash this morning was 35-year-old Steven Craenmehr. Craenmehr’s identity had been confirmed by his employer, Massive Music where he worked as a creative director at their Amsterdam office.

The Travis County Medical Examiner identified the other person who died as 27-year-old Jamie Ranae West of Austin. West and her husband, Evan West, were both riding the moped that was struck by the vehicle; he was one of the many that were hospitalized.

As for the driver who caused this complete fiasco, he has been identified as Rashad Charjuan Owens, a 21-year-old from Killeen, Texas. The San Antonio Express-News revealed that he has a hefty criminal record.

In 2010, he was convicted of criminal trespassing in Killeen and then the following year was charged with driving under the influence of marijuana in Fairbanks, Alaska. e was also charged with leaving the scene of an accident which was then dropped. He claimed that he lost control of the SUV he was driving and “drove off because he didn’t know he had to call police.”

More information has also been revealed, including that Owens was set to perform at one of the events scheduled to take place at Club 1808 near Chicon Street and 12th; the crash occurred near East 11th.

Lamar Wilson, a man claiming to be the suspect’s brother, said that Owens was a musician who rapped and produced under the names, KillingAllBeatz or K.A.B254.

As of now, Owens is going to be charged with two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle.

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South By Southwest is supposed to be a week full of films, music, interactive conferences and fun, but early this morning the situation went turned from enjoyable to deadly.

According to police reports, at around 12:30 a.m., a driver crashed into a group of people who were standing outside the Mohawk at 9th and Red River, killing two and injuring another 23. Of those 23, five of them are reportedly in critical condition.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a press conference that two people who were pronounced dead on the scene; one was a male on a bicycle from the Netherlands and the other was a female riding a moped.

Police reported that the man had pulled into a near-by gas station in his silver Toyota in an effort to evade an officer that was working a D.U.I. checkpoint. He move his vehicle through several parked car and then took off at a high speed in the wrong direction of a one-way street. He then proceeded to turn right on Red River Street, crashing though a previously set up barricade, narrowly missing a police office standing post.

He then went on to hit the moped, a taxi, a van, and other vehicles, as well as pedestrians waiting in front of The Mohawk where Tyler, the Creator was slated to perform, before jumping out of his car and running away. The driver was chased by police and eventually tasered then taken into custody.

The driver is facing two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle.

SXSW Release Statement About Early Morning Crash

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By now, many media outlets have already reported about the tragedy that took place early this morning at Austin’s South By Southwest Festival. The police department and many artists have taken to the internet to speak out about the tragedy that occurred.

Just a short while ago, organizers behind the annual event released their own statement on behalf of themselves and all the staff about what happened. The statement, though short also revealed that one of the victims was identified as Steven Craenmehr, MassiveMusic’s Amsterdam-based creative director and that all events will still be going as scheduled unless they are told otherwise.

“The SXSW staff is stunned and deeply moved by the events of last night.

Dozens of us were on the scene when the incident occurred and we worked closely with APD to create a perimeter around the area, turning back all the visitors spilling out of the clubs who headed north on Red River Street.

To avoid confusion we plan to carry on with our scheduled daytime events at the Austin Convention Center in order to serve our tens of thousands of participants during this tragic time.

All of the SXSW staff and volunteers reported for their regular duties this morning and will continue working today on the event.

We are contacting all of the venues to find out if they have made any decisions about their operations that might impact our visitors.

Despite all of our preparations for dealing with a major incident during SXSW, nothing could really prepare us for how this feels. As much as we would like to just go home and spend time absorbing the shock of this horrific event, we feel our best use is to continue to operate today.

One of the fatalities was a SXSW registrant, a gentleman from the Netherlands.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured and with the families of the fatalities.”

The Mohawk, the venue where the crash occurred in front of, has revealed they will be cancelling all afternoon events while events for this evening are still pending.