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Families of Lethal SXSW Crash Victims Demand 'Significant' Changes

KUT News
Families of the victims of last year's fatal SXSW crash are demanding that the festival improve the way it handles the huge crowds and vehicle traffic.

Today marks the one-year anniversary in the crash at SXSW that killed four people.

One of them was musician and Amsterdam-based producer Steven Craenmehr.

KUT's Joy Diaz reports Craenmehr's family has sued the festival and wants it to make significant changes to the way it handles crowds.

Steven Craenmehr was so in love with his two-year-old boy that he wrote him a song. He called it "Butterfly Boy."

That boy and his mother, Lizzy Plugg, are suing SXSW.

Austinite Scott Hendler is their attorney. He says the family is seeking compensation and to re-shape the way SXSW is handled. Because they believe better handling could've prevented Craenmehr's death.

"There's a great deal of information available to street festival organizers and planners to help them anticipate and prepare for these kinds of events," Hendler says, "So, [this event] is not an unforeseeable, unpredictable kind of event."

Hendler argues anyone familiar with Austin would know there needed to be a strict plan if large crowds, vehicles and alcohol are to coexist.

The city of Austin and the Austin Police Department have helped create a new plan. This year there will be a larger police presence at the festival and a crackdown in the way alcohol is handled.

There are seven lawsuits pending against the festival in last year's four deaths. In a written statement, festival attorney Pete Kennedy says, "SXSW has no desire to try these lawsuits in the media."  

"Nothing remotely like this terrible crime has happened in SXSW's 28-year history.  It was shocking and totally unexpected," Kennedy says.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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