In the Wake of SXSW Tragedy, Austin Must Rock On

By    March 13, 2014

SXSW tragedy

My heart melted a little this morning when I hopped online and checked my Twitter feed. There, on my computer screen, was a tweet that at first seemed unreal. It said that overnight, two people had been killed and nearly two dozen had been injured when an alleged drunk driver plowed through a crowd at South by Southwest here in Austin. As I quickly found out, the news was, sadly, true.

Dead are a man from the Netherlands, Steven Craenmehr, who was riding a bicycle, and an Austin woman, Jamie West, who was riding a motor scooter.

As of the writing of this post, several other victims remained hospitalized. All of the innocent victims were hanging out on Red River Street, Austin’s unofficial music row, to take in SXSW concerts. But in a flash, a motorist’s eventually thwarted escape from the cops transformed the scene on Red River from happiness to horror.

Marching On
This heinous crime has cast a bit of a pall over the otherwise lively, energetic SXSW festival. Nothing like this has ever happened in the 27-year history of SXSW. But in true Austin and SXSW spirit, the 2014 show is going on—literally—as we mourn the dead and grapple with how this could have happened.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said city officials urged organizers to continue with SXSW activities. Letting one person ruin a wonderful event would be “a victory of evil, not a victory of humanity,” CultureMap Austin quoted Acevedo as saying.

Well put, Chief Acevedo.

In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be learning more about the alleged drunk driver, 21-year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens of Killeen, TX, near Fort Hood. But for now, we do know one thing for sure: He’s facing two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault.

Don’t Drink and Drive!
The SXSW tragedy serves as a harsh reminder that drinking and driving do not mix. In a blog post about the SXSW catastrophe, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) noted that drunk driving is “100 percent preventable,” yet about 10,000 people a year are killed in U.S. drunk driving crashes and another 345,000 are injured.

“Drunk driving is never acceptable and can lead to deadly consequences,” Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell pointed out.

That’s essentially the credo here at SpareFoot. While one of our mantras is “Work hard, play hard,” we play carefully. Our CEO, Chuck Gordon, constantly reminds us that drunk driving is verboten at SpareFoot. That’s why our company hands out free cab vouchers to employees who attend any SpareFoot event where alcohol is served. Play hard, but play hard responsibly.

Standing Strong
Whatever happens in this horrendous drunk driving case, rest assured that Austin will stand strong and SXSW will stand strong. This alleged criminal may have marred our city and our SXSW, but he can’t keep us down.

Rock on, SXSW!

Rock on, Austin!

But let’s rock on without drinking and driving, OK?

John is editor of The SpareFoot Blog. He first moved to Austin in 1999, when downtown Austin wasn't nearly as lively as it is today. John's loves include pizza, University of Kansas basketball and puns.

  • Lucky13X

    My heart goes out to those affected.

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