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SXSW Pauses, Continues in Wake of Tragedy

AUSTIN, Texas (TheStreet) -- The Austin, Texas, local TV news has been covering around the clock the deadly crash that occurred on Red River Street at SXSW Wednesday night, but the town seems determined to not let it spoil what is otherwise a positive and popular cultural festival.

Some venues paused for a moment of silence at 12:30 a.m. Thursday to remember and honor the tragedy that occurred at that same time the previous day.

According to news accounts, two people on a moped were killed and 23 others injured when Rashad Charjuan Owens, age 21, fleeing police, allegedly drove his Toyota through a crowd of festival attendees. The two people killed are Jamie West, 27, who was struck while riding on a moped with her husband Evan, and 35-year-old Steven Craenmehr of Amsterdam, Holland, an employee of MassiveMusic. MassiveMusic cancelled its event scheduled for Thursday night.

Most events, however, have gone forward. Organizers of SXSW issued a press release Thursday announcing that the two affected venues, Mohawks and Cheer Up Charlie's, are being reopened and all remaining shows will go on as scheduled. Newscasters emphasized that this is the first time in the festival's 27-year history that a fatal incident of this type has occurred.

Quoted in the press release, the owner of the Mohawk, James Moody, said, "My staff and myself are broken-hearted for not only the victims and families of this senseless tragedy but also for our beloved Red River and this entire community."

SXSW organizers said "it would create a serious safety issue" for the festival to cancel events now and suddenly send thousands of visitors scrambling to make new plans.

Grief counseling has been set up for the many affected and a fund with a Web site, SXSW Cares, has been established to collect and distribute financial support.

This is the city's list of contact information for activity surrounding recovery from the crash:

  • The Blood Center of Central Texas (collecting Type O and Type O Negative): 512-206-1266
  • Victim Services can be reached at 512-974-5037
  • Witnesses should call APD at 512-974-5186 or email police3@austintexas.gov
  • Grief counseling is being provided by The American Red Cross at 800-928-4271 ext 1132 or after hours at 512-516-0302
  • Those still looking for loved ones can call 800-928-4271 ext 1121, 1122 or 1124 and, after hours, 979-436-8940.

-- Written by Carlton Wilkinson in Austin, Texas

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