An emerging British band and their manager have died after their car plunged more than 82ft from a highway bridge into a canal south of Stockholm, Sweden, during their first international tour.
Indie pop group Viola Beach, from Warrington, Cheshire, died just hours after playing their first ever gig outside of the UK, in the early hours of Saturday.
The victims have today been named as Viola Beach guitarist and vocalist Kris Leonard; guitarist River Reeves; bass player Tomas Lowe, drummer Jack Dakin and their manager Craig Tarry, all aged between 20 and 33.
Tragedy: British indie pop band Viola Beach, from Warrington, Cheshire, died when their car plunged off a bridge in Sodertalje, Sweden, on Saturday morning
The band and their manager died after their black Nissan Qashqai smashed into a road barrier at the bridge over the Sodertalje canal, south of the Swedish capital, just after 2am local time on Saturday.
The bridge was closing after it had been opened to let a vessel sail through, and the group and their manager plunged 82ft in the canal below.
The bridge, at the Saltskogs junction between the E4 and the E20 motorways, has a middle section that rises directly upwards without tilting, leaving a gap that the car drove into.
Witness Jonny Alexandersson told Aftonbladet: ‘Suddenly there’s a car that pushes past and drives live a maniac. It drives down the left side in towards the barrier. It was driving at least 70-80km/h (45-50mph).
‘That’s very fast when the rest of us are standing still. He caught the rear-view mirror on a taxi.’
Swedish police have said there were no faults with the bridge’s system, its warning lamps were flashing, there are several signs warning there is a bridge opening, and two barriers were blocking the road.
Swedish police said there were no faults with the bridge’s warning system when the incident took place, just after 2am on Saturday morning
Travelling: The band had been driving from Norrkoping where they had played their first non-UK gig just hours earlier, and is believed to have been on their way to Arlanda Airport, north of Stockholm
Inspector Martin Bergholm said: ‘For some reason, the car drove through the barriers and crashed down into the canal.’
Drivers of other cars were waiting behind the barrier but it is not yet known whether a boat had already passed or was waiting to pass.
He added: ‘The witnesses just saw a car beside them and kind of disappear.’
Mr Bergholm said it was not yet known whether the five men, aged 20-35, were wearing seatbelts but added: ‘That would not have helped them.’
Police received a call at about 2.30am and were first to arrive on the scene, a ‘maximum five minutes’ later.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: ‘We can confirm that five British Nationals died in a car accident in Sweden on 13 February.
‘We are in contact with local authorities and supporting the families at this difficult time.’
Just hours before the deadly incident, Viola Beach had played in at the Where’s The Music festival in Norrköping.
‘It was actually the first time they played outside Great Britain. They were so stoked,’ Folkert Koopmans, CEO of festival organisers FKP Scorpio told Aftonbladet.
‘My thoughts are with their family and friends.’
Just hours before the deadly incident, Viola Beach had played in at the Where’s The Music festival in Norrköping – their first ever gig outside of the UK
Viola Beach had been on the verge of breaking into the mainstream music scene with a recent appearance for emerging artists on BBC Introducing
Viola Beach had been on the verge of breaking into the mainstream music scene with a recent appearance for emerging artists on BBC Introducing.
The up-and-coming indie pop band were playing a gig in Sweden, but were just weeks away from playing a homecoming gig at Warrington’s at the Pyramid on March 12.
The group had also announced plans to play their biggest home town show at Warrington’s Parr Hall on October 1.
They were due to play at the Boiler Room in Guildford, in Surrey, on Saturday night with fellow band Blossoms, but the gig was subsequently cancelled.
Kris, aged 19, explained last year how he formed Viola Beach with drummer Jack Dakin after bumping into him at Warrington bus station.
The pair both went to Bradshaw Primary School, in Grappenhall, Cheshire, but had lost touch with each other.
Kris had already met guitarist River Reeves on a music course at Priestley College and met bassist Tom at Warrington bar ‘The Lounge’.
Singer-songwriter James Walsh also paid tribute to the bandmembers and their manager
Honouring: BBC Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens was also among the many supporters of the band
The Lounge was also where the band played their warm up show before making their debut at Liverpool’s legendary Cavern Club on July 15.
Kris, said: ‘To play in this historic venue in front of all these industry people was a wake-up call.
‘We had someone there from SJM Concerts who are now promoting our shows for us.’
Viola Beach have also had airplay from Huw Stephens on Radio 1, Steve Lamacq from 6 Music and Jo Good at XFM.
The band’s last post on Facebook was on February 2nd, when they excitedly wrote about playing a huge gig in the USA next month – as they started to break into America.
They posted: ‘Very excited to announce we’ve been invited by to play BBC Introducing and PRS for Music Foundation’s showcase at SXSW Music Festival in Austin Texas at Latitude 30 on Wednesday 16th March!!’
Viola Beach have become one of the fastest growing bands on the music scene after frontman and former cleaner Kris Leonard sent a track to BBC Introducing.
The four-piece have gone on to tour with the Courteeners and work with Communion Records founder and Mumford and Sons producer Ian Grimble.
A witness said a line of cars were waiting for the bridge to close when the band’s black Nissan Qashqai pushed past, driving ‘at least 45-50mph’
It’s believed the vehicle, pictured as it is recovered from the scene, smashed through a barrier and into the water
The accident occurred on the E4 highway bridge in Sodertalje, south of the Swedish capital of Stockholm
Kris, a former Lymm High School pupil, in Cheshire, said at the time of the announcement: ‘We’re very honoured to be announcing a show at the Parr Hall as our second hometown show.’
Today, tributes have been flooding in on Twitter for the four-piece band.
‘Ghost of the Astoria’ wrote: ‘Very sad news about the guys from Viola Beach – Bright young Warrington band, looked like they were going to go big. RIP lads x.’
Ryan Wilford penned: ‘Such a shame about Viola Beach, such a loss for Warrington and the music world! Life is so cruel!’
Aaron Flanagan said: ‘Desperately sad news about Viola Beach.
‘Talented musicians and their friends only spoke highly of them. Major loss for Warrington. RIP.’
‘Man and The Echo’ tweeted: ‘Just heard horrendous news about @Viola-Beach.
‘Fellow Warrington lads, they rehearsed next door to us. Our thoughts are with their families.
‘Lost for words. RIP Viola Beach. Hits home. #Warrington.’
Hayley Smith added: ‘Absolutely devastating news about #Warrington band @Viola-Beach being reported this morning.’