The car plunged into a canal in Stockholm on Saturday morning. Photo: Viola Beach
Four members of the up-and-coming British indie band Viola Beach and their manager were killed early on Saturday morning when their car plummeted 25 metres from a bridge near Stockholm into a canal.
Only hours before the accident, the group, aged between 19 and 35, had performed at the Where’s the Music festival in the city of Norrköping in their first ever gig outside the UK.
“Five British citizens, all male, died in a car accident on Friday night,” police spokesman Carina Skagerlind told The Local.
"Witnesses say that the safety equipment on the bridge was working and that they passed a queue of cars. We are still interviewing witnesses and investigating the are to try and understand what happened."
The band, from Warrington in Manchester, was led by frontman Kris Leonard (Guitar/Vocals), and included River Reeves (Guitar), Tomas Lowe (Bass) and Jack Dakin (Drums) and the manager Craig Tarry.
The band died when their car crashed through a barrier and plunged off a canal bridge at Sodertalje, a southern district of the capital Stockholm.
Their vehicle reportedly approached the bridge at speed, as it was still not fully shut after allowing a vessel to pass underneath in the early hours of Saturday morning.
“According to witness reports, there were no brake lights on the car so it seems like they simply missed that there was a bridge opening,” Police inspector Martin Bergholm from the police in Södertälje, told Aftonbladet.
"The only people who knew what went on inside the car are dead."
John Hugo Olsson, 22, from the Swedish band Psykofant, who shared a dressing room with the band told The Local that the manager Craig Tarry had refused offers of a beer because he knew he had to drive the band to their hotel at Stockholm's Arlanda airport following the gig.
Olsson said the band had instantly won him over.
"They were fantastic, you immediately fell in love with them the moment they came through the door," he said. "They had these extremely charming Manchester accents. It was like a scene from A Hard Day's Night. They just fell into the room."
"I remember standing in the audience and thinking to myself, 'these guys have the potential to be the next big band and this story of me being in the dressing room with them will be a really cool story for the future'. I thought to myself, 'I’m going to remember this night'."
He said that the band had tried to teach him British slang, while he had taught them to say "you're beautiful" in Swedish.
"They were really humble and you could just tell that they were having the time of their lives."
Jonny Alexandersson, a lorry driver who witnessed the incident, told Aftonbladet that other vehicles were waiting for the bridge to close fully but “one car arrived at a crazy speed … at least 70-80 kph (45-50 mph). That’s very quick when everybody else was stopped.”
News of the tragedy spread quickly on social media and fellow band The Enemy tweeted: “RIP Viola Beach and their manager. Such incredibly tragic and sad news. Thought with the friends and families of all involved x.”
Phil Taggart, a DJ with Britain's BBC Radio 1 music station tweeted that the band had been "on the cusp of something great".
A contributor to Viola Beach’s Facebook page wrote: “So awful. Taken before anybody had the chance to see what they might have become.”
Another said: “Such sad news, you guys were gonna be big.”
The band were planning to stay the night at the airport before catching a flight early the next day back to the UK, where they were set to play a gig in Guildford, southern England.
According to Sweden's Expressen newspaper, the band's whistlestop visit saw them on stage at 9.30pm for a 45 minute set, and then set off only hours later.
John Hugo Olsson tweeted a picture of the band he had taken in the dressing room before their gig.
Psykofant singer Shiva Kazemi, 25, said she was still struggling to grasp what had happened.
"It’s so tragic, really sad, we can’t believe it," she said. "It was such a fun and memorable night, and now they’re gone."
Bandmate Matilda Hedlund wrote on Facebook that she would always see it as a privilege to have spent a few hours in the company of the band.
"They were just the sort of people one wants to be dropped into a dressing room with: positive, pepped up, humble and charming."
The late band posted a picture of their hired Nissan Qashqai SUV on Friday evening as they set off for their gig.