One year later: SXSW Cares Fund still provides help to victims

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APD Police Chief Art Acevedo at a press conference Thursday morning addressing the car incident from the night before that left two people dead and 23 injured at the intersection of Red River and 9th streets amid SXSW activities.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

One year after a car drove through a crowd of people at South By Southwest, killing four and injuring more than 20 others, all the victims of the crime have received funds to help with the recovery process.

Members of the Austin Community Foundation worked with SXSW, Austin Police Department’s Victim Services Division and the American Red Cross to set up the SXSW Cares Fund, which has helped cover costs that are not covered by insurance companies and other resources.

“The SXSW Cares Fund shows how caring Austin is as a community and how much the festival is loved around the world,” said Robin Bradford, director of communications and advancement for the Austin Community Foundation. “For the past year, we’ve depended on the Austin Police Department’s victims services counselors who work closely with the individuals and families most affected to get funds out to cover expenses not covered by other victims funds.”

People and companies began donating to the fund the night of the crash because they wanted to give and help the victims, Bradford said. The SXSW Cares Fund reached a total amount of $254,045 and immediately started giving that money to victims. 

Bradford said approximately $80,000 have been given to victims. The remaining funds are still available for victims to request. 

Gregory Cerna, electrical engineering and computer science junior, sustained injuries as a result of the crash and said the funds he received helped cover the costs of his medical bills.

Cerna said he will not be returning to the festival this year but will possibly go back after the trial ends for Rashad Owens, man accused in the crash, and when Cerna feels the case has been completely closed. 

“Ever since everything has died down and my concussion got better, I kind of checked out of it,” Cerna said.

Immediately following the incident, APD’s Victim Services provided all 28 victims with a $500 gift card for immediate expenses and counselors to assess their needs and help them fill out requests for funds, said Kachina Clark, manager of APD’s Victim Services. 

Assistance will be available to victims until the fund runs out, Clark said.

“If victims decide in maybe a year that they want counseling  they didn’t before but now, they do then they can still access that,” Clark said. “It could be a challenging time for those victims and family members and those who witnessed the crime … so they should contact us if this brings up any memories from last year, and we can connect them with mental health services.”

The fund has covered victims’ medical bills, funeral expenses, rent and lost wages, Bradford said.

“The victims can still request funds and the foundation has responded to every request we received from victims, and we continue to provide funds to victims and their families,” Bradford said. “We view this as a long-term recovery and not as something that’s going to happen in a year, and we’re committed to preserving the SXSW Cares Fund for victims who need it.”