Austin Community Foundation

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.”

Police block off the roads after the SXSW car accident on March 13. After the accident, service organizations have been left to decide how to distribute more than $180,000 in funds raised to assist victims and their families.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

In the weeks after a suspected drunk driver plowed through a crowd of people at South By Southwest on March 13, service organizations have been left to decide how to distribute more than $180,000 in funds raised to assist victims and their families.

The Austin Police Department’s Victim Services Division, the Austin Community Foundation and the American Red Cross are working to evaluate the expenses of more than a dozen victims, whose injuries ranged from mild to critical.

“We’re assessing other needs they may have beyond what Crime Victims’ Compensation will cover or what their own insurance will cover,” said Kachina Clark, manager of APD Victim Services. “We are working with the Austin Community Foundation and the Red Cross because they have experience dealing with large-scale incidents and distribution of funds that are raised.”

The organizations will grant victims a portion of the funds based on their personal needs and available resources, Clark said.

“We’ll have to come up with some additional guidelines for distribution, but it’s going to be needs-based,” Clark said. “We’re still in the process of figuring it out.”

Robin Bradford, director of communications for the Austin Community Foundation, said more than 1,000 people and businesses have donated to the SXSW Cares Fund. The foundation helped set up the fund, along with SXSW and the Mohawk — the bar directly next to the crash site on Red River Street.

“We opened the fund in response to community outpouring,” Bradford said.

Many Austin-area businesses contributed, including Stubb’s BBQ, Juiceland and Home Slice Pizza.

In the weeks following the crash, APD’s Victim Services unit has worked directly with those injured, providing counseling services and assistance with applying for Crime Victims’ Compensation, which is offered through the Texas Attorney General’s office.

Those who apply for Crime Victims’ Compensation can be approved for benefits up to $50,000 per person, and those who are disabled as a result of a crime may qualify for an additional $75,000, according to the office’s website.

“Crime Victims’ Compensation will assist with medical bills and lost wages, but there’s a cap on that,” Clark said.

Shortly after the crash, each victim received $500 to cover immediate expenses, according to Clark. Now, counselors are in regular contact with victims to help them determine their current and future needs.

“You don’t know until insurance is billed what Crime Victims’ Compensation will cover,” Clark said. “Right now, this is so chaotic, and it was such a tragic event, that [victims] are just not sure at this point. This will be an ongoing process.”

Computer science sophomore Maria Belyaeva, who sustained multiple non-life-threatening injuries in the crash, said she doesn’t know much about how the funds will be distributed and is waiting to hear from APD.

“They’re still kind of deciding on who needs to get what based on things like who has been injured worse, who needs it more or who has the higher medical bills, and I’m not sure how it’s all going to work,” Belyaeva said.

Belyaeva said she appreciates the continued monetary support from APD.

“I’ve been in contact with them several times,” Belyaeva said. “They did give some immediate relief, which was nice.”

Texas musical legends Willie Nelson donated his time and talent to aid Bastrop residents in rebuilding their community during a benefit concert held at the Frank Erwin Center Monday night.

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

UT President William Powers Jr. presented a $750,000 check to the local charity Austin Community Foundation to aid victims of the recent Central Texas fires.

The money was raised by the Oct. 17 “Fire Relief: A Concert for Central Texas,” an event put on by local Austin musicians Ray Benson, Eric Johnson and Peter Schwarz and held at the Frank Erwin Center. Featuring acts from Willie Nelson, Dixie Chicks and George Strait, the concert sold more than 16,000 tickets. In addition, more than $11,000 was raised by encouraging people to text “FIRE” at the concert to contribute $10, according to concert officials.

In a press release about the event, Powers said part of being a great university meant supporting the community and helping it solve problems.

“I’m delighted that UT could help make this benefit a reality, and I’m gratified by the enormous response from the people of Central Texas,” Powers said. “Every catastrophe eventually leaves the headlines, but we should all continue to think of ways to help those who are rebuilding their lives in Bastrop County.”

The Bastrop fires destroyed more than 1,500 homes and burned more than 41,000 acres in Leander, Cedar Park, Pflugerville, Steiner Ranch, Spicewood and Bastrop.