Total Chaos: 8 Killed in Crowd Surge at Travis Scott's Astroworld Fest - Rolling Stone
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‘Total Chaos’: 8 Killed in Crowd Surge at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Fest

Over 300 people treated for injuries after crowd rushes stage during rapper’s Friday night set; Day 2 of Houston festival canceled

HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 05: Travis Scott performs onstage during the third annual Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on November 05, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images)

Travis Scott performs onstage during the third annual Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on November 05, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Rick Kern/Getty Images

At least eight people were killed and hundreds more injured Friday night following a crowd surge during Travis Scott’s set at the rapper’s Astroworld festival in Houston.

More than 300 people were treated for injuries following the incident, Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña said during a Saturday morning press conference, with 23 people taken to area hospitals, 11 in critical condition, including a 10-year-old boy.

While the officials didn’t announce the victims of the tragedy at a Saturday afternoon press conference, they revealed the ages of those who died: 14 years old, 16, 21, 21, 23, 23, 27 and one of unknown age. Six of the eight victims’ families had been notified at the time of the press conference.

The incident occurred around 9 p.m. during Scott’s set, with the crowd compressing toward the stage, causing “total chaos,” KHOU reported. “The crowd for whatever reason began to push and surge towards the front of the stage, which caused the people in the front to be compressed,” Peña said. “They were unable to escape that situation.”

Scott’s set at the sold-out festival was streamed live on Apple Music. According to CNN, Scott briefly paused his performance as ambulances streamed into the venue. 

The concert was ultimately stopped by organizers and authorities, but by then “the damage had been done,” Peña said. The Saturday lineup of the two-day festival was also canceled.

Scott said in a statement Saturday morning, “I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night. My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival. Houston PD has my total support as they continues to look into the tragic loss of life. I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need. Thank you Houston PD, Fire Department and NRG Park for their immediate response and support. Love you all.”

“Our hearts are with the Astroworld Festival family tonight — especially those we lost and their loved ones,” organizers said in a statement. “We are focused on supporting local officials however we can. With that in mind, the festival will no longer be held on Saturday.”

Organizers continued, “As authorities mentioned in their press conference earlier, they are looking into the series of cardiac arrests that took place. If you have any relevant information on this, please reach out to Houston Police.”

Investigators will next look into “what caused, one, the issue of the crowd surge, and two, what prevented people from being able to escape that situation,” Peña added. While medical units were already stationed at the festival as a precaution, the available units were “quickly overwhelmed” following the incident.

“I’m sending investigators to the hospitals because we just don’t know,” Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner said. “We’re going to do an investigation and find out, because it’s not fair to producers, to anybody else involved, until we determine what happened, what caused the surge.” Finner added that they had not yet identified all of the deceased.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told the New York Times Saturday morning, “We had more security over there than we had at the World Series games,” he said, noting that the event took place on county property, with security organized by the city of Houston. The Houston Police Department provided hundreds of officers, in addition to what I’m told were 240 or 250 non-police security that were there.” By Saturday morning, Houston Police Department updated that number, stating there were 528 HPD officers on scene in addition to 755 private security officers provided by Live Nation.

As for allegations – brought forth by TMZ – that someone “injecting” the crowd with drugs started the surge, Turner said, “I’m going to hold any sort of conclusion pending a thorough review and investigation… I don’t even want to go to drug overdoses. We are looking at all potential causes of this incident or what caused the cardiac arrest. We’re not taking anything off the table.”

Finner acknowledged Saturday afternoon that one security officer was given Narcan and revived after being “pricked” by something that medical staff said was consistent with a needle. At the time of the press conference, police were still trying to identify and locate the security officer.

Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite, who was near the front of the crowd at the time of the surge, said it “happened all at once.” “Suddenly we had several people down on the ground, experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode,” Satterwhite said (via the Associated Press). “And so we immediately started doing CPR, and moving people right then, and that’s when I went and met with the promoters, and Live Nation, and they agreed to end early in the interest of public safety.”

“I witnessed someone unconscious, struggling to get him out, like his friends were trying to get him out and just people weren’t caring enough to make a path,” festivalgoer Stephen Gutierrez told KHOU. “I’m a 400-pound guy. I jumped in because that’s just my instinct, and I just made a path for him.” Another attendee told KHOU, “In the front, there was a lot of jumping. If you didn’t jump, you would fall and get trampled on, definitely. The crowd is pushing back and forth. If you were even a little tired, you were going to fall.”

On the Travis Scott Reddit page, numerous users posted social media video of festival-goers attempting to stop the concert — including chants of “Stop the show!” — as well as fans who climbed the riser where the cameras were to plead with the cameramen to communicate the need to pause the concert. Those pleas were either ignored or, in one video, mocked.

Video also emerged of Scott witnessing at least one unconscious fan being carried out of the area near the side of the stage; at one point during the concert, Scott looked into the crowd and stopped the music. “Somebody needs help, somebody passed out right here,” he said in video posted on Reddit. “Can somebody help jump in real quick, c’mon c’mon.” However, soon after, the concert continued.

Earlier in the day, video captured the crowd creating a stampede-like environment when hundreds of people attempted to rush through a VIP security checkpoint at the entrance of the festival — held outside at Houston’s NRG Park — trampling others in front of them. Some were detained and arrested, KPRC 2 reported, but many flooded into the crowd, which reportedly had at least 50,000 people. “We do know that we had people jump the fence,” Pena said.

Officials set up a reunification center at a nearby hotel for family members who had not been able to attendees of the fest, as well as provide counseling to those impacted by the incident. Friday’s festival lineup included artists like SZA, Master P, Yves Tumor, Toro y Moi, Roddy Rich, Lil Baby and the headlining set from Scott.

“Our hearts are broken,” Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County said at the news conference. “People go to these events looking for a good time. It’s not the kind of event where you expect to find out about fatalities.”

Finner added at the Saturday afternoon press conference that there were 25 arrests in total at the festival, 23 of those were trespassing, one for possession of marijuana and one for public intoxication.

“The city of Houston extends our condolences to the loved ones of 8 people killed & several injured at [Astroworld Fest]” Turner tweeted. “Organizers held the event to bring people together for music, but it sadly ended in tragedy. Thanks to police, fire & other agencies that responded to assist.”

The incident is reminiscent of a pair of concert tragedies that resulted from crowd surges: In 1979, 11 people were killed prior to a show by the Who in Cincinnati after fans attempted to rush into the arena. In June 2000, nine fans were trampled to death in the mosh pit of Pearl Jam’s concert at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark.

This year marked the third annual Astroworld Fest; in 2019, three people were trampled and hospitalized with leg injuries at the Houston fest during the rush to get into the festival grounds.

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