Law enforcement, event organizers and concertgoers are still questioning what happened and what could have been done in the aftermath of Friday’s Astroworld music festival tragedy that left at least eight people — the youngest 14 — dead when crowds surged toward a stage while hip-hop star Travis Scott performed. Many others were injured at the Houston concert as ambulances rushed in and the show continued.
The event is the deadliest at an American concert since the 2017 mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas. As authorities sort out the blame, here’s a roundup of what’s known at the moment.
What happened at Astroworld?
On Friday, Travis Scott headlined the first night of his two-day Astroworld Festival, held annually at NRG Park. Astroworld launched in 2018 and is a joint venture between Scott and promoters ScoreMore Shows and Live Nation.
Scott’s set began around 9 p.m. Officials estimated about 50,000 people were attending when crowds began to “compress toward the front of the stage,” Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said. “That caused some panic and it started causing some injuries.”
Scott and organizers did not notice at first, but about 30 minutes into his set, he pointed out that there were blue and red flashing lights on the festival floor and said, “There’s an ambulance in the crowd.”
After a brief pause, the concert continued. Hip-hop star Drake joined Scott for a handful of songs, and, after performing his hit “Goosebumps,” Scott finally left the stage at approximately 10: 15 p.m., having finished a full, 25-song set.
At “9: 30, right there, that’s when a few people started going down,” said Houston Police Chief Troy Finner. “Our people stepped up and immediately went to the producer and told him people are going down. This show ended at 10: 10 p.m.”
“You cannot just close when you have 50,000 individuals that young. You can have rioting,” he said.
“Any time I could make out anything that was going on, I’d stop the show and help them get the help they need,” Scott said Saturday in an Instagram video.
“I could never imagine the severity of the situation.”
Concertgoers described an event that had been unruly throughout the afternoon and evening. Around 2 p.m., a reporter for local station KTRK-TV saw people bursting through the gates. During Scott’s performance, videos shows fans chanting, “Stop the show! Stop the show!” in between songs and climbing onto the stage mid-set to tell his crew that there were casualties in the crowd. But the show continued.
How many were injured or killed?
Officials reported that eight people were killed. Autopsies were still pending for some of the victims. The dead included John Hilgert, age 14; Brianna Rodriguez, 16; Rodolfo Angel Peña, 23; Axel Acosta, 21; Franco Patino, 21; Jacob Jurinek, 20; Madison Dubiski. 23; and Danish Baig, 27.
Initially, 25 people were taken by ambulance to local hospitals. Of those, five were younger than 18. A 10-year-old who attended the concert with his father remains in critical condition, as does a 22-year-old woman. Some of the victims suffered cardiac arrest, and police reported at least one security guard was drugged by someone in the crowd.
Doesn’t Travis Scott have a history of chaos at his concerts?
The simple answer is yes. In 2015, the rapper pleaded guilty to charges of reckless conduct after urging fans at Lollapalooza to climb over barricades. In 2017, Scott faced misdemeanor charges of inciting a riot, disorderly conduct and endangering the welfare of a minor after he invited fans to overpower security. And three people were hospitalized following a crowd stampede over security barriers at the 2019 Astroworld Festival.
Weren’t there plans to prevent this from happening?
Organizers had presented Houston police and first responders with two plans: a medical plan by New York City-based ParaDocs Worldwide Inc., and a security plan by Austin-based promoter ScoreMore Shows addressing potential emergencies.
The medical staff in place was overwhelmed by the number of injuries as concertgoers passed out and many were trampled. ParaDocs Worldwide released a statement disputing allegations it lacked medical staff and equipment, while ScoreMore and concert organizer Live Nation released a statement saying they had provided video footage to investigators and were cooperating, “to get everyone the answers they are looking for.”
There are now calls for an independent review. Officials with the Houston police and fire departments will investigate whether the promoter and others behind the festival followed the plans and whether they were sufficient.
How did performers react?
The two performers most in the spotlight from the concert are Scott and Drake, who joined Scott onstage during his set. The entertainers have used social media to express their sentiments about the tragedy.
“I’ve spent the last few days trying to wrap my mind around this devastating tragedy,” he wrote. “I hate resorting to this platform to express an emotion as delicate as grief but this is where I find myself.”
Other statements were put out by SZA, who performed at Astroworld, and Scott’s girlfriend, Kylie Jenner.
Will legal action be taken?
Lawsuits have been filed, including one that holds Scott, Drake, Live Nation and the Harris County Sports & Convention Corp., owner of NRG Park, responsible for the crowd surge.
A Texas attorney filed that lawsuit on Sunday, accusing the defendants of prioritizing “profits over their attendees.”
More have been filed, and with concert safety consultant Paul Wertheimer saying the disaster was “preventable,” more are likely.
“The fans were the victims of an environment in which they could not control,” said Wertheimer.