Houston’s Astroworld Festival is now considered one of the deadliest concerts in U.S. history.
Eight people are dead and many more injured after the crowd surged as the festival’s headliner, Travis Scott, performed Friday night. Scott launched his Astroworld Festival in 2018.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Saturday that, as far as he knew, the festival at NRG Park was the only time in about 40 years that such a large event in the city led to a loss of life.
There’s been “nothing of this magnitude,” Turner said during a press conference.
Police caution that the investigation into what went wrong during the show is still in the early stages. On Sunday, officials with the Houston Police Department said there was no new information to release but added that the investigation “remains very active.”
Over the weekend, details began to emerge about the moments before, during, and after the show that highlight possible failures of the festival’s organizers to keep the large crowd of about 50,000 under control.
Victims range in age from 14 to 27 years old
Authorities said they will officially release the names of the deceased later Monday, but family members have already begun confirming the identities of some of the victims.
Scott’s music appeals to a younger audience, and tragically, all of the victims were under the age of 30 and the youngest was just 14 years old.
Local reports say the youngest victim, John Hilgert, was a freshman at Memorial High School, according to ABC13.
“Our hearts go out to the student’s family and to his friends and our staff at Memorial,” MHS Principal Lisa Weir wrote in a letter to parents, according to the news station. “This is a terrible loss, and the entire MHS family is grieving today.”
Another young victim, Brianna Rodriguez, was 16 years old, her family told People magazine. Her family shared on their GoFundMe page that she loved to dance. “Dancing was her passion and now she’s dancing her way to heaven’s pearly gates,” the page read.
Other victims include: Axel Acosta, a 21-year-old computer science major at Western Washington University; Franco Patiño, a 21-year-old student at the University of Dayton in Ohio; Rudy Peña, a student at Laredo College; Jacob Jurinek, 20, a junior at Southern Illinois University Carbondale; and 27-year-old Danish Baig.
GoFundMe launched a centralized hub identifying all verified fundraisers created in response to the tragedy.
Authorities have not yet released specific causes of deaths of the victims. City officials and police cautioned the public not to rely on rumors spread online about the possible cause.
More than a dozen other fans are still in the hospital. Police said 25 people were transported to a nearby hospital Friday night. As of Saturday afternoon, 13 were still hospitalized — five of whom were under 18.
Reports say show went on for nearly 40 minutes while emergency unfolded
Before the concert even started on Friday, the festival appeared to get off to a rough start. Videos posted by a local news channel show large crowds of people rushing through collapsed gates to get into the concert.
No security guards were seen responding for over a minute, even as people, who can be heard screaming, became stuck underneath the crowd pushing to get in. Police arrived on horseback to the gate shortly after.
As Scott’s set started, the crowd allegedly became chaotic. One firsthand account shared on social media describe an intense crush towards the stage, with no room for concertgoers to breathe or properly move. People started to collapse after several minutes of this.
Concertgoers say they attempted to get the attention of security and other staff at the show to help people having difficulty breathing or who collapsed.
Mayor Turner said Saturday afternoon that the city’s police and firefighters responded quickly to emergency calls at the show. Officials were already stationed at NRG Park to provide security.
There are conflicting details regarding the timeline of events and when officials started to respond on scene and when Scott stopped performing.
The Houston Chronicle reported that police have said the concert’s promoter, Live Nation, agreed at 9:38 p.m. to cut the show shortly after multiple people were reported to have collapsed.
But for 37 minutes after the city’s police and firefighters responded to the concert grounds for a “mass casualty” event, Scott continued to play his entire set, ending at around 10:15 p.m., according to the Chronicle.
Turner, however, repeatedly said Saturday that “everything stopped” at 10:10 p.m.
Videos and pictures shared on social media show two people attempting to get the attention of cameramen who were standing on a raised platform. In at least one video, the two people can be seen yelling at the cameramen to stop the show and pointing to the crowd.
City officials said their investigation will likely take some time as the festival’s organizers, performers, and audience members are interviewed and a collection of videos and pictures taken that night are reviewed.
Travis Scott is under fire
Some Astroworld attendees allege Scott saw people near the front of the stage passed out or otherwise unconscious. They believe he and other organizers should’ve stopped the show immediately.
In a public statement shared on Twitter, Scott said, “My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival. I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need.”
He also released videos to his Instagram account in which he appears distraught.
“I just want to send out prayers to the ones that were lost last night,” Scott said Saturday. “My fans really mean the world to me.”
He went on to urge people who know anything about what might’ve happened Friday night to contact authorities.
Scott, whose real name is Jacques Webster, is a Grammy-nominated rapper and Houston native.
An injured fan has already filed a lawsuit against him and other organizers of the festival.
Astroworld attendee Manuel Souza filed a lawsuit this weekend against Scott, Live Nation, and ScoreMore — another concert organizer, according to Billboard. He is asking for $1 million in damages.
Souza said in his lawsuit that the incident was a “predictable and preventable tragedy” and that organizers didn’t do enough to plan and prevent what unfolded. He also pointed to prior shows of Scott’s in which the rapper allegedly encouraged fans to act out.
More lawsuits for Scott could be on the way.
The brother of victim Danish Baig, who was killed during the crowd rush, told ABC13, that the family plans to hire an attorney.
Basil Baig told the news station that the family hadn’t heard from Scott or other event organizers.
“Travis Scott and his team and everyone associated in the event should and will be held responsible,” Baig told ABC13. “He [didn’t] stop the show even with people chanting and to stop the show. He allowed it this was a blood bath and all of it is on his hands.”