Astroworld: questions over why Travis Scott played on as crush developed

Two investigations launched after eight people killed at event in Houston on Friday night

Organisers of what turned out to be one of the deadliest live music events in US history are facing mounting questions about why the rapper Travis Scott continued performing when first responders were already dealing with a mass casualty event.

Eight people ranging in age from 14 to 27 were killed and dozens were injured at the Astroworld festival in Houston on Friday night, when fans were crushed against the stage.

According to the Houston Chronicle, which reviewed videos and social media, people had begun to collapse by 9.39pm. Soon after that, the show’s promoter agreed to stop the performance. Yet Scott appeared to complete his set, the newspaper reported. The artist finished at 10.15pm – 36 minutes after the disaster was already apparent.

Analysis by the Washington Post also suggested that the concert continued for about an hour after audience members first appeared to be in distress. Material examined by the newspaper recorded several attempts by individuals to sound the alarm, only to be drowned out by Scott’s performance.

Details of the victims who died during the surge have begun to emerge. One of the victims was reported to be Brianna Rodriguez, 16, a student at Heights High School in Houston, described as “beautiful” and “vibrant” by her family.

Meanwhile, Danish Baig, 27, reportedly died while attempting to save his fiancee from the terrifying crush. Franco Patino, 21, a student at the University of Dayton in Ohio, and his friend Jacob Jurinek, also 21, died after they both saved up to go to the event together.

The youngest of five siblings, Rudy Pena, 23, also died after he attended the concert with his friends. His sister told the Laredo Morning Times he was “the sweetest person” and a big Travis Scott fan.

A fan using the Instagram handle SeannaFaith gave a harrowing account of how their cries for help were apparently ignored by guards. The user said people began to “drown” in the crush as soon as 30 seconds into Scott’s set.

“The rush of people became tighter and tighter … Breathing became something only a few were capable. The rest were crushed or unable to breathe in the thick hot air,” the user wrote, describing people falling to the ground, “like watching a Jenga tower topple. Person after person were sucked down.”

Amid the panic, SeannaFaith said they climbed on to a camera platform and pleaded with guards to stop the show.

Phone camera footage viewed more than 8m times shows a woman climbing on to a camera platform, shouting: “Someone’s dying in there!” A man follows her up, screaming: “Stop the show! Stop the show!” The cameraman appears to ignore them, ushering them off the platform.

Eyewitness accounts of how warnings were allegedly ignored could feature of at least two investigations, one criminal.

Officials also said autopsies were being performed as soon as possible so bodies could be returned to families.

The Chronicle predicted a slew of lawsuits claiming millions of dollars in damages. Among possible targets, the paper reported, were the promoters of the festival, Live Nation, security companies and Scott himself.

On Sunday, Billboard said a petition filed in district court in Harris county, Texas, sued Scott, organiser ScoreMore and Live Nation for an alleged “motivation for profit at the expense of concertgoers’ health and safety” and the “encouragement of violence”.

The injured concertgoer who filed the suit reportedly called the crush a “predictable and preventable tragedy”. Scott, ScoreMore and Live Nation did not immediately comment.

Harris County judge Lina Hidalgo
Harris county judge Lina Hidalgo addresses the media on Saturday. Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Reuters

Earlier, Scott said he was devastated and urged those with information to contact authorities. In statements on Twitter and Instagram, he said police had his support as they “look into this tragic loss of life” and that he would work to “heal and support” families in need. He said he could “just not imagine the severity of the situation” from the stage.

“I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night,” he said. “My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld festival. Anytime I can make out anything that’s going on, ya know, I stop the show and you know, help them get the help they need. I could just not imagine the severity of the situation.”

Kylie Jenner, Scott’s partner, insisted in an Instagram post: “I want to make it clear we weren’t aware of any fatalities until the news came out after the show and in no world would have continued filming or performing.”

Lina Hildago, the Harris county judge, called for an “objective, independent” investigation and said: “When we read these ages – 14, 16, 21, 21, 23, 23, 27 – it just breaks your heart.”

The Houston city police chief, Troy Finner, said his department had opened a criminal investigation after reports somebody in the audience injected people with drugs. The fire chief, Samuel Peña, said several concertgoers had to be revived with the anti-overdose medicine Narcan, including a security officer.

Scott, 30 and from Houston, founded Astroworld in 2018. The Houston Chronicle reported that on Friday he stopped a number of times during his set when he spotted fans in distress, asking security to help. Emergency vehicles, with lights flashing and alarms sounding, cut through the crowd.

A senior Houston police officer, Larry Satterwhite, said: “Suddenly we had several people down on the ground, experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode. And so we immediately started doing CPR, and moving people right then.”

A pedestrian cross Main Street in front of a sign announcing the cancellation of Astroworld
A pedestrian crosses Main Street in front of a sign announcing the cancellation of the festival. Photograph: Michael Wyke/AP

Niaara Goods, 28, of New York, said the crowd surged as a timer clicked down to the start of Scott’s performance.

“As soon as he jumped out on the stage, it was like an energy took over and everything went haywire,” she said. “All of a sudden, your ribs are being crushed. You have someone’s arm in your neck. You’re trying to breathe but you can’t … It was literally the scariest night of my life. I literally thought I was going to die.”

Seventeen people were taken to hospital, including 11 in cardiac arrest, Peña said. Promoters had arranged for medical units to be on-scene but they were quickly overwhelmed. More than 300 people were treated in a field hospital. Peña said one person hurt was 10 years old. About 50,000 people attended the event, he added.

It was the highest number of accidental deaths at an official US concert venue since the Station nightclub fire, which killed 100 in Rhode Island in 2003.

In a statement, organisers said: “Our hearts are with the Astroworld festival family tonight, especially those we lost and their loved ones.”

Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report


Ed Pilkington, Alexandra Villarreal and Tom Ambrose

The GuardianTramp

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