HOUSTON (AP) — Fans attending a Houston music festival surged toward the stage during a performance by rapper Travis Scott, triggering panic in the crowd of tens of thousands. At least eight people were killed and many more hurt, authorities said.
The ages of the victims identified by authorities so far range from 14-years-old to 27-years-old. One person’s age was unknown. A 10-year-old is in critical condition after the event, officials confirmed.
People were already stopping by NRG Park Stadium Saturday evening to drop off flowers, candles and notes to offer condolences to those who lost their lives and in honor of those injured.
The chaos unfolded Friday evening at Astroworld, a sold-out, two-day event at the NRG Park stadium. An estimated 50,000 people were in attendance.
“The crowd began to compress towards the front of the stage, and that caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries,” Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said during a news conference Friday night. “People began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created additional panic.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said 25 people were transported to the hospital, five of those people were under the age of 18. Some of them have been released, others are still in critical condition. Officials also said roughly 300 people were treated by a third party medical vendor on site throughout the day.
Event organizers did have medical teams at the venue but once the crowd surge began, those teams were “quickly overwhelmed,” the fire chief said.
Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite, who was near the front of the crowd, said the surge “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. “And so we immediately started doing CPR and moving people right then.”
Satterwhite said he quickly met with promoters, who agreed to end the event “in the interest of public safety” at 10:10 p.m.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner called for calm and urged people not to jump to conclusions about what caused the surge. Authorities said the investigation into why the surge happened will take weeks, possibly even months.
“I think it’s very important that none of us speculate. Nobody has all the answers tonight,” Finner said.
“We’re going to do an investigation and find out because it’s not fair to the producers, to anybody else involved, until we determine what happened,” he said.
Authorities did confirm Saturday that at least one security guard claimed he was stabbed with what could have been a needle. He was treated with Narcan and is expected to survive, they reported.
Authorities did not immediately know the causes of death for the eight people confirmed dead. A medical examiner is working on that investigation now, authorities said.
In a video posted to social media, Scott could be seen stopping the concert at one point and asking for aid for someone in the audience: “Security, somebody help real quick.”
Videos posted to social media theorized whether or not Scott knew — or to what extent he knew — of the events as they happened.
Scott was also criticized for not immediately stopping the performance.
One graphic video on Twitter, appears to show a concertgoer explaining to others why he’s yelling for Scott to stop.
“People are f—— dying,” the man says.
In another video, Scott appears to continue singing as a person on the ground is being attended to.
Later in the show, Scott reportedly continued hyping the crowd to “rage,” saying “Ya’ll know what we came to do.” The concept of “raging” is being noted Saturday morning as a staple of the rapper’s live shows, with many wondering if it may have contributed to the night’s events.
“Travis Scott is going to have to overthink his branding & imagery after yesterday,” hip-hop news and content account Squirt Reynolds tweeted. “Say what you want, but the foul behavior of some of those who were there yesterday is a direct result of the “rager” aesthetic he’s been promoting for years. I say that as a fan, seen him live too.”
In a statement on Saturday morning, Scott said:
“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 continue to look into the tragic loss of life…”Travis Scott
The rapper added he’s committed to working with the Houston community to support families in need.
Scott, one of music’s biggest young stars, released two new songs earlier Friday, “Mafia” and “Escape Plan.” The 29-year-old Houston native has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards. He has a 3-year-old daughter with Kylie Jenner, who announced in September that she’s pregnant with their second child.
Drake joined Scott on-stage at the concert — which was livestreamed by Apple Music — and posted photos to Instagram after the performance.
A representative for Scott did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Associated Press.
Officials set up a reunification center at a hotel for family members who had not been able to reach relatives at the event. Authorities sought to connect families with festivalgoers who were taken to the hospital, “some as young as 10” years old, said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county’s top elected official.
Scott founded the Astroworld Festival in 2018, and it has taken place at the former site of Six Flags AstroWorld each year since, except for 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
During the festival in 2019 there was a breaching of barricades and issues with crowd control, Hidalgo confirmed Saturday. Hidalgo said perimeter security and the number of security guards had been beefed up since.
Authorities reported more than 700 third party security officers were at Astroworld Friday night, in addition to hundreds of Houston police officers.
In a statement Saturday morning, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in part: “Thank you to the first responders and good Samaritans who were on site and immediately tended to those who were injured in the crowd. The State of Texas is ready assist in the response, and I have directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to make state resources available to support the investigation.”
While the Houston mayor said nothing like this has happened in Houston in decades, the deaths called to mind a 1979 concert by The Who where 11 people died and about two dozen were injured as thousands of fans tried to get into Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum.
Other music events that resulted in fatalities in recent years include the Las Vegas shooting massacre in 2017, when a gunman perched in a hotel window killed 58 people at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, the so-called Ghost Ship fire in 2016 that killed 36 people in a California warehouse during a dance party and a 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people in Rhode Island.