According to officials, a fan stampede that crowded towards the stage during rapper Travis Scott’s Astroworld music festival in Houston killed at least eight people and injured dozens more as panic swept through the crowds of overwhelming spectators. part young.
City police chief Troy Finner said on Saturday that his department opened a criminal investigation following unconfirmed reports that someone in the public was “injecting drugs into other people.”
The disaster occurred at NRG Park around 9:30 p.m. Friday during the lead performance of Grammy-nominated singer and producer Scott, following what police and crowd members have described as an escalation of unruly behavior during the day.
As fans in the sold-out audience of around 50,000 pressed towards the stage, people began to lose consciousness, some apparently experiencing cardiac arrest or other medical problems, officials told reporters outside the venue.
A few minutes later the chaos was declared a “mass incident”.
“It all happened at once. It seemed like it just happened… within minutes, ”said Chief Executive Assistant of the Houston Police Larry Satterwhite, who was on the front line when the situation began.
Satterwhite said he met with the promoters immediately and they decided to stop the show. Officials said the concert ended at 10:10 pm.
Finner said that among the “narratives” examined by police reports suggested that “someone was injecting drugs into other people.”
One report involved a security officer “who felt a sting in the neck” while he was trying to restrain or grab someone and then fell unconscious, only to be resuscitated with a dose of the opioid antidote naloxone, Finner said, citing a account of the personal physician who treated the officer.
Finner said medical staff also noticed what appeared to be a needle mark on the officer’s neck.
It was unclear whether authorities suspected such an incident had played a role in the wave of crowds, but Finner said, “We’ll go through with it.”
Police were awaiting autopsies to determine the cause of death, but said some of the victims were trampled.
City fire chief Samuel Pena said it appeared the venue had wide exits for fans and no one was obstructed.
Twenty-five people were taken to the hospital by ambulance after the rush began, some of them in cardiac arrest, with 13 still hospitalized on Saturday – five under the age of 18 – following the discharge of four patients, he told reporters. Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Eight people died. Most were between the ages of 14 and 27, though one victim’s age wasn’t immediately known, Turner said.
“It looked like a riot”
After storming the entrance gates and merchandising stands earlier in the day, the crowd became increasingly unruly as the performers took to the stage, according to 19-year-old festival goer Hamad Al Barrak.
“There were too many people,” said Al Barrak, who described the chaos as he tried to purchase equipment for the festival. “We have all been pressed together. You felt like you couldn’t breathe. “
Albert Merza, 43, part of a group of eight from Detroit who attended the festival, said he saw “a lot of alcohol and crazy behavior”.
“It looked like a riot,” he said, adding that it looked like about half of the crowd was under 21. “There were people throwing things, objects flying everywhere.”
Nick Johnson, 17, said he witnessed a steady increase in destructive behavior before the stampede.
“It had been going on for more than two hours, and it just got worse and worse,” he said.
An incident earlier in the day where fans started “running” the festival gates was brought under control relatively quickly, Finner, the police chief, said, adding that it didn’t seem related to the deadly stampede. Finner said police had 528 officers assigned to the festival on Friday, along with 755 private security personnel.
During the day, 25 arrests were made, one for marijuana possession and public poisoning and the rest for trespassing, Finner said. According to Pena, three hundred people were treated at an on-site medical clinic for various injuries and illnesses, including several apparent drug overdoses.
The venue could have held up to 200,000, but organizers have limited the crowd to 50,000, based on ticket sales, Pena said.
Pena described how the fan crush quickly overwhelmed private medical staff for the festival, a two-day affair that was supposed to culminate on Saturday but was canceled following Friday night’s tragedy.
Videos posted on social media showed pandemonium as fans and staff tried to draw attention to the injured attendees. A video showed fans attempting to inform cameramen of the dangerous situation. Another video showed people greeting the stage and singing “Stop the show!”
The investigation is likely to focus on safety and security protocols. Two weeks ago, another Houston concert was canceled after fans pushed themselves into a Playboi Carti show that was held in the same complex as NRG Park.
Jennifer Ortega, 22, who arrived at the event on Friday around 1pm, said access was ordered at the time. But by 4pm the crowds at the smaller of the festival’s two stages “got quite reckless”, with people throwing water bottles. He said he saw about three people leave the area with a bloody nose and missing teeth.
The organizers said they were cooperating with the police.
“We are as focused on supporting local officials as we can,” Astroworld Fest, an event organized by Live Nation Entertainment, told Twitter on Twitter.
Scott stopped several times during his 75-minute performance when he noticed fans in distress and asked security to ensure their safety, the video posted online showed. Emergency vehicles, flashing lights and alarms, cut the audience several times.
“We need someone to help us. Someone passed out right here, “said Scott, according to his video set, which included a guest appearance by Canadian rapper Drake.” Sure, someone, jump in here very soon. “
Another video clip showed police performing CPR on several people even with blaring music in the background.
The tragedy harks back to a 1979 concert by British rock group The Who in which 11 people were killed when fans rushed into Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum ahead of the event.
Scott, who rose to fame in the early 2010s for his unique vocal style, has a daughter with Kylie Jenner of the famous Kardashian family. Astroworld is also the name of his third studio album released in 2018 to critical acclaim.
The rap artist said he was “absolutely devastated” and promised to support the police as they investigate. “
“My prayers go out to families and all those affected,” Scott wrote on Twitter.