What was expected to be an evening of music and fun at an Astroworld concert became a life-and-death struggle when a crowd surge left concertgoers fighting for air. By the end of the night medical staff had treated hundreds of injuries and responded to eleven cardiac arrests, dozens of people had been transported to hospitals, and eight people were dead.
Adding to the tragedy was the age of the victims, who ranged from 14 to 27 years of age. Recently a nine-year-old boy who had been hospitalized and placed in a medically induced coma also died, bringing the final death toll to nine.
What took place?
The concert on the evening of November 5th featured rapper Travis Scott, who is extremely popular with 15-25 year-olds. When Scott took the stage around 9:30, concertgoers began pushing forward to get closer to the stage. As the crowd surge continued, people were seen passing victims overhead to get them to safety while others tried to get the attention of cameramen, indicating the crowd and begging them to end the show.
Although the concert’s promoter, Live Nation, agreed to end the show around 9:40, it didn’t actually conclude until 10:15 – 40 minutes after city officials said the “mass casualty event” had begun. Scott could be seen at times asking for help for victims and asking the crowd to let an ambulance through. His knowledge of the severity of the event at that time is not known.
In an eerie foreshadowing of what was to come, crowds of people had rushed through collapsed gates earlier in the day to get into the concert. It took over a minute for security personnel to arrive and help victims who had been trapped underneath the crowd and were screaming for help.
Why did this tragedy happen?
A criminal investigation by the Houston Police Department is underway, reportedly with aid from the FBI. Numerous interviews are being conducted and footage from surveillance cameras and cell phones is being reviewed.
Officials and concert organizers reportedly increased security this year due to crowd-control issues at the 2019 Astroworld festival. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said he had a “brief and respectful” meeting with both Scott and Scott’s head of security the day of the concert to share his public safety concerns.
Early theories include:
- Too many people in attendance
- Inadequate security measures
- Not enough medical staff
- Inadequately trained medical staff
- Drug use by concertgoers
Who might be held accountable?
Numerous parties may face liability after this tragic event. At least 50 lawsuits have already been filed against Scott and other festival organizers, including:
- Concert venue Astroworld Fest
- Concert organizer Scoremore
- Live-events company Live Nation
Could this tragedy have been prevented?
This can’t be answered until the full investigation is completed. While not common, incidents similar to this have occurred over the years and underscores just how dangerous a crowded concert venue can become in a heartbeat.