50,000 fans attended the show, which led to a surge during Scott’s performance at the festival outside NRG Park, the Houston Chronicle reports. At a press conference following the concert, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña clarified the timeline. He said that at 9 p.m. the crowd began surging forward during Scott’s set as there was panic and people running for safety. At that point, Scott paused the show several times to ask security to help out fans, and members of the fire department were sent into the dense crowd to rescue the injured.
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At 9:38 p.m. a “mass-casualty incident” was triggered, at which time CPR began to be administered to several unconscious fans. Meanwhile, social media posts like the below show the frenzied scene as officials tried to rescue concertgoers.
“It happened all at once,” Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite said. “It seemed like it happened over the course of just a few minutes.”
A source close to the festival confirmed to Variety that the quick response from Astroworld security and staff on site undoubtedly saved more people from being hurt, and teams are working to provide police with drone and ground footage for investigation. The source also confirmed that police are looking into a drug spiking incident in a targeted area of the festival, which could account for the 11 cardiac arrest incidents that Peña confirmed during the press conference.
An eyewitness, Variety staffer Emanuel Okusanya, said that fans began moving en masse toward Scott’s stage, one of two on the stadium grounds, at least two hours before his performance was scheduled to begin. As his set time approached, a countdown clock began counting down, which caused the already-boisterous crowd to surge toward the stage. Once the set began, multiple mosh pits broke out and people began falling, causing a “domino effect,” Okusanya said. People began pushing to get out of the overcrowded area, but virtually the entire stadium floor was packed with people. Additionally, “around 250 people” had been crowded just outside the entrance earlier in the evening and may have contributed to a bottleneck at the exits, he said.
“People were rushing to get out, it was hard to find security — it was bad,” he said.
“Our hearts are broken,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. “People go to these events looking for a good time. It’s not the kind of event where you expect to find out about fatalities.”
Many accounts from festival-goers said that security and emergency staff were difficult to find and communicate with as the tragedy unfolded. However, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said there was “more security than at the World Series,” and Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said in a news conference that 367 police officers and 241 security officers had already been assigned to Astroworld before the incident occurred.
Families of victims are encouraged to call the numbers provided by the Houston Office of Emergency Management: “If you have not been able to contact your loved one who attended #ASTROWORLDFest please call 832-393-2991 or 832-393-2990.”
A statement from the festival posted on social media reads in part, “Our hearts are with the Astroworld Festival family tonight — especially those we lost and their loved ones.” it thanks emergency workers and states that authorities are “looking into the series of cardiac arrests that took place.” It asks that anyone with relevant information reach out to @HoustonPolice.
Promoter Live Nation said in a statement Saturday: “Heartbroken for those lost and impacted at Astroworld last night. We will continue working to provide as much information and assistance as possible to the local authorities as they investigate the situation.”
Day 2 of the festival has been canceled. Saturday’s performers would have included Bad Bunny and Earth, Wind & Fire.
Scott’s Friday night set was broadcast live on Apple Music, and featured his usual high-energy performance, along with an extended appearance from Drake.
The Astroworld Festival was founded by Scott in 2018.
Watch the Houston Fire Department press conference about the tragedy, via ABC13 Houston, below:
While most music festivals take place without major incident, deaths are not uncommon, usually due to substance abuse or accidents. But overcrowding and crowd stampedes are a recurring problem. In 2010, ten people were trampled to death at the Love Parade dance-music festival in Germany as fans rushed toward an overcrowded exit. In 2000, nine people were trampled to death during Pearl Jam’s performance at Denmark’s Roskilde festival. In 1979, 11 people died before a concert by the Who in Cincinnati as fans rushed toward an entrance.
Variety will have more on the Astroworld tragedy as it develops.
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