Terrifying scenes of a stampede emerged on social media from Travis Scott's much anticipated Astroworld Festival over the weekend, in what has been described as one of the deadliest music events in US history. These eyewitness accounts were shortly followed by news reports that confirmed the immediate deaths of eight people during a performance from Travis Scott on November 5, 2021.
Below, we piece together everything we know so far about the deadly human stampede that took place at Astroworld Festival.
What is Astroworld Festival?
Initially launched in 2018 as part of his Astroworld album tour, Astroworld was a highly anticipated theme park-style festival experience crafted up by Travis Scott. Unfortunately the festival was postponed in 2018, then continually pushed back due to the pandemic, before finally being scheduled for November 5 & 6.
It took place in NRG Park in Houston – Travis Scotts' hometown – with a capacity for 200,000 people and more than 50,000 people turned up. Tickets started at $350 and were sold out in an hour thanks to the lineup that included SZA, Earth Wind and Fire, Tame Impala and Chief Keef among others.
How did the Festival get out of hand?
While we don't know the exact circumstances that led to the eight deaths, eyewitness accounts and news reports point to overcrowded, poorly managed conditions where more than 50,000 people were highly concentrated in one area. As attendees waited for Travis Scotts performance – the final one of the evening – the area before the stage began to fill up, with little room left to move ones arms or even breathe.
As Scott appeared on stage, excitement took over and pandemonium broke out. Crowds of people were pushed forward and back in waves, causing punters to fall over and thus, holes to open where anyone could be sucked into and trampled. All accounts have described panic, suffocating heat, darkness and fallen bodies stacked in piles – people crushed and unable to move.
Seanna Faith, an attendee, was seen in a video that went viral trying to alert cameramen of the situation unfolding. However, she was palmed off, along with another festival goer, despite their distressing pleas for help. She later recounted her experience in an Instagram post.
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Other videos on TikTok show crowds chanting in unison "stop the show". While another depicts an ambulance making its way through the crowd and paramedics lifting an unconscious body out of the crowd.
There is also footage of Travis Scott pausing his set to bring attention to one person who had passed out in the crowd, waiting until they were retrieved before continuing to sing. Halfway through the performance, Scott is approached by two men about the events unfolding in the crowd. The New York Times reported that Travis then said, "If everybody good, put a middle finger up in the sky", then the music resumed and he roused the crowd to "makes the ground shake."
The concert ended half an hour later and Travis Scott farewelled the crowd and said,"I love y’all. Make it home safe. Good night!”
Despite officials knowing of the situation unfolding, Live Nation ended the concert around 10.15pm - almost forty minutes after police and firefighters had declared Astroworld Festival "a mass casualty event". However, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner has defended this decision saying that ending the concert too quickly could have made the situation worse.
“You cannot just close when you got 50,000 and over 50,000 individuals. We have to worry about rioting, riots, when you have a group that’s that young," he said.
There is also speculation that the security plan was inadequate. However, Houston Mayor, Sylvester Turner, countered these theories saying that it was too soon to tell.
He then went on to describe to The New York Times the security plan, saying, "There were 505 event security staff members, 91 armed private security officers and 76 officers from the Houston Police Department at the event, officials said at a news conference."
How many casualties have been recorded?
At the time of writing, eight deaths have been recorded, all of whom were under the age of 30. They include: 21-year-old Frances Patino, 14-year-old John Hilgert, Brianna Rodriguez aged 16, 23-year-old Rudy Peña, Danish Baig, a 27-year-old who passed away trying to rescue his sister-in-law from being trampled, Jacob E. Jurinek aged 20 and Axel Acosta who was 21.
More than 300 punters were treated at a makeshift field hospital at the scene, while CNN has reported an estimated 11 people were in cardiac arrest as they were rushed to hospitals.
On November 12, it was confirmed that another person had died from injuries sustained at the festival. Her name was Bharti Shahani and she was 22-years-old, reported The Washington Post. Since the event she had been in ICU at Houston Methodist Hospital, where she passed away.
News of another death came on November 16. Nine-year-old Ezra Blount passed away at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston and is the youngest to have died from the Astroworld festival. Ezra's family have filed a lawsuit against Travis Scott and Live Nation, which details the extent of his injuries. Ezra suffered severe damage to his brain, kidney, and liver after he was "kicked, stepped on, and trampled, and nearly crushed to death".
His father Treston Blount described the turn of events that led to Ezra's fatal injuries. He said his son was sitting on his shoulders when a crowd surge crushed them. He blacked out and when he regained consciousness Ezra was missing. Treston led a frantic search for his son who was later found at the hospital with the aforementioned injuries in an induced coma.
Blount family attorney, Ben Crump said, "This should not have been the outcome of taking their son to a concert, what should have been a joyful celebration."
What has Travis Scott said?
In the wake of the Festival, Travis Scott said in a video on Instagram that he "wasn't aware of the severity of the situation".
“Anytime I could make out, you know, anything that’s going on, you know, I stop the show and, you know, help them get the help they need,” he added.
JUST IN: Travis Scott shares video addressing the tragedy at Astroworld Fest pic.twitter.com/MSjVpJH3fK
— XXL Magazine (@XXL) November 7, 2021
Fans have condemned Scott for his lack of action, although video footage shows Travis halting his set at least four times according the The Washington Post.
Scott also posted to Twitter, saying that Houston Police Department had his full support in the investigation.
— TRAVIS SCOTT (@trvisXX) November 6, 2021
On November 8, Scott announced that he would be processing full refunds for all Astroworld Festival attendees and would be cancelling his upcoming performance at the Day N Vegas festival.
Kylie Jenner who also attended the performance with Stormi – Travis and her shared daughter – responded to the tragedy over Instagram with a story that read: "Travis and I are broken and devastated. My thoughts and prayers are with all who lost their lives, were injured or affected in anyway by yesterday's events.
"And also for Travis who I know cares deeply for his fans and the Houston Community. 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. I am sending my deepest condolences to all the families during this difficult time and will be praying for the healing of everyone who has been impacted."
Although fans were quick to point out that she had posted a video of the crowd, which included an ambulance trying to make its way through the masses of people, deleting it once news of the death toll had emerged.
Live Nation, the organisers of the event, issued a similar statement, saying they were "heartbroken for those lost and impacted." Echoing that they would provide as much assistance and information as possible to help police investigate the tragedy.
Is anyone investigating the Festival?
Currently, an investigation has been opened by Texas Country Judge, Lina Hidalgo, into security and crowd control at the event. According to the ABC, Judge Hidalgo characterised the festival "a tragedy on many different levels", but said that it was too early to pin down exactly what went wrong.
It was also reported by the ABC that someone in the crowd was allegedly injecting people with drugs. Following these reports, Houston City Police Chief, Troy Finner, said that his department had begun a criminal investigation among homicide and narcotics detectives. One report described a security officer who felt a prick in his neck and immediately fell unconscious while trying to restrain someone. He was revived with a dose of naloxone, a drug used as an opioid antidote.