HOUSTON — At least eight people died and numerous others were injured in what officials described as a surge of the crowd at the Astroworld music festival in Houston while rapper Travis Scott was performing.
Officials declared a “mass casualty incident” just after 9 p.m. Friday during the festival where an estimated 50,000 people were in attendance, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña told reporters at a news conference.
“The crowd began to compress towards the front of the stage, and that caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries,” the fire chief said. “People began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created additional panic.”
Soon after, the fire chief called for an end to the program. The fire chief said “scores of individuals” were injured.
Officials transported 17 people to hospitals, including 11 who were in cardiac arrest, Peña said. It wasn’t clear whether all eight who died were among the 17 that had been transported to hospitals. Numerous people were treated on the spot at NRG Park. A nearby field hospital also had been established. He estimated that around 300 people were treated at the site during the entire day.
Astroworld was a Houston music festival. It is scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Astroworld claims that the event sold out. Saturday’s performances have been canceled.
The deaths called to mind a 1979 concert for The Who where 11 people died and about two dozen were injured as thousands of fans tried to get into Cincinnati’s riverfront coliseum.
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, Stormi, 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.
Event promoters had arranged for medical units to be on scene at the festival, however once the crowd surge began, those units were “quickly overwhelmed,” Peña 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.”
Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite was near the front of the crowd and said it seemed 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, and that’s when I went and met with the promoters, and Live Nation, and they agreed to end early in the interest of public safety.”
Peña said officials did not immediately know the causes of death for the eight people who died. Pena said that he would consult a medical examiner. At the time of writing, however, no identification had been made.
A reunification centre was set up at a hotel by officials for relatives who were unable to contact their loved ones who attended the festival. Authorities were looking to connect families with festivalgoers who were transported to the hospital, “some as young as 10” years old, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said.
Troy Finner from Houston police called for calm, and asked people to not jump to conclusions regarding the reason behind the surge.
“I think it’s very important that none of us speculate. Nobody has all the answers tonight,” Finner said. Finner said that several reports have circulated about the incident that would be investigated by authorities.
“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, what caused the surge,” he said. “We don’t know, but we will find out.”
Scott was not immediately contacted by the Associated Press.
Finner stated to reporters that Scott, along with the promoters of the event, cooperated fully with police.
Scott established Astroworld Festival 2018 at Six Flags AstroWorld. It was moved to its former location in 2018, except that of 2020, when it was cancelled due to the pandemic coronavirus.
In recent years there were many deaths at music events, including the Las Vegas Massacre in 2017, which saw 58 victims die at Route 91 Harvest Festival. There was also the Ghost Ship fire of 2016, which claimed 36 lives in California. And the Station nightclub fire from 2003 that claimed 100 lives in Rhode Island.