Friday, November 26, 2021

“A Huge Loss of Control:” Answers Seek at Houston Concert

HOUSTON — When rapper Travis Scott’s sold-out concert in Houston became a deadly scene of panic and danger in a growing crowd, Edgar Acosta began to worry about his son, who wasn’t answering his phone.

He called hospitals and the police, who told him that his son was not on the list of victims of the Astroworld festival. They were wrong: Axel Acosta vila, 21, was among eight people who died Friday night at the outdoor celebration, which was attended by nearly 50,000 people and is now the focus of a criminal investigation.

On Monday, officials released the names of the dead as they continued to see what went wrong when a crush of fans went ahead after Scott took the stage. Houston’s police chief said Monday that he had met with Scott before the rapper’s performance on Friday about security concerns, but did not elaborate on what specifically they were concerned about.

“He told me, Mr. Acosta, your son is not on the list, so you don’t have to worry about anything. He is not on the list of dead people or injured people,” said Edgar Acosta, whose family was part of the celebration. The organizers are among those prosecuted.

“I told him, ‘Well, he didn’t spend the night at his hotel at the time, so I worry about him.

Houston Police and Fire Department investigators have said they will review videos taken by concert promoter Live Nation, as well as dozens of clips of people at the show that were shared widely on social media. Investigators also planned to speak with representatives of Live Nation, Scott and the concerts.

Live Nation said in a statement Monday that it had provided officials with all footage from surveillance cameras at the festival, and that it had halted the removal of equipment at the request of investigators who were operating the grounds. The promoter said a full refund would be offered to all attendees.

Scott, who founded the Astroworld festival, said he would bear the funeral expenses of the victims. According to Harris County officials, the dead ranged in age from 14 to 27 and were from Texas, Illinois and Washington. They included high school students, an aspiring Border Patrol agent, and a computer science student.

More than 300 people were treated at a field hospital and at least 13 others were hospitalised. Houston Police Chief Troy Finer said the rapper’s chief of security was involved in his meeting with Scott before the show. But Finer did not elaborate on their conversation in a statement issued by the police department.

“I asked Travis Scott and his team to work with HPD for all events over the weekend and to be mindful of my team’s social media messaging on any scheduled events,” Finer said. “The meeting was brief and respectful, and an opportunity for me to share my public safety concerns as chief of police.”

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Investigators were also interviewing witnesses and were planning to investigate the design of security barriers and the use of crowd control in the incident.

“It’s not the crowd’s fault, because you had no way to move, it was like a massive loss of control,” said 19-year-old Ben Castro, who went to the festival. He returned to the venue on Monday to leave flowers at a temporary memorial, which included notes, T-shirts and candles. He said he didn’t know if anyone had died until the next day.

Michelle Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, said medical examiners still had not released the cause of death, which could take several weeks.

According to county records in Texas, Contemporary Services Corp., headquartered in Los Angeles, was responsible for security staff at the festival. The company describes itself online as “recognized as a leader, specialist and sole employee owned company in the crowd management field”. Company representatives did not respond to emails and phone messages seeking comment.

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