HUSTON – Crowds at the Houston Music Festival suddenly surged to the stage during rapper Travis Scott’s performance, squeezing fans so tight they couldn’t breathe or move their arms, witnesses said Saturday, hours after at least eight people died in the hall. chaos.
Pandemonium unfolded Friday night at Astroworld, a two-day, sold-out event at NRG Park that attracted nearly 50,000 people. When the timer clicked ahead of the show, the crowd moved forward.
“As soon as he popped onto the stage, it was like the energy took over and everything went awry,” said concert-goer Niara Goode. “All of a sudden your ribs are broken. You have someone’s hand behind your neck. You try to breathe, but you cannot. “
Goods said she was trying so desperately to get out of here that she bit the man on the shoulder to get him to move.
According to Mayor Sylvester Turner, the death toll ranged from 14 to 27 years old, and 13 people were still hospitalized. He called the disaster “a tragedy on different levels” and said it was too early to draw conclusions about what went wrong.
“It may well be that this tragedy is the result of unpredictable events, circumstances that could not be avoided,” said Judge Lina Hidalgo, a senior Harris County official. “But until we figure that out, I’ll be asking the tough questions.”
Experts who have studied crowd-jumping deaths say they are often the result of density – too many people packed into small spaces. The crowd often runs away either from the perceived threat or to something they want, such as the performer, before hitting an obstacle.
J. Keith Still, Visiting Professor of Crowd Science at the University of Suffolk in the United Kingdom, has acted as an expert witness in crowd trials. He said that he usually does not look at eyewitness reports in the early stages of incident analysis, because emotions can cloud the picture, and witnesses can only see what is directly around them.
The deaths were reminiscent of The Who concert in 1979, when 11 people died as thousands of fans tried to enter the Cincinnati Waterfront Colosseum. Other past mass disasters include the death of 97 people at the overcrowded Hillsborough Stadium in 1989 in Sheffield, England, and numerous disasters associated with the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia.
People in the crowd in Houston reported being pushed and pushed during performances ahead of Scott’s performance.
Then, when Scott stepped onto the stage, the crowd seemed to rush forward, trying to get closer to the stage, ”said Nick Johnson, a high school student from the Houston suburb of Friendswood who was at the concert with friends.
“Everyone around them fainted and everyone tried to help each other. But you just couldn’t move. There was nothing you could do. You can’t even raise your hands, ”Johnson said. “It got worse and worse.”
Johnson said fans started crushing each other and people started screaming. He said that it was almost 100 degrees Celsius in the crowd.
Scott seemed to know that something was happening in the crowd, but perhaps he didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation, Johnson said.
In the video posted on social networks, one could see how Scott at some point stopped the concert and asked for help for someone from the audience: “Security, someone, help very quickly.”
In a tweet posted on Saturday, Scott said he was “absolutely devastated by what happened last night.” He pledged to work “with the Houston community to heal and support families in need.”
Houston’s assistant chief of police, Larry Satterwhite, who was at the forefront of the crowd, said the wave “happened right away.”
“All of a sudden, several people fell to the ground, they had cardiac arrest or some kind of medical episode,” Satterwhite said. “And so we immediately started doing artificial respiration and moving people.”
Satterwhite said the promoters quickly agreed to end the event “in the interest of public safety.”
Amy Harris, a freelance photographer for the Associated Press, described the crowd’s “aggressive” atmosphere during the day due to the behavior of fans – pushing and dashing through barricades on stage, banning VIP areas and entrance areas.
“It was definitely the most chaotic festival environment I’ve ever been in,” Harris said. “I felt uncomfortable all day.”
She was trapped behind a barricade when she was photographing performer Don Toliver, because about 300 fans broke into the area. They were with her behind the security barricade.
She encountered a similar scene in another scene of the main action. She left the media pit after three songs due to a riot that resulted in people being dragged over security barricades to receive medical attention.
At some point, Gerardo Abad Garcia pressed himself so tightly to the crowd that he could not take his hands off his chest. During Toliver’s speech prior to Scott’s arrival, he began to worry about his safety.
“I just couldn’t breathe. I was squeezed, ”he said. The guard helped him and the others climb over the fence and get out.
He described the crowd during Scott’s performance as a wave that “went back and forth.”
Some people lost their shoes, and the ground was littered with clothes and debris. He said that some people tried to help those who had passed out on the ground, while other concertgoers seemed to ignore them and continued to watch the show.
After Scott’s concert, Abad Garcia saw medical personnel administering artificial respiration to someone who appeared to be unconscious when that person was taken away on a golf cart.
The authorities do not disclose the cause of death, and the identity of the victims did not immediately.
Scott, one of the biggest young music stars, founded the Astroworld Festival in 2018. The 29-year-old native of Houston has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards. He has a 3-year-old daughter with Kylie Jenner, who announced in September that she is pregnant with her second child.
Drake joined Scott onstage at the concert, which was aired live by Apple Music.