HOUSTON (AP) – Fans attending a Houston music festival rushed to the stage during a performance by rapper Travis Scott, triggering panic in the crowd of tens of thousands. At least eight people were killed and many more injured, authorities said.
The chaos unfolded Friday night at Astroworld, a two-day sold-out event at NRG Park stadium. About 50,000 people were present. We did not know what had set the crowd in motion.
“The crowd started to compress towards the front of the stage which caused some panic and started causing injuries,” Houston Fire Chief Samuel PeÃ±a said at a press conference . “People started to fall, pass out, and it created further panic.”
Seventeen people were taken to hospital, 11 of them with cardiac arrest, PeÃ±a said, and “dozens” were injured.
Witnesses reported a lot of jostling during the performances leading up to Scott’s set.
When Scott took 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.
âIt just got worse and worse. Everyone was like you just couldn’t breathe, âsaid Johnson, who was near center stage in the middle of the crowd.
Johnson said fans started crashing and people started screaming. He said it was like 100 degrees in the crowd, which was so thick he and his friends couldn’t move.
âEveryone was fainting around you and everyone was trying to help each other. But you just couldn’t move. You couldn’t do anything. You can’t even raise your arms, âJohnson said.
Scott seemed to be aware that something was going on in the crowd, but he may not have understood the gravity of the situation, Johnson said.
In a video posted to social media, Scott could be seen stopping the gig at one point and asking for help for someone in the audience: “Safety, someone is helping real quick.”
In a tweet posted on Saturday, Scott said he was “absolutely devastated by what happened last night”. He is committed to working “with the Houston community to heal and support families in need.”
Houston Police Deputy Executive Chief Larry Satterwhite, who was near the front of the crowd, said the flare “came suddenly.”
âSuddenly we had several people on the ground going through some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode,â Satterwhite said. âAnd so we immediately started doing CPR and moving people around then. “
Satterwhite said he quickly met with the promoters, who agreed to end the event “in the interest of public safety.”
Amy Harris, a freelance photographer for the Associated Press, described an “aggressive” crowd atmosphere throughout the day due to the way the fans behaved – pushing and rushing at the barricades on the stage and prohibiting VIP and admission areas.
âIt was definitely the most chaotic festival environment I’ve been in,â Harris said. “I felt uncomfortable all day.”
At one point, she got stuck behind a barricade while photographing artist Don Toliver because around 300 fans rushed into the area. They ended up behind the security barricade with her.
âI was scared,â she said.
Harris said she encountered a similar scene for the main act at a different stage. She left the media pit after three songs because of the pandemonium, which included people being arrested over the security barricade for medical treatment.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner urged people not to jump to conclusions about the cause of the outbreak.
âI think it’s very important that neither of us speculate. Nobody has all the answers tonight, âFinner said.
“We’re going to investigate and find out because it’s not fair to the producers, to anyone else involved, until we figure out what happened,” he said.
The organizers of the event had organized the presence of medical teams at the festival. But once the influx of crowds started, those teams were “quickly overwhelmed,” the fire chief said.
A field hospital on the scene examined around 300 people throughout the day, he said.
Authorities did not immediately know the causes of death and the dead were not immediately identified. A medical examiner had planned to investigate.
Scott, one of music’s biggest young stars, released two new songs earlier on Friday, âMafiaâ and âEscape Planâ. The Houston native, 29, has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards. He has a 3-year-old daughter with Kylie Jenner, who announced in September that she was pregnant with their second child.
Drake joined Scott on stage at the concert – which was broadcast live by Apple Music – and posted photos to Instagram after the performance.
Authorities set up a reunification center in a hotel for family members who were unable to reach relatives during the event. Authorities have sought to connect families with fans who were taken to hospital, “some as young as 10,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county’s top elected official. .
Scott founded the Astroworld Festival in 2018, and it has been held every year since at the former Six Flags AstroWorld site, except in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The deaths were reminiscent of a 1979 concert by The Who where 11 people died and about two dozen were injured as thousands of fans attempted to enter Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum.
Other musical events that have claimed lives in recent years include the Las Vegas massacre in 2017, when a gunman perched in a hotel window killed 58 people at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, the so-called Ghost ship fire in 2016 that killed 36 people. in a California warehouse during a dance party and a 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 in Rhode Island.
Associated Press editors David Sharp in Portland, Maine, and Desiree Seals in Atlanta contributed to this report.