The incident occurred on Day 1 of the sold-out music event held at NRG Park in Houston, where about 50,000 people gathered to catch performances by Lil Baby, SZA, Roddy Ricch, Don Toliver, and more. Local authorities confirmed the casualties early Saturday, and have since launched an investigation to determine what exactly happened and how it may have been prevented.
As we wait for further developments, we’ve broken down key details of the tragic event and how those involved have responded. The post will be continually updated as more information becomes available.
According to law enforcement, a large group of concert-goers rushed toward the main stage shortly after 9 p.m. to catch Scott’s headlining performance. Witnesses say the surge caused attendees to fall to the ground and pass out as others screamed for help and pleaded for the show to stop.
“Everything was normal up until when Travis posted the time he was going to get onstage,” 22-year-old Donovon Davis told Rolling Stone. “That’s when it just got wild. The crowd was moving so violently that people fell on top of us, and when they fell, people fell on top of them. There was layers and layers and layers of people falling.”
Davis, a Houston resident, said he tried to help one concert-goer who had fallen next to him; however, his efforts were unsuccessful.
“I turned to pick him up, and I could hear him screaming for help. The music hadn’t started yet. And then the crowd just moved me, and I saw a wave of people just walk over him.”
Madeline Eskins, an ICU nurse who was at the Friday event, said she was immediately concerned by just how crowded the festival had become, and at one point fainted as she struggled to breathe.
“As someone who has been to every Astro fest there’s been, this was completely different,” she wrote on Instagram. “It was awful. I passed out because people were pushing up against me so much that I couldn’t breathe. [My boyfriend] Sam got people to apparently crowd surf my unconscious body to the security guard … When I woke up I had a water bottle in my lap and had no clue what had happened.”
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner confirmed 528 police officers and 755 private security guards were on site at the time of the “mass casualty incident.” He also cautioned the public to take online reports with a grain of salt, as he and his team continue to investigate the tragedy.
“A lot of narratives are out there right now on social media,” Finner said during a Saturday press conference. “I think that all of us need to be respectful of the families and make sure we follow the facts and the evidence.”
Finner addressed the reports of an unidentified individual injecting concert-goers with a needle. He told the press one security guard recalled feeling a prick on his neck before falling unconscious. The guard was revived after medical personnel administered Narcan, a drug used to counter the effects of an overdose.
“He was revived, and the medical staff did notice a prick that was similar to a prick that you would get if someone was trying to inject,” Finner said.
Finner also confirmed a 14-year-old was among those who died Friday night; the others victims were a 16-year-old, two 21-year-olds, two 23-year-olds, and a 27-year-old. Authorities could not initially confirm the age of the eighth victim. He went on to say there were a total of 25 reported hospitalizations; 13 of those patients remained hospitalized, including a 10-year-old who is said to be in critical condition.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told the New York Times the Astroworld Festival had more security than the World Series games, and that it is too early to tell if security operations were to blame for the tragedy.
“I’m going to hold any sort of conclusion pending a thorough review and investigation,” he said, noting most of the injuries reportedly occurred in one area. “We do know that there were several cases of cardiac arrest. What was the cause of that? … I don’t even want to go to drug overdoses. We are looking at all potential causes of this incident or what caused the cardiac arrest. We’re not taking anything off the table.”
In an interview with Savannah Guthrie on Today, Samuel Peña—chief of the Houston Fire Department—was asked whether he personally believed Scott “should have called an end” to the show once he saw what was transpiring.
“Look, absolutely,” he said, later stating that the artist “has command” of a crowd.
“In my opinion, and this is my opinion right now because everything is gonna be fleshed out throughout this investigation, but certainly the artist—if he notices something that’s going on—he can certainly pause that performance, turn on the lights, and say, ‘Hey, we’re not gonna continue until this thing is resolved,’” Peña explained.
Meanwhile, a man who says he was hired by the event staff and security company Contemporary Services Corporation to work at the festival told TMZ that the event was “severely understaffed.” Ultimately, the would-be Astroworld worker—who also claimed that a security licensing requirement was conducted via an open book test just one night before the festival—decided to walk off the gig due to safety concerns.
Scott released an initial statement Saturday afternoon, expressing his condolences to all who were affected by the deadly stampede.
“My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival,” Scott wrote in a statement shared via Twitter. “Houston PD has my total support as they continue to look into the tragic loss of life. I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need. Thank you to Houston PD, Fire Department and NGR Park for their immediate response and support. Love all.”
A source told Page Six the incident left the Houston rapper extremely distraught. TMZ also reports that he was unaware of the severity of the situation, writing that he “thought what few people he did see being attended to were folks who’d simply passed out from dehydration.”
He’s been supported by Kylie Jenner, who was at NRG Park to watch his performance.
“He stopped the concert to make sure people were OK,” an insider claimed. “There is video of him carrying on when one person was carried off, but he didn’t realize what was going on. When he did, he stopped the concert … He’s really upset — he had no idea what was going on, he was on stage performing. He’s beside himself, I’ve never heard him like that. He was in tears.”
In another statement, this time shared via video, Scott said he was “devastated” by the eight deaths. “I could just never imagine the severity of the situation,” he said.
Scott has also announced that he will cover funeral expenses for the victims, as well as partner with BetterHelp to provide online therapy sessions for attendees and others affected by the tragedy.
In wake of the tragedy, festival organizers announced Astroworld Day 2 had been canceled. Attendees of the 2021 edition of the festival will also be refunded.
“Our hearts are with the Astroworld festival family tonight – especially those we lost and their loved ones,” the festival wrote in a statement. “We are focused on supporting local officials however we can. With that in mind the festival will no longer be held on Saturday. As authorities mentioned in their press conference earlier, they are looking into the series of cardiac arrests that took place.”
“If you have any relevant information on this, please reach out to Houston Police,” the statement goes on. “Thank you to our partners at the Houston Police Department, fire department and NRG Park for their response and support.”
A number of celebrities have also expressed their condolences to the victims’ families. SZA, who performed during Day 1, said the events of Friday night left her “speechless.”
Drake, who performed during Scott’s set, later shared a statement in which he said he’s been “trying to wrap my mind around” the tragedy.
“My heart is broken for the families and friends of those who lost their lives and for anyone who is suffering,” he said.
Kid Cudi, Kehlani, Trey Songz, and actress Holly Robinson Peete also shared their thoughts.
As of Sunday afternoon, five of the victims had been identified by either their families or the schools they attended: John Hilgert, a 14-year-old freshman at Memorial High School in Houston; Brianna Rodriguez, a 16-year-old junior at Heights High School in Houston; Franco Patino, a 21-year-old student at the University of Dayton from Naperville, Illinois; 23-year-old Rudy Peña; and Mirza Baig, 27, who had dreams of becoming a U.S. Border Patrol Agent, according to TMZ.
The remaining victims were identified later and include 23-year-old Madison Dubiski from Cypress, 20-year-old Jacob Jurinke Illinois, and 21-year-old Axel Acosta from Washington.
As the amount of lawsuits filed against Scott and others continues to grow, a judge in Houston has issued a freeze order allowing attorneys to inspect the festival site while also requiring organizers to preserve evidence. Per Billboard, the order was granted by Judge Ravi K. Sandill and will be applicable to 18 different lawsuits.
Among the lawsuits filed are one from attorneys Ben Crump and Bob Hilliard on behalf of the father of a 9-year-old child who was “trampled and catastrophically injured” at the festival. “We plan to hold everyone who had a hand in this festival accountable for the horrifying and traumatic injuries that this helpless child sustained,” Hilliard said Tuesday.
Another suit, meanwhile, sees a 23-year-old festival attendee also naming Drake and the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation.
In total, more than 30 lawsuits have been filed.