Authorities are still trying to grasp just what occurred Friday night when eight people died and hundreds more were injured during a Travis Scott concert during the first day of his two-day Astroworld festival in Houston that was canceled early shortly after the incident occurred. According to the Associated Press, both safety barriers and crowd control measures are being investigated by authorities.
The tragedy apparently occurred when a “crowd surge” happened at the site of the former Six Flags park in Houston, where at least 50,000 people gathered for the third annual event, Independent reported.
The victims were 14, 16, two were 21, two were 23, one was 27, and one of the victim’s ages remains unknown, according to CNN.
As an ominous foreshadow of the chaos that would ensue later that day, many people were reportedly rushing through a VIP entrance at the event, knocking over metal detectors and sometimes other people, and ignoring security staff, who were also seen knocking people down in the rush. At least one person was injured during that afternoon rush, according to Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña.
The incident, in which some reportedly hopped turnstiles and fences without buying tickets, also likely led to a crowd size organizers were unprepared to handle, according to Independent. Three people were also trampled in a similar incident of people rushing to get into the festival back in 2019.
Multiple outlets are reporting from eyewitness accounts that problems began to occur when the increasingly packed crowd began pushing to the front near the stage, as a 30-minute timer counting down to Scott’s performance was displayed on a screen.
Authorities were notified at about 9:30 p.m. about the escalating situation, with the event shutting down by 10:10 p.m. Scott had stopped the show at least three times to ask for help for stricken concert goers, according to multiple witness accounts.
Peña said investigators are looking into both the issue of the crowd surge and what apparently prevented people from escaping when it occurred. Authorities also said it is a criminal investigation involving the homicide and narcotics divisions, according to Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner.
While Houston authorities urged people not to buy into unsubstantiated theories on social media, they added they aren’t ruling anything out as the investigation moves forward.
One claim was that someone was injecting others with drugs, Finner said at a Saturday news conference. “We do have a report from a security officer … that he was reaching over the restrain or grab a citizen and he felt a prick in his neck.”
Finner added that the officer fell unconscious and was then revived with Narcan, which is something administered to counteract opioid overdoses. Peña added that while he couldn’t provide an exact number, there were several other incidents where Narcan was administered on scene.
According to experts, crowd surge is sadly a phenomenon that is known to occur from time to time, such as a case in 1979 where 11 people were killed as thousands of fans tried to get into Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum to see a concert by The Who and a soccer event in 1989 at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England where 97 people died.
According to retired research engineer John Fruin, occupancies of roughly seven people per square meter can cause a crowd to take on the properties of “almost a fluid mass.”
Experts say the phenomenon often occurs when people are moving toward something they want, rather than away from something they fear.
On Saturday, Scott said he was “absolutely devastated by what took place last night.”
“My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival. 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.”
We’ll keep you up to date on the Travis Scott concert tragedy as more information comes in.