Houston authorities are investigating what officials described as a crowd surge that killed at least eight people and injured “scores” of others during the annual Astroworld music festival in Houston while rapper Travis Scott performed.
Officials declared a “mass casualty incident” at 9:38 p.m. Friday local time during the festival at NRG Park, where an estimated 50,000 people were in attendance, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña told reporters during an overnight news briefing.
“The crowd began to compress toward the front of the stage, and that caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries, said Peña. People began to collapse, became unconscious and panicked further.
The fire chief stated that 17 patients were taken to hospital by first responders as they raced to the scene. 11 of them were suffering from cardiac arrest. He added that there were many other injuries.
Peña said officials did not yet know the cause of death for the eight victims. The identities of the victims were not known at this time.
A field hospital was also set up to treat many of the patients. About 300 people were examined at that site throughout the day, said Peña.
The promoters of Astroworld had emergency transport and medical staff at the festival but they were “quickly overwhelmed” by the number of injuries.
Troy Finner, Houston Police Chief, stated during briefings that they did not have the identifications of many injured.
Finner stated that the festival had 367 officers assigned and 241 security personnel. There had been a problem with concertgoers who pushed toward the front of the stage earlier Friday, but that was quickly brought under control and was unrelated to the subsequent tragedy, said Finner.
For information about missing persons, the Houston Police established a command centre at Wyndham Hotel on Kirby Drive. Authorities were trying to reconnect relatives with concertgoers who had been transported to the hospital, “some as young as 10” years old, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said during the news briefing.
Astroworld is an Astroworld-related music festival. According to Astroworld.com, it was fully booked.
“Our hearts are with the Astroworld Festival family tonight – especially those we lost and their loved ones,” show promoters tweeted early Saturday. “We will support local officials wherever we can,” said the show promoters.
This was its third year hosting music. Musicians and artists who were scheduled to appear included Young Thug and YSL, Bad Bunny, Chief Keef, Tame Impala, Earth Wind & Fire and others, according to the festival’s website.
Drake joined Travis Scott on-stage at the concert — which was live-streamed by Apple Music — and posted photos to Instagram after the performance.
Larry Satterwhite (Executive Assistant to the Chief of Houston Police) was right in front of the crowd, and stated it felt like the surge happened “all at once”.
Satterwhite explained that suddenly, there were several people who had suffered a type of cardiac arrest. “And so we immediately started doing CPR, and moving people right then, and that’s when I went and met with the promoters, and Live Nation, and they agreed to end early in the interest of public safety.”
Finner urged calm and caution, and warned people to not jump to any conclusions about the cause of the surge.
“I believe it is very important that we all stop speculating. Finner explained that no one knows the answer tonight.
“We’re going to do an investigation and find out because it’s not fair to the producers, to anybody else involved, until we determine what happened, what caused the surge,” he said. “We don’t know the cause of this surge, but we will discover it.”
Finner stated to reporters that Scott, along with the promoters of the event, cooperated fully with police.
It was the worst concert disaster in America since the Station nightclub fire of 2003 that claimed 100 lives in Rhode Island.
Eleven people died and about two dozen were injured in 1979 at a concert for The Who as thousands of fans tried to get into Cincinnati’s riverfront coliseum.
Contributing: The Associated Press