HOUSTON (AP) – At least eight people died and several others were injured in what officials described as an increase in the crowd at the Astroworld Music Festival in Houston while rapper Travis Scott performed.
Officials declared a “mass accident” just after noon. 21 Friday during the festival, where an estimated 50,000 people were in attendance, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña told reporters at a news conference.
“The crowd started squeezing against the front of the stage and it caused a lot of panic and it started causing some damage,” the fire chief said. “People started falling out, became unconscious, and that created further panic.”
The show was canceled shortly after. The fire chief said “lots of people” were injured.
Officials transported 17 people to hospitals, including 11 who were in cardiac arrest, Peña said. It was not clear if all eight who died were among the 17 who had been transported to hospitals. Many people were also treated on the spot in NRG Park, where a field hospital was set up. About 300 people were examined at the site during the day, he said.
Astroworld is a two-day music festival scheduled to take place Friday and Saturday in Houston. The event was sold out, according to Astroworld’s website. Saturday’s performances have been canceled.
The deaths were reminiscent of a 1979 concert for The Who where 11 people died and about two dozen were injured as thousands of fans tried to enter the Cincinnatis riverfront coliseum.
Scott, one of music’s biggest young stars, released two new songs earlier Friday, “Mafia” and “Escape Plan”. The 29-year-old Houston native has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards. He has a 3-year-old daughter, Stormi, with Kylie Jenner, who announced in September that she is pregnant with their second child.
Drake joined Scott on stage for the concert – which was livestreamed by Apple Music – and posted photos to Instagram after the performance.
Event organizers had made sure medical devices were on stage at the festival, but when the crowd began, those devices were “quickly overwhelmed,” Peña said.
In a video posted on social media, Scott could be seen stopping the concert at some point and asking for help from someone in the audience: “Safety, someone is helping really fast.”
Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite was close to the front of the crowd, saying it looked like the increase “happened at once.”
“Suddenly we had more people down on earth who were experiencing some kind of cardiac arrest or some kind of medical episode,” Satterwhite said. “And so we immediately started doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation and moving people right at that point, and that was when I went and met with the initiators and Live Nation, and they agreed to quit early for the sake of public safety. . “
Peña said officials did not immediately know the causes of death for the eight people who died. A forensic pathologist would examine it. The deceased had not been identified early Saturday.
Officials set up a reunion center at a hotel for family members who had not been able to reach relatives who had been present at the event. Authorities sought to connect families with festival-goers who were transported to the hospital, “some as young as 10” years old, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner called for calm and urged people not to draw conclusions about what caused the increase.
“I think it is very important that none of us speculate. Nobody has all the answers tonight, ”said Finner. He added that there have been several rumors surrounding the event that the authorities would investigate further.
“We will do a study and find out because it is not fair to the producers, to anyone else involved, until we decide what happened, what caused the increase,” he said. “We do not know, but we will find out.”
The Associated Press reached out to a representative of Scott, but did not immediately respond.
Finner told reporters that Scott and the event organizers cooperated with police.
Scott founded the Astroworld Festival in 2018, and it has taken place at the former site of Six Flags AstroWorld every year since, except in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Other music events where there have been several fatalities in recent years include The Las Vegas Massacre in 2017 when 58 people were killed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, the so-called Ghost Ship brand in 2016 who killed 36 people in California and 2003 The station’s nightclub fire who killed 100 people in Rhode Island.
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